Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Nine

As any maths teacher will tell you, number nine equals number 16, when it comes to the Musical Advent Calendar at least...

Ali Mason

Mumford & Sons - Sigh No More (Island)

Track: I Gave You All

Single Little Lion Man and a reputation for storming live shows set the bar high Sigh No More, which largely lives up to expectations. The basic formula is slow, quiet start...tight harmonies...stomping orgy of strings and drums...end - and that is the major problem. While the album is packed with great tunes, like the lush I Gave You All and the insistent Dust Bowl Dance, it's all a little too polished. A little more chaos could have turned this from a great album into an exceptional one

Rory Dollard

Cymbals Eat Guitars - Why There Are Mountains (Memphis Industries)

Track: And The Hazy Sea

The good news for all Pavement fans is that the feted lo-fi pioneers are making a long-awaited comeback in 2010. The bad news for Stephen Malkmus et al is that New York five-piece Cymbals Eat Guitar have already started filling that void quite nicely. Their debut comprises of generous helpings of shapeshifting post-punk, jangly melodies and electronica seasoned with a sprinkle of reverb and garnished with feedback. At just nine songs it leaves a taste for more, too.

Dom Farrell

Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson - Summer of Fear (Saddle Creek)

Track: The Sound

Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson. He should probably be a cricketer with all those initials. Thankfully he makes wonderful records instead. Summer of Fear is a more polished effort production-wise than his self-titled debut (even more on that later folks), and personally, I find this to be occasionally to its detriment - having fallen in love with the at times ramshakled excellence of the latter record. However, Summer of Fear remains a brilliant example of how this man can craft a song and push it euphorically to a higher level, often with piercingly honest lyrical content. The shades of Tom Petty and early REM that are at play here could perplex followers of his earlier work. Not me. I’m sold.

Andy Welch

Florence & The Machine - Lungs

Track: I'm Not Calling You A Liar (Island)

By the time Lungs was released, Florence Welch had already been given the Critics’ Choice Brit award, appeared on the BBC Sound Of 2009 poll and been featured in every broadsheet and music mag. Somehow, despite the baggage each of those things brings, Lungs manages to live up to expectation with Florence coming over as an eccentric, slightly unhinged posh girl gone wrong, with an unnatural fixation with death, coffins and gothic, doomed romance. Basically, Kate Bush for the Web 2.0 generation. Good surname too...

Guy Atkinson

Metric - Fantasies (Sony)

Track: Collect Call

I've been firmly under the spell of Metric front woman Emily Haines after developing a mild obsession with Broken Social Scene's masterpiece 'You Forgot it in People', on which she plays an integral role. Displaying a swagger and confidence not seen on their previous three LPs, the Canadian four piece finally backed up their art-rock posturing with poppy hooks and soaring choruses designed to melt even the stoniest of hearts. 'Collect Call' is one of the more languid tracks on Fantasies, but showcases Haines' irresistible voice in all of its stripped-back glory.

Pranam Prabhakar

The Pains of Being Pure At Heart - The Pains of Being Pure At Heart (Fortuna Pop)

Track: Come Saturday

The Pains should be thanked for making it okay to like indie music again.
This time last year, I recall pundits claiming that indie music is dead. It took a band from Brooklyn, a crowd-surfing gig in Manchester and a remarkably consistent debut record to convince me otherwise.

John Skilbeck

Gossip - Music For Men (Sony)

Track: Men In Love

If Hope Sandoval’s excellent record (see yesterday’s pick) was made with the end of the night in mind, then Gossip’s was quite the opposite. Music For Men was all about getting a party started. Faced with the daunting task of following up their first hit record (which needed a remix to make it such a floor-filler, remember) Beth Ditto and band pretty much hit the mark. Ditto’s voice – surely the most distinct and powerful female vocal around since Corin Tucker packed in Sleater-Kinney – proved versatile as her band ditched their garage-blues rock past and made an unashamedly pop record. Heavy Cross (“It’s a cruel, cruel world to face on your own/A heavy cross to carry alone...”), second track in, set a rigorous standard for the rest of the record to aim for, even if it was a pretty close cousin of Standing in the Way.... But the splendid disco stomper Pop Goes The World was packing plenty of power too, and the celebratory
dancing-at-the-gay-bar romp Men In Love (“...with each other”) showed Ditto at her spirited best.

Matt Collins

Left With Pictures - Beyond Our Means (Organ Grinder Records)

Track: Jubile

London-based Left With Pictures describe themselves as chamber pop, and very apt that is too. The group are classically trained, a fact borne out in their at times classical song structure, piano and string parts, but clearly love a good pop melody. All these songs are infused with a joie de vivre sadly missing from most bands who go to pick up guitars, and they still manage to stay on the right side of novelty. Live, they like to step out from behind their mics, distribute themselves among the crowd, and blast out their harmonies a capella - bonus.


The Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz (Polydor)

Track: Runaway

Am I the only that couldn’t understand the dissenters when this third full YYYs album came out? Ok, so it did seem perverse to push Nick Zinner’s guitar outbursts into the background - one of the band’s original USPs - but the synths allowed Karen O to truly unleash her inner pop peacock, resulting in some joyous live performances and an album of glorious Blondie-indebted new wave anthems.


Mumford & Sons - Sigh No More (Island)

Track: Sigh No More

I'll admit I wasn't convinced by this effort at first, declaring it to be the third best album I'd heard that day. Well, neither of the other two made the list, so something must have worked, right? The rootsy sound of Mumford & Sons should be right up my street, it just seemed to go around the houses to get there. But these are real growers, and who knows, had it had more time it might even have made it higher up the list.


  1. Cymbals Eat Guitars album is excellent!

  2. I have a Musical Advent Calendar-related talking point. After Guy's Antlers woe the other day, has anyone else suffered a similar disappointment of realising they've put something far too low - or too high - on their list?

  3. I realised I'd missed something off, which was disappointing. There are a few coming up that I wish I'd moved around too. 20 down to about 13 were the hardest to order for me I think.

  4. actually, rather topically i could happily have Cymbals Eat Guitars in the top 10 having relistened to it again in advance of its appearance today.

  5. Yeah, if I could do it again, Passion Pit would figure fairly highly for me, rather than, er... not at all! When I loaded it in to iTunes, it said it was 2008 and I dismissed it for this list but it blatantly was this year. Pranam (and the NME) made me see the error of my uploading ways.