Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Sixteen

Does this thing even need an intro any more? I mean, it's the Musical Advent Calendar, it's day sixteen, you know the score by now, right?

Oh, and in other news, if anyone wants to double back to yesterday, I've finally fixed SP's tuneful choice from the Animal Collective album. Apologies for the error.

Ali Mason

God Help The Girl - God Help The Girl (Rough Trade)

Track: Musician Please Take Heed

Judging a book by its cover is not generally encouraged, but in this instance it's probably a reasonable tactic. The idea of a story set to music by the frontman of Belle & Sebastian will be a shudder-inducing concept to many music fans - and nothing that I or anyone else can say will change their minds. For others, though, it will make their heart sing - and there is much do be joyful about here in what is Stuart Murdoch's finest work for a decade. Musically and lyrically it doesn't stray far from the trusted Murdoch model - Eve's story of redemption through music is basically one B&S song stretched over an album - while a cast of inevitably beautiful indie girls (and Neil Hannon) sing beautiful melodies. It's funny, clever, thoroughly heartwarming and every bit as twee as it sounds. Lovely stuff.

Rory Dollard

Mumford & Sons - Sigh No More (Island)

Track: White Blank Page

Having built up a following through relentless gigging, there was an almost stifling ‘buzz’ around the debut album from Marcus Mumford and co. Sometimes that can cripple a band but here they delivered with a robust set of big rootsy tunes, driving banjos and frequently blurred the lines between emoting and rabble-rousing. This is country-rock with a soul.

Dom Farrell

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

Track: Zero

When a good band gets noticeably better, all can seem well with the world. In completing that rare trick of a guitar band incorporating synths and dance elements to good effect, It’s Blitz saw Yeah Yeah Yeahs do just that. Zero was one of the soundtracks to the summer, and it gets proceedings underway in barnstormingly euphoric fashion, while Skeletons is the band’s most spine-tingling moment since Maps. As proceedings draw to a close, Dragon Queen and Hysteric call to mind indie-dance pioneers Talking Heads and New Order respectively. It’s Blitz sits well in such company.

Andy Welch

M Ward - Hold Time (4AD)

Track: Jailbird

A common criticism levelled at Matt ‘M’ Ward is that all his records sound exactly the same. Well, that’s as maybe, but 1) what’s the problem with that? and 2) there is something new on Hold Time – a sunny(ish) disposition. Maybe it’s a new mood brought on by the sublime Volume One he made with Zooey Deschanel, or maybe he’s just happier in his melancholy than before, but the spring in his step certainly suits him. His covers of Rave On and Oh Lonesome Me are worthy versions, while Jailbird, Hold Time and Blake’s View are superb.

Guy Atkinson

Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (V2)

Track: Lasso

While this doesn't quite hit the giddy heights of last year's flawless 'In Ghost Colours' by Cut Copy, it's still a worthy addition to the ever-increasing cannon of New Order-inspired shimmering indie-pop. The entire album is bursting at the seams with rampant tunes, and none deliver more so than 'Lasso' which brings a little smile to my face every time I hear it :-)

Pranam Prabhakar

Bat For Lashes - Two Suns (EMI)

Track: Moon and Moon

An error. I increasingly feel that I’ve put this album way too high in the list. I am not going to defend my thinking. This is a lovely track though.

John Skilbeck

The Cribs - Ignore The Ignorant (Wichita)

Track: Save Your Secrets

Having been in The Cribs’ corner since they played Leeds pubs for beer money, I had mixed feelings about the introduction of Johnny Marr as a fourth member of the band. Really, I needn’t have worried. Album number three (Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever) had been a disappointment, but this was a return to form, and Marr’s six-string alliance with Ryan Jarman added fresh depth to their sound. They went to town with the showy Sonic Youth-esque City Of Bugs, and the single Cheat On Me was a strong calling card. But it was the tender moments on Ignore The Ignorant which were the stand-outs for me. With Gary Jarman taking over lead vocals from his twin and to good effect, Last Year’s Snow and particularly the ballad Save Your Secrets showed a warm heart lies within the band, and the closing Stick To Yr Guns, with Ryan doing his best Calvin Johnson impression, played from a lullaby pace
to a soaring crescendo.

Matt Collins

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros - Up From Below (Rough Trade)

Track: Up From Below

Despite possessing the same yelping voice as would-be urban messiah Johnny Razorlight, Edward Sharpe is set apart in actually having the gift for writing and blasting out the quasi-religious anthems that Johnny often aims for but rarely reaches. Assembling a huge gang of compadres in the Magentic Zeroes, Sharpe has delivered a wonderfully melodic and rousing collection of songs that you can dance to, wave your arms in the air to and most importantly sing along at the top of your voice to. Or in the case of standout track home, all three.


The Horrors - Primary Colours (XL)

Track: Who Can Say

“Over-hyped NME cover stars in genius second record shocker!” Just when you thought The Horrors were going to go the way of JJ72 and Terris (remember them?!), they startled everyone with an album of unexpected depth. There are no primary colours in this gothic shoegazing fuzzfest but Farris Rotter and co. paint it black in style nonetheless.


Alela Diane - To Be Still (Names)

Track: White As Diamonds

Making her second appearance on the list after the controversial (check your dates, Dollard) nomination of the Headless Heroes, to which she lent her voice, Alela Diane gets a top 10 billing for her thoroughly charming second album. This one is a real grower, and has been working its way up my top 24 ever since we started work on this whole ridiculous project way back in June.


  1. Allow me to immediately applaud another outstanding review from Pranam. What an endorsement that is.

  2. Isn't it just.

    But if I were to defend it's inclusion here, I'd say I spent a good couple of months listening to this album, which is more time than I spent listening to others in my top 24. Still faint praise, I know.

    If there are any Lashes fans out there, I'd urge you not to watch the documentary on the making of this album. It's a damnworthy example of a record company's PR machine going into overdrive. Ouch.

  3. I wanted to love The Cribs album, but I just can't. It's too 'stodgy'.

  4. I'm delighted to have support for my assetion that Edward Sharpe sounds like Johnny Borrell. I was roundly mocked (by Ian) for suggesting this a couple of months ago. Frankly, it proved too big a hurdle for me to get over - just sounds like Razorlight gone hippy to me...

  5. Ways to undermine a top 10 pick:

    1. Compare it to Razorlight.

  6. Ways to undermine a top 10 pick:

    2. Ask Pranam to review it... ;)

  7. Haha - too true Steve.

    I've just reread my forthcoming reviews in the vain hope that I've been slightly more positive about other albums in my top ten.

    I can reveal that adjectives I've chosen to use include 'smelly', 'ridiculous' and 'poor'.

    Sorry chaps.