Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number One

Behind the first door of the Advent Calendar are the albums that are essentially our final picks, the last ones on the list. But these are no throwaway picks (at least not the most of them, you know, Ali aside), making up the numbers at the end of the day.

All of us (again, Ali aside) were struggling to whittle it down to a final 24, so the last one to make the cut needed to do something to stand out. Read on to find out what it was.

Pranam Mavahalli

John Adams - I Am Love Soundtrack (Nonesuch)

Track - Lollapalooza

Confessions pt.1: I haven’t seen I Am Love nor do I own its soundtrack. And moreover, I haven’t even heard the tracks sequenced as they are in this order. Yet it’s my 24th favourite album of 2010 because Adams needs to be represented in any compilation of my listening habits this year. I’ve spent most of this autumn/winter being thrilled, confused and inspired by his music in equal measure. This soundtrack picks pieces from across his career, with Lollapalooza present here in its entirety. Mr Adams talks introduces the piece here. Enjoy.

John Skilbeck

Shonen Knife – Super Group (Damnably)

Track - Jet

Formed in 1981, all-girl Japanese three-piece Shonen Knife supported Nirvana on the Nevermind UK tour and were championed by John Peel as well as putting out music on K Records and Sub Pop in the 1980s. So their credentials aren’t half bad. Only one member of the original line-up remains - lead vocalist Naoko Yamano. An explosion of colour on stage, and a riot of fun with a heavy Ramones influence, their set at ATP’s Groening weekend in May was a treat. Super Group was superior punk-pop, and by track 10 they’d grown Wings.

Steve Pill

I Am Kloot – Sky At Night (Shepherd Moon)

Track - Fingerprints

So this year saw Manchester's grizzliest barflies take a break from drinking to oblivion and actually find time to slink into a recording studio. Sky At Night retains that slightly surly, bitter edge that made Kloot's early records stand out from the nu-folk masses but the lush production from their bezzie mates Elbow has expanded their sound and it is all the better for it. Still a God awful band name, mind.

Matt Collins

Mystery Jets - Serotonin (Rough Trade)

Track - Serotonin

The Mystery Jets have grown up in the production stakes. They’ve retained the wide eyed romanticism that makes them such an engaging band, but built on this with some dazzling electropop soundscapes. The woo ooh oohs are ever present and keep the joie de vivre going strong, making this an album very easy to love.

Andy Welch

Tracey Thorn – Love And Its Opposite (Strange Feeling)

Tracks - Oh! The Divorces

I always liked Everything But The Girl’s more electronic tracks, but to my mind Tracey Thorn’s distinctive voice sounded best against acoustic guitars and live instruments, like on the duo’s fantastic version of I Don’t Want To Talk About It. Here, on Thorn’s third album, we have a whole collection of ballads which touch on deep emotional themes – divorce, desolation, ageing, the perils of dating – but thanks to her wondrous vocals and gorgeous arrangements, all manage to steer clear of the gooey sentimentality that’d ruin things in less skilled hands.

Guy Atkinson

Jonsi - GO (Parlaphone)

Track - Go Do

In stark contrast to last year's 24th placed effort from me, this is a far more gentle affair. Where Converge's thunderingly heavy hardcore punk was like a sledgehammer to the face, this album from the Sigur Ros frontman is more akin to being tickled on the balls with a feather. Far more accessible than Sigur Ros' glacial post-rock, this contains a couple of real 'pop gems'.

Dom Farrell

I Am Kloot - Sky At Night (Shepherd Moon)

Track - Northern Skies

Sky At Night was supposed to "do an Elbow" for fellow Manchester good-guys and survivors I Am Kloot. Guy Garvey and Craig Potter manned the controls to produce the record, which was partially recorded at Elbow's own Blueprint Studios. They even followed it up with a Mercury Prize nomination. Alas, Kloot fell short and the cross-over never quite happened. That shouldn't take away from a record woven with some truly lovely moments, none more so than Northern Skies, which plays out as hymn to the hometown which still holds them so dearly.

Ian Parker

Dan Michaelson & The Coastguards - Shakes (Editions)

Track - If Not For You

I'll confess to having been ignorant of Dan Michaelson's work until just a few weeks ago, when I walked into Rough Trade East and they were playing his new record. No wonder they were keen to promote it, having got their hands on a small number of the specially printed sleeves. But this is not a record that needs packaging gimmicks to sell it. Michaelson comes across a sort of British Lambchop, with plenty for fans of both them and the likes of Richard Hawley to enjoy in his well-crafted ruminations.

Rory Dollard

Bonnie “Prince” Billy and the Cairo Gang – The Wonder Show of the World (Domino)

Track - The Sounds Are Always Begging

Will Oldham is never bonnie and only intermittently princely. Having become frustrated by his wilfully hit and miss output in recent years I decided to avoid his latest for several months. Then a burst of this song on 6 Music grabbed me and changed my mind in four enchanting minutes. Wonder Show is a rootsy folk album without any bells or whistles and on its best moments showcases Oldham at his most instinctive and worldly.

Ali Mason

Curl up with a cup of cocoa and a good book

Let’s get this out of the way. I haven’t found a whole lot of music I’ve loved in 2010. My list is not jam packed-full of classics. There are even some in there I actively dislike. So before we plunge into this music business, let me ask – do you really need another album? Have you considered a book? Or playing video games? There are lots of podcasts out there worthy of your attention. Just sayin’.


  1. Great minds Stevie, great minds

  2. Had I actually chosen a number 24 it may well have been I Am Kloot. It's a real 24th-best-album type of album.

  3. Love that Jet cover. Also love Ali's choice. Are you planning to steal Christmas again this year?

  4. Nice start people. I like the Tracy Thorn a lot. I sort of figured i would when it came out but i wilfully ignored it. Meanwhile, prepare yourself people - I can assure you this is not Ali's most controversial pick.

  5. Oh, nobody said it was Ali's most controversial pick. You want to read his review for No. 1...

  6. Matt, thank you so much for using "joie de vivre". That Mystery Jets song is pretty damn tasty.