Friday, December 03, 2010

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Three

It's day three, and Ali's bid to be thrown off the panel shows no signs of slowing as he nominates an album designed to attract maximum ridicule, and one he himself admits "makes me want to kill myself"...

Pranam Mavahalli

Ali and Toumani – Ali and Toumani (World Circuit)

Track - Be Mankan

Manchester Piccadilly can make the world look an oppressive place. Particularly on a dark morning when you’ve just stepped off the bus into a puddle, and you are greeted by the sight of a pigeon pecking at the remnants of a discarded chicken kebab. Thanks are due to Jali then, a busker who brings happiness to me and the many other drones who live and work in Manchester with his wonderful kora playing. Here’s footage of him busking in Liverpool. The council should give this guy a job. Which brings me to today’s choice. The kora is one of my favourite instruments, and with all due respect to Jali, Toumani is its undisputed master. This album recorded with the late Ali Farka Toure is wonderful – and though it doesn’t quite match Toure’s Savane, or Toumani’s Mande Variations For, it’s still a beautiful listen.

John Skilbeck

Rose Elinor Dougall - Without Why (Scarlet Music)

Track - Find Me Out

While The Pipettes ailed without her, a sorry imitation of their peak-period incarnation, the artiste formerly known as Rosay went from strength to strength in 2010. Although Without Why took an age to arrive – she was playing these tracks at festivals 12 months before the album arrived – Dougall really hit the spot with her debut album. Her brand of electro-folk carried with it a warmth - the rich voice which was rarely used to its best potential in a polka-dot dress now struck out for centre stage. At times it reminded me of Swedish songbird Frida Hyvonen, whose Silence Is Wild hit the top spot in my 2009 chart; elsewhere there was a little imperfection. Its failure to dent the charts meant it was less a breakthrough album than a break-free release, but Dougall caught the eye of many and achieved tangible success in league with Mark Ronson before the year’s end.

Steve Pill

The Walkmen - Lisbon (Bella Union)

Track - Angela Surf City

So many of these early entries are going to come with provisos because, if we're all being honest, there were approximately six truly great records this year and plenty of just pretty good ones. Despite the hype, Walkmen have yet to top 2004's The Rat, the most skittish, urgent and life affirming four minutes and 28 seconds of guitar abuse released this century. In comparison, Lisbon can only pale, being as it is crisper, lighter and more considered. Luckily, surf rock, country and Latino diversions all add greater depth to this consistent set.

Matt Collins

Band of Horses - Infinite Arms (Columbia)

Track - Blue Beard

Seattle-born Band of Horses are riding the wave of soulful three chord Americana rock, but they’re surfing admirably high. The formula is well worn enough - harmonies blending into classic rock guitar beds, but it’s the quality of songwriting here and delicacy of the riffs that lifts Band of Horses above their peers.

Andy Welch

Beach House – Teen Dream (Bella Union)

Track - Lover of Mine

I remember people asking what the new Beach House album sounded like before it came out, to which the only reply was ‘It just sounds like their other two, you know, just like Mazzy Star…’ Their debut and follow-up Devotion are equally strong, at-times breathtakingly pretty records and there’s nothing new here, so it’s a little puzzling why Teen Dream put the Baltimore duo on the map to the extent it did. Perhaps the key lies in Norway, easily one of the best songs of 2010. Whatever the reason, Teen Dream is a magical album.

Guy Atkinson

Sky Larkin - Kaleide (Polydor)

Track - Still Windmills

Slightly more focused offering from Leeds' foremost Seattle acolytes (they've
got plenty of competition for this title). Last year's 'The Golden Spike' was a thrilling affair, but did suffer from being slightly one-paced. No such problems here, however, as the band display a more mature touch, best showcased on 'Anjelica Houston' and 'ATM'. The drummer absolutely 'slays' live as well, which is always nice.

Dom Farrell

Belle & Sebastian - Write About Love (Rough Trade)

Track - Read The Blessed Pages

After a four-and-a-half year absence, Stuart Murdoch and his band of merry men return with their best album for a decade. Gone are the overly twee songs about animals, casting Write About Love as a follow-up of sorts to 1998's career high-watermark The Boy With The Arab Strap. What makes the record so endearing is the fact that Murdoch's inquisitive awkwardness with the love and the human condition do not appear to have eased with age. As usual the command of melody is imperious, meaning I Didn't See It Coming and Come On Sister lend a touch of euphoria where they have no right to. The highlight comes towards the end, when Ghost of Rockschool and Read the Blessed Pages shimmer brightest.

Ian Parker

Chief - Modern Rituals (Domino)

Track - The Minute I Saw It

Chief got the big build up. The really big build up. Hype about the Californians started about a year before Modern Rituals ever arrived. When the record finally got here, it was easy to be underwhelmed. Comparisons to the likes of Crosby, Stills & Nash, Love and the Band hugely overstated the end result. But take a step back and judge the record on its own merit, and it is a highly enjoyable way to pass the time.

Rory Dollard

Meursault – All Creatures Will Make Merry (Song, By Toad)

Track - Crank Resolutions

Probably my most rewarding ‘blind’ buy of the year, picked up in Edinburgh’s wonderful Avalanche Records as I somehow still had a tenner left after a monster purchasing session. This is a deliberately underproduced, rough around the edges release which revels in the cracked, thick accent of Nick Pennycook. On this tracks, and several others, his Scottish brogue wanders dense, sandblasted soundscapes to great effect but there are one or two softer moments.

Ali Mason

Eliza Doolittle – Eliza Doolittle (Parlaphone)

Track - Rollerblades

With her mockney voice and cheerful songs, it would be easy to lump Eliza Doolittle in with Lily Allen and Kate Nash. So that’s exactly what I’m going to do. Luckily I quite like Lily Allen and Kate Nash. Yes the lyrics are embarrassingly literal at times, the CD has been packaged to look EXACTLY like Alright, Still and something about her relentless cheerfulness makes me want to kill myself just a little bit, but there are four or five songs on here that I actually really like. Which is more than can be said for many albums I’ve bought this year. *Sits back, waits for abuse from Dollard...*


  1. I'm delighted to see Rose Elinor Dougall make the list, particularly on the day I picked Eliza Doolittle. I really wanted to get that album but was shamed into not getting it by Rory repeatedly telling me how wrong I was to like the first Pipettes album. I must stop treating Rory's opinions as fact...

  2. so you decided not to buy the Dougall album based on one of splenetic opinion splurges but you went right ahead and bought fucking eliza doolittle. there's a flaw in your decision making process ali.
    here's an opinion that it's entirely correct to treat as fact: she's a load of old guttersnipe bilge with as much musical werewithal as a Mick Hucknall concept album. There's one thing having an opinion, but this is a shambolic state of affairs. Which, of course, i said to you last night. This is as dark a day as Ragged Glories has seen.

  3. also that Belle and Sebastian song bust my balls. Those guys need to give it up. They're only fit for Ali's 'anti-list'

  4. I'm greeting with regret over the Rose Elinor Dougall aberration Rory. What was I thinking? Tomorrow I'll be sure to post a record you liked this year ;o)
    Anyway, that Ali and Toumani track's a bit special isn't it. Really enjoyed Toumani's Mande Variations and might have to make this my first purchase from this year's countdown.

  5. Dear god Eliza Doolittle makes me want to gouge my eyes out with a dull fork. Really, WHO is that happy?! I don't just sit in a dark corner and listen to The Cure all day, and I will admit a bit of fondness for Lilly Allen, but still... Something is wrong if you're that happy.

    I loved most of the other tracks, especially those by Sky Larkin and Chief. Beach House isn't bad, but they're so overplayed here I can't listen to them anymore.

    The only time I'm a grammar Nazi is when I'm trying to annoy my 15 year old sister, so no worries there.

  6. i quite liked that track today actually skillers, just didn't like the pipettes much.

  7. So Rory, just to clarify, do you like Eliza Doolittle or not?

  8. Johnski_beat - glad you're digging Ali and Toumani. It's definitely worth your time. The problem for me is that it's almost too much of a good thing - like putting Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page in the same band and expecting it to work...

  9. Pranam - That dude in Piccadilly Gardens is nothing short of a stone-cold legend and I'm delighted you've introduced him to this blog. On more than one occasion I've thought about taking a room mic and a mixer down and trying to record him for loops. No idea how it would actually work but I'm still of the opinion it would be awesome.

    At the risk of coming over as the anti-Ali, I'm a big fan of a lot of today's picks. If it had been a top 30, Band of Horses, Chief and The Walkmen probably would have made my cut. I thought about investigating Rose Elinor Dougall album and will now definitely be doing so.

    Dollard, I'm glad the Belle & Sebastian song has busted your balls, as the chilli-laced parsnip soup you gave me last night nearly blew my genitals off all together.