Saturday, December 04, 2010

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Four

If getting in to the top 20 is the kind of thing that bothers you, well, then these are the albums that missed out by one place.

Pranam Mavahalli

Grinderman – Grinderman 2 (Mute)

Track - When My Baby Comes

Ah, more high-kicking, finger-pointing, no-pussy, apocalypse-preaching blues from Cave and co. Noisy, funny and occasionally appalling – I found it a well-needed blast of high-octane fun. This is my fourth favourite track off the album – other panel members beat me to me ideal choices – but it’s great nevertheless, particularly for its unexpected mutation into a rifftastic behemoth half-way through.

John Skilbeck

Dum Dum Girls - I Will Be (Sub Pop)

Track - Bhang Bhang I'm A Burnout

Even the band name was sweet, whether it was borrowed from Talk Talk’s Dum Dum Girl, Iggy Pop’s Dum Dum Boys, or The Vaselines’ Dum Dum album. Drenched in distortion, the guitar sound of Dum Dum Girls was a popular one this year. While most trends are given one shot, the female vocal over fuzzpop combination results in great things with ever-accelerating frequency (for further study, check out peak-era Primitives, Raveonettes, Black Tambourine), and this year it was most weeks that a new, thrilling girls-on-guitars band surfaced. I Will Be was noir-ish, often menacing, and its 11 tracks rolled by in under a half-hour, just two breaking the three-minute mark. Live they were a brief thrill, a leather-jacketed four-piece girl gang; on record their sound bore the hallmarks of all the great girl groups, and the production, inevitably, that of the ultimate girl-group producer Phil Spector.

Steve Pill

Walls - Walls (Kompakt)

Track - Soft Cover People

With tracks named after paint pigments and an album cover featuring a bleached photo of blossom trees, it is little surprise that this debut from London duo Sam Willis and Alessio Natalizia is an impressionistic piece. There's shades of Brian Eno, Boards of Canada and Pink Floyd's Meddle here, yet their particular mix of droning guitars, analogue fuzz and backward loops somehow manages to sound entirely fresh.

Matt Collins

Lone Wolf - The Devil and I (Bella Union)

Track - 15 Letters

South London’s Lone Wolf is all furiously picked acoustic guitars and epic vocal delivery, giving this album the other / olde worldy feel of a 70s folk singer with access to a 96-track Pro Tools driven digital studio. Frantic drumclicks and guitars picked Buried Beneath the tiles sounds like an acoustic Muse at their passionate best, and album closer-but-one Dead River wouldn’t have been out of place on Fleet Foxes classic debut.

Andy Welch

First Aid Kit – The Big Black And Blue (Wichita)

Track - Heavy Storm

I saw Swedish duo First Aid Kit play at London’s Union Chapel earlier this year without having really heard their music beforehand. It was one of those beautiful experiences where you’re unexpectedly bowled over, and I’ve been hooked since. The arrangements on some of the songs are at times a little simplistic, bland even, but then with voices so huge and emotive, it scarcely matters.

Guy Atkinson

The Errors - Come Down With Me (Rock Action)

Track - A Rumour In Africa

This second album from Glasgow 'post-electro-rock-whatever' foursome contains a couple of tracks that pill'eads would describe as absolute 'bangers'. I'm not one of them, so 'awesome songs' will have to suffice. POP FACT: They released a remix album of this in November called 'Celebrity Come Down With Me'. YES!

Dom Farrell

Paul Weller - Wake Up The Nation (Island)

Track - Find The Torch, Burn The Plans

Wake Up The Nation sees Paul Weller jettison the occasional dinner jazz of 2009's 22 Dreams in favour of all-round brevity. Trees is the only song over four minutes, and that has three separate parts. Opener Moonshine bustles and burns out almost before you've noticed the initial flash, while No Tears To Cry is a snappy soul ballad that outstrips much of Weller's Style Council work. As the title suggests, Wake Up The Nation is in large parts a reacquaintence with the angry young man of the late seventies. Lyrical references to Facebook in the title track are more embarrassing uncle than class warrior, but when pitched correctly, as on Find The Torch, Burn The Plans, the results are a triumph.

Ian Parker

Titus Andronicus - The Monitor (Merok)

Track - A More Perfect Union

Titus Andronicus first came to my attention thanks to the endless comparisons to Bruce, which occur because of their Jersey roots, their self-confessed adoration, and their playful theft of his lyrical themes. But this is no Gaslight Anthem-esque Ode to The Boss. This is an angry Okkervil River. A ragged Hold Steady. In short, a riot.

Rory Dollard

Black Keys – Brothers (V2)

Track - Next Girl

Album number six from the Ohio duo and no obvious sign that their retrofitted blues-rock is growing any less appealing with age. Dan Auerbach is a consistently engaging performer, his riffs and licks always firmly on the right side of homage to the greats of the genre. Vocally, his sunny falsetto is now as effective as his traditional gutterslumped drawl and Next Girl even showcases some of the swagger from their Blakroc rap project.

Ali Mason

Dangermouse and Sparklehorse - Dark Night of the Soul (Parlaphone)

Track - Little Girl (ft. Julian Casablancas)

Having bought one album of unremarkable indie tracks with Dangermouse going ‘beep’ in the background (yes Broken Bells, I mean you) this year I was fairly reluctant to add another to my collection. Dark Night Of The Soul is, thankfully, a better album but, as is perhaps inevitable in collection of collaborations, some tracks work and some don’t. Highlights include Little Girl with Julian Casablancas and The Man Who Played God with Suzanne Vega. Lowlights include lots of guff in between.

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