Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Seven

Seven. Lucky seven. Today, we see that Ali's continuing left-field approach means we have two different releases by the same artist on the same day.

Pranam Mavahalli

Janelle Monae – The Archandroid III (Bad Boy)

Track – Tightrope

Blessed with the voice of Beyonce, the moves of James Brown and the face of an angel she even puts Erik Hassle’s mighty vertical ‘fro to shame. God, whoever she might be, was in a generous mood when distributing talents to Ms Monae. Thankfully for the listener, Monae has put these gifts to good use in creating most batshit bonkers concept album the year. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next, and after seeing this, you might feel the same.

John Skilbeck

Marnie Stern - Marnie Stern (Kill Rock Stars)

Track - Nothing Left

Accomplished guitarists can be such crushing bores, impressive musical on-stage furniture but when energy, passion and vision - and perhaps fury - are absent then precisely what is the point? New Yorker Stern is a virtuoso shredder with a sense of adventure and eccentricity, and her third album, self-titled, was another walk-in wardrobe of quirks and delights. Art rock was it? Maybe, each song a carefully textured work of sometimes savage beauty. Her phenomenal playing, her sloganeering vocals and Zach Hill's majestic drumming amounted to a bouncing bomb of an album, her best yet and you were never far from the next violent explosion of magnificent colour.

Steve Pill

Arcade Fire - The Suburbs (Mercury)

Track - Modern Man

Okay, so it isn’t a patch on Funeral, Win Butler’s references to “the kids” are depressing, concept albums are for wimps, and there are at least five tracks too many. Still, The Suburbs has a handful of tracks that still set the pulse racing and would be highlights of any Arcade Fire collection. Month of May still burns with a little of the old righteous fire, The Suburbs takes a stab at Kinks-ian pop and even Rococo manages to be irritatingly addictive.

Matt Collins

Caitlin Rose - Own Side Now (Names Records)

Track - New York City

Own Side Now is why country is cool again. It isn’t just packed with heartbreak and harmonies but hummable tunes from the honey voiced Rose. New York City is a particular personal highlight of an afterthought, sandwiched between the single material of brass led stomp Shanghai Cigarettes and head-shaking fun of Spare Me.

Andy Welch

Belle & Sebastian – Write About Love (Rough Trade)

Track – I’m Not Living In The Real World

A friend and I were arguing about Belle & Sebastian recently, and he said he hated them because they’re “twee and smug.” I’m inclined to agree – not that tweeness is something to be ashamed of – but those characteristics are the reasons I love the band so much. I love that they annoy some people so violently and I think they’ve earned the right to be comfortable in their ability. Write About Love isn’t adventurous, but it brims with confidence and, just as the very best bands carve out their own genre, Write About Love couldn’t have been made by anyone else.

Guy Atkinson

Tokyo Police Club - Champ (Memphis Industries)

Track - Favourite Colour

The debut album, Elephant Shell, from these unfeasibly young Canadian upstarts failed to improve upon the fuzzy brilliance of their seven-track EP, A Lesson in Crime, but this second effort goes some way to recapturing the thrilling energy they lavished on us in those early, heady days. With more pop hooks than ever before, this is their shot at the big time - they might just get there...shudder.

Dom Farrell

Dum Dum Girls - I Will Be (Sub Pop)

Track - Lines Her Eyes

Gritty bubblegum pop may seem like a contradiction in terms, but it is something Dum Dum Girls have stumbled upon with full-length debut I Will Be. Obvious new-wave and Ronettes influences are offset by various nods towards Joy Division, PiL and the Velvet Underground. A tight, crisp rhythm section underpins Kristin Gundred's vision, which impressively pulled together by Richard Gotterhrer's lo-fi production of this clattering, menacing half-hour.

Ian Parker

She & Him - Volume Two (Double Six)

Track - Thieves

A quirk of timing meant it took me longer to fall for Volume Two than it did for One. It was released right before I went away, and ended up on a pile of records I'd not listened to for too long. But all that meant was that by the time I finally did get to it, it almost had the feel of a lost treasure. Volume Two elevates what at first felt like a part-time hobby into a serious band. I won't wait so long to play Volume Three.

Rory Dollard

Janelle Monae – The Archandroid (Bad Boy)

Track - Dance or Die

With the wholehearted backing from the likes of Outkast and P Diddy and guest appearances from the likes of Saul Williams and Of Montreal, Monae is unsubtly being primed for the big time. She certainly looks and sounds like a star – albeit one more at home in the American market than the British – and this record collates electronica, r&b, rap, strings, jazz and pop to fascinating effect.

Ali Mason

Caitlin Rose – Dead Flowers (Names Records)

Track - Shotgun Wedding

I’m not sure I really agree with choosing an EP for this list, but I so loved Dead Flowers and was so disappointed by Caitlin Rose’s subsequent album I was determined to put it in somewhere. Dead Flowers is country music pure and simple, done with such wit and warmth and joie de vivre it warms your bloody cockles. Somehow by the time Own Side Now was released later in the year, all the character had been ironed of her. Which was a shame, really.


  1. Hey, Matt. Let's have a fight becuase our opinions are different.

  2. Hey, Pranam. Let's have the opposite of a fight - maybe a handshake conveying mutual admiration - because our opinions are the same.

  3. I'd rather high-five you Rory - Wall Street style - but consider it done. I'll also bring some popcorn for the fight. My money's on Ali.

  4. Pranam, I thank you for your support, but if you'd actually met me I think your money might go elsewhere...

  5. I did enjoy the anti-B&S stuff here last week.

  6. I can now admit Caitlin Rose would have featured in or around my top 10 if she hadn't cancelled a gig at the Brudenell in October to play instead on Radcliffe and Maconie's show down in Cornwall. That's cost you, Rose, more than you could possibly have imagined.