Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Eight

No, you're not stuck behind the eight ball. You're behind door number eight of the Musical Advent Calendar, where you'll find the No. 17s on our album of the year lists.

Pranam Mavahalli

Liars – Sisterworld (Mute)

Track - Scarecrows On A Killer Slant

Not quite as out there as Drum’s Not Dead, nor as instant as their eponymous album and therefore not meriting a place higher up the list for me. Nevertheless, the highs are very good indeed, including this monstrous ditty about gangs and murder on the streets of LA. Turn this mother up.

John Skilbeck

Standard Fare - The Noyelle Beat (Melodic/Thee SPC)

Track: Nuit Avec Une Ami

When pop music boffins look back on 2010 in years to come, Sheffield's Standard Fare will probably be less than a footnote to a footnote. Yet their raison d'ĂȘtre was not to smash musical boundaries and impress the chin-stroking self-appointed pop professor Paul Morley, but in getting the kids dancing. They succeeded in a field in Derbyshire in July, when they played a great set at Indietracks, gathered from this debut LP. Singers Emma Kupa and Danny How front up against each other like Kate Jackson engaging in word-play with Stuart Murdoch, and the Blondes/Belles likenesses don't stop there but extend to the band's jangle-pop sound. There were some midget gems here, the friends-go-to-bed romp of Nuit Avec Une Amie and the joyous Dancing to highlight but two.

Steve Pill

Toro Y Moi - Causers Of This (Car Park)

Track - Blessa

This is about the millionth great, sunbleached-electro-meets-shoegaze-indie album released this year, following in the footsteps of last year's Memory Tapes and Neon Indian, while cosying up nicely with a few other selections still to come. Blessa is the stand out, not only for the general swoony dream pop ambience it kicks off with, but also the way the band appear to fall apart at the end, through sheer blissed-out disinterestedness.

Matt Collins

Paul Weller - Wake up the Nation (Island)

Track - She Speaks

Very late in his career, Paul Weller has put out his Sgt Pepper. Wake Up The Nation is a massive collection of rock psychedelia that shows Weller in cantankerous yet justifiably angry form at the laziness of Generation Facebook. The title track is him back to his stompy rock best, summing up his dismay and urgency all at once.

Andy Welch

Sarah Blasko – As Day Follows Night (Dramatico)

Track – All I Want

We’ve all had painful break-ups and done a bit of wallowing, but few of us manage to channel that anguish into something quite as mesmerising as As Day Follows Night. It’s the third album from Australian singer Sarah Blasko, who has one of the purest, most delicate voices I’ve heard all year, while pitch-perfect orchestration and clever production by Bjorn ‘Peter, Bjorn & John’ Yttling rightly let her greatest asset steal the show.

Guy Atkinson

Les Savy Fav - Root For Ruin (Wichita)

Track - Dirty Knails

If this advent calendar was judged on the band's live performances, Les Savy Fav would have stomped their way to victory dressed like Sherlock Holmes, sweating profusely and trying to bum everyone on the front row. Tim Harrington is truly one of the most fascinating, euphoric, captivating and grotesque performers of our times - you must see this band live before you die. Who gives a shit what the records sound like when they're this mesmeric in a live setting? Well I do. And it's friggin' awesome. It's the sound of a grown man burying your head in his ample, sweaty bosom and that's good enough for me.

Dom Farrell

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Beat The Devil's Tattoo (V2)

Track - Half-State

Sometimes maligned leather-clad San Francisco feedback merchants BRMC gave us their sixth LP, with a new drummer in tow and the welcome return of vocals after 2008's instrumental drone-dirge The Effects of 333. Now, this is far from reinventing the wheel, but the overall lack of flabby filler makes it Black Rebel's most consistent album to date. Raveonettes drummer Leah Shapiro is the new face on the stool and her backing vocals provide a timely lift in places. From the bluesy stomp of the lead-off title track, to the tender lightness of The Toll and space-rock odyssey Half-State, there is plenty to enjoy here.

Ian Parker

Allo Darlin' - Allo Darlin' (Fortuna Pop)

Track - Let's Go Swimming

Flitting seamlessly between twee love songs like Heartbeat Chilli to the pop of My Heart Is A Drummer to the wistful dreaminess of Let's Go Swimming without even trying, Allo' Darlin's debut is a joyful way to pass 40-odd minutes. It's remarkably accomplished for a first crack, and you only hope we've not already had the best this band will offer.

Rory Dollard

The Roots – How I Got Over (Def Jam)

Track - How I Got Over

If 2008’s Rising Down was The Roots’ tired, over-earnest mis-step, this follow-up is their rebuttal. They have taken a step back from humourless politicising and have rediscovered tunes. No mainstream US hip-hop band utilises live instruments as well as they continue to do, especially ?uestlove’s roomy drumming, and there is a sense of old school positivity at play here that brings a smile to the face.

Ali Mason

Arcade Fire – The Suburbs (Mercury)

Track - City With No Children

If Arcade Fire’s career had gone in reverse, they’d probably be the best band in the world: you’d’ve been impressed by the ambition of their sprawling debut The Suburbs, you’d’ve noted the definite improvement and increased coherence of follow-up Neon Bible and seen The Funeral as a perfect, glorious realisation of their potential. As it is, The Suburbs just sounds like a bit of a bloated mess, punctuated by moments of brilliance.


  1. Well, it took a grand total of about 40 seconds for me to start hunting out Standard Fare on amazon. I rely on you for flagging up this kind of stuff, so well played sir.
    Also...i was under the impression that Sarah Blasko was the name of a stand up comedian so avoided what i took to be a 'humourous' album. turns out i've cocked up big time there. another one that needs attention i think

  2. We've got some really good picks here - again. I've enjoyed some a lot more than I reckoned I would, even though I'm still Weller-intolerant.

    However, let's move on from that and to something we can all exercise our inner geek on: mash-ups.
    Has anyone worked out any good ones yet?
    I've just realised you can play more than one track at once, so this site is my playground for the afternoon.

  3. Standard Fare is great isn't it? Not heard that before. And for some reason I didn't bother with that BRMC album, despite being pretty obsessed with their first four records. Well, not so much the second one. I have bought this already, that track's glorious Dom.
    As for Weller, you're missing out Skillers!

  4. As for mash-ups, start the Roots tracks, and immediately after play Allo Darlin'. The beats sound great under the lap steel.

  5. Best 'mash-up' I could find was Corin Tucker dipping in and out of Crystal Castles but it eventually became a bit of a mess. Slightly flawed idea from me there.

  6. This Sarah Blasko track is tremendous. I am giving it two thumbs up.