Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Eleven

Eleven = Fourteen. Why? Because this is the Musical Advent Calendar. Here are the panel's No. 14 albums of 2010.

Pranam Mavahalli

Neil Young – Le Noise (Reprise)

Track - Rumblin’

How does he do it? He’s old enough to claim a free bus pass, but he’s still putting the young ones to shame by sidestepping expectations with each release. Part of this album’s appeal for me is that it was so unexpected – just Neil and an electric with a garageload of effects. It flirts with being too outrĂ© at times, and I would love to hear how some of these songs would sound with Crazy Horse backing them, but I adore Neil for continuing to challenge and confront.

John Skilbeck

MGMT - Congratulations

Track- Brian Eno (Columbia)

Career left turns rarely work out this well. Congratulations presented MGMT in apparent rebellion, as the two-piece withdrew from the chart-pop rat-race and presumably caused a code-red alert at their record label. They wrote one song in tribute to cult indiepopper Dan Treacy of the Television Personalities and labelled it Song For Dan Treacy, another for Brian Eno and called it Brian Eno. Track six was a 12-minute opus, while track eight – the instrumental Lady Dada’s Nightmare – sounded like a night raid on the asylum. Really, for heaven’s sake. Where their first album was a cash cow asking to be milked, Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser really spiked the milk with acid this time, and the result was a radical record, laced with madness, touched by genius. Was this really the band that made the grating Oracular Spectacular?

Steve Pill

Hot Chip - One Life Stand (Parlophone)

Track - Hand Me Down Your Love

More direct and battle-hardened than their earlier electro workouts, One Life Stand is full of proper, Word-magazine-reading literate pop music. Instead of repeating themselves over and over and over again (like a monkey with a miniature cymbal), the funny-looking five-piece have slowed down, chilled out and borrowed a couple of tricks from their Dad's battered copy of The Best of Squeeze, but they are sounding no worse for it.

Matt Collins

Broken Social Scene - Forgiveness Rock Record (City Slang)

Track - Meet Me In The Basement

Another band who aren’t fixing things that ain’t broke, Canada’s post rock heroes Broken Social Scene are almost knowingly making a standard album with the name. But they’re close to the top, so why change? Meet Me In The Basement has the insistent riff throughout, out there production and jump-up-and-down rock all together - as usual.

Andy Welch

Stornoway – Beachcomber’s Windowsill (4AD)

Track – The Coldharbour Road

“Conkers shining on the ground, the air is cooler, and I feel like I just started uni.” Hardly the most macho of starts to Stornoway’s debut album, but it’s churlish to quibble with anything Brian Briggs sings, such is the heavenly nature of his voice. There are a few misjudged tracks on Beachcomber’s Windowsill, but any shortcomings are overshadowed by the brilliantly sophisticated The Coldharbour Road, Zorbing and Fuel Up.

Guy Atkinson

Your Demise - The Kids We Used To Be (Visible Noise)

Track - Teenage Lust

This album is what I'd imagine would be going around in my head if I was being bludgeoned in the face by a serial killer. Having said that, it's still a significantly more 'tuneful' effort than their unrelenting debut and contains enough hooks to suggest that these English gents could break the American stranglehold on melodic hardcore punk.

Dom Farrell

Broken Bells - Broken Bells (Columbia)

Track - The High Road

Okay, so this essentially sounds like an expensively produced batch of Shins demos. But therein lies the virtue of the eponymous debut from prodigious collaborator Dangermouse and James Mercer. The production is slick but unobtrusive and deft neo-psyche touches allow room for Mercer's effortless songcraft to breath. The Ghost Inside and The High Road are near enough perfect pop, even if it is difficult to shake the feeling that this is a very charming piece of thumb twiddling to pass the time before Mercer gets round to a proper follow up to the Shins' magnificent Wincing The Night Away.

Ian Parker

Caitlin Rose - Own Side Now (Names Records)

Track - Sinful Wishing Well

It's no secret that I like a spot of country music. Proper country music. None of your modern Nashville pap. Hank Williams, Jimmie Rodgers, Emmylou Harris, Townes van Zandt. And those that build on their legacies. So to see the likes of Caitlin Rose come to the fore and prosper is truly delightful. Rose does country the old school way. And you know I'm going to like that.

Rory Dollard

Grinderman – Grinderman II (Mute)

Track - Palaces of Montezuma

We all know the story of Grinderman by now. It’s Nick Cave and his hairiest cohorts playing a quick game of dirty old bastards. Needless to say, it’s a roll that suits them well. There are no pretensions towards the poetry or piousness of the Bad Seeds so instead it’s guitars set to warp speed, rabid sexuality fit for the offenders’ register and Cave in his wild-eyed, scenery-chomping pomp.

Ali Mason

Kate Nash – My Best Friend Is You (Polydor)

Track - I Just Love You More

That Polydor chose to release Do-Wah-Doo as the lead single for My Best Friend In You was a pity, because it made the album seem like Made Of Bricks II. Anyone determined to believe that’s the case will find the evidence to back up their prejudice if they look hard enough, but this is a much richer, much more interesting album than her debut. It’s delightful to hear Nash playing with styles – there’s riot grrrl here, and spoken word and lovely lo-fi folk. Perhaps most exciting is Pickpocket, where she hints at being a British Regina Spektor. If you can look past the occasionally over-literal lyrics, this is a rewarding listen.



  2. So you're saying it survived Eliza Doolittle and died at the hands of Kate Nash? I guess it could have been severely wounded and thus only clinging to life.

  3. Bloody listen to the album, Rory, then we can have this conversation.

  4. Ali, please listen to my track in full. I think you'll find it a rewarding listen.

  5. First time I've heard it but I like the Kate Nash song quite a lot. So shoot me. Nice L7-like guitar to start with, and pretty sinister vocal throughout. How much of the album is like that?

  6. I'll be honest, John. Not much. But there are other sounds she experiments with which sound, in my opinion, as good.