Monday, December 13, 2010

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Thirteen

So, which albums are lucky enough to be behind door number 13?

Pranam Mavahalli

Madlib - Madlib Medicine Show #1 (Madlib Invazion)

Track – Ode To The Ghetto (OJ Simpson remix)

Confessions pt.2: This is a random choice. Madlib’s released 16 albums this year – 16 – and I’d be lying if I were to say I’ve given them all equal attention. At one point I did consider giving 16 advent calendar places to each of Mr Lib’s efforts, just because I love his music so much. Fortunately common sense prevailed. So Medicine Show #1 gets a place, but there are probably better ones out there that miss the cut for no better reason than that I haven’t heard them. Feel free to reproach me.

John Skilbeck

Nina Nastasia - Outlaster (Fatcat Records)

Track - This Familiar Way

Stationed in New York City, Nastasia released her sixth LP this year and with it took a fresh step in her career, reversing out of stripped-down street and taking a trip down orchestra alley. With string and woodwind quartets she added style but relinquished none of the substance in her writing. Outlaster was an album I enjoyed particularly at night, with the lights off and the street outside silent. It demanded attention, every note integral; the songs of the dramatic nature an audience would fall silent for. Nastasia drew emotion from each word she sang, and the new accompaniment augmented her delivery. Infused with such raw emotion at times it reminded me of the melodramatic fado songs of Portugal, albeit always steering just the safe side of maudlin.

Steve Pill

Aloe Blacc - Good Things (Stones Throw)

Track: I Need A Dollar

The Roots and John Legend might have tried to evoke 1970s politico-soul this year with an over-produced album of choice covers, but Stones Throw singer Aloe Blacc trumped them with a buoyant set of originals. Good Things sounds like a lost Bill Withers album and includes a sublime rework of the Velvet Underground's Femme Fatale, restaged as a gentle soul classic. If the whole production wasn’t so damn derivative, this would be in my top five.

Matt Collins

Beach House - Teen Dream (Bella Union)

Track - Silver Soul

Beach House’s trade is a combo of one-setting synths, dreamy girl vocals and drum machines churning out chilled out beats, and it is beguiling. My ears know that their trick is a repetitive one, with tempo and mood rarely straying from dreamy and whispy. But it doesn’t stop my heart sinking deeper into the warm aural bath with every winter night listen.

Andy Welch

Laura Veirs – July Flame (Bella Union)

Track – Summer Is The Champion

It seemed every album I loved in the early part of the year was released by Bella Union or the Co-Op it belongs to. Laura Veirs’ seventh album July Flame is maybe the pick of the bunch, in my view the Portland singer’s best so far. Yes, even better than Carbon Glacier. Veirs is such a skilled writer and performer, and here displays her amazing ability to make the same song sound both like a homemade demo and a rich, fully realised masterpiece.

Guy Atkinson

Los Campesinos - Romance is Boring (Polydor)

Track - A Heat Rash In The Shape of the Show-Me State

Where their first two albums were like having your cheeks squeezed and hair ruffled in unison, this third offering is like being kicked in the gut. While there are still some typically jovial moments, there are far more brooding and introspective songs that showcase a new maturity in their songwriting and it's these that live longest in the memory.

Dom Farrell

Gorillaz - Plastic Beach (Parlaphone)

Track - Stylo

Ahh Damon, bless him. He’s a wanker isn’t he? However Plastic Beach goes some way to confirming the suspicion that the one-time Colchester resident could well be the most accomplished British musician of his generation. The strong point of Gorillaz’s third album is that Albarn takes the best elements from his varied work over the past two decades, while jettisoning the self-indulgence that has often hindered it. Urgent contributions from Kano, Snoop Dogg, Mos Def and the return of De La Soul mean Gorillaz’s hip-hop elements lose their air of eclectic box-ticking. Bobby Womack’s guest slot is no dutiful homage - his vocals on Stylo sizzle irresistibly. But the clinchers are On Melancholy Hill, Broken and To Binge, where the Gorillaz project benefits from evidence that Albarn’s wistful songwriting remains in rude good health.

Ian Parker

Best Coast - Crazy For You (Wichita)

Track - The End

Best Coast make that sort of breezy, lo-fi west-coast pop that I pretty much find it impossible not to like. Their lyrics border on the ridiculous, and they go out of their way not to bring too many hints of sophistication to the record as a whole, but that works just fine for me.

Rory Dollard

Dylan LeBlanc – Paupers Field (Rough Trade)

Track - If the Creek Don’t Rise

Anyone who follows Ryan Adams on Twitter will surely share my fear that he is as likely to spend the rest of his days as an online fast food critic as resume his previous role as one of the finest songwriters of his generation. We should probably cross our fingers that does not transpire but in the meantime we have 20-year-old Dylan LeBlanc, who channels Adams’ most tenderfooted moments with a set of lyrical, melancholic country. Americana’s next major star.

Ali Mason

Bombay Bicycle Club – Flaws (Island)

Track - Fairytale Lullaby

Bombay Bicycle Club’s debut album, I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose was (apparently – I don’t know, I didn’t buy it) a rockier, more electric affair than this. Consequently Flaws is an interesting concoction – the gentlest of folk albums with a rock sensibility. Rock peeps through on the edge of Jack Steadman’s vocals and in Suren de Saram’s unexpectedly insistent drums – and it works surprisingly well. The best track by a distance, though, is Fairytale Lullaby, a cover of a song by John Martyn.


  1. Ahhh Ryan Adams. How I miss him. He's gone a bit mad right?

  2. I can't get enough of Stylo. Single and video of the year.