Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Fourteen

Hello, and welcome to door number 14, behind which Pranam spends more time discussing albums he forgot to include in his top 24 rather than those he did.

Pranam Mavahalli

Flying Lotus – Pattern and Grid World (Warp)

Track - Jurassic Notion/M Theory

As I sat to write this review, I realised that I’d left out Autechre from my top 24 – a band who’ve released two albums this year, both of which I’ve really enjoyed. Damn. Well, if I’d included one of those albums it would have been Move of Ten over Quaristice because of its immediacy. Similarly, Flying Lotus’ EP gets a look in here over his LP (do people even say LP any more?) Cosmogramm. Both are great records, but the EP perhaps controversially wins for its instant appeal.

John Skilbeck

Male Bonding - Nothing Hurts (Sub Pop)

Track - Weird Feelings

Dalston is not about to become the new Seattle but Male Bonding, who hail from that east London district, have slotted in on the Sub Pop label with the kind of promise many of their grungy antecedents from the Pacific Northwest did almost 25 years ago. Nothing Hurts was an arrogantly good debut album which grabbed you from the forceful riff of opening track Year’s Not Long and refused to release its grip. I saw them for the first time in October, supporting label-mates No Age in a sense, but showing them up all told. This record saw frenetic punk and slacker fuzz-pop wrapped up in a 13-tracks-in-30-minutes package, sort of the way Nirvana introduced themselves with Bleach.

Steve Pill

How To Dress Well - Love Remains (Lefse)

Track - Ready For The World

Tom Krell might just be the hippest post-Kantian philosophy research fellow in the whole of Cologne. When he's not studying, the German-based producer makes a sort of sublime, futuristic soul music, splicing Michael Jackson and other more abstract samples over his own delicate Bon Iver-like tunes. Love Remains is a collection of the best of the various tracks Krell has posted on his blog over the past year and despite its fragmented birth, it is still one of the most cohesive albums of the year.

Matt Collins

Anna Kashfi - Survival (Little Red Rabbit Records)

Track - Glass House

Manchester’s Anna Kashfi takes a come-to-bed girl voice, some bluesy acoustic guitar work and snatches of melody. Loop them around in a colourful whirlpool of piano and melodic phrases. While some of the lyrical subject matter hints at future rather than present classic status, Anna Kashfi do enough to suggest theirs is a sound worth keeping an ear on.

Andy Welch

Manic Street Preachers – Postcards From A Young Man (Columbia)

Track – Postcards From A Young Man

As effective as vulnerability, despair and heartbreak are in music, I’ve got a thing about artists sounding confident. It was hard not to be swept along with the sheer bravado of Postcards of A Young Man when it was released; here we have a band more than 20 years into their career sounding fresher and more vital than they have since the mid-90s, and among a only a handful of bands willing to say something about the bankers and the collapse of what industry the UK had. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is, and we should be thankful they’re still here.

Guy Atkinson

Alkaline Trio - This Addiction (Hassle)

Track - The American Scream

One of my all time favourite bands deliver a seventh album brimming with hook-filled slices of angsty punk rock goodness. Matt Skiba's guitar licks have never sounded better, and while admittedly they do fail to reach the giddy heights witnessed on From Here to Infirmary and Good Mourning, this is a worthy addition to a canon of work that raises two defiant fingers to nearly all other punk rock bands.

Dom Farrell

LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening (EMI)

Track - All I Want

“It’s better to burn out than to fade away”. So Neil Young sang, so Kurt Cobain wrote before shooting up and shooting himself. The point is, that’s exactly what LCD Soundsystem are doing. This Is Happening apparently marks the end of James Murphy’s indie-dance monster. If so, it all goes down in a stunning blaze of glory. From Bowie to Byrne, the influences are all worn proudly on a vibrant sonic sleeve that is euphorically invigorating throughout.

Ian Parker

The Duke & The King - Long Live The Duke & The King (Silva Oak)

Track - Hudson River

It's fair to say Simone Felice had quite a year. A trip to hospital with breathing difficulties led to him being told he should, by rights, be dead from a long-standing heart defect. Emergency surgery followed, but somewhere along the way, the former Felice Brother managed to put out two albums, the first the follow-up effort to The Duke & The King's debut LP Nothing Gold Can Stay, and the second, Live From A Lonely Place, an intimate set of recordings Felice made during his recovery from the operation. Nothing Gold Can Stay never made my top 24 last year, but the follow-up has been an absolute certainty since its release. It doesn't so much build on the potential of the debut as deliver on promises they'd not yet even made. This is Americana with soul, real soul, and we can only be thankful that Felice is still with us to share it.

Rory Dollard

Tunng - ...And Then We Saw Land (Full-Time Hobby)

Track - With Whiskey

About a week after I took delivery of Badly Drawn Boy’s latest album – a dirgy waste of a once great talent – I bought this. The difference between the two could not be more apparent had it been advertised in garish neon signage on the side of the Palace of Westminster. Tunng’s latest bristles with inventiveness, warm boy/girl vocals resting atop the shifting sands of the ‘folktronica’ backing. This is where BDB’s wonderful debut The Hour of Bewilderbeast hinted he would be in 10 years.

Ali Mason

Sky Larkin – Kaleide (Wichita)

Track - Still Windmills

If Kaleide lacks the instant appeal of Sky Larkin’s debut The Golden Spike, it certainly rewards repeat listens – following as it does much the same pattern as last year’s effort but drawing from a wider pallet. There’s something of Pretty Girls Make Graves about Sky Larkin’s post-grunge sound, with its big hooks and intensity, while they show a willingness to if not experiment then branch out on tracks such as Year Dot and Smarts.


  1. The Manics missed the cut for me as I feel the album trails off a bit in the final third (All We Make Is Entertainment apart), but delighted to see them returning to the Ragged Glories table.

    Somekind of Nothingness, featuring the legendary Ian McCulloch, remains one of my favourite songs of the year.

  2. There's a lyric on the Manics album - "This life, it sucks your principles away/You have to fight it every single day". Was that sentiment written into their Strictly Come Dancing contract?

  3. That was a situationist spectacle, Rory.
    The whole album is about losing the fight against your principles, but choosing your battles more carefully. There's a really good feature somewhere about that, but I can't find it online, so read this one I wrote instead.

  4. Sorry, Ian, not Rory...

  5. hahaha...i see any snarky arsey comment is now automatically attributed to me regardless. probably fair.

    As for the Manics album I felt a wee bit sad when i heard a stream of a concert off this tour and they played the song Andy chose immediately after Faster. God, it sounded lightweight after that.