Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Sixteen

You know how we said only yesterday that these are the picks folks agonise over? Well, here Pranam bigs up his selection by describing it as "an error".

Pranam Mavahalli

Gorillaz – Plastic Beach (Parlaphone)

Track - Sweepstakes

An error. Last year I was a bit too gushing about Bat for Lashes, this year I’ve gone far too giddy over Plastic Beach. Granted it’s ambitious, but perhaps too long and it’s not quite up there with Demon Days for me. At least this track is a belter, and it features Mos Def whose album The Ecstatic didn’t even make it onto my list last year – despite it being my second favourite album of 2009. I will get better at this, I promise.

John Skilbeck

Summer Camp - Young EP (Moshi Moshi)

Track - Was It Worth It?

Once the thin veil of mystery surrounding their identities was lifted in March, and Summer Camp were revealed to be journalist Elizabeth Sankey and her folktronica artist boyfriend Jeremy Warmsley rather than a gaggle of teenagers experimenting in a Swedish cave with a Fisher Price four-track, it became okay to talk about the music. Some reckoned they were born and indeed styled to soundtrack John Hughes movies, which given his death last year was a shame and you were left to hope they'd factored in a back-up plan. Fortunately, when the Young EP arrived in the summer it delivered on many more platforms than ‘80s nostalgia. When I listen to Summer Camp I hear songs which Beyonce would mud-wrestle Gaga for, harmonies so soothing they should be available on the NHS, and the foundations of a truly great album in 2011.

Steve Pill

Julian Lynch - Mare (Olde English Spelling Bee)

Track - Just Enough

There is no way on paper to make this sound good. Julian Lynch sings like he's sighing through a kazoo and gives most every track a tom-tom-and-shakers drum pattern that can make you feel stoned after repeated listens. Stomper sounds like what a child might think space travel sounds like. Every so often a song won't so much finish as drift off into the ether. Mare should be a 'mare to listen to, a frustrating acoustic oddity, yet the soupy atmosphere, laidback pace and detuned effects are more satisfying than a warm bath on a cold day.

Matt Collins

The Miserable Rich - Of Flight & Fury (Republic of Music)

Track - Bye Bye Kitty

Brighton-based The Miserable Rich have the best name going, a man with a classical guitar who isn’t afraid to use it, and a rich vein of everyday and everyman tales of shops, dying relationships and lazy Sundays. The cellos and bouncy guitars carry the album along and inject joy into soaring music.

Andy Welch

Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma (Warp)

Track - ...And The World Laughs With You...

If its music with ideas you want, buy Cosmogramma. It can feel a little too frantic at times, as if Steven Ellison just wanted to get every theme he’d ever thought on one record, but it’s impossible not admire the sheer scale of ambition here, as wide and sprawling as the universe much of the album describes. Thom Yorke’s clearly a fan, lending his vocals to …And The World Laughs With You… but no one guest is going to upstage Flying Lotus’ visionary talent, up there with his great aunt and uncle, Alice and John Coltrane.

Guy Atkinson

The Hold Steady - Heaven Is Whenever (Rough Trade)

Track - The Weekenders

While not reaching the obscene heights set by 2006’s flawless Boys and Girls in America this is still a worthy addition to a canon of music that continues to piss all over the band’s peers. The more considered moments sometimes fail to tug on the right heartstrings, but The Weekenders and Hurricane J are as fist-pumpingly euphoric as anything they’ve ever produced. I’d die a happy man if I could do a road trip across America listening to nothing but The Hold Steady.

Dom Farrell

Massive Attack - Heligoland (Virgin)

Track - Girl I Love You

Not a bunch known for any sort of prolific output, Massive Attack really have to make their albums count. Heligoland counts. Daddy G returns to action for the Bristol trip-hop pioneers and when Horace Andy turns in his finest vocal performance in recent memory amid the fierce bass rumble of Girl I Love Your, it's hard to shake the impression of the old gang back together having something approaching fun. Atlas Air is a closer of simply colossal proportions. Roll on the 2017 follow-up.

Ian Parker

Karen Elson - The Ghost Who Walks (Third Man Records)

Track - The Truth Is In The Dirt

Is there anything Jack White can't do? Play guitar in an outstanding band - check. Play drums in an outstanding band - check. Act - check. Produce outstanding records with a series of musicians - check. Run a record label - check. Marry a supermodel - check. Marry a supermodel who can make a great album - check. White's fingerprints are, of course, all over this. You can tell when he's producing just about anyone, and, well, you suspect he offered an extra helping hand when it was his wife he was recording. Elson gets the writing credits, though you wonder if he had a hand there too. Whatever. That's all beside the point. The point is this is an alluring album of country blues that I keep coming back to again and again and again.

Rory Dollard

Jenny and Johnny – I’m Having Fun Now (Warner Bros)

Track - My Pet Snakes

By the time we get to the top five on my list, I’d like to think we’re dealing with albums of genuine artistic heft. You know, over-arching themes, emotional weight and the like. All of which makes records like I’m Having Fun Now all the more vital. It’s a straightforward concept – Jenny (Lewis - RIlo Kiley) and boyfriend Johnny (Rice - who cares?) are young, pretty, funny and in love, and they’re positively bloody desperate to let you know how it feels. They’re also in a joyful thrall to the sunny-side-up stylings of the Lemonheads. Simple but done to perfection.

Ali Mason

Warpaint – The Fool (Rough Trade)

Track - Undertow

There’s something about the restrained and slightly sinister arrangements on The Fool that reminds of last year’s overall Advent Calendar winners The xx. There’s something else about the band’s fragile sound that reminds me of Taxi Taxi!’s Still Standing At Your Back Door, an album I put far too low on my list last year having only listened to it a handful of times. This is why I put Warpaint straight into my top 10 this year despite only having listened to it twice. Having now heard it a lot more, I think it deserves its place. Which, frankly, is a relief.

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