Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Ten

Door number 10 means one thing - there's two weeks left to finish your Christmas shopping. Oh, okay, two things - it's also time for our No. 15 albums of the year.

Ali Mason

The Decemberists – The King Is Dead (Rough Trade)

Famous for their complex and challenging concept albums, The Decemberists play things uncharacteristically simple this time around. While some bemoan a lack of ambition, others just enjoy a blast of raucous country folk. The album, which flits from stompalongs like 'Rox In The Box' to countrified ballads like 'January Hymn' with admirable ease, would have been higher that 15th but for 'This Is Why We Fight', an abomination which, unforgivably, sounds like Newton Faulkner.

The Decemberists - Rox In The Box by Vicente P.S.

Guy Atkinson

Joyce Manor - Joyce Manor (6131 Records)

Harnessing the spirit of scene legends Jawbreaker, this 18-minute debut from Joyce Manor is a carefree, joyful and ramshackle take on punk rock.

Ian Parker

Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues (Bella Union)

After wowing us with the timeless beauty of their debut album three years ago, the Fleet Foxes returned with a follow-up that barely strays from the wonderful formula they had already perfected. They’ve tweaked the sound just a little, Robin Morton having the confidence to turn up his own vocal and take just a small step away from the harmonies that power their sound, but what wasn’t broken wasn’t fixed. Helplessness Blues lacks a killer hook on the scale of ‘White Winter Hymnal’ but it has the sound of a band with all the potential in the world spreading their wings.

Matt Collins

The Spokes - Everyone I Ever Met (Ninja Tune)

In the same vein as Dark Dark Dark, the Spokes have a big piano and aren’t afraid to use it. Added to shoegazey vocals over guitars of sadness and hope, the mix is a beautiful, string- and harmony-drenched clamour.

John Skilbeck

The Dirtbombs - Party Store (In The Red)

Ah, The Dirtbombs, garage-soul rockers par excellence, fronted by Detroit scene lifer Mick Collins, the towering subject of quasi-fanboy adulation from Jack White and.... and hitherto closet techno-house buffs. Party Store began as a small-scale project but soon mushroomed into an album-length tribute to the colossal contribution the band’s home city has made to the spectrum of dance music. All covers, the centrepiece is the 22-minute freak-out, 'Bug In The Bass Bin' (originally, in 1992, released by Innerhouse Orchestra); late 1980s chart-watchers will remember Inner City’s 'Good Life' and enjoy its faithful revamp. Lesser bands would have tackled such a challenge with tongue in cheek, but Collins and his band went for it full-heartedly and the result was nothing short of triumphant.

Andy Welch

Slow Club – Paradise (Moshi Moshi)

Slow Club’s debut Yeah So was a good album. Exuberant, idiosyncratic and, most importantly, lots of fun. Charles Watson and Rebecca Taylor seemed like a duo with one thing on their mind. On their second album, they left behind the lusting and started focusing on altogether darker matters, namely death, and, more precisely, a fear of it. As we as the moremature themes, Slow Club advanced their arrangements too, 'Never Look Back' and 'You, Earth Or Ash' proving that emphatically. For all the delicacy, 'Where I’m Waking' and 'Beginners' show they didn’t forget how to cause a thunderous riot, either.

Steve Pill

Mogwai - Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will (Rock Action Records)

Okay, this is fast turning into a rundown of bands that I love who've made not-their-best-but-still-pretty-good albums but stick with me. Mogwai hit a peak for me with the grumpy Pixies impersonations of Mr. Beast and this is the closest they've come to that high since. 'White Noise' kicks things off with a punishing wall of sound, yet they never get distracted by the fuzz and FX. Instead melodies and breathing room begins to reveal themselves with each subsequent listen.

Mogwai - San Pedro by TheArtOf...

Pranam Mavahalli

Nicolas Jaar – Space is Only Noise (Circus Company)

My local indie record shop Piccadilly Records were playing this record the first time I heard it. I was sold within seconds of hearing the first song. The tracks that work best for me are the ones that are sparsest. It’s like house music, but redacted to its bare essentials.

Rory Dollard

Wilco - The Whole Love (Anti)

If there was a parallel advent calendar for live gigs (give it some thought Agent Parker), there's a very good chance Wilco would be rearing their head on Christmas Eve. I'm naturally disposed to love all their albums, if only because when they release one it means they'll be hitting the road again soon. The Whole Love is a beaut in its own right, calling in most of the tricks the bands have learned over 20 years. Fearless and experimental ('The Art of Almost'), singalong fun ('I Might'), heartfelt and emotional ('One Sunday Morning')'s all here.

Dom Farrell

Jamie XX Gil Scott Heron - We're New Here (XL)

So often when a revered icon dies, we are forced to sift through a stack of “return to form” records before playing their defining work on repeat. Of course, Small Talk at 125th and Lexon and its signature ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ received heavy rotation when Gil Scott Heron passed in May, but how wonderful that I’m New Here and its subsequent reworking We’re New Here stood as such impressive contemporary documents to the man’s phenomenal talent. Jamie Smith manages to skilfully etch his own increasingly recognisable mark onto the tracks without hindering the bruised vulnerability of the original and often enhancing it. Heavy beats provide many thrills, and on ‘My Cloud’ and ‘NY Is Killing Me’ there is an unmistakable beauty.

Gil Scott-Heron & Jamie xx - My Cloud by Martin Fält

1 comment:

  1. With every passing day, it comes more and more apparent that my taste is a million miles away from everyone else on here. Still fun, though.

    Oh, and Mogwai easily wins the 'track of the day' award.