Friday, December 02, 2011

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Two

If yesterday's were the statement picks, the flare picks, today we get down to the hard graft for real. Or maybe not, because as you'll see, Pranam is calling the whole process into question and Dollard is spreading his wings and skipping the country, so it could be this thing has fallen apart already.

Ali Mason

Florence & the Machine – Ceremonials (Island)

I loved Lungs and, despite every single song having been released as a single and played to the point of surrender, I still do. Ceremonials isn’t as good, obviously, but it’s still better than it ought to be. It feels like a Hollywood sequel where the producers have taken everything the audience feedback told them was good about the first album – those drums, that epic echo, the on-the-edge-of-control vocals – and turned them up to 11. The result is an album with breathtaking moments that is ultimately a little bit exhausting.

Guy Atkinson

Rival Schools - Pedals (Atlantic)

This was never going to rival the magnificent post-hardcore highs of the classic United by Fate, but there's still enough here to rekindle memories of those heady days back in 2001 when this band pretty much exclusively soundtracked my life.

Ian Parker

Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi - Rome (Parlaphone)

If the soundtrack to a film that doesn’t exist is this good, I can only suggest one thing: somebody should make the film. Danger Mouse has turned his considerable skills to yet another project and roped in fellow master of the random off-shoot, Jack White as part of an all-star cast, and some of the results are astonishing. Like many a soundtrack, it can drift in places, not least as this one doesn’t even have a plot to follow along to, but the high points easily outweigh the low.

Matt Collins

Driver Drive Faster - Open House (Akoustic Anarky)

Maybe not album of the year, but certainly band name of the year. Open House is an atmospheric indie gem, all chirping electric guitars and double tracked vocals. Death Cab fans will approve.

John Skilbeck

Widowspeak - Widowspeak (Captured Tracks)

Shriek and ye shall find a fast-track to fame, but coo and it might just find you. Molly Hamilton reminds me of so many of my favourite singers, from Beth Gibbons to Hope Sandoval, Kristin Hersh to Romy Madley Croft: her voice being delicate yet capable of delivering lines of devastating emotion. On Widowspeak’s exquisite and concise self-titled debut LP, Hamilton's voice is the sweet murmur which weaves dark themes into layers of spindly guitar to create an overall picture of blemished beauty. I think.

Andy Welch

Anna Calvi – Anna Calvi (Domino)

I first saw Anna Calvi in a support slot at a dingy venue in Camden. She walked on to a pitch-black stage, looking like a cigarette-toting film-noir femme fatale, picked up a Telecaster and within a few bars, every jaw in the room dropped. Calvi has since picked up the inevitable comparisons to PJ Harvey, and there is definitely something of Harvey’s sexually charged, Rid Of Me sound in this debut record. The artist she most reminds me of, though, is Jeff Buckley, particularly Live At Sin E. Just as the songs on that phenomenal record benefit from the space they’re given, Anna Calvi is beautifully arranged; dramatic and full of bluster when needed, sparse and haunting elsewhere, but never less than devastating.

Steve Pill

Laura Marling - A Creature I Don't Know (Virgin)

Okay, so everyone on this blog has raved about Marling for an age so you don’t really need me to add to this, only to say this is the first time that I’ve actually vaguely got what you were on about. Whereas I found some of the earlier stuff a little too twee, try-hard or just affected, this record really caught me out. So yeah, you win. Gits.

Pranam Mavahalli

Atlas Sound – Parallax (4AD)

There’s a good chance I’ll look back on this calendar sometime in 2012, and wonder “Why didn’t I place this album higher up on the list?”. In fact, I might have the same thought for many of my other choices. What makes one album better than another? Why didn’t certain albums make this list despite me loving them? (Peaking Lights, dammit, how’d I forget about you!?) Do hierarchies even have a place in art and music? I couldn’t possibly say. So, 23rd album of the year is this, whatever that counts for. Bradford Cox, is consistently good whether he’s doing music with Deerhunter or Atlas Sound, and for that reason alone I suggest this deserves your attention.

Rory Dollard

Bombino - Agadez (Cumbancha)

I won’t profess to being a connoisseur of world music, or a fan of how it is typically packaged for British consumption, but there is a strain of desert blues guitar music that is consistently exciting and perennially undervalued. Bombino is the latest breakout artist of the genre and his distinctively hypnotic guitar lines - more nimble and mantra-like than anything you’re likely to hear from these shores - have definite crossover appeal.

Dom Farrell

Girls - Father, Son, Holy Ghost (Turnstile)

Girls’ evocatively titled second album wears their San Francisco base on its sleeve, never more so than on the sun-drenched harmonies of opener 'Honey Bunny'. The west coast thread does help to hold together an at times schizophrenic album. Alex’s brisk indie pop is followed by the bizarre guitar wig-out of 'Die', which gives a largely plaintive record an unexpected Wayne’s World moment. Such problems are largely overridden by melodies you think you’ve known all your life, and when songwriter and frontman Christopher Owens offers glimpses into his troubled childhood as a religious cult member on 'Vomit' and 'Forgiveness', Father, Son, Holy Ghost exposes its fragile emotional core.

Girls - Alex by artsandcraftsmx


  1. When I was gathering up all the details of the Bombino record for the post, I was thinking, 'Where the devil did Pranam come across this latest obscure guitarist for his list?' Then I realised it was Dollard's pick. My preconceptions have not yet recovered...

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  3. If there was a Ragged Glories drinking game, we'd all have sunk our first one for Dollard's world music pick. All is well with the world. That Afrikaans guitarist in 2009 was wild.

  4. Also, so we're clear, this "Unknown" character is not a new, shy fan we have - it's me not being able to work the comments section properly.

  5. My favourite today was Driver Drive Faster. Matt - I'm a Death Cab fan and I do indeed approve.