Monday, December 05, 2011

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Five

Day five finds Ali stepping out of his comfort zone to enjoy a little 'dance' music and Dollard putting his cards on the table. We're down to the our No. 20 albums of the year.

Ali Mason

Metronomy – The English Riviera (Because)

There’s something alluring about the contrast of the sounds of waves and seagulls which open up The English Riviera and the metallic electronics that follow. It’s the tension between the old and the new (the sea is old and electricity is new. Yeah, that works) is at the heart of this album, a tribute to frontman Joe Mount’s native Devon. It’s a tension that will be familiar to anyone who has spent time on the British coast, and also one that perhaps reflects a band moving in a new direction, from their dance (sorry, that’s probably not right – I’m the folky one, it sounds like dance to me) past to a more melodic present, complete with harmonies, synths, Roxy Music influences a host of other contradictions.

Guy Atkinson

New Found Glory - Radiosurgery (Epitaph)

So saccharine it should come with a dental warning, this is more of the same pop punk goodness from these legends of genre. Lacking some of the punch that their classic cuts from the early 2000s packed, this is still a worthy addition to a sun-drenched cannon of melodic punk brilliance.

Ian Parker

The Secret Sisters - The Secret Sisters (Decca)

It’s a desperately old-fashioned thing to start out with a debut album dominated by covers and featuring only a couple of your own compositions. Like something artists from the 50s would do…Which kind of makes it fitting that this is how the Secret Sisters have kicked things off. The Alabama pair sound like they’ve arrived direct from yesteryear, their beautiful vocals breathing life into country standards with no modern fanfare required to give them a fresh sound. That the two originals, 'Tennessee Me' and 'Waste The Day' don’t sound out of place alongside George Jones and Hank Williams classics is about all you need to know.

Matt Collins

Tinariwen - Tassili (V2)

Tinariwen pick up where they left off with their brand of hypnotic desert blues. They have added little to their sound that wasn’t present on 2009’s companions, but they didn’t need to. If only we could accurately sing along.

John Skilbeck

20. Runaround Kids - Linked Arms (Philophobia)

Wakefield'’s Runaround Kids supported the mighty Shrag in the cellar at Leeds’ Royal Park, the Brudenell'’s ugly sister, in September 2010. To give you a clue, there were around 20 people there, but dang they were great. I bought up their early singles, saw them play a few more times, and then Linked Arms came out in the summer on the tiny but rather marvellous Philophobia label (check Imp, also The Spills). And it was well worth the wait. They'’re obviously in thrall to the early Cribs records, also Sebadoh and maybe …Trail of Dead. But the three-piece (check the video, they'’re sickeningly young) play with such zest, write so wittily, that their own charms are rather difficult to resist.

Andy Welch

Radiohead – King Of Limbs (XL)

I found the way King Of Limbs was released, with no notice or build up, infuriating. In fact, Radiohead in general wind me up something terrible these days, but that’s an argument for another day. Cynical gimmicks aside, it’s hard to argue with the quality of the music on King Of Limbs. Just as In Rainbows is now among my favourite albums of all time after a sluggish start, KOL (not Kings Of Leon, for clarity), to a lesser extent, has wormed its way into myhead with its hypnotic, eerie and sinister songs. Not a masterpiece, but the band’s consistency is staggering.

Steve Pill

James Blake - "James Blake" (Polydor)

If you’d have asked me in January, this might have been higher up, but the unrelenting bleakness meant it slipped down the playlists over the summer and an average live performance in an oversubscribed Field Day tent left me wondering if I’d been sold a dummy. In truth, I’d been sold Portishead’s Dummy, but remade for 2011 hipster dubstep fans: haunting, experimental but with a crippled heart beating deep inside.

Pranam Mavahalli

Panda Bear – Tomboy (Paw Tracks)

Person Pitch was a phenomenal, era-defining, hugely influential album. Right, now I’ve got that out of the way I can move onto the next inevitable point, which sadly is that I don’t think this record is quite as good. I miss the dense samples, heavy choral layering, and hypnotic repetition of Person Pitch. But the newfound minimalism works nicely for me, especially on tracks like 'Drone'.

Rory Dollard

Bon Iver - Bon Iver (4AD)

Cards on the table time: I fell in love with For Emma, Forever Ago and if I had to listen to that or this it wouldn’t take me more than a millisecond to make the call. But part of the beauty of that record was its encapsulation of a place and a time and (thankfully for Justin Vernon’s mental health) both are firmly in the rearview mirror. Credit is due, then, for the boldness with which he has changed tack. Gone are the mournful acoustics, replaced with synthetic, gently manipulated soundscapes that bubble under beneath Vernon’s trademark double-tracked vocals. Closing track 'Beth/Rest' is a cheesy aberration but when the formula works it’s a killer.

Dom Farrell

Arctic Monkeys - Suck it and See (Domino)

Despite being the weakest offering from the Arctic Monkey’s canon thus far, Suck It And See is not without its share of memorable moments. 'Library Pictures' fizzes and slinks before exploding all over again, while 'Hellcat Spangled Shalalala' is punch-perfect pop driven home by Matt Helders’ sledgehammer blows. However, there is at times the unwelcome clinical feel of a band comfortable in its own skin. As the man from whom this blog takes its name might put it, they need to drive it into the ditch again, as with “difficult” third album Humbug. The good news for everybody but Alex Turner is he and pin-up girlfriend Alexa Chung have parted ways, meaning there’s probably plenty of the exquisite, bruised rejection aired in the likes of 'Love Is A Laserquest' on the way.


  1. By a landslide, Runaround Kids win today's title of 'Guy's favourite song on the advent calendar, other than his own selection'. They should be honoured.

  2. If I offered a similar award, I too would give it to the Runaround Kids. All hail Mr Skillers' wisdom this day.

  3. I like the Runaround Kids track too. But I'm looking forward to the day Guy picks my track as his favourite.

  4. Have faith, Ali. It might still happen.

  5. If I was offering an award for worst thing I've heard all year, it's fair to say that New Found Glory would win it. Am I missing something?!

  6. Yep, afraid Guy's lost me with that one also...On the plus side, it's good to see Tinariwen make an appearance today. Also enjoyed Rory's pick of Bombino a few days ago, who very much has that Tinariwen vibe about him. No prizes for guessing I like Tinariwen then.

  7. "Am I missing something?" is a phrase I've uttered to myself more than a few times over the last few days of the advent calendar.
    Okay, so it's not going to get 9.3 on Pitchfork and have the Vice reviewers masturbating into their loafers, but it works for me.

  8. Guy, before you get too disheartened, can I please just remind you of Rory's reaction when I picked Kate Nash last year:


    By comparison, New Found Glory are getting excellent notices.

  9. I still remember the pasting I took for choosing Paramore back in the heady days of 2009.
    If they were offended by NFG, there'll be in for a shock later on in my list.