Friday, December 09, 2011

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Nine

It's been apparent for a while now that Pranam is out to steal Skillers' reputation for nominating the most obscure of bands (and, judging by some of his picks this year, that Skillers is open to relinquising it), but today he has well and truly taken it to a new level.

Ali Mason

Sparrow and the Workshop – Spitting Daggers (Republic of Music)

Having come third in the World Stone Skimming Championships back in 2008, Jill O’Sullivan, lead singer of Glasgow-based trio Sparrow and the Workshop, knows a thing or two about causing ripples. With Spitting Daggers, she started to make a few waves. Their debut release, Crystal Falls, sagged under the weight of towering single 'Devil Song', but here spiky, angular 6 Music favourite 'Snake In The Grass' is backed up by 'You Don’t Trust Anyone', 'Against The Grain' and 'Old Habits', with touches of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Sleigh Bells and the Long Blondes added to their old-fashioned folk rock sound.

Guy Atkinson

Transit - Listen & Forgive (ADA Global)

A cameo from scene poster boy Patrick Stump, formerly of Fall out Boy, should tell you everything you need to know about these emo/pop-punk upstarts. Frighteningly tuneful.

Ian Parker

Wilco – The Whole Love (Anti)

Every Wilco album now is a reinvention, and given the scale of the ambition on show on The Whole Love, maybe now they will all be reinventions of the wheel. Jeff Tweedy and his crew are clearly getting more and more adventurous with age, and the band's eighth album makes clear its intentions right off the bat with the seven-minute audio adventure that is 'Art of Almost'. But from there they flit about all over the place, from the simplicity of single 'I Might' to the near-endless 'One Sunday Morning (Song for Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend)', let down by a lack of focus compared to other recent efforts. Still, we won't hold it against them too hard - not when they are spawning as many ideas as this.

Matt Collins

Dark Dark Dark - Wild Go (Supply and Demand)

Dark Dark Dark’s wonderful 'Daydreaming' alone would almost certainly be my song of the year. Angular, catchy and epic, it’s the standout track on a solid debut whose other tracks tread a similar path.

John Skilbeck

The Field - Looping State Of Mind (Kompakt)

What was I saying about Sweden? Here's further proof it was the computer nerds rather than Stockholm's indiepop progeny who we all had to say 'Tack!' to in 2011. I don't particularly do the clubbing, so wouldn't dare to speculate how they've crossed over, but The Field, like Caribou last year, unleashed a potent, precision-cut record this year, extending the rehabilitation of techno. Seven tracks sprawled over 64 minutes. This must have been the soundtrack to thousands of intoxicating nights.

The Field - Then It's White by Kompakt

Andy Welch

Wilco – The Whole Love (Anti)

After eight albums, most bands have found their sound and, for better or for worse, refuse to adapt it. Wilco aren’t most bands, though, and despite almost 20 years together, they continue to challenge themselves, and their fans. It doesn’t always work – Sky Blue Sky was pretty dismal, for example – but when it does… Oh my. There’s not a misguided note on The Whole Love, and Tweedy, in upbeat mood, sounds more focused than ever, yet the spirit of adventure never vanishes. A wonderful record, and easily Wilco’s best since the essential Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

Steve Pill

I Break Horse – Hearts (Bella Union)

With an icy electro sheen that is particularly suited to this time of year, the aceness of Hearts largely hinges on one song - 'Winter Beats'. Like LCD Soundsystem's 'All My Friends' or Chemical Brothers' 'Star Guitar', it is a song powered almost entirely by momentum. The chorus is pure keening joy and the drop to silence about four minutes in only heightens the drama of the last 60 seconds.

Pranam Mavahalli

Jali Nyonkding Kwyateh - Jali (Self-released)

For those who don’t know him, Jali is a kora player who often busks in Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester. Last year, I wittered on about how the council should give this man a job for keeping folk in good spirits with his sublime playing. However, times are hard, and we currently have overfed zealots in power making savage cuts to council spending who are unlikely to fund such lofty aspirations. So gentle reader next time you’re in Manc, dig deep and pass Mr Kwyateh a dime. He’ll need it, as he’s not relying on Britain’s Got Talent for success, unlike certain other Mancunian street performers.

Jali by Crooked Rooks

Rory Dollard

Bright Eyes - The People's Key (Polydor)

Billed as the final installment in the Bright Eyes canon, this is a fitting - though not defining - farewell. At its best it reminds you of everything you ever loved about Conor Oberst's songwriting - melodic, literate, frantic, emotional. It doesn't scale the heights of his 2002 classic Lifted (what does?) but after so many offshoots, side projects and detours it was good to know he still had something to say and great to hear he still knew how to do it.

Dom Farrell

The Horrors - Skying (XL)

With 2009’s Primary Colours, the Horrors had things easy. Written off in most quarters as a shambolic NME fad dreamed up in a haze of public school mascara, the fact they’d made a fantastic sounding record with decent songs was enough to garner gushing, if slightly dumbfounded, critical acclaim. Skying delivers amid expectation. This assured album with bold, brash psychedelic touches hits the highest points when dance influences throb through its core. Psychedelic Furs and Chameleons armbands are proudly worn on each sleeve, but when ‘Moving Further Away’ throws some Chemical Brothers and LCD Soundsystem into the mix over nine glorious minutes, the results are skyscraping.


  1. That Sparrow track is brilliant. Well done Ali. And well done Ian and I, for liking The Whole Love exactly the same amount.

  2. I was disappointed when it turned out Guy didn't mean the Transit that put out a record through Third Man after forming from employees of the Nashville Metro Transit Authority ( I thought this could have been an exciting change in direction for him.

  3. Congratulations to Ali for easily the best intro so far.

  4. Regrettably, I'm going to have to refrain from selecting a song of the day as there's nothing here that moves me. Bummer.