Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Eleven

Today Ali puts words in Dollard's mouth (as if there's room for many more), Skillers reveals his country side, and Mr Welch falls for a diva.

Ali Mason

Jesca Hoop – Snowglobe (Republic of Music)

One day Jesca Hoop is going to make an album which Rory will describe as a “game changer”. She has such a ridiculous amount going for her – an easy musicality, disparate influences, a killer voice, an ability to veer away from conventional structures. She also has a rare willingness to subtly change her vocal style from the breathy maturity of 'City Bird', a song of urban unease, to playful and almost childlike at times. This mini-album is a big step forward from 2009’s Hunting My Dress, so much so that it’s difficult to know whether to be frustrated at her for not expanding Snowglobe into a full-length album or commend her for knowing when to stop.

Guy Atkinson

La Dispute - Wildlife (No Sleep Records)

Although part of 'The Wave' scene which has taken US punk by storm over the past 18 months, La Dispute are out there on their own in terms of individuality. Brutal, almost spoken word lyrics, are set to a backdrop of inventive hardcore music.

Ian Parker

WATERS - Out In The Light (City Slang)

After completing a messy divorce from Port O’Brien, Van Pierszalowski took himself off to Norway, where he wrote the bulk of the album for his new project WATERS. It is the sound of a man released, of pent up frustrations let go. The sound of Port O’Brien is there, but the intensity level is cranked up, and so are the guitars. The influence of Neil Young – never one to let personal relationships and bands get in the way of his muse – is all over this, never more so than on the stand-out ‘O Holy Break of Day’, where Pierszalowski seems to be trying to bridge the gap between two of the great man’s masterpieces, marrying the desolation of On The Beach with the guitars-distorted-to-the-point-of-broken noise of Rust Never Sleeps.

WATERS - O Holy Break Of Day by cityslang

Matt Collins

The Low Anthem - Smart Flesh (Bella Union)

The Low Anthem are nothing less than a solidly dependable band delivering solidly dependable, good quality songwriting. Smart Flesh is far more accessible than the Radiohead side project that its name suggests.

John Skilbeck

Laura Cantrell - Kitty Wells Dresses (Diesel Only)

The loveliest album I heard all year, as Laura Cantrell affectionately tackled the songs of her fellow Nashville native Kitty Wells, country queen of the 1950s and 1960. Apart from the title track, a Cantrell collaboration with Amy Allison, the album is a covers project, carefully refreshing Wells’ best-loved hits for a new audience. Wells sung of heartbreak, a case in point being 'I Gave My Wedding Dress Away', a half-spoken, half-wept lament, and her biggest hit, the vengeful 'It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels'. Such recordings could have been in no safer hands with this project. Kitty Wells, meanwhile, turned 92 this year.

Andy Welch

Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes (Atlantic)

Lykke Li is a good old-fashioned musician; contrary, difficult in interviews, and prone to the odd bout of diva-ish behavior. When she makes music as good as 'Rich Kid Blues', one of my singles of the year, it really doesn’t matter. Her fiery personality comes over on every song of Wounded Rhymes; there’s the overt sexuality of 'Get Some', for example, and Spector-esque high melodrama on 'Sadness Is A Blessing'. Lykke sounds like her heart’s been shattered, but sings as if she’s enjoying it, and that’s what makes Wounded Rhymes such a fascinating, listen.

Steve Pill

Neon Indian - Era Extraña (Co-Operative Music)

In the first week this album went on sale, Rough Trade were offering a £29 set comprising Era Extraña on vinyl with the added bonus of a crazy handheld sequencer that looked like it was made in your Dad's shed. The pulsing rhythms it emitted were all over this fantastic lo-fi day-glo pop record that survives almost entirely on bass and treble, no mid range to speak of. Well worth a listen but avoid seeing them live - the bad hipster dancing and Morrissey impressions are likely to sully your enjoyment of an album that might have been top 10 otherwise.

Pranam Mavahalli

Beirut – The Rip Tide (Pompei)

It’s winter, but let’s re-re-rewind for a second and head back to the summer. Beirut have a canny way with affecting melodies that I find irresistible. This album marked a slightly worrying move towards MOR territory for me, but if it brings them more fans, and more reasons to play the UK, then I for one shall not be complaining.

Rory Dollard

Typhoon - A New Kind of House (Tender Loving Empire)

I've no recollection of how I came across this EP, but I do recall it arriving complete with a handwritten thank you note from the band. A nice touch that, and probably enough to earn it a no.24 pick even if it was a load of old carp. Fortunately, it's not. The lead track, included below, is a killer: a soaring chorus, rising horns and cracking lyrics. Bright Eyes are no more....long live the new Bright Eyes?

Dom Farrell

Wild Flag - Wild Flag (Wichita)

Guitar music in 2011 – largely grim, grim scenes. In an often male-biased genre an all-female super group have had to come along and show everyone how it’s done. Armed with a truckload of attitude, killer tunes and distortion pedals set to “destroy”, it is hard not to be bowled over by Wild Flag. Sure it’s not reinventing the wheel, but it leaves it spinning at a 100mph.

Wild Flag - Short Version by


  1. I've very much enjoying Typhoon. I shall have to investigate further.

  2. Not a huge amount here that arouses my riff-centric sensibilities, but track of the day goes to Wild Flag.