Monday, December 12, 2011

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Twelve

Look away, people. Guy is struggling to keep his clothes on. We're just about half way - door number 12 revealing our No. 13 albums of the year.

Ali Mason

Hannah Peel – Broken Wave (Static Caravan)

That Hannah Peel shies away from the obvious should not be a surprise from an artist who announced herself with an EP of 80s pop songs played on her music box. Here the music box takes a back seat for the majority of the album as Peel shows of the multi-instrumentalist skills which have made her such a valuable addition to The Unthanks’ touring party. Another friend of Peel’s is Laura Groves, and 'Solitude', a beautifully sparse short story of a song, could sit very happily on Blue Roses’ debut album. Like her friend, Peel eschews simple song structures for tunes that meander with simple grace. Elsehwere, as in the off-kilter 'Don’t Kiss The Broken One', percussion and strings come to the fore, while the jaunty honky-tonk piano of contrasts perfectly with the sadness of the lyrics and has a touch of musical theatre about it.

The Almond Tree - Hannah Peel by Bejon Mustard

Guy Atkinson

Red City Radio - The Dangers of Standing Still (Ginner)

Okay, so they sound exactly like Hot Water Music but this is honest, melodic punk rock which makes me want to take my clothes off and jump around with hundreds of bearded men.

Ian Parker

Gillian Welch - The Harrow & The Harvest (Warner)

Every Gillian Welch album is a treasure, but maybe more so when you've waited eight years for one to arrive. Sure, she and long-time collaborator Dave Rawlings switched roles as she provided the support on 2009's A Friend of A Friend, but this is the first Gillian Welch album proper since 2003's Soul Journey, and the best since the incomparable Time (The Revelator). Each song is beautifully crafted, quenching the considerable thirst of her fans for new material. Just don't leave it til 2019 for the follow up.

Matt Collins

Good Lovelies - Let the Rain Fall (ADA Global)

I came across these three super harmonisers live. Country tinged folk pop usually relies on those tight three part vocal lines alone - The Good Lovelies drop them on a foundation of fantastically chirpy driving tunes.

John Skilbeck

Dum Dum Girls - Always In Dreams (Sub Pop)

Last year’s debut album, I Will Be, was a lo-fi blast out of California, a welter of scratchy, catchy pop songs. The vampish Dum Dum Girls had the look, but together with their contemporaries they had a hard time proving to cynics they also had the depth. Always In Dreams unmistakably shows they have plenty. The breakthrough year had ended in sorrow for the band’s driving force Dee Dee with the death of her mother, and inevitably the mourning process fed into the writing of album number two. Dee Dee sings, in bringing a lacquered, quite lovely record to an end: “I wish it wasn’t true, but there’s nothing I can do except hold your hand … until the very end.” And I particularly like that my iTunes plays Dusty’s I Only Want To Be With You after that.

Andy Welch

The Horrors – Skying (XL)

Like most people, I thought The Horrors were a bit of a joke when they released their first album. Worse still, a joke without a punchline. Their second album Primary Colours was a startling leap on from their amateurish debut, but with Skying they’ve released their masterpiece. Their influences are wide-ranging and eclectic – The Chameleons and John Hughes’ film soundtracks loom large – but like all great albums, you don’t have to know where Skying is coming from to love it. And songs as epic and euphoric as 'I Can See Through You' and 'Still Life', there is indeed plenty to love.

Steve Pill

The War On Drugs - Slave Ambient (Secretly Canadian)

Okay, so this is a bit of a cheat, seen as I nominated The War On Drugs' eight track EP last year, which contained this very same song. But then, if I’m still playing it a year later it counts for something, no!? Like I think I said last year, this is a stoned collision between almost every landmark record made in 1997 (Time Out of Mind, Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space, Urban Hymns) and no worse for it.

Pranam Mavahalli

Deerhoof – Deerhoof vs Evil (ATP Recordings)

How much do I love Deerhoof? More than Marmite, Cheddar and Onion McCoys and Minstrels, but not as much as Peanut M&Ms. Okay that’s a ridiculous comparison, but weighing up a Deerhoof album against other records is, for me, similarly futile because my love for them is so one-sided. So rather than discuss this album, let’s watch them and their scene-stealing drummer Greg Saunier in action where they work best, before enjoying a track from their new record below.

Rory Dollard

Anna Calvi - Anna Calvi (Domino)

Thirteen. Unlucky for some. Unlucky for Anna Calvi in this instance because this an album that I've had a lot of love for this year. Pitting her against PJ Harvey in the Mercury Music Prize was always going to be a tough one...I mean they weren't going to give the trademarked 'new PJ Harvey' the award over the actual PJ Harvey now were they? But there are other big touchstones on show here - the passive aggression of Nick Cave, the meandering guitar lines and vocal chasers a la Jeff Buckley. Signature sounds rarely come as fully realised as this.

Dom Farrell

Wye Oak - Civilian (City Slang)

Civilian, the third LP by Baltimore noise-folk duo Wye Oak, never completely settles and this is very much to its credit. Jenn Wasner’s desire to slash jagged guitar across her lilting vocals is always wonderfully timed, while hissing and crashing cymbals intermittently turn up to muddy the waters. The shades of grey in between are where the record really hits home and from the visceral intensity of ‘Holy Holy’ to the spiralling wonder of its title track, Civilian is a captivating listen.

Wye Oak - Holy Holy by cityslang


  1. Guy, where is your top track of the day? I won't be able to sleep tonight not knowing it. Luckily, though, I'm on nights and have been up since 7am, so you've actually done me a great service.

  2. If I hadn't already given track of the day to 'The War on Drugs' previously it would have won it today. With that mind, I'll have to give it to The Dum Dum Girls because they're sickeningly hot. What a lad, eh?