Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Fourteen

The main question as door 14 slides open is this: which albums just missed out on a spot in our top 10s?

Ali Mason

Emmy the Great – Virtue (Close Harbour)

To the list of artists who released albums in 2011 I liked but not as much as their last album, add Emmy The Great. It took me an implausibly long time to get into Virtue, and I still think it’s problematic in parts, but Emmy is among the best lyricists in the business right now and ultimately that shines through. It’s great to hear an artist exploring ideas and throwing out extraordinary lines at every turn, even if musically it doesn’t always match up to her debut First Love. My personal favourite from 'Paper Forest': “It's like the way I have to write down almost everything I see so that the record does obscure the thing the record used to be.” Beat that, Beady Eye.

Emmy The Great - Dinosaur Sex by Freeman PR

Guy Atkinson

Thrice - Major/Minor (Vagrant)

For ages I was put off Thrice's eighth album because he keeps harping on about God, but its meaty, tuneful charms were just too good to resist and led me to burn my copy of The God Delusion.

Ian Parker

BOBBY - Bobby (Partisan)

Those that know me reasonably well will probably remember that from the first moment I laid ears on 'Sore Spores', I developed an instant obsession with BOBBY. It’s a stunning track, combining Molly Sarle’s angelic vocals with a blissful, mesmeric tune that sounds magical. Quite frankly, it’s still the most beautiful things I’ve heard all year. The good news was that, when it followed, the rest of the album did nothing to disappoint. ‘Sore Spores’ is still the track that stands out, the one that even after several dozen plays still bowls you over time and again with its brilliant ease. But BOBBY are no one-hit wonders, creating a bewitching album full of undulating rhythms that pull you in different directions even as they lull you into a kind of hynosis.

Matt Collins

The Uglysuit - Awwww Shucks (Quarterstick Records)

I loved The Uglysuit's first album more than life itself. It's fair to say the follow up doesn't quite hit those heights, but the wash of dreamy harmonies and indie rock opera-lite means I love it more than a fair bit of life itself.

John Skilbeck

St Vincent - Strange Mercy (4AD)

Annie Clark has been making music as St Vincent since bolting the crammed Polyphonic Spree stable in 2006, and Strange Mercy followed the well-received Marry Me and Actor, which I’d initially missed. Gift-wrapped in ribbons of mini-Moog but still bearing flourishes of fuzzed-up guitar and shimmering keys, it told what could be interpreted as dark tales. “I’ve had good times with some bad guys” she swooned on the confessional stand-out 'Cheerleader'.

Andy Welch

Sarabeth Tucek – Get Well Soon (Sonic Cathedral)

An album about the death of artist’s parent shouldn’t really make for such a captivating listen. While ‘enjoy’ might not be the right word to use about Get Well Soon, there’s real beauty in the melancholy, making it one of the most haunting albums I’ve heard in a long time. 'Wooden', as well, with its massive nod to 'Down By The River', is the greatest Neil Young song Shakey never wrote.

Steve Pill

Tom Waits – Bad As Me (Anti)

Thanks to a couple of myth enhancing books and cult film cameos, Tom Waits stock seems to have risen to insane levels in recent years, despite him not having actually released an entirely great album since 1998's Mule Variations. Thirteen years on and Bad As Me finally rectifies that with an album that feels like a distilled version of everything he has attempted over the last 40 years. The ballads break your heart like prime 1970s Waits, Marc Ribot and Keith Richards add experimental Rain Dogs-esque guitar lines to the darker blues, while the experimental sound effects of recent albums bubble under the surface still. More importantly, he sounds like he was having a ball.

Pranam Mavahalli

Feist - Metals (Polydor)

This record sounds better each time I hear it. I’m a big fan of Feist’s guitar-playing, which ranges from smooth like her laid-back vocal delivery, to deliciously gnarled and ragged. It’s a record that’s slightly more abstract and left-of-centre than previous efforts, but all the more rewarding for it.

How Come You Never Go There by Feist

Rory Dollard

Bill Callahan - Apocalypse (Drag City)

Ahhh Smoggy Bill, you've done it again you old goat. In his third outing under his own name, he makes it a hat-trick of great records following Woke On a Whaleheart and Sometimes I Wish I Was An Eagle. The simplicity is the key, his easygoing guitar and deep, force-of-nature voice sounding at once playful and commanding. The buzz-saw solo on 'America' and the Van Morrison-esque flutes are new tricks, though.

Dom Farrell

Starfucker - Reptilians (Polyvinyl)

It is unlikely you’ll hear a cheerier meditation on death than Starfucker’s Reptilians. Within the first five tracks we’re treated to ‘Bury Us Alive’ and ‘Death as a Fetish’ and it’s hard not to want to dance to both of them. The psych-electro of Reptilians is admittedly of the well-trodden post-Oracular Spectacular lineage, but is easily strong enough and – against all odds given the subject matter – euphoric enough to stand on its own two feet.

Starfucker - Julius by isaidahip


  1. bloody hell. i've managed to reset all my settings and crack this whole comment problem.

    I feel like i have a lot to catch up on but here we have it. Skillers wrote my favourite review yet, can't remember what for. Pranam wrote my second favourite, can't remember what for. I've liked a few albums I'd not heard before, can't remember which ones.

    Bet you're sorry you've been missing out on gold like this all month.

    Big congrats, by the way, to all concerned for having no sightings of The Vaccines or Coldplay. I'd say the same of Noel Gallagher but I fear we may yet see the old bastard yet.

  2. Enjoying that Uglysuit song. Not heard of them before.

  3. This track of the day business is really losing its lustre as I'm afraid there's nothing here that makes me want to disrobe and huddle up to complete strangers.
    Fingers firmly crossed for tomorrow.

  4. I'm not sure but perhaps the panel should be congratulated on this...

  5. I've failed. When I compileed my list, my first thought was 'Can I see Guy in his birthday suit when this is playing?'
    Hopefully tomorrow's choice will rectify this. You better exfoliate today.

  6. I like this Bobby track - wish you'd told me about it earier, Ian.