Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Seventeen

Today we find Dollard tackling an elephant and Dom preparing to ask for a hand in marriage.

Ali Mason

Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues (Bella Union)

Hats off to Fleet Foxes – this is exactly what a second album should be: progression without losing what was so good about the debut. Less reliant on harmony and less opaque lyrically, Helplessness Blues pushes the hazy Americana folk sounds of their eponymous first release gently into new territory while still feeling as comfortably familiar as this sofa which I’m sitting on right now. Not much more to say really: it’s Fleet Foxes.

Guy Atkinson

Spraynard - Funtitled (Asian Man)

This just makes me want to give it all up and form a band. Three disgustingly young chaps from Pennsylvania bash out life-affirming punk tunes that are indebted to early Blink 182 and The Get Up Kids, what's not to like?

Ian Parker

Other Lives – Tamer Animals (Play It Again Sam)

As if the grand, sweeping soundscapes Other Lives create were not enough to get me hook, line and sinker, they apparently have a very simple moto in the band: "What would Neil Young do?" It's the only question any of us need ask of ourselves to live a better life.

Matt Collins

Bon Iver - Bon Iver (4AD)

There was always a danger that the follow up to a seminal broken-hearted folk album would go soft on us. Well, it sort of did, but in that kind of hope at the end of melancholy way. Bon Iver is in fact a step above For Emma, Forever Ago, weaving electric guitars and walls of noise in epic, intricate melodies and that unmistakable falsetto. Simply beautiful.

John Skilbeck

Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat - Everything's Getting Older (Chemikal Underground)

In the hinterland between the elegant streets of Edinburgh and the grime of Glasgow’s East End you’ll find Falkirk, home to Wells the jazz man and Moffat the grinch. It is the location where for these veterans of central Scotland’s musical dark arts, yes indeed Everything’s Getting Older. Murkier. Sleazy. Filthier of mind and manner. Moffat decorates the ornate strings and piano of Wells with lashings of unsettling, menacing mutterings. The gnarly prose Moffat spews forth is worthy of that other master of Central Belt misery, Irvine Welsh, and while it was easy to admire and enjoy the fruits of this collaboration from afar, soaking up the portrayal of a prosaic 21st century life in the Forth Valley, you’d not want to walk a mile in Moffat’s shoes.

Andy Welch

Washed Out – Within And Without (Weird World)

Chillwave is a pretty nasty word, even if I fell for the post-shoegaze genre hook, line and sinker. Washed Out – or Ernest Greene – rises above the usual crowd, though, thanks to his remembering to write songs to go with the blissful sounds. For music created in a bedroom, there’s a wide-open scale and warmth to the album so lacking in so much chillwave, resulting in an album that you don’t so much listen to, as get absorbed by.

Steve Pill

Wye Oak - Civilian (City Slang)

You’ve gotta love a girl who swigs whisky from the bottle on stage, almost as much as a guy who plays keyboards and bass while he drums. Like The Black Keys and The White Stripes before them, Baltimore pairing Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack make enough noise to shame an orchestra (when was the last time you heard a duo who actually just sounded like two people playing music and didn’t try to multi-task?!). Theirs is a blend of grunge-y dirges, lo-fi girl pop and, in 'Civilian', one of the songs of the year – a keening stomp that explodes into a fidgeting burst of Neil Young guitar epic-ness, while still clocking in under the four minute mark.

Pranam Mavahalli

St Vincent – Strange Mercy (4AD)

Like The Dirty Projectors, St Vincent has a way of making music that, at first, sounds completely abstract to me before eventually making perfect sense. Strange Mercy is filled with great hooks, memorable melodies and huge choruses; it’s just they don’t always come where you’d expect them. The songs are huge, occasionally melodramatic, and feature the kind of six-string pyrotechnics that make want to practice more guitar.

Rory Dollard

Lanterns On the Lake - Gracious Tide Take Me Home (Bella Union)

Okay, as there’s a sizeable elephant in the room I suppose we best confront it. ‘Folktronica’. It’s a load of old ballbags, isn’t it? It’s for wetwipe songwriters with new laptops and old ideas. It’s for Get Cape, Wear Cape Fly. Yet Lanterns On the Lake are the exception to the rule – they’re the kind-hearted Tory, the shit-kicking Brazilian striker. This is classic British songwriting, with attitude and delicacy at every turn and some measured contemporary touches.

Dom Farrell

Laura Marling - A Creature I Don't Know (Virgin)

Ragged Glories panellist picks Laura Marling. Thinks her songwriting is astonishing, her lyrics beguiling, her talent astounding. Wants to marry her a little bit. Standard.


  1. Wye Oak and Lanterns on the Lake are both great choices, but Other Lives wins it for me today. Only just got round to hearing the album - stupendous.

  2. Guy's silence is a damning indictment of our choices, but personally I think Rory wins this round.
    They seemed to be making a big thing of the Lanterns on the Lake album at Jumbo Records recently, so that piqued my interest and if Mr Dollard also approves I'm in.
    I quite like folktronica. It beats shitgaze in any case.

  3. Not a great deal here for me to get my teeth into, but Wye Oak wins track of the day.