Monday, December 19, 2011

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Nineteen

As we reach out No. 6 albums of the year, Ali confronts his blatant sexism, while Pranam drifts back 20 years to discuss his favourite albums of 1991 and Dom expresses serious concerns about the well-being of his chosen pick.

Ali Mason

Grey Reverend – Of The Days (Motion Audio)

While ‘woman with guitar’ forms the backbone of my music collection, ‘man with guitar’ as a genre is oddly underrepresented. But maybe that’s because not many can do it like Grey Reverend. The obvious reference point, in both vocal and musical style, is Jose Gonzalez but, whisper it quietly, I think Grey Reverend might be better. I can’t remember whether he recorded this himself in his Brooklyn apartment, or if that’s a back story I’ve made up because it seems to fit. Either way, there are six tracks of intense, intimate brilliance before the spell is broken a touch towards the end. This is a talent desperately deserving of greater exposure.

Guy Atkinson

Small Brown Bike - Fell & Found (Bridge Nine)

Another collection of bruising emo anthems from one of post-hardcore's most influential bands. Let's not have to endure an eight-year wait for the next album again, eh lads?

Ian Parker

Bon Iver - Bon Iver (4AD)

Much as I liked For Emma, Forever Ago, it was, in some ways, a let down. I don't blame Bon Iver for this necessarily, but all the five-star reviews made it sound, on paper, like it should have been exactly the kind of album I'd adore, and put up with my favourites of all time. That never happened. So when the follow-up came out to a response that was, if anything, even better, I stayed sceptical. The first time I listened to it, I wasn't really concentrating and pretty much forgot about it. Which only made the process of discovering it all over again in September all the more exciting. It's an absolutely beautiful, engrossing record that I enjoy more every time I hear it.

Matt Collins

The Lesiure Society - Into the Murky Water (Full Time Hobby)

The Leisure Society's debut swept in on the wave that brought breezy folkpop back to the masses. The follow-up never quite hits those heights, drifting in the second half more than its predecessor did, but with upbeat songs as timeless and beautifully structured as 'You Can Keep Me Talking' and 'Our Hearts Burn Like Damp Matches', this will do very nicely.

John Skilbeck

David Thomas Broughton - Outbreeding (Brainlove)

Otley’s David Thomas Broughton used to deliver music as theatre, his gigs were anything-goes shows, modern folk warped into performance art. If it creaked, clanged or clunked, it went through the tape loop and came out part of increasingly elaborate mosaics, tangling with Broughton’s deep, tremulous voice. Frankly, though, it was not to everyone’s taste, and walk-outs were not unusual. With Outbreeding, something changed. This intriguing son of rural Yorkshire knitted together sparkling poetry, hammed-up vocals and intricate melodies to create rather conventionally-shaped songs – still thrillingly playing by most of his own original rules – on a monumental second record.

Andy Welch

Noah And The Whale – Last Night On Earth (Mercury)

I loved Noah And The Whale’s second album, First Days Of Spring. It was my album of the year on this very blog two years ago. While it was a brilliant record, it didn’t leave songwriter Charlie Fink much left to give on the writing-personal-songs front. Quite wisely, he went away and concentrated on taking his writing in a new direction, with made-up stories and observations sitting where soul-bearing candour once did. Musically there’s less folk and more 70s AM rock, with Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen among the biggest influences. Giving credence to the thought that you’re forever bulletproof after you’ve had your heart broken for the first time, Last Night On Earth sees Fink in refreshingly buoyant mood, aiming to live life like the Bukowski tale that so inspired him. Proof, as he sings so triumphantly on the stand-out track, that life does go on.

Steve Pill

Walls - Coracle (Kompakt)

Brighter, funkier and more immersive than 2010’s equally awesome, self-titled debut, Coracle keeps the Boards of Canada/Pink Floyd’s Meddle influences front and centre. This time around there is a strong 3am feel to much of the album, tapping in to the Orbital’s slow-motion epics and early 1990s ambient house music, albeit without all of the wanky gap-year traveller connotations that comes with all of that. Oddly, I don't think I've played this out loud once though - this is definitely an album designed for the earphones; one to make your head swim.

Sunporch by walls_band

Pranam Mavahalli

Martyn – Ghost People (Brainfeeder)

An album I chanced upon completely randomly while browsing ‘What’s new’ in Spotify. I’ve spent much of second part of this year obsessing over LFO’s Frequencies. In fact, if we’d have been doing this calendar in 1991, I can reveal that Frequencies would have undoubtedly occupied my top spot. But I digress. Ghost People is unsubtle, dirty, in-yer-face dance music that aims straight for the jugular. Like Frequencies, it’s all executed with seeemingly effortless confidence and equal amounts of energy. Best dance record of the year.

Rory Dollard

James Blake - James Blake (Atlas)

Okay, he may have been handpicked by the increasingly risible BBC Sound Of... poll, but even a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day. He has some fairly vociferous critics but I’ve come back to this debut more and more as the year progressed and never found it wanting. The fractured dubstep beats are arresting rather than cynical, the vocal amazingly emotive beneath a wall of effects and the sentiments at times devastatingly simple.

Dom Farrell

Wild Beasts - Smother (Domino)

Endearing and unnerving in equal measure, Smother is an eloquent portrait of terminal relationship decline. Icy, atmospheric synths and throbbing bass provide a thrilling sonic foundation for intelligent flecks of guitar and piano, not to mention an easy resting place for singer Hayden Thorpe’s dramatic, occasionally preening, delivery. His vocal style is often a divisive issue, but when Thorpe plaintively mourns “I’ve made enough enemies” before the swelling crescendo of ‘Loop The Loop’, the urge is to place a hand in his shoulder and let him know everything will be okay.


  1. You're going to need to help me out, Andy. Where's the Bruce on Last Night on Earth?

  2. i was about to say how i'd like Wild Beasts if it wasn't for that bloody voice and then i dialled into Skillers' pick. There's some lovely muso-noodling going on there but good Lord that voice is a horror show.
    Walls is the big winner for me today, Grey Reverend also nice but that song is about three minutes too long.

  3. Sorry gents, but this has been my least favourite day so far in terms of song selections. However, I do like Wild Beasts so Dom wins track of the day.

  4. I think we should remove the 'coveted' tag from Guy's track of the day award. Ever since it was bestowed he's become increasingly picky and critical. Over-developed sense of self-importance, I reckon.

  5. Pranam's pick gets my vote today, played it nice and loud just now. Meanwhile I'm delighted to hear David Thomas Broughton continues to divide opinion. That's one of his more 'radio-friendly' vocals too.

  6. This is a big disappointment to me. I've been really looking forward to sharing Grey Reverend with you all, but having just listened to the track, it's an inferior and longer version to the one that's on the album. Really should have listened to it before I submitted it. Hey ho.

  7. John, there's much more of the same on the Martyn abum. It's admittedly not Monday morning/arvo material, but worth your attention if you're digging the above.

    Meanwhile, I just came on here to say (again) how good Ian's choice yesterday was of Other Lives. Outstanding record; can't stop listening to it. Cheers.

  8. i still covet Guy's track of the day, but that's because i don't think i've won it yet.

  9. You have Dollard - I think it was for 'The War on Drugs'.

    Being a massive geek I actually totted up the amount each of you have got - there are two still to get the award, Mason and Welch - sorry gents. Skilbeck is out on his own with six wins, although a few of these were purely because the band members were hot.

  10. My last chance for a Guy Award is Friday, I think, though if I do get it it'll kinda be by default. De-fault! De-fault!

  11. Is there a league table? This might influence my choices for next year...

  12. I'll provide the final standings once everyone's number ones have been posted.

    The winner gets to shower with me.

  13. The Bruce comes on Life Is Life, The Line and Tonight's The Kind Of Night, which sounds like Born To Run rewritten by a lad from West London.
    You don't agree, do you?

  14. I'd urge you to listen to both songs back-to-back and then try saying that again with a straight face.