Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Twenty-One

Important questions are raised by today's list, but none more important than the question as to where the yo-yo finally landed on Pranam's end-of-year chart.

Ali Mason

Jenny and Johnny – I’m Having Fun Now (Warner)

This is one of two albums I’ve picked this year which was also eligible for the 2010 list, which is a shame because, had the vote not been split, it might have had a better shot at the overall top 10. It’s great stuff though: Jenny (Lewis - Rilo Kiley) and boyfriend Johnny (Rice - who cares?) are young, pretty, funny and in love, and they’re positively bloody desperate to let you know how it feels. While I’ve lifted that description entirely from Rory’s review last year because it’s a great line, I can’t help feeling he’s slightly undersold the lyrical ambition of an album which includes lines like “If you lose your fear of God you are an animal at heart” and “You have to be patient, this new administration is doing the very best it can”. Nobody’s going to disagree about the scorching harmonies and perfect pop tunes, though, in a 35-minute offering which never once dips in quality.

Guy Atkinson

Thursday - No Devolucion (Epitaph)

My favourite band of all time regrettably decided to call it quits in November, but after 13 years and six life-changing albums I can hardly complain. No Devolucion hinted at a new direction and was a fitting way for the finest post-hardcore band of all time to bow out.

Ian Parker

Dark Dark Dark - Wild Go (Supply and Demand)

For some reason every time I think about Dark Dark Dark I get all hung up on their supposed genre, 'chamber folk', and what that might mean. I think this is part of a general thing I have about the seemingly endless list of different genres which are said to exist, to the point that every band might as well have their own genre, and then nobody will. I don't know why, but this band provoke these feelings in me more than most - perhaps because I've never read anything about them, now including this review, which doesn't mention the term. But once you get past semantics, you can very easily get lost in a very different, and wonderful, way with Dark Dark Dark. To fully immerse yourself in Wild Go is to live in world of bleak beauty. Their echoing pianos and pulsating rhythms create a haunting soundscape you won't want to leave. The tunes are too good for that.

Matt Collins

Noah and the Whale - Last Night On Earth (Mercury)

Dubbed their worst album so far by the fun-haters, Last Night On Earth is in fact a great collection of tunes. Not sounding out of place on Radio 2 drivetime is in fact a virtue, particularly when bursting from the depths of despair of last album, First Days of Spring. An album for jumping up and down to, whether in the 80s or any other decade.

John Skilbeck

Cat's Eyes - Cat's Eyes (Polydor)

Side-projects shouldn’t trump the day job but the debut LP from Cat’s Eyes was an aural extravagance. News that Horrors head boy Faris Badwan (né Rotter) was working on a side-project with an opera singer, Italian-Canadian Rachel Zeffira, caused a ripple of interest, which became a stir when they apparently performed a track as a stunt inside the Vatican. The neo-gothic duo had chutzpah but they had the tunes too. Zeffira the debutante was a revelation, Badwan a first-class chaperone, their sultry, sun-down orchestral manoeuvres consistently hitting the mark.

Andy Welch

Katy B – On A Mission (Sony)

While millions of people were watching Prince William marrying that ‘commoner’ Kate Middleton in April, I was interviewing Katy B. If any of the flag-waving tourists cheering on the Blue Bloods wanted a real depiction of modern Britain, they could’ve done a lot worse than look at Katy that day, standing in a café in Oxford ordering a falafel, and have a listen to her wonderful debut. As foreign as her influences are to me – dubstep, two-step and garage – I love On A Mission. Maybe that’s why I find it so fascinating. It sounds like club music made by someone who has actually been inside a club. The way Katy sings of getting lost in the music, flirting with strangers and over-indulging makes me think nightclubs might not be gateways to hell, but thrilling places to visit.

Steve Pill

Washed Out - Within and Without (Weird World)

Having played 'Feel It All Around' endlessly last year (the Life of Leisure EP was my number six pick in 2010, fact fans), I had pretty high expectations for Within and Without, which were then crushed by walking into Rough Trade to find they had installed a promotional Washed Out double bed in the store, complete with branded duvet and listening posts. Thankfully after this twattishly misguided introduction, the album itself was a more simple seduction – shoegaze production values, inert rhythms and vocals with a strange, roller-rink sadness to them.

Washed Out - Amor Fati by DominoRecordCo

Pranam Mavahalli

James Blake – James Blake (Atlas)

Like a yo-yo, this has bobbed all over my charts this year. It didn’t have the immediate appeal of Blake’s early EPs, but I kept returning to it, partly because it sounds so unlike anything else. It’s deep, heartfelt music that manages to innovate too, and in that sense reminds me the xx’s debut. I really look forward to see where Blake goes next.

Rory Dollard

Bjork - Biophilia (One Little Indian)

It seems pathetically reductive to sum up the genius of this album in a couple of paragraphs and an arbitrarily selected video clip, but let’s give it a shot while we’re here. If you want to divert yourself reading about the instruments she invented to give this album its distinctive palette, that’d be a good thing to do. Equally, you could research the conservationist/cosmological/philosophical treatise that underpin its themes. If none of that appeals, just take this at its face value: a set of dizzyingly creative, genre-splicing, batshit mental musical experimentation.

Dom Farrell

Radiohead - The King of Limbs (XL)

In making their 2009 masterpiece In Rainbows, Radiohead removed a monkey from their back. No longer did people hope idly for the next The Bends or OK Computer. It seems The King of Limbs has annoyed everybody again by not being the next In Rainbows. However, it must be remembered, Thom Yorke is a contrary bugger who never knowingly gives the people what they want unless you count playing “Creep” at the odd festival here and there. The King of Limbs is not as good as its predecessor, but there remains plenty to admire. Restless beats and rhythms dazzle in the album’s first half, before haunting piano ballad “Codex” begins the ascent for air, completed by assured closer “Separator”. The monkey is back on Yorke’s shoulders and he’s feeding it loads of bananas.


  1. Nice monkey action in Dom's review but congratulations to SP for "twattishly misguided", which is without a doubt my phrase of the day.

  2. i'm with pranam, today's a festival of wordy joy. great lines abound.

    In fact, having subbed several of his match reports on a saturday, i'm fairly confident this Radiohead review is comfortably the best thing Dom has ever written. He's got the wrong end of the stick of course, but in such an enjoyable way.

  3. Twattishly misguided and batshit mental in the same day. Excellent times.

  4. I'm really glad Rory has now worked out how to sign in and comment. I'm sure we all are.

  5. Afraid the track of the day award is going to have to stay in its box as there's nothing here that I like, sorry. Yes, I know I'm a twat.

    Also, I've held back from commenting on James Blake until this point for fear of offending those who are fans, but I just can't hold it in any longer. I don't think I've ever been so irritated listening to a piece of music as I was today. It brought back unwelcome memories of how irritable I became when I had the misfortune of seeing 'Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist' at the cinema. Ghastly.

  6. I've been inside a club and it doesn't sound anything like Katy B, sorry.

  7. Please don't shatter the illusion.