Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Eleven

As we get to our No. 14 albums of the year, Matt struggles to keep his neck muscles under control, Dollard makes a shameless play for approval, and Guy comes in from the cold.

Andy Welch

Lianne La Havas – Is Your Love Big Enough? (Warner)

I feared the worst when I heard the opening bars of Is Your Love Big Enough? I’d seen Lianne perform live prior to that and been blown away. So funny on stage, such good songs, great guitar-playing skills, and then that voice. Unfortunately, I thought, her album was going to sound like Corinne Bailey Rae. Thankfully it’s a record that rewards perseverance and while I think 'Lost & Found', 'Elusive' and 'Everything Everything' veer into that category, there’s enough wit and originality in 'Au Cinema', 'Age' and 'No Room For Doubt', her duet with Willy Mason, that it doesn’t matter. I’m pretty obsessed with the guitar sound on 'Tease Me' and the In Rainbows-esque drumming on 'They Could Be Wrong', too. What a brilliant debut.

Matt Collins

Rosie Taylor Project - Twin Beds (Odd Box)

Ahh bands who have a person's name in their name but that person isn't actually the lead person in the band. Taking the confusing mantel from Peggy Sue and Travis before them, Rosie Taylor project are delightfully indie clean guitars tumbling around with witty lyrics and beats to nod your head no further than a few millimetres to. Fans of Belle and Sebastian and their legions of unofficial tribute bands will find lots to love here.

Pranam Mavahalli

Easter – Innocence Man (White Box)

Around two years ago I was in a band which rehearsed in a disused mill in Manchester. The walls were thin, so often the sounds of the different rooms would blend into each other, creating a bland, indiscriminate sonic mush. One band did stand out though, and were based next door to us. They sounded like an alt-country band raised on Sonic Youth, and I would often look forward to the breaks in our rehearsals just to sneak out and hear them play. Fast forward two years, the band's debut is finally out, and all those endless hours rehearsing have definitely paid off. It's an album that will appeal equally to fans of classic songwriting and those who like their tunes peppered with extended breaks of feedback and noise. Play loud.

Ali Mason

Beth Jeans Houghton & The Hooves Of Destiny – Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose (Mute)

If you’re gonna be called Beth Jeans Houghton and the Hooves of Destiny, and you go about naming your album Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose, good lord you’d better be good. Thankfully, Beth Jeans pulls it off. It’s an album very much of the ‘throw as many ideas as possible at it and see what sticks’ school. It could sound uneven, but the fact that every song is as bonkers as the last one has a sort of unifying effect. Songs like 'Dodecahedron' and 'Atlas' prove there are great pop tunes hidden under it all.

Guy Atkinson

The Twilight Sad - No Oner Can Ever Know (Fat Cat) 

This effort represents a significant departure from the guitar drenched sound of their first two albums, but thankfully the brooding intensity remains as potent as ever over these nine synthy songs. I've long been a fan of the Scottish singing voice (see Idlewild and Frightened Rabbit) and James Graham's rich brogue continually feels like big, snug duvet that I'd just like to wrap myself up in.

Dom Farrell

Spiritualized – Sweet Heart Sweet Light (Double Six)

I’ve said it before in other reviews in previous years on this blog (surely I’m not the only one repeating themselves by now), but I love a band that you can rely on. It’s perhaps an unexpected trait given his prodigious ingestion of drugs over the years, but you can certainly rely on Jason Pierce and Spiritualized. On Sweet Heart Sweet Light, all the key ingredients are in place when the mod stomp of ‘Hey Jane’ ascends majestically. Pierce has assumed the familiar role of the strung-out last survivor being soothingly carried by a choir of angels to meet a maker his doesn’t believe in but can’t stop singing about. As always, you’re with him all the way.

Ian Parker

Michael Kiwanuka - Home Again (Polydor)

First things first, this very nearly didn’t make the list at all as I was pretty certain it had come out last year. But then I also thought most things released before about May had actually come out last year. I’m going to rely on this excuse when it turns out I left out some stone-cold classics from the first half of the year due to being an idiot. Anyway, back to Michael Kiwanuka. So, sure, there’s nothing much original about what he’s doing. The Bill Withers, Terry Callier et al influences ooze out of every song. But when it’s done this well, who cares? ‘Tell Me A Tale’, the flute-driven opener Kiwanuka first grabbed our attention with, continues to stand-out from the pack both in style and substance, but the rest of this record does not disappoint.

Rory Dollard

Japandroids - Celebration Rock (Polyvinyl Records)

This may sound like a blatant, eyelid fluttering, tushy-wiggling, lip-licking come-and-get-me plea for Guy’s track of the day nod, but it’s a bit more than that. I can’t quite explain why, but these guys are just about the only balls-out rock’n’riffers who really get me going in my sedate late 20s. The template is pretty simple – loud fuzz guitar, pounding drums, lyrics brimming with the optimism of youth – but they nail it, repeatedly.

Steve Pill

Bobby Womack – The Bravest Man In The Universe (XL)

Dragging old soul and country stars back into the limelight with the help of a hip younger producer has been in danger of becoming a crushingly cliched career move in the last few years (for every Gil Scott-Heron/Johnny Cash style reinvention, there is Tom Jones murdering that-song-what-Moby-sampled or Jack White's tragic attempts to resuscitate a beyond-repair Wanda Jackson). Luckily, Damon Albarn was never likely to put a foot wrong when XL asked him to work his magic on Bobby Womack. Rather than simply revisiting early influences, 'Stupid' is a full-on stab at a modern pop song. It is undoubtedly a 21st century Albarn album (stellar guests, piano ballads, futuristic production squelches) but the burnished mahogany voice and irrepressible funk undoubtedly belongs to Womack.

John Skilbeck

Corin Tucker Band - Kill My Blues (Kill Rock Stars)

I have a personal highlight of London 2012. It was that moment mid-Games when the morning shuttle bus to the Olympic Park neared Tower Bridge and Twitter linked me to a new Corin Tucker Band song, the rebel-girl-rousing 'Groundhog Day'. That was a sweet day. And this video to 'Neskowin' is ace.


  1. Pranam, I'm guessing the rehearsal space in question was either the Boom Boom Rooms, Beehive Mill in the same building as Sankeys or Greenhouse Rehearsals on Pollard Street

  2. +1 point for listing all the usual suspects Dom, but -1 point for not getting the answer right. The room in question was at the Kraak gallery off Stephenson Square. Great place, but low on facilities. Not sure they even had a working loo when I was there.