Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Twelve

Pranam has never struck us as the heartless kind, but on day 12 of the Musical Advent Calendar, he casts a shadow over the panel's No. 13 albums of the year by discarding Django Django like just another falafel pitta, while Guy latches on to a fresh new band from 1985 and Dom does his best to wake up his Dad.

Andy Welch

Sharon Van Etten – Tramp (Jagjaguwar) 

Tramp isn’t always an easy album to listen to. But then it’s not meant to be. Van Etten’s exploring her own heartache and reflecting on an abusive relationship – she’s referred to her songwriting as “self-therapy” – so why should the listener get off easily? It’s a wholly downbeat album, yet strangely uplifting, in the same way Sarabeth Tucek’s Get Well Soon, an album about her father’s death, had no right to be. “What should I do? I am lost,” she sings on closer 'Joke Or A Lie', at the end of her tether. I don’t want to sound cold, but if she carries on writing music this good, I hope she doesn’t find herself.

Matt Collins

Dark Dark Dark - Who Needs Who (Clementine)

Quite apart from having a fabulous name, Dark Dark Dark have a fabulous sound. The piano over guitar as lead instrument was made hugely unfashionable by Keane. But inspired by an intra-band break up, Dark Dark Dark have taken the model to a melancholic yet oddly uplifting place. Full of laments about visions of a romantic future that never came to pass, Who Needs Who is as solid a reflection of the emotional palette of heartbreak as 2012 ever produced.

Pranam Mavahalli

Django Django – Django Django (Because)

About a couple of years ago, I got really into Zorba’s Mediterranean takeaway at Manchester’s Arndale. They make really good falafel pittas. I went most lunchtimes, frequently enough to get some banter going with the owner. He would nod, and I would nod back, each time we passed each other on the street. But some things do not last, and when Pancho’s opened a Mexican joint close by, my loyalties soon shifted. Their burritos are excellent, and made me forget all about the falafels. I haven’t been to Zorba’s since. I now no longer nod at the owner. In fact I sometimes look away if I see him on the street, or worse still, check my phone to avoid eye contact. Why am I talking about takeaways? Well, because my relationship with this album is much like my relationship with Zorba’s. I was smitten with the close harmonies, Beta Band-esque genre shifts and analogue synths, all of which sounded fresh and out of step with the musical zeitgeist when this record first came out. But then other, newer, more exciting stuff appeared, I switched allegiances, and I haven’t looked back. Perhaps there’s too much choice in this world.

Ali Mason

James Yorkston – I Was A Cat From A Book (Domino Records)

I Was A Cat From A Book was apparently influenced by a serious illness which affected one of James Yorkston’s children and you can feel it. One moment there is overwhelming melancholy and the next there is defiance and angry positivity. I’m late coming to James Yorkston, but I love his command of the emotional spectrum and the way his vocals can flip from delicate and quivering to forceful at a moment’s notice. It makes for a richly textured album.

Guy Atkinson

Dinosaur Jr. - I Bet on Sky (Jagjaguwar) 

My greatest music 'find' this year was in fact a band that released their first album in 1985. I'm almost ashamed that it has taken me this long to fall for the irresistible charms of Dinsoaur Jr. but, my god, how I've fallen for them. In truth, I've probably spent more time trawling through their back catalogue this year, but this album deserves a spot this high up because, as I've learnt, everything J Mascis turns his hands to is pure fuckin' gold.

Dom Farrell

The xx –  Coexist (Young Turks)

It’s easy to take pot shots at The xx, what with all their painful, aching cool and all. The other week, my Dad quipped they should be called “The zz”, the wag. But he’s not alone. Coexist has been received in something of a lukewarm manner, the main gripe appearing to be that it sounds a fair bit like their acclaimed eponymous debut offering. I find this a bit rich. When a band releases a record and creates a sound that is so definitively and originally “them”, they surely deserve to give it another outing? There’s no point me describing what they sound like, you’ve been enraptured or irritated by that already, but the minimal soundscapes – arguably pared back by Jamie Smith on this occasion (no, not “Jamie xx” – I’ll defend much of what this band does, but Smash Hits closed years ago!) – clever, atmospheric guitars and beautifully meshed boy/girl vocals still tick all the boxes in my book. So there, Dad.

Ian Parker

Cold Specks - I Predict A Graceful Explosion (Mute)

Etobicoke, Canada is a long way from the Deep South but it is clear that is where native Al Spx, now a resident of the even more distant London, finds her inspiration. Her homespun blues are built on the old slave songs of the region, but lifted out of the cotton fields and on to grander plains by her quite wonderful voice.

Rory Dollard

Tennis - Young and Old (Fat Possum)

When this dropped in early February I felt pretty sure it would wind up in my top 10 of the year. That it hasn’t speaks pretty well of 2012’s offerings because, having revisited it now for review purposes I’m again struck by what a neat little affair it is. There are elements of Best Coast, Beach House and even She and Him at play here and Alaina Moore’s sweet melodies are made for keeps.

Steve Pill

How to Dress Well – Total Loss (Acephale/Weird World)

From Burial to Wu Lyf, the most interesting acts of the last couple of years have been the ones that have shunned the Twitter updates and relentless promotion in favour of cultivating a sense of mystery to their art. How To Dress Well's Tom Krell has been more forthcoming than some in getting his name out there but this second album still remains shrouded in an appealing sense of unfamiliarity. The album's big concept concerns Krell's lost friends and family - both forgotten, struggling with depression or even, tragically, dead in the case of his uncle and best friend - but the music is a continuation of his stunning Love Remains debut. On first listen, the endless falsetto can grate a little (or else sound like a Flight of the Conchords spoof), but stick with it and you will soon be drawn in to his peculiar mix of torch songs, hymns and lovelorn 1990s R&B pastiches.

John Skilbeck

Green Thrift Grocery - Buy It Back! (Gumball Machine Records)

All I know of Green Thrift Grocery is they hail from Athens, Georgia and one of them is the daughter of Vanessa Briscoe from that city's new-wave heroes Pylon. So just those sketchy details and the revelation their scratchy, rickety debut album proved to be wildly exciting, like stumbling on a lost Raincoats album - if the Raincoats had a phase as freaky sci-fi geeks.

1 comment:

  1. Seeing as I probably can't nominate SVE for track of the day, I'm going for Green Thrift Grocery. Never heard of them, might never again, but that song it fantastic.