Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Fifteen

It's here, folks. The Musical Advent Calendar is going to get really serious. It's day 15, which means the start of our top 10 countdowns. To mark the occasion, Ali screams 'HEY!', Steve tucks into a "great big pink soup" of an album, and Skillers gets stuck in immigration. Over in the corner, Pranam reminisces about the glory days of vacuum cleaner solos. 

Andy Welch

Wild Nothing – Nocturne (Bella Union) 

I’ve always been a sucker for jangly guitars, and in recent years, almost anything released on Bella Union. An album of jangly guitars released on Bella Union is likely to be of interest to me, so I had high hopes before hearing Nocturne. From the opening song, in all its C86-aping glory, to the closing seconds, Nocturne skips along in a dreampop haze, more sophisticated and fully realised than debut Gemini, yet no less enjoyable. A fantastic record, more rewarding with each listen.

Matt Collins

The Shins - Port of Morrow (Colombia) 

A very long time in coming, this album. James Mercer has been busy with Broken Bells these last few years, leaving legions of hipsters to cry out for more classic shouty indie rock from the band that got him famous enough to collaborate with Danger Mouse. Predictably enough, Port of Morrow is not the best Shins album, but neither is it the worst - far from it. To balance the soppiness of 'Simple Song', we have the jaggedy frantic 'Bait and Switch'. The classic acoustic Shins track is present and correct in the form of 'September'. And at no point does it sound like Mercer doesn't care about this act anymore. So the naysayers who dismiss it out of hand as not matching the heights of previous efforts are missing out on what is a fantastic indie record.

Pranam Mavahalli

Micachu & The Shapes – Never (Rough Trade)

Where I found Actress’ latest album a sequel perhaps unworthy of its predecessors (c.f. The Phantom Menace to Star Wars), Micachu’s album is perhaps better than what came before (c.f. The Godfather 2 to The Godfather). There aren't quite as many vacuum cleaner solos on this record, but the kitchen sink attitude to recording with whatever made-up instruments you can find remains. In fact, I’m pretty sure I hear a kitchen sink actually being used as percussion on one of the tracks. It’s bold, brash, experimental, yet grounded in pop convention, A true innovator.

Ali Mason

Of Monsters and Men – My Head Is An Animal (Island) 

So, I know there’s not much that’s original about this album – if you own anything by Arcade Fire, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros or even the Polyphonic Spree, you’ll probably recognise the terrain pretty quickly. But so what? The tunes are great and uplifting, and ultimately I just like bands who go: “HEY!”

Guy Atkinson

Ceremony - Zoo (Matador Records) 

The days of pulsating and bloody curdling hardcore from these Californian rotters appears to be a distant memory as they embrace their post-punk influences with real vigour on their fourth full length. This evolution has alienated many of their early fans, but I'm resolutely still along for the ride.

Dom Farrell

Cold Specks – I Predict a Graceful Expulsion (Mute)

One of 2012's outstanding debuts and, in Al Spx, one of the year's outstanding voices. I Predict A Graceful Expulsion is funeral-march soul that reveals further battered and bruised beauty on each listen. Cold Specks were the first band I saw at Latitude this year, where a moderately populated tent found itself completely in thrall to Spx's compelling delivery before being treated to a wholly unexpected a cappella version of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme tune. Here she displays the demeanour of Jazzy Jeff after he's been unceremoniously turfed out of the Banks' residence by Uncle Phil and the record is no worse for it.

Ian Parker

First Aid Kit - Lion's Roar (Wichita) 

I could actually be a little offended. It's like someone told Johanna and Klara Soderberg that all they needed to do was put down a thick layer of lap steel over a swift beat and use their beautiful blood harmonies (see earlier review of the Staves) to sing "I'll be Emmylou and I'll be your June, and you'll be my Gram and my Johnny too" and I'd basically be in the palm of their hands, helplessly in love. As if I'm that easy. Oh, wait. I am that easy. 

Rory Dollard

Cody ChesnuTT - Landing on a Hundred (One Little Indian)

There’s no doubt our Cody is a bit bonkers. You know the type. One of those chaps who has the brass balls to call his first album The Headphone Masterpiece before going silent for a decade and re-emerging seemingly surgically attached to an out-sized military helmet. Well, it’s just as well he’s a little bit on the spectrum, because who else would attempt so blatantly to summon the likes of Al Green, Sam Cooke and even Prince and contemplate getting away with it? When he hits a groove, he is without peer in the field of neo-soul.

Steve Pill

Porcelain Raft – “Strange Weekend” (Secretly Canadian)

Released in January, this album was in danger (DANGER! HOW WOULD IT EVER COPE!) of not making my top 24 by nature of it sounding "a bit too 2011". Yes, such is my relentless thirst for finding something that doesn't quite sound like the other 17891 songs in my iTunes that I was happy to dismiss the chillwave production values, shoegaze fuzz and indistinct album art as being far too much like something I listened to a whole 12 months ago. But sod it. This is a great big pink soup of an album, dripping with swooning vocals and layer upon layer of bright, brilliant sound. Plenty of the less-than-positive reviews of this album pointed to the title of the second track - 'Shapeless & Gone' - as a damning verdict on the music inside. In its defence, I'd offer the same doubters the title to the third track as a riposte: 'Is It Too Deep For You?' (Ha ha! See what I did? In your face, mutha hubbards!)

John Skilbeck

Agent Ribbons - Let Them Talk (Antenna Farm)

Agent Ribbons are banned from playing in the UK until 2018, having been rumbled by customs officials when they planned to play a tour on tourist visas. So that’s a shame, because after two tremendous albums they released the teaser six-track Let Them Talk EP this year ahead of a third long-player in 2013, and it showed them to be on thrilling form. Lauren Hess and Natalie Gordon form the Austin-based band, one that latches dark-humoured and sometime mirthful musical theatre tendencies to melodies that waltz the line between country and rockabilly. I think you (maybe not you, Guy) might like them.

1 comment:

  1. With "she displays the demeanour of Jazzy Jeff after he's been unceremoniously turfed out of the Banks' residence by Uncle Phil", Dom wins audacious musical description of the day. Bravo.

    Song-wise, Skillers = winner.