Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Sixteen

If you're planning on listening to all of today's picks, you're going to want to settle in. The panel seem particularly keen to indulge their No. 9 albums of the year. Dollard actually apologises for offering up a 10-minute long track from his pick, clearly unaware that Pranam's selection clocks in at 27:51. Don't expect him to say he's sorry.

Andy Welch

Diiv – Oshin (Captured Tracks) 

I heard opening track '(Druun)' on the radio, liked what I heard and bought the album. I liked it immediately, but over the following month or so rarely listened to anything else. I completely fell for the album’s hypnotic grooves and lo-fi, reverb-drenched aesthetic. I don’t know anything more about the band really, other than Zachary Cole Smith was in a band called Beach Fossils, and they’re named after a Nirvana song but changed the name out of respect. I don’t really want to find out any more, Oshin is perfect as it is.

Matt Collins

Beth Orton - Sugaring Season (ANTI)

Beth Orton had been away for so long that we were all starting to wonder whether she would come back. Then we wondered whether she should, given how much her priorities might now be tied up with family life. But return she has, and good job too - Sugaring Season is one of her best records yet. Rarely has she sounded so passionate, so full of life, so capable of writing delicate folk classics like 'Call Me The Breeze' or 'Magpie'. She's still got it. 

Pranam Mavahalli

Neil Young – Psychedelic Pill (Reprise)

He's a bit like Marmite isn't he Neil Young. This is not an album for those who like their tracks short, find guitar solos self-indulgent, and believe that mp3s are a great audio format. But for the rest of us, this album ticks all the right boxes. It's classic Neil at his rambunctious best – loud, shambolic and decidedly odd. And for certain fans of Neil, (me included) there's nothing more exciting than the sound of the man being backed by the inimical, and often guilelessly inept, Crazy Horse. A band who've been playing for 40-odd years and yet still manage to sound under rehearsed. Brilliant.

Ali Mason

Laura J Martin – The Hangman Tree (Static Caravan) 

Aren’t you just sick of offbeat female singer-songwriters who sound a bit like Kate Bush? Well speak for yourself, I’m not. I love them. And anyway, you shouldn’t be so prescriptive with your descriptions. The Hangman Tree is really rather great. There’s a great blend of poppiness and oddness, summed up in the first two tracks: breezy melody-driven opener 'The Hangman Tree', followed by 'Fire Horse', where her trademark flute is looped and distorted into a weird background soundscape. There’s so much going on here – it’s really rewarding stuff.

Guy Atkinson

Basement - colourmeinkindness (Run For Cover Records)

It's with great sadness that this album represents the end for Basement, but what a way to go out. Blending all the best bits of 90s alt-rock with modern post-hardcore, this album is a fitting tribute to a band that had a profound effect on the UK punk scene over the last few years.

Dom Farrell

The Tallest Man on Earth – There’s No Leaving Now (Dead Oceans)

This Advent Calendar malarkey has significantly altered my listening and purchasing habits - I can't be alone here. The October splurge on records I should have got round to buying months ago and subsequent frenzied repeat listens is a part of the year I've come to welcome. The Tallest Man on Earth fell short of this crude method in 2010's final reckoning. I enjoyed The Wild Hunt but denied myself the time to fall in love with it. I wish I could say I learned my lesson here, but There's No Leaving Now duly found itself amid The Great Splurge of 2012. Perhaps his previous offering served to soften me up because this bowled me over completely - all infectious melodies and thoroughly accomplished writing that frequently plays the trump card of a middle eight to turn good songs into brilliant ones. There's No Leaving Now has generally not gone down as well as its predecessor but, for my money, the added production sheen allows Kristian Matsson to put beneficial distance between himself and his Dylan fixation.

Ian Parker

Alabama Shakes - Boys & Girls (Rough Trade)

Yesterday, we dealt with First Aid Kit and how they'd pretty much custom-made their song 'Emmylou' to make me fall in love with their second album. Well, whatever force created the Alabama Shakes, they're playing at an even higher level. A melting pot of all those sounds I love the most - rock, soul, that Muscle Shoals sounds…yeah, they were coming straight for me. I thank them for it.

Rory Dollard

Spiritualized - Sweet Heart, Sweet Light (Domino)

It might not be the done thing to post 10-minute songs on the Advent Calendar, but the latest Spiritualized epic is good a reason to veer from protocol as any. I’m a fully paid up member of the Jason Pierce fan club, willing to pursue him to the very ends of whatever free-jazz, psychedelic, droner, stoner, white-noise, space-rock journey he deems fit at the time. But on SHSL, he’s more open than ever to the casual listener. His lyrical pre-occupations with drugs, deities and death remain in place but there’s a more poppy, melodic vibe than ever before.

Steve Pill

Lower Dens – Nootropics (Ribbon Music)

If Stereolab, Joy Division and Neu! took a road trip together through the Bavarian countryside at night and had David Lynch and Wim Wenders film it on monochrome super 8 film and then played it in a gallery space to an audience of no one, that would be pretty weird. It might also be the only thing vaguely comparable to this gloriously dark soundscape of a record. In non-music land, “nootropics” are artificial ways of enhancing your intelligence – you could try some but buying this album would be an equally smart thing to do.

John Skilbeck

Divorce – Divorce (Night School Records)

Divorce, who I believe hail from Glasgow, like to butcher the familiar tenets of pop music, feast on its raw flesh and spew out the icky gristle. Then play it back to see how that sounded. They released a terrifying EP in 2009 and the ferocious Clyde-side attack dogs continued to snarl on their debut LP. Making Babes In Toyland sound as threatening as The Bangles, Divorce the album was not for the faint-hearted.


  1. The reappearance of Neil today means I'm going to grasp/tenuously create the opportunity to give my alternative take on the top five chat I missed the other day

    1. Powderfinger
    2. Winterlong
    3. Cinnamon Girl
    4. Tonight's the Night
    5. Revolution Blues

    I'll disagree with myself by the time this posts.

  2. Wow. Winterlong making an unexpected appearance. Though, you know, the absence of Ohio is unforgivable.

    Mainly, though, I was intending today to try and start a fight between you and Pranam.

    Dom - you say Crazy Horse are "the most wonderfully well-oiled machine". Pranam, you say they are a shambles.


  3. Ohio's amazing and it's good to see Cinnamon Girl in your list Dom, but the correct answer is (in no particular order):

    1. Old Man
    2. Cortez the Killer
    3. The Needle and the Damage Done
    4. Cinnamon Girl
    5. Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)

    Yes I stand by Crazy Horse sounding barely competent to me, but I mean that in the best possible way...

  4. I'd say Crazy Horse are a well-oiled machine because they sound just as mighty as they did 40 years ago - completely together and absolutely all over the shop all at the same time. I'm still not sure whether the first 30 seconds of Americana is them tuning up or playing.

    I think Pranam would agree if either of us had ever been in a band with Ralph Molina on drums we'd have tried to get him sacked on account of not being very good. Yet he remains the heartbeat of one of the most magical rock'n'roll bands in history. That's why Neil is a genius.