Sunday, December 02, 2012

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Two

If you're the last one on a list of 24, maybe you're just grateful for making it at all. If you're number 23, though, you're probably feeling a little bit low. Or you're feeling just like Michael Jordan. It can go either way.

Andy Welch

Stealing Sheep - Into The Diamond Sun (Heavenly) 

I first saw Stealing Sheep two-or-so years ago in Liverpool. The way they drew on so many influences was impressive then, although perhaps slightly incoherent with no central theme pulling it all together. By the time this debut came out, they'd ironed out those flaws without losing any of the eccentricity that was so appealing in the first place. You can't read anything about this three-piece without seeing the word 'pagan', but there's a definite wiccan vibe to the whole album, it'd be easy to imagine songs like 'In The Garden' and 'Genevieve' being performed during some sort of ritualistic ceremony, and as unlikely as it might sound the rest of the album is furnished with motorik synths, chirpy brass and some of the most angelic harmonies I've heard all year, and none of sounds out of place or forced. Magical.

Matt Collins

Shrag - Canines (Fortuna Pop)

Shrag do a fine line in shouty indie with three-chords-and-the-truth clean punk guitars, the kind you need no musical talent whatsoever to sing and indeed bounce along to in tiny venue moshpits. Or sing along at home, mumbling along to the catchy spoken choruses.

Pranam Mavahalli

Beth Orton – Sugaring Season (ANTI-)

Ian bemoaned the lack of buskers in my Top 24 this year. I could have mentioned Sura Susso whose Sila Kang record is wonderful, but as I'm not sure his album was out this year, Beth Orton rocks my 23rd spot. She's dropped the 'tronica' from her the 'folktronica' of her previous albums, a canny move for an album that I've enjoyed listening to both attentively and also while doing the chores.

Ali Mason

Joyce The Librarian – They May Put Land Between Us (Folkwit Records) 

Joyce The Librarian are the kind of band I would have gone gaga over 10 years ago, like Aberfeldy or Astrid. There’s an easy grace and charm to They May But Land Between Us, though the harmonies are maddeningly imprecise at times. Stand-out track 'Follow Me, I’m Right Behind', at least, is worth going gaga over.

Guy Atkinson

Such Gold - Misadventures (Razor & Tie)

After banging out a few EPs and undertaking countless tours across the globe, this year finally marked the release of Such Gold's debut album and, largely, it doesn't disappoint. It certainly doesn't reinvent the melodic punk rule book, but there's plenty on show to ensure a man of my age can feel like a 16-year-old again when listening to it.

Dom Farrell

Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Psychedelic Pill (Reprise)

As those who got involved with his wonderfully engaging autobiography, Waging Heavy Peace, will well know, Neil Young is a contrary bugger. This year, for example, he’s reunited rock’s mightiest backing band for the first time in a decade to record an album of ye olde covers, nursery rhymes and the British national anthem. Hot on the heels Americana, Psychedelic Pill begins with ‘Drifting Back’ – a 27-minute song. That’s nice and sensible. The subsequent title track is an enjoyably muscular garage rock assault that someone involved in the recording process –no prizes for guessing – has decided to bury in ridiculous amounts of phaser. One can only hope the engineer begged for the “alternative mix” to end this double album so as to ensure he remained employable. From there on though, the magic of Crazy Horse takes over. The songs and lyrics aren’t always the strongest but, as Neil said in his book, “that band is a vehicle to cosmic areas that I am unable to traverse with others”. Groovy.

Ian Parker

Jo Mango - Murmuration (Olive Grove)

Every year there’s one album that creeps up late and snares a place somewhere on the end of your list, and Scottish songbird Jo Mango was the one to do it this time around. Six years separates her second album from her first but - in between a myriad of side projects and guest appearances - she’s used the time to carefully craft 10 vehicles for her beautiful voice.

Rory Dollard

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

This almost slipped off my radar entirely after it was caught up in the vanilla slurry of the most MOR Mercury Music Prize short list ever. What a horrible set of selections. What a woeful winner. There's nothing game-changing about La Havas' debut album but there is plenty to enjoy about her soulful delivery and slightly disjointed guitar work...not least the sweetly snarky track below (or above, can't recall how this thing works).

Steve Pill

Willis Earl Beal – “Acousmatic Sorcery” (XL)

If this album were a diseased athlete, it would be a prize-fighter with chronic emphysema; a proud, young and muscular thing of rare, conditioned beauty that promises so much, yet has been tragically afflicted with a progressive lung disease that causes him much pain and discomfort. The main sound you will hear from it is a relentless, repetitive, moaning wheeze that can shake you to your core, but there is the suspicion that once this condition worsens, it will manifest itself in ever more dramatic and interesting ways. After a first check up, this isn’t something to worry about too much now but, like the doctor-on-call, you will make a note to pay close attention to this patient over the coming years.

John Skilbeck

Death Grips - The Money Store (Columbia)

Death Grips' follow-up to the exhilarating Ex Military (which would have been in my top 10 last year, had I heard it before November) was another vigorous onslaught on the senses from the Sacramento group. Underpinned by the powerful drumming of Zach Hill, peppered with samples, and topped by the take-no-prisoners ranting of MC Ride, a rapper in an interminable rage, The Money Store was perhaps the most surprising record to get a major-label release this year. They then stuck a photo of an erect dick on the cover of a new album in the autumn, self-released it and were kicked off the Epic roster.


  1. Why have I never listened to Shrag? That song's great and John's been going on about them forever.

  2. I can't really pick Shrag as my favourite of the day, it'd be practically nepotism. So it's Rory edging out Ian for me today. Liked the Jo Mango track, but I'd have probably faded it out at two minutes.

  3. Okay, now we're hitting our straps. Giving it 110 per cent. Leaving everything on the pitch. Good shit. I vote for Death Grips after shamefully deciding they just missed the cut for me despite having nothing else like it on my list. The librarian chap, meanwhile, sounds genetically modified to appeal directly to ali's list.

  4. Great to see Death Grips, Lianne and Willis Earl Beal all getting shout outs today. I clearly need to make some time for these records

  5. Regrettably, there's little here that sets my pulse racing but at a push I'll award the coveted track of the day title to Shrag.

  6. Right, you'd think I'd listen to all these while putting the posts together, but...anyway. Time to catch up.

    Obviously, my favourite track here is Dom's selection. But in actual news, I'm loving the Stealing Sheep and the Shrag. Which is more of a surprise as they're both albums I own and thought I'd made my mind up about already.

    We've had this conversation before, SP, but I've tried, really tried, and I still can't get the Willis Earl Beal album to click. This track comes closest, but most of the rest fails to make sense.

    Skillers - I never saw this one coming.

  7. A fair few lovely things on here, but Death Grips absolutely rips the back out of procedings. Colossal.

  8. I guess I can see it with Willis Earl Beal, but I came to it via the gig, saw him command a stage for 90 minutes at the Tabernacle, then bought the album on the way out. I guess I hear it with a bit more of that in it - he really is worth catching live. I think some of the album is a bit repetitive but only in a great Howlin' Wolf/Screamin' Jay Hawkins kinda way.

    Stealing Sheep and Death Grips win it today, for me. Belatedly.