Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Twenty

As we reach move into our top five albums of the year, Ali drops yet another plug for Jumbo Records, which by now must be the Official Record Store of the Musical Advent Calendar, Dom re-imagines Primal Scream as a comedy double act laid up in bed, and Steve discovers a lo-fi torch song named 'Clive'.

Andy Welch

Spiritualized – Sweet Heart Sweet Light (Domino) 

Jason Pierce doesn't like doing things easily. Spiritualized's previous album, Songs In A+E, was written before he got a little too much first-hand experience of the inside of a hospital ward, delaying it's release. Continuing his run of poor health, Sweet Heart Sweet Light was written and recorded while he underwent intense treatment for Hepatitis C. Hoping he could offset the misery of the medication, he set out to write a pop album. Pierce has since admitted it didn't work for him, and feels removed from the album because of the gruelling time he was having during its making, but whether he realises it or not, it's Spiritualized's most focused-sounding album since Ladies And Gentlemen, with a new groove underneath it all. A fascinating backstory, but an even better album.

Matt Collins

Sharon Van Etten - Tramp (Jagjaguwar)

On paper, a solo female artist clutching an electric guitar wailing about lost loves would be far from my thing. On record however, Sharon van Etten has made a fantastic rock album. Three chord songs have rarely sounded so good, whether it's the frantic rock of 'Serpents', or the more positive 'Leonard'. And it's in slower moments like these that Van Etten displays her real depth and songwriting ability. Outstanding stuff. 

Pranam Mavahalli

Peaking Lights – Lucifer (Weird World)

If we're going by virtue of number of listens alone, then this fully justifies its place in my top 5. I absolutely rinsed it in the summer months, partly because I remixed one of its tracks – 'Beautiful Son'. Otherworldly, unique, and cosmic, I find this band irresistible. It's not quite as awe-inspiring for me as their debut, but it comes from the same dub, analogue electro sound-world, which I very much love. In case you're interested (plug alert), my remix is the Stargazer one here. I might be truly bored of my effort now, but I still have a lot of time for this album.

Ali Mason

Carolina Chocolate Drops – Leaving Eden (Nonesuch)

I knew nothing about the Carolina Chocolate Drops when I bought this album on a whim when shopping in Jumbo Records with my sister, but I could scarcely have been happier with my purchase.  All this countrified blues and jazzy folk is right up my street. There’s a real hard edge to the music and it’s taken to another level by Rhiannon Giddens, who is a classically trained singer and on ‘Ruby, Are You Mad At Your Man?’ produces one of the most exciting vocal performances of the year. I’m even okay with the beatboxing.

Guy Atkinson

Dikembe - Broad Shoulders (Tiny Engines)

After releasing one of my favourite EPs of all time in 2011, it's fair to say my expectations were sky high for Dikembe's debut full-length. Thankfully, it doesn't even come close to disappointing. It's absolutely stuffed full of ramshackle punk-indie anthems that sound as if they were created for the sole purpose of hundreds of sweaty, dirty punks to scream along to.

Dom Farrell

Peaking Lights – Lucifer (Weird World)

Having managed to drive my girlfriend out of the country to a small Mediterranean island, I've spent a fair amount of time in Malta this year. Most of the national dishes feature pastry and the portions are massive - it's as if Yorkshire was sweltering hot. Anyway, I digress. Long afternoons wandering blistered stoney beaches under piercing blue skies were given the perfect soundtrack by Peaking Light's Lucifer. Hot on the heals of the acclaimed 936 - which I ultimately found to be no more than a collection of interesting noises - their sprawling psychedelic dub now comes with dreamy accessible melodies attached, which are effortlessly brought to life by Indra Dunis' smoky, breathless vocals. Apparently inspired Mikko, the baby born last year to Dunis and Aaron Coyes - the man whose analogue soundscapes drive this whole operation - perhaps Lucifer is what Screamadelica might have sounded like if conceived amid domestic bliss. I think Bobby Gillespie and Andrew Innes could do the Morecambe and Wise in bed thing pretty convincingly as it happens.

Ian Parker

Ellen & The Escapades - All The Crooked Scenes (Branch Out)

If Dom was keen to spend an evening listening to Bobby Womack sing from the Yellow Pages, I'd be quite happy to do the same with Ellen Smith. Her voice - rich, warm and smoky - is like a warm hug, and if that's all this album was, it would probably be enough for a top 10 spot all by itself. But there's much more besides. Drawing on the best folk-rock traditions, Ellen and her Escapades have crafted a fine debut collection ranging from stomping anthems 'Coming Back Home' and 'Without You' to the beautiful 'This Ace I've Burned', 'I'll Keep You Warm' and 'Yours To Keep'. Over the past couple of years, I've seen this band countless times, sometimes worrying I was beginning to stalk them, but I can't give it up, and with the album it's been just the same. I'm addicted. 

Rory Dollard

Bobby Womack - The Bravest Man in the Universe (XL)

This album has already popped up a couple of times on advent calendar and the relevant Johnny Cash/Gil Scott-Heron name-checks have been thoroughly bandied around. So what else to say? Nothing but a ringing personal endorsement for the richness of Womack's devastating voice, the sadness it can evoke, the wiseness of his words and the boldness of his embracing electronica. Damon Albarn can be a dry and dislikeable old stick at times but his feel for unlikely musical fusions serves his latest collaborator unfathomably well.

Steve Pill

Nite Jewel – One Second of Love (Secretly Canadian)  

Commitment might seem a really odd thing to praise an album for, but watching Nite Jewel on stage at XOYO earlier this year, it was impossible to avoid getting swept along by her sheer enthusiasm for the songs on One Second of Love - it was like watching a teenage wannabe willing her DIY R&B songs into the radio-friendly hits she clearly imagined them to be. The downbeat charm of early album Good Evening is gone and in its place is a full-blown production full of dramatic highs and soothing lows. Plus, only a true pop genius can, without irony, call the closing track 'Clive' and turn it into a touching, lo-fi torch song.

John Skilbeck

The Men - Open Your Heart (Sacred Bones)

The Men’s raging 2011 album Leave Home was clearing a path for Open Your Heart, the more rounded and perhaps better – certainly wildly different – record that arrived in March. While Leave Home sounded as though it might have been laid down over a weekend, Open Your Heart was The Men showing there was more to them than layering a brutal noise onslaught on top of a hint of a pop song. The songs came forward in the mix, the fury slunk back, and America’s latest great rock band emerged.

1 comment:

  1. Right then, Ian and me have stuck our hands up - who does everyone else want to hear sing the Yellow Pages?