Friday, December 21, 2012

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Twenty-One

It's our No. 4 albums of the year, and, with imitation being the best form of flattery, Dollard pays glowing tribute to Steve, Pranam reveals a longstanding objection to the Going For Gold theme tune, and Skillers goes back to an old favourite on the occasion of her debut album.

Andy Welch

The Black Keys – El Camino (Nonesuch)

It seems like this was released a long time ago, and I can’t think of a week since when I’ve not listened to it. That seems slightly unfair on some of the other records on this list, that I might’ve only lived with for two or three months, but it wasn’t released in time to make last year’s list. I love El Camino. It’s the sound of a band who started off rough and raucous gradually refining their sound over six albums to come up with a distilled version of themselves. There’s something very old fashioned about that notion, a band being given room to breathe and grow like that, but there’s something very old fashioned about El Camino. Calling them best barroom rock n roll band in the world might sound like I’m doing them a disservice, especially now they’re headlining arenas, but it’s meant as the ultimate compliment. El Camino is a modern classic.

Matt Collins

Rufus Wainwright - Out of the Game (Decca/Polydor)

Following on from albums and shows that suggested intent to be taken seriously as a pianist (All Days Are Nights) and a vocalist (the Judy Garland shows), opera pop genius Rufus Wainwright has gone back to basics. Produced by Mark Ronson, it isn't just another faux soul record, but a return to and indeed cranking up of the fun times of previous records. From the showtime stomp of 'Rashida' to the all out disco of 'Bitter' tears (via the obligatory and less good quiet moments like 'Respectable Dive'), here is a man that has learned how to have fun again.

Pranam Mavahalli

Grizzly Bear – Shields (Warp)

Harmonies – check. Gorgeous melodies – check. Jazz-influenced rhythms and chord voicings - check. Interesting arrangements, dynamic song structures, and meticulous production – check, check and check again. All the elements I love about Grizzly Bear records are present and correct here, and yet for some reason it all sounds a bit different. What you have is a Grizzly Bear record moulded and reshaped into a form that stretches the band in a different, slightly poppier direction. So while I do love this record, I also slightly miss the oddballness of earlier albums. And as an aside, I can't shake the feeling that 'A Simple Answer' sounds like the Going for Gold theme tune. I have to skip that one every time. Damn.

Ali Mason

The Maccabees – Given To The Wild (Fiction) 

The career trajectory of The Maccabees is rather remarkable. Frustratingly, so many bands seem to produce one good album, struggle with a second and never really recover. The Maccabees get more assured with every offering. Back in another lifetime when I was studying scriptwriting, much was made of the word “playwright” – because it gives the lie to the idea that a piece of art is something that comes from inspiration. It is wrought, it is crafted and painstakingly shaped. The same could be said of the word songsmith, and the Maccabees are most definitely songsmiths. From the brute force of 'Pelican' to Arcade Fire-inflected stadium pleasers like 'Go', nearly every song is layered to perfection, but nowhere do they sound better than on the exquisitely delicate 'Ayla'.

Guy Atkinson

Deftones - Koi No Yokan (Reprise) 

As soon as one of the chunkiest riffs of the year kicks off opener 'Swerve City', there's little doubt that Deftones' renaissance is set to continue in some style. It's incredible to think that this band is about to enter its 25th year and they're still producing some of the most innovative heavy music imaginable. Chino sings "I wish this night would never end" on 'Romantic Dreams' and I can't help hoping that this record would never end.

Dom Farrell

Beach House – Bloom (Bella Union)

The best way to follow up a brilliant record is with one that's a little bit more brilliant. Easier said than done, but that's exactly what Beach House have done with Bloom. Bettering 2009's Teen Dream - a perfectly realised representation of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally's lo-fi shoegaze template - appeared to be  a tall order, but the duo have accomplished it by making everything subtly and tastefully bigger. Bloom casts Beach House as the bedroom band reaching for the stars. The glacial majesty of the songs on offer here mean they shine brighter than most things up there. 

Ian Parker

Admiral Fallow - Tree Bursts In Snow (Nettwerk)  

Having spent two years and a half years crafting their gorgeous debut Boots Met My Face, Admiral Fallow wrote a recorded a hefty chunk of Tree Bursts In Snow on the hop in the studio, but you'd never know. They've increased the range of their lush instrumentation, not least after frontman Louis Abbott discovered his bandmates played far more instruments than he realised midway through writing the record, but their trademark sound remains indelible. Discovering new range, they can flit between the raging anger of 'The Paper Trench' and the happy-clappy sounds of ‘Isn’t This World Enough??’ without skipping a beat. It’s an album that soundtracks a band growing into themselves.

Rory Dollard

Jack White - Blunderbuss (XL)

**Tribute to Steve Pill alert**
If Blunderbuss was a popular fairground entertainment juggernaut, it would be Alton Towers perennial Nemesis. You have to stand in line and wait patiently for an indecently long time to get your chance with it (seriously, we didn't need a second Dead Weather album) and when you do you know deep down that you're being taken for a ride. There are all kinds of physiological pressure points being pushed and prodded to manipulate you and make you feel a certain way. But, man, does it hit the spot. What a thrill. Can we go again please???

Steve Pill

Young Magic – Melt (Carpark)

If you liked the first Yeasayer album but lost interest when they started to sound a bit Savage Garden, then plug back in with Young Magic. Balancing that percussive, pseudo-mystical thing with a fairly heady sense of melody and pop nous, Melt sounds less like it was written on guitar or piano and more as if it was beamed in whole during some particularly freaky meditation session. It also came housed in the year's greatest album sleeve, courtesy of the very talented Leif Podhajsky, who not only did the Tame Impala, Toy and Lykke Li covers, but also the Foals' forthcoming Holy Fire LP which will probably be my no 1 pick for 2013's calendar.

John Skilbeck

Jessie Ware – Devotion (Island)

Jessie Ware features for the second year in a row on my chart. She appeared twice on Sbtrkt’s self-titled 2011 album, providing vocals on the stand-out Right Thing To Do, but is here under her own steam after a top-five LP and a Mercury Prize nomination. At 28, Ware is in pop music terms a late starter but quickly making her chance count. Devotion was dinner-party sophisticated and carefully crafted by a team of producers, but don’t let those aspects count against her. Ware’s voice, so elegant and rich, made it a truly convincing British soul album, one driven by an undercurrent of bedroom dance beats rather than any bombast. It was an album - hers was a voice - you could luxuriate in.

No comments:

Post a Comment