Monday, December 03, 2012

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Three

We return for day three of the Musical Advent Calendar to find Matt dabbling in big riffage, Pranam getting himself all of a bafflement, and Dom settling in for a night with the phonebook.

Andy Welch

Kathryn Williams Presents The Pond – The Pond (One Little Indian) 

It’s not uncommon for Kathryn Williams’ music to be compared to autumn, and this collaboration with singer Ginny Clee and bassist and ex-Fairground Attraction Simon Edwards is no different. In the most positive sense, there’s a cosiness that runs through the album that brings to mind falling leaves and the passing of time. That’s down to Williams’ characteristically intimate, gentle vocals and the cultured mixing from Portishead’s Adrian Utley. One song’s title, The Art Of Doing Nothing, seems to sum up the true quality of The Pond. It’s never busy, but still manages to be compelling. 

Matt Collins

It Hugs Back - Laughing Party (Safe and Sound)

It Hugs Back's debut was a fine experiment in strained yet gentle vocals and big guitars. Laughing Party is more of the latter than the former, with opening track 'The Big E' a whopping 15 mins of rock riff action. Not necessarily better for the increased experimentation, but beguiling nonetheless.

Pranam Mavahalli

Kindness – World you Need a Change of Mind (Female Energy/Polydor)

Kindness confuses me. I mean who releases a debut album nowadays featuring two covers, one of which being the EASTENDERS THEME TUNE? And what's with his meta-level videos that confound and intrigue in equal measure? It’s like Prince discovering Derrida, while declaring a love for dismal soaps on British television. In spite of the confusion, I can't help returning to this record. This is partly because it sounds incredible, it grooves in all the right places, and I (controversially) actually the prefer version of The Replacements’ song here to the original one (go on, criticise). Sometimes it's better to choose ambiguity over certainty.

Ali Mason

Liz Green – O, Devotion! (Play It Again Sam)

There’s so much to love about this album, with its distinctive brass-driven sound and low-level simmering unease. Jazz-tinged tunes like 'Midnight Blues', with a hint of the Prohibition about them, are impossible not to love. Green’s voice itself is a hefty instrument which is sometimes easier to respect than love, but this individual-sounding debut is one to cherish.

Guy Atkinson

Pulled Apart by Horses - Tough Love (Transgressive) 

In 2010, I ranked Pulled Apart by Horses' debut album as my second favourite of the year, but the fact their follow up is only 22nd this year can probably be attributed to a change in my music taste rather than slipping standards by the Leeds band. It rarely deviates from the raw, yet gloriously tuneful, punk template of their debut, but as always with these guys, you can't help wishing you were getting your rocks off to it in a moshpit rather than listening to it at home.

Dom Farrell

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

Iconic figure who has drifted into relative obscurity makes return to form as critically acclaimed artists help him produce a record that chimes with contemporary tastes - it’s hard to shake the feeling that, following his American Recordings endeavours with Johnny Cash, Rick Rubin is owed a dime from records like The Bravest Man in the Universe. Bobby Womack worked successfully with Damon Albarn on the last Gorillaz album and, with the latter manning the controls alongside Richard Russell, the great man sounds on fine form here. Clipped, minimal production provides the best resting place for Womack’s brilliantly bruised soul. Some more intrusive electronics see the album fade down the stretch but, frankly, I’d happily listen to this bloke recite the Yellow Pages.

Ian Parker

Gabriel & The Hounds - Kiss Full of Teeth (Communion)

If it was starting to get easy to pigeon-hole bands signed to Communion, Gabriel & the Hounds arrived to break the mould, coming together as a collective of folks who have worked with the likes of the National, Tune-Yards, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Beirut, New Pornographers, St Vincent, Sufjan Stevens, and Bj√∂rk, all marshalled by Gabriel Levine. The result is like listening to a more sinister version of the Shins, Levine able to match James Mercer’s ear for a tune while the gorgeous instrumentation, made up of horns, cellos, flutes and more gives the sounds superb depth and range – the sort of which makes this an album that grows better and better the more you listen.

Rory Dollard

The xx - Coexist (Young Turks)

Oh The xx you moody, not-as-attractive-as-we-thought-you'd-be-when-we-first-heard-you-whispering-to-each-other-like-supermodels-a-couple-of-years-ago bunch...what can we say? I like Coexist on its own terms. It's got that icy cool vibe, the unfussy production and they still sound sexy even if we now know they're not. But it's not really a patch on their debut is it? Worthy of a place in anyone's 24 but let's not get silly and lob it in the teens, ay?

Steve Pill

Calexico – “Algiers” (Anti-)

If this album were a holiday, it would be one of those package tour, sit-on-a-bus-for-13-hour jobs that old people go on to remote hot countries, that whisk you around all of the sights you’ve seen on telly, without ever giving you the time to properly enjoy each individual stop. The scenery is reassuringly familiar – dusty, windswept and romantic – but it doesn’t quite match up to your memories of that time you came here a decade ago, back when this Calexico place was truly beautiful.

John Skilbeck

Cornershop – Urban Turban (Ample Play)

There's a children's choir on the opening track, soon followed by French female vocals that carry all the warmth of a cold-turkey Nico on a wet day, and such a miscellany of genres the listener could easily confuse Cornershop's seventh album for a mix tape. But Urban Turban was (I AM SO, SO SORRY) brimful with smashers.


  1. It Hugs Back really lights my candle today in a fuzzy riffage stylee. Also enjoying Gabriel & The Hounds, as I tend to with anything that sounds a bit like The Shins

  2. By an absolute landslide, Dollard wins today's track of the day award.

  3. Pun of the day: Skillers.
    Extended metaphor of the day: Steve
    Track of the day: Ian

    I've not included the xx in my 24.
    However, Angel is a gorgeous track and I enjoyed the album as a whole. I expect it'll be one I listen to lots in 2013 and beyond, probably more than plenty on my list. Time might be kind to it, that's what I'm saying.
    Also, Ali's selection today was a treat, but Dolldog nailed it with one of the songs of the year.

  5. The xx album is rubbish, a pale imitation of the debut. You're all mistaken. That is all.