Thursday, December 06, 2012

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Six

It's day six of the Musical Advent Calendar which means we're moving into those troublesome teens. Wild-card picks are no longer acceptable, records you kind of like but aren't entirely sure about are out - these are our panellists' No. 19 albums of the year, and they'd better be good. With the pressure mounting, Andy considers a wardrobe change, I get stuck in a time-warp, and Pranam dozes off.

Andy Welch

The 2 Bears – Be Strong (Mercury) 

I never really got into dance music. To be truthful, I didn’t try that hard, but if more of what I had heard sounded like The 2 Bears I’m sure I wouldn’t be such an acoustic-guitar-loving fop and I’d own fewer pairs of cords. There’s real substance to Be Strong, belying what, on first glance, might seem like a jokey distraction for the duo, Hot Chip’s Joe Goddard and DJ Raf Rundell. As much as Be Strong is a celebration of all the music they love – and I wish I’d heard – it’s also shown me house music can be reflective and emotionally deep; both of which I’d ignorantly assumed it could never be.

Matt Collins

Fanfarlo - Rooms Filled with Light (Warner) 
Like Mumford & Sons, Fanfarlo had little chance of repeating the success of their classic and much-toured debut. So what else to do tear up the template and start again? Gone is the incomprehensible indie vocal style and mandolin leads, replaced by sharp and clean vocals and more experimental electric guitar led structures. Lead single 'Shiny Things' shows they haven't lost their ear for a decent tune, and while overall this is a harder record to get into than their last, the rewards are there for those who try.

Pranam Mavahalli

Tame Impala – Lonerism (Modular)

For me, Tame Impala's debut sounds like a long, endless summer afternoon marked by occasional drifts into a mildly intoxicated slumber. So it's perhaps fitting that their follow-up works as the soundtrack to the hours before, and during, a rowdy evening. It's louder, more garish and bolder than their debut, and yet retains the character of their first record. If I had to choose between the two albums, I'd go for the debut, which is perhaps fitting for someone who often craves, but rarely has the time for, an afternoon nap. Yawn.

Ali Mason

Bard – The Springtime Fool (Woodburner Records) 

This is lovely summery stuff, with tunes that lodge in your head from the moment you hear them and mellow arrangements to get lost in. On an album that tends to the trad side of folk, it is the clarinet which lifts The Springtime Fool to unexpected heights, from the moment it firsts kicks in, a beautiful surprise midway through 'Violets'. You might want to pretend you never heard some of the lyrics, but when the tunes are as sweet and carefree as 'Rambling With You', or as plain beautiful as the title track, who cares?

Guy Atkinson

Circa Survive - Violent Waves (Self released)

Four albums in and Circa Survive are thankfully showing no signs of suffering from a lack of creativity. The sound here is more akin to that of their first two albums, as opposed to the more commercially driven Blue Sky Noise, and firmly cements their position as one of the most forward thinking post-hardcore bands around. Bonus points for getting Geoff Rickly, from my favourite band Thursday, to provide backing vocals on 'The Lottery'.

Dom Farrell

Chromatics - Kill for Love (Italians Do It Better)

It’s one hell of a ballsy statement for the Chromatics, or indeed any band for that matter, to open an album with a cover of Neil Young’s seminal ‘Hey Hey, My My’. But Ruth Radelet’s superb vocal and some intelligent, icy production means ‘Into The Black’ more than stands up to scrutiny and the New Order flecked title track soars out of the blocks straight afterwards, setting the tone for the opening half of the record. The band’s highly acclaimed soundtrack work on Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive and Johnny Jewel and Nat Walker film noir fascinations then come to the fore in a tasteful but ultimately flabby midsection. As the earlier features of effortlessly executed electro pop return for the climax, it seems churlish to complain too much.

Ian Parker

Ray Stinnett - A Fire Somewhere (Light In The Attic) 

Normally albums recorded in 1971 would not be eligible for the Musical Advent Calendar. But A Fire Somewhere doesn’t have your standard backstory (cue shameless plug to my interview with the man himself). This album has turned up on a fair few lists of the best re-issues of 2012, but that would suggest it had been released before. Instead, it sat in the vaults for 40 years before finally emerging in November, a psych-folk throwback that was worth the wait.

Rory Dollard

Beth Orton - Sugaring Season (Epitaph)

Still wrongly viewed in some quarters through the prism of her early collaborations with William Orbit, Orton has for some time been an authentically wonderful folk voice. Six years since her last album have nudged her ever more towards a traditional sound to match her distinctive vocal and fans of Laura Marling or Alela Diane should appreciate her craft and easy touch.

Beth Orton - Magpie from Arni & Kinski on Vimeo.

Steve Pill

Dr John – “Locked Down” (Nonesuch)

If this album were a one-pot dish, it would be a spicy crawfish gumbo with special sauce. A deceptively simple recipe kept in the family for several generations but no one has had the time or the inclination to make it for many years. One taste of this heady stew of bold Cajun flavourings will have you wondering why you haven’t eaten it for years. Sure, it may have taken a modern chef to attempt to revive this old classic, yet ultimately the success of it is down to timeworn know-how and an infallible combination of complimentary ingredients.

John Skilbeck

Ital - Hive Mind (Planet Mu)

This I first heard in Jumbo Records. It's one of those haughty, c+p'd, messed-about-to-buggery-and-beyond house music records that suits a certain, whacked-out state of mind. Worryingly, perhaps, I listened to this a lot in 2012.


  1. My pick of the day is the pretty lady in the Circa Survive video. Second to her is that Chromatics track, and I'll be buying that Ray Stinnett album too.

  2. Dom takes today's floral garland, that Chromatics record really is very good (and very long). Takes a lot to beat the original Hey Hey My My, but they managed it.
    I also enjoyed Ian's selection today, it's been on my wish list for a while after a tip-off and I'll take the plunge now.

  3. Woah, slow down. Beat the original Hey Hey My My? Let's not say things we can't take back.

  4. I may have been trolling.