Friday, December 07, 2012

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Seven

As we reach our No. 18 albums of the year, Ali enjoys the fruits of a late panic, a spot of ska turns Guy violent, and Steve eyes up his best mate's younger sister. It can only end badly. 

Andy Welch

Jack White – Blunderbuss (XL)

There was a time, before The White Stripes officially announced their split, when it was easier to remember the names of bands Jack White wasn’t involved with. He could never be described as a lazy man, but for all his prolificacy, the simple fact he has such a distinctive voice and force-of-nature guitar-playing style meant you could spot him a mile off, taking over whatever side-project he happened to be working with that day. Thankfully, he stopped dicking around with The Dead Weather long enough to deliver a solo album, and oddly, despite it being the first thing fully in his name, his presence doesn’t seem to loom as large over Blunderbuss as it did say, The Raconteurs’ two albums. It’s like he dialled down the Whiteisms – only slightly, mind – and let the wonderful assembled musicians and guest vocalists share the spotlight. It’s unmistakeably Jack White, but subtlety suits him.

Matt Collins

Dry the River - Shallow Bed (RCA)

Drifting slightly from the epic folk that their early material pointed towards into a grander, rockier sound, Dry the River clearly have their eyes on bigger stages than folk festivals allow. Shallow Bed is at points a slightly predictable epic indie rock debut, occasionally more Coldplay than anything more daring. But as a package, there are plenty of flashes of songwriting brilliance and vocal passion to give the Shallow Bed (more minus marks for relating album name to band name) a worthy place in any album of the year list.

Pranam Mavahalli

Mark van Hoen – The Revenant Diary (Editions Mego)

I stumbled upon this randomly while wasting time lurking on an internet music forum. What a fortuitous stumble. It's the first record I've heard by van Hoen, but I'm keen to seek out more. It has the beats and ambience of early Boards of Canada, offset by the gloom of recent Tri Angle releases. If you're into your avant side of electronica, this is well worth a listen.

Ali Mason

Michael Kiwanuka – Home Again (Polydor) 

An admission: I was struggling to fill up my 24 this year. Some hurried and extensive Spotify pounding was needed to hit the quota, checking out albums I never quite got round to buying. It was time well spent though, as I unearthed little-known gems like Michael Kiwanuka. Oh, okay, so it’s easy to be sniffy about an artist who won the BBC Sound of 2012 poll, an album which was Mercury-nominated and tracks that were all over the radio for the first six months of the year. But that would be to ignore the fact that Home Again is one of the best voices around singing bloody good songs beautifully. What more do you want?

Guy Atkinson

Classics of Love - Classics of Love (Asian Man) 

Combining the punk sensibilities of many Dischord-era bands with the ska influence of his iconic band Operation Ivy, there was little chance of Jesse Michaels' latest mob being anything other than a roaring success. I've never been a huge fan of ska so thankfully it's the punk element that is at the fore for large parts of an album that makes me want to jump violently around the room and break stuff.

Dom Farrell

Django Django – Django Django (Because Music)

Infectious is pretty lazy way of describing catchy stuff but I’m going to go ahead and label Django Django’s eponymous debut just that. An enjoyable trick performed throughout by the Edinburgh quartet is to take 50s and 60s influences such as Link Wray, Bo Diddley and The Beatles without ever sounding anything but absolutely contemporary. Pulsing electronics lurk beneath the surface and are wonderfully complemented by David Maclean’s powerful yet minimal efforts on drums. Surf music for the 21st century with lasers attached to the board.

Ian Parker

Beach House - Bloom (Bella Union)

‘What comes after this momentary bliss?’ Victoria LeGrand asks on Bloom opener ‘Myth’. And when it comes to Beach House, its a question I’ve usually been unable to answer. Their albums don’t tend to stick with me for long after I’ve listened. But then I’m also one of those people who can never remember their dreams, even though I know I have them. And that’s what Beach House’s music basically is, and when it’s playing and I’m there in the moment, I don’t want to wake up. 

Rory Dollard

Polica - Give You the Ghost (Memphis Industries)

The thickly-applied and relentless use of Autotune on this album is sure to leave some of you colder than the buffet leftovers from whatever generic office Christmas party you reluctantly attend this year. But where that tool is, at its worst, used to stealthily tidy up inaccuracies and smooth rough edges, here it is used to create distance, ambiguity and scuzziness. All those things earn big green ticks from me and help create a distinctively dirty pop experience.

Steve Pill

Daphni – “Jiaolong” (Dan Snaith)

If this album were someone you met a party, it would be your best mate’s younger sister. On the face of it, she’s a lot like her sibling, but whereas you’ve known him for years and he’s dependable and endlessly interesting, she is a little giddy on gin and dancing in the middle of the room to some bright annoying pop tune that you’ve always had a soft spot for. You kinda don’t want to like her as much as you do, because you know that it is only a momentary diversion and you shouldn’t go for such frivolous things, but it is fun and you’re drunk and you want it.

John Skilbeck

Tame Impala – Lonerism (Modular)

Another I first encountered when it was playing in Jumbo. It was the Todd Rundgren remix of Elephant, the lead single, that grabbed me - one of those rare remixes that improves on the original. The album followed a few weeks later, and was a psych-rock treat, all shimmering keys, echoey zoned-out vocals and rickety reverb. Tame main man Kevin Parker then almost trumped Lonerism with his work on the wonderful Melody's Echo Chamber album, which I'd have probably had in here had I heard it earlier.


  1. Slim pickings for me today, but I'll plump for Jack White as track of the day.

  2. Any reference to Coldplay will have turned off the RvD, but I'm certainly going to investigate Dry the River more.

  3. I still want to know the name of the dog in the Love Interruption video...

  4. In other news, let me reveal now Tame Impala didn't make my list, but they were about No. 25. It's a fine record.