Saturday, December 08, 2012

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Eight

Have we all got the hang of the maths by now? It's day eight, so these are our No. 17 albums of the year.
Andy Welch

Father John Misty – Fear Fun (Bella Union) 

I love Fleet Foxes, but no matter how I sing their praises, I’d never try to claim their music was much fun. It can be flat-out depressing at times, even if it does sound very pretty. The same could be said for the solo albums of their drummer Josh Tillman, even if his live shows were peppered with his arid-dry wit. As soon as he left the band and adopted the moniker Father John Misty, something changed. Tillman’s music, particularly his vocals, now high in the mix, sounded confident, and there are genuinely funny moments throughout Fear Fun. He opens 'Nancy From Now On' with requests for another drink, a punch to the face and a name change, while 'I’m Writing A Novel' humorously details what sounds like a drug-induced breakdown “I ran down the road, pants down to my knees, screaming ‘Please come help me, that Canadian Shaman gave a little too much to me’.” I’m looking forward to that book as much as I am his next album.

Matt Collins

Islands - A Sleep and A Forgetting (ANTI) 

Full of good natured humour, Islands have a wonderfully retro vibe about them. Not in that tiresome 60s Adele sort of way, but with 21st century production values to support the clean guitars and crooning lyrics. Opening track 'In a Dream' sums up their stripped back approach and refreshingly wry look at heartbreak. Never has sadness sounded so jaunty. 

Pranam Mavahalli

Minotaur Shock – Orchard (Melodic)

I spent a sunny, lethargic day in August wandering around Manchester, sitting in parks, reading and generally milling about in a relaxed frame of mind. It was a short escape from the daily grind, and this album acted as the perfect soundtrack to my mini odyssey. The record delightfully combines kosmische synths with acoustic prettiness and minimal beats. I must have listened to it about 8 times back-to-back in the space of that day, but oddly haven't touched it since. Perhaps it's because I hold the memory of that day too dearly. Come August, maybe I'll dig it out again...

Ali Mason

Friend of All the World – The Wild (Friend Of All The World)

This is a thoroughly rewarding album, but one that demands patience. Early tracks, like opener ‘Smokestack’ are nice enough, but largely forgettable. In amongst is the album’s standout track. ‘The Heartwood’ is terrific.  It’s a tale of the wearing effect of urban life, quite gloriously at odds with amiability which surrounds it. It seems like a one-off until, thankfully, the record kicks in for real at the midway point with ‘First Snow’ – a song so atmospheric you’ll shiver with cold – then the undeniably creepy slow-build waltz ‘The Dance’.  Cold, night, snow, rain – these are the things the album keeps coming back to, the things that it its character and considerable pull.

Guy Atkinson

Everyone Everywhere - Everyone Everywhere (Self Released) 

The mid-90s emo revival is showing no signs of slowing down, which is great news for Everyone Everywhere who will hopefully receive the acclaim they deserve after two wonderfully crafted albums. This sparkling effort wears the band's influences on its sleeve, but when those influences are 'The Promise Ring', 'Minus the Bear' and 'American Football', why the hell shouldn't they?

Dom Farrell

Smoke Fairies – The Three of Us (V2)

Eschewing the Home Counties splendour of 2010’s magnificent Through Low Light and Trees, the Smoke Fairies claimed Blood Speaks to be their record of the industrial city. It is certainly a tougher-sounding album, a fact never better evidenced than by the careering slide guitar assault of lead single ‘The Three of Us’. Fear not, all the ingredients that made you love this band in the first place are still there – the gorgeous vocals, the haunting melodies and that delicious meeting point between English folk and American blues.

Ian Parker

Dr John - Locked Down (Nonesuch)

Dr John never went away, but Locked Down almost had the 'comeback' feel of the many collaborations we've seen between veteran musicians and younger producers who find them a fresh audience. Working with the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach - a man with a work ethic second only to Jack White when it comes to side projects - ol' Mac Rebennack revisited the sound of his classic Nite Tripper records of 40 years ago. Bluesy, funky, relentless, this is some of the best music Dr John has produced in decades.

Rory Dollard

Perfume Genius - Put Your Back N 2 It (Organs)

What's the opposite of easy listening? Uneasy listening? Awkward listening? No, it's Perfume Genius. Mike Hadreas hinted at his ability to unnerve listeners on his 2010 debut and here delivers in full. Lyrically he is ruthlessly open, and the sparsity of his arrangements amp the emotive qualities up to an almost uncomfortable level. But it is so heartfelt and so nakedly honest that it really hits home.

Steve Pill

Errors – “Have Some Faith In Magic” (Rock Action)

If this album were a magic trick, it would be a spectacular, Las Vegas-style finale, performed at the end of a set in which the audience have oohed and ahhed throughout. Taking the crowd with them every step of the way, the trick is full of twists and turns, and a lack of obvious theatrics or easy claps. It's a high-wire performance with no irritating narration, more Teller than Penn, just gradually tweaking expectations and engrossing you further.

John Skilbeck

Cloud Nothings – Attack On Memory (Wichita)

Such a Steve Albini record. Drums clatter and clang, guitars spin, swerve and squeal like race cars, and rising above the chaos, the burning rubber and the irresistible hooks is the reedy voice of Dylan Baldi. Under control on record. Live, they're feral.

1 comment:

  1. A resounding win for Cloud Nothings today.