Sunday, December 09, 2012

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Nine

As we reach our number 16 albums of the year, Pranam backs off an ambitious concept album, Ali writes his review in a hurry, and Guy gets disapproving stares from his mum.

Andy Welch

Tame Impala – Lonerism (Modular Recordings) 

Tame Impala’s first album Innerspeaker featured much higher on my list in 2010. It’s a better album than Lonerism, although this second album is the one that’s getting cosmic Aussie Kevin Parker all the attention. Even if it doesn’t quite get going in the way Innerspeaker’s 'Lucidity' and 'It Is Not Meant To Be' do, there are many positives. There’s a focus to Lonerism that was missing from the indulgent debut, the songs are more fully formed and the whole thing kind of floats delicately out of the speakers, as if a gentle breeze would damage it. 'Why Won’t They Talk To Me?', 'Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control' and 'Apocalypse Dreams' are my favourites on the album, and in 'Elephant', they’ve somehow managed to get swirling 60s-inspired psych on daytime national radio. Praise is very much deserved.

Matt Collins

Father John Misty - Fear Fun (Sub Pop)

Father John Misty used to be the drummer in Fleet Foxes, and doesn't it just come across. Fear Fun is very much in the vein of his old band's two classic albums, all long haired wisty folk delivered with exceptional vocal strength. Father John clearly has more of a bluesy leaning than the Foxes, often breaking into odd rootsy laments of the environmental impact of being in a band. Whatever the style, he clearly knows what he's doing.

Pranam Mavahalli

Chromatics – Kill for Love (Italians Do It Better)

I once had the idea to record a concept album based entirely on the Neil Young song 'Hey Hey My My (Into the Black)'. It sounds ludicrous, and probably would never would have worked, so it’s fortunate for all that it got abandoned before it started. Which brings me to Kill for Love. The album opens with a beautiful, sighing, synthwave version of that Neil Young song, before veering off into very different territories. It's atmospheric, ambitious, and sounds nothing like the idea for my concept record. Definitely a good thing.

Ali Mason

Dark Dark Dark – Who Needs Who (Melodic)

Not as good as the first album. Still great.

Guy Atkinson

Trash Talk - 119 (Trash Talk Collective)

119 offers another relentless blast of hardcore fury from one of modern punk's most fearsome acts. Other than 'Blossom & Burn', which features members of rap collective OFWGKTA, there's little no show that we haven't seen before, but when the music is as angry, frenetic and powerful as this I couldn't care less. This is the kind of music that parents dread their kids listening to, which frankly, should be the only reason you need to wrap your ears around it.

Dom Farrell

Field Music – Plumb (Memphis Industries)

Following 2010’s Measure, a sprawling double album, the Brewis brothers decided brevity was the order of the day for Field Music’s fourth album, Plumb. Not that this comes at the expense of ideas or ambition – there is a frankly ridiculous amount going on across 35 minutes that lurch from lush orchestration and multi-layered harmonies to choppy riffs and an enjoyably muscular drum sound honed in their self-build Sunderland studio. These contrasts lend a skittish uncertainty to proceedings early on but Love and The Beach Boys are beautifully referenced on ‘From Hide and Seek to Heartache’, while ‘(I Keep Thinking About) A New Thing’ closes matters with a nod towards post-punk pioneers Magazine.

Ian Parker

The Mynabirds - Generals (Saddle Creek)

The 'difficult' second album syndrome is as well-known as any other condition in music, and I expected Laura Burhenn to suffer more than most. For her first trick, she named her act after Neil Young's short-lived Motown-signed band and made the album the world was denied when the Mynah Birds' lead singer was arrested for going AWOL from the Navy, causing their split. The result was a foot-stomping combination of folk, rock, country and soul. How do you follow that? By making something all together more distinctive, more powerful and a whole lot more opinionated. Reviving the lost art of the protest song, Burhenn keeps just enough of her retro influences about to retain her original identity, but kicks off the shoes of her heroes and runs. 

Rory Dollard

Jay Farrar, Will Johnson, Anders Parker, Yim Yames - New Multitudes (Rounder Records)

A bunch of middle-aged guys with acoustic guitars and ungainly mounds of facial hair either sounds like the your worst nightmare or a description of the overwhelming majority of your music collection. I am confident in saying the Ragged Glories panel contains members of both parties. But whatever your view, this is hairy, white bloke folk of the highest order. Just like Mermaid Avenue, the late 90s Wilco and Billy Bragg project, this involves new music written for old Woody Guthrie lyrics and it's a classy affair. The harmonies and melodies are absorbing at times and Guthrie's words never disappoint.

Steve Pill

Flying Lotus – Until The Quiet Comes (Warp)

Okay, so this whole comparisons thing was meant to be a great way to help me speed through these reviews but given that I've just spent the last half hour trying to compare this Flying Lotus album to a type of breakfast cereal or bathroom product, it is clearly not quite the shortcut I was hoping for. So yeah, scrap that - I might just have to tell you what I think of the remaining 16 albums. Flying Lotus has routinely been touted as some kind of futuristic genius but for me the real joy of this album is hearing all the best tropes of late 1960s psychedelic jazz and mid-1990s trip hop reinvented for 2012 - there's elements of Pharoah Sanders' astral sailing and Massive Attack's dalliances with the Mad Professor, wrapped in a stoned fug ambience ripped straight from a classic Ninja Tune production. Increasingly my albums of the year are geared towards soundtracking my commute more than anything and Until The Quiet Comes has continued to reveal new colours every time.

John Skilbeck

Sharon van Etten – Tramp (Jagjaguwar)

Ah, sweet 16. Tramp provided sweet release, being the luxurious album SvE longed to make but was, according to her story, dissuaded from attempting by an ex-boyfriend who sniffed at her ability. Tramp contained cathartic verse and, in the swoonsome Leonard, where Van Etten signals rare self-doubt in singing "I am bad at loving you", one of the songs of the year. Whoever wrote this list needs shooting, Tramp should be much higher.

1 comment:

  1. I'll say this for Guy's pick: At least it's short.