Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Eleven

It's moving day on the Musical Advent Calendar. Matt goes where we thought nobody could possibly go, while Ali goes where he never imagined he could go. These are our No. 14 albums of the year.

Andy Welch

Local Natives - Hummingbirds (Infectious)

It’s rarely a good thing when it sounds like a band’s second album is a bit like the first, minus the endearing jagged edges. Local Natives, though, did just that but obviously chose what to get rid of better than most. Their harmonies are even more prominent here than on Gorilla Manor, largely down to their more complex vocal arrangements. It was written and recorded after the death Kelcey Ayer’s mum, so the songs are not so much tinged with sadness but dripping in it, the frankness with which he addressesthe subject - the final song describing her taking her last breaths – startling.

Matt Collins

Beady Eye - BE (Columbia)

I’m as surprised as you to see an album by Beady Eye in any album of the year list, given how ear-bendingly terrible any song I heard from their first one was. But full marks to Liam and co for pushing the boat out with unusual song structures, a few instruments that aren’t guitars turned up to 11 and producing a few decent songs (more than one clearly about Noel).

Pranam Mavahalli

Machinedrum – Vapor City (Ninja Tune)

Adventures in juke part 2: DJ Rashad, who I picked earlier this month, takes juke, and peppers it with hip hop and jungle to create something quite new. And while I think Machinedrum has similar intentions, his take on the genre is far more melodic. This record bangs and grooves in all the right places, but its his surreptitious use of melody that really makes it stand out for me. A perfect example  is SeeSea which samples a track by outsider 60's folksters Wendy and Bonnie. I love that band but only spotted the sample on my 6th listen of this record. Its a dense, busy and richly layered record that hugely rewards repeated listens.

Ali Mason

Deptford Goth – Life After Defo (Merok)

Ever aware that my list is in danger of becoming a parody of itself, here is my offer of something A BIT DIFFERENT.  It’s not, though, as the name might imply, some kind of rock music that Guy can get excited about, but – so iTunes tells me – electronic. Lacking expertise in this area, I’m happy to bow to their superior knowledge. I just like the tunes. And the atmosphere.

Guy Atkinson

Modern Life is War, Fever Hunting (Deathwish Inc.)

After inspiring a huge swathe of modern hardcore bands, Modern Life is War decided to go to-to-toe with them this year with their first album in six years. Thankfully, it's more than a match for the young pretenders and does a spectacular job of making me want to smash things.

Dom Farrell

Primal Scream – More Light (Ignition)

“EQUALISED! NORMALISED! SANITISED! LABOTOMISED!” If your average 51-year-old from Glasgow spent a significant amount of the year shouting all of that at a gathered crowd, we would’ve long since entered butterfly net territory. But Bobby Gillespie is a different type of 51-year-old from Glasgow and this is the semi-deranged coda to ‘2013’, the tour de force opener to More Light. A definitive return to form following 2008’s forgettable Beautiful Future, it would seem great Primal Scream albums come along roughly once every 10 years. David Holmes proves an astute choice of producer and harnesses grooves dripping through from 2011’s triumphant 20th anniversary of Screamadelica, while Gillespie is as angry as he’s been since Xtrmntr – a veritable hosepipe of social discontent left turned on unattended and spewing all over the place. Some of the lyrics are plain ludicrous but, somehow, he pulls it off. ‘It’s Alright, It’s Okay’ provides an incongruous close – it clearly isn’t, is it, Bobby?!

Ian Parker

Willis Earl Beal - Nobody Knows (XL)

Fair play to Steve Pill. He called it. When Willie Earl Beal first emerged, with his slightly odd background as a man who would busk to order and his even odder debut album Acousmatic Sorcery - a record that hinted at brilliance but seemed equally determined to cloak it behind presentation so lo-fi it occasionally outdid the term itself - Steve told me not to worry. “This guy will have a great second album,” he said. And he does. (It also turns out, if you read on, that Steve called it exactly right on where to rank this album in 2013). Far from insisting on delivering his songs through a shredder any longer, Beal even hints at a layer of polish on Nobody Knows, and that allows his soulful rhythms to shine.

Rory Dollard

Chance the Rapper - Acid Rap (Self-released)
Remember Kanye West before he became a reality TV extra and a wannabe Jeezus and a gay fish? (if you haven't seen that South Park episode, ditch the Advent Calendar and watch it now). He was fun and youthful and he had songs with hooks. That's Chance the Rapper, best hip hop album of the year to these (non-expert) ears. This kid is a riot, appears to be having a ball and crucially does not give the impression that rapping will transform him into the second coming. Did I mention Acid Rap is available free on his website? Wins across the board.

Steve Pill

Willis Earl Beal - Nobody Knows (XL)

I told you he was freaky. Beal's debut set out his stall and his style sufficiently to know that, even if it lacked killer songs, he had found a unique voice that was worth giving time to develop. Live he has ditched his boombox and reel-to-reel backing tapes in favour of a full band that accentuates his latter-day Tom Waits crankiness, something that has fleshed out the performances on Nobody Knows. Coming Through, his duet with Cat Power, sees him turn on the old soul man charm, throwing out Otis Redding shapes in his most unexpected move yet. Still in his 20s, you sense there’s more to come from Beal.

John Skilbeck

Scott and Charlene's Wedding - Any Port In A Storm (Fire)

My reviews have vanished from my iphone. We're on deadline. I wrote some kind words about this earlier that have slipped from memory. Basically, Scott and Charlene's Wedding are an Australian band that moved to New York, rattled off this excellent Strokesy/Modern Lovers-worshipping album, and reeled in the plaudits. I've not listened to it for six months. But dear album, be sure that all the time we were apart I thought of you.


  1. Guy's Track of the Day award goes to Chance the Rapper. This album was close to making the cut for my list, but I decided that I just hadn't listened to it enough to justify its inclusion.

    I've taken on board last night's comments about an overall leaderboard, so here goes. (Seeing as I have the music taste of a 14-year-old, not many of you would probably want to be on here...)

    Pranam - 3
    Andy - 2
    Rory - 2
    Dom - 1
    John - 1
    Steve - 1
    Matt - 1

  2. It's when you spell it out in such stark terms that I start to feel dissed.

  3. It simply shows that your music taste is more refined than a 14-year-old' should see it as a positive.

  4. Seriously? Is nobody going to mock Beady Eye?