Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Twelve

As we reach the mid-point of the 2013 Musical Advent Calendar, people need to explain themselves. Pranam justifies his support for UKIP while Guy defends his right to like hip-hop. Yep. Hip-hop. Not even heavy thrash death hip-hop. Meanwhile, Skillers declares his No. 13 album of the year "tolerable".

Andy Welch

Johnny Marr - The Messenger (Warner Bros)

It’s about time Johnny Marr stepped into the limelight. For too long, since leaving The Smiths, he’d been a sideman, but then obvious has never really been his style. Who expected him to join Modest Mouse or The Cribs? Or write the soundtrack for Inception? In fact, he spent so many years doing exactly the opposite of what was expected, something as straightforward as a solo album ended up being an almost leftfield choice. While there are no envelopes being pushed, there’s so much energy on the record, and in a time when nostalgia is everywhere, it’s refreshing to hear an artist so successful in the past still moving forward.

Matt Collins

Treetop Flyers - The Mountain Moves (Loose Music)

The album that Fleet Foxes might make if they cheered up a little. All chirpy Americana and jaunty driving songs, The Mountain Moves is a delight.

Pranam Mavahalli

Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest (Warp)

It's impossible for me to be objective about Boards of Canada. I've listened to all of their records obsessively, and my love for them seems to grow over the years. And yet, I can't really rank this, their latest, higher than 13th on my list. While the record works incredibly well under it's own terms – an imaginary soundtrack to a post-apocalyptic dystopia – I personally miss the pastoral charm of their earlier records, and there's at least one track I actively dislike (Jacquard Causeway). A change in direction then and one that most, apart from me, seem to have embraced. I don't know, perhaps I'm getting more fixed, more grumpy, and more conservative in my old age. Perhaps I'll vote UKIP in the next election. Perhaps they'll win and we'll find ourselves in a real dystopian nightmare...

Ali Mason

Sparrow and The Workshop – Murderopolis (Song)

Sparrow and the Workshop get better and better with every album.  Such a richly-textured release, full of drama and latent threat, Murderopolis, their third full-length effort, is definitely their strongest to date. A rewarding and at time genuinely unsettling listen, it’s a kind of country-grunge folk punk thing. That sounds good, doesn’t it? Well it is.

Guy Atkinson

PRO ERA, P.E.E.P: The aPROcalypse (Self released)

Look, it’s a middle class white dude from the north of England who likes hip-hop! However, the selection of the sickeningly young and talented PRO ERA crew’s latest mixtape isn’t a ploy to make me look cooler-than-thou, it’s simply because these jams hark back to the golden age of hip-hop in the late 80s where the lyrical content had significantly more depth than merely boasting about ‘bitches ‘n bling’.

Dom Farrell

David Bowie – The Next Day (Columbia)

In preceding The Next Day with surprise single ‘Where Are We Now?’, David Bowie set up a devilish two-card trick. A beautiful, elegiac reflection on his Berlin years, sung in a strained whisper reminded everyone that this bloke’s last tour in 2004 ended with a heart attack. Poor, old, frail Dave. The deception makes the first listen to the album’s title track and opener all the more thrilling. A four-to-the-floor stomper, Bowie menacingly baits the clergy before belting out a chorus with the gusto of a man half his age. He cherry-picks references from his bulging back catalogue, if not the ones you might expect – ‘The Next Day’ would not have been out of place on Scary Monsters, ‘If You Can See Me’ recalls the drum and bass stylings of Earthling and is none the worse for it, while one can imagine The Spiders From Mars getting their teeth into ‘Valentine’s Day’. Despite fading due to some dross down the stretch, The Next Day is worthy as a relaunch or a full-stop for Bowie’s stellar career, whichever it might be.

(Although it lacks the wanking puppets of Ali's Unknown Mortal Orchestra video, we should flag this video as mildly NSFW)

Ian Parker

The Milk Carton Kids - The Ash And Clay (Epitaph)

So yeah, maybe they sound just a little bit too like Simon And Garfunkel, or perhaps too like Gillian Welch (their voices may even be mildly higher) or occasionally too similar to the Kings of Convenience, but really you can’t stay mad at the Milk Carton Kids for very long. Because The Ash And Clay doesn’t have a weak moment on it. They mine the traditions of American folk and come up with piles and piles of gems.

Rory Dollard

NO CEREMONY/// - NO CEREMONY/// (No Ceremony///)
This album is a bit of a rum old mix, but there's only nine songs on it and they pretty much all hit the spot. Hurtlove is the standard bearer for the retro dance music section and feels like something nobody's done for years. The slightly old-school raviness is done absolutely to perfection and the vocals drift in and out as if plucked from several different sources. Elsewhere things turn a bit rockier and, unexpectedly, acoustic and chanty. Hard to get a handle on but genuinely enjoyable listening.

Steve Pill

The Men – New Moon (Sacred Bones)

Given that White Denim's Corsicana Lemonade was a little flat, it was left to The Men to stake their claim on the title of "America's greatest bar band, 2013" (previous recipients: The Replacements, The Hold Steady). They do it with real passion and power on New Moon, from the rootin', tootin' piano of 'Open The Door' to the ragged glories of 'I Saw Her Face'. 'Half Angel Half Light' is the showstopper though, a heart-on-sleeve paean to busting out of a small town and finding salvation in a girl. It's ridiculously cliché on paper, but thrillingly persuasive on record.

John Skilbeck

Lightning Dust - Fantasy (Jagjaguwar)

Initially - no, for a long time - I resented this album and Lightning Dust's drastic shift away from the FM rock majesty of their previous two records. Progress: there's no future in it. They went electro in a big way, and Amber Webber's spine-tinglingly tremulous vocals seemed to sit uncomfortably atop unmistakably 80s pop synths. All I heard was the intro to Toto's Africa. Fantasy's predecessor, the sumptuous Infinite Light, remains my favourite record of the past 10 years. Surprisingly, coming back to Fantasy in November, I found it listenable. Tolerable anyway. Small steps. I'll love it in time, we just don't get along the way I thought we would quite yet.


  1. I know the format means this should be the case most days, but this is my favourite door to date by a reasonable distance. Lovely stuff.

    Particularly like Treetop Flyers and The Men. The former feels like a thoroughly restorative pick from Matt, swiftly consigning the whole Beady Eye debacle to history.

  2. i'm also thrilled to be back on track after BeadyEyeGate. it was this year's Eliza Doolittle moment, except more so. Onwards and upwards.

  3. Dollard's pick was in the running for Guy's Track of the Day but I've plumped for The Men in what is a painfully obvious choice for me.

    The current standings are:

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