Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Seventeen

Be quick people. Pranam's pick comes with a best before date today. Though thinking about it, that's better than his usual routine, which is to have gone off a record before it ever appears on here. These are our No. 8 albums of the year. 

Andy Welch

Foals - Holy Fire (Warner Bros)

I really didn't like Foals' first album, so it surprised me how much I liked their second. It was pretty front-loaded, though, petering out before it was halfway through. And the lyrics, well, they were still pretty bad if not quite as dreadful as those on the first record. Holy Fire, however, saw me do a complete about face. There's no sag in the middle of the record, although the opening five tracks are particularly good, My Number being one of the best songs of the year. Live, they sound even better. The drumming too, my god the drumming, so much more than a beat or even another instrument, it's almost the star of the show.

Matt Collins

Everything Everything - Arc (RCA)

A record that relies on long thought out production but this suits the complex indie falsetto songs. Deceptively catchy hooks lie underneath the swirling effected guitars. Brilliant record.

Pranam Mavahalli

Jon Hopkins – Immunity (Domino)

In a year's time, I'm sure I'll be sick of this album. At some point a track will appear during a feature on bus stops during BBC's One Show. Or Newsnight will use it during a piece on urban deprivation, before cutting to a stern looking Jeremy Paxman in the studio. What I'm skirting around saying is that it's the kind of record that could get ruined by becoming ubiquitous. So, I'd urge you to listen to it now, if you haven't already, and enjoy the warm beats, analogue synths, and gentle ambience before it gets forever tarnished through being overplayed.

Ali Mason

The Leisure Society – Alone Aboard The Ark (Full Time Hobby)

After a second album that seemed to lack a bit of life and a smidgen of love, The Leisure Society stormed back with their most consistent effort to date in Alone Aboard The Ark. Nick Hemming has created tracks inspired by the Olympics (Fight For Everyone) and Sylvia Plath (The Sober Scent Of Paper), either of which could potentially be unbearably cheesy, but both of which are, in different ways, beautiful. What a dextrous songwriter he is. They’re also one of the better live bands around at the moment.

Guy Atkinson

The Flatliners - Dead Language (Fat Wreck)

Despite being four records into their career, these Canadian punks are still only in their mid-20s and the future still looks bright if they continue to spit out melodic blasts of punk goodness that are as tuneful and urgent as this.

Dom Farrell

Matthew E. White – Big Inner (Domino)

Let's face it, I'm not going to improve on Steve's brief, brilliant review of this album behind door three (Comic Book Guy would probably call mine: "Worst. Matthew. E. White. Review. Evuuuurrr") but I think throwing around some more of the disparate influences at play here is a good move. On some of the uptempo moments, it sounds like White has borrowed the band from Marvin Gaye's What's Goin' On, while at times he croons with the best of them - you could imagine Bing Crosby having a crack at 'Hot Toddies'. Last year Ian pointed me in the direction of the sensational Country Funk 1969-75 compilation (EVERYBODY should own this record) and the overall vibe here is similar. Just what you'd expect from a God-fearing son of missionaries who was brought up in the Philippines, right?

Ian Parker

Matthew E White - Big Inner (Domino)

Big Inner provided my first 'wow' moment of 2013 and might even have reason to be disappointed to have dropped out of the top five. On reflection, so it should be, because it's a truly brilliant record. Blending soul, r 'n' b, gospel, and Americana, all backed by avant-garde jazz band Fight The Big Bull, it's a rich blending of ideas that you can keep going back to again and again. And again.

Rory Dollard

The National - Trouble Will Find Me
It's probably all part of the grotty Faustian pact that sees a long-serving, slow-burning band finally become a mainstream success, but the initial reaction to Trouble Will Find Me seemed a little short on rapture. Most people I spoke to offered a variation on "It's really great and everything….but is that it?". Such is the peril of setting an impossibly high bar. Part of the problem seems to be these guys make it all sound so easy, like they could knock off stuff like this every couple of weeks if really pressed. But when you sit back and listen to something as fragile and wounded as Pink Rabbits, that's really quite remarkable.

Steve Pill

Bill Callahan – Dream River (Drag City)

A miserablist with a heart of gold, more arch than a bridge, the plaid-clad Leonard Cohen - 23 years on from his debut as Smog, the levels of fond goodwill and expectations of quality from Bill Callahan has never been higher. Yet again, he doesn't disappoint. The production job on Dream River is lush and Lambchop-esque, while the lyrics are his drollest yet. "The only words I said today were beer and thanks... Beer and thanks... Beer and thanks..." In October, I saw him play in a 1,500-capacity Moroccan-themed restaurant on the outskirts of Chicago that is usually used for large Muslim weddings. Singing drily under the large glass chandeliers, it is testament to his warped sense of humour and appreciation of the unlikely that the only fitting response was: "Typical!"

John Skilbeck

Hookworms - Pearl Mystic (Gringo Records)

Careering from tension and by-the-throat terror to in-your-face euphoria and euphonic pleasure, Pearl Mystic was a startling celestial joyride of a debut album by the Leeds-based band. Violently majestic live too.


  1. Guy's Track of the Day goes to Hookworms.

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

  2. Seeing all the love Comic Book Guy is getting on here makes me feel slightly less guilty for omitting him from my list.

    Great album, I particularly like Hot Hot Hot from the extended version of the record.