Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Eighteen

We've resisted for 18 days, but Ali's endless powerplays have finally paid off. As we're busy discussing our No. 7 albums of the year, Mason has declared himself the Emperor. Bow down.

Andy Welch

Night Beds - Country Sleep (Dead Oceans)

Like most of the people on this blog, I’m a huge fan of a very particular type of Americana. You know the kind, beards, plaid shirts, preferably with some rustic Bon Iver-esque backstory and songs about desolation, isolation and a broken heart. Or, as my housemate Tom refers to it when he hears the latest Bella Union signing I’m listening to “music where some nerdy virgin tells the world how sensitive he is”. This year’s favourite in that genre is undoubtedly Night Beds, or Winston Yellen from Colorado Springs. From the a cappella opening track 'Faithful Heights' to the closing moments of 'Tenn', I was completely drawn in from the first listen. Yellen clearly likes Pete Yorn and Ryan Adams and Jeff Buckley a lot, but then so do I. Perfect.

Matt Collins

Okkervil River - The Silver Gymnasium (ATO Records)

Far from Okkervil River's Kid A. Joyous songs with dark lyrics, strummed acoustics and pianos, touching and uplifting all the way.

Pranam Mavahalli

Moderat – II (Monkeytown)

In a year of great electronic records, this album stands out for innovating and yet being deeply melodic. A case in point, second track 'Bad Kingdom' is a banger of a tune yet it's punctuated with a sample of a roaring elephant. Genius. 'Gita' though is the standout track for me, anchored around Apparat's gorgeously delivered vocal. A highlight on this album, and one of my songs of the year.

Ali Mason Klak Tik – The Servants (Safety First)

I was initially a little ambivalent about this album and when I reviewed it for For Folk’s Sake (here), I equivocated, using phrases like “too many ideas”. I hereby take this opportunity to apologise to Klak Tik. I am the Emperor Joseph II to your Mozart and there just as many notes as there should be.

Guy Atkinson

Drug Church - Paul Walker (No Sleep Records)

The originally tongue-in-cheek album title now comes with a macabre air after recent events, but beneath the uncomfortable title lies an album jam packed with throaty vocals and slacker punk hooks.

Dom Farrell

I Am Kloot – Let It All In (Shepherd Moon)

I expect to enjoy plenty of things that an I Am Kloot record brings to the table, but ‘Bullets’ – the opening track on the excellent Let It All In – throwing up what is hands-down my favourite guitar solo this year was an unexpected bonus. The playing here is the most explicit demonstration of the grittiness that underscores much of Kloot’s best work, an ingredient that was perhaps a touch lacking on 2010’s Sky At Night. Elbow’s Craig Potter and Guy Garvey retain production duties for a largely more stripped-back affair, although their paws are pleasingly all over the BBC Philharmonic-style string hooks that embellish ‘These Days Are Mine’. That rousing high-point is followed by the delicate and typically wistful ‘Forgive Me These Reminders’. It makes for a magnificent one-two to close proceedings.

Ian Parker

Valerie June - Pushin Against A Stone (Sunday Best)

Born and raised in a town midway between the glam and glitter of Nashville and the great musical melting pot of Memphis, a young Valerie June chose to go west. And now having drawn on everything the great city on the banks of the Mississippi has to offer, June has served up Pushin' Against A Stone. Opener ‘Workin’ Woman Blues’ is one of the finest songs you’ll hear on any record released this year and it doesn't end there. There are the ghosts of the Carter Family in ‘Trials, Troubles, Tribulations’, there’s something moving about the gospel-inflected ‘The Hour’, while the country-blues of closer ‘On My Way’ is just plain delicious.

Rory Dollard

Primal Scream - More Light (1st International)
The thing I have enjoyed most in all of music this year was Bobby Gillespie's raft of demented, frothing at the mouth, pseudo-political, cogent/garbled interviews before the release of More Light. It was vintage Bobby, spitting bile at the elitist government and talking up the everyman struggle a matter of weeks before taking to Glastonbury in a custom-fitted electric pink suit. What the interviews told me were that Bobby was on it and the Scream were firing on all cylinders. More Light is a grand folly of a record in many ways - ill-disciplined, occasionally laughable lyrics, a couple of unneccessary filler tracks - but crikey it's good. David Holmes' production scores big points, harnessing the band's the scattershot rage and bombast, and Hit Void even sounds like it was lifted from XTRMNTR. Swoon.

Steve Pill

Dawn of Midi – Dysnomia (Thirsty Ear)

You won't hear more skillful ensemble playing all year than on this engrossing little album by Brooklyn-based trio Dawn of Midi. Dysnomia is nominally a "jazz" album - mainly because it exclusively features piano, drums and double bass - but there's no wild soloing or cool East Coast rhythms. Instead, the three piece take a hard, rhythmic approach more in line with Steve Reich, each instrument responding to the subtle changes of the others, creating a masterclass in poise and control, attack and release. It's intense listening but almost entirely without precedent.

John Skilbeck

Tegan and Sara - Heartthrob (Warner Bros)

The pop album of the year for me (Charlie XCX was excellent too), and their most obvious stab yet at making a supersized, glossy record, Tegan and Sara's Heartthrob was a giddy, grandstanding, naughty lipstick smudge of a record, with choruses that spiralled shamelessly skyward.

1 comment:

  1. Guy's Track of the Day goes to Tegan and Sara, which puts John in the lead:

    John - 4
    Pranam - 3
    Andy - 3
    Steve - 3
    Rory - 2
    Matt - 2
    Dom - 1