Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Nineteen

As Pranam stretches to throw one of his more dramatic shapes and Matt reaches for an old favourite, it's time for our No. 6 albums of the year. 

Andy Welch

Arctic Monkeys - AM (Domino)

Arctic Monkeys’ fourth album was, in my view, wonderful. But we expect such big things from them. If any other band had put out on album featuring songs as good as Piledriver Waltz, The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala, Black Treacle and She’s Thunderstorms we’d be, erm, declaring them the new Arctic Monkeys. If Suck It And See is better than the average reviews suggested, AM manages to be even better than the enthusiastic ones they got this time around. Alex Turner has finally found himself as a frontman – I won’t have a word said against the quiff, mid-Atlantic accent or spangly jackets. While always sharp as a tack lyrically, AM sees them bring back the sense of fun and danceability that has been lacking since Favourite Worst Nightmare, and bring in big beats and a newfound sexiness. What a cocktail.

Matt Collins

Pet Shop Boys - Electric (X2)

I might have said this before, but the best PSB album for years and years. Just nine electro songs, top tunes and club classics all.

Pranam Mavahalli

Four Tet – Beautiful Rewind (Text)

Every time I put this album on, I'm back in the Warehouse Project where I saw Four Tet earlier this year. I'm pulling shapes to Buhcla, I'm out way past my bedtime, and I'm freely embracing random punters in a manner I'd be reluctant to do elsewhere. Am I experiencing something akin to a Proustian moment? A momentary insight into the circular nature of time, and the role that sense plays in memory? I'll stop now and play Buchla again before someone carts me off to Pseud's Corner.

Ali Mason

Johnny Flynn - Country Mile (Transgressive)

I can’t remember if I’ve already blithely declared anything to be my track of the year already, but if not then it’s definitely The Lady Is Risen. It’s the track that finally forced me listen to Johnny Flynn – one of those artists I’d been aware of for a long time without ever making the effort to get to know. My bad, Johnny Flynn. My bad. I love Country Mile’s blend of traditional and modern folk sounds. It might be higher in my list except Flynn is starring in a film opposite Anne Hathaway next year and I’m jealous.

Guy Atkinson

Paramore - Paramore (Fueled By Ramen)

 I often ask myself whether a 29-year-old man should still be listening to Paramore in such vast quantities, but every time I delve into one of their polished pop gems I know this obsession isn't going to die any time soon. Mock away...

Dom Farrell

The National – Trouble Will Find Me (4AD)

Hardly an outlandish statement for a writer on this blog but, crikey, this lot really are very, very, very good indeed. It’s almost as if there is some sort of unspoken mysticism going on with The National albums. They always, always grow on you – a trait I now associate with bothering Ian to make last-minute Advent Calendar reshuffles. Perhaps it’s the intricate, complex arrangements without a note wasted that somehow never sound overblown and usually thump you in the heart, gut or both. Maybe it’s Matt Berninger’s lyrics, which can be completely impenetrable and provide staggering clarity within the same verse. Trouble Will Find Me is a particular triumph because it doesn’t feature any of the truly skyscraping highs of its predecessor, but the sum of the parts is marvellous.

Ian Parker

John Murry - Graceless Age (Rubyworks)

In the musical telling of his complicated but compelling autobiography, John Murry - a second cousin of William Faulkner who battled drug addiction since being fed pills in school to combat his slow learning - faces down demons that have followed him cross-country from his native Mississippi to San Francisco. Inheriting at least a little of the literary ability of his forebears, Murry’s lyrics tell of loss and solitude. The musical centrepiece is the magnificent ‘Southern Sky’ – a truly outstanding moment of release from the downbeaten feel of so much else on this record – but lyrically this album reaches its pinnacle on ‘Little Colored Balloons’, which tells the story of the night Murry spent more than a few minutes clinically dead from an overdose. “I took an ambulance ride/They said I should’ve died/Right there on 16th and Mission” he sings with a cold, unapologetic tone. “You say this ain’t who I am/But this is what I do.”

Rory Dollard

James Blake - Overgrown (Polydor)
In 2013 it seems there's virtually nothing less cool in the whole world than winning the Mercury Prize. Once a bastion of good taste, it now appears to be some sort of MOR knocking shop where even Jake Bugg is welcome. Well, if that’s the case they got the wrong guy when they crowned James Blake. In this case, the backlash is genuinely bullshit: he's one of the most talented producers in Britain and possesses one of the sweetest singing voices, no matter how sparingly he actually uses it. I suspect he's ultimately too good looking and too much of a 'James' to be super hip, but he couldn't be more on the right track if he performed in a Super Mario mask and called himself 'DR X-TREME'.

Steve Pill

Forest Swords – Engravings (Tri Angle)

It was all about the electronica albums for me this year, as a number of young and exciting producers tried to make sense of the post-dubstep world. With a lack of a defining sound or scene this year, it encouraged some fairly willful experimentation and genre clashes that have largely dominated the upper end of my top 24. After rave reviews for his Dagger Paths EP in 2010 from everyone from Pitchfork to The Guardian, Liverpool producer Matthew Barnes has waited three years to release his debut album proper. He has used the time wisely, crafting 10 soundscapes that could be equally at home on a gritty TV drama set in South London or a strange sci-fi, steampunk horror film. Tracks like Ljoss, Thor’s Stone and The Weight Of Gold have a wicked edge to them, be it a malicious riff or a twisted vocal sample that cuts through the atmosphere in with a paranoid brutality that we’ve not heard since Massive Attack’s Mezzanine. It’s freaked the shit out of me on my headphones on more than one late night commute.

John Skilbeck

Torres - Torres (Torres)

Mackenzie Scott is Torres, a 22-year-old songwriter from Nashville, an enormous talent whose first record, self-released at the beginning of the year, was a stark confessional, an unremittingly candid document of a dolorous young life. Adopted as a baby, she mulls her birth mother's story on the thoughtful Moon & Back, soaks up the anguish of a fatally wounded relationship on Honey, and saves the break-up for the slow-burning flick-off of Come To Terms. The closing Waterfall is a meditation on suicide. Plathian, and a very special record.

1 comment:

  1. Guy's Track of the Day goes to The National.

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