Friday, December 20, 2013

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Twenty

As we enter the critical stretch - our top five albums of the year - Rory explains what only his wife Jo previously understood: just why he is, in fact, a rare catch. 

Andy Welch

Goldheart Assembly - Long Distance Song Effects (New Music Club)

Goldheart Assembly’s debut Wolves And Thieves made my list in 2010. It was a long time in the making, but this is their second album. A very different animal to the first, it’s not as immediate, with layers and layers of arrangement and orchestration, offbeat time signatures and a great deal of sadness. Linnaeus, too, is probably the most beautiful song I’ve heard all year. 

Matt Collins

Arcade Fire - Reflektor (Sonovox)

As edgy, dirty and melodically irresistible as an Arcade Fire album should be. An album full of life.

Pranam Mavahalli

Daft Punk – Random Access Memories (Columbia)

Six months after its release, I'm still flabbergasted by how well this album has sold. It's utterly bonkers. How many number one albums feature a nine-minute spoken word track as their centrepiece? Much works, and some doesn't (The Game of Love is a proper stinker), but I love that the risks that Daft Punk have taken with this record when it would have been so much easier to stick to their tried and tested formula. There are increasingly few wilfully perverse artists subverting the mainstream, and doing it so succesfully.

Ali Mason

Laura Marling – Once I Was An Eagle (Virgin)

I finally got to see Laura Marling live this year, and I was stunned by how good her voice was. It was one of those occasions too when experiencing the music live made me totally love an album I’d previously been a little unsure of. The noodly suite of tracks that kicks off the album, beginning with ‘Take The Night Off’, is totally bewitching and the guitar work on ‘Little Love Caster’ is almost otherworldly. Marling’s status as the queen of the British folk scene perhaps allows her space to be indulgent that other artists wouldn’t get – but then maybe other artists wouldn’t be able to use it to such effect anyway.

Guy Atkinson

The Wonder Years - The Greatest Generation (Hopeless)

The winners of my list two years ago delivered another collection of pop-punk jams that boast lyrical content uncomfortably close to my own confusions about growing older.

Dom Farrell

Kurt Vile – Waking On A Pretty Daze (Matador)

When I decided to up sticks and move to Malta this year, the effect living on a blazing hot island might have on this list was something to ponder. Alas, my pasty complexion’s reaction to lengthy sunlight exposure and mosquitoes was already painfully established and held much less mystery. The point being, I’m not sure I’d have enjoyed Wakin on a Pretty Dazequite as much amid Mancunian drizzle. Vile’s much-feted Smoke Rings For My Halo never totally landed for me, and I say this as a person who is all over The War On Drugs in a big way. But Vile’s latest, hazy, sprawling outing was a perfect soundtrack for long, scorched days. It also works well as a musical bridge from the previous night’s hangover to that afternoon’s two-for-one cocktail offer, you know, if you ever have need for such a thing.

Ian Parker

Anna Calvi – One Breath (Domino)

Anna Calvi lives in a world cinematic flair, of drama and passion communicated through records which feel like soundtracks to imagined films. Her debut album seemed to position her directly between comparisons to PJ Harvey and Jeff Buckley, but her second strikes out altogether new territory. Where the brilliance of ‘Blackout’ teased among the more brooding sound of her first album, One Breathdoes not hold back, an entirely more urgent, aggressive and dramatic record. And it's glorious.  

Rory Dollard

Atoms For Peace - Amok (XL)
I'm the die-hard Radiohead fan who didn't really like King Of Limbs. Look after me, I'm quite a rare catch you know. I fully expected my path to veer even further from Thom Yorke's on this project, not least when I heard Flea was on board (fucking Flea…seriously), but Amok is a knockout. Yorke's voice is a central pillar throughout, the human centre to a relentless swirl of pulsing and probing, throbbing and clunking. Musically its denser than ever, but there are splashes of colour that suggest a man rediscovering the pleasures of a band and the limits of a laptop.

Steve Pill

The National – Trouble Will Find Me (4AD)

Would this have topped my list if it were three songs shorter? The National has produced another flawed masterpiece in Trouble Will Find Me, but I have a nagging suspicion that a few less mid-tempo, lighters-aloft moments might have made me love it that little bit more. The greatest songs are peerless, from the haunting peels of feedback in I Need My Girl to the way that Sea of Love builds like a wave of horses in that old Guinness advert. On their recent tour, I saw them play in Copenhagen when Matt Berninger screamed the latter song like he was exorcising demons from his own brain. It remains genuinely thrilling to see him lose his shit a little, like a white-collar indie version of Michael Douglas in Falling Down. It’s a shame that there isn’t a little more of that in Trouble Will Find Me but I bloody love it all the same.

John Skilbeck

Parquet Courts - Light Up Gold (What's Your Rupture)

Parquet Courts have been portrayed as breadline-toeing Brooklynites and, whether or not that factoid holds up to forensic examination, there is little doubt a murkily anarchic underbelly accompanied their hymns for a new blank generation. You're not short of touchstones: Husker Du, the Strokes, Pavement to name an obvious trio. Their irrepressible energy meant Light Up Gold fizzed with the rabid, ribald vitality of any of those bands' best work.

1 comment:

  1. Dom gets Guy's Track of the Day award.

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