Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Twenty-One

As the intensity grows and we near the end of this process, Steve suggests everybody takes a brief time out and lies down on the floor. You can enjoy our No. 4 albums of the year as you do it. 

Andy Welch

Anna Calvi - One Breath (Domino)

There was so much to like about Anna Calvi’s debut, although at times it was a bit too bombastic to properly fall for. One Breath manages to take the dark and stormy elements of the debut and ramp them up even more while moving into more experimental areas. The album was inspired by the death of a family member, as well as the breakdown of a relationship. Calvi wrote her way out of the blackness, and listening to her do so is mesmerising. The ethereal Sing To Me is the best track.

Matt Collins

Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of the City (XL)

All killer no filler from the band with best name ever. They've grabbed the joie de vivre from their debut and chucked a load of fun noise all over it.

Pranam Mavahalli

Holden – The Inheritors (Border Community)

There's certain records I return to time and time again – Bitches Brew, The Rite of Spring and Histoire de Melody Nelson being three. What links such pieces of music? I think it's that they create unique, esoteric soundworlds that can't be compared to anything else. Holden's Inheritors might well join that elusive club. It takes dance music, and mutates it into something primal, ritualistic, and otherworldly. Like those other albums, there's nothing like it so I imagine I'll be returning to it regularly for a fix.

Ali Mason

Veronica Falls - Waiting For Something To Happen (Bella Union)

It feels like I buy an album of shoegaze-inflected indie pop every year, and it always disappoints. This year, Veronica Falls bucked the trend in spectacular fashion. Every time I listen to it I get nervous that it won’t be as good as I remember it being, then every track puts a bigger grin on face than the last one and by the end I can’t remember what I was worried about. Good work, Veronica. Let’s be BFFs.

Guy Atkinson

Touche Amore - Is Survived By… (Deathwish Inc.)

There isn't a band in modern hardcore pushing the boundaries quite like these 20-something Californians. Twinkly, almost indie-rock guitars, underpin Jeremy Bolm's cathartic punk-rooted vocals, which combines to create a stirring third album which has soundtracked much of my year.

Dom Farrell

Elvis Costello and The Roots – Wise Up Ghost (Blue Note)

Much-loved songsmith with his glory days well behind him teams up with uber-cool, genre-fusing band whose best moments may also hover in the rear-view mirror. Just because you wanted Wise Up Ghost to be great didn’t mean it would be. But it is! Rejoice! An important factor here is that Costello, much like his old pal Bruce Springsteen last year, is thoroughly pissed off on account of railing against society’s ills throughout a magnificent career, only to reach his autumn years and realise those cloth-eared types in power haven’t paid so much attention. The buggers. Anyone who caught his incendiary performance of the Thatcher-baiting ‘Tramp The Dirt Down’ at Glastonbury this year will vouch for Costello being in the mood for a scrap, and Questlove et al provide an urgent and sleek backdrop for an at-times apocalyptic address. His back-catalogue is pleasingly pilfered, with ‘Pills and Soap’ exceptionally reimagined as ‘Stick Out Your Tongue’, while ‘Tripwire’ and ‘If I Could Believe’ provide beams of soulful light through the darkness.

Ian Parker

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Push The Sky Away (Bad Seed Ltd)

Returning to the cathartic feel of his masterpiece The Boatman’s Call Cave is here to wrap an arm around your shoulder, but, given the dark twist always lurking in his lyrics, he’s not necessarily going to tell you its all going to be okay. Cave has described his 15th album with the Bad Seeds as a “ghost baby in the incubator”, a vulnerable child fighting for life, and while there is something delicate about this record on the surface, there is a power too in its brooding intensity.

Rory Dollard

Son Lux - Lanterns (Joyful Noise Recordings)
After starting out as a purveyor of dark, portentous mood music where the mood was always lonely and fearful, Son Lux's latest feels like someone switching on a light. Contrarily, I've picked the sparsest of the lot to play you here - but even the creepy, sleezy sounding Easy is punctuated by unlikely handclaps and inexplicably riotous two-note sax blasts. Elsewhere, he's drenched the place in sight and sound, with massed ranks of vocalists, grandiose arrangements and even flutes used to set an increasingly dream-like scene.

Steve Pill

Tim Hecker – Virgins (Kranky)

Seeing a great gig can have a huge bearing on my appreciation of an artist or album in particular, none more so than when Canadian sound artist Tim Hecker played the church of St John at Hackney back in September. Beer was served by candlelight and the cold meant that a capacity crowd could see their breath. Hecker came on and switched all the lights off completely, save for a couple of spotlights that were positioned outside the church windows and sent beams of light across the vaulting ceiling. I was stood near the back with a friend and, a few minutes into the first piece, the scrawny 40-something guy in the Mogwai t-shirt next to us just put his beer down on the floor and lay down on the concrete in the middle of a crowd. It seemed like the right thing to do. Virgins is of a piece with this whole crazy evening: haunting, hymnal, unexpected, atmospheric and, above all, beautiful.

John Skilbeck

Foret - Foret (Simone Records)

There was an album that came out of Montreal this year accompanied by the needy level of publicity push that would make an electioneering politician blush, but Foret's self-titled album wasn't it. It was better than that. Its standout song La Cage didn't need Bowie half a mile back in the mix to make it an intensely beautiful two-and-a-half-minute meander through the heart of its creators, and it felt theatrical by compulsion rather than design. Enough already about my gripe with that other band. Joseph Marchand and Emilie Laforest, who together form Foret, made a small wonder in their self-titled LP, one that clad the words of Quebecoise poet Kim Doré in a handsome autumn coat: soft to touch, warm and elegant, yet dark and one in which the listener could lie rendered inert. Montreal, a city where 60% of residents have French as their first language, has thrown up an awful lot of English-speaking bands. Foret are not the only Francophones making music, but they are the most magical I've heard and a duo I'm dearly glad I discovered this year.

1 comment:

  1. A bold move, but I don't feel like I can actually give out Guy's Track of the Day award today.