Wednesday, December 04, 2013

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Four

It's day number four, our No. 21 albums of the year, and today's theme is clothing. Andy is putting his last cardigan on the line, Steve is suited and booted for work, and Pranam is losing his trousers. Oh, and if you're playing the Advent Calendar drinking game, Dom has used his first boxing analogy. Drink!

Andy Welch

Camera Obscura - Desire Lines (4AD)

When Camera Obscura announce a new record is announced, thoughts about what direction they might go in don’t really come into consideration. While their records have become increasingly polished – Let’s Get Out Of This Country was a big step forward in that regard – you could bet your last cardigan on how it’ll sound. It’s the consistency, then, that has to be admired, with Desire Lines their fifth collection of songs about love and, well, not much else really. Tracyanne Campbell’s beautiful voice hides the bitter sarcasm and pessimism in the lyrics, which are also in stark contrast to the optimism of the arrangements. It’s a classic trick, and one they keep pulling, but they just do it so well.

Matt Collins

Camera Obscura - Desire Lines (4AD)

Slightly saccharine if consumed to excess, but shiny clean guitars, delightfully seductive vocals from Tracyann Campbell and extremely nice tunes.

Pranam Mavahalli

Jimi Hendrix - People Hell and Angels (Legacy)

Let's just settle for the crude and obvious rather than overthink things. Here are some texts I sent to Ian Parker documenting my reaction on first hearing this. They weren't deliberately saved for posterity, I just never delete things from my phone. Anyhow, among my reactions were "The solo on Izabella blew my trousers off” and “This track makes me want to don some shades and rock a black suit. And I’m not even a soul man”. I think I concluded with “Dude can play guitar”. Any jobs going at Q Magazine?

Ali Mason

The Dodos - Carrier (Polyvinyl)

The death of the Dodos’ touring guitarist Christopher Reimer casts a sizeable shadow on Carrier. Meric Long talks about Reimer as a big influence in the way he sees and plays the guitar – and that influence is sprinkled all over the album. The instrument is to the fore throughout, almost as a tribute to his friend, and there is a refreshingly straightforward approach that allows the pair’s powerful talents to shine. There is definitely something new here: a rawness, an emotional honesty with gives their music an immediacy it has sometimes lacked in the past. Nowhere is this more clear than on ‘Death’: “Death, what could be worse? If I had something to complain about…” Long sings, over the ghostly echo of a precisely-played guitar. The Dodos have always been at their best when they let their instruments do the talking. On Carrier, they’re more eloquent than ever.

Guy Atkinson

Dave Hause - Devour (Rise Records)

The singer-songwriter scene isn't really my forte but I'm more than happy to make exceptions for the Loved Ones frontman. His heartfelt, grizzled songs reflect my own confusions about getting older and there is enough on show here to suggest that after I've seen him in Nottingham on Saturday I'll regret only putting this album at 21st in my list.

Dom Farrell

EELS – Wonderful, Glorious (Vagrant)

Two thirds of the way through Wonderful, Glorious, Mark Everett’s weathered drawl opens ‘New Alphabet’ by offering: “You know what? I’m in a good mood today?” Those familiar with the back catalogue will be, at best, sceptical. “Well, I’m so happy it’s not yesterday,” follows and we’re back to normal territory. Everett, one of his era’s great miserablists, is on fine form here. The sparse beauty of recent outings is eschewed in favour of something altogether more primal, with muscular guitars backing menacing goading on opener ‘Bombs Away’. When the pace relents with ‘On The Ropes’, a poignant, defiant lament from the point of view of a boxer who has taken too much leather, a high point is reached. By the concluding title track, you’re ready to hoist our battered hero on to your shoulders and parade him triumphantly around the ring.

Ian Parker

Portugal. The Man - Evil Friends (Atlantic)

If In The Mountain In The Cloud marked the first attempt from Alaskans Portugal. The Man to make their psychedelic blend a little more accessible, recruiting Danger Mouse to produce the follow-up surely makes the process irreversible. The result is a bold, brash album which brings to life their big hooks and powerful rhythms.

Rory Dollard

Neon Neon - Praxis Makes Perfect (Republic of Music)

I don't think I need to say a whole hell of a lot on this one. It's your man from Super Furry Animals orchestrating a deep-cover concept album about the Italian activist who published Doctor Zhivago and played basketball with Che Guevara. With nice choruses.

Steve Pill

Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds – Push The Sky Away (Bad Seed (Ltd)

He turns up to work in a suit, clocks regular 9-to-5 hours and even puts his wife on the front cover, yet there remains nothing quotidian about Nicholas Edward Cave. Push The Sky Away is his band's most subtle and disquieting album since The Boatman's Call, but by now the Seeds have become the equivalents of master painters, being more economical with each stroke, choosing them so carefully as to create a deceptively simple composition that only really reveals its full impact when you step back and take in the bigger picture. Cave matches them with a particularly wild and vivid set of lyrics that conjure random imagery throughout, from randy mermaids to a "foetus on a leash". Quite.

John Skilbeck

Laura Cantrell - No Way There From Here (Spit and Polish)

Nashvillian by birth, Wall Street banker by day, there's never been any doubt over where Laura Cantrell's heart belongs. No Way There From Here was her first album of new material since 2005, and the wait was worth it. To my ears, nobody does bittersweet country better, her clear-as-cowbells voice soaring above a terrific backing band. Laura feeds off the standards, all the while adding to that canon herself.


  1. Is that really a thing I do often, the boxing analogy? It probably is although, in fairness, I was only taking Mr E's yarn and running with it. The blame, in this case, is at least 50/50.

    Oh, I do love it when the Advent Calendar throws up a double. Happy Camera Obscura Day everybody!

  2. Guy's track of the day goes to Hendrix, obvs.