Friday, December 06, 2013

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Six

With Dollard playing the role of the unwitting stooge today, it has been left, somewhat unexpectedly, to Skillers to throw in the usual left-field world music choice.

Andy Welch

Ed Harcourt - Back Into The Woods (CCCLX)

It’s no surprise to discover an Ed Harcourt album full of beautiful songs. He’s been writing beautiful songs since his debut EP was released in 2000. Just as Maplewood did 13 years ago, Back Into The Woods puts those songs front and centre. It was recorded during two overnight sessions at Abbey Road, just Harcourt on the piano with a little cello here and there. The album, then, just half an hour long, is so warm-sounding, the relative imperfections and ragged edges of each live take adding to the album, rather than taking anything away. Of course, you need Harcourt’s talent to pull off this kind of recording, but there’s a lesson here for anyone who doubts the strength in simplicity.

Matt Collins

Arctic Monkeys - AM (Domino)

While not quite as mature-sounding as one might expect, this is a brlliantly sleazy sort of record. 'Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High' is a particularly down dirty falsetto funk highlight.

Pranam Mavahalli

Forest Swords - Engravings (Tri Angle Records)

This is one of two last-minute entries onto my list – the other's in my top 15. To be truthful, the more I listen to it, the more I think it should rank higher... Much like Peaking Lights, who made it onto my list last year, Forest Swords makes the connections between disparate genres to create something wholly new. A thoroughly enjoyable and original mix of dub, folk, electronica and found-sound.

Ali Mason

Lily and Madeleine - Lily and Madeleine (Asthmatic Kitty)

If Lily and Madeleine’s EP The Weight of the Globe had been an album, it would have been in my top 10. But it’s not, so it isn’t. Frustratingly, the debut album – released in October – of the teenage sisters from Indiana doesn’t *quite* live up to that promise. You wonder indeed whether it may have been slightly rushed, given their debut EP was only out in June. But they are unfathomably young and songs like ‘The Devil We Know’ demonstrate why I was so excited about them in the first place, so they are more than worthy of their spot in the top 20.

Guy Atkinson

Power Trip - Manifest Decimation (Southern Lord)

Following hot on the heels of Toxic Holocaust, Power Trip were another crossover thrash band to get me hot under the collar this year. With a sound deeply rooted in the 80s thrash metal scene, there's nothing original on display but the brutality and urgency of every song on the album makes this a must listen for anyone who considers themselves to be a 'metal head'.

Dom Farrell

Valerie June – Pushin’ Against a Stone (Sunday Best)

As far as inventing your own genre name goes, Valerie June’s description of her music as “organic moonshine roots music” is a pretty decent punt. Unmistakably a product of her native Tennessee, folk, country, blues and soul ferment into a potent mix on Pushin’ Against a Stone. The influence of producer Dan Auerbach is most noticeable on ‘Wanna Be On Your Mind’ – one of five co-writer credits – and the regular, judicious flecks of the Black Keys man’s white-hot guitar work only serve to heighten the pleasure.

Ian Parker

Jason Isbell - Southeastern (Relativity)

Those that have to endure my ramblings about music on a regular basis - which goes for most of those on the Musical Advent Calendar - know my Drive-By Truckers obsession has reached epic proportions this year. I've been covering every corner of their back catalogue (again) and loving every note, but great as they remain, their recent albums haven't reached the heights achieved on the likes of the The Dirty South and Decoration Day. In short, since Jason Isbell left the band. His brand of melancholy was always a perfect counter-balance to the down and dirty rock of Mike Cooley and the huge emotion of Patterson Hood's compositions. But all I need do after listening to Live In Austin TX for the umpteenth time is stick on Southeastern, Isbell's finest solo effort to date, and blend it all together in my head.

Rory Dollard

Daughter - If You Leave (4AD)

Daughter. Hmmm. Daughter, Daughter, Daughter. What do we do with a problem like Daughter? Stick it at number 19 I suppose. I have no idea if I'm being sucked in by some strong marketing and ever-so-trendy vibiness or if I've undervalued it grossly here. For sure, there's two or three really great tracks - top, top tracks in the Alex Ferguson lexicon - but I can't help feel like I might be an unwitting stooge in some electro-indie con job.

Steve Pill

Queens of the Stone Age - …Like Clockwork (Matador)

In 2006, the Arctic Monkeys sang "You're not from New York City, you're from Rotherham" but seven years on they seemed to be suffering a transatlantic identity crisis of their own. And so while AM almost made my cut, it was becoming clear that Josh Homme's grubby fingerprints were still all over the best elements of their last three albums. Returning to the source, I've spent the last six months battering myself around the head with the QOTSA back catalogue instead, as ...Like Clockwork emerged alongside their absolute best. The central pairing of 'If I Had A Tail' and 'My God Is The Sun' in particular contain everything you'd want from a 21st century rock song. Elsewhere, the brooding atmosphere is maintained with a superheroic muscularity that only serves to make Homme's occasional outbursts of malevolence or high camp all the more effective.

John Skilbeck

Boogarins - As Plantas Que Caram (Fat Possum)

As Plantas Que Curam - its title translates as Plants That Heal - came out of nowhere: a succulent slab of psychedelia served up by a pair of teenage boys from the land-locked Brazilian state of Goias. No beaches then, but boy can this pair play. The tropicalista tearaways hit their stride from the irresistible opener Lucifernandis, all spindly guitar soloing, clanging symbals and dulcet vocals. An unexpected treasure.


  1. Forest Swords is a bit of alright. i thought a lot of the electronica stuff this year was a bit fluffy, but this has a nice bit of edge.
    Lily and Madelaine is nice too, and another band seemingly designed to curry favour with Ali's list.
    Incidentally, has anyone else noticed you can't comment on this blog from an iphone/ipad?

  2. actually, i quite like all of these. i think mine is probably the most boring pick of all. i mean, i like Daughter and everything, but what a stone cold boring pick.

  3. You can, but only if you sign in using the web version of the page - not the mobile one. As if to prove it, I'm sending this from my phone.

  4. What's happened to Guy's track of the day these last few days? Every day he remains silent I just assume my track is his favourite and he can't bring himself to admit it.

  5. I've been here all along Ali, but as mentioned above I've been thwarted from posting as I've been on my phone. I've dealt with the previous two days now and have great pleasure in awarding QOTSA with today's track of the day gong.

  6. May I take this opportunity to congratulate Ian on his choice of image today. Inspired.