Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Eleven

If anyone was worried about Dom catching that plane after Jack White set his pulse racing during final calls yesterday, don't worry, he's tucking into his salted snacks as we catch up with him behind Door Number 11. Elsewhere, one of our panel loses it over girls and big guitars and, no, it's not John. Here are our No. 14 albums of the year...

Andy Welch
Jack White – Lazaretto (Third Man Records)

It's hard not to like an album this well-put-together. It's difficult to love, mind; to love in the same way I loved spontaneity and raucousness of The White Stripes. It all seemed so exciting, but then I was a lot younger then and everything seemed a lot more exciting. Anyway, this is about Lazaretto, not my lost youth. Any album with 'Would You Fight For My Love?' on it is going to make my top 24, really. What propels it this far up the is the swagger that was missing from Blunderbuss. Maybe divorce has put a spring back in ol' Jack's step? Or maybe he's just feeling more comfortable not being in a band? Whatever, it really, really works. 

Rory Dollard
TuNe-YaRds - Nikki Nack (4AD)

Not as refined or as tightly wound as 2011's quite sensational W H O K I L L, this nevertheless offers another chance to step into the Pandora's Box of Merrill Garbus' musical palette. Lead single 'Water Fountain' starts like a nursery rhyme and ends like a drunken row between a dial-up internet modem and a cement mixer, which is decent achievement in the course of a three-minute pop song. Garbus is a master of rhyhtms and textures - so much so, in fact, that you sometimes overlook where they take the place of fully-formed songs.

Matt Collins
Honeyblood - Honeyblood (Fatcat)

Girls with big loud guitars and rockin’ tunes. Quite literally, what is there not to like? In the absence of a Joy Formidable album in 2014, Honeyblood fill the noise shaped gap admirably. To be played turned up to 11 in dingy basement gig venues.

Dom Farrell
First Aid Kit - Stay Gold (Columbia)

I'm on the plane now, all calmed down. The staff seem very nice and reassuring, much like First Aid Kit. If the whole music thing falls flat for these Swedish sisters, I reckon they'd be great at serving drinks and snacks, calming frightened children as they go. There's not much chance of that though, because Stay Gold is a majestic and confident major-label debut, with the homespun charm that made you fall in love with them in the first place still intact.

Andrew Gwilym
Drive-By Truckers – English Oceans (ATO)

For several years Mike Cooley’s influence on Drive-By Truckers had looked to be on the wane. Patterson Hood was carrying the bulk of the songwriting weight, but the Truckers have always been at their best as a sum of their parts rather than a band following one man’s muse. So it is surely not a coincidence that this excellent record sees Hood and Cooley split matters pretty much down the middle. The album also showcases DBT’s range. Cooley’s ‘Shit Shots Count’ comes complete with an early 70’s Rolling Stones horn section, the title track pares matters down to ethereal keyboards and galloping acoustic guitars, while Hood’s ‘Grand Canyon’, a tribute to a deceased member of the band’s entourage, is maybe their most atmospheric, affecting number since Jason Isbell’s departure.

John Skilbeck
Hookworms - The Hum (Weird World)

Hookworms were the support when I saw Quasi play the Brudenell last December. Right here, in this very sentence, is where you’re expecting me to say they blew away the headliners, but get real, that would be lunacy. Yet a first face-on taste of the band I’d been smitten by on their debut LP was a gripping experience, and this follow-up to Pearl Mystic looked to carry on the sweeping psychotropic course as its lauded predecessor. But look, I’ve been busy, This was released only in mid November, and it’s only had a few spins, so I await the full force of its impact.

Pranam Mavahalli
Kassem Mosse - Workshop 19 (Workshop)

I'm not gonna die in 4/4 time,” the outsider composer Moondgod is supposed to have once said. Well a common criticism of dance music has always been its slavish obedience to the metronomic grid. But I'd like to think that Moondog would have made time for artists like Kassem Mosse, who take the constraints of 4/4 time but loosen the shackles a little. Listening to the track below, it sounds serpentine to me – a term Moondog used to describe his own music – in every sense of that word.

Ian Parker
The Delines - Colfax (Decor)

If we take the fact that Richmond Fontaine, at their Post To Wire-era best, made some of my favourite music, and that from those records, the best bits were, in my opinion, where they slowed it down and let Deborah Kelly take over on vocals, well, it's no sort of leap whatsoever to figure out that Willy Vlautin's latest project was going to work for me. Amy Boone, who emerged as a new favourite with Vlautin on the last Richmond record The High Country, takes over on vocals and the result is a rich, smooth Americana sound to wallow in.

Guy Atkinson
Eagulls - Eagulls (Partisan)

Like yesterday's pick, Cheatahs, there's little here that hasn't been heard before, but that's easy to forgive when the gloomy post-punk is as beguiling as this.

Steve Pill
GoGo Penguin – v2.0 (Gondwana Records)

For so long we've grown accustomed to rock bands absorbing a wide range of influences and applying them to the conventional guitar-bass-drums set up, whereas successful contemporary jazz groups seldom look much further than their a spot of classical music or Radiohead in search of wider influences. In the last couple of years however there's been a crop of younger groups rooted in jazz that have quickly stretched further afield, from Portico Quartet's afro instrumentation and electronica explorations to Dawn of Midi's minimal percussive take on Middle Eastern rhythms. Now we can safely add the ludicrously named GoGo Penguin to that list. From the post-rock swells and the Aphex Twin-indebted ambient interludes to the pummelling breakbeats of Garden Barbecue, it is a dynamic and pretty thrilling ride – even if that spread of influences has just made them sound like 1999’s answer to modern jazz.


  1. Normally I try to discourage live videos - if we're talking up the album we need to show an album cut wherever possible - but this Drive-By Truckers performance is mint.

  2. John wins Guy's Track of the Day today - props.