Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Thirteen

Behind Door Number 13 of the Musical Advent Calendar are our No. 12 albums of the year, or in Dom's case, his No. 1 hangover cure of the year. 

Andy Welch
St Vincent – St Vincent (Loma Vista)

I've liked St Vincent since I first heard Marry Me, but never really connected with a record of hers. I still don't think I connected with this, her fourth record not counting the one she did with David Byrne. To use some horrible terminology, I'm more fascinated by her music rather than able to feel it. It seems otherworldly, I have no idea how she'd start writing a song like 'Birth In Reverse' or 'I Prefer Your Love', and none of it really speaks to me. But that's not to say I haven't listened to St Vincent all year and been dazzled by it, finding something new to admire each time. Her live show back in February is the best thing I saw all year.

Rory Dollard
Ambrose Akinmusire - The Imagined Saint is Far Easier to Paint (Decca)

I've said it before and I'll say it again, 2014 has been a real halcyon year for the trumpet. You can't move for the sneaky devils. Genuine salad days for the trumpet community. They're scattered all over the albums in my 24 but officially jumped the shark when Kasabian featured a trumpet solo in their youth-corrupting Glastonbury catastrophe. A good time, then, to be a virtuoso such as Ambrose Akinmusire. The Californian here assembles a small group of equally talented jazz pals (fuck me…that drummer) and gets enthusiastically tangled in his own impressionist web.

Matt Collins
Cherry Ghost - Herd Runners (Heavenly)

Such an underrated singer songwriter is Simon Aldred behind Cherry Ghost. Herd Runners picks up where his many other albums left off, with a country soul’s insight explored through Radio 2 friendly rock and quality songsmanship throughout.

Dom Farrell
Childhood - Lacuna (Marathon Artists)

Grossly hungover is never a brilliant state in which to make a call on, well, anything. But having gone idiotically large on my first night at Latitude Festival this year, I was in a dark place by early Friday evening. So I slumped down on a grass bank to watch Childhood. Not because I had any idea who they were but because an unflattering combination of vomit and tears seemed imminent. Thankfully, their woozy indie psychedelia eased my swampy, battered head - something Lacuna continued to do for the rest of this year.

Andrew Gwilym
Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams (Pax AM)

Over the last 15 years and more Ryan Adams has worked incredibly hard to become a caricature of himself, at times he has come perilously close to succeeding, but within his music has lingered just enough redemption. Think of how easily Beck does the whole genre-hopping thing, it never seems forced. Then comes Adams. Three albums in a year? Check. A hip-hop album? Check. A Rock n Roll album (you know, the one titled Rock n Roll)? Check. A hardcore punk album? Check. It all seems so forced, an effort at self-mythology. The prolific, tortured, restless songwriter. But you cannot ignore Adams because he is capable of writing tremendous songs and this ranks as one of his better albums because there are no constraints. This does not fit into any one part of Adams back catalogue. This is not the acoustic album, the country album, the rock album or the pop album, instead it melds all the strands of Adams’ sound in a fashion he has been unwilling to do since Gold. This is not as good as that but it at least sounds like Adams being himself, not trying to be what he thinks is expected of him.

John Skilbeck
Ex Hex - Rips (Merge)

The return of Sleater-Kinney, cooked up on the hush-hush since late 2013, killed off Wild Flag, so Carrie Brownstein’s 'other’ co-frontwoman Mary Timony moved on to another project. Meet Ex Hex, Timony’s new band with bassist Betsy Wright and drummer Laura Harris, who over the course of 35 minutes announced themselves with a bustling floorshaker of a rock and roll record. Spot the nods to the Count Five and particularly the 'Modern Lovers', notably on the gnarly 'Beast' and the breezy 'Radio On'. Give Timony her dues though: she’s earned them over the past two decades. The rambunctious Rips illustrates the rewards staying power can deliver. And if Sleater-Kinney’s new record outshines Rips, it’s going to be a doozy.

Pranam Mavahalli
Thurston Moore - The Best Day (Matador)

My first exposure to Sonic Youth was seeing the video to Kool Thing late night on MTV. I guess it was a bit of a key moment for me. Whenever I pick up the guitar now, I’m trying to cackhandedly emulate the sounds the band wrenched from their axes back in the day. So while it’s not much of a shock that Thurston’s latest album is on my list, what does surprise is how genuinely good it is. I think the last few Sonic Youth albums have found the band treading water a little. But this manages to marry classic songwriting with some of the restrained noise of later SY to hugely satisfying effect.

Ian Parker
Angel Olsen - Burn Your Fire For No Witness (Jagjaguwar)

I slept in during the initial Angel Olsen hype, then when it seemed everyone was losing their head over this record, I figured 'What the heck?' and picked up a copy, only to wonder what the fuss was about. But, you know, that was back in February, and week-by-week, month-by-month, this record has grown and grown in my consciousness. It's raw and emotional, with not a lick of polish in sight and more than a little debt to PJ Harvey along the way. I'm still not ready to believe the hype, but by waiting until I'd forgotten the hype, I found my way in. 

Guy Atkinson
The Menzingers - Rented World (Epitaph Records)

Having to follow up outstanding back-to-back albums was never going to be an easy task, but there's enough here to confirm The Menzingers' place at the head of the melodic punk table for a little while longer.

Steve Pill
James Vincent McMorrow – Post Tropical (Vagrant)

Bon Iver has a lot to answer for. His second album and Kanye guest spots have shown hundreds of lovelorn log cabin troubadours the way back in from the cold. Listen to a bit of smooth R 'n' B, work those synths and autotune the shit out of your banjo - no one need ever know you're actually a product of open mic nights, not R Kelly's loins. Perhaps the most successful proponent of this shift is Irish singer James Vincent McMorrow. His second album Post-Tropical ditches the trad-folk of debut Early In The Morning for an intricate and heartfelt collection of songs, full of choral surges and triumphant trumpets. Occasionally it is best to not listen to the lyrics too closely (“Sometimes my hands don't feel like my own, I need someone to love, I need someone to hold…” sounds suspiciously like he’s contemplating a dead-hander) but otherwise this is beautiful stuff.

1 comment:

  1. John takes Guy's Track of the Day award for today.