Monday, December 15, 2014

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Fifteen

We've made it to hallowed ground. Well, kind of. Door Number 15 of the Musical Advent Calendar means we've reached out top 10 albums of the year. Gwilym takes an unexpected analogy and doesn't so much run with it but races off into the distance, Pranam is feels the love, while Steve and Matt are scrapping over the same Real Estate (apologies).

Andy Welch
Childhood – Lacuna (House Anxiety)

Every now and again an album comes along that contains so many of things you like it feels like you designed it yourself. Childhood's Lacuna features hazy, jangly guitars, shoegaze baselines, lowdown vocals and classic pop melodies. 'You Could Be Different' is my single of the year.

Rory Dollard
Alice Boman - EP II (Happy Death)

A handful of songs, released without fanfare and containing at times little more than a whisper of vocal and a sliver of supporting instrumentation. A subtle masterclass in the art of intrigue and restraint.

Matt Collins
Real Estate - Atlas (Domino)

They might well be a walking talking Portland cliche, with the jangly indie guitars a very familiar tone. But Real Estate have an incredible knack for a tune that the distant reverby vocals don’t completely smudge into oblivion. An alternative treat.

Dom Farrell
Damien Rice - My Favourite Faded Fantasy (Atlantic)

I was completely ready to ignore Damien Rice's comeback. Perhaps this is a Mancunian thing, but waiting eight years between albums just screams something along the lines of "Oh, God, no - The Second Coming".  Also, however unfair, it's easy to hold the slew of lightweight coffee-table singer-songwriters that appeared in the wake of O against Rice. But My Favourite Faded Fantasy offers a timely reminder that, when he can be arsed to actually release songs, he does this kind of thing with a brutal emotional rawness few manage to touch

Andrew Gwilym
Spoon - They Want My Soul (Loma Vista)

Britt Daniel and company are to music what Nico Hulkenberg is to Formula One (I apologise in advance to anyone unfamiliar with F1 and Mr Hulkenberg, or with Spoon for that matter). For years now Hulkenberg has been acknowledged as one of F1’s brightest talents, too good to be in the mid-running teams he has driven for and deserving of a place at the top table. Yet, when one of those seats opens up he is inevitably overlooked. So it has been with Spoon. The Austin five-piece have been churning out consistently excellent albums for the better part of 20 years. They should be huge, but widespread acclaim as so far failed to come their way. Hopefully They Want My Soul, another brilliant, consistent record, might finally right that wrong.

John Skilbeck
Alvvays - Alvvays (Transgressive)

In mid-summer, a quintent of Canadian newcomers delivered an astoundingly accomplished indie-pop record, reigniting my flagging passion for that genre. Toronto's Alvvays are headed by Molly Rankin, progeny of the popular folk group The Rankin Family. Their debut LP recalled the heartbreak pop of prime Camera Obscura, the shaky shimmer of early Orange Juice, and the practised poise of the Delgados. Yes, it sounded very West of Scotland. The single Archie, Marry Me was one of many highlights, with the soaring The Agency Group a personal favourite.

Pranam Mavahalli
Ought – More Than Any Other Day (Constellation)

TODAY, MORE THAN OTHER DAY, I AM EXCITED TO FEEL THE MILK OF HUMAN KINDNESS. What a line, what a song, what a band. Ought take everything I find exciting about the last 40 years of guitar music and give it a modern twist. Sure, you can spot the influences, but to do that would be a disservice to music so urgent, inventive and original. I love this record, and probably would have scored it higher were I not so incompetent. PLAY LOUD.

Ian Parker
Sturgill Simpson - Metamodern Sounds In Country Music (High Top Mountain)

Memo to Nashville: Country music is not pop with a cowboy hat and an overdone Southern accent. Country music is raw, honest, and powerful. The white man's blues has nothing to do with much of the tripe pedalled on America's superstations, and is rarely heard at the CMA awards these days. If it was, Sturgill Simpson would sweep the board. Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, his second album, adds a few neat, uhm, 'metamodern' twists but stays true to the original template of the masters. Simpson's songs are rough and rugged, but he tells his stories with the warmth of feeling and wit that makes for a great country song. It's not often you hear them like this anymore. 

Guy Atkinson
Banner Pilot - Souvenir (Fat Wreck Chords)

This is almost identical to their previous two albums, but their gruff melodic punk template is so embedded into my brain now that they could release another 10 albums like this and I'd still be smitten.

Steve Pill
Real Estate – Atlas (Domino)

I nearly overlooked this one and stuck it somewhere down the bottom of my top 24, if only because it was nothing groundbreaking or vastly different to things I’ve bought years previously. Sometimes a comforting jangle is all you need though. The haunting harmonies and minor chord progressions often recall early REM or my old cassettes of forgotten Creation Records bands (18 Wheeler, Velvet Crush, BMX Bandits), but there is something pure and honest and true about the way in which they have been refashioned here. Talking Backwards in particular is just a beautiful, optimistic tune that ends about a minute before you want it to, so much so that I’ve often played it three or four times back to back.

1 comment:

  1. John wins Guy's Track of the Day again. Dollard - your description of today's record makes me think that I'd rather pour acid in my eyeballs than listen to it. Fair?