Wednesday, December 03, 2014

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Three

Hello and welcome to door three of the Musical Advent Calendar, which features not merely our No. 22 albums of the year but also a re-run of the Scottish independence referendum and Pranam's pre-emptive claim in a future lawsuit over tinnitus. 

Without further ado...

Andy Welch
Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire With No Witness (Jagjaguwar)

This is the second album from Angel Olsen, and it's a sad affair. The lyrics themselves aren't solely melancholic – there's a lot of strength in here – it's more Olsen's voice that just gives everything she sings a sheen of doom and gloom. The album veers from barely there acoustic songs to much bigger full arrangements, but Olsen sounds just as comfortable and just as brilliant with all of it.

Rory Dollard
King Creosote - From Scotland With Love (Domino)

There are many ways the Scottish Independence referendum could have been improved, but here are two most obvious:

1) If Alex Salmond had exclusively used the Blackadder 'Darling' gag every time he spoke to Labour's chief unionist.
2) If the entire episode had been soundtracked by Kenny Anderson's glorious Fife burr (if ever there was a voice worthy of the 'b' word, his is it). Several dozen albums  into his career, he knows instinctively how to set the mood for his homespun gems. Increasingly a national treasure and, for now, a British one too.

Matt Collins
St Vincent - St Vincent (Loma Vista)

More kooky female led pop tunes, with these lot being massively danceable rather than Lykke Li dreamy. 'Digital Witness' has the most insistent brass riff since 'Crazy in Love' too.

Dom Farrell
Wye Oak - Shriek (City Slang)

The follow-up to 2011’s excellent Civilian sees Baltimore duo Wye Oak once again trading deft indie folk writing against splatters of white noise. The bursts of feedback that decorated Shriek’s predecessor remain but glacial electronics broaden the sonic palette to good effect. A first line of “This morning, I woke up on the floor” on opener “Before” knowingly pricks the listener’s attention, which Jenn Wasner’s enchanting vocals largely hold for the duration.

Andrew Gwilym
The Antlers – Familiars (Transgressive)

My awareness of The Antlers owes much to Rory Dollard’s insistence on having me listen to their 2009 album Hospice over a beer round his gaffe in Howden. It was not the most lighthearted of booze-related activities but it made an impact. Familiars on the surface treads a similarly bleak path, largely ruminating on death, but there are glimmers of light within the gloom. “When I’m old I’ll be clear, more attuned and understanding” declares Peter Silberman on ‘Intruders’. Familiars is a slow burner, but it is definitely worth your patience.

John Skilbeck
Jessie Ware - Tough Love (Island)

How to follow a debut so elegant, so deeply soulful and - critical to the existence of its follow-up — so successful over the counter was the challenge confronting Jessie Ware as she began to piece together Tough Love. Emerging two years ago with the luxurious Devotion, which garnered Mercury, Brit and Mobo award nominations, London-born English graduate Ware conquered self-doubt to emerge in a post-Winehouse world as a warm, powerful and credible voice. That record promised shelter and succour amid the most cataclysmic emotional crises, and Tough Love offers similar salvation. Ware earned comparisons to Sade and Whitney Houston first time around, and from the title track onwards, a shimmering reflection of love both under and spiralling out of control, album number two tugs firmly at the most base emotions. Ed Sheeran co-wrote 'Say You Love Me', US soul star Miguel lent a hand elsewhere, and where Tough Love doesn’t smoulder it soars, hitting its peak on the delectable 'Champagne Kisses'.

Pranam Mavahalli
Rustie – Green Language (Warp)

When I'm in my 70s and suffering from age-related hearing loss, Rustie will be partly to blame. This album is a little more restrained than Rustie’s debut, it retains the trap beats, sub bass and bright synths that made that record special. It's also an album demands to be played load – preferably on a club soundsystem with hefty subwoofers. But in the absence of that, when for example you're on the bus to work wearing your headphones, the only way to replicate this effect is to crank the volume up to foolhardy levels. Pardon? Excuse me? What?

Ian Parker
Felice Brothers - Favourite Waitress (Dualtone)

There aren't many special tricks or groundbreaking ideas on Favourite Waitress, but that's sort of why it's here. I'm not against bands trying new things, as long as they recognise what has worked and what hasn't. And the dashes of electronica on the Felice Brothers' last record, well…didn't work. So we're back to basics on their fifth full release - which might be kind of ironic given it's the first they've recorded in an actual studio rather than a chicken coop or some such. The sound is ramshackle, many of the tunes are too, but the raucous free-spirit of the Felice Brothers is back. And maybe that's their special trick.

Guy Atkinson
Run the Jewels - Run the Jewels 2 (Mass Appeal)

A collection of certified club bangers that remind me of why I liked rap music when I was a teenager...or simply a token hip-hop pick?

(This is a mildly NSFW video for which Ragged Glories accepts little to no responsibility. We blame Guy entirely.)

Steve Pill
The War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream (Secretly Canadian)

I'm going to get this one out the way early. Have I listened to Lost In A Dream plenty of times? Sure. Do I actually rate it as an album? Erm... Here’s the crux. I love the sound of it all – the billowing keys, the Dylan-esque delivery, the highway-ready beat (forgive the Americanism, but the M42 lacks the requisite glamour) – but it’s the repetitive nature of the songs themselves that take the shine off. At times, I’m not even sure if this isn’t the same track rewritten 10 times at varying lengths. Still... What a song.


  1. I believe Guy may have just surrendered the right to criticise anything ever again.

  2. Who the hell invites people over to listen to Hospice over a beer? Bloody hell, that's a peculiar move, even for me.

  3. Yeah, the idea of you both weeping into a bottle of ale is my favourite image of the Advent Calendar so far. A cleansing one too, after that Run The Jewels video...

  4. 2009 - I think that was the year of some bleak chats in The Memory Chair, Rory. Thank Christ you never stuck Hospice on then!

  5. Right, I'm back. Guy's Track of the Day goes to Steve.