Thursday, December 04, 2014

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Four

Behind door number four, Matt begins to drifts towards the end, Pranam falls into a memory vortex and Steve howls at the moon. It's just your ordinary Thursday for us on the Musical Advent Calendar. Ladies and gentlemen, our No. 21 albums of the year.

Andy Welch
Spoon – They Want My Soul (Anti-)

However strong Spoon's contrary streak – calling out in song those that wrong them, calling an album They Want My Soul – musically, they've always come up with the goods. They're not the most highly acclaimed band 2000-2010 on Metacritic for nothing, if you care for ratings on review aggregation websites. Despite that quality, there's a step up on this eighth album, full of ready made radio-friendly classics, if radio still played music like this. Melodically brilliant, musically exciting and lyrically biting, I think it's got everything you could want.

Rory Dollard
Bruce Springsteen - High Hopes (Columbia)

I'm not sure what you want from me here. An admission I suppose. So here goes: no, it's not his best. yes, it was essentially released to prop up a tour. No, it doesn't really confirm to The Boss' own idea of what an album should be. Yes, its best songs already appeared elsewhere in different forms. But, but, but... Bruce is playing a bit fast and loose in his autumn years (see also: releasing 'Outlaw Pete' as an animated children's book, filming a cameo for Lilyhammer) and that's just fine by me.

Matt Collins
The Antlers - Familiars (Transgressive)

While never quite reaching the heady heights of their heartbreaking 2009 album, Hospice, the latest Antlers album has enough solid indie spine to make my top 24. It drifts towards the end, but don’t we all?

Dom Farrell
Jimi Goodwin - Odludek (Heavenly)

The story of how a burned down studio proved a pivotal moment in acid house stalwarts Sub Sub becoming Manchester indie favourites Doves is a well trodden one. Jimi Goodwin’s first solo outing begins by playing out as if it is a mixtape from that transition period - punchy synths and shifting, frantic rhythms sit alongside lilting melodic moments. There is much enjoy in an opening five-track sequence, where Goodwin’s trademark dulcet tones are primarily a reminder that all this stuff is from the same album. 'Keep My Soul in Song' settles the second half into a demonstration majestic Manc melancholy that Doves and Elbow - Guy Garvey features as a co-writer on a handful of tracks - made their calling card around the turn of the century.  

Andrew Gwilym
St Vincent – St Vincent (Loma Vista)

This is the album Annie Clark has been threatening to make. Her superb collaboration with David Byrne appears to have rubbed off here with no shortage of humour to go alongside her clever lyrical phrasing. This is without doubt Clark’s most accessible work, but it retains its share of jagged edges, from the burbling electronica at the start of ‘Rattlesnake’, the scattergun guitar of ‘Birth in Reverse’ or the off-kilter intro to ‘Digital Witness’. A brilliant piece of work.

John Skilbeck
Comet Gain - Paperback Ghosts

Founded on a bedrock of anti-careerism, it is remarkable that Comet Gain have lasted 20 years. Paperback Ghosts follows a familiar script, one of habitual melancholy, reflections on blazing romance, crushing heartbreak and aching nostalgia, through the prism of "council wrecks, empty football fields, children's toys buried under the grass" in a London of fading glories. It is a quite beautiful record, from the Northern Soul footstomper of 'Confession Of A Daydream', the girl-group strut of '(All The) Avenue Girls', to the psychedelia of 'An Orchid Stuck Inside Her Throat', a mournful, barely-sung monologue that swings alive through an organ-driven sunburst.

Pranam Mavahalli
Melanie De Biasio – No Deal (PIAS)

At school, a teacher once asked us “What scares you?” I struggled to find a genuine answer, so I settled for 'heights'. But another pupil - quiet, genial, unexceptional – piped up with the precocious answer of 'memory and the concept of time'. This blew my tiny undeveloped mind. What's so scary about time and memory? It got me thinking. A lot. Now, many years and sleepless nights later, when I think back to the summer of 2014, I recall long sunny afternoons, sipping cocktails, and listening to Melanie De Biasio's jazz-inflected grooves ...but the reality was actually quite different...there were few long sunny afternoons. I rarely had the time to casually sip cocktails, let alone listen to jazz (we must all make time for jazz). Maybe her music is so affecting and evocative that it's distorted my memory into something more idealised. And maybe we can never be sure of anything, which is why my fellow pupil was right to find time and memory so frightening. All of which fails to illuminate why I like this album so much. It's beautifully played, and recorded, sounds classic yet current, and De Biasio's voice benefits from the minimal instrumentation. Press play, hit repeat, and let worries over the concept of time slide into the distance.

Ian Parker
GoGo Penguin - V2.0 (Gondwana)
It's not clear when I caught the jazz bug, only that I had some mild symptoms before a trip to New Orleans a couple of years ago finished me off. I'm still more comfortable in the smoother stuff rather than records that sound like competitions as to who can fit the most notes into each second (my head is not quite ready to process all of that), but - even though they can drift into that latter direction - something about GoGo Penguin grabbed me early on. So many of their rhythms are infectious, it's one of those records where once I've put it on, there's a good chance I won't listen to anything else all day.

Guy Atkinson
Modern Baseball - You're Gonna Miss It All (Run for Cover Records)

There's a sneaking suspicion that I'm at least 10 years too old to really 'get' this modern take on emo/pop-punk, but when's that ever stopped me before?

Steve Pill
Amen Dunes – Love (Sacred Bones)

Some albums have you from track one. If you can't get through opener 'White Child' without simultaneously wanting to howl at the moon and stagger woozily into a ditch, you're a better man than me. It's a glorious slice of lovelorn psychedelia, equal parts Sgt. Pepper strum, Devendra Banhart quasi-religious singsong and My Morning Jacket canyon-wide swoon. From here, the rest of the album teeters brilliantly on the precipice, each song delivered with a sincerity and spontaneity that suggests they may just be making the arrangements up as they go. It works, without sounding like any work was involved in the making of it.


  1. Great to see Go Go Penguin getting a nod today. I hope someone's chosen Polar Bear's record too. It’s awesome but *spoilers* you wont find it on my list cos I’m an idiot.

  2. Dom wins Guy's Track of the Day solely by virtue of the fact that I used to like Doves.