Friday, December 05, 2014

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Five

Door number five of the Musical Advent Calendar means our No. 20 albums of the year, and here they are...

Andy Welch
Temples - Sun Structures (Heavenly)

There's seemingly always a psych revival going on. And it normally fails to amount to more than a few people in bands with a copy of Nuggets each, all living out their Nazz fantasies before imploding under the cosmic weight of no tunes. To judge Temples on their appearance for a moment, you could be forgiven for thinking their absolutely perfect hair and clothing pointed to a lack of substance, as if they'd spent so long tracking down those fur coats they left no time for rehearsal. But you'd be wrong. There's far more here than a few psych compilations and the right sartorial choices. Sun Structures isn't as exciting as the recent remixed version of the album, but in 'Colours To Life', 'A Question Isn't Answered' and 'Move With The Season', they've written songs every bit as good as those that inspired them.

Rory Dollard
Ryan Adams -1984 (Pax-Am)

For an occasional master of his craft, Ryan Adams doesn't half spend a lot of time acting like a musical Dom Joly, releasing any number of piss-takes, toss-offs and parodies. Call them Trigger Happy CDs. This collection of 11 blink-and-you-miss-them Replacements-esque rockers looked like the latest of those, spunked out alongside the more heavily promoted eponymous 'proper' album. But while the latter is a disappointing AOR grind, 1984 finds our man in compelling form and seemingly having a ball. The whole thing last less than 20 minutes, leaving plenty of time for the repeat button.

Matt Collins
Olof Arnalds - Palme (One Little Indian)

Yet another kooky female singer (were they on a factory production line in 2014 or something?) in my top 24. Her voice picks up where fellow Icelander Bjork’s left off, albeit ethereal tones in the folk rather than house traditions.

Dom Farrell
New Pornographers - Brill Bruisers (Matador)

I can’t imagine New Pornographers, or anyone else for that matter, would thank me for using the term power pop (even if it does feature on their Wikipedia page - only the finest research for Ragged Glories reviews). But Brill Bruisers is brilliant power pop. Brill, even. The opening title track recalls the Shins’s more euphoric moments and is the first of a handful of occasions where AC Newman and co make intricately crafted and painstakingly arranged songs sound fantastically good fun. It’s decent trick to have up your sleeve.

Andrew Gwilym
Interpol – El Pintor (Matador)

There was a time when it did not look like this album would be made. After the disappointment that was 2010’s self-titled effort Interpol split off into different directions. Bassist Carlos Dengler’s departure was confirmed, Paul Banks released his second solo album and explored his love of hip-hop and guitarist Daniel Kessler opened a seafood restaurant, as you do. There was no urgency to go back to being Interpol and, just three albums after the masterpiece Turn on the Bright Lights they looked done. Mercifully, they gave it another go and this definitely merits the tag of “return to form”. ‘All the Rage Back Home’ is the perfect opener, a statement of intent that harks back to the sound of their debut and follow-up Antics. ‘My Desire’ is all nervy, edgy arpeggios. There is even room for a nod towards Banks’ hip-hop fascination on ‘Same Town, New Story’. It all adds up to their best work in a decade and a reason to keep faith in a band who had appeared to be flat out of ideas.

John Skilbeck
EMA - The Future’s Void (City Slang)

Erika M Anderson appears to get away with a lot on her third album, one that has at its core a prepossession with the internet, its dystopian appetite, its theft and absorption of identity, and the neuroses that it induces. The terms “superhighway” and “interweb” turn up, yet they do so on the standout '3Jane', a song rendered with such deep passion it could only have come from deep within the psyche of this increasingly vital artist.

Pranam Mavahalli
FKA Twigs - LP1 (Young Turks)

Even if you have no interest in them, it's hard not to argue that the return of Kate Bush and Prince to the live stage were among the biggest musical events of 2014. But this got me thinking ­- what elevates such artists to iconic status? And why is it that new acts seem so anodyne in comparison? Well if there's one act on my list that appeared fully-formed and with something unique to say this year, it's FKA Twigs. I'd heard a lot about this album before it was released. So perhaps it didn't quite fulfil my expectations. But I found the mix of R'n'B and digital breaks unlike much else and I'm eager to see where she takes this template next.

Ian Parker
St. Vincent - St. Vincent (Loma Vista)
What is there that Annie Clark can't do? That the fourth album under the St Vincent name becomes the eponymous one seems fitting given that it is the best realisation yet of her sprawling vision. The music is razor-sharp, full of killer hooks, while the lyrics take the edge off as Clark gives you a wink and a nod while deconstructing the digital age.

Guy Atkinson
Brave Bird - T-Minus Grand Gesture (Count Your Lucky Stars)
Despite showing tantalising glimpses here of being the natural heirs to Brand New's emo throne, they proceeded to split earlier this year. Selfish.

Steve Pill
Adrian Crowley – Some Blue Morning (Chemikal Underground)

Apparently, Ryan Adams once called Crowley the greatest songwriter no one’s heard of. That was 10 years ago and he might just be right.
The thing that hooked me was that voice. Listen to that glorious, dolorous voice. It’s like he’s swallowed an ocean of sadness and gargles it every night before bed. It’s stately like Cash, nostalgic like Cohen and dramatic like that fella from the Tindersticks. He’s underpinned it all with funereal-paced laments and broad sweeps of cello that I’ve turned to in all kinds of moods: it comforts when I’m sad, but on a brighter day, it gives you a certain spring in your step, thinking, “Well, at least it’s notthat bad…”

1 comment:

  1. Andrew picks up today's Guy's Track of the Day gong.