Saturday, December 06, 2014

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Six

This is going to be Dollard's favourite day - no question. Behind door number six of the Musical Advent Calendar lie our No. 19 albums of the year...with strong representation from a certain Welsh band. Judging by the reviews, you could be forgiven for thinking nominating the Manics is simply an act of bating Rory. So go on then, the comments section awaits...

Andy Welch
Manic Street Preachers – Futurology (Columbia)

Initially, even before the album was released, I'd decided I wanted to include it because of a Twitter exchange I'd had with Mr Dollard, where I, having heard the lead single 'Europa Geht Durch Mich', proclaimed it to be the most thrilling thing the Manics had done in years. Rory, having not heard it, told me I was wrong, and there ended the conversation. "Right," I thought. But since then, Futurology has been released, and thankfully it's every bit as good as that first single suggested it would be. In fact, it's every bit as good as anything the Manics have done, ever. There’s no reason a band as long in the tooth as the Welsh trio should be releasing two albums in less than a year, but when the music’s as good as this, and Rewind The Film, for that matter, here’s hoping they don’t give up any time soon.

Rory Dollard
St Paul and the Broken Bones - Half The City (Single Lock)

There are some things that will never seem quite the same as they were back in the good old days: namely general literacy, respect for the police and soul music. Now, the first two are a hopeless cause but if you get yourself into a certain place you can just about persuade yourself that the third is salvageable. That place is within earshot of this record, which ditches all pretence of a 'contemporary slant' on the genre and instead basks brilliantly in its influences.

Matt Collins
Owen Pallett - In Conflict (Domino)

Owen Pallett’s skill of singing while playing hugely intricate violin has to be seen to be believed. In the meantime, sit back and let his plinky plonky synth led latest wash over you and remember that complex songwriting is still enjoyable.

Dom Farrell
Manic Street Preachers - Futurology (Columbia)

Making a German-language Goldfrapp rip-off emphatically work; wonderful duets with Cate Le Bon and Green Gartside; James Dean Bradfield’s acerbic guitar brilliance - there are a fair few reasons why I like Futurology. But you don’t care about those. Over to Rory Dollard, spewing scattergun bile in the comments section…

Andrew Gwilym
Bruce Springsteen – High Hopes (Columbia)

Even on his worst days The Boss gives you plenty to enjoy. Let’s face it, even Human Touch and Lucky Town had redeeming qualities. Not that this is one of Springsteen’s worst days, but at the same time there is little danger of High Hopes ending up among the cannon of great Springsteen albums. After the energy of Wrecking Ball, this falls a little short partly because it is something of an odds and sods collection. For many artists such a release would be inconsequential, but High Hopes is carried by several superb cuts including the title track, ‘American Skin (41 Shots)’, ‘Just Like Fire Would’ and the reworking of ‘The Ghost of Tom Joad’, boosted by Tom Morello’s squealing guitar work. Not a great album, but more than good enough.

John Skilbeck
The Delines - Colfax (Decor)

Jumbo Records slipped this mysterious disc on their decks while I was wasting time there one day in late April, and an hour later it was spinning on my home turntable. It turned out to be a Willy Vlautin project, his songs decorated with the essential accessory of Amy Boone’s dive-bar swoon. As Vlautin told Uncut: "Amy’s voice has all the things I like. It’s beautiful, weary, tough, worn and pure. When she sings I just believe what she’s singing, I always have. It also doesn’t hurt that she’s a seriously damn cool woman, and that comes out in her voice too."

Pranam Mavahalli
Arca – Xen (Mute)

Within seconds of hearing Arca's free download &&&&& I was hooked. The opening bars feature the kind of sonic tomfuckery that gets me more ostensibly excited than a grown man should admit to in public. Arca's album stretches his sound beyond the experimental trap/hip hop template of that early release – which I applaud. But for me it loses some of the unexpectedness as a result. I imagine his forthcoming collaboration with Bjork will feature highly in my 2015 list (assuming I'm invited back – given the content of my ‘reviews’, I'd be a fool to take this for granted).

Ian Parker
The Twilight Sad - Nobody Wants To Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave (Fat Cat)

There's nothing like revisiting an old classic for inspiring something new. The Twilight Sad played a series of shows late last year playing their debut album Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters, and obviously reminded themselves of what they're capable of. And that they're capable of is that wonderful sort of miserabilism that you can wear like a warm blanket. Gone is the electronic edge of No One Can Ever Know in favour of post-punk, shoegaze, and old-fashioned brooding indie.

Guy Atkinson
Nothing - Guilty of Everything (Relapse)
Much like Whirr, who I picked earlier, this is an album so firmly entrenched in the zeitgeist that I often find myself questioning whether I should dislike it just to be contrary. I'm seeing them at the Brudenell tonight, so will probably regret not putting this in my top five by the time it's published.

Steve Pill
Flying Lotus – You’re Dead! (Warp)

In many years time, there’s a chance we might come to look back on You’re Dead! as a sort of generational soundtrack for our attention-deficit lives. 19 tracks in 40 minutes might turn out to be the perfect turnover for an army of square-eyed kids hyped up on Ritalin and educated in 160-character long soundbites. In fact, when the slowly-evolving, Kendrick Lamar-starring percussive R'n'B of 'Never Catch Me' is a relative epic at just shy of four minutes, there are times when I listen to this during my morning commute and want to scream “FOR GOD’S SAKE, WOULD IT KILL YOU TO REPEAT A CHORUS JUST ONCE…”. But while it is not quite up there with 2010’s near-perfect Cosmogramma, there is something immensely appealing about hearing someone casually casting out more interesting musical ideas in a 31-second interlude than many artists manage in a lifetime. Like a less goofy Paul’s Boutique, You’re Dead! can make you feel very alive.


  1. I'm not a performing seal, let's be clear on that. And I'm currently at a wedding with dom, so have got a lot of Manics off my chest already. But let's say this - I only hate the Manics because i love the Manics . It's like if your mum slapped you - it'd mean more than some guy in the street. I have enough residual good feeling towards them that I just wish they'd stop. If I really hated them I'd be happy for them to keep bleeding the stone. And heavens above I couldn't have been righter about that song I'd never heard

  2. Ian walks away with today's Guy's Track of the Day award.