Sunday, December 07, 2014

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Seven

Every Musical Advent Calendar has its surprises and behind door number seven we find not only our No. 18 albums of the year, but also an apologetic Dollard...

Andy Welch
Metronomy – Love Letters (Because)

There's a lot to like about this Metronomy album. It was recorded at Toerag Studios, for a start, and the vinyl version was taken directly from the tape and a master pressed, never passing through a computer. That makes me sound like some deathless 'real music' campaigner, and I'm really not, but there is something dogmatically old-fashioned about the process I enjoy. As for the songs, there's something also pleasingly ancient there too. 'I'm Aquarius', with all its Haight-Ashbury associations, and the title track, Joe Mount's take on a Motown song banger, are joyously 60s-sounding without appearing contrived or, god forbid, retro, the last refuge of the idea-less scoundrel.

Rory Dollard
The Antlers - Familiars (Transgressive)

Oh Antlers, how I have wronged thee in the past. More than that guy I sort of passive-aggressively bullied a bit at school, more than that exchange student girl who got on the wrong end of a 50-50 tackle in the first year of intra-mural football, more even than the West Wing (watched one episode, didn't like Rob Lowe's face, ditched it). I grossly undervalued sensational debut Hospice on the advent calendar a few years back then ridiculously left out Burst Apart completely in favour of albums I ultimately liked less. Right now this is my number 18, in a few years I'll doubtless realise it was top 10 material.

Matt Collins
Damon Albarn - Everyday Robots (Parlaphone)

No doubt ending up on a lot of album of the year lists, I like Everyday Robots. The main reason is because rather than sounding like opera, cartoon hip hop or other people’s music, it just sounds like the actual Damon Albarn of now. Look past the actual song about an elephant (the throwaway Mr Tembo) and this is a melancholy masterpiece.

Dom Farrell
Ryan Adams - Ryan Adams (PAX AM)

Most people thought that 2011’s Ashes and Fire was nice but a bit boring. Halfway through making its follow-up, Ryan Adams appeared to belatedly agree and jettisoned the great Glyn Johns in favour of manning the controls himself and leaving on the rough edges. The resulting record is a definite return to form, recalling the punchy, FM-friendly Americana that launched his career more than a decade ago. So long as Adams is happily married and free from the pits of drug-addled despair, we’re probably never getting another Love Is Hell, so enjoy this eponymous effort for what it is.

Andrew Gwilym
Beck – Morning Phase (EMI)

Beck’s 2012 effort Song Reader could have been that year’s best album. The problem was it was impossible to decide because he only released the sheet music, you could only imagine what it might have sounded like. Thankfully such nonsense does not hinder the beautiful Morning Phase. For his reputation as a genre-hopping troubadour, there is much to be said for the notion Beck is at his best pouring his heart out with acoustic guitar in hand. Sea Change mined a similar seam of heartache and this is every bit as shimmering yet world weary as that 2002 release. It’s a glorious listen, tinged with heartbreak yet hopeful.

John Skilbeck
Blank Realm - Grassed Inn (Fire)

The first thought I had on hearing Blank Realm was ‘Wow, this sure sounds like peak, foot-stomping Comet Gain’. The second arrived only after, in a daze, walking out of Jumbo Records with the Grassed Inn album under my arm: ‘Who the hell even are this band?’ Turns out they spring from Brisbane, feature siblings Sarah, Luke and Daniel Spencer, and have an enviable knack for coughing up joyously off-kilter guitar-pop with a twist of psychedelia, which comes closer to the surface the deeper the listener ventures into this terrific LP.

Pranam Mavahalli
Chassol – Indiamore (Tricatel)

A hearty breakfast, a flick through the newspaper, a stroll after lunch, the Gilles Peterson show on 6Music at 3pm, and a cheeky afternoon tipple before thoughts turn to dinner and the evening ahead. That’s pretty much a perfect Saturday for me but due to apathy and poor organisation, this rarely if ever happens. I do however make a point of catching Gilles' show whenever I can, and if you're as much of an avid listener as I am, you'll no doubt have heard him play Chassol. Is it jazz? Is it world music? Is it avant pop, or even classical? I'm not sure what it is, but that's what draws me to it. Taking Indian culture as a starting point, the music often veers in unexpected but always interesting directions, and is certainly among the most original stuff I've heard this year.

Ian Parker
Spoon - They Want My Soul (Anti-)

I spent the weeks leading up to the release of They Want My Soul having entirely independent conversation with Dom and Steve, attempting to convert them to the cause of Spoon. I think I achieved it (we'll wait for their respective top 24s to unfold before drawing any firm conclusions) but my job would have been a lot easier if I'd hung on until release date. Spoon have always made technically brilliant albums - pure rock 'n' roll which is so clinical you can easily dissect it into its component parts, and yet never short on real soul and passion. But never has that vision been so well executed as on their eighth studio album.

Guy Atkinson
Alcest - Shelter (Prophecy Productions)
Despite starting as a black metal band, there is resolutely nothing on show here that suggests a penchant for the dark arts. This is glacial, atmospheric and, dare I say, 'pretty' music that has provided welcome respite from the teenage angst music I've once again been devouring this year.

Steve Pill
Nick Mulvey – First Mind (Fiction)

I first saw Portico Quartet busking on the Southbank and fell in love with their debut album, Knee-Deep in the North Sea. Subsequent albums didn’t lack ambitions or intrigue either, with excursions into electronica and even a stint with John ‘Radiohead/Pink Floyd/Stone Roses’ Leckie in the production chair. Perhaps the last thing I expected from them next was a solo album of graceful acoustic folk though. Lacking the interplay of the quartet, Mulvey creates musical interest through Nick Drake-esque fingerpicking and backs it up with an unforeseen directness in vocals and melody. 'Fever to the Form' is the gem at the heart of the album, a beautiful little strum-and-hum that builds organically and sets up residency in your ear after first listen.

1 comment:

  1. For the second day running Ian gets the Guy's Track of the Day gong.