Monday, December 08, 2014

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Eight

Two days after denying being a performing seal, Dollard delivers one of his standard party tricks bang on cue, while Andy is on less familiar territory, enjoying an afternoon looking at a gap year student's holiday snaps. Speaking of which, it sound like Steve should be able to put together a pretty decent slideshow from the lengthy trip he took to discover his pick. Here they are, our No. 17 albums of the year...

Andy Welch
Bombay Bicycle Club – So Long, See You Tomorrow (Island)

Maybe I was missing something, but listening to Bombay Bicycle Club's first two albums, I didn't hear their potential. It was their third album that really made me take notice, combined with an almost unfeasible couple of shows at London's Alexandra Palace. Then came So Long, See You Tomorrow, the result of frontman Jack's  travelling after touring and being influenced by the sounds around him. I get the feeling he was willing to go further with his experimentation but the other three band members reigned him in, and that's generally the most interesting thing about this record; applying those touches to more conventional sounds to create something genuinely different. Rae Morris and Lucy Rose's voices are used to perfection too. Of course, it's pretty wet – the musical equivalent of a nice middle-class boy showing you his photos from his gap year – but that doesn't mean it's not good. 

Rory Dollard
Tony Allen - Film of Life (Jazz Village)

Whoever had number 17 on the 'Dollard's tokenistic world music nod' sweepstake please pick up your prize from the front desk. It suffers from my having selected it of course, but doubt the credentials at your peril. Afro-beat's number one rhythm chap is bang on song here, rolling it out lengthy grooves that burrow deep and linger long. In structure and musicality there's some sly virtuosity at play here.

Matt Collins

Mø - No Mythologies to Follow (RCA)

Breathlessly and effortlessly sexy Danish diva Mø has made an album of shimmering synthpop soundscapes and melodies that really belong on the headline slot at the Pyramid Stage. Truly top class pop songwriting.

Dom Farrell
Slow Club - Complete Surrender (Caroline)

Sometimes it's an easy cop-out for artists not to sing directly about raw emotions, hiding behind the comforting blanket of metaphor. Sometimes it's all too much when they do - turn it down a notch, I just wanted a nice tune; I don't care that your wife left and took the dog. But on Slow Club's third album, Rebecca Taylor's warts and all assault on a "shitty year" is never less than compelling. The duo's natural pop instincts - flecks of northern soul, woozy vintage synths - provide an ideal backdrop. Charles Watson's beautiful, lilting 'Paraguay and Panama' is a highlight at the record's emotional core, alongside Taylor's bombastic, brilliant 'The Queen's Nose'.

Andrew Gwilym
The Hold Steady – Teeth Dreams (Republic of Music)

Everyone’s favourite bar band have set their sights on the arena circuit and, maybe surprisingly, it seems to suit them. Craig Finn and company have always had a big sound which was kept rooted by intimate story-telling narratives. As time has gone on the cast of characters such as Holly and Charlemagne have slowly disappeared from Finn’s words, although they continue to be mentioned in passing. For long-time fans such a move leaves a sense of disappointment, but the Brooklyn via Minneapolis five-piece couldn’t spend their lives simply trying to rewrite Boys and Girls in America, they had to move on. The addition of former Lucero guitarist Steve Selvidge appears to have had a big impact, particularly on Tad Kubler because this is a full-on guitar album. Gaps previously filled by keys are left spare, adding a punch to numbers like ‘Runner’s High and ‘Spinners’. The Hold Steady sound reinvigorated and are heading for an interesting next chapter.

John Skilbeck
Nun - Nun (Aarght! Records)

Brisbane yesterday, Melbourne today. Yabbie Creek tomorrow? Maggie Vail of Bangs, one of my all-time favourite bands, and erstwhile denizen of the Kill Rock Stars label, was raving about Australian band Nun on Twitter in late summer. Duly I had to check them out, and thankfully it was a great call. A synthesized graveyard pop band, Nun's self-titled album bleeds an ultra-modern sense of horror into a brand of doom-laden electro-pop that although rather well-worn can still be imbued with new life in the right hands. Jenny Branaghan’s voice briefly betrays her accent yet is largely as austere as the sound that surrounds it, a granite combination combining to produce a stone-cold classic.

Pranam Mavahalli
Young Fathers - Dead (Big Dada)

I do hope that the combined effect of winning the 2014 Mercury Prize and being included on my list has a positive effect on Young Fathers, rather than turning them into this year's Speech Debelle. I reckon the long years the band spent in the wilderness before getting recognised, has really shaped their sound, which while poppy, is nicely skewed. A worthy winner for me then, though I'd have been almost as happy if token jazz bands Polar Bear or Go Go Penguin took the prize.

Ian Parker
Merchandise - After The End (4AD)

Feeling like it might be the soundtrack to some yet-to-be-made film set in a 1980s high school, Merchandise's latest record is a stylish set of early indie and post-punk. It sounds lush, it feels perfectly assured and it has some cracking hooks that will get under your skin. I'd not really paid any attention to this Florida band before first hearing a track from this, but I'm rapidly making up ground now. 

Guy Atkinson
Crosses - Crosses (Sumerian)

Chino from Deftones turns his hand to gloomy electro pop with unsurprisingly ear-pleasing results.

Steve Pill
Spoon – They Want My Soul (Loma Vista)

I went to a wedding in upstate New York this summer. We travelled via Canada to get to the venue, which was set deep into the endless forests of the Catskills mountains. Guests were staying in a spooky old 20-bedroom house that used to be a dance school for young Jewish girls in the area. Surrounded by trees and hoisted half way up a hill it was beautifully picturesque by day and like something from the darkest recesses of Stephen King's imagination by night. Thankfully the ceremony was down by the lake and the subsequent party in a marquee on the lawn. There was a hugely accomplished covers band playing multiple sets but I was hooked on the music that the DJ, a brother-in-law of one of the grooms, was playing in between. Keen to avoid pestering him all night I took to Shazamming every second track and perhaps my favourite find of the evening was Spoon's 'Turn My Camera On'. I'd previously always pegged them as one of those overly literary bands, beloved of former Word readers, that prize arch lyrics over genuine emotion, to be filed alongside Elvis Costello, Felt or Magnetic Fields. On the dancefloor of that bizarre wedding in the woods, I realised how much I had underestimated them. Back in the UK, I tracked down the Spoon back catalogue and snapped up this, a distillation of everything that is great about their past four or so albums. It just goes to show that sometimes you find music in the strangest places and, on really rare occasions, you'd happily travel thousands of miles to unearth more of the same.


  1. The Mo (don't know how to do the whole nordic letter thing here) is a bit lovely. I'm investigating this further. we take it that this year's picks have been so distasteful to you that Guy's Album of the Day is a defunct award? And if so do i win this year's competition on account of having won one already?

  2. Guy's Track of the Day goes to Andrew.

  3. Sorry sir, I was meant to write there that I've been 'out of the game' for the past week or so but I'm firmly back now and have caught up. Guy's Track of the Day is back on track. I know the excitement is building to see which of you nine most closely shares your music taste with a man who still considers pop-punk a legitimate art form.