Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Ten

Though Dollard is struggling in the deep end, Gwilym is on the safest ground he knows as we reveal our No. 15 albums behind Door Number Ten of the Musical Advent Calendar.  

Andy Welch
Blur – The Magic Whip (Parlophone)

Poor old Damon Albarn. If only everyone were as interested in his other projects as they are in Blur. If only his other projects were as good as Blur. Of course, this is no classic Blur album, but a second tier record from them is better than most other band's top drawer. Just imagine what would happen if Albarn would stop pretending he wasn't having much fun with his old mates and wrote some belters?

Rory Dollard
Holly Herndon - Platform (4AD)

I'm out of my depth here, no doubt about it. I've a vague idea what it takes to pick up a guitar and write a song, and a start point on how you'd go about recording it. As for the kind of micro-processed fuck-you electronia Holly Herndon's doing? I genuinely haven't a scoobie. It’s angular and aggressive and it bludgeons rather than tickles. It's sort of brilliant.

Matt Collins
The Charlatans - Modern Nature (BMG)

It's been a long time since The Charlatans came up with a really good album, and this isn't quite it. It is however a pretty good album and definitely a return to form.

Dom Farrell
Bop English - Constant Bop (Blood & Biscuits)

My list this year seems to be half made up of side projects - maybe concentrate on making your actual bands better, eh people? Not that you could ever accuse James Petralli from the excellent White Denim of shirking on the day job. Taking time away from almost certainly the world’s finest psychedelic Texan bar band, Petralli dresses his alter ego in a retro Admiral England football drill top (not metaphorically, check the promo pics) and throws up the effervescent melting pot that is Constant Bop. The range of styles here could easily jar but judicious songwriting and production, along with often unfettered joy, knit it all together wonderfully.

Andrew Gwilym
AC/DC – Rock or Bust (Columbia)

I made it clear in last year’s Advent Calendar that AC/DC would be on the 2015 list and here are the gods of antipodean rock. Let’s be honest, we all know AC/DC are not on this list due to artistic innovation, this mines the same ground as they have followed over the last 40 years. But, my, what gold they have produced in that time. I have loved AC/DC from the moment I first heard Back in Black and Highway to Hell and own every album, even the ropey mid 80’s efforts. That is to say this would have been on my list however good or bad an album Rock or Bust proved to be. Somehow, in the midst of losing Malcolm Young, the man who has been the foundation of their juggernaut sound, they have made a record worthy of a place in their discography. Angus Young delved into his brother’s list of riffs from the vaults and made it work. The title track and 'Play Ball' roar out of the speakers, while the likes of 'Rock n Roll Thunder' and 'Baptism By Fire' have that gloriously familiar swagger. Against all the odds, this is a winner.

John Skilbeck
Chvrches - Every Open Eye (Universal)

I didn’t know much of Chvrches at the start of the year. I don’t know much about Chvrches still now. I suppose I could wiki them, but what I do know is they sound bang at home among the best modern pop acts: Robyn, Tegan and Sara, Taylor Swift. That sort of company. They’ve got a song that sounds like 'Just Can’t Get Enough'. A few that bear a likeness to the Pet Shop Boys. What in the world is not to like?

Pranam Mavahalli
R Seiliog – In Hz (Caroline)

I've been interested in R Seiliog's synth-based music for a while. He's wandered from analog experimentation to kraut rock and has now ended up producing a wonky, psyche-tinged version of techno that appeals to my tendency to want to throw my hands in the air and prance around like a tosspot. There's life in the 4/4 kick drum yet.

Ian Parker
Leon Bridges - Coming Home (Columbia)

I've spent a lot of time over the years of the Advent Calendar writing about how I don't really care too much when records are criticised for being 'retro' or whatever. If it's a decent record, it's a decent record. So let's say it one final time*

*Double-checks rest of top 24 to make sure it won't need saying again.

Guy Atkinson
Turnstile – Nonstop Feeling (Reaper Records)

Hitting the sweet spot between Rage Against the Machine and Black Flag, this evokes memories of why I fell in love with chunky riffs in the first place.

Steve Pill
Destroyer – Poison Season (Dead Oceans)

Oh, this is joyous. The triumphant Springsteen horns of 'Dream Lover', the sassy 'Young Americans' shuffle of 'Times Square', the incredibly arch lyrics from start to finish… Not to mention the sheer ballsiness that comes from writing a theme to your own album that repeats several times throughout the duration in different orchestral arrangements and backs up Dan Bejar’s aim to create a “grand cinematic set of songs”. He occasionally sings like a Canadian Neil Tennant and gets a little too jazz-hands theatrical for his own good, but in general this is charming baroque pop music of the highest order.


  1. To celebrate this incredibly Gwilym move I'm currently enjoying a daytime pint.

  2. You can all relax - Guy's Track of the Day is back. I've been back through the days I missed and handed out the gong. It's mainly to you, John. As it is today as well.

  3. Maybe if Guy didn't snub my picks every single day, every single year, this wouldn't be the last Advent Calendar. I just can't take it any more...