Friday, December 11, 2015

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Eleven

Our No. 14 albums of the year come with a content warning. Cupcakes are involved. 

Andy Welch
Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, Sometimes I Just Sit (Marathon)

Like her early EPs, Courtney Barnett's debut is full of nods to Pavement and Mudhoney, but I was amazed to hear the likes of Sleeper and Elastica as influences. And being a big fan of Sleeper and Elastica, very pleased. Brilliant lyrics too.

Rory Dollard
Jenny Hval - Apocalypse Girl (Jenny Hval Music)

"What is soft dick rock?" asks Hval, Norway's arch provocateur.
"I place four big bananas in my lap," she says.
What now? "I beckon the cupcake, the huge capitalist clit."

And that's just on 'Kingsize', the first song here. She's utterly mental, completely obtuse, wilfully indulgent. And none of that’s bad.

Matt Collins
Black Rivers - Black Rivers (Ignition)

Formed out of the ashes of Doves while Jimi Goodwin pursues his solo career. And like Jimi, you can tell exactly what band Black Rivers came from. Trying to sound like a rockier, faster early Doves is no bad thing mind you, although lyrics are pretty patchy in most places. A handy stopgap until the inevitable Doves reunion. 

Dom Farrell
Destroyer - Poison Season (Merge)

I’m still wrestling with whether Poison Season sounds like Lou Reed doing Bruce Springsteen or Bruce Springsteen doing Lou Reed. Either way, what’s not to like? Similarly, if you’re going to spend four years between albums, you might as well put together magical, Sinatra-style sweeping string arrangements to embellish much of the eventual offering. Dan Bejar can sometimes tie himself in knots with his restless invention but there are more hits than misses on the whole.

Andrew Gwilym
Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free (Southeastern)

Jason Isbell’s Southeastern was a brilliant but unexpected success for a songwriter who had struggled to top his Drive-By Truckers output as a solo artist. His records with the 400 Unit were enjoyable, heck they were the work of a fine craftsman, but there was something missing. Isbell found the answer when he stripped everything back to the bare bones and laid out his personal demons. Something More Than Free is a less cathartic experience, you wouldn’t want Isbell to put himself through those experience every time he made an album, but he has recognised the strengths of stripping things back and this is a sign of real content and ease here. Opener 'If It Takes a Lifetime' is a pleasing stomp, while '24 Frames' is a cold reflection on self-destruction. 'Children of Children' showcases Isbell’s guitar hero abilities, recalling Neil Young, while 'To a Band That I Loved' perfectly rounds off another strong set from the former Trucker.

John Skilbeck
Hurry Up - Hurry Up (Army Of Bad Luck)

Hurry Up are Maggie Vail of Bangs and Westin and Kathy from The Thermals. They stuck out 500 or so LPs over the summer on a tiny label, that sounded at times like their respective other bands and at other times like the Stooges. They’ve each got bigger things going on, this was a side project, made for the love of making and playing music, and boy did that shine through.

Pranam Mavahalli
Mbongwana Star – From Kinshasa (World Circuit)

Introduced to me by a friend, I first listened to this album with no knowledge of who the band are nor where they come from. I urge you to do the same. Mixing traditional African music with blues and electronics, it sounded to me neither like music from the past nor music from the future, but like something that mixes the two. Dense, ambitious, experimental, it reveals more layers with every listen.

Ian Parker
Richard Hawley - Hollow Meadows (Parlophone)

Gone are the loud guitars and feedback squalls of Standing At The Sky’s Edge as Hawley returns to more familiar ground, and right away it's both effortless and wonderful. But he's not left all of that big noise behind, and makes sure things don't become too one-paced by occasionally unleashing the likes of 'Heart of Oak' and 'Which Way'. 

Guy Atkinson
Wavves/Cloud Nothings – No Life for Me (Ghost Ramp)

Okay, it’s not as good as Cloud Nothings’ Here and Nowhere Else, but then little has been over the past five years. Scuzzy, lo-fi indie pop that acted as a more than adequate stop-gap before the band’s next full-length.

Steve Pill
Bill Ryder-Jones – West Kirby County Primary (Domino)

From The La's to Shack to the Coral themselves, there is a rather under-appreciated strand of stoned Scouse melancholy that ties together many of Merseyside's finest albums. In the case of ex-Coraller Bill Ryder-Jones, I’ve previously thought he sounded a bit too half-arsed to join that elite Liverpudlian hall of fame, but West Kirby County Primary is the point at which he joins that elite and nails his heart to the mast - and the map. So specific are the locations and situations that they somehow unlock universal feelings, be it a wistful one-way bus ride to Birkenhead or worrying about waking the neighbour who works nights. Musically things are stronger too, with a woozy Pavement-esque fuzz to several of the best tracks. Maybe it’s the influence of touring with the Arctic Monkeys that has caused Ryder-Jones to up his game? Whatever the reasons, this is something special.

1 comment:

  1. Guy's Track of the Day goes to Courtney Barnett.