Monday, December 14, 2015

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Fourteen

Andy explains why his pick belongs to a genre which doesn't exist, Dollard laments a properly pants stage name, and Pranam explains Kendrick Lamar through the medium of 'The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll'. Here are our No. 11 albums of the year.

Andy Welch
Pond – Man It Feels Like Space Again (Universal)

Whether there's such a thing as the Australian psych scene or not – and Tame Impala's Kevin Parker says it's cobblers – there's certainly a lot of great psych coming out of Australia. Pond's sixth record is every bit as exploratory and inventive as their others, and makes their standing as some sort of Tame Impala side-project seem all the more unfair. It's a hugely indulgent record, but then all the best psych records are.

Rory Dollard
Tallest Man on Earth - Dark Bird is Home (Dead Oceans)

If there's one problem with this guy it's his stage name. Rubbish. If there's another it's just how easy he makes this stuff seem. It's a little known fact that the biggest pollutant in the developed world is boring bastards with acoustic guitars and well-worn rhyming dictionaries. So much so it's actually incredibly hard to make that blueprint even remotely plausible. Kristian Matsson (let's call him that from now on, ay?) does it with ebullient ease, with a great voice and an instinctive style that mocks the bedwetters and the buskers.

Matt Collins
Gaz Coombes - Matador (Hot Fruit)

Supergrass were everyone’s second favourite band. And now Gaz Coombes is officially a solo artist, we can all discover what he’d have liked Supergrass to sound like all this time. The answer is less Caught by the Fuzz, and more their serious moments like 'Late in the Day'. A great songwriter might just have extended his career by another 20 years.

Dom Farrell
Django Django - Born Under Saturn (Because Music)

The infectious surf guitars and hypnotic beats of Django Django’s debut clatter a committed path towards the dancefloor on 'Born Under Saturn' - something underlined by a ferocious live show that packs a considerable and unexpected punch. On record, it’s exciting to hear a band two records in who seem to have honed a sound that is so demonstrably their own. Absolutely comfortable in their own skin so you can shake yours about the place good and proper.

Andrew Gwilym
My Morning Jacket - The Waterfall (ATO)

At their best My Morning Jacket always exuded a certain warmth, no matter how weird things got. Z, their best record, managed the feat of experimenting with their country-rock sound without the electronic ambient sounding cold. On Evil Urges and Circuital, some of that warmth was lost. For a band who sound remarkable when cutting loose on stage, MMJ almost sounded clinical. Here, the warmth is evident again. Opener 'Believe' and 'In Its Infancy' stretch out, while 'Get the Point' includes wonderful tender vocals from Jim James, who is on superb form throughout. It’s the sound of a great band getting back on track and stepping up the quality control.

John Skilbeck
Shopping - Why Choose (Fat Cat)

Maybe you never liked the Slits. Maybe Delta 5 left your feet motionless. Maybe subtly politicised post-punk just isn’t your thing. Maybe Shopping aren’t selling anything you’d buy. And that’s fine, it’s a niche commodity they trade in; the world would be a peculiar place if we were all, in 2015, shuffling to a death-disco, two-tone beat. Why Choose was a twitchy, at-times unnerving but always fabulously frisky LP. It was not entirely original, but its unrelenting energy and propulsion made it stand out from the crowd.

Pranam Mavahalli
Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly (Polydor)

“Oh but you who philosophise, disgrace and criticise all fears / Take the rag away from your face / Now ain’t the time for your tears”. Hearing 'The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll' changed me from someone who had a passing interest in Bob Dylan to an embarrassing fangirl of the guy. I think it was the fact that the song was grounded on reality that did it. That and the way Dylan repeats the line above after each verse, but then modifies it slightly to devastatingly emotional effect in the final verse. Similarly, it was on hearing 'The Blacker the Berry' that I truly got Kendrick Lamaar. A song that takes the politically charged true events of the Trayvon Martin case as a starting point, but uses them to talk about black youth culture to powerful effect. And like Dylan, the last line of Kendrick's song carries a twist that gives the rest of the song greater meaning. Incredibly stirring stuff.

Ian Parker
Admiral Fallow - Tiny Rewards (Nettwerk)

Any time a band says they’ve completely ripped up their formula and started over, alarm bells go off for fans everywhere. So imagine the panic when Admiral Fallow, they of the rich but subtle blend of traditional instrumentation, said they'd had ditched the acoustic guitars in favour of loops, effects and, uhm, “big disco party sections”. But Tiny Rewards remains unmistakably an Admiral Fallow record, and another rather brilliant one too. Yes, they use lots of loops. Yes, they use lots of effects. The big brooding sound of ‘Happened In The Fall’, the endless loops on ‘Holding The Strings’ and driving rhythms of ‘Some Kind of Life’ – this is stuff you have never heard the likes of before from Admiral Fallow. But no, they have not lost any of their charm. 

Guy Atkinson
Lights & Motion – Chronicle (Deep Elm)

Just beautiful, cinematic post-rock. Music to soundtrack the end of the world.

Steve Pill
Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit (Marathon)

Much has been made of Barnett belonging to some sort of sun-bleached college rock lineage that a heartbreaking cover of the Lemonheads' 'Being Around' only further emphasised. To my mind, this is pure stoner Britpop though - a slacker Sleeper or loose Elastica, if you will. Listen to the bored female vocals, melodic bass lines and skronky chords of 'Pedestrian At Best' or 'Elevator Operator' and you can half imagine it's being played live on Big Breakfast circa 1995. What elevates this is Barnett's Sahara dry, self-deprecating wit in lines like "Put me on a pedestal and I'll only disappoint you" or the topical ennui of 'Depreston''s tale of house price woes: "We don't need to be around all those coffee shops... I'm saving $23 a week". While Wener, Frischmann and co. were often flirty and sex-obsessed, Barnett has a matey charm that is clever, winning and just a little shambolic.

1 comment:

  1. Guy's Track of the Day goes to Shopping.