Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Nineteen

Here, only slightly breathlessly, is Door 19 of the Musical Advent Calendar. We weren't sure this one was going to happen - between numerous IT issues (enjoy the oversized pictures - they just refuse to shrink) and a review which so completely missed the deadline I got it, uhm, 45 minutes ago (the writer shall remain nameless) this one could have had more holes in it than the Led Zeppelin III cover, but here we are...

It was only a matter of time but today, Gwilym reveals himself to be a total hipster, Pranam surrenders himself to the whims of fashion, and Steve admits to some mild sentimentality. Will wonder never cease as we reveal our No. 6 albums of the year? 

Andy Welch
New Order – Music Complete (Mute)

Their best album since 1989's Technique, New Order sound fresh and invigorated after a taking taking a good deal of time away from the studio in the earlier part of the 2000s. Perhaps it's shedding Peter Hook? Maybe his stories about the Hacienda became too boring even for them? Whatever the reason - and let's faces if, it probably is getting rid Hook's seemingly negative influence - it's great to have New Order sounding so vital again.

Rory Dollard
Ibeyi - Ibeyi (XL)

An intermittently gasp-inducing debut album. It's hard to credit that twins Naomi and Lisa-Kainde Diaz were 20 when they dropped this genre-hopping, disorientating effort in February. It's staggeringly mature, and gives rein to all of the Parisian, Cuban and Nigerian influences that contribute to a storied upbringing. It's a melting pot of sounds and styles but always underpinned by an eerie pop sensibility.

Matt Collins
Everything Everything - Get to Heaven (RCA)

Did you know that Everything Everything were named after the first two words you can hear on their beloved Radiohead’s Kid A album?. I think that's kind of interesting. The third album by one of the most unique sounding bands of the last five years or so is apparently a little bit darker at lyrically, dealing with topics of impending World War as it does. All the Everything Everything ingredients are there though - the incredible falsetto, the inventive but undoubtedly pop song structures and of course top top tunes. 

Dom Farrell
Laura Marling - Short Movie (Virgin)

A step down in quality from 2013’s stupendous-to-the-point-of-just-bloody-showling-off Once I Was An Eagle, this is still another fine album from a prolific artist seemingly incapable of anything else. Sonically, Short Movie is Laura going electric and wearing a US jaunt of self-discovery on her sleeve. Beneath an altogether louder approach musically is her most vulnerable lyrical persona to date - not quite as strident, touches of regret and acceptance. Another fascinating and rewarding chapter in a truly marvellous career.

Andrew Gwilym
Sleater-Kinney – No More Cities to Love (Sub Pop)

I am sure no member of the Advent Calendar panel would readily admit they made a purchase because of the hype around an album. But that is exactly what I did when buying Sleater-Kinney’s No Cities to Love and I’m pretty pleased with how that worked out. Their first album in a decade won rave reviews and it’s easy to see why. Angular, taught, edgy and fiery. As bracing and brilliant as any rock record this year.

John Skilbeck
Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat - The Most Important Place In The World (Chemikal Underground)

These two sons of Falkirk, Wells the jazz maestro and Moffat the gruff, boozy bard, were an artistic collision waiting to happen. Moffat develops a persona - he denies it is autobiographical - of a seedy yet sage heartbreaker-cum-homemaker. On a darkly delicious second LP from what one hopes will be a long-lasting partnership, he growls world-weary, sharp-witted tales of fear and loathing in Glas Vegas, set to a sumptuous Wells soundtrack.

Pranam Mavahalli
Alabama Shakes – Sound and Color (Rough Trade)

Certainly not an album I would have expected to have been quite so high on my list at the start of the year – but dammit, I can't stop listening to it. Warm sounding, beautifully recorded, and with some angular arrangements, it's an album I've returned to regularly since it was released.

Ian Parker
Courtney Barnett - Sometimes I Sit and Thing, Sometimes I Just Sit (Marathon)

It took the last Advent Calendar, and Skillers' planned nomination of A Sea of Split Peas (not actually included in the end - which may have been my fault for telling him it wasn't eligible as a compilation of prior EPs), to turn me on to Courtney's work, but just when I wondered if I'd kind of grown out of indie, a time when I figured I only bought such records as reissues to remember a time that had past, Sometimes I Sit.... came along to remind how bloody brilliant this sort of thing sounds when it's done right. Thank you, Courtney. 

Guy Atkinson
Joanna Gruesome – Peanut Butter (Fortuna POP!)

Dismissed by this punter as hipster nonsense, largely in part to their name, this album proved that I know nothing. Beautifully brief, fuzzy indie pop with tunes the size of mastodons.

Steve Pill
Jim O'Rourke – Simple Songs (Drag City)

While writing 24 reviews every November without getting paid does occasionally feel like madness for a jobbing writer, there are many things I am going to miss about doing this annual festive rundown, including Guy’s ability to choose 24 bands I have literally never heard of, Pranam’s ability to choose 24 albums I wish I’d picked, and those satisfying moments when you first hear an album in May and say to yourself: “I reckon this will definitely be a top five contender…” Simple Songs opener 'Friends With Benefits' did just that to me earlier this year. It’s got that whole kinda regal 1970s singer-songwriter thing going on, funky like JJ Cale, clever like Randy Newman, swoony like, well, Jim O’Rourke. To have these songwriting chops and be able to pick and choose when to switch them on to create a full-blown, AM radio masterpiece like this and when to burrow down into exploratory late night experimental collaborative jam sessions like everything else he’s released for the last few years is quite frankly ridiculously to me. The man is a bona fide talent and this is his most listenable, heartwarming album ever.

1 comment:

  1. I'm going to miss the calendar for all those reasons above and more Steve. Hats off also for choosing an album that should have been on my list too.

    Oh and I really should give that Ibeyi album a listen, a$ap...