Wednesday, December 02, 2015

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Two

Now we can put all that over-sentimentality about it being the final Musical Advent Calendar to one side - at least until December 24 - let's push on as we reveal our No. 23 albums of the year. Rory marks the occasion by pining for some guy no one else remembers - apparently goes by the name of Ali or something, Dom forms a circle and invites us all to sing kumbayah, while Pranam brings us this Advent Calendar's first Marmite reference. We're sure it won't be the last.

Andy Welch

Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds – Chasing Yesterday (Sour Mash Records)

When Noel Gallagher announced his debut solo album, he also announced a second album made with Amorphous Androgynous that would come out at some point during 2012. Based on remixes AA had done for Oasis, and Gallagher's dabbling with that particular strand of psychedelia, it was infinitely more exciting than that enjoyable, yet meat-and-potatoes debut. Unfortunately it never came to pass, Gallagher saying it just wasn't up to scratch, and while his puzzling refusal to finish it is frustrating, we have at least heard glimpses. There was 'Shoot A Hole Into The Sun', a B-side, and one or two moments on Chasing Yesterday which elevate it to a record I've really enjoyed in the past year to what I think it one of the year's best. 'Riverman', 'The Dying Of The Light' and, best of all, 'The Right Stuff', are some of the best tracks Gallagher has been involved with. They almost make up for the album he apparently deleted.

Rory Dollard
Eskimeaux - OK (Double Double Whammy)

'Broken Necks' is a beaut. I know we're early in the game but go on, give it a listen. It's what people who know about this stuff call a perfect three-minute pop song. There's one or two others cut from the same cloth on here too, in the vein of the Concretes, or Camera Obscura. I tell you who might like it, Ali Mason. Remember him? That bloke who voted for tea (nice move), Eliza Doolittle (preposterous) and, dunno, probably Laura Marling loads of times. WHERE ARE YOU ALI? WHY DO YOU NEVER STOP BY HERE? MAYBE TO SAY GUY'S SELECTIONS HAVE PROMPTED YOU TO REVISE ALL YOUR MUSICAL TENETS. ANYTHING.

Matt Collins
The Unthanks - Mount the Air (Cadiz Music)

The Unthanks have to be one of the best groups of musicians around. Their unique take on North East folk combines beautifully with a gentle melancholy and lush instrumental classical instruments on this album, better than ever.

Dom Farrell
New Order - Music Complete (Mute)

'Restless', the opening track and lead single on Music Complete, could very well be called 'Fed-up, Tired and Grumpy In Late Middle Age' given the weariness in Bernard Sumner’s ever dulcet tones. This much might be expected from a man embroiled in an unseemly spat with his arch musical ally of 40 years that would, frankly, be unbecoming of people 40 years younger. The ghost of Peter Hook is felt on this record. A handful of times you find yourself checking over your shoulder to see exactly when the rumbling, rocksteady bass line will arrive. Alas, it never does. But there remains plenty to enjoy, as New Order sans-Hook turn relocate their Ibiza-era handbook, with Chemical Brother Tom Rolands adding some extra production muscle. As ever, Sumner’s unfailing melodic brilliance bails out his often sub-sixth form poetry lyrics. A flawed but worthy return. Now, can’t everyone just be friends?

Andrew Gwilym
Neil Young and The Promise of the Real - The Monsanto Years (Reprise)

God bless Neil Young. He is unstoppable. If he fancies recording an album in a contraption resembling a telephone box, he will. If he wants to make an album with an orchestra, you better believe it is happening. If he wants to date Daryl Hannah, you won't be stopping him. So an album of songs about GM crops should come as no surprise. But what makes this, and most Neil releases, so compelling is the fire and passion that drives them. You can hear and feel Young's anger and depth of feeling on a subject close to his heart. He burns with a thrilling righteous rage, making for a thrilling righteous record.

John Skilbeck
Childbirth - Women’s Rights (Suicide Squeeze)

This is a hoot. Childbirth, seventh on my list last year with the cassette-only It’s A Girl album, rattled out a second brilliantly deadpan LP of super-brief sling-shots that more often than not hit their intended target.

Pranam Mavahalli
Holly Herndon - Platform (4AD)

Do you believe in opposites? Is there such a thing as black and white? Are logic and creativity different things? Is the left brain separate from the right brain? If there's such a thing as 'good' then is there such a thing as 'evil'? Do you love Marmite? Do you hate it? Perhaps Holly Herndon's album is a little like Marmite. Its fusion of synthesised sounds and human voice might not be to everyone's taste. But the music here's often thrilling, it's never less than interesting, and at times it's downright baffling. So I guess I like this because I'd much rather be challenged by a piece of music than hear something that's familiar. A very current and forward-looking take on the dichotomy (if there is one) between humans and machines.

Ian Parker
Paul Weller - Saturns Pattern (Parlophone)

The Modfather has been on a fantastic musical journey these past few years, with 2008's 22 Dreams heralding a new, more experimental phase of his solo career which saw him reaching back to the Style Council and infusing his songs with an array of fresh sounds. There have been some thrilling results, but I've never really gelled with any of those records the way I did with the likes of the great Stanley Road. If anything, Saturns Pattern takes a slight step back with its sonics, but maybe that's why I've found it easier to settle in to its groove, turning to it again and again this year.

Guy Atkinson
Annabel – Having it All (Tiny Engines)

The ‘emo revival’ (it never went away for this punter) continued apace in 2015, with this rousing record one that kept me coming back for more.

Steve Pill
Ryan Adams – 1989 (Pax-Am)

When 1989 dropped, you couldn't move for think pieces about the rightness of it all, ones that generally concluded that Adams was batshit crazy and Taylor Swift was the new messiah (I'm paraphrasing here). Ignore the songwriting credits, focus on the performances and this is the best thing Adams has recorded since the 14-minute, 11-song Replacements pastiche 1984 and the most heartfelt set since god knows when. Adams may not have written the songs himself but heartbreak really brings out the best in the guy and there is a delicious irony to the fact that he ended a marriage to one American girl-next-door popstar and found solace in the lyrics of another. Listen without prejudice to 'Blank Space' or 'Welcome to New York' and the emotion is clearly raw. What could have been an extended episode of BBC's Live Lounge becomes something altogether more fascinating, while its length acts as a mark of its sincerity. For the first time in over a decade, I'm awaiting his next set of originals with real anticipation.


  1. Neil Young, Noel G, Ryan Adams, Wilco, Sufjan, New Order, Sun Kil Moon, Paul Weller.
    Panel taking out a series of big names in the first two days. Slaughtering sacred cows early doors...interesting

  2. And this after Steve unceremoniously announced perennial overall winner Laura Marling wasn't going to make it at all...

  3. Guy's Track of the Day goes to Childbirth.

  4. The Holly Herndon record is one I bought, listened to once, and retired to the shelves. Need to play it again after Pranam's reminder.
    Also, I'm quietly confident my early run of tracks of the day will be ended on Thursday. Come on Guy, give someone else's picks your love.

  5. I'll admit I found it very confusing at first John, but perseverance definitely paid off.