Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Twenty-Two

Gwilym's dad has the hot tips as we reach Day 22 of the Musical Advent Calendar and the podium section of our top 24s.

Andy Welch
Wolf Alice – My Love Is Cool (Dirty Hit)

British guitar music is pretty dire, let's face it. For every Maccabees and Foals, moving things on, there seems to be 10 Catfish And The Bottlemen, clinging on to the 90s like cultural limpets but crucially, forgetting to add anything of their own too. Just as looks as if the game is completely up, along come Wolf Alice, who show that there's life in the genre, providing your 90s record collection goes beyond Britpop and on to the likes of The Breeders and Pixies. It's another brilliantly produced record, too, polished and slick without being overly so. They might not have much competition at the moment, but this is Britain's best new band.

Rory Dollard
Bjork - Vulnicura (One Little Indian)

This is, quite simply, the best break-up space opera you'll ever hear. Increasingly, Bjork seems to be operating at one remove from the rest of us - re-entering our orbit every few years to scatter gems like this. This is sad and beautiful - good combo, that - and embraces her inherehent 'otherness' so organically that you wonder if it isn't you that is the alien.

Matt Collins
This is the Kit - Bashed Out (Brassland)

Surely one of the most underrated bands around, This is the Kit seem to be stuck on the support slots of bigger bands like the National. It would be nice to think that Bashed Out will change all that (though I’ve said that before), because it really is it a terrific collection of gentle tunes, lush vocals, and exactly the kind of music you would expect to see played on a boat as in the video here. 

Dom Farrell
Father John Misty - I Love You, Honeybear (Bella Union)

Given Josh Tillman’s stated ambition of writing “about love without bullshitting”, I Love You, Honeybear fulfils its brief in sparkling fashion. Befitting of a record that contains suggested listening settings for each song, complete with recommended hallucinogenics, it’s a bit crackers at times but this attention to detail extends to a magnificent collection of lyrics - touching and poignant one minute, scathing and hilarious the next. Love without the bullshit, indeed. However, Tillman could be reciting the phonebook against this impeccable musical backdrop and it would still be a captivating listen. 'Chateau Lobby #4' sounds like a great lost Glen Campbell track, launching the warts-and-all love story that “I Went To The Store One Day” closes in devastating style. 

Andrew Gwilym
Gretchen Peters – Blackbirds (Scarlet Letter)

Confession time. My Dad recommended this album to me. Elwyn Gwilym, man of the people, Twitter obsessive and a man who has professed a liking for Sheeran and Swift. He beat me to this one. He went on and on about this album so long I eventually caved and bought it. I’m glad I did. Peters has created a melancholy album, but one imbued with an infectious spirit.

John Skilbeck
Screaming Females - Rose Mountain (Don Giovanni Records)

Sixth album time for the New Jersey trio, and with Rose Mountain there were swift accusations levelled at Screaming Females that their sound had been smoothed down. Pitchfork reckoned it “lacks much of their former wildness”. And perhaps the talk was true. What they had returned with was a different, cleaner sound, allowing singer-guitarist Marissa Paternoster’s spectacular shredding to occupy greater prominence, and if that meant it came at the expense of a sound befitting a DIY aesthetic it did not dial down the level of the songwriting. 'Wishing Well' was triumphantly anthemic and contained a great whacking Paternoster guitar solo. Try on 'Hopeless', and its ghoulish video, for size.

Pranam Mavahalli
Julia Holter – Have you in My Wilderness (Domino)

At the time of writing, it looks like Julia Holter's album is making it to the top of a lot of end of year polls. I guess the critics got it right. The melodies are beautiful, the production is lush and the arrangements appeal to the jazzist in me. Really I'm not sure what's not to like in this album. 'Vasquez 'is my standout track. When the jazzy abstraction off the verses gently yet unexpectedly morph into the most beautiful of choruses, letting Holter's vocal soar over the strings, my eyes well up and I get goosepimples. Every fricking time. Isn't that what this whole music lark's about?

Ian Parker
Ryley Walker - Primrose Green (Dead Oceans) 

With a style that recalls greats like Tim Buckley and John Martyn, Ryley Walker creates records you can get lost in, and I've spent a good deal of 2015 with my head wandering across Primrose Green. Expanding his sound with an extensive cast of musicians, Walker pays homage to his heroes with a blissful mix of psych- and jazz-influenced folk, and in doing so makes a great record of his own. 

Guy Atkinson
Turnover – Peripheral Vision (Run For Cover Records)

Spearheaded by my favourite song of the year, ‘Cutting My Fingers Off’, this album took everything that was great about their debut and crystallised it into a woozy indie rock masterpiece.

Steve Pill
Jamie XX – In Colour (Young Turks)

A Jamie XX DJ set is normally a pretty full-on affair, mixing up garage anthems, electro re-edits, 1990s house and vintage soul into a celebratory, inclusive whole. His first album is an altogether different proposition however. This is proper head music, tracks designed for the imagination as much as the feet. He was apparently listening heavily to the first Walls album when he made this and a little of that sun-frazzled ambience has crept in here, aided and abetted by his trademark steel drums. In Colour is also surprisingly nostalgic for a record made by a guy in his early 20s. Tracks like 'Gosh' and 'I Know There's Gonna Be (Good Times)' feel like celebrations of a very specific time and place. There's something wistful about the production too. It often reminds me of that old REM lyric about being "alone in a crowded room". Several tracks feel as if the party is going on elsewhere, like the beats are being heard through a wall and over a wash of crowd noise and chatter, the first aural recreation of what it's like to be in the chill-out room at a big club night like Warehouse Project. It could so easily have been too cool and calculating, but the lyrics reveal this to be a very personal, honest and occasionally lonely paean to club culture.


  1. I've made a huge mistake. Today's choice was meant to be my number two, not three. Buffoon.

  2. We'll forgive you, Guy... If you confess that you're the closet T-swift fan.