Saturday, December 05, 2015

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Five

Day five of the Musical Advent Calendar sees Skillers reveal himself to be a Desperate Journalist. Wait. What's that, Skillers? Oh. A Desperate Journalist fan. Our mistake... Here are our No. 20 albums of the year. 

Andy Welch
The Charlatans - Modern Nature (BMG)

Enough has been written about The Charlatans terrible fortunes over the years, and the way they've always bounced back, without me adding to it. But just as they returned after Rob Collins' death with the brilliant Tellin' Stories, this return to form came after Jon Brookes' premature passing. The background is one thing, the songs are another, which, regardless of the circumstances in which they were written, are among the best in the band's already spectacular career.

Rory Dollard
Jessica Pratt - On Your Own, Love Again (Drag City)

A delicate, highly-strung slice of American folk that could have landed at any point from 1960 onwards. Some are sure to be put off by Pratt's stylised vocals, but those left standing should find plenty to unpack in this densely-woven nine-song set.

Matt Collins
SOAK - Before We Forgot How to Dream (Rough Trade)

SOAK sound a lot like Daughter, which is probably the main reason I love them. Delicately picked acoustic guitars, echoey electric guitars, scared and mournful songs of love lost. All in that slightly throaty tone that is de rigeur at the moment.

Dom Farrell
Leon Bridges - Coming Home (Columbia)

From the heavy Sam Cooke stylings to the vintage clothing and recording equipment, it would be easy for Coming Home to fall on its face in a fashion befitting of some risible, pastiche farce. Thankfully, it’s largely executed with a joyful brilliance. Fine songs just about withstand the historical weight attached to them. Just tremendous, wonderful fun.

Andrew Gwilym
Modest Mouse - Strangers to Ourselves (Colombia)

There were times over the last eight years where you wondered what on earth had happened to Modest Mouse. We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank and Good News for People Who Love Bad News had marked them out as an innovative, eccentric and intriguing. Then, they disappeared. Isaac Brock talked about making an album with Big Boi, but didn't. Guitar-for-hire Johnny Marr got bored of waiting and released two solo albums. The longer the wait, the more difficult to meet expectations and so it proves with Strangers to Ourselves. This is a fine record, but it is more a case of individual songs standing out than this being a cohesive work. Not that it doesn't make for a compelling listen, particularly on 'Shit In Your Cut' and 'The Tortoise and the Tourist'.

John Skilbeck
Desperate Journalist - Desperate Journalist (Fierce Panda)

This curiously slid from number five to number 20 in the course of an evening’s deliberation. Reminds me of the wonderful The Organ. I liked this album a lot, its freshness and vigour enough to challenge the sense it had been all done before.

Pranam Mavahalli
Kamasi Washington – The Epic (Brainfeeder)

I'm a worrier. And one of the things I worry about is the effect of mobiles and devices on my concentration-span. To remedy this, last year I decided to read some VERY LONG BOOKS, in an effort to prove to myself that I can think with sustained effort if I needed to. At times this felt like an ordeal (I didn't enjoy Parade's End at all), but then in other cases it was a complete joy (Anna Karenina/Moby Dick). Which brings me to the debut three-hour long, triple album that is Kamasi Washington's The Epic. Yes it looks daunting. Yes you might not think you have the time. And yes, it's jazz. But don't let that put you off. There's lots to appreciate here, the band backed by choir often swell to, well, epic proportions, and if it lags at times you know there's another moment around the corner that will make up for it.

Ian Parker
The Arcs - Yours, Dreamily (Nonesuch)

What to do when your drummer has broken his leg (particularly when, you know, your drummer is the only other guy in your band)? Why not form a new one and bash out a record in a couple of weeks? The Arcs don't sound a million miles off recent Black Keys records, but the idea is not to make a Black Keys record, and Auerbach has also brought in a bunch of Daptone regulars (we already touched upon how great Daptone can be) to send this in a more soulful direction. The results are exactly what a side-project should be - a whole heap of fun. 

Guy Atkinson
Toundra – IV (Superball Music)

As has been the case for the last five years or so, one genre has dominated my listening again this year: post-rock. I don’t remember where I first heard about this Madrid-based band, but I do remember the flight back from Spain earlier this year, where this crushing album served as the perfect soundtrack.

Steve Pill
Songhoy Blues – Music in Exile (Transgressive)

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs guitarist Nick Zinner was an unlikely choice to produce this debut by Songhoy Blues, a Mali blues band he discovered during one of Damon Albarn's excursion to West Africa.
In the nicest possible way, his presence can barely be felt on Music in Exile beyond the odd fuzzy guitar line and a decidedly New York-style break in Irganda. From their message to their sound, Songhoy Blues sound startlingly cohesive, as if the band were simply recorded live in a room, and all the better for it. Highlights include 'Jolie', which echoes the groove from Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's Massive Attack-assisted 'Mustt Mustt' as if played around a campfire at 3am, and the awesome 'Desert Melodie', the most intricate, rousing and downright fun slice of African desert blues since Amadou & Mariam's 'Wati'.

1 comment:

  1. This is getting embarrassing, John. Guy's Track of the Day goes to Desperate Journalist.