Tuesday, December 08, 2015

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Eight

It's door eight of the Musical Advent Calendar, and Matt finds a way to shoe-horn in his love for Bananarama, Dom does his impression of a snake, while Rory won't want this review on his resume next time he's seeking a small business loan. Or something. I know nothing about The Apprentice. Let's crack on with our No. 17 albums of the year.  

Andy Welch
Ryley Walker – Primrose Green (Dead Oceans)

Can't imagine I'll be the only person here to have fallen for Ryley Walker's Primrose Green this year. It's no accident that it sounds like a long-lost classic, the production is just so, but the execution is so wonderful I just don't have the energy to be cynical about it. There are shades of John Martyn, Pentangle and Nick Drake, even Van Morrison's Astral Weeks. Calculated, maybe, but a joy from start to finish.

Rory Dollard
Nadine Shah - Fast Food (Apollo Records)

I'm watching The Apprentice while I do these next batch of reviews so apologies if I slip into talking about Nadine Shah's 'transferable skills' or her 'multi-platform leadership approach', it's just Karen Brady talking. Back in the real world this is a fascinating little oddity. It's tedious to cite PJ Harvey when talking about this album, but it's also kinda true and - by the way - who's going to mind being compared to the deified Polly? There's little smackerels of excitement marbelled throughout the record, if not a fully realised vision. She's got a consensus-forming Ragged Glories No.1 album in her, I'm sure, but we'll never find out.

Matt Collins
Wolf Alice - My Love is Cool (Dirty Hit)

This band are a vision of if Bananarama had picked up guitars instead of microphones, and sung about sad stuff instead of happy. Beautifully echoey rock guitars and top melodies to boot. 

Dom Farrell
Jessica Pratt - On Your Own Love Again (Drag City)

Hssssssssss. There it goes, all the way through On Your Own Love Again. Lovely, lovely vintage recording hiss. It’s just one of many utterly charming features to a compelling record that rewards repeat listens. I’ve definitely put it far too low down here. The influence of Arthur Lee shines through, even so far as the album title gently aping the genial LA outsider’s seminal 'Alone Again Or', but Pratt has crafted a delicate, haunting palette that is very much her own.

Andrew Gwilym
Tallest Man on Earth – Dark Bird is Home (Dead Oceans)

Kristian Matsson first caught my attention when he appeared on Later with Jools Holland, stunning all and sundry as he duckwalked his way through 'King of Spain'. There was a distinct hint of early Dylan there, plus elements of Jackson Browne and James Taylor in there. But, like Dylan before him, Matsson has decided to expand from the limitations of guitar and voice and branches out here with a band. That’s not to say the songwriting has changed, these songs would have fit perfectly into the format of albums like The Wild Hunt. But the expanded sound works, with brass, electric guitar and keyboards adding a pleasing depth. In places this almost sounds like Tom Petty, like on the wonderful track ‘Sagres’ and Mattson is going to be a man to keep an eye on as his desire to tinker with his sound follows new paths.

John Skilbeck
The Cribs - For All My Sisters (Sony RED)

Combustible, cockeyed guitar pop flowed throughout the sixth album from The Cribs. Ric Ocasek, frontman of The Cars, produced the record. It’s probably their best since the S/T debut. But if you weren't won over by any of the first five, I’ll understand if you pass.

Pranam Mavahalli
Boxed In – Boxed In (Nettwerk)

Last year I was subjected to a bout of abuse for including an album in my list by a band that I'd recently joined. I learnt my lesson. So let me get my interests out of the way here first. I'm not in Boxed In, but I did once crash at Oli Bayston's flat, and we have a few mutual friends. But before you start criticising me for nepotism, or worse still name-dropping – this album makes my list solely for the merits of the music. There's a lot of great songwriting here, and there are more killer tracks than you'd normally expect from a debut album. Oli's background in production shows in the warmth he gets from the minimal instrumentation. The melodies are great, the hat-tips to krautrock and house music very welcome, and there's variety enough to suggest the next album could go in a number of directions. Well worth checking out.

Ian Parker
Smoke Fairies - Wild Winter (Full Time Hobby)

If you’d asked me a couple of years ago which bands I most wanted to hear tackle a Christmas record, the Smoke Fairies would have been top of the list. There has always been something about their beautiful, ethereal music which sounds better in the winter, so who better to offer an antidote to all that chintz playing down at the shops? Wild Winter does not disappoint, and goes to prove that if there are no jingling bells, and no corny lyrics, there is also no need to stash a Christmas record away for 11 months of the year.

Guy Atkinson
Title Fight – Hyperview (Anti-)

It was never going to be easy to follow up on stone cold modern classic, Floral Green, and while this doesn’t come close, it’s a solid enough collection of woozy, alt-rock to cements Title Fight’s position as one of the more interesting bands to come out of the American punk scene in the last 10 years. 

Steve Pill
Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment – Surf (Self-released)

For the first year in a long while, there were a number of decent hip hop-indebted albums released that could have made my list. I loved the P-Funk freakiness of Kendrick Lamar but it was ultimately a bit potty-mouthed for me; Roots Manuva made a strong comeback assisted by Four Tet’s Kieran Hebden; Paul White marshalled Eric Biddines into some crazy Southern-fried Outkast-style madness on Golden Rules’ Golden Ticket; and Young Fathers brought an alt-rock sensibility to second album, White Men Are Black Men TooPick of the bunch was the free-to-download, self-released Surf, made by Chance the Rapper’s touring band and featuring said MC all over the golden harmonies and horn-driven backing. At times, the sheer musicality of the project feels a little overwhelming in the same way that The Avalanches debut album did, as all genres are covered, flipped over and stirred into the mix. The real standout – and one of my tracks of the year – is the awesomely laidback 'Sunday Candy' that bounces along on a bright single-finger piano riff and will file alongside The Pharcyde, De La Soul and Talib Kweli’s 'Get By' for a real mood booster.

1 comment:

  1. Guy's Track of the Day goes to Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment.