Q Awards 2014

A few weeks ago, we ran through all the “shortlist” for the 2014 Xperia Access Q Awards (for that is what they are apparently now called), and last week the ceremony took place, with Jimmy Carr presenting, and upsetting Daily Mail readers for making slightly off-colour jokes in the process.

The winners were as follows:

Q Best New Act presented by Xperia Access

  • Ella Eyre
  • George Ezra
  • The Fat White Family
  • FKA Twigs
  • Hozier
  • London Grammar
  • The 1975
  • Royal Blood
  • Sam Smith
  • Temples

Winner: Sam Smith.

Q Best Track presented by Absolute Radio

  • Kaiser Chiefs – Coming Home
  • Kasabian – Eez-eh
  • Lorde – Royals
  • Paolo Nutini – Iron Sky
  • Sam Smith – Stay with Me

Winner: Paolo Nutini.

Q Best Video

  • Arctic Monkeys – Arabella
  • Coldplay – Magic
  • Elbow – New York Morning
  • Paloma Faith – Only Love Can Hurt Like This
  • Jamie xx – Sleep Sound

Winner: Jamie xx.

Q Best Album presented by RAYMOND WEIL

  • Damon Albarn – Everyday Robots
  • The Black Keys – Turn Blue
  • Elbow – The Take Off and Landing of Everything
  • Kasabian – 48:13
  • Manic Street Preachers – Futurology

Winner: Elbow.

Q Best Live Act presented by The Cavern Club

  • Arcade Fire
  • Arctic Monkeys
  • Kate Bush
  • Kasabian
  • Jack White

Winner: Kasabian.

Q Best Solo Artist presented by Citroën

  • Damon Albarn
  • Jake Bugg
  • Paolo Nutini
  • Ed Sheeran
  • St Vincent

Winner: Ed Sheeran.

Q Best Act in the World Today presented by Buster + Punch

  • Arcade Fire
  • Arctic Monkeys
  • Kate Bush
  • Kasabian
  • Pharrell Williams

Winner: Kasabian.

Q Classic Songwriter

Winner: Andy Partridge.

Gibson Les Paul Award

Winner: Johnny Marr.

Q Outstanding Contribution to Music

Winner: Richard Russell.

Q Inspiration

Winner: Simple Minds.

Q Hero

Winner: The Charlatans.

Q Innovation in Sound presented by Xperia Access

Winner: Jean Michel Jarre.

Q Icon presented by Carling’s Black Label Project

Winner: Wilko Johnson.

Q Hero

Winner: The Charlatans.

Q Classic Album

Winner: Pink Floyd for The Dark Side of the Moon

Q Idol

Winner: Culture Club.

There’s always something a little strange about those latter categories, which seem to mainly consist of hundreds of different ways of honouring artists who haven’t done much for a couple of decades, but it is admittedly nice to see Culture Club receive something (see video here), and Jean Michel Jarre‘s award for innovation was definitely well deserved (see video here), and it’s great to hear zat ‘e’s in ze studio right now. He’s also looking disconcertingly young…

You can read Q Magazine’s own coverage of the awards here.

See also Q Awards 2013 and Q Awards 2012.

Erasure – Live at the Hollywood Palladium, 25 October 2014

According to their first support act, KROQ DJ Richard BladeErasure have always been particularly popular in Southern California, although it’s difficult to know quite why that might be if so. Blade can certainly take some credit though, and he knew his audience tonight, running radio style competitions to give away tickets to future concerts, and playing hits from the 1980s.

The audience was surprising in many ways, actually – Erasure concerts in Europe tend to be enormous, flamboyant affairs, with a lot of make-up and dressing up. Not so in Los Angeles – there was a real mix, with groups of straight and gay men and women alongside pop fans and former Goths of all ages – and very probably mixes of all of those as well – the crowd really defied any kind of stereotyping. Admittedly there were two unicorns and one enormous Mohican haircut, but it was pretty laid back otherwise.

After the generally poor performance of their second support act Superhumanoids (they turn out to be a lot better in recorded form than when performing live, waving their arms around like the art performance from the TV series Spaced), Vince Clarke came on stage, barely seeming to notice the audience in front of him, and started playing the opening sounds of Oh l’Amour.

Andy Bell, appearing in steamed up sunglasses and a big hat, described the show as containing a lot of “12 inches” (I think that was some kind of innuendo), and the theme of big dance versions of songs was indeed a recurring one – in many cases, leaving the audience guessing for a couple of minutes exactly what might be coming next. Perhaps some live versions of the original 12″ mixes would have been worthwhile?

It was difficult to judge exactly who this show was for, too. Only three tracks from the newly released album The Violet Flame were included, despite the tour bearing the same name, and all three seemed to go down pretty well. Instead, this was very much a greatest hits set, with pretty much the entirety of the original Pop! collection being included. Much of the audience was expecting an eighties show, and that is what they got, but a few more surprises would have been welcome.

Apart from the 1987-1991 period, there was relatively little. Always seems to have justifiably cemented itself in Erasure fans’ minds, and has even become an encore, although surprisingly it does appear alongside Sometimes in a slightly ironic twist of naming (one hopes they are currently working on a track called Occasionally). The late 1990s were overlooked in their entirety, with a total of zero tracks from ErasureCowboyLoveboat, and Other People’s Songs combined, and their recent career was largely ignored too.

Joan was a pleasant surprise though, meaning their 1991 album Chorus was actually better represented than the new one, and the only really noticeable omission was Stop! which is typically a live favourite.

Andy Bell does have a hard time of it – with Vince Clarke generally trying to hide behind a computer, and seemingly trying his hardest to play as little live as possible, there’s no support coming from Bell’s bandmate. The two backing singers were amazing, but he does give himself a lot of work. It’s tempting to wonder how much the casual Erasure fans might have got out of the evening, but most of the audience seemed to be enjoying themselves (admittedly, the ones close to me also seemed to be keen on trying to stamp on my feet and shove me out of the way, but maybe I’m getting old…)

Aside from the unusually poor acoustics of the Hollywood Palladium, it sounded pretty amazing from the audience, and I suspect it will sound good on the recording too, as it was being recorded for a future CD release. The second LA concert on Saturday night was likely recorded too, so the CD will probably combine the two. Keep an ear out for the audience singing blindly along to Always, even though the band have put a one bar break in between the choruses.

The setlist, disappointingly identical to all the North American tour dates this time around:

  1. Oh l’Amour
  2. Star
  3. Reason
  4. Breath of Life
  5. You Surround Me
  6. Elevation
  7. I Lose Myself
  8. Drama!
  9. Victim of Love
  10. Ship of Fools
  11. Sacred
  12. Breathe
  13. Joan
  14. Blue Savannah
  15. Chorus
  16. Love to Hate You
  17. A Little Respect
  18. Chains of Love
  19. Always (encore)
  20. Sometimes (encore)

Sylver – Nighttime Calls

Some Euro ages reasonably well… some, not so much.

A whole decade ago this week, Dutch duo Sylver released their third album, the inaccurately named Nighttime Calls. The debut album Chances (2001) had the brilliant Turn the Tide and not a lot else, and follow-up Little Things (2003) had a couple of good hits but was largely average, so did the follow-up have more to offer?

Well, as with a lot of Europop, it goes very much for quantity over quality – there are fourteen tracks altogether. First up is the lead single Love is an Angel, which sadly is every bit as vacuous as the title suggests. Things do start to look up after that though – Take Me Back is still pretty meaningless, but is every bit the happy, cheesy dance that you expect from a Euro act, and it has a very catchy synth line too.

Summer Solstice may sound a little as though it’s still stuck in the 1990s, but it does have a great synth line, making it easily my favourite song on here, and the following track Who am I is pretty good too. Sylver always like to drop the full-on dance for a track or two on their albums, and this is the one this time round – it’s more pop than Euro, and it works well.

The next trio – Make itDrowning in My Tears, and Sympathy – are rather more pedestrian. They’re still great Europop, but nothing more meaningful than that – and there’s a bit of a clue there for how to make the most of this album. Enjoy it for what it is, and don’t try to find anything deeper.

You might start to question this judgement with Where Did the Love Go and Fallin’, as they’re largely dreadful, but Tomorrow picks things back up to “average” again, so everything is OK.

The closing trio of Don’t Call MeWhere Did I Go Wrong and Sometimes doesn’t hold any particular surprises either. Again, as with much of this album, you can enjoy it if you suspend your judgement a bit and just want something to nod your head to, but groundbreaking this is not.

So Nighttime Calls isn’t total Eurotrash, but neither is it anything particularly special either. Which is a shame, as Sylver have, on occasion, been very good indeed. Just not this time.

You can find Nighttime Calls on import from Germany here.

Retro chart for stowaways – 24 October 2009

Here are the top five singles from five years ago this week:

  1. Saint Etienne – Only Love Can Break Your Heart
  2. Pet Shop Boys – Beautiful People
  3. Erasure – Phantom Bride EP
  4. La Roux – Bulletproof
  5. Madonna – Celebration

And the top albums:

  1. Saint Etienne – Foxbase Beta
  2. Air – Love 2
  3. Madonna – Celebration
  4. La Roux – La Roux
  5. Alphabeat – This is Alphabeat

Beginner’s guide to Hot Chip

From out of nowhere, London-based Hot Chip appeared in 2006 and took the singles charts by storm. Now five albums on, and well established as one of the most important electronic pop acts in the world of modern music, they are essential listening. They’re also extremely good live.

Key moments

You might remember them for Ready for the Floor, or Boy from School, or maybe Over and Over. Or One Life Stand, or I Feel Better. Or possibly Night & Day. With an enormous list of quirky singles, they really are very difficult to avoid.

Where to start

Probably make The Warning (2006) your first purchase – it was still early days for them, but they were already making significant waves.

What to buy

Jump forward to their most recent and most consistent album yet, In Our Heads (2012) to hear them at their prime, and then roll back to One Life Stand (2010), by which time you’ll have a good idea of what to expect. You’ll then be ready for their most popular – and ironically their least substantial – album Made in the Dark (2008).

Don’t bother with

Apart from the odd b-side, none of the singles or bonus tracks are really worth tracking down.

Hidden treasure

The debut album Coming on Strong (2004) is largely forgotten, I suspect even by the band, but is a lo-fi and understated masterpiece.

For stowaways