Chart for stowaways – 24 October 2015

Here’s this week’s singles chart for stowaways:

  1. Little Boots – Working Girl
  2. New Order feat. Elly Jackson – Tutti Frutti
  3. The Future Sound of London – Point of Departure
  4. New Order – Restless
  5. Jean-Michel Jarre & Tangerine Dream – Zero Gravity
  6. Pet Shop Boys – Love is a Bourgeois Construct
  7. Everything But The Girl – Before Today
  8. Jean-Michel Jarre – Remix EP (I)
  9. New Order feat. Elly Jackson – Plastic
  10. Little Boots – Better in the Morning

Lemon Jelly –

Long before they were famous for Nice Weather for DucksLemon Jelly started their career with a series of 10″ singles, which, with some slight reworking, would ultimately become 2000’s As with their other two albums, the original comes in impeccable packaging, so right from the start you’ll find it difficult not to be charmed.

Having finally opened the package, the album opens with the brilliant In the Bath, a lovely chilled out piece with just the occasional vocal interlude, enquiring “what do you do in the bath?” in various sampled forms. It’s followed by Nervous Tension, which uses a self-help tape as the backbone for an entirely pleasant relaxing piece of music.

The sound of the sea elephant (and he’s a big fellow, apparently) brings us to the curiously named A Tune for Jack, which with its rippling piano parts has to be one of the most iconic and memorable pieces on here. But they’re so relaxed that they can easily drift by, and His Majesty King Raam is upon you before you know it.

The Staunton Lick is next, as featured in Spaced. You would never necessarily know this when listening to the album, but we’re actually running through the three debut EPs in order here, and The Staunton Lick forms the centrepiece of the second, The Yellow EP. It’s difficult not to love this track – it could really fit anywhere. On Spaced it’s background music, albeit to a particularly key scene. As a listener, you could enjoy it as catchy pop music, or as simple ambient music.

That, I think, is the key to Lemon Jelly. Their curious blend of found sounds and catchy pop can be listened to pretty much anywhere, and essentially in any situation.

Homage to Catalonia is next, a gentler, more ambient piece, which one could easily accuse of going nowhere, but it’s also entirely enjoyable. When it breaks down to just the bass towards the end, it goes right through you, before passing the baton to Kneel Before Your God. Perhaps one of the less adventurous tracks on here, it burbles along nicely with the occasional interlude for sinister laughter, which finally takes over completely right at the end.

Page One could easily be missed by the inattentive as well, although the somewhat daft vocal samples help it stand out a little, and final track Come is laid back in the extreme. By the last couple of tracks, this album might have passed its best, but it still has a lovely atmosphere to offer.

I’ve mused before about how disappointing it is that Lemon Jelly appear to have cut their careers so short – after a couple of years’ build up, appeared in 2000, followed by their first studio album Lost Horizons in 2002, and the darkly intriguing ’64-’95 in 2005. But with that, they were gone, and that’s a great shame, as they were really rather good, and got them off to a great start.

You can still find all over the place, but you might struggle to find the original packaging. Do so if you can!

Random jukebox – Wolfsheim

Wolfsheim were almost entirely overlooked outside their native Germany, and that’s a great shame. Perhaps if we’d paid a bit more attention, they might not have split up back in 2003, and some of us might still be able to enjoy their work. From the curiously titled album Dreaming Apes, this is A New Starsystem Has Been Explored.

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Organisation

We’ve reviewed a lot of OMD on this blog this year, but this seems an entirely worthwhile anniversary to celebrate – it’s 35 years this week since they unleashed their second album Organisation.

It starts with a cracker – if you had to choose one OMD song to define their career, it would probably be Enola Gay, mainly just because it’s brilliant. The lyrics are eccentric to say the least, but somehow the riff captures something extremely special, and you’re transported back to 1980 every time.

2nd Thought grabs you a little less, but is still great. Clearly after the raw charm of their debut Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (also 1980) they spent a lot of time polishing and honing their sound. Well, not a huge amount of time actually – it was just eight months earlier that they were unleashing the first album. But even so, this has a much more mature, evolved sound.

VCL XI is good too, although it relies perhaps a little too much on its rhythmic elements. It’s catchy, but could quite easily be annoying too, so could maybe have benefitted from a little selective editing. Then comes Motion and Heart, famously nearly the second single (Enola Gay was the only one in the end), a bizarre but pleasant electro-swing piece. It’s difficult to see how this could ever have come out as a single, but on the album it’s definitely up there among the best this album has to offer.

Side A closes with Statues, a pleasant, gentler song. It isn’t difficult to see why they struggled at the time to find a second single, as the majority of songs on this album are gentler or weirder in some way, but while it lacks the raw charm of the debut, it’s still a very good release.

Then Side B opens with The Misunderstanding, which after a very dark and grimy introduction eventually gains the beginnings of another Enola Gay riff. That doesn’t really end up going anywhere unfortunately, as it gets overshadowed by one of Andy McCluskey‘s more extravagant vocal performances and an enormous snare drum. It’s nice, but it does make you wonder slightly whether it was something they had overlooked for the first album.

The More I See You shows some promise too, but ultimately doesn’t do an awful lot either, and this is sadly the general theme of the second half of Organisation. Enola Gay may have been an exquisite opener, but it seems a long time ago now. Penultimate track Promise does little to pick things up either – as with everything else here, it’s perfectly nice, but just a little bit disappointing.

Bringing proceedings to a close is the softer and gentler Stanlow, full of deep arpeggiated synths and soft vocals. It has a great atmosphere and closes the album nicely, but you can’t help but feel a little bit let down on the whole – the previous release was so good, and Enola Gay was so promising and iconic, and then everything else just seems a little drab by comparison.

Even so, Organisation is a competent second album, and one which helped cement OMD‘s place in history.

The essential version of Organisation is the 2003 remaster, still available here. Make sure it doesn’t have copy protection – some copies do.

Mercury Prize 2015 – Nominees

Whatever you think of it, the Mercury Prize is always an interesting barometer of the UK music industry, and this year’s is no exception. Here are the nominees:

  • Aphex Twin – Syro
  • Benjamin Clementine – At Least for Now
  • C Duncan – Architect
  • ESKA – Eska
  • Florence + The Machine – How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
  • Gaz Coombes – Matador
  • Ghostpoet – Shedding Skin
  • Jamie xx – In Colour
  • Róisín Murphy – Hairless Toys
  • Slaves – Are You Satisfied?
  • SOAK – Before We Forgot How to Dream
  • Wolf Alice – My Love is Cool

It’s particularly nice to see the latest Róisín Murphy release on the list.

The winner will be announced on Friday 20 November at the BBC, and you can win all of the albums here.

Chart for stowaways – 17 October 2015

For the first time in a decade, New Order take the top spot on the album chart this week!

  1. New Order – Music Complete
  2. The Future Sound of London – Environment Five
  3. Little Boots – Working Girl
  4. Leftfield – Alternative Light Source
  5. Delerium – Rarities & B-Sides
  6. Jean-Michel Jarre – Electronica 1: The Time Machine
  7. Sarah Cracknell – Red Kite
  8. Chvrches – Every Open Eye
  9. Hot Chip – Why Make Sense?
  10. Air – Music for Museum