Chart for stowaways – 23 January 2016

This week’s top ten singles, with an exciting new entry right next to the top spot!

  1. New Order feat. Elly Jackson – Tutti Frutti
  2. Pet Shop Boys – Inner Sanctum
  3. Róisín Murphy – Exploitation
  4. Conjure One feat. Hannah Ray – Kill the Fear
  5. Dave Gahan & Soulsavers – All of This and Nothing
  6. Goldfrapp – Stranger
  7. David Bowie – Life on Mars?
  8. Jean-Michel Jarre & Vince Clarke – Automatic
  9. Conjure One feat. Christian Burns – Only Sky
  10. Róisín Murphy – Hairless Toys (Gotta Hurt)

Singles chart of the year 2015 for stowaways

Time now to announce the top singles of 2015 on the Chart for stowaways:

  1. Jean-Michel Jarre – Remix EP (I)
  2. Röyksopp – I Had This Thing [number 46 in 2014]
  3. MG – Europa Hymn
  4. Little Boots – Working Girl
  5. New Order feat. Elly Jackson – Tutti Frutti
  6. The Future Sound of London – Point of Departure
  7. Étienne de Crécy – Hashtag My Ass
  8. Dave Gahan & Soulsavers – All of This and Nothing
  9. The Beloved – Love to Love
  10. Röyksopp – Sordid Affair [number 36 in 2014]

Here are some highlights from outside the top ten:

  • 11. Moderat – Bad Kingdom
  • 15. Hot Chip – Move with Me
  • 18. Marsheaux – See You
  • 24. Leftfield – Bad Radio
  • 26. Sarah Cracknell – Nothing Left to Talk About
  • 29. Róisín Murphy – Exploitation
  • 30. Camouflage – Shine
  • 38. Shit Robot – Do That Dance
  • 44. Lean Jean-Marie – Bring it On
  • 50. Röyksopp – Running to the Sea [number 1 in 2014]

Readymade FC – Babilonia

It must have been some time around the end of 2005 when I first heard the charming, childlike chime intro of Cirkus, the opening track on Readymade FC‘s one and only album Babilonia. The album followed early in the New Year, and of course I snapped it up as soon as I could.

Cirkus is truly charming – very simplistic and lovely, with a sweet lyric about growing up and a lot of chimes, acoustic guitars, and pads. It’s rare that you come across something like this, and for me it came completely out of the blue – thanks, I think, to Mark Radcliffe‘s show on BBC Radio 2.

I still don’t know very much about Jean-Philippe Verdin, the man behind Readymade FC. Four years earlier, after a series of one-off vinyl releases, he had put out a minimal electro album Bold as Readymade, and between 2009 and 2010 he seems to have recorded a few things under his own name and what’s either another pseudonym or a duo of which he was a member, Akzidenz Grotesk. Otherwise he appears to have kept himself largely to himself.

Anyway, the quality here really doesn’t let up. Bare Feet is another sweet childlike song, full of pads and ripples. Then Feist turns up to deliver the vocal on Snow Lion, which makes for a beautifully atmospheric and wintry piece. This is followed by Not, a silly, nonsensical, and ultimately yet again entirely pleasant song.

For SlideYael Naïm turns up to deliver a soft, lullaby-like vocal, and meanwhile the backing track turns decidedly trippy and electro, and the instrumental Simple Appareil which follows keeps entirely the same mood. If you look for complete albums, rather than collections of songs, you definitely have a lot to explore here.

One of the more interesting aspects is the use of music box chimes, sometimes in an innocent way, but at other times it can be truly haunting, as on  A Fire in the Forest, with David Sylvian on vocals, and some brilliantly bizarre found sounds in the background. It’s an exploration of similar territory to Bold in a way, where Sylvian also appeared, on a song called Sugarfuel, but it fits perfectly here too.

A short instrumental, Cirkus Interlude, carries us through to the adorable Time Machine, a largely acoustic piece in which Verdin sings about his mother. Then, the one and only single from this album, The Only One, a lovely pad and chime-based piece with Yael Naïm appearing again to deliver the vocal.

There isn’t a lot left after this – the curiously named instrumental If So, What? follows, and then the slightly chaotic, harmonica-based The Last Time, and finally another instrumental, Didi. In the end, this is a sweet and simple album, which, while complete in its own right, does seem to be screaming out for a follow-up. Hopefully one day, it will come.

You can still find Babilonia on CD from places like this one.

Chart for stowaways – 16 January 2016

With a top two remaining unchanged after about three months, here’s this week’s album chart:

  1. New Order – Music Complete
  2. Jean-Michel Jarre – Electronica 1: The Time Machine
  3. Róisín Murphy – Hairless Toys
  4. Conjure One – Holoscenic
  5. Little Boots – Working Girl
  6. Dave Gahan & Soulsavers – Angels & Ghosts
  7. MG – MG EP
  8. David Bowie – Nothing Has Changed
  9. Leftfield – Alternative Light Source
  10. MG – MG

The BRIT Awards 2016 – Nominations

On the 24th of February this year, we’ll find out who has won a BRIT Award this year. Or more likely, who has won five, as that tends to be the way it goes. The nominations are spectacularly dull this year, as you’ll see below if you can bring yourself to keep reading – the only truly interesting thing is that they have changed some of the names this year…

British Artist Video

  • Adele – Hello
  • Ellie Goulding – Love Me Like You Do
  • Calvin Harris & Disciples – How Deep is Your Love
  • Jessie J – Flashlight
  • Little Mix – Black Magic
  • Naughty Boy feat. Beyonce & Arrow Benjamin – Runnin’ (Lose it All)
  • One Direction – Drag Me Down
  • Ed Sheeran – Photograph
  • Sam Smith – Writing’s on the Wall
  • Years & Years – King

British Breakthrough Act

  • James Bay
  • Catfish and the Bottlemen
  • Jess Glynne
  • Wolf Alice
  • Years & Years

That’s the same James Bay who won the Critics’ Choice last year (beating Years & Years), both of whom did pretty well on the charts in 2015, after all.

British Male Solo Artist

  • Aphex Twin
  • James Bay
  • Calvin Harris
  • Mark Ronson
  • Jamie xx

British Female Solo Artist

  • Adele
  • Florence + The Machine
  • Jess Glynne
  • Laura Marling
  • Amy Winehouse

British Group

  • Blur
  • Coldplay
  • Foals
  • One Direction
  • Years & Years

British Producer of the Year

  • Charlie Andrew
  • Mike Crossey
  • Tom Dalgety
  • Mark Ronson

British Single

  • Adele – Hello
  • James Bay – Hold Back the River
  • Philip George – Wish You Were Mine
  • Jess Glynne – Hold My Hand
  • Ellie Goulding – Love Me Like You Do
  • Little Mix – Black Magic
  • Calvin Harris & Disciples – How Deep is Your Love
  • Olly Murs feat. Demi Lovato – Up
  • Ed Sheeran & Rudimental – Bloodstream
  • Years & Years – King

Mastercard British Album of the Year

  • Adele – 25
  • James Bay – Chaos and the Calm
  • Coldplay – A Head Full of Dreams
  • Florence + The Machine – How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
  • Jamie xx – In Colour

International Male Solo Artist

  • Justin Bieber
  • Drake
  • Kendrick Lamar
  • Father John Misty
  • The Weeknd

International Female Solo Artist

  • Courtney Barnett
  • Björk
  • Ariana Grande
  • Lana del Rey
  • Meghan Trainor

Björk, the only non-British female who anybody cares about (seemingly) receives her sixty-third nomination in this category.

International Group

  • Alabama Shakes
  • Eagles of Death Metal
  • Major Lazer
  • Tame Impala
  • U2

Oh look, U2 rack up their six thousandth nomination in this category. Because so few other foreign groups are popular in the UK, apparently. It’s a shame R.E.M. haven’t been up to much recently.

Critics’ Choice

  • Izzy Bizu
  • Frances
  • Jack Garratt

The winner of which will be Jack Garratt.

Anyway, good luck to Aphex Twin, who is inexplicably nominated for just the third time ever. Other than that, if you care about any of those nominees, you can vote for some of them at the BRIT Awards website.

Fragma – Toca

Somewhere, lost way back in about the year 2000, lies a world of happy, meaningless – but melodic – Euro dance. One of the best examples of the field was Fragma, who appeared that year with the instrumental Toca Me. Coupled later with Coco‘s hit I Need a Miracle to become Toca’s Miracle, it became an enormous hit, and that’s pretty much the entirety of the story.

On the album Toca, the two versions of their biggest hit are the bookends, with Toca’s Miracle the opener. Fifteen years on, it’s a little harder to remember why it was so good – it’s catchy and memorable, but it does sound just a little bit dated now.

The second track is the catchy but somewhat vacuous Everytime You Need Me. It would sound great in a club, although it would probably be a bit pedestrian for modern audiences. Maria Rubia‘s vocal is strong though, and it’s difficult not to enjoy, and certainly at the time it was a worthy second single.

By the time Reach Out starts, you should have a good idea of what this album is trying to be. This is probably the weakest song on here, in lyrical and melodic terms, but it’s got pretty much the same rhythm and backing track as everything else, so it’s really difficult to fault.

You are Alive comes next, which was the third single, and nearly did as well as the other two, peaking at number 4 in the UK, and again, it’s a good song. It’s difficult to imagine it working particularly without the enormous Euro backing track though. An acoustic version would not be advisable.

The rest of the album might as well be padding – the three (or four) megahits for which Fragma would become known for the next decade or so have largely passed, and all you need now is for people to buy the album, and everybody’s happy. But they did continue, fleshing this album out with another six tracks, and even managing to come up with another one the following year.

Move On is pleasant, catchy, and entirely forgettable. Do You Really Want to Feel It? is a little darker, and stands up better as well. Again, though, with the title being pretty much the only lyric, an acoustic recording may not work entirely well.

Then comes Magic, followed by Everybody Knows and Take My Hand. All very nice fifteen years ago, but times change, and so do tastes. The main album closes, unremarkably, with Outlast, and then the baton is passed back to Toca Me, which at least is still a nice piece of turn-of-the-millennium Balearic trance. Or something.

I don’t mind admitting that I’m a little disappointed – I remember quite liking Fragma at the time, and vaguely thinking this album was pretty good. Has it aged badly, or have my tastes changed for the better or worse? That’s not for me to judge, but I don’t think I’ll be listening again for a while.

Your best bet might just be to track down the one or two tracks you remember, but if you desperately need the full album, it’s still available here.

Preview – Savage Garden

I was struggling to remember whether this was actually any good, and whether I should give it the oxygen of publicity, but actually the bar is pretty low on this blog, so it doesn’t really matter anyway. With a verse that sounds a lot like Macarena and a vaguely catchy chorus, this is Savage Garden, with I Want You, to celebrate the release of their new compilation The Singles, which came out a week or two ago.

No, I don’t know what a chickacherry cola is either.