Róisín Murphy – Hairless Toys

It seems you can always rely on Róisín Murphy if you’re in the market for eccentric and oddball but brilliant pop music. She also seems to be getting more prolific, which for someone this well established in their career is very unusual – Hairless Toys is her third album, but it isn’t even her most recent any more. Still, it came out less than two years ago, which qualifies it for inclusion in the review section, and anyway I haven’t heard the follow-up yet.

Some eight years after Overpowered, it picks up pretty much where she left off, but deeper and darker this time – the opening track is Gone Fishing, a pleasant deep dub-infused track with a murmured vocal. Frankly it would never have been a number one hit, but neither do you find yourself reaching for the skip button, and at the right time of day it’s very pleasant indeed.

Evil Eyes explores some dark electro elements in amongst a contemporary house beat, and is also very pleasant. At this tempo you probably wouldn’t hear it in many clubs, despite the great disco sounds in the chorus, but in the right environment it sounds great.

It’s an engaging album, but it’s also mellow enough that you might find yourself tuning out from time to time. Turn your attention back, and Exploitation has started, with its weird warped synth backing and soft woodblock sounds. If you can stop yourself from shouting “it should be whom,” this is probably the best song on here, and it fills its nine minute duration comfortably.

But this is, in a way, something of a genre-defying album – Uninvited Guest has an almost gospel backing vocal, with a bit of whistling and weird yawny noises in the chorus. At the same time, the lounge electronic piano sound bounces along with a bit of a jazz feel, the tempo shifts, and the whole thing is very odd indeed. In a good way – somehow it all works together.

Exile is as close to electro-country as you probably ever want to find yourself – it sounds like the product of a country singer sitting on an alien planet with its curious percussive noises, and at four minutes it’s also by far the shortest track on here, but it’s very good too. Then the trippy pad-driven House of Glass follows, gradually growing into one of the most uptempo tracks on here.

It’s difficult to find much negative about this album, unless perhaps downtempo music isn’t your thing. Hairless Toys (Gotta Hurt) could have easily been a huge hit single with different production, but the understated nature of this album makes it a gentle, drifting piece which sounds entirely brilliant too.

Finally, the album closes with the entirely appropriate Unputdownable, and Róisín Murphy‘s long-awaited comeback is over. It might have been a long time coming, and it might have been an understated release when it arrived, but it was definitely worth it.

You can still find Hairless Toys at all major retailers.


Preview – T2 Trainspotting (OST)

It’s difficult to predict whether the long-awaited sequel to Trainspotting is actually going to be any good, and honestly I think I’m more interested in the soundtrack. From a quick look, it doesn’t look quite as good as its predecessor, but there you go. This seemed one of the more interesting tracks, from Blondie. Other highlights include Iggy PopFrankie Goes to Hollywood, and, of course, Underworld.

Chart for stowaways – 14 January 2017

Here’s the latest album chart:

  1. Jean-Michel Jarre – Oxygène 3
  2. The Human League – Anthology – A Very British Synthesizer Group
  3. Dusty Springfield – Reputation
  4. C Duncan – The Midnight Sun
  5. Jean-Michel Jarre – Oxygène Trilogy
  6. Delerium – Mythologie
  7. Air – Twentyears
  8. David Bowie – Legacy
  9. Yello – Toy
  10. Brian Eno – Reflection

BRIT Awards 2017 – Nominations

The nominations for the BRIT Awards occasionally exhibit some interesting characteristics (only occasionally, though). Let’s take a quick skim through this year’s, to see if there’s anything worth talking about.

British Artist Video

  • Adele – Send My Love (To Your New Lover)
  • James Arthur – Say You Won’t Let Go
  • Clean Bandit feat. Sean Paul & Anne-Marie – Rockabye
  • Coldplay – Hymn For The Weekend
  • Calvin Harris feat. Rihanna – This Is What You Came For
  • Jonas Blue feat. Dakota – Fast Car
  • Little Mix feat. Sean Paul – Hair
  • One Direction – History
  • Tinie Tempah feat. Zara Larsson – Girls Like
  • Zayn – Pillowtalk

British Breakthrough Act

  • Anne-Marie
  • Blossoms
  • Rag ‘n’ Bone Man
  • Skepta
  • Stormzy

MasterCard British Album of the Year

  • Davie Bowie – Blackstar
  • Kano – Made in the Manor
  • Michael Kiwanuka – Love & Hate
  • The 1975 – i like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it
  • Skepta – Konnichiwa

British Female Solo Artist

  • Anohni
  • Ellie Goulding
  • Lianne La Havas
  • Nao
  • Emeli Sandé

British Male Solo Artist

  • David Bowie
  • Craig David
  • Kano
  • Michael Kiwanuka
  • Skepta

British Group

  • Bastille
  • Biffy Clyro
  • Little Mix
  • The 1975
  • Radiohead

British Single

  • James Arthur – Say You Won’t Let Go
  • Calum Scott – Dancing On My Own
  • Clean Bandit feat. Sean Paul & Anne-Marie – Rockabye
  • Coldplay – Hymn For The Weekend
  • Calvin Harris feat. Rihanna – This Is What You Came For
  • Jonas Blue feat. Dakota – Fast Car
  • Little Mix – Shout Out To My Ex
  • Tinie Tempah feat. Zara Larsson – Girls Like
  • Alan Walker – Faded
  • Zayn – Pillowtalk

International Female Solo Artist

  • Beyoncé
  • Christine and the Queens
  • Rihanna
  • Sia
  • Solange

International Male Solo Artist

  • Bon Iver
  • Leonard Cohen
  • Drake
  • Bruno Mars
  • The Weeknd

International Group

  • Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
  • Drake & Future
  • Kings of Leon
  • A Tribe Called Quest
  • Twenty One Pilots

It looks as though the main headlines this year are that we all miss David Bowie, Drake is so good that he’s both a male and a group, and somehow Craig David still has a career. The awards will be, err… awarded at The O2 in London on 22nd February, and you can read more and vote for some of the categories here.

Leftfield – Alternative Light Source

It took Leftfield sixteen years to return with Alternative Light Source. In the 1990s, the duo of Neil Barnes and Paul Daley released just two albums, but their dark and exotic electronic dance music was both unique and enormously influential. They skipped an entire decade, before returning in 2010, now without Daley but with a score of guest vocalists instead, and toured for a couple of years before eventually returning with new material in 2015.

The third album opens with a brilliant robotic vocal from Tunde Adebimpe, on the track Bad Radio. It’s fantastic. The huge warping bass and eccentric synth sounds have echoes of Leftism (1995) and Rhythm and Stealth (1999), while at the same time sounding new and contemporary – and also very catchy.

Second track Universal Everything, with Georgia Barnes providing some other-worldly vocals, is simply banging. It’s a huge club piece, deeper and darker than anything on the first two albums, but still with a bit of an unusual twist.

Channy Leaneagh from Poliça turns up to deliver the vocal on Bilocation. It’s rhythmic and hypnotic, not unlike the last single from the second album, Swords. Then for perhaps one of the oddest tracks on here, Sleaford Mods turn up to deliver the exceptional Head and Shoulders, a bizarre poetic piece full of obscure words and even odder concepts, but one which comes together brilliantly.

Nearing the halfway point of the album, most of the collaborations are complete. A simple arpeggiator melody drives Dark Matters, referencing some of Leftfield‘s pre-Leftism material, and before Channy Leaneagh turns up again for another oddity, Little Fish, which bounces along with an almost contemporary rave feel for six minutes, and that theme continues with Storms End, the instrumental track which follows.

Leftfield always have something unexpected up their sleeves, and so the title track Alternative Light Source opens with a gentle strummed acoustic guitar riff, and although it gets big, it never really builds into anything too enormous. Honestly it’s a welcome break from the banging beats which have characterised the album up to now.

If you approach this album expecting to be rocked in the way the previous two albums changed your world, you might be disappointed – this might even be a better album for people who have never heard any Leftfield before – but it does have a sound of its own, and it’s unique in the way that Leftfield always were. It does have its low points though – Shaker Obsession is fine, but far from special, but prudently this album only has ten tracks, so you never really get bored, and this is the penultimate one anyway, so you should really know what this album is all about by now.

Alternative Light Source closes with the adorable Levitate for You, with Ofei. It’s deep and downtempo, and honestly I’d have loved a few more tracks like this. But what do I know? This is a great way to close the album, even if it comes on its own.

With a reputation as solid as Leftfield‘s, a lot of people were inevitably going to be disappointed by this album, but honestly it’s a strong comeback, and it does leave you hoping for more. If you want to stick with the two era-defining albums from the 1990s, that’s your choice too, but I’d definitely recommend the third one too.

You can find Alternative Light Source at all major retailers.

Preview – Austra

I quite liked Austra when I came across them for the first time a couple of years ago, but I must admit I’d stopped paying attention a while back. This is pretty good though – the title track from their brand new album Future Politics:

Chart for stowaways – 7 January 2017

The first singles chart of the year looked like this:

  1. Jean-Michel Jarre – Oxygène (Part 17)
  2. C Duncan – Wanted to Want it Too
  3. Delerium with Phildel – Ritual
  4. Pet Shop Boys – Say it to Me
  5. Röyksopp feat. Susanne Sundfør – Never Ever
  6. Jean-Michel Jarre – Oxygène (Part 19)
  7. The Weeknd feat. Daft Punk – Starboy
  8. Shit Robot – End of the Trail
  9. Dusty Springfield – In Private
  10. The Human League – Sky

Stowaway Awards 2017 – Nominations

Now for the moment that you have, of course, all been waiting for: the announcement of the nominees for the 2017 Stowaway Awards. As always in recent years, there will be exactly ten awards, one of which (Best Track) you know already from the countdown a couple of weeks ago. Here are five more key nominations!

Best Album

  • The Avalanches – Wildflower
  • David Bowie – Blackstar
  • Clarke Hartnoll – 2Square
  • C Duncan – The Midnight Sun
  • I Monster – Bright Sparks
  • Jean-Michel Jarre – Electronica 2: The Heart of Noise
  • Jean-Michel Jarre – Oxygène 3
  • Pet Shop Boys – Super
  • Shit Robot – What Follows
  • Yello – Toy

Best Reissue / Compilation

  • Air – Twentyears
  • Cicero – Future Boy
  • The Human League – Anthology – A Very British Synthesizer Group
  • New Order – Complete Music
  • Dusty Springfield – Reputation

Best Ambient Track

  • Air – Adis Abebah
  • Delerium – Ghost Requiem
  • Enigma – Sadeness (Part II)
  • I Monster – Alan R Pearlman and the ARPiological exploration of the cosmos
  • Jean-Michel Jarre – Oxygène (Part 17)

Best Dance Act / Remixer

  • The Avalanches
  • Clarke Hartnoll
  • Stuart Price
  • Röyksopp
  • Shit Robot

Outstanding Contribution

  • David Bowie
  • Vince Clarke
  • Delerium
  • Enigma
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark