Unsigned, but not forgotten

One of the things I really wanted to do when I started this blog five years ago was to try to do anything I could to help unsigned artists. I had tried previously, actually, on a radio show, and had found that a lot of unsigned acts couldn’t get their, um, “act” together to make it work as a cohesive feature, and so it only really ran three of four times before falling in flames.

The unsigned feature on this blog lasted a little longer, and did showcase some interesting acts, but it also opened me up to a lot of artists who for one reason or another weren’t appropriate for the blog, and one or two people who didn’t take that news too well. These are the perils of doing anything on the internet.

But let’s take a look at those who did make it, and see what they have been up to!

Blue Swan

First covered on my radio show in February 2005, and then subsequently looked at in detail on this blog in November 2012, this Danish duo seem to have entered a quiet phase in their career. Looking at their Soundcloud, their last new tracks were the ones we covered here five years ago, and there have been a few DJ mixes since then, but not a lot of activity.

Hugh Doolan

We covered this Irish acoustic act back in November 2012, and looking at his Soundcloud account he’s been very busy recently. His Bandcamp page includes ten releases since we last spoke to him, including acoustic tracks and film soundtracks.

Rance Garrison

Covered back in August 2013, when he was between albums, he seems to have released three new albums in the last few years, all of which are available on his Bandcamp page.

Jonteknik

We first covered Jon’s debut album in November 2012, and when we visited him again the following year, he had just released another album. He’s now part of a label that I need to look into further called The People’s Electric, and recently released an album called Skylines.

Kyma

Introduced to this blog back in November 2012, this UK-based act was still busy a year or so later, including proudly posting one of his songs that was played on BBC Essex, but he hasn’t pushed much to his Soundcloud recently.

mindXpander

An old favourite of mine from the mp3.com days of the early internet, I first covered them here back in 2013. Things seem to have been quiet for them for a couple of decades now, but you can still enjoy their back catalogue at Soundcloud.

Movement Ten

This Brighton-based duo were first covered here back in December 2012 when they had just released their debut album. The following year when we looked again, they had just released another album, but things seem to have been quieter since then.

Subculture

Featured on my radio show in 2005, unfortunately I don’t have any record any more of who they were, how they got in touch, or where they are now. If you know, please ask them to get in touch!

Devin Tait

First covered in August 2013, then revisited later that year when he was in the middle of touring, this flamboyant LA-based artist is now working on his next solo album The White Tomato. More at his official website.

Finally, I think a few more people had filled in the form on the website and asked for coverage. I’ll sit down and actually read those messages and do a feature on them very soon – apologies for the lack of responses if you’re feeling impatient.

Beth Orton – Daybreaker

She had risen pretty much out of nowhere over the preceding decade or so, and could now be regarded as a mature musician. For her fourth and most successful solo album, Beth Orton worked again with one of the stalwarts of what I hesitatingly call “folktronica,” Ben Watt, and also perhaps more surprisingly, Johnny Marr turned up to help out as well.

Daybreaker was released fifteen years ago this week, and opens with a sweet pop song called Paris Train, although there’s little clue in the lyrics why that might be a suitable title. When Orton is at her blandest, her songs are pleasant but distinctly unmemorable, and this is a good example of this.

Concrete Sky is the collaboration with Johnny Marr, and perhaps because of this, it does stand out somewhat, although Mount Washington, which follows, is the first track on here that really gets anywhere close to catchy. Then comes Anywhere, which was the lead single – and deservedly so – it’s probably the best track on the album.

Honestly, it might have sold well, but this isn’t a great album from this point onwards. The title track Daybreaker is pleasantly trippy and has some fun sound effects in it, but it’s not exactly exciting. Carmella and God Song are either pleasant or dull, depending on your perspective. The titles are still pretty perplexing for the most part, as well.

Some of them are witty, at least – This One’s Gonna Bruise, a collaboration with Ryan Adams, is a pleasant listen too. Orton’s haunting vocal breathlessly works its way through the notes, and the contrast with the electronic rhythm of the opening beats of Ted’s Waltz is notable too. But don’t get too excited – there’s nothing that would pass for uptempo on this half of the album.

Maybe not getting excited is exactly the point. There is a nice rhythmic quality to Ted’s Waltz, making it stand out somewhat, and while this might be a downtempo album by its very nature, it certainly isn’t boring. But hopefully it’s also OK to find it a little dull at times.

In which case, closing track Thinking About Tomorrow is entirely appropriate, as it’s forgettable on every level. It’s a shame, but there it is. Ultimately Daybreaker is far from a bad album, but it’s not even Beth Orton‘s finest hour. Get Central Reservation instead.

You should still be able to find Daybreaker at all major retailers.

Preview – Pet Shop Boys

Oh, well this took long enough. Just sixteen years after Pet Shop Boys started gathering together the definitive versions of their back catalogue on CD, now the set finally continues, with NightlifeRelease, and Fundamental. Packed with an essential set of bonus tracks, each is now available as a double or triple CD set, and this time on heavy vinyl as well!

Five years of stowaways – Part 5

So this concludes the celebration of this blog’s fifth birthday! One thousand, six hundred and thirty-five posts later, at an average of 6.2 posts per week. It’s no wonder there’s a bit of drivel mixed in here and there. OK, a lot, but you get my point.

What next for this blog? Well, it will continue for the foreseeable future, but it might start to wind down a bit more. A lot has changed in the last five years, as you might expect, and I fully expect it to change a lot in the future as well. It’s exactly two years since I gave up on the idea of trying to post every day, and now even five times a week seems a lot of work. But it will still be here, in some form, for as long as the music lasts.

Perhaps the most exciting release of the next few months is Hippopotamus, the new album from Sparks. I’m not clear whether this is one of the tracks on there, but of course it’s brilliant:

Chart for stowaways – 17 June 2017

Here are the week’s top singles:

  1. Erasure – Love You To The Sky
  2. Saint Etienne – Sweet Arcadia
  3. Jean-Michel Jarre – Oxygène (Part 17)
  4. Depeche Mode – Where’s the Revolution
  5. Saint Etienne – Magpie Eyes
  6. Kraftwerk – Trans Europa Express
  7. Pet Shop Boys – Undertow
  8. Erasure – Be Careful What You Wish For!
  9. New Order – Restless
  10. Jean-Michel Jarre & Pet Shop Boys – Brick England

Five years of stowaways – Part 4

As you might have gathered over the course of this week, we’re right in the middle of celebrating this blog’s fifth birthday. No, frankly, I had no idea it would come this far. We’ve clocked up just a touch over 32,000 page views, and astonishingly the number of views per month, after a fairly sedentary first couple of years, keeps going up and up.

I’ve always felt that stars who stand up on stage and say daft things like “I’d like to thank the fans,” and “We wouldn’t be here without you,” are probably lying, but it’s certainly fair to say that while I might have started writing this blog purely for my own benefit, that hasn’t been true for a long time. Five years on, you’re as much to blame as I am.

While you deal with that bombshell, here are Kraftwerk, performing the wonderful Radioactivity: