Random jukebox – Nina Sky

Here’s an oddity from the random jukebox – Nina Sky from 2012 with Day Dreaming:

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Bent – The Everlasting Blink

Fifteen years ago this week, the brilliant Bent released their second proper album The Everlasting Blink, which took the charts by gentle nudge in early 2003. Since they’re definitely one of your favourite Nottingham-based chillout electronica acts, this seems a worthwhile anniversary to celebrate.

It had been a couple of years since the minor success of debut Programmed to Love, but relatively little seemed to have changed in Bent‘s world, and they were still able to craft beautiful, elegant chillout music, as the lovely opening track King Wisp ably demonstrates. But nothing is ever quite what it seems, as Mozart makes an appearance in this track.

Next is the adorable An Ordinary Day, full of analogue chirps and built around a vocal by Lena Martell, it’s really rather brilliant. This was, of course, the same year that Röyksopp‘s Melody AM broke the charts, and there are definitely certain commonalities between the two albums. This one did not, unfortunately, sell quite as well, but it’s every bit as accomplished.

Next is a Nana Mouskouri sample for the equally adorable Strictly Bongo, which carries the album gently onwards. But track four is the big surprise, and as I recall this was the reason I started listening to Bent in the first place. I was in a little independent record shop (remember them?) just browsing, and suddenly I heard the voice of one of my favourite singers, Jon Marsh of The Beloved. Knowing that they hadn’t released anything new for several years, I was intrigued. I asked the shop assistant what it was, and bought the album then and there.

The thing with Beautiful Otherness isn’t that it was Jon Marsh‘s first vocal performance for a number of years, though – it’s that it’s absolutely fantastic. The rippling piano, drifting lyrics, and generally perfect mood are what set this track apart. I never realised until researching this that Stephen Hague had a hand in it too, which of course helps. It deserved to be a huge hit single, but that was never to be.

After that, anything was going to be a bit anticlimactic, and sure enough, there isn’t really anything wrong with Moonbeams – it’s very pleasant, in fact, with its pedal steel guitar work – but it does suffer by not quite being Beautiful OthernessToo Long Without You gets closer, as it cleverly samples two different songs by Billie Jo Spears, and works very nicely indeed.

Exercise 3 is joyful and fun, if a little silly, and then we get the first of the two singles, Stay the Same, which was actually Bent‘s biggest hit, peaking at number 59 in July 2003, although unfortunately with a vastly inferior single version. It’s a beautiful song, drawing heavily on a David Essex song from 1974, but rather than sticking to his original slightly naff country delivery, it’s been stripped, re-timed, and turned into a great pop vocal. Clever stuff.

Magic Love was the second single, another beautiful track built around something much older, and then we get the gentle title track The Everlasting Blink, with a bit more pedal steel guitar on it. Then the last track is the short Thick Ear, closing the album sweetly and softly.

Except that isn’t the end – here, Bent bring us not one, not two, but three bonus tracks – 12 Bar Fire BluesWendy, and Day-Care Partyline, none of which were ever going to completely  change your world, but it’s nice to have them on here anyway to round things out.

The Everlasting Blink is a great second album, with a number of exquisite songs – but what happened next was better still – the follow-up, Aerials, which appeared the following year, is by far Bent‘s finest hour.

You can still find The Everlasting Blink at all major music retailers.

Preview – Toto

Obviously what the world needs right now is more Toto. Fortunately, they’re back with a new Greatest Hits album, 40 Trips Around the Sun to celebrate their fortieth anniversary. Obviously, it does have Africa on it, and also this, the rather nice previously unreleased track Alone:

Chart for stowaways – 3 February 2018

These are the week’s top albums:

  1. Sparks – Hippopotamus
  2. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – The Punishment of Luxury
  3. Above & Beyond – Common Ground
  4. Calexico – The Thread That Keeps Us
  5. David Bowie – Legacy
  6. Liza Minnelli – Results
  7. Nightmares On Wax – Shape The Future
  8. Fever Ray – Plunge
  9. Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon
  10. Propaganda – A Secret Wish

NME Awards 2018

Apparently it’s actually called the V05 NME Awards this year, although honestly I’ve no idea what a V05 is. Anyway, here are the winners, in all their corporate glory!

Best British Band supported by Zig-Zag

  • Alt-J
  • Kasabian
  • Wolf Alice
  • The 1975
  • The xx
  • Bastille

Winner: Alt-J

Best International Band supported by 19 Crimes Winery

  • Haim
  • The National
  • Foo Fighters
  • The Killers
  • Paramore
  • Migos

Winner: Haim

Best British Solo Artist supported by VO5

  • Dua Lipa
  • Liam Gallagher
  • Ed Sheeran
  • Stormzy
  • Loyle Carner
  • Charli XCX

Winner: Loyle Carner

Best International Solo Artist

  • Kendrick Lamar
  • Taylor Swift
  • Lorde
  • Lana Del Rey
  • St Vincent
  • Father John Misty

Winner: Lorde

Best Live Artist supported by Nikon

  • Kasabian
  • Lorde
  • Liam Gallagher
  • Stormzy
  • LCD Soundsystem
  • Royal Blood

Winner: Kasabian

Best Album supported by Orange Amplification

  • Lorde – Melodrama
  • J Hus – Common Sense
  • Wolf Alice – Visions of a Life
  • Gorillaz – Humanz’
  • Loyle Carner – Yesterday’s Gone
  • The National – Sleep Well Beast

Winner: J Hus

Best New Artist supported by Vans

  • Stefflon Don
  • Sigrid
  • SZA
  • Shame
  • J Hus
  • The Magic Gang

Winner: Stefflon Don

Best Track supported by Estrella Galicia

  • Kasabian – God Bless This Acid House
  • Kendrick Lamar – Humble
  • Lorde – Green Light
  • The Horrors – Something to Remember Me By
  • Dua Lipa – New Rules
  • Charli XCX – Boys

Winner: Charli XCX

Best Mixtape supported by Bulldog Gin

  • Charli XCX – Pop 2
  • Drake – More Life
  • Krept & Konan – 7 Nights / 7 Days
  • Rex Orange County – Apricot Princess
  • Dave – Game Over
  • Avelino – No Bullshit

Winner: Avelino

Best Music Video supported by Princess Yachts

  • The Big Moon – Sucker
  • Charli XCX – Boys
  • St Vincent – Los Ageless
  • Taylor Swift – Look What You Made Me Do
  • Dua Lipa – New Rules
  • Pale Waves – Television Romance

Winner: The Big Moon

Under The Radar Award supported by HMV

Winner: Pale Waves

Best Collaboration supported by VO5

  • Craig David & Bastille – I Know You
  • Stefflon Don & Skepta – Ding-a-Ling
  • Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile – Lotta See Lice
  • Gorillaz & Jehnny Beth – We Got the Power
  • Lily Allen & Giggs – Trigger Bang
  • Yungen & Yxng Bane – Bestie

Winner: Craig David and Bastille

Best Festival supported by ID&C

  • Glastonbury
  • Reading & Leeds
  • Download
  • Parklife
  • TRNSMT
  • Bestival

Winner: Glastonbury

Best Small Festival

  • Festival Number 6
  • Boardmasters
  • Wilderness
  • Field Day
  • End of the Road
  • Kendal Calling

Winner: Festival Number 6

Best Festival Headliner supported by Anna Valley

  • Muse
  • Boy Better Know
  • Ed Sheeran
  • Foo Fighters
  • The 1975
  • Noel Gallagher

Winner: Muse

Music Moment of the Year

  • Grime4Corbyn
  • Lady Gaga at the Superbowl
  • One Love Manchester
  • The Killers‘ surprise set at Glastonbury
  • Linkin Park‘s Chester Bennington tribute concert
  • Noel Gallagher plays Don’t Look Back in Anger at Manchester Arena

Winner: One Love Manchester

Best Film supported by Zig-Zag

  • T2
  • Bladerunner 2049
  • Baby Driver
  • The Disaster Artist
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  • It

Winner: Baby Driver

Best TV Series

  • Stranger Things 2
  • Game of Thrones
  • Westworld
  • Rick & Morty
  • Glow
  • Peaky Blinders

Winner: Stranger Things

Best Music Film

  • Lady Gaga – Five Foot Two
  • L7 – Pretend We’re Dead
  • Sleaford Mods – Bunch of Kunst
  • George Michael – Freedom
  • England is Mine
  • Whitney Houston – Can I Be Me

Winner: Lady Gaga

Best Re-Issue

  • Radiohead – OK NOT OK
  • Prince – Purple Rain
  • The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
  • R.E.M. – Automatic for the People
  • The Smiths – The Queen is Dead
  • Super Furry Animals – Radiator

Winner: Radiohead

Best Book

  • Wiley – Eskiboy
  • Action Bronson – Fuck, That’s Delicious
  • Dylan Jones – David Bowie: A Life
  • Allan Jones – Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down
  • Lizzy Goodman – Meet Me In The Bathroom
  • The KLF – 2023: A Trilogy

Winner: Wiley

NME Icon

Winner: Shirley Manson

NME Innovation Award

Winner: Boy Better Know

Godlike Genius

Winner: Liam Gallagher

Hero of the Year

  • Ariana Grande
  • Rose McGowan
  • Jeremy Corbyn
  • Ellie Rowsell
  • Big Shaq
  • David Attenborough

Winner: Ariana Grande

Villain of the Year

  • Donald Trump
  • Theresa May
  • Katie Hopkins
  • Piers Morgan
  • Kim Jong-Un
  • Jeremy Hunt

Winner: Piers Morgan

All worthy villains. The ceremony was on February 13th this year.

Edited 12 June 2018 – fix to tense in final sentence.

Goldfrapp – Seventh Tree

It’s always a bit of a shock when seemingly new things turn up to celebrate their birthday. Goldfrapp‘s fourth album Seventh Tree is ten years old already – how on earth did that happen?

Having gradually appeared out of nowhere with Felt Mountain (2000), Goldfrapp had reinvented glam electronica with Black Cherry in 2003, and after a couple of years of fighting to break the charts, finally made it with Supernature in 2005. Having made it to the big time, Seventh Tree should have been hard work, but it just sounds so effortless.

It opens with Clowns, a beautifully forested track which was probably recorded in the middle of a wood. It turned up as the fourth single, as a somewhat mundane two-track release backed with an alternative version of Happiness, but it’s a lovely song.

Little Bird is next, another sweet track that wouldn’t have sounded out of place in the 1960s. Listening now, it’s delightfully analogue after the dark glam of the previous couple of albums, but admittedly it came as a bit of a shock at the time.

Happiness is by far the best track on here, the second single, and while that release would absolutely have been better if Rex the Dog‘s version had made it on, the bouncy video does make up for that. But bluntly, Goldfrapp singles tend to seem a bit thrown together, and so in traditional form, that video actually appears on the Caravan Girl single that followed. All of that aside, this is absolutely one of Goldfrapp‘s finest singles and a standout track – probably the standout track – on this album.

Road to Somewhere is nice, as is Eat Yourself, particularly with the cello work on both of them, but neither is quite up to the high standard set by Happiness. Then Some People is probably the low point on here – I’d be very surprised if you remember it a couple of hours after listening.

Lead single A&E is next, a perplexing choice as opening single, but a pleasant spring-like country song. The semi-orchestral funk of Cologne Cerrone Houdini does fit nicely here though. The bridge hints at some of the warm magic of Felt Mountain, and the chorus is wonderfully catchy.

The third single was Caravan Girl, and that turns up as penultimate track, full of gusto. It’s a good song, but somehow it doesn’t quite seem to deliver after a very promising build through each verse and bridge. Then finally, Monster Love is a sweet and enormous piece full of rippling synths and choral effects. It’s a good closer to a generally strong album.

Four albums in, Goldfrapp had confidently demonstrated an ability to make sweet and lush alpine pop, glam electro, and now orchestral semi-electronic country. Next stop? The 1980s, obviously. But that’s another review for another time.

You can still find Seventh Tree at major retailers.