Here’s an oddity from the random jukebox – Nina Sky from 2012 with Day Dreaming:
Here’s an oddity from the random jukebox – Nina Sky from 2012 with Day Dreaming:
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 Otherness. Too 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 Blues, Wendy, 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.
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:
These are the week’s top albums:
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!
Winner: Loyle Carner
Winner: J Hus
Winner: Stefflon Don
Winner: Charli XCX
Winner: The Big Moon
Winner: Pale Waves
Winner: Craig David and Bastille
Winner: Festival Number 6
Winner: One Love Manchester
Winner: Baby Driver
Winner: Stranger Things
Winner: Lady Gaga
Winner: Shirley Manson
Winner: Boy Better Know
Winner: Liam Gallagher
Winner: Ariana Grande
Winner: Piers Morgan
All worthy villains. The ceremony was on February 13th this year.
Edited 12 June 2018 – fix to tense in final sentence.
A refreshing piece of 90s trance from Way Out West is the selection in today’s random jukebox. Here’s Ajare:
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.
Here’s a slightly unusual collaboration – new from Poliça & Stargaze is the album Music for the Long Emergency. Here’s The Long Emergency:
Here are the week’s top singles:
After all the excitement of previous years, I’ve decided to tone down the Stowaway Awards a little this year, with just six categories. Here they are, with the full lists of nominees!
We announced the winner already – it’s Depeche Mode.
The winner is Depeche Mode.
The winner is Pet Shop Boys, for Release.
This year’s winner is Sparks.
The winner is Jean-Michel Jarre.
The winner: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.