BRIT Awards 2019 – Nominations

Here are the not-remotely-dull nominees for the 2019 BRITs:

Mastercard British Album of the Year

  • Anne-Marie – Speak Your Mind
  • George Ezra – Staying at Tamara’s
  • Florence + The Machine – High as Hope
  • The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships
  • Jorja Smith – Lost & Found

British Single of the Year

  • Anne-Marie – 2002
  • Calvin Harris and Dua Lipa – One Kiss
  • Clean Bandit feat. Demi Lovato – Solo
  • Dua Lipa – IDGAF
  • George Ezra – Shotgun
  • Jess Glynne – I’ll Be There
  • Ramz – Barking
  • Rudimental feat. Jess Glynne, Macklemore and Dan Caplen – These Days
  • Sigala and Paloma Faith – Lullaby
  • Tom Walker – Leave a Light On

British Video of the Year

  • Anne-Marie – 2002
  • Calvin Harris and Dua Lipa – One Kiss
  • Clean Bandit feat. Demi Lovato – Solo
  • Dua Lipa – IDGAF
  • Jax Jones feat. Ina Wroldsen – Breathe
  • Jonas Blue feat. Jack & Jack – Rise
  • Liam Payne and Rita Ora – For You
  • Little Mix feat. Nicki Minaj – Woman Like Me
  • Rita Ora – Let You Love Me
  • Rudimental feat. Jess Glynne, Macklemore and Dan Caplen – These Days

British Male Solo Artist in association with YouTube Music

  • Aphex Twin
  • Craig David
  • George Ezra
  • Giggs
  • Sam Smith

Nice to see Aphex Twin on that list. Craig David is, as always, completely inexplicable.

British Female Solo Artist in association with YouTube Music

  • Lily Allen
  • Anne-Marie
  • Florence + The Machine
  • Jess Glynne
  • Jorja Smith

British Group

  • Arctic Monkeys
  • Gorillaz
  • Little Mix
  • The 1975
  • Years and Years

British Breakthrough Act

  • Idles
  • Mabel
  • Ella Mai
  • Jorja Smith
  • Tom Walker

International Male Solo Artist

  • Drake
  • Eminem
  • Shawn Mendes
  • Travis Scott
  • Kamasi Washington

International Female Solo Artist

  • Camila Cabello
  • Cardi B
  • Christine and the Queens
  • Ariana Grande
  • Janelle Monáe

International Group

  • Brockhampton
  • The Carters
  • Chic
  • First Aid Kit
  • Twenty One Pilots

Critics’ Choice Award

  • Lewis Capaldi
  • Sam Fender
  • Mahalia

Thanks to the BRIT Awards’ completely inexplicable policy of announcing that award a couple of months early every year, we already know that Sam Fender will be the winner of that category.

The rest of the winners will be announced on 20th February.

New Order – Technique

Thirty years ago this week, New Order released their fifth studio album, Technique. This was the album where they famously disappeared to Ibiza to record, and, intentionally or otherwise, returned with something that wasn’t entirely complete yet.

It opens with Fine Time, full of huge late 1980s bass and snare sounds. It must have already sounded a little outdated, actually – a lot of these are the sorts of sounds that were turning up on New Order‘s own remix 12″ singles a couple of years earlier, and the times were moving fast by the late 1980s. Of course, the previous album Brotherhood (1986) predated a lot of that, so maybe what we witness here is a band who knew this had been done already, and just wanted to enjoy themselves. The goat samples are, of course, a welcome addition.

But Technique is interesting in that regard – famously none of the first four New Order albums contained any singles, and so prior to this point, there was a clear division to the New Order you find on modern compilations versus the band who could be found on LP. Fine Time was the first single from this album, actually released in late 1988, and was one of their more successful releases, peaking at number 11.

All the Way is much closer to what I would now regard as classic New Order, although offhand I’m not sure how much material like this they had actually recorded prior to 1989, It’s less electronic, and more guitar-based, and offers Peter Hook a good chance to shine with his lively bass lines. Love Less is similar, with some of Bernard Sumner‘s typically awkward lyric writing, but a catchy chorus and some gentle rhythmic elements. For the first time on this album, I think you can understand what they’re trying to do here, although for a band as adventurous as New Order, that isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Then you get the second single Round & Round, which peaked at number 21 shortly after the release of the album. If you struggle as much as I do with New Order song titles, it might help if you think of this as the one that’s built around loads of orchestral hits. The single was remixed slightly, and frames the song a little better than the album version, but it’s definitely the best song of the album so far.

Side A closes with Guilty Partner, a catchy but somewhat directionless piece with a particularly huge bass part. With New Order, it’s rarely worth thinking too hard about what they were trying to do, best instead just to enjoy their songs for what they are – that guitar solo at the halfway point is beautiful, and that’s really all that matters here.

We get the singles out of the way with the original version of Run at the start of Side B. In its single form (Run 2) it’s a great song that underperformed disappointingly on its release, crashing out from number 49 on the charts. Based on the album version, its poor performance would be a little more understandable – the catchier moments and the unusually insightful lyrics are actually there, but the production is just a little dreary and flat.

Mr. Disco is interesting – a lot of the classic New Order elements are there, and again, it’s good to hear them exploring some of the ground that had been limited to 12″ singles previously. At the same time, there are elements that are absolutely awful – mainly the lyrics and vocal delivery (such as rhyming “letter” with “met you”) – but there are other things that don’t quite seem to fit together. It’s a mess, but it’s a nice enough mess.

Vanishing Point is next, and is probably the best track on here. For the first time, we get many of the traditional New Order elements and a great song at the same time. Ninety second introductions had long been typical of the band’s singles in the 1980s, and dreary, dark, and introspective lyrics were very traditional too. Why wasn’t this one of the singles? Even the production seems to have stepped things up a level. Pure brilliance.

But it’s with Dream Attack that they really shine. They had never used honky tonk piano as a lead line before, and surprisingly it fits extremely well. Peter Hook‘s unchanging rhythmic bass is complemented by a wonderfully punchy synth bass part, and again, the lyrics actually sound sincere. This is New Order at their best, without a doubt.

For all of its patchier moments, Technique is indisputably one of New Order‘s finest albums. By the time Republic came out four years later, they had decisively moved from their elegantly dreary and experimental roots to a commercially successful indie pop-rock crossover. So Technique shows a band in transition, and demonstrates all the conflict and brilliance that you might expect from that.

The double CD special edition of Technique is still widely available, but as always, keep an eye out for the versions with dodgy sound quality.

Chart for stowaways – 5 January 2019

Sorry for the slight delay – here’s the first singles chart of the new year:

  1. Ladytron – Far from Home
  2. Jean-Michel Jarre – Flying Totems
  3. The Radiophonic Workshop – Arrival Home
  4. The Future Sound of London – My Kingdom
  5. The Beloved – It’s Alright Now
  6. Ladytron – The Animals
  7. Lady Gaga – Judas
  8. The Beloved – The Sun Rising
  9. Saint Etienne – Camel Coat
  10. Pet Shop Boys – Christmas

Stowaway Awards 2019 – Nominations

Who will win in the all-important Stowaway Awards this year? Here are the nominations:

Best Album

  • Dubstar “One”
  • Front Line Assembly “WarMech”
  • The Future Sound of London “My Kingdom (Re-Imagined)”
  • Jean-Michel Jarre “Equinoxe Infinity”
  • The Radiophonic Workshop “Possum”

Best Reissue / Compilation

  • The Beloved “Reissue Series”
  • The Human League “Secrets”
  • Jean-Michel Jarre “Planet Jarre”
  • Soft Cell “Keychains & Snowstorms – The Singles”
  • Yazoo “Four Pieces”

Best Artist

  • The Future Sound of London
  • Jean-Michel Jarre
  • Ladytron
  • The Presets
  • The Radiophonic Workshop

Best Live Act

  • Erasure
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
  • Sparks

Outstanding Contribution

  • David Bowie
  • Everything But The Girl
  • The Future Sound of London
  • Hot Chip
  • Leftfield

Voodoo Child – Baby Monkey

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Moby had used a variety of different pseudonyms, quickly essentially becoming the entire artist roster of Instinct Records. His best known nom-de-plume was Voodoo Child, a name he used to release an eponymous single in 1990, followed by a double a-side single Demons/Horses in 1994, and then a full-length album The End of Everything

Having got on with other things for the next seven or eight years, he then returned with a couple of underground 12″ releases, which grew into Baby Monkey,

For its sound, Baby Monkey owes a lot to Play and 18, as you might expect, but it’s also very different. Gotta Be Loose in Your Mind opens the album, with a repeated vocal sample and some dark beats. It’s one of the shortest tracks on here, and also one of the least imaginative in many ways. But it soon gives way to Minors, a dark nouveau-rave piece that may lack some of the cheesy charm of his 1990-ish output but sounds infinitely more professional.

Take it Home is next, side A of the second release from this album and (to date) the final Voodoo Child single. Somewhat analogous to tracks such as Guitar, Flute & String from Play, this is largely built around gentle pads and some slightly quirky samples, as well as a huge bass line and housey beats.

Then comes Light is in Your Eyes, side A of the first single from this album. This is by far the best track on here, and probably the only one that could have hit the charts if this had seen a more commercial release. Again, it’s built around pads with huge bass and beats, and frankly it sounds a lot like Moby, but it’s beautiful and catchy, and probably deserved better than being hidden away on an obscure underground release.

The two AA-sides follow in chronological order, the lovely chirpy Electronics first, a relaxed piece that sounds as though it belongs as the piece to wake everyone up again at the end of a chillout mix. Then Strings,

Having got the singles out of the way, there’s still half an album to enjoy, and really the theme continues – these are oddly named, long, dance and house tracks, generally without vocal samples, or with only indiscernible ones if they do turn up. The gaps between tracks are so short that each track almost blends into the next.

Gone wouldn’t have sounded out of place on one of Moby‘s obscure early compilation releases, full of acid squelches and fast chord changes. Unh Yeah – not to be confused with Ooh Yeah, from Last Night,

You can tell that this album was probably recorded pretty quickly – not because the quality slips particularly, but because Moby – sorry, Voodoo Child – was clearly having a lot of fun recording these tracks.

Obscure follows, with huge bass and sliding synth sounds. Last opens with fake vinyl crackle, and grows into a piece full of swishy hats, punchy basses, and different sliding synth sounds. Harpie is a curiously pleasant piece full of harmonising synth sounds coming from different directions. This is clearly intended for very late night listening, but it’s beautiful nonetheless.

This album received poor reviews from critics, who saw through the pseudonym immediately and either missed the point that Moby was just trying to enjoy himself here, or saw this as the unchallenging, and somewhat homogenised album that it is. It’s nice – there’s nothing wrong with it at all – and it does entirely what it’s trying to do, and gives Moby a chance to express his creativity without being judged too harshly. Except, of course, everyone knew it was Moby anyway.

Closing the album is Synthesisers, with the British spelling, curiously. It warbles with deep pads and circling high notes, and lacks the huge beats of other tracks. It’s a beautiful closing track, somewhat unlike the rest of the album in that it’s quieter, gentler, and comes from a different place. I wonder if removing the beats from the rest of the album would have produced a better critical response?

So Baby Monkey might have just been a one-off side project for Moby,

You can still find Baby Monkey at all regular retailers.

Preview – Trevor Horn feat The Sarm Orchestra

I’m not entirely sure what the purpose is here, but Trevor Horn has worked together with the orchestra from Sarm Studios to record a compilation called Reimagines the Eighties. Here’s Robbie Williams, gracing Tears for FearsEverybody Wants to Rule the World in slightly annoying jazz-pop fashion:

Chart for stowaways – 29 December 2018

Let’s quickly catch up on the last album chart of 2018…

  1. Jean-Michel Jarre – Planet Jarre
  2. Jean-Michel Jarre – Equinoxe Infinity
  3. The Radiophonic Workshop – Possum (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  4. The Future Sound of London – My Kingdom (Re-Imagined)
  5. The Radiophonic Workshop – Burials in Several Earths
  6. The Grid – Electric Head
  7. Moby – Long Ambients 1: Calm. Sleep.
  8. The Prodigy – No Tourists
  9. David Bowie – Glastonbury 2000
  10. Culture Club & Boy George – Life