Chart for stowaways – March 2021

March saw limited movement on the charts, with The Future Sound of London close to claiming half a year at the top spot on the album chart. Hopefully as the lockdown ends, things will start to liven up again, but here are the albums from the last week in March:

  1. The Future Sound of London – Cascade 2020
  2. Front Line Assembly – WarMech
  3. Goldfrapp – Seventh Tree
  4. Pet Shop Boys – Battleship Potemkin (OST)
  5. Étienne de Crécy – Super Discount 3
  6. Deep Forest – Essence of the Forest
  7. The Radiophonic Workshop – Burials in Several Earths
  8. Apollo 440 – Millennium Fever
  9. Sarah Nixey – Night Walks
  10. Olive – Trickle

Preview – Morcheeba

I don’t think I mention Morcheeba much on this blog, and honestly I don’t actually know how much I like them – but having recently gone through a load of my favourite tracks of all time (this may turn up as a future blog post) I was surprised to see they turned up pretty often. So it’s great to see they’re back, with a new album called Blackest Blue. Here’s Sounds of Blue:

BRIT Awards 2021 – Nominations

The 2021 BRITs were delayed by three months, thanks to some kind of global pandemic thingy, but they’re coming soon, presented again by Jack Whitehall. Here’s the full list of nominees for this year’s awards.

Mastercard Album

  • Arlo Parks – Collapsed in Sunbeams
  • Celeste – Not Your Muse
  • Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia
  • J Hus – Big Conspiracy
  • Jessie Ware – What’s Your Pleasure?

Female Solo Artist

  • Arlo Parks
  • Celeste
  • Dua Lipa
  • Jessie Ware
  • Lianne La Havas

Male Solo Artist

  • AJ Tracey
  • Headie One
  • J Hus
  • Joel Corry
  • Yungblud

British Group

  • Bicep
  • Biffy Clyro
  • Little Mix
  • The 1975
  • Young T & Bugsey

Breakthrough Artist

  • Arlo Parks
  • Bicep
  • Celeste
  • Joel Corry
  • Young T & Bugsey

British Single with Mastercard

  • 220 Kid & GRACEY – Don’t Need Love
  • Aitch & AJ Tracey feat. Tay Keith – Rain
  • Dua Lipa – Physical
  • Harry Styles – Watermelon Sugar
  • Headie One feat. AJ Tracey and Stormzy – Ain’t It Different
  • Joel Corry feat. MNEK – Head & Heart
  • Nathan Dawe feat. KSI – Lighter
  • Regard & RAYE – Secrets
  • S1MBA feat. DTG – Rover
  • Young T & Bugsey feat. Headie One – Don’t Rush

International Female Solo Artist

  • Ariana Grande
  • Billie Eilish
  • Cardi B
  • Miley Cyrus
  • Taylor Swift

International Male Solo Artist

  • Bruce Springsteen
  • Burna Boy
  • Childish Gambino
  • Tame Impala
  • The Weeknd

International Group

  • BTS
  • Fontaines D.C.
  • Foo Fighters
  • HAIM
  • Run The Jewels

BRITs Rising Star

  • Griff
  • Pa Salieu
  • Rina Sawayama

The winner in this category is already confirmed to be Griff.

Rule changes this year mean that for the first time, you no longer need to have released an album in the preceding year in order to be nominated. The downside to this is a lot of Joel Corry, whose face (which looked as though it had to be either very airbrushed or the result of a lot of cosmetic surgery) turned up on a lot of social media advertising last year, but whose music I think I have yet to hear.

You can see the full list of nominees here.

Finally, it’s worth pausing for a moment to mention diversity (or the lack thereof) at the BRIT Awards. As you may or may not have noticed, this blog’s coverage of recent ceremonies has been limited in the extreme, and so the drama of the actual awards has entirely passed me by. That means I missed The 1975‘s raising of a very valid point about the male bias of 2019‘s ceremony, which, to their credit, the BRIT Awards’ twitter account made no attempt to whitewash. Even way back in 2016, I missed the criticism of the nominees and winners being skewed towards white artists. I sincerely apologise for missing both of these – however limited the coverage is on this blog, I should have known about them and have given them coverage here. The Guardian, at least, makes the point that this year’s event looks a little more promising in terms of diversity, so hopefully the tide is turning now.

Preview – Pet Shop Boys

Pet Shop Boys still have a number of old VHS releases which are overdue a DVD update. Following last year’s It Couldn’t Happen Here, next up is Discovery: Live In Rio. It features a number of beautifully eccentric moments, such as this one, where they blended Left to My Own Devices with Rhythm of the Night. The DVD/CD set comes out next week.

White Town – Wanted (Remixes)

Many of the releases explored by this blog are not available on your regular streaming services, and so the concept of waiting a quarter of a century to find a particular release probably won’t be too alien to readers. For me, though, this is probably the most extreme example – I must have learned about a legendary 12″ white label promo of White Town‘s Wanted in about 1998, I think, and it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I finally received a copy. Was it worth the wait? Well, we’ll see.

White Town, of course, was the tearaway success of early 1997. After spending most of the early 1990s self-releasing one-off 7″ singles and just one CD album in 1994, Jyoti Mishra sent a copy of his >Abort, Retry, Fail?_ EP to various DJs at the end of 1996. The first track, Your Woman, captured the imaginations of many, leading to a bidding war among record companies, and a number 1 hit single in the UK at the end of January 1997.

A quickly-assembled album, Women in Technology, followed, and the EP and album sold healthily in various countries, so the race for a follow-up single began. The original plan, it seems, was that it should be Wanted, and so a two-track CD promo appeared, which is fairly widely available and includes a brilliant rework by Vince Clarke. Much less well known is the 12″ white label, with its four completely exclusive remixes.

It opens with ScissorkicksWarped Mix, an insane but somewhat marvelous drum and bass excursion which can be viewed on YouTube at the bottom of the page. I’ve never heard of DJ Scissorkicks elsewhere, but he actually remixed three of White Town‘s 1997 tracks as well as a handful of big names at the tail end of the 1990s. For the most part, this one could be a remix of pretty much anything, but there’s still something rather brilliant about it.

For the second track, Heaven 17 take the driving seat. I’ve never heard them remix anything before, and these artists are clearly heroes of Mishra’s, which makes this single’s subsequent cancellation all the more mysterious. Their version is entitled Rise of the East, in common with one of the tracks from the album that gave this blog its name in the first place. The big surprise is a guest vocal from Glenn Gregory, but it’s really the big squelchy bass line that makes this version worthwhile. It’s faithful to the original, but brighter and cheerier.

The Vince Clarke mix turns out to be so similar to his Remix 2 from the CD promo that it’s not really worth seeking out. A close examination of the waveforms of both reveals that the 12” mix does fade out a few seconds sooner, but you wouldn’t notice that if you weren’t looking for it. If there are any other differences, then I’ve no clue what they are. That’s no bad thing, by the way – this mix has a lot in common with Clarke’s other remix work, but it’s a particularly fine example. Far from sounding like some of his own work, to my mind, he has taken the vocals to a better place than the original.

Sitting right at the end is another rarity – a mix by Mute Records boss and former The Normal / Silicon Teens mastermind Daniel Miller. It’s a gentler, more trippy, abstract and experimental interpretation than some of the others on here, but it’s a pleasant listen to close the set. As with all of these versions, it’s a shame they ended up hidden away on an obscure white label – this might never have hit the lofty heights of Your Woman, but there was plenty here to delight a broad range of fans of electronic music.

But ultimately, it was for nothing. Exactly what happened next is a bit of a mystery, but having gathered up such a wonderful set of names to rework this song, White Town’s record company cancelled the release. Its replacement, Undressed, which appeared just a few weeks after this one was due, included two more remixes and three b-sides, and crept into the charts at number 57 following limited airplay. White Town stayed with the label for just a few months more, before leaving or being dropped at the end of 1997, and the new versions of Wanted remained the stuff of legend.

Jyoti Mishra, meanwhile, has been scathing about his experience with the music industry’s major labels, and it’s not difficult to understand why, or to guess what likely happened to this release. He must have been hugely excited to engage several of his heroes to remix Wanted, only to have the whole release pulled at the last minute.

For me, though, and for anyone else who hasn’t tracked down a copy of their own yet, was it worth the 23-year way to hear this? Well, probably not, but it’s nice to finally find closure. There’s nothing here that will change the world, but it’s a nice set of remixes, and we can just hope that maybe, one day, they might find their way onto a special edition of Women in Technology.

If you don’t have a copy of this release, keep an eye on eBay or Discogs, and for now please enjoy ScissorkicksWarped Mix, thanks to somebody on YouTube:

Preview – Chicane

I have to admit, I stopped following Chicane a few years ago – he’s just too prolific, and often not as interesting as those first couple of albums. But he’s back, and it’s worth checking back in with him – here’s the title track from Everything We Had to Leave Behind:

Chart for stowaways – February 2021

The singles have barely changed since Christmas, except for a slight peppering of oldies, but here they go anyway:

  1. Tiësto – The Business
  2. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Enola Gay
  3. Riton/Nightcrawlers/Mufasa – Friday
  4. Pet Shop Boys – West End Girls
  5. The Future Sound of London – Cascade
  6. David Bowie – Mother
  7. Jean-Michel Jarre – Oxygène (Part 10)
  8. Grace – Not Over Yet
  9. Depeche Mode – Master and Servant
  10. Sparks – The Number One Song in Heaven

Preview – Jean-Michel Jarre

Like buses, Jean-Michel Jarre albums have seemed to come in threes in recent years. Having started the new year at a virtual Notre Dame Cathedral and his Welcome to the Other Side concert, he now returns with a studio album, Amazônia. It’s based around a photographic exhibit by Sebastião Salgado, and uses samples of Amazonian sounds and voices. There’s a sample below.

Grammy Awards 2021

I seem to put myself through this every year – in spite of not caring in the slightest who won at the Grammy Awards, I still make myself write a post about it. This year is perhaps a little different, as there simply haven’t been any other music award ceremonies recently.

As always, there were far too many categories. This year, pop contained very little of note for me, and neither, unusually, did the generic “Dance/Electronic” section. Even “New Age” was a bit of a mystery. I was somewhat amused to see that there’s a musical of Alanis Morissette‘s Jagged Little Pill (that’s ironic), which won in category #58, but that’s literally the first thing I spotted.

Depeche Mode were nominated for category #66 (Best Boxed Or Special Limited Edition Package), for their MODE box set, with the nominees named as Jeff Schulz and Paul A. Taylor, art directors, but it lost out to Wilco.

Meanwhile in category #68 (Best Historical Album), It’s Such a Good Feeling: The Best of Mister Rogers beat Orchestral Manoevres in the Dark‘s latest best of Souvenir. Woodkid got a nomination for Best Music Video, but failed to win, and that’s literally all I could find.

So that’s it, for this year. A return next year seems unlikely at this time. You can dig into the winners list here.