Grammy Awards 2019

Every year, the Grammy Awards land, with their multitude of absurdly specific categories, and every year, I struggle to pull together a post about some of the highlights. Here’s this year’s attempt!

Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album

The winner was Willie Nelson, for My Way, but he beat Seal‘s Standards. Apparently “pop” means something different at the Grammy Awards to the rest of the world.

Best Dance Recording

Above and Beyond were nominated for Northern Soul, with Richard Bedford, but they lost to Silk City and Dua Lipa and Diplo and Mark Ronson, probably mainly just by virtue of the length of their artist credit.

Best Dance/Electronic Album

As the description says, “for vocal or instrumental albums. Albums only.” I wonder whether EPs count? Anyway, Justice won for Woman Worldwide, beating stiff competition from Jon Hopkins‘s Singularity and a few others that I’ve never heard of.

Totally Gaga

Finally, because I’m clearly short of things to comment on this year, it was interesting to see just how good a year Lady Gaga has had at the Grammy Awards, with nominations for Record of the Year, and Song of the Year, and wins for Best Pop Solo Performance (Joanne (Where Do You Think You’re Goin’)), Best Pop Duo/Group Performance (Shallow, with Bradley Cooper), and Best Song Written for Visual Media (same).

So well done to all of them, anyway. Hopefully they’re excited.

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Chart for stowaways – 24 February 2018

These are the top albums this week:

  1. Sparks – Hippopotamus
  2. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – The Punishment of Luxury
  3. David Bowie – Legacy
  4. Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon
  5. Bent – The Everlasting Blink
  6. Mgmt – Little Dark Age
  7. Liza Minnelli – Results
  8. David Bowie – A Reality Tour
  9. Above & Beyond – Common Ground
  10. Air – Talkie Walkie

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

The Grammy Awards 2016

Every year in recent times during Awards Week, I’ve tried to go through the list of Grammy winners comprehensively, and come up with some of the highlights. If only it weren’t such a bloody long list…

Best Dance Recording is always an eccentric list, particularly with the US opinion on what counts as dance (although the BRITs always seemed to want to fill the nomination list with Jamiroquai back in the days when the category existed). This year’s nominees included Above & Beyond with Zoë Johnston, with We’re All We Need, and The Chemical Brothers featuring Q-Tip with Go, but of course the winner had to be Justin Bieber, accompanied by Skrillex and Diplo, whoever they might be.

Best Dance/Electronic Album also showed some promise, but Skrillex and Diplo carried that one away too. Unsuccessful nominees included Caribou‘s Our Love, and The Chemical BrothersBorn in the Echoes.

I’ve never really understood what “alternative music” is supposed to be, but Björk must have been a strong contender with Vulnicura in the Best Alternative Music Album category. Ultimately, she lost out to Alabama Shakes.

Best New Age Album probably showed some promise, but I’d never heard of any of them. Congratulations to Paul Avgerinos for the win. Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Gilberto Gil lost out to Angelique Kidjo in the patronisingly named Best World Music Album category, while David Bowie‘s Sue (Or in a Season of Crime) managed a belated win in the somewhat inexplicable Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals category.

In the completely bizarrely named Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical (because those classical remixes are such a big deal now), Dave Audé won for his reworking of Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars‘s Uptown Funk. And finally, in the eighty-third category, Best Music Film, Roger Waters‘s concert recording The Wall lost out to Amy, the documentary about Amy Winehouse. Probably justified, although The Wall live was a pretty impressive spectacle.

There’s a whole lot more, and there are probably other things of interest to you, if you can make it through the ridiculous number of awards, which I’m sure doesn’t devalue them in the slightest. You can view the results in full here.

Delerium – Poem

This album puts me in a slightly awkward position – wherever possible, I like to review the “official” version, but for reasons best known to themselves, Delerium completely reshuffled their 2000 album Poem for its UK release the following year, and ended up with a totally different track listing. It’s difficult to know which the “right” version is, but since the UK version is what I have, we’ll go with that.

Hot on the heels of the massive hit single Silence from the previous album KarmaDelerium already had their next album Poem ready, and obviously decided to go ahead with releasing that instead of messing around with its predecessor. Since Delerium single versions rarely bear any particular resemblance to the album versions, there’s a lot of logic in this, but it’s a slight shame that Karma missed out on all the fun.

But first up here is the second track on the US version, Innocente (Falling in Love), which features Leigh Nash of Sixpence None the Richer on vocals. Apart from Silence, this was the main single for this album, and rightfully so – it’s a great song.

Dance and electronic stalwart vocalist Kirsty Hawkshaw turns up next, for the lovely Nature’s Kingdom, a semi-acoustic piece with a typically exceptional vocal performance. Delerium fans tend to be ultra-loyal to their earlier ambient and industrial material, but with songs as good as this it’s difficult to see why.

Only a couple of albums into this phase of their career, they had however already carved themselves a very particular niche, which Daylight breaks rather nicely. It was already over a decade since their first album, with sometimes several albums a year, but they had never actually worked with a male vocalist before. Some might not see this as a problem, but I think it’s a shame, and despite apparently looking very scaryMatthew Sweet delivers a fantastic vocal performance on a great song here. The recent compilation Rarities & B-Sides revealed that this was intended as a single, and it’s a great shame that never happened.

In the end, the only other single was Underwater, with Rani Kamal on vocals. It’s a great song, but for their 2004 Best Of compilation Delerium opted for Above & Beyond‘s remix version which headed up the single, and rightfully so – it’s a lot better. It wouldn’t have fitted on the album in the slightest, though – the focus here is on chilled out, ethereal, mystic music.

The first half of this collection concludes with Fallen Icons, another exquisite song. If I had to pick a favourite Delerium album, though, despite how good the songs on here are, it probably wouldn’t be this one. On Chimera (2003), the mix of songs and vocalists is generally better if you’re looking for a “pop” way into their sound, whereas Karma (1997) is undoubtedly the pinnacle of their chanty sound.

This has plenty to offer, though, as Aria, a collaboration with Mediæval Bæbes aptly proves. As with a lot of the songs on here, I’ve no idea what they’re actually singing about, but I’m not sure that matters enormously in this instance – it’s still a great song.

The same is true of Myth, which after a couple of minutes of introduction eventually builds into an exceptional piece of music. Jennifer Stevens‘s vocals are exquisite, particularly in the crescendo of the chorus. It’s really hard to fault something like this.

The feeling on here is very much one of a compilation, as the potential hit singles come thing and fast, such as Inner Sanctum, which was just a bonus track originally, although it fits perfectly on here – it’s actually difficult to imagine Poem without this song. Unless you think the question “why is eternity forever?” is perhaps a slightly silly one, that is. Then the deliciously named A Poem for Byzantium follows, one of the catchier tracks on here, another semi-acoustic piece with an excellent vocal performance.

You might be forgiven for thinking that the new sound of Delerium is pretty much set by this point, but if so Amongst the Ruins will come as a bit of a surprise, taking you very much back to the older sound of the group and reminding you that they still have that side too. Commerical success may have taken them in a very different direction, but they’re still the same people.

So Poem is a slightly schizophrenic album at times, and it’s far from perfect, but it does have a lot to offer in the way of catchy, chilled out, electronic pop songs. As is so often the case, approach it with an open mind, and it has plenty to offer.

You can still find the European version of Poem on regular release in places such as this one. Tread a little carefully if this is what you’re looking for, as the US release is available too in some formats.

Preview – Faithless

If you had failed to notice the appearance of Faithless‘s’s new remix compilation Faithless 2.0, then your cave-hiding skills are clearly to be applauded. Celebrating their twentieth year of making music, it features classics revisited by an odd assortment of names, including Armin van BuurenTiëstoAbove & BeyondEric Prydz, and loads of others, followed by a disc of originals which looks rather better than their previous compilation Forever Faithless.

This is Bombs 2.0, remixed by Claptone: