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.

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:

The Best Singles of 2004

I also found this one in my archives, dated December 2004…

Air “Cherry Blossom Girl” (Virgin; January; #175)

Without a doubt the most beautiful track on Talkie Walkie, which is one of their best albums to date. The single that was available in the UK, a Canadian import, features no other tracks of interest, but the original should have been a huge hit.

Bent “Comin’ Back” (Open; August; #89)

An absolutely beautiful track from the duo’s third album Ariels, and without a doubt a return to form. Astoundingly, despite unfavourable reviews, this became one of their most successful singles, and the album fared better than either of its predecessors.

Delerium feat. Nerina Pallot “Truly” (Nettwerk; February; #54)

Bill Leeb and Rhys Fulber made their name in the UK with classic stomping dance tracks, and continue in that vein with numerous new mixes from well known names. A welcome reworking of one of the best tracks from their recent album Chimera.

Delerium feat. Sarah McLachlan “Silence 2004” (Nettwerk; November; #38)

The third full UK release for the track that made Delerium in the UK. This time, as well as the best of the earlier remixes, it contains new versions by Above & Beyond and Filterheadz, neither of which detract from the splendour of the track. A welcome reissue to promote their recent Best of compilation, the only thing missing is the original album version.

Depeche Mode “Enjoy the Silence 2004” (Mute; October; #7)

A welcome return for the track that made the group one of the forerunners of electronic music. A multitude of new remixes of this and other tracks propelled the single back into the top ten and helped the remix album towards the right end of the charts.

Dirty Vegas “Walk into the Sun” (Parlophone; October; #54)

Finally, the long-awaited return from one of the best new bands of 2002. Unfortunately, the world seems to have forgotten them, and poor reviews and lack of airplay meant the single barely charted and the album didn’t make it at all. This doesn’t mean it’s a bad track though. Easily as good as anything on the first album, this is another essential track for them.

Enigma “Boum Boum” (Virgin; October; #108)

A fantastic return to form for an artist who has fallen behind the times somewhat in recent years, backed up with wonderful remixes by Chicane and Wally Lopez. Somewhat unsurprisingly, though, it didn’t manage the charts, despite being Cretu’s first UK single in four years.

Erasure “Breathe” (Mute; November; download only)

A fantastic return for a band who have seen relatively little success and a lot of unfavourable reviews over the last decade. It probably won’t be a hit when it receives its full UK release in January, but it’s pretty good nonetheless.

Faithless “Mass Destruction” (Cheeky; May; #7)

Occasionally Maxi Jazz comes out with astoundingly insightful and ingenious lyrics. This is one of those moments. It’s not the pounding four-to-the-floor insanity we might expect from Faithless, but it’s still a fantastic track, and herald for a good fourth album.

Goldfrapp “Black Cherry” (Mute; March; #28)

Yet another single from the wonderful album of the same name. This time the tracks included were minimally spread across the three formats, but included wonderful remixes, videos, live versions and a new exclusive b-side.

Kraftwerk “Aérodynamik” (EMI; April; #33)

Finally having dragged themselves back into the studio for the rush-released Tour de France Soundtracks in 2003, the true godfathers of electronic music returned with another single and continued on their travels with yet another world tour. The single features four exclusive new versions which no self-respecting home should be without.

Lemon Jelly “Stay with You” (XL; November; #31)

After a break of eighteen months, Lemon Jelly returned at the end of 2004 with possibly their best track to date. It may lack the charm of Nice Weather for Ducks, instead bringing together influences from French dance music as well as many familiar sounds, but it’s an instant classic nonetheless.

Pet Shop Boys “Flamboyant” (Parlophone; March; #12)

Many people are of the opinion that 2003 was one of the boys’ best years to date, seeing them returning to their more familiar electronic sound, and being rewarded with reasonable success for their troubles. This, the second single from their second hits album PopArt, was backed with numerous stunning remixes, the video, and a brand new b-side.

Soho Dolls “Prince Harry” (Poptones; November; #57)

The group made their name in the summer touring with Client, and, thanks to that, achieved a minor hit with their first single. It’s very raw and electronic, even more punk than Ladytron, and absolutely bristling with attitude.

Sylver “Love is an Angel” (??; October; no UK release)

Rumour has it that this is a true return to form. Having seen less success than deserved since their wonderful debut Turn the Tide, this track took them back into the German Top 20. Still no sign of any UK success, though.