Chart for stowaways – 25 February 2017

These are this week’s albums:

  1. Jean-Michel Jarre – Oxygène 3
  2. The Human League – Anthology – A Very British Synthesizer Group
  3. Jean-Michel Jarre – Oxygène Trilogy
  4. Dusty Springfield – Reputation
  5. C Duncan – The Midnight Sun
  6. David Bowie – Legacy
  7. Delerium – Mythologie
  8. Air – Twentyears
  9. David Bowie – Station To Station
  10. Shit Robot – What Follows

Chart for stowaways – 11 February 2017

Move along, nothing to see here…

  1. Jean-Michel Jarre – Oxygène 3
  2. The Human League – Anthology – A Very British Synthesizer Group
  3. Dusty Springfield – Reputation
  4. Jean-Michel Jarre – Oxygène Trilogy
  5. C Duncan – The Midnight Sun
  6. Delerium – Mythologie
  7. David Bowie – Legacy
  8. Air – Twentyears
  9. Mike Oldfield – Return To Ommadawn
  10. Shit Robot – What Follows

Air – Pocket Symphony

Of all of Air‘s albums, 2007’s Pocket Symphony is definitely one of my favourites. The hits might have been eluding them by this stage, but the album was well received, and for me it remains Air‘s last great studio album (2009’s follow-up Love 2 has little to love, Le Voyage dans la Lune is a good extension of a soundtrack, and Music for Museum is a little too avant garde for my tastes).

It opens, as all good Air albums do, with something soft and gentle – in the case of Pocket Symphony, it’s the adorable Space Maker. There’s already a certain spaciousness to the piece, with a bit of melancholy as well – gone is the simplicity of the first album, and the daftness of the second – this is the sound of a group who are entirely comfortable in their skins and with their sound.

Lead single Once Upon a Time is the second track, with a lovely rippling piano arpeggio. In an earlier age, this would have been a huge hit single, but in 2007 it only got a French release and only had one b-side.

Of all people, Jarvis Cocker turns up to deliver the vocal on One Hell of a Party, and does an exceptional job. The melancholic side of Air – not really explored too deeply on earlier releases – is really rather beautiful, and Cocker’s lyrics and vocal performance are both sad and sweet.

But there’s also plenty of Air‘s traditional sound here – Napalm Love is a sweet love song, and Mayfair Song is a charming instrumental. Left Bank is another sweet, lonely acoustic piece, and their ode to pop superstars Photograph is very pleasant too.

The second and final single – and the only one in the UK, although you could have been forgiven for failing to notice its release – was Mer du Japon, a very simple one-line song which apparently was written to honour the Pacific Ocean. It’s a little too simple in some ways, but it’s a pleasant piece nonetheless.

The instrumental Lost Message follows, and then Neil Hannon of Divine Comedy fame turns up to sing the adorable Somewhere Between Waking and Sleeping. It might not have been destined to be a hit single, but it’s a great song even so, and a very worthwhile collaboration.

By this point the album is pretty much over – the vocal Redhead Girl and instrumental Night Sight close the album in gentle fashion, and it’s finished already. This may not be Air‘s most famous works, but it’s definitely one of their most consistent and finest hours.

You can still find Pocket Symphony at all major retailers. There are a few bonus tracks, either on the digital versions or using “OpenDisc” technology (no I don’t know either) on the CD.

Chart for stowaways – 28 January 2017

Here’s the latest album chart:

  1. Jean-Michel Jarre – Oxygène 3
  2. The Human League – Anthology – A Very British Synthesizer Group
  3. Dusty Springfield – Reputation
  4. C Duncan – The Midnight Sun
  5. Jean-Michel Jarre – Oxygène Trilogy
  6. David Bowie – Legacy
  7. Delerium – Mythologie
  8. Air – Twentyears
  9. David Bowie – Blackstar
  10. Shit Robot – What Follows

Retro chart for stowaways – 7 February 2004

These were the top ten albums, thirteen years ago this week:

  1. Air – Talkie Walkie
  2. Goldfrapp – Black Cherry
  3. Delerium – Chimera
  4. Pet Shop Boys – PopArt
  5. Dido – Life for Rent
  6. Sugababes – Three
  7. Tears for Fears – Tears Roll Down (Greatest Hits 82-92)
  8. Basement Jaxx – Kish Kash
  9. Dido – No Angel
  10. Air – Moon Safari

Stowaway Awards 2017

Finally! We kick Awards Season off in earnest with the Important Announcement of the winners of the 2017 Stowaways.

Best Track

Winner: Jean-Michel Jarre with Pet Shop Boys, for Brick England.

Best Album

These were the nominees:

  • The Avalanches – Wildflower
  • David Bowie – Blackstar
  • Clarke Hartnoll – 2Square
  • C Duncan – The Midnight Sun
  • I Monster – Bright Sparks
  • Jean-Michel Jarre – Electronica 2: The Heart of Noise
  • Jean-Michel Jarre – Oxygène 3
  • Pet Shop Boys – Super
  • Shit Robot – What Follows
  • Yello – Toy

Winner: Jean-Michel Jarre, who had a particularly good year and stood a better chance of winning than most, with Oxygène 3.

Best Reissue / Compilation

The nominees:

  • Air – Twentyears
  • Cicero – Future Boy
  • The Human League – Anthology – A Very British Synthesizer Group
  • New Order – Complete Music
  • Dusty Springfield – Reputation

Winner: The Human League

Best Artist

Winner: Jean-Michel Jarre

Best Live Act

Winner: Pet Shop Boys

Best Ambient Track

Nominated were:

  • Air – Adis Abebah
  • Delerium – Ghost Requiem
  • Enigma – Sadeness (Part II)
  • I Monster – Alan R Pearlman and the ARPiological exploration of the cosmos
  • Jean-Michel Jarre – Oxygène (Part 17)

Winner: Delerium, for Ghost Requiem

Best Dance Act / Remixer

Potential winners included:

  • The Avalanches
  • Clarke Hartnoll
  • Stuart Price
  • Röyksopp
  • Shit Robot

Winner: Shit Robot

Best Newcomer

Winner: C Duncan

Innovation Award

Winner: Jean-Michel Jarre

Outstanding Contribution

Could have been any of the following:

  • David Bowie
  • Vince Clarke
  • Delerium
  • Enigma
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

Winner: Delerium

That’s an unprecedented four out of ten for Jean-Michel Jarre. All being well, we’ll do the BRIT and Grammy Awards over the next couple of weeks.

Jean-Michel Jarre – Electronica 1: The Time Machine

I don’t know, you wait eight years for a new Jean-Michel Jarre album, and then three turn up at once. Sorry, I know that’s an obvious thing to say, but it is amusingly apposite. The fun but definitely questionable Téo & Téa (2007) left a slightly iffy taste in a lot of people’s mouths, and apart from the re-recorded and questionably legal version of Oxygène that followed the same year, there was then an extended silence until 2015.

What he was doing, it turns out, was working with every other electronic musician under the sun to create a two volume album, Electronica. The first opens with the sweet title track The Time Machine, with Boys Noize, and then comes one of the opening singles, Glory, with M83. So far, so pleasant.

Both of these albums have been criticised for being a bit disjointed, which, while not entirely unfair, seems a bit of an odd thing to say – of course they are, they’re effectively compilations of collaborations. But the sequence is generally logical, and there isn’t really anything particularly bad on here, so it’s hard to be too critical.

Fellow French musicians Air turn up next, for Close Your Eyes. Some tracks seem to have a lot more of Jarre, and others have a lot more of his collaborators on them, and in general, this one ends up sounding like Air might if they employed Jarre as a producer. That is to say, pretty good.

The first time you can really call something here “brilliant” is on the two parts of Automatic, both collaborations with Vince Clarke. For Clarke, this sounds a lot like his recent solo and collaborative electronic projects, but Jarre’s influence is clearly audible here too, particularly in Part 2, and both halves of the track really are excellent.

The increasingly great Little Boots turns up next, pretty much the only musician other than Jarre to make the laser harp part of their live show, and their collaboration is If..! (yes, two dots). While it’s certainly true that Jarre did something on this one, it’s difficult to know exactly what, but it’s a great song nonetheless.

They keep coming – Immortals, with Fuck Buttons, is an excellent meeting of minds, and while Suns Have Gone with Moby may not be the high point of either artist’s career, you have to be glad that it happened.

It is undeniably an odd list of collaborators though – which is not to say that Gesaffelstein shouldn’t be here – after all, why not? Few might put him in their top thirty living artists of all time list, but the resulting track Conquistador is pretty good. This isn’t so true of Travelator (Part 2) (there doesn’t appear to be a part 1), with Pete Townshend, which I’m not convinced does the legacy of either great musician any particular favours.

That isn’t true of what is apparently Edgar Froese‘s last recorded work, Zero Gravity, which after so many decades finally brings us the joint credit of Jean-Michel Jarre and Tangerine Dream, and it’s ever bit as excellent as it should be. It’s also nice to see Jarre revisiting his earlier musical partner Laurie Anderson for the decidedly odd Rely on Me.

Where these two albums both go a little astray for me is with the number of tracks – they’re varied, but after thirteen pieces of music and with no end in sight, you’re always going to be a little weary. Towards the end of the first volume, we get a fun trance excursion with  Armin van BuurenStardust, followed by the weirdly dubby Watching You, with 3D from Massive Attack.

Right at the end, John Carpenter turns up for the appropriately creepy A Question of Blood, and finally pianist Lang Lang accompanies an atmospheric piece on album closer The Train & The River. It’s a long, varied, and complex album, but in general it stands well on its own, and if you consider yourself a fan of any sort of electronic music, you should probably be a fan of this.

You can find part 1 of the Electronica project at all major retailers.