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.

Unsigned Act – Blue Swan (and Subculture)

With this blog and the radio shows that came before it, I have always tried to keep some space available for unsigned artists, but honestly giving them the chance to be written about or to appear on an actual radio station yields surprisingly poor results. In the end, I only ever covered two unsigned acts on my old radio show Music for the Masses (2004-2005), one of whom was Blue Swan.

I must have contacted them via email, and wrote the following…

The duo consists of Henrik Jürgensen, 31, the vocalist and a soon-to-be qualified accountant, and Kasper Lauest, 30, who is the producer and also a psychologist (in the band?) They have been producing music since late 1999, when they met on the first Pet Shop Boys internet forum at Dotmusic, discovering by chance that they had gone to the same high school, one class apart, so they decided to meet up.

They listened to each other’s music, and both liked what they heard. When they heard about the Pet Shop Boys fan tribute project Attribute, they decided to record a cover of A New Life. They liked the result, so continued working together. They continue the story:

Last August, we released our first “virtual” album Sinister But Fragile. The track Black Widow was supposed to have been recorded by a famous Danish artist for her international debut album, but the deal fell through.

They are situated around Copenhagen, Denmark. All of their songs are recorded in their home studio in Kasper’s house. They write their songs together, sometimes in collaboration with Kasper’s younger brother Jakob.

The track Black Widow was done as an instrumental entitled Brutal, written by Kasper and his brother. When Henrik heard it, he absolutely loved it and wrote the lyrics and melody line on top of it. All synth sounds on Black Widow were made using an Access Virus C, while the beat was programmed using Reason 2.5.

Their virtual album Sinister But Fragile can be heard and downloaded in its entirety for free at (a website which no longer exists).

Their favourite band is the Pet Shop Boys, and Kasper’s favourite TV show is 24.

If you’re wondering, the other unsigned act we featured on the show was Subculture, but my only notes for them read as follows:

  • “Trash pop”
  • New Order
  • The Human League
  • David Bowie
  • OMD
  • Suede
  • Ladytron

Ross (vocals), Mace (synth), Matt (guitar), and Julia (bass).

You can read our most recent feature on Blue Swan here. If you’re unsigned and want some coverage, please get in touch using the form on the “Are You Unsigned” page.

Stowaway Awards 2017 – Nominations

Now for the moment that you have, of course, all been waiting for: the announcement of the nominees for the 2017 Stowaway Awards. As always in recent years, there will be exactly ten awards, one of which (Best Track) you know already from the countdown a couple of weeks ago. Here are five more key nominations!

Best Album

  • 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

Best Reissue / Compilation

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

Best Ambient Track

  • 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)

Best Dance Act / Remixer

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

Outstanding Contribution

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

Marsheaux – Peeka Boo

Just a little over a decade ago, the second album from Greek synthpop duo Marsheaux was unleashed on the world. After the understated pop of E-Bay Queen (2004), it really came out of nowhere. If you haven’t had the pleasure of listening to Marsheaux before, this is well worth tracking down.

It starts with some gentle synth murmurs, which grows a little to become Hanging On. By the chorus, it’s up there with some of the great electronic pop songs of history. Second track Wait No More is even better – it’s catchy, melancholic, and you could name hundreds of eighties acts who are being chanelled here.

There is, to use that awful term, a degree of “retro” here, and not just in the analogue synth sounds – the songs are a couple of decades behind schedule as well. But that’s far from a bad thing, and there’s still a freshness in the sounds and simple female vocals that make it stand out.

There are thirteen tracks on here, and with the perplexingly mis-spelt No Sence and the glorious cover of The Promise, it quickly cements itself as one of the finest synth albums of its era.

It’s worth a mention for the packaging, and ingenious although apparently ineffective marketing ploy, which unfolds into a large purple paper bag with eye holes, and instructions were provided by the record company to purchasers that they were to share photos of themselves with it on their head. Which is surely every bit as creative as anything anyone has come up with before.

What’s really surprising is that it doesn’t really get boring. It has its lower points, of course, but City of Lights leads to the fantastic Dream of a Disco – which absolutely should have been a huge hit single – and you realise you’re pretty much half way through the album already.

What a Lovely Surprise is good too, although quite what the relevance of the line about “fairies do not exist” might be is a bit of a mystery. But there are enough songs on here that you do start to forget which is which after a while. Home and What You Don’t Like are great, but Love Under Pressure is the one later track that really stands out, with its grimy disco vibe (yes, I said “vibe”).

Then comes People’s Mind, which might have been a b-side if there had actually been any singles, perhaps on the back of the next track, a great cover version of New Order‘s Regret. It’s not especially new, or different, but if nothing else it’s a worthwhile reminder that it’s a great pop song.

The last track is Heaven, full of subdued drum sounds and low pads. It’s an entirely suitable closing track to a brilliant album. The only downside now, ten years on, is the knowledge that little Marsheaux has done since gets anywhere close to being this good. But if you’re looking for that one synthpop album full of great pop songs and maybe some Mediterranean charm (don’t laugh – you might be) this is definitely it.

You can find Peeka Boo in a double-pack with debut album E-Bay Queen, still widely available.

Albums chart of the year 2016

Here are the top albums of last year, for stowaways:

  1. Jean-Michel Jarre – Electronica 2: The Heart of Noise
  2. New Order – Music Complete [number 1 in 2015]
  3. Jean-Michel Jarre – Electronica 1: The Time Machine [number 6 in 2015]
  4. David Bowie – Best Of Bowie
  5. Pet Shop Boys – Super
  6. David Bowie – Blackstar
  7. Conjure One – Holoscenic [released in 2015]
  8. Clarke Hartnoll – 2Square
  9. David Bowie – Nothing Has Changed [number 25 in 2015]
  10. Shit Robot – What Follows
  11. Róisín Murphy – Hairless Toys [number 26 in 2015]
  12. C Duncan – The Midnight Sun
  13. Air – Twentyears
  14. I Monster – Bright Sparks
  15. Delerium – Mythologie
  16. David Bowie – The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars
  17. Yello – Toy
  18. Little Boots – Working Girl [number 4 in 2015]
  19. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree
  20. David Bowie – Hunky Dory

More in a year or so…

Singles chart of the year 2016

Here are the top singles for stowaways in 2016:

  1. Pet Shop Boys – The Pop Kids
  2. Jean-Michel Jarre & Pet Shop Boys – Brick England
  3. Massive Attack – Ritual Spirit EP
  4. Pet Shop Boys – Twenty-Something
  5. Röyksopp feat. Susanne Sundfør – Never Ever
  6. Shit Robot – End of the Trail
  7. C Duncan – Wanted to Want It Too
  8. Delerium with Phildel – Ritual
  9. Pet Shop Boys – Say It to Me
  10. New Order feat. Elly Jackson (La Roux) – Tutti Frutti [number 5 in 2015]
  11. Clarke Hartnoll – Better Have a Drink to Think
  12. Jean-Michel Jarre – Remix EP (II)
  13. Pet Shop Boys – Inner Sanctum
  14. Goldfrapp – Stranger [number 42 in 2013]
  15. Conjure One feat. Hannah Ray – Kill the Fear [released in 2015]
  16. I Monster – The Bradley Brothers realise the transmutation of the Chamberlin to the MELLOTRON
  17. Róisín Murphy – Exploitation [released in 2015]
  18. Massive Attack – The Spoils / Come Near Me
  19. Jean-Michel Jarre – The Heart of Noise
  20. Clarke Hartnoll – Single Function

We’ll look at the albums next week!

Chart for stowaways – 11 November 2016

Now for the week’s top ten singles:

  1. Pet Shop Boys – Say It to Me
  2. C Duncan – Wanted to Want It Too
  3. Delerium with Phildel – Ritual
  4. Röyksopp feat. Susanne Sundfør – Never Ever
  5. Shit Robot – End of the Trail
  6. Weeknd feat. Daft Punk – Starboy
  7. Massive Attack – The Spoils / Come Near Me
  8. Delerium with Geri Soriano-Lightwood – Ghost Requiem
  9. Massive Attack feat. Hope Sandoval – The Spoils
  10. New Order feat. Elly Jackson – People on the High Line