Chart for stowaways – 8 April 2017

Here are this week’s top albums:

  1. Depeche Mode – Spirit
  2. Jean-Michel Jarre – Oxygène 3
  3. New Order – Lost Sirens
  4. The Human League – Anthology – A Very British Synthesizer Group
  5. Jean-Michel Jarre – Oxygène Trilogy
  6. Goldfrapp – Silver Eye
  7. Dusty Springfield – Reputation
  8. C Duncan – The Midnight Sun
  9. Soft Cell / Marc Almond – Hits And Pieces – The Best Of
  10. David Bowie – Legacy

Chart for stowaways – 25 March 2017

Here’s the latest album chart:

  1. Depeche Mode – Spirit
  2. Jean-Michel Jarre – Oxygène 3
  3. The Human League – Anthology – A Very British Synthesizer Group
  4. New Order – Lost Sirens
  5. Jean-Michel Jarre – Oxygène Trilogy
  6. Dusty Springfield – Reputation
  7. Soft Cell / Marc Almond – Hits and Pieces – The Best Of
  8. C Duncan – The Midnight Sun
  9. David Bowie – Legacy
  10. Delerium – Mythologie

Artist of the Week – The Beloved

Many moons ago, there was a radio show called Music for the Masses, which I presented on and off between 1999 and 2005. I’ve talked about it here plenty of times. One of the features was the Artist of the Week, and contained various errors, incorrect opinions, and the following information:

Jon Marsh originally formed a band called The Journey Through in 1984 with fellow Cambridge students Guy Gausden, Tim Havard, and Steve Waddington. After some demos, they evolved into The Beloved, and started making music not a million miles away from the style of Joy Division, early New Order, or even, occasionally, The Smiths.

After a number of minor singles, they released their debut album Where it Is, but following little success and disagreements with the record company, they left, dropped two members, and reappeared in 1988 with their first commercial release Loving Feeling.

It was at the end of 1989 that they saw their first major hit, with the release of The Sun Rising. Further singles from the first successful album Happiness were also hits, including Hello and Your Love Takes Me Higher. A remixed album Blissed Out also saw some success.

The third album Conscience followed in 1993, including the smash hit Sweet Harmony, and saw them starting to explore deeper dance territory with more house-based tracks and remixes. The fourth album in 1996 was in many ways a transitional piece, with the tracks starting to show great signs of depth.

Since then, they’ve done naff all… (that is genuinely what it says here!)

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.