Random jukebox – Spiller

If you’re anything like me, you probably only know Spiller for that one he/she did with Sophie Ellis-Bextor which was something about “why does it feel so good?” But Röyksopp also turned up at some point, with this excellent remix of Cry Baby:

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Bent – The Everlasting Blink

Fifteen years ago this week, the brilliant Bent released their second proper album The Everlasting Blink, which took the charts by gentle nudge in early 2003. Since they’re definitely one of your favourite Nottingham-based chillout electronica acts, this seems a worthwhile anniversary to celebrate.

It had been a couple of years since the minor success of debut Programmed to Love, but relatively little seemed to have changed in Bent‘s world, and they were still able to craft beautiful, elegant chillout music, as the lovely opening track King Wisp ably demonstrates. But nothing is ever quite what it seems, as Mozart makes an appearance in this track.

Next is the adorable An Ordinary Day, full of analogue chirps and built around a vocal by Lena Martell, it’s really rather brilliant. This was, of course, the same year that Röyksopp‘s Melody AM broke the charts, and there are definitely certain commonalities between the two albums. This one did not, unfortunately, sell quite as well, but it’s every bit as accomplished.

Next is a Nana Mouskouri sample for the equally adorable Strictly Bongo, which carries the album gently onwards. But track four is the big surprise, and as I recall this was the reason I started listening to Bent in the first place. I was in a little independent record shop (remember them?) just browsing, and suddenly I heard the voice of one of my favourite singers, Jon Marsh of The Beloved. Knowing that they hadn’t released anything new for several years, I was intrigued. I asked the shop assistant what it was, and bought the album then and there.

The thing with Beautiful Otherness isn’t that it was Jon Marsh‘s first vocal performance for a number of years, though – it’s that it’s absolutely fantastic. The rippling piano, drifting lyrics, and generally perfect mood are what set this track apart. I never realised until researching this that Stephen Hague had a hand in it too, which of course helps. It deserved to be a huge hit single, but that was never to be.

After that, anything was going to be a bit anticlimactic, and sure enough, there isn’t really anything wrong with Moonbeams – it’s very pleasant, in fact, with its pedal steel guitar work – but it does suffer by not quite being Beautiful OthernessToo Long Without You gets closer, as it cleverly samples two different songs by Billie Jo Spears, and works very nicely indeed.

Exercise 3 is joyful and fun, if a little silly, and then we get the first of the two singles, Stay the Same, which was actually Bent‘s biggest hit, peaking at number 59 in July 2003, although unfortunately with a vastly inferior single version. It’s a beautiful song, drawing heavily on a David Essex song from 1974, but rather than sticking to his original slightly naff country delivery, it’s been stripped, re-timed, and turned into a great pop vocal. Clever stuff.

Magic Love was the second single, another beautiful track built around something much older, and then we get the gentle title track The Everlasting Blink, with a bit more pedal steel guitar on it. Then the last track is the short Thick Ear, closing the album sweetly and softly.

Except that isn’t the end – here, Bent bring us not one, not two, but three bonus tracks – 12 Bar Fire BluesWendy, and Day-Care Partyline, none of which were ever going to completely  change your world, but it’s nice to have them on here anyway to round things out.

The Everlasting Blink is a great second album, with a number of exquisite songs – but what happened next was better still – the follow-up, Aerials, which appeared the following year, is by far Bent‘s finest hour.

You can still find The Everlasting Blink at all major music retailers.

Singles chart of the year 2017

These were the top singles for stowaways in 2017:

  1. Weeknd Ft Daft Punk – Starboy
  2. Depeche Mode – Where’s the Revolution
  3. Pet Shop Boys – Reunion
  4. Erasure – Love You To The Sky
  5. Goldfrapp – Anymore
  6. Depeche Mode – Going Backwards
  7. Pet Shop Boys – Leaving [number 2 in 2012, number 19 in 2013]
  8. Jean-Michel Jarre – Oxygène (Part 17) [number 28 in 2016]
  9. Kraftwerk – Trans Europa Express [released in 1977]
  10. Erasure – Be Careful What You Wish For!
  11. Pet Shop Boys – Memory of the Future [number 16 in 2012, number 4 in 2013]
  12. C Duncan – Wanted to Want It Too [number 7 in 2016]
  13. Saint Etienne – Magpie Eyes
  14. Pet Shop Boys – Winner [number 1 in 2012, number 18 in 2013]
  15. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – As We Open, So We Close
  16. Pet Shop Boys – Christmas [released in 2009, number 16 in 2015]
  17. Saint Etienne – Dive
  18. Depeche Mode – Cover Me
  19. Röyksopp feat. Susanne Sundfør – Never Ever [number 5 in 2016]
  20. Saint Etienne – The Reunion

Retro chart for stowaways – 29 November 2014

For the first time ever, here’s a retro chart from the lifespan of this blog, never published before. Here are the albums from just three years ago this week:

  1. Röyksopp – The Inevitable End
  2. Erasure – The Violet Flame
  3. David Bowie – Nothing Has Changed
  4. Sparks – In Outer Space
  5. Goldfrapp – Tales of Us
  6. David Bowie – Reality
  7. New Order – Waiting for the Sirens’ Call
  8. Röyksopp & Robyn – Do It Again
  9. William Orbit – Strange Cargo 5
  10. The Human League – Dare

 

Röyksopp – Remind Me / So Easy

It’s rare that I cover singles in the review section, and when I do, they have to be very special indeed. This one definitely is. This week in 2002, Röyksopp seemed to appear pretty much out of nowhere, with this gem.

Of course, their appearance wasn’t really quite that sudden. Over the preceding year or so, the singles Eple and Poor Leno had each appeared at least once already, and the album had been floating around in the lower reaches of the charts for some time as well, but this was the moment they really found fame.

The Someone Else’s Radio Mix of Remind Me is sublime. Whereas the original album version was a simple lounge piece which plodded along very pleasantly with a great vocal from Erlend Øye, this version brings enormous retro synth backing, and adds an actual chorus. Röyksopp have recorded some fantastic songs in the fifteen years that have followed, but nothing has ever been quite this good.

So Easy comes next. It wasn’t originally going to be on the single, but then the BT advert appeared in the UK, with the huge baby’s face, one of those adverts that you probably still remember today, and so it had to be included. It’s a great track, which only falls down slightly when you realise quite how much it’s been stretched out in order to last three and a half minutes. But aside from that, it’s really rather beautiful.

James Zabiela‘s Ingeborg mix of Remind Me closes the first CD, a pleasant chilled out version which adds urban samples and an enormous bass line to the original album version, but doesn’t quite have the shine of the single version. But that would be asking a lot – this is still excellent.

There’s really very little to fault here, with a beautifully designed CD sleeve showing cloud nestling, probably in a fjord or something, two great versions of Remind Me, and the adorable So Easy as well.

Unfortunately the second disc is a bit of a waste, and seems to have been thrown together a little too quickly – we get the album version of So Easy again, followed by the album version of Remind Me, before finally getting Tom Middleton‘s Cosmos mix of the main track, a long house version which isn’t quite as good as the remixer’s reputation would make you think it should be.

Worth tracking down are the 12″ versions, which bring you Someone Else’s Club Mix of Remind Me, which I suspect might have been an interim version between the album and radio mixes, and also Ernest Saint Laurent‘s Moonfish mix, which is probably as close as anything on this album can get to electro, but at the same time pulls some of the more chilled elements out from the album version.

If anything in Röyksopp‘s early years helped shape the sound of future albums The Understanding and Junior, I suspect it was the remix of Remind Me which led this single. It’s extraordinarily good, and is definitely worth owning in its own right.

If you prefer to buy new, the best you can manage now seems to be an oddly tagged collection of MP3s here. Otherwise track down the original CD release, which may or may not be here.

Begin again – revisiting the beginner’s guides

In all, between 2014 and 2015, this blog posted 66 beginner’s guides. The idea was to present six things:

  • Key moments – why you might have heard of these people before
  • Where to start – my thoughts on which of their albums to buy or listen to first
  • What to buy – the three items you should track down next
  • Don’t bother with – an item that is probably best avoided, or definitely should wait until you graduate to the level of completist
  • Hidden treasure – one song that’s hidden away somewhere and should be located at all costs
  • For stowaways – some collected highlights from their posts on this blog

They were very popular – in fact, for a long time, Depeche Mode‘s was the most popular post on this blog, and while that does suggest to me that it reached the wrong audience slightly, it’s still a good thing. They were also divisive – inevitably, people disagreed with a lot of what I wrote and told me so in angry or passive-aggressive ways. This is the internet, after all.

So what’s happened since they were written? Here are some highlights:

  • Air released a vinyl-only box set called Music for Museum, which you can probably skip for now
  • Conjure One released Holoscenic, which is nearly as good as their debut album, so is probably worth tracking down
  • Crystal Castles came back with a new lineup – I haven’t heard it yet, but the feedback seemed positive
  • Depeche Mode returned with the fantastic Spirit. You wouldn’t want to start with it, but it should be high on the list
  • Erasure keep churning albums out every couple of years, and finally seem to have returned to the consistent quality of the late 1980s and early 1990s
  • Goldfrapp have a new album, but it’s not quite as good as the previous one
  • The Human League have a new best of to consider, A Very British Synthesizer Group
  • Hot Chip keep throwing out great albums every time you turn your back for a moment
  • Jean Michel Jarre has managed three fantastic new albums: the two Electronica volumes and Oxygène 3
  • Kraftwerk now have a diverting live collection to consider
  • New Order now have the fantastic Music Complete to add to the list, which wouldn’t be a bad thing to add to the “what to buy” list either
  • Pet Shop Boys brought us the lovely Super
  • Röyksopp reappeared with two albums, Do It Again and The Inevitable End, before taking what looked at the time like an early retirement
  • Saint Etienne reissued their reissue series and just came back with Home Counties

You can find the index to all the beginner’s guides here.

Retro chart for stowaways – 20 May 2006

While I’m still away on my holidays, here are the top 10 albums from eleven years ago:

  1. Massive Attack – Collected
  2. Goldfrapp – Supernature
  3. William Orbit – Hello Waveforms
  4. I Monster – Neveroddoreven
  5. Depeche Mode – Playing the Angel
  6. Madonna – Confessions on a Dance Floor
  7. Röyksopp – The Understanding
  8. Pet Shop Boys – PopArt
  9. Röyksopp – Röyksopp’s Night Out
  10. Sugababes – Taller in More Ways