Sébastien Tellier – Sexuality

The summer of 2008 isn’t exactly legendary, and never went down in history, but it did give us Sébastien Tellier‘s finest album Sexuality, and the quite crazy Eurovision Song Contest performance that went with it.

It opens with the glorious analogue arpeggio of Roche, a somewhat nonsensical track about how everyone wants to fall in love with Sébastien in the Biarritz summer. This is one of the most listened to tracks in my iTunes library, partly due to a quirk of good timing (it came out around the time I set the library up), and partly because it’s just so good – refreshing, uplifting, and just generally new. The production, by half of Daft Punk, is perfect, somehow both minimal and overproduced, laid back and quirky. Sébastien, meanwhile, is still dreaming of Biarritz in summer.

Kilometer is next, another raunchy track, unmistakably French, but with a strong R&B feel and a gratuitous use of silence. Look brings back the analogue arpeggios, but slower and much more relaxed this time. There’s really little to fault here.

What there always is, is a healthy dose of insanity, and the Eurovision entry Divine comes next, one of Tellier’s two minor UK hits, having peaked at number 106. I suspect most people in the UK just didn’t get it, as it doesn’t make a lot of sense outside of the context of the album, and frankly I’m not sure it makes a lot of sense here either. It’s fun, though.

The raunchier tracks are never far away, though, and Pomme is another – both brilliant and mad, with a slightly bonkers R&B bass line. Une Heure is less overt, apart perhaps from the lyrics, and bobs along pleasantly with a warping bass part and gently tripping drums. Then comes the long instrumental Sexual Sportswear, the track that originally launched the album on MySpace. Like most of the album, it’s entirely brilliant, and this time the only slightly insane thing is the title.

Some tracks are more forgettable – the gentle Elle fades away pleasantly into the background, but then Fingers of Steel turns up, a sweet song full of analogue riffs and gentle sounds. Manty is joyful, built seemingly around the sound of a woman laughing. And by then, the album is pretty much over already.

Then the slightly flanged piano work of L’Amour et la Violence appears. I’m not sure I could completely explain why, but this is my favourite track on here – the lyrics are very introspective (roughly translated, “tell me what you think of my life…” and the piano is played to perfection. It’s a perfect closing track, possibly one of the best I’ve ever heard.

Sexuality is daft – very French, often very raunchy, and almost always pretty silly – but it all works, somehow – it’s a fantastic album. Essential listening.

You can still find Sexuality through all major online retailers.

Advertisements

Greatest Hits – Vol. 10

A couple of times a year, I like to take a little breather and highlight some of the reviews that you might have missed on this blog in the past. Here are my choices this time. Enjoy!

If you enjoyed that, why not check out Volume 9, here?

Jean-Michel Jarre – Electronica 2: The Heart of Noise

Barely six months after the release of Jean-Michel Jarre‘s first Electronica album, he was already back with the second volume. This time, of course, we start with certain expectations after the first, and it’s not a disappointment.

The second volume begins with the gloriously atmospheric The Heart of Noise (Part 1), a duet with the French electronic musician Rone, who I hadn’t heard of before, but who seems to have brought a lot of additional atmosphere to this piece. It steps naturally into Part 2, which curiously for a collaboration album features Jarre collaborating with himself.

You must have realised by now that I’m a pretty big fan of Pet Shop Boys, so it should come as little surprise that I was excited about Brick England, but it does seem a typical act of irony for the duo that what’s clearly their best song in a number of years didn’t actually make it onto their latest album, released just weeks before this one. But Brick England is just so good. If there were any justice, this would have been number one for weeks. It wasn’t even a single – actually, Jarre seems to have lost interest in this album as soon as it was released and gone onto recording Oxygène 3 instead.

Julia Holter turns up next for the sparkling These Creatures, and then the one track that I don’t understand, As One with Primal Scream. It seems clear that they didn’t bother turning up for this, so Jarre has collaborated with them in much the same way as rappers collaborate with bald annoying drummers – by taking their song and recording another one over the top. The results aren’t bad, but surely Jarre could have done better?

Some of the legends here are every bit as legendary as Jarre himself, and Gary Numan is surely one of the closest, and although I haven’t really felt he’s lived up to his status in the last couple of decades, it’s hard not to have a degree of respect for him. Here for You is good though – possibly even one of the better tracks on here.

Without the list of collaborators, it’s often hard to know exactly what’s going on, so the gentle Electrees (with Hans Zimmer) fades into the more violent Exit, largely a solo Jarre work until Edward Snowden suddenly appears out of nowhere to talk about privacy for some reason.

Next it’s the turn of Canadian singer Peaches, who confused me briefly when I wondered why I’d only vaguely heard of her, until I realised she’s basically never had a hit in the UK. What You Want is pretty good though, although perhaps not quite as good as Gisele, with the flamboyant French singer Sébastien Tellier.

Switch on Leon sees Jarre appropriately working with The Orb to express their deep love of synthesizers and electronic music, but ultimately here is little more than an interlude which continues with the pleasant and bumpy Circus, with Siriusmo.

The brilliant Yello turn up for Why This, Why That and Why, a strangely compelling track which, like Brick England, blows their own 2016 album Toy out of the water. It’s an odd one, but it’s definitely one of the best tracks on here.

Prolific experimental musician Jeff Mills is next, with The Architect, a pleasant instrumental before the brilliant Swipe to the Right, with Cyndi Lauper, definitely one of the best pop tracks that Jarre has ever been involved with. Then another French legend Christophe appears to deliver Walking the Mile, a pleasant pop song.

Right at the end are a couple of surprises – Jarre collaborates with himself again and delivers his own vocal on another great pop song, Falling Down, and then it closes with the track that started the whole project, The Heart of Noise (The Origin).

Ultimately both halves of the Electronica project are great albums, but I’d dare to suggest that The Heart of Noise is actually slightly better than The Time Machine. Needless to say, both albums are well worth a listen, and ideally a purchase, and hopefully, one day, even a follow-up.

You can still find volume 2 of Electronica at all major retailers.

The Stowaway Awards 2015 – Nominations

Now it’s time for the moment you’ve all been waiting for over the entirety of 2014. Who will be nominated for the Stowaway awards 2015?

Best Album

  • Erasure – The Violet Flame
  • The Future Sound of London – Environment Five
  • Dieter Meier – Out of Chaos
  • William Orbit – Strange Cargo 5
  • Erlend Øye – Legao
  • Röyksopp – The Inevitable End
  • Shit Robot – We Got a Love
  • Simian Mobile Disco – Whorl
  • Sébastien Tellier – L’Aventura
  • Ben Watt – Hendra

Best Reissue / Compilation

  • David Bowie – Nothing Has Changed
  • Camouflage – Singles
  • Depeche Mode – Life in Berlin
  • Erasure – Greatest Hits Live
  • Moby – Hotel Ambient

Best Newcomer

  • Clark
  • Diamond Version
  • MIKRO
  • Mulu
  • Shelter

Best Artist

  • Napoleon
  • William Orbit
  • Erlend Øye
  • Sébastien Tellier
  • Zero 7

Best Live Act

  • Depeche Mode
  • Erasure
  • Massive Attack
  • Moby
  • Pet Shop Boys

The results will turn up in a few weeks’ time, and we’ll move onto the BRIT Awards in a couple of days…

Looking back at 2014

Well, way back at the start of 2014, we tried to predict what might be coming up this year. Let’s see how accurate those predictions were!

January

With a lot of care, we made our way into a brand new year by officially getting very excited about Awards season!

February

We went all out on investigating the history of the BRIT Awards, as well as covering the Grammys and – exclusively – our own Stowaway Awards!

March

Launching “exciting” new features in March seems to have become traditional on this blog, and sure enough, March 2014 saw the start of the hugely successful Beginner’s guide series. Which, incidentally, will be back very soon…

April

We celebrated the 30th anniversary of West End Girls, the 20th anniversary of Liberation, the 10th anniversary of Flamboyant, and the 5th anniversary of Yes, all in one action-packed Week of Pet Shop Boys.

May

In May, as every year, we celebrated the latest Eurovision Song Contest.

June

The middle month of the year saw us running the last series of reviews of early demos from Joy Division, New OrderDepeche Mode, and The Beloved.

July

In the height of summer (in the northern hemisphere), we celebrated our second anniversary, celebrated the addition of streaming to the UK chart, and looked at new releases from Sébastien Tellier and Andy Bell from Erasure.

August

In August, we ran a series of movie reviews, including Tomb RaiderThe Beach, and Sparks‘ wonderfully obscure movie-to-be about Ingmar Bergman.

September

We held our second annual Week of oldies, with reviews of great and not-so-great albums from Lightning SeedsEverything But The GirlYazoo, and others.

October

We posted our 808th post, and rolled back to see the finest singles of 2003 and 2004, as well as celebrating the 2014 Q Awards!

November

We celebrated the 40th anniversary of the release of Kraftwerk‘s Autobahn by reviewing a selection of their fantastic back catalogue.

December

… brings us to the end of 2014! Happy new year!