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?

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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!

Record Store Day 2014

Despite all my reservations about Record Store Day (mainly, the fact that only eBay sellers actually seem to get anything out of it), it’s hard not to get excited. So given the chance, you should probably think about finding your local record shop this Saturday, and seeing what might grab your fancy.

Here are some of the more interesting releases this year:

  • Amorphous Androgynous (sometimes also known as The Future Sound of London) – The Cartel & Remixes (2xLP, UK only)
  • Art of NoiseLive at the End of a Century (LP picture Disc, 500 copies, UK / Germany / Netherlands / Belgium only)
  • David Bowie1984 Picture Disc (7″, 4,000 copies, US / Canada only) and Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide (picture disc, Germany / Netherlands / France / Belgium only)
  • ChromeoEzra’s Interlude / Over Your Shoulder (7″, Germany / Netherlands / Belgium only)
  • CHVRCHESRecover EP (12″, 2,500 copies, US / Canada only) and We Sink (7″, UK / Germany only)
  • Cut CopyIn These Arms of Love / Like Any Other Day (10″, 2,000 copies, US only)
  • DevoButch Devo and the Sundance Gig (Vinyl / DVD, 1,750 copies) and Live at Max’s Kansas City – November 15, 1977 (12″, 2,000 copies, US only)
  • Everything But the GirlEden (30th Anniversary Edition) (gatefold clear LP, UK / Germany / Netherlands / Italy / France / Belgium only)
  • Gemma RayDeath Disc (7″ picture disc, Germany / Netherlands only)
  • Inspiral CarpetsDung 4 + The Cow EP (LP + 7″, UK / Germany only)
  • Joy DivisionAn Ideal for Living (1978) (12″, 7,500 copies, US / Canada / Italy / France / Belgium only)
  • LCD SoundsystemThe Long Goodbye (LCD Soundsystem Live at Madison Square Garden) (5×12″, 3,000 copies)
  • David LynchThe Air is on Fire (LP, 1,000 copies) and The Big Dream Remix EP (12″, UK / Germany / Netherlands / France / Belgium only)
  • MGMT – Congratulations (180 gram 2xLP, 1,000 numbered copies) and Oracular Spectacular (180 gram LP, 1,500 numbered copies)
  • Kylie MinogueGolden Boy (7″, Germany / Netherlands / Canada / France only)
  • The NotwistRun Run Run (12″, 1,770 copies)
  • Nova Nova & Peter HookLow Ends (Original and Slabb Remixes) (7″, UK only) and Low Ends (Thierry Criscione Remixes) (7″, UK only)
  • Pet Shop BoysFlourescent (12″, UK only)
  • The SpecialsSock it to ’em J.B. / Rat Race (7″, 1,000 copies, certain US / Canada / Belgium locations only)
  • Tears for FearsReady Boys & Girls (10″, 3,000 copies, US only)
  • Sébastien TellierL’Incroyable Vérité (LP, UK / Germany / Canada / France only)
  • The TheGiant (12″, 2,000 copies)
  • Tracey ThornMolly Drake Songs (7″, UK only)

I’ve done my best to get the territories right, but you’ll probably want to cross-check with the lists here if there’s something specific you’re after…

Last year’s list, if it’s still of interest, was here.