Stowaway Awards 2019

So now we finally find out who the winners of the all-important 2019 Stowaways are!

Best Single

Already announced just before the new year, the winner of the Best Single award this year goes to Ladytron, for The Animals.

Best Album

  • Dubstar “One”
  • Front Line Assembly “WarMech”
  • The Future Sound of London “My Kingdom (Re-Imagined)”
  • Jean-Michel Jarre “Equinoxe Infinity”
  • The Radiophonic Workshop “Possum”

The winner is: The Future Sound of London

Best Reissue / Compilation

  • The Beloved “Reissue Series”
  • The Human League “Secrets”
  • Jean-Michel Jarre “Planet Jarre”
  • Soft Cell “Keychains & Snowstorms – The Singles”
  • Yazoo “Four Pieces”

The winner is: The Human League

Best Artist

  • The Future Sound of London
  • Jean-Michel Jarre
  • Ladytron
  • The Presets
  • The Radiophonic Workshop

The winner is: The Radiophonic Workshop

Best Live Act

  • Erasure
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
  • Sparks

The winner is: Sparks

Outstanding Contribution

  • David Bowie
  • Everything But The Girl
  • The Future Sound of London
  • Hot Chip
  • Leftfield

The winner is: David Bowie

Stowaway Awards 2019 – Nominations

Who will win in the all-important Stowaway Awards this year? Here are the nominations:

Best Album

  • Dubstar “One”
  • Front Line Assembly “WarMech”
  • The Future Sound of London “My Kingdom (Re-Imagined)”
  • Jean-Michel Jarre “Equinoxe Infinity”
  • The Radiophonic Workshop “Possum”

Best Reissue / Compilation

  • The Beloved “Reissue Series”
  • The Human League “Secrets”
  • Jean-Michel Jarre “Planet Jarre”
  • Soft Cell “Keychains & Snowstorms – The Singles”
  • Yazoo “Four Pieces”

Best Artist

  • The Future Sound of London
  • Jean-Michel Jarre
  • Ladytron
  • The Presets
  • The Radiophonic Workshop

Best Live Act

  • Erasure
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
  • Sparks

Outstanding Contribution

  • David Bowie
  • Everything But The Girl
  • The Future Sound of London
  • Hot Chip
  • Leftfield

Chart for stowaways – 20 October 2018

Here’s the latest singles chart:

  1. Ladytron – The Island
  2. The Future Sound of London – My Kingdom
  3. The Radiophonic Workshop – Everything You Can Imagine Is Real
  4. Tiefschwarz – Never
  5. Ladytron – The Animals
  6. The Future Sound of London – Collapsed Structures
  7. The Human League – Tell Me When
  8. The Radiophonic Workshop – Burials in Several Earths
  9. David Bowie – Zeroes
  10. Soft Cell – Northern Lights

The Grid – Evolver

Fans of mid-1990s dance music cannot fail to be aware of The Grid‘s third album Evolver, and the huge hit singles that came from it. Famously named in homage to The Beatles‘ Revolver, this is the album where Richard Norris and Soft Cell‘s Dave Ball finally made their impact on the world of dance music.

It opens with Wake Up,

The second track was also the third single, the adorable Rollercoaster,

The huge hit from this album, and probably honestly the only reason most people remember anything about The Grid, was its second single, the joyful banjo-meets-trance track Swamp Thing,

There’s little else here with quite that same level of energy, but that isn’t necessarily a problem. Throb

The big surprise, in many ways, with The Grid is just how different each of their albums was – 1990 debut Electric Head is deliciously electronic pop, with some underground leanings, and 1992’s 456 is a transitory album, with only its final single Crystal Clear really sounding anything like Evolver. Then after a long break, 2008’s Doppelgänger is pure house.

With that in mind, it’s a little surprising just how unchallenging some of this album’s central tracks such as Rise

Some tracks do stand out though, for all of that, and Shapes of Sleep

Higher Peaks has a slightly different mood, sounding a bit more like a self-help tape than anything else we’ve heard up to now. But this is a long album, and it’s easy to get lost in between the hits.

Finally, we get the brilliant Texas Cowboys, released twice, as both the first and last single from this album, hitting number 21 and 17 respectively. The huge sirens, whiplash samples, and vocals are just mesmerising. This is easily the best track on here – it may not have had the novelty appeal of the banjos on Swamp Thing, but it’s a much better piece of music.

Spin Cycle follows, another huge dance piece, this time built around a rippling electric piano arpeggio. Good, but nothing particularly world-changing. In fact, it’s closing track Golden Dawn that offers the first real surprise here – it’s slower, and a bit less manic, except for a reasonably insane operatic lead vocal that eventually turns up halfway through. Leave the CD playing a little longer after the track finishes, and you’ll be treated to an entirely bonkers answerphone message to close the album out. Odd, but strangely enjoyable.

So Evolver is a good album – perhaps not a great album, and definitely one very much of its time – but definitely a good one. It’s undoubtedly The Grid‘s best known work, but is it even their best? We can debate that another time. Either way, if nothing else, if you’re looking for an hour of solid mid-90s dance and trance, this is a pretty good way to fulfill that desire.

You can still find the original release of Evolver at major retailers.

Chart for stowaways – 6 October 2018

The top albums this week:

  1. The Future Sound of London – My Kingdom (Re-Imagined)
  2. The Radiophonic Workshop – Burials in Several Earths
  3. Aphex Twin – Collapse
  4. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Distant Sky – Live In Copenhagen
  5. Orbital – Monsters Exist
  6. Soft Cell – Keychains And Snowstorms – The Singles
  7. Kylie Minogue – Golden
  8. Jean-Michel Jarre – Équinoxe
  9. Jean Michel Jarre – Planet Jarre
  10. Pink Floyd – A Foot In The Door – The Best Of

Stowaway Heroes – Ian Levine

This is the first, and potentially also last, mention here for an unlikely Stowaway HeroIan Levine is a divisive personality, who has been involved in three main spheres that are relevant to this blog: first and least relevant is northern soul. If you’re not familiar with what that means… well, frankly, you are:

Yes, Fatboy Slim joins the ranks of Soft Cell and many others who have appeared on this blog previously as acts who have been influenced by northern soul, the gentle black American pop music that surprisingly took the north of England by storm in the late 1960s.

By the mid-1970s, Levine was one of the better known DJs who was bringing northern soul to Blackpool, and in more recent years, he has put his name to several compilation albums covering the era.

Over the decade or so that followed, he also made his name in the world of television show Doctor Who, writing the theme for the 1981 spin-off K-9 and Company, and also being responsible for this awful and rather tasteless charity single to try to persuade the BBC to bring the main series back in 1985:

Astonishingly, Hans Zimmer helped out on fairlight for that recording, along with a lot of people for whom this hopefully wasn’t the highlight of their career.

More specifically though, for this blog, Levine was the man who produced this hit single for Evelyn Thomas, later also covered by Erasure:

While the electronic parts of the song are almost depressingly simple, there’s a lot to be said for the vocal performance. His subsequent remixes for Pet Shop Boys (of Paninaro and It’s a Sin) definitely deserve to be forgotten, as does this (subsequently deleted) shockingly misogynistic tweet about the casting of a female Doctor Who:

CHRIS CHIBNALL MAKES ME WANNA VOMIT He has put the final nail into Doctor Who. RIP

But for all of that, I think we can agree that Ian Levine has influenced this blog in his own way, and for that we should be grateful!