Chart for stowaways – 7 April 2018

This week’s top albums look like this:

  1. Sparks – Hippopotamus
  2. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – The Punishment of Luxury
  3. Tracey Thorn – Record
  4. The Radiophonic Workshop – Burials In Several Earths
  5. David Bowie – Legacy
  6. Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon
  7. The Human League – Anthology – A Very British Synthesizer Group
  8. The Chemical Brothers – We are the Night
  9. Alabama 3 – Exile on Coldharbour Lane
  10. M83 – Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts

Grammy Awards 2017

Around this time of year, I usually like to put together a quick post summarising the Grammy Awards. Honestly, it’s a total nightmare – there are way too many awards in a myriad different categories, and I don’t really care all that much, but let’s see what we can see anyway…

First up, skipping straight to category #10, Best Dance/Electronic Album, where Jean-Michel Jarre was definitely robbed for Electronica 1: The Time Machine, and not even Underworld could grab it with Barbara Barbara, We Face a Shining Future. Instead, it was taken by someone called Flume, with Skin.

Another veteran who didn’t make it this year was Vangelis, whose latest album Rosetta lost in the Best New Age Album category to White Sun‘s White Sun II.

There were some vague highlights in the Best Remixed Recording category, where Timo Maas turned up as a nominee, reworking Wings, but failed to win. Among the competition was Joe Goddard of Hot Chip, with a version of The Chemical Brothers‘ Wide Open, but that also failed to win.

There were some well-deserved wins for David Bowie in the Best Rock Performance and Best Rock Song and Best Alternative Music Album and Best Recording Package and Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical (whatever the heck that means) categories, all for Blackstar.

An honourable mention is surely due to Ladysmith Black Mambazo, whose latest album Walking in the Footsteps of Our Fathers didn’t quite grab the Best World Music Album, and finally, hats off to Dolly Parton, who with the help of Pentatonix won the Best Country Duo/Group Performance award for Jolene.

There’s a painfully long list here, if you want to find some highlights for yourself.

Electronic – Twisted Tenderness

Electronic‘s first album is widely celebrated as being excellent, and as I found out a couple of weeks ago, the second one turns out to be a lot better than any of us remembered too. But as I listened to that one to write the review, I found myself questioning my memories of the third one – is it really as bad as I remembered? Let’s find out.

I’m always a bit suspicious of noisy, industrial electronica, and listening to opening track Make it Happen, I wonder if that might be where my dissatisfaction with Twisted Tenderness stemmed from. It’s a nice enough jingly synth line at the beginning, and then a funky guitar line comes in before we get the vocal. This is telling: “Sometimes we find ourselves searching for something new,” Bernard Sumner tells us.

Well, doing “new” things just for the sake of it is a bit misguided, but let’s give it a chance anyway. Bernard and his bandmate Johnny Marr had clearly been listening to a lot of The Chemical Brothers (and as it turned out, Sumner was also working with them on Out of Control, which was rather better than this and appeared a few months later).

The other telling aspect is Arthur Baker, who turns up as producer here, with some supporting work from members of Doves and Black Grape. Baker has plenty of electronic music on his CV of course, but by the late 1990s seemed to have settled on a much darker, more industrial sound. Which is OK, of course – guitars are “electronic” too, but I suspect Electronic might have been on a mission to alienate their established fanbase here.

Eventually Make it Happen draws to a close and the charmless Haze begins. Where this succeeds over the preceding track is in its chorus: this time it fits nicely, whereas Make it Happen‘s seemed shoehorned in at best.

There’s a noticeable change in mood at the start of the one and only single Vivid, with its curious mix of electronic backing and harmonica with guitars and live drums. Despite that, it’s actually a pretty good song – it could have just about fitted as one of the less good moments on the preceding album Raise the Pressure. But that’s about it – it’s good, but nothing too great. And I can’t help but worry that might be as good as this album gets.

Neither is it ever too bad though – at worst, it’s listenable, even if it’s not really our thing. The less good moments (Breakdown) are always balanced by the better ones (Can’t Find My Way HomeTwisted Tenderness). I suspect the latter is intended to provide continuity to the previous releases, but even so, barely a moment goes by when you don’t find yourself looking at this album’s neighbours on the shelf and wishing you were listening to one of them instead.

Like No Other is forgettable, and Late at Night was almost going to be the second single, but never quite got its full release, and honestly that’s no major injustice. The better moments still appear – Prodigal Son drags on a bit, but it’s pretty good, but closing tracks When She’s Gone and Flicker are nothing special.

When I write these reviews, I just listen to the album and write what I think. Sometimes I’m wrong, and people quite rightly call me out for it. Other times their arguments (like mine) are clearly tempered by their memories. But I wonder if anyone will rush in to defend this album? Because honestly, right now I think I’m right – either it isn’t very good, or I’m just not its intended audience. Probably the latter, but in that case, who is?

You can still find Twisted Tenderness at all major retailers.

Retro chart for stowaways – 26 February 2005

Here are the top ten albums from eleven years ago:

  1. Mylo – Destroy Rock & Roll
  2. Erasure – Nightbird
  3. Client – City
  4. The Chemical Brothers – Push the Button
  5. Bent – Ariels
  6. Lemon Jelly – ’64-’95
  7. Depeche Mode – The Remixes 81-04
  8. Kylie Minogue – Ultimate Kylie
  9. Girls Aloud – What Will the Neighbours Say?
  10. Dirty Vegas – One

The Grammy Awards 2016

Every year in recent times during Awards Week, I’ve tried to go through the list of Grammy winners comprehensively, and come up with some of the highlights. If only it weren’t such a bloody long list…

Best Dance Recording is always an eccentric list, particularly with the US opinion on what counts as dance (although the BRITs always seemed to want to fill the nomination list with Jamiroquai back in the days when the category existed). This year’s nominees included Above & Beyond with Zoë Johnston, with We’re All We Need, and The Chemical Brothers featuring Q-Tip with Go, but of course the winner had to be Justin Bieber, accompanied by Skrillex and Diplo, whoever they might be.

Best Dance/Electronic Album also showed some promise, but Skrillex and Diplo carried that one away too. Unsuccessful nominees included Caribou‘s Our Love, and The Chemical BrothersBorn in the Echoes.

I’ve never really understood what “alternative music” is supposed to be, but Björk must have been a strong contender with Vulnicura in the Best Alternative Music Album category. Ultimately, she lost out to Alabama Shakes.

Best New Age Album probably showed some promise, but I’d never heard of any of them. Congratulations to Paul Avgerinos for the win. Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Gilberto Gil lost out to Angelique Kidjo in the patronisingly named Best World Music Album category, while David Bowie‘s Sue (Or in a Season of Crime) managed a belated win in the somewhat inexplicable Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals category.

In the completely bizarrely named Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical (because those classical remixes are such a big deal now), Dave Audé won for his reworking of Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars‘s Uptown Funk. And finally, in the eighty-third category, Best Music Film, Roger Waters‘s concert recording The Wall lost out to Amy, the documentary about Amy Winehouse. Probably justified, although The Wall live was a pretty impressive spectacle.

There’s a whole lot more, and there are probably other things of interest to you, if you can make it through the ridiculous number of awards, which I’m sure doesn’t devalue them in the slightest. You can view the results in full here.

Albums chart of the year 2015 for stowaways

It gives us great pleasure to unveil the top albums of 2015! Here’s the chart:

  1. New Order – Music Complete
  2. Leftfield – Alternative Light Source
  3. Hot Chip – Why Make Sense?
  4. Little Boots – Working Girl
  5. The Future Sound of London – Environment Five [released 2014]
  6. Jean-Michel Jarre – Electronica 1: The Time Machine
  7. The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy
  8. MG – MG
  9. Erlend Øye – Legao [released 2014]
  10. Röyksopp – The Inevitable End [number 1 of 2014]
  11. Étienne de Crécy – Super Discount 3
  12. Pink Floyd – The Endless River [released 2014]
  13. Camouflage – Greyscale
  14. Shit Robot – We Got a Love [released 2014]
  15. MG – MG EP
  16. The Chemical Brothers – Born in the Echoes
  17. Björk – Vulnicura
  18. The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses [released 1989]
  19. Delerium – Rarities & B-Sides
  20. Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon [released 1973]

Deepest commiserations to Erasure and Madonna, who were only just outside of the top twenty this year! Better luck in 2016!