OTHER MUSIC'S LATEST AND GREATEST AT ACE HOTEL NEW YORK
Other Music curates selections of vinyl and CDs for Ace Hotel New York, and this is their latest collection for us. You can come check it out for yourself — everything’s for sale on the wall, just to the right of the taxidermy birds. If you want something good to play in your room and take home with you, just call the front desk and they’ll send some things up.
ARCADE FIRE — THE SUBURBS
The Suburbs is Arcade Fire ‘s third full-length for Merge Records, and it is their best work yet. The songs muse on modern life seen through the prism of youth, and then adulthood, spent in sprawling faceless suburbs, as most lives seem to be spent these days. Win Butler manages to approach the subject with a thoughtfulness that asks more questions than it tries to answer — he wants to see the soul-numbing sprawl shaken to its foundation, but he also wants children and family and a steady job and a safe place to lay his head, and despite his high moral standards, he knows that real life is often built on sacrifice.
The themes, while heady and ambitious, are not nearly as bombastic as those on the group’s 2007 colossus Neon Bible, and the music also reflects this more measured approach. Arcade Fire will always be a sweeping, epic band, and the sound here is closer to stadium standards from Bruce Springsteen and U2 than any modest indie trifle. But The Suburbs has stepped back from the dense orchestration of that last record, in favor of the raw beauty of a great band hitting a great groove, with piano chords, strummed guitars, and lock-step drums holding most of this thing together; understated keyboard and guitar flourishes set the mood and create depth and texture while Butler and Chassagne’s subtle, infectious melodies guide the group well beyond the dull workaday life, up up and away into the stars.
NITE JEWEL — AM I REAL?
Ramona Gonzalez aka Nite Jewel returns with an excellent six-track EP that successfully expands upon the neon funk haze of her Good Evening album, and also happens to include some of her best songs yet. Am I Real? finds Gonzalez stepping forward with a clearer, more assured version of her blurred, cosmic funk, eschewing much of the tape hiss for a more muscular yet still delicate sound. She still retains some of the AM radio wizardry practiced by peers Ariel Pink and Pearl Harbor, but she’s on another wavelength here; she taps into the work of Anna Domino, Linda Perhacs, Cluster, and new-school funkateers like Dam-Funk (with whom she has been collaborating for a forthcoming release) for inspiration while never sounding explicitly like any of them. While a few of the tracks (“Another Horizon” and “Falling Far”) are transitional pieces from the Good Evening era, the strongest songs here, like “We Want Our Things” and “White Lies,” feature more complex structures and stronger vocal cadences that display Ramona’s confidence and talent for combining funk, Krautrock, and new age (yes, you read that right) music into something personal and more unique than the eight dozen chillwave Slurpees you’ve been sucking on all summer. Record closer “Am I Real?” is what really brings the goods, though; the title cut features gorgeous multi-tracked vocal harmonies, a muscular, popping bass-led groove, and even a guitar solo (!) that adds up to be the greatest Nite Jewel song yet released.
!!! — STRANGE WEATHER, ISN’T IT?
After a period of relative quiet from this NYC punk-funk institution, which found the band going through a series of potentially crippling lineup changes and assorted strife, !!! are back, and they continue to grow and transcend expectations. Myth Takes from 2007 brought both a heavier sound and a more refined vocal aesthetic to the group’s productions, and Strange Weather, Isn’t It? loses some of the former, adds a bit of the latter, and is an even stronger record still. Everything that worked in past !!! releases remains intact. The soulful, catchy vocals by Nic Offer (often pushing his lower register here) and Shannon Funchess drive home choruses with unforgiving persistence. The rhythm section still maintains a bass to the face attitude with their singular percussive swagger. The band calls this album their Berlin record (some of it was in fact recorded in the infamous German music hotbed), so expect some darker shadows lurking in the production. Behind the scenes strings, spacey dub production, and truckloads of disco-funk synthesizers make this the most club-friendly !!! record to date, yet despite losing some of the last record’s rock edge, the musical references extend well beyond traditional dance club sounds. At times, like in “Jamie, My Intentions are Bass,” the record begs comparisons to the Stone Roses or the Happy Mondays, at times these could be outtakes from the Rolling Stones disco era, yet still other songs like “Even Judas Gave Jesus a Kiss” and “The Most Certain Sure” would be right at home on contemporary DFA 12”s. There is a lot going on here, and I can guarantee that we will be hearing this record for the rest of this year, and in my opinion, that’s a good thing.
JENNY AND JOHNNY — I’M HAVING FUN NOW
Jenny Lewis and boyfriend Jonathan Rice have already worked together in many capacities, co-writing many songs that have appeared on both Lewis’ and Rice’s previous solo efforts, touring, recording and collaborating in many different groups and configurations. But this is their first co-headlining gig, and the couple celebrate with a dose of lovelorn bubblegum on I’m Having Fun Now, an AM radio-inspired pop album that indeed sounds like a fun change of pace, and finds Lewis hanging up her Acid Tongue, at least for the moment. While her alt-country, non-Rilo Kiley output had many great moments, I secretly wished that she would backtrack to the days when RK still played songs like “The Frug.” Though still plenty stomping, I’m Having Fun Now leans toward that kind of levity, celebrating the joys of being poor and being in love with sharp Tom Petty guitar riffs and a cruising down the highway attitude. “Straight Edge of the Blade” throws both Rice and Lewis’ voices together into one big howl over a surfy lick, while the exceptional “Slavedriver” sounds like something Beck tossed out of his car window in 1998. Jenny & Johnny are having fun, I’m having a ton of fun right now listening to this record, and you should, too.
SERGE GAINSBOURG & JANE BIRKIN — JE T’AIME, MOI NON PLUS
Chances are, even if you’re not familiar with Serge Gainsbourg, you’ve probably heard “Je T’aime, Moi Non Plus,” his controversial 1969 duet with lover Jane Birkin. The song was his first international hit, courting controversy due to Birkin’s simulated orgasm in the song’s coda and its subsequent banning by the BBC, topping charts in France, Japan, and the UK, and even gaining underground cult status in the USA, where it appropriately peaked at, of course, #69. It was the soundtrack to countless baby-making sessions across the globe, and has been covered by countless musicians, featured in numerous films, and has become Gainsbourg’s signature tune to many. Light in the Attic offers up this first American reissue of the album which quickly followed in the single’s wake, a compilation of new tunes sung by both Birkin and Gainsbourg, a few Serge-sung versions of ye-ye pop songs originally written for France Gall, Francoise Hardy, and Anna Karina, and one hell of a stoned church-funk jam based upon a Chopin prelude (that’d be the epic “Jane B”). We also get new liners and a bonus track, the couple’s first recorded duet (the sultry, classic “Chanson De Slogan,” which was the theme tune to the film on which the couple first met and fell in love). This is the sound of Gainsbourg’s love for Birkin being immortalized on wax for all to hear; their creative partnership would go on to last long after their romantic relationship had fallen apart in the late 1970s, and the songs recorded here would plant the seeds that would be creatively sewed on Gainsbourg’s historic L’Histoire De Melody Nelson album a few years later in 1971. It’s an essential chapter in not only Gainsbourg’s discography, but in the story of French pop.
VARIOUS ARTISTS — AFRO-BEAT AIRWAYS
The always-solid Analog Africa label have outdone themselves with this one -– Afro-Beat Airways was borne out of an extended layover that Analog Africa curator Samy Redjeb took in Accra, Ghana. While there he met up with legendary Afrobeat producer Dick Essilfie-Bonzie who had just digitized his production output from the ’70s in an effort to produce compilations of his music, and he allowed Redjeb to take his box of recordings and sift through them, copying what he wanted! A year later Essilfie-Bonzie decided to give up his store and studio, and he gave Redjeb access to the master tapes. Lucky for us, Redjeb seized the opportunity to put together this collection, which features his favorite songs from that initial listening session. There are nothing but highlights here, but if hard-pressed to name a few I think that one should probably start with the frenetic psychedelic Moog-stomper “More” by Rob & Mag-2, who consisted of an eccentric, enigmatic frontman backed by a state-funded military band. You’ll also want to check out the raw garage sound of the Togo-based band Cos-ber-Zam’s lone hit “Ne Noya,” which boasts one of the best (slightly outta tune) Vox organ solos probably ever recorded. “Ngyegye No So,” by African Brothers, is another track not to be missed, featuring a rugged, classic-sounding Afrobeat groove with infectious call-and-response vocals and a relentless rhythm section that feels just about perfect right now.
Props also go out to Redjeb for going the extra distance by finding the original artists and interviewing them so that they can tell their own stories about the music in the extensive liner notes. Through them, you hear of a vibrant and musically rich music scene that was a lot more sophisticated and influential than many people think. Like Fela, many of these musicians were classically trained guys who studied abroad and brought those influences back to Africa, and were fully aware of how groundbreaking the music they created was.
We had the enormous privilege of sitting down with Udo Kier at his home in Palm Springs, California and having a chat about space, the end of the world, and palm trees. Udo is a fan of the Ace and he comes to hang out often, and sends friends to stay with us when they’re in town. He celebrated last Halloween with us by screening Andy Warhol’s Dracula at the hotel (we’re having another Halloween celebration this year with Flashdance, check it out).
Here’s Udo, presented in English and German…
Ace: Hi, Udo. We’re curious about why you love Palm Springs.
Udo: I’m in Palm Springs because I came here in the winter and I fall in love with it in the winter because that is the main time where it’s really beautiful. And that’s also the system of Palm Springs– like, Frank Sinatra and all these people, they had houses here and they came here for the wintertime. In the summer almost nobody was here. I came here for the first time in winter and I loved it because it’s such a climate change from Los Angeles. Just less than two hours drive and you have wonderful – especially around Christmas time, when it’s cold – you have beautiful weather.
That was one of the reasons. And then I was looking here for a place and I found, by incidents, a place which was a former library from Palm Springs, and I liked it. And I like space, I’m a person who likes space, which is very hard to have space in Los Angeles, because the houses are very close to each other, which is understandable in every city like that. Especially because in Los Angeles, there are no high-rise houses so that one-family houses are very close, as close as 15 feet or what… And here in this place I have enough space. Space is something – the most important thing in my life.
We’ve had a couple of friends send in their favorite Kodachrome shots in response to our recent post about ol’ Koda hittin’ the dust. Feel free to send yours in, too. We want to wallow for a while longer…
Hey, I think this is from the last role of Kodachrome ever shot (with my favorite camera). It’s of the Bradbury Building, which was featured in three of my favorite LA films - Chinatown, Double Indemnity, and most notably Bladerunner. Steve
So damn sad about the film being discontinued. I guess all we’re left with now is an iphone app that dreams of reproducing the real thing. I’ve attached a few of my grandparent’s shots that I found while digging through old photos at their house. That’s my grandfathers Dodge driving through a redwood in NorCal in 1955. The other is my great grandmother and her sister sometime in the 51. Since there are no time machines (yet) it’s my goal to make a feature film someday that looks and feels like living in a Kodachrome world. Look forward to staying at one of your fine hotels in the near future. Cheers, Andrew T. Maness
Smile Now Cry Later played recently at the weekly live music show, Lucha Libre, at Ace Hotel Palm Springs. Here’s some pictures from her blog of the show and her late night workout in the Ace gym. We’re a huge fan of these tights.
Cult filmmaker Chris Cunningham has spent the last decade studying music, making audio visual remixes, and making films people like to obsess about. On September 26, our friends at MoMA PopRally will produce the premiere of Chris’ latest project, “New York is Killing Me,” displayed as it was intended to be — on three simultaneous screens in the museum lobby. The event includes cocktails in the sculpture garden and a conversation between Chris, Richard Russell and MoMA curator Barbara London. Go check it out, it’s going to be epic.
Image: Still from Gil Scott-Heron’s New York is Killing Me. 2010. Directed by Chris Cunningham. Text and event information from MoMA PopRally.
Bizarre, snotty, killer garage 45 (the flip, Frustration, is amazing as well) by this Canadian band has always been a fave and a staple in my DJ set…Throbbimg wild garage track but the vocals are what always gets me. The beyond-Jagger enunciation always cracks me up & makes me very happy as it veers into the bizarro zone, my fave! Here’s a quote from Canuckistan Music about Little White Lies:
Vancouver’s Painted Ship first hit the water as the Wee Beasties when budding poet/vocalist William “The Captain” Hay teamed up with guitarist Rob Rowden out at the University of British Columbia in the summer of 1965. With Rob’s brother Barry Rowden on drums and bassist Ken Wain rounding out the crew, the newly christened Painted Ship took their virile garage/punk to the clubs, making regular splashes at the seminal Retinal Circus on Davie Street. By late ‘66 the band had delivered the stellar ‘Frustration’ to the execs over at London Records, but the suits were still unconvinced, insisting on something with more commercial potential. The result, the hard-hitting Little White Lies, with its hefty organ and strident sneer, would scale the regional charts into the summer of ‘67.