WATCH: Darkly Erotic New Goldfrapp Video For ‘Systemagic’

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Nothing seems more broken, dreary and in need of the Alison Goldfrapp touch than…”THE SYSTEM.”

Indeed, politics on both sides of the Atlantic have been as bleak and soul-sucking as possibly imaginable. But as ever, Mlle Alison has a disco beat to make it all (at least somewhat) better. “Luna light, you’re the spell / Coven up, let’s be it, do it, celebrate it,” she purrs over Depeche-like syntha on our favorite single “Systemagic,” from the sultry new Goldfrapp album Silver Eye. (About which we chatted with her just a few weeks ago.)

Godfrapp commences their highly-anticipated 2017 mini-tour tonight at the TLA in Philadelphia, before two shows at Brooklyn Steel this Tuesday and Thursday (before gigs in Madrid, Sydney, Helsinki, Brussels…). In the meantime, we have the goth-erotic new video for “Systemagic.” Directed by Alison herself, it features rather a lot of foxy, contorting dancers and, well, gorgeously ominous birds of prey. And really, what more could you hope for?

 

Spring Getaway: Art, Food + Flamenco in Madrid

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A massive sign on Madrid’s City Hall read “Refugees Welcome.” A cynic could take it as being a bit glib; but in truth, the statement was genuinely characteristic of Spain. It was particularly poignant, as our time there coincided with the onset of Trump’s divisive attempts at instituting a travel ban.

We were actually there to check out the impossibly cool new Only You Atocha hotel. And the visit just happened to be timed with their pop-up promotion with NYC’s Katz’s Delicatessen – incidentally, a proud, 128-year-old symbol of 19th Century Jewish immigration to New York’s Lower East Side. This sort of internationalism was very much a part of the allure of the hotel.

The brand itself had launched in 2013 with a very different sort of property – the Only You Boutique hotel in the trendy Chueca district. There, an aristocratic 19th mansion was converted by star designer Lázaro Rosa-Violán into a surreal but drop-dead stunning maze of differently themed public areas and plush guest rooms. He was enlisted again for the Atocha, this time giving a distinctly Spanish context to the lobby-as-hip-playground concept familiar to guests of hotels like The Ace.

And indeed, everywhere you might turn, there was something to grab your attention. To the right of the entrance, The Bakery by Mama Framboise, which serves decadent Tartaletas MF, a dozen flavors of macarons (goat-cheese-figs-pralines!), and Iberian ham toast all day. To the left was the Latin-Asian Trotamundos restaurant, with its buzzy corner cocktail bar. And just beyond is a dramatic atrium where nouveau jazz concerts take place regularly.

 

 

But probably our favorite part of the day was lingering over a lazy breakfast and the spectacular views at the 7th floor YOUniverse – where in the evenings DJs soundtrack the Panoramic Drinks Sessions.

In those rare moments when we actually did not have something to do, upstairs the rooms packed a great deal of charm and style considering the very approachable rates: smartly patterned bedspreads, exposed brick walls, white tiled bathrooms. For a special splurge, consider booking  the magnificent Terrace Suite.

Madrid itself comes especially to life as winter passes into spring, with its scores of pavement cafes, its teeming plazas for people watching and its streets that buzz late into the night. The food is divine, the nightlife is some of the best on The Continent, and it grand boulevards and its grandiloquent baroque architectural icons make it a city that glitters in the springtime sunshine.

 

The PradoThe Reina Sofia

The thing about classical art in Spain…it’s just different. It’s a country that still has a king, after all. And so a great deal of la historia de España is still told in a place like The Prado. It’s a very Spanish museum, and even if you’re a contemporary art geek, you’ll find yourself drawn in to the narrative as told through the dramatic works of Velazquez, Goya and El Greco. The astonishing collection also includes Rubens, Titian and Hieronymous Bosch’s proto-surrealist masterpiece The Garden of Earthly Delights.
The Reina Sofia, just a short stroll from the hotel, is Spain’s most important museum of 20th Century art, with works by Miró, Juan Gris, Pablo Serrano, and, of course, Picasso. The latter’s war horror masterpiece Guernica is here – and an exhibition (Pity and Terror) dedicated to it, runs through September 4. The museum also holds works by Damien Hirst, Cindy Sherman, Man Ray, Julian Schnabel and Richard Serra.

 

Prado Museum 2017

 

Art Gallery Tour

Madrid’s contemporary art scene has genuinely started to garner international attention, with its annual ARCO fair having become one of Europe’s most important. This is your best bet for getting to know the inside story, with tours of specific districts like the hip Letras and posh Salamanca. They will also curate private tours to suit your taste. You can add a wine drinking element, should you wish to pontificate on what you’ve seen over a glass or two of Rioja.

Barrio de Las Letras

Also a short stroll from the hotel, Las Letras is just that sort of neighborhood that defines Madrid: an atmospheric place where charming little bars and cool indie boutiques reign, and there’s not a chain outlet in sight. The outdoor cafes on Plaza de Santa Ana and the narrow streets around it are great for lingering and people watching.

 

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Palacio de Cibeles Restaurant Terrace

Atop the spectacular municipal building on the Plaza de Cibeles is a hidden away 6th floor restaurant and terrace. There’s a full gourmand’s menu – but come for cocktails, views and to soak up the vivid afternoon Madrid sunshine.

YOUnique Restaurant at Only You Boutique Hotel

Just being in this gorgeous hotel is an indescribable aesthetic pleasure. Its signature restaurant is a particular delight for a long, lazy lunch (Is there any other kind in Madrid?), with octopus salad, jamon coquetas, and lamb terrine with couscous all beautifully presented. Ask for a table in the verdant, art-adorned garden. The YOUnique Lounge is a stunning setting for evening cocktails.

 

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1862 Dry Bar

Spain’s is a wine-beer-sherry drinking culture. The cocktail thing, mercifully, did not sweep into its major cities and strap all of its bartenders into old-timey suspenders. 1862, for instance, is distinctly Spanish bar, not some Brooklyn imitation. A crowd of urbane Madrilenos come to sip updated takes on the classics (Gimlet, Sazerac, Manhattan) by drinks wizard Alberto Martinez. Spread over two floors, it’s one of the city’s buzziest scenes.

Corral de la Morería

Flamenco is way hotter than you might actually think – and five decades after opening, Corral de la Moreria is still one of the hottest tickets in Madrid. In a classical but sensual setting, with Arabic touches, watch some of Spain’s top names in the genre heat up the stage (and the audience) with their visceral, passionate performances. It’s actually quite an intense, even somewhat aphrodisiac experience.

 

Flamenco Madrid

NYC’s Langham Place and 1 Hotel Get Their Earth Day On

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The Langham Place Fifth Avenue Tree of Wishes

Earth Day (Saturday, April 22) had arguably hit a moment where it began to seem a bit…culturally hackneyed. But with a climate-change-denying administration in the White House, and an incoming E.P.A. Administrator (Scott Pruitt) who is likely gearing up to gut his own agency, the very idea of setting aside a special day to stick up for our Mother Planet seems suddenly once again urgent, even imperative.

Two of our fave New York City hotels are joining in the cause. The staff at the  Langham Place New York, Fifth Avenue (as part of their new #LovingEarthMonth initiative) have gone hands on, “planting” an exclusive Tree of Wishes in the elegant lobby, made entirely of reclaimed materials. Guests can purchase the pink, seeded “leaves,” and the donation will go towards bee preservation, benefitting The Honeybee Conservancy and Honey Love. For those who don’t know, as the bee population goes, so goes humanity. Celebrate the day with cocktails upstairs at Bar Fiori.

Across the East River, the new eco-chic 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge will celebrate its “official” opening with a day-and-night (noon – 9:15pm) Earth Day bash. In conjunction with mindbodygreen, it will be something of a festival of “conscious living.” Indeed, Biet Smikin will lead special meditations, there will be sessions with wellness studio Treatment by Lanshin, rooftop yoga with Caley Alyssa, and sustainability-focused panel discussions.

But it won’t be all seriousness. Mojave Rising’s Bess Matassa will be conducting astrology readings, there will be a live musical/visual performance by BELLA GAIA, and vendors from the new Dekalb Market Hall will be on hand, including Ample Hills Creamery, Bread & Spread, and Jianbing Company.

 

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BLACKBOOK PREMIERE: Lead Single – Scratch Massive’s ‘Standing By My Door’ – From Zoe Cassavetes Series ‘Junior’

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Daughter of John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands, director Zoe Cassavetes veritably has profundity running through her veins. So it’s hardly a surprise that her new series Junior, streaming on Vice‘s Blackpills, should have turned out so insightful and incisive. A poignant, fearless coming-of-age story, it follows teenage rebel Logan (Lucia Ribisi) as she struggles with her new life in Los Angeles – it also trenchantly views sexuality through the eyes of the social media generation.

“There is so much more access to all kinds of information, and misinformation,” Cassavetes told Variety, “that kids have this big responsibility to feel adult. And this generation of parents wants to be their friend more than the parent. So it’s about exploring how these kids deal with all this stuff.”

Then there’s the fittingly intense soundtrack – by the Parisian/LA DJ/producer pair Sébastien Chenut and Maud Geffray, who together make up electronic duo Scratch Massive. The sixteen songs provide a distinctly weighty sonic context to the story. The soundtrack will be released this Friday, April 21, and BlackBook premieres here a particularly favorite track: the cool, post-punk referencing “Standing By My Door” – which marries early Depeche Mode synth riffs with haunting, Siouxsie & the Banshees atmospherics and a poignant but pretty vocal by Geffray.

The song will also be the first single off Geffray’s solo album Polaar, to be released May 12 on Pan European Recordings.

 

Why You Need to See the Art at NYC’s New Street Taco Restaurant

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Far too many hotels and restaurants are, these days, slapping up a bunch of art on the walls, with no particular reason or aesthetic ideology behind it. But Gramercy’s punky new Street Taco had a plan – to make the art an essential part of the experience. And so artists Simon Robin and Nicole Salgar, as well as tattoo virtuoso Mike Rubendall, were engaged for the task – resulting in a holistic melding of food, drink and space.

Of course, this is a place where even the taco menu plays it a bit rebellious. Some of our faves? Blackened portobello, lamb barbacoa, ceviche…and lengua, which actually means “beef tongue.” But they also make a wicked guacamole and a killer margarita. It’s a genuinely iconoclastic update of the classic taqueria.

In between bites and sips, we chatted with the artists themselves about how they came to create the works that now grace Street Taco’s strikingly original walls.

 

ST House Margarita

 

Mike Rubendall, Tattoo Artist, Kings Avenue Tattoo

I was motivated to work with the Street Taco team because I had a clear understanding of the direction they were heading in – which gave me the right inspiration to transform their vision into a work of art. The have creative sensibilities that separate them from the rest, and they aren’t afraid to think outside the box, take risks and push boundaries in order to create a new and exciting dining experience.
With that in mind, I was able to lay a strong foundation against my design and feel that my final creation embodied these traits and fit the nontraditional, edgy theme of the restaurant. I mixed together a few different styles and cultures and created a one-of-a-kind design that I feel really enhanced the space. I topped off the piece with an Aztec inspired border to coincide with the overall theme of Street Taco.
As a tattoo artist, this project gave me the opportunity to highlight how prevalent tattooing is in street culture, while showcasing how it can be considered a form of art. Having my creation be a focal point behind the bar is very exciting to me, and I’ll be encouraging my friends (and clients) to visit the space for years to come.

 

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Nicole Salgar, Artist/Muralist

Xochiquetzal is the name of the piece I created for Street Taco and I’m obsessed with her location within the space. When you’re inside, you kind of have to seek her out; but from the street, she’s one of the first things you see, drawing people in to see what the place is all about.
I chose to paint this particular goddess because she is, by connotation, representative of human desire, pleasure and excess. Street Taco has a philosophy of indulgence and acceptance/freedom in the atmosphere of the restaurant and it just felt like an appropriate fit. Although there is a darker theme to the decor of the space, it is all done in a pleasure-seeking spirit.
With that being said, Xochiquetzal was also heavily associated with the concept of female sexual power. This is a subject which is more relevant now than ever, and her spirit belongs in the space, and in the city for all to acknowledge.

 

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Simon Robinson, Artist

This was an incredibly exciting project for me. Street Taco is authentic – it’s not pretentious or trying to be something that it’s not. When thinking about what I could bring to the overall taqueria experience, and best compliment true Mexican street food, I decided to create several meaningful and distinct pieces showcasing my interpretation of ‘street art.’
The first, and possibly my favorite, piece is a full, floor-to-ceiling representation of a #BadHombre. He’s edgy and cool, and his tattoos and rings show that he’s spent some actual time on the ‘streets’. He’s positioned across from the restroom entrances, giving guests a moment of pause and reflection before heading back to their tacos and margs.
One of my favorite seats in the house – a comfy corner booth near the entrance of the taqueria – showcases a girl with a beautiful skull face, gripping roses and seemingly lusting after something out of sight. It has a very ‘Day of the Dead’ vibe, felt by the elusiveness of the beautiful lover passing into the after love.
There’s also a very symbolic skull showcasing the relationship between love (symbolized by the rose) and the sinister /forbidden (represented by the skull itself).

 

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FIRST IMAGES: London’s Hottest New Hotel ‘The Curtain’

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When the first Soho House opened in London in 1995, no one really imagined that it would launch an entire new generation of private clubs, which would stretch to NYC, LA and beyond. It cooled off for awhile – but now one of the most high-profile hotel openings of 2017 will also have an equally high profile members club as a key component.

Indeed, The Curtain will debut next month in ever trendy Shoreditch courtesy of Michael Achenbaum, co-founder of the Gansevoort Hotel Group. The $100 million undertaking will feature 120 guest rooms and suites, done up in a kind of rustic-industrial aesthetic.

Says Achenbaum, “It’s in our DNA to create hotels in neighborhoods that are not only ahead of the curve but also areas that are growing. The Curtain is that vision come to life.”

But the real marquee news is the first London restaurant from celeb chef Marcus Samuelsson, an outpost of his exalted Harem hotspot Red Rooster – with the same Aunt Maybel’s Dumplings, Sammy’s Chicken N Waffles and the now hallowed Sunday Gospel Brunch. It will also launch the Rooster Taqueria concept.

But playing to the East London location, The Curtain will be an exceedingly nocturnal hang with a rock & roll soul. Red Rooster’s live music program will showcase young London buzz bands; the hotel will display original artwork by legendary rock photographer Mick Rock; Billy’s Bar will host ongoing late-night programming; while a live performance space, LP, is inspired by CBGB – and will feature a regular series of members-only events.

Expect quite a scene to coalesce around the hotel’s rooftop brasserie and Moroccan-style pool this spring and summer. But also expect a guest list for the Curtain’s private members’ club to swell with the ranks of the upper echelons of the mediarati. Indeed, one imagines that it won’t so much lure members away from nearby Shoreditch House – as much as give them a dazzling new place to stay, play and schmooze.

 

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Wendy + Bobby of Prince’s Newly Reformed Revolution

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Photo by Nancy Bundt

 

Although the late, immeasurably great Prince has generally been referred to in the singular, at the height of his powers he was one of pop music’s great collaborators. Indeed, he gathered amazing musicians around him, cultivated and mentored young talent (remember Ingrid Chavez? Shelia E?)…and the likes of Cyndi Lauper, Sheena Easton and Tom Jones all had their own hits with his songs.

He also had an incredible band, fittingly called The Revolution. There were members that came and went – but the core will always be remembered as Bobby Z., Matt Fink, Brownmark, Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman. They played together on some of the greatest records ever recorded: Purple Rain, Around the World in a Day, Parade.

Following Prince’s shocking death in April of 2016, they reformed for a series of emotional performances at Minneapolis’ legendary First Avenue club – and found they actually had a reason to go on. They launched a tour yesterday at Celebration 2017 @ Paisley Park in their hometown (see footage here); they then go on to 22 other cities before ending up in Seattle on July 15. Paying tribute to their fallen comrade is a significant inspiration for carrying on.

We caught up with Wendy and Bobby to talk regret, joy, pain and, of course, the music.

 

 

What was your reaction upon hearing the news of Prince’s death?

Wendy Melvoin  Panic! Total cognitive dissonance. It still hasn’t landed.
Bobby Z.  Shock and disbelief. The words “Prince Dead” on all the screens across the globe seemed impossible. Otherworldly, unreal. It’s a profound loss for the ages.

Was there any sense that you wished you might have been able to do something to help him?

WM  Are you fucking kidding me????? Y.E.S. I try and reconcile that feeling every day. When people or family die unexpectedly it’s the survivors that shoulder the weight of everything unrequited. I’m all too familiar with this kind of loss.
BZ  Of course you would like to think you may have been able to do something. But to say he was an extremely private person is an understatement. I doubt even the closest people in his inner circle knew of his real daily life. I knew him well from the earliest days of his career, and he was very mysterious even then.

What were those first Revolution shows like, right after Prince’s death?

WM  Like a seance. By the third night it felt like we made contact. You could feel a weight lift the room. The five of us left the stage and broke down in each other’s arms.
BZ  Soul searching musical and spiritual journeys. Each different and more challenging and healing in different ways at the same time.

Did you decide to carry on because the chemistry was there? Or was it more a decision to honor Prince’s memory?

BZ  Both really. It’s a calling. A need. But to be with each other, the five of us, playing the music that took us and our audience on a special journey, feels like something only we can do. It’s just too important to honor his memory, to remind people that he was so full of life and music. Witnessing his music live is the ultimate tribute to him.
WM  Playing together right now is our version of a sitting Shiva. We get to share him with his fans, and with each other. It’s part of our healing process.

Would you consider writing and recording new material?

WM  If we do? It will be a love letter to Prince.

Would you also think of recording new versions of some of the older songs? 

BZ  It’s way too early for that, as there is so much of our music with him that is unreleased; we would like to see that come out. But we will take it moment by moment.

What songs are you planning to play live?

WM  People will always ask, “Who’s going to be Prince??” No one! We will perform the catalog that belongs to our band. Everything from “I Would Die 4 U” to “Sign ‘O’ the Times.” We really want the fans to sing the songs.
BZ  Our time with him included the superlative albums Purple Rain, Around The World In A Day and Parade, so songs off those albums for sure. Plus, we also all played the classics with him live, so we have so many to choose from.

Have you found that you’re able to get joy out of playing these songs together again? Even though it was a terrible tragedy that brought you back together?

WM  Like I said…it’s been cognitive dissonance. True joy and pain all wrapped in a Prince hug.
BZ  It feels like a seance in a way. We and the audience need to make a little sense of this senseless tragedy by connecting. Playing his music seems to make us all feel just a tiny bit better, gives us all maybe just a little closure. Now that he is unbelievably gone forever…

 

 

WATCH: Sexy New Video for DJ Cassidy’s ‘Honor’, ft. Grace + Lil Yachty

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We’ve been in love with young Aussie soul goddess Grace since her striking 2015 cover of “You Don’t Own Me.” So we were thrilled to see her turning up on the sultry new DJ Cassidy single “Honor,” which also features Lil Yachty.

Today the video for the song is released, with Grace looking stunning in a flowing red dress. But she’s also playing the tough chick, lyrically standing her ground: “Girls like me have too much to offer / Why would I want to put up with the drama?”

It’s also one of the most visually sumptuous videos of 2017 so far. See for yourself.

 

BLACKBOOK PREMIERE: Surreal New Video for Vita and the Woolf’s ‘Feline’

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We’ve made no secret of our love for Philadelphia and its music scene. And our latest crush from the City of Brotherly Love is the poetically named Vita and the Woolf – which is essentially Jen Pague and a Spinal-Tap-like succession of drummers.

The name is a reference to the love affair shared by literary greats Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf (we appreciate the smartiness of it all). But Pague has actually drawn numerous comparisons to Florence Welch, which, with their shared flair for vocal dramatics, makes perfect sense.

BlackBook premieres here the hauntingly mystical new video for the viscerally sensual single “Feline.” The track exhibits their signature electro-pop-R&B hybrid, with lyrics addressing the eternal struggle to simply be accepted for being oneself as a woman.

“This song is really painful,” Pague confesses. “Every single day, there is at least one situation where I am made out to be a bitch or an evil person, just for being a woman. The song is about how everything is gendered in our society.”

A full album is due out June 16.