BLACKBOOK PREMIERE: Chappell Roan’s Stunning Debut EP ‘School Nights’

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Image by Catie Laffoon

 

When you’re from Willard, Missouri, there’s not much chance that a famous music producer is just going to appear suddenly at one of your gigs – no matter you much you believe in what you’re doing. But Chappell Roan is that rarest of Cinderella stories, the small town high school choir girl who happened to post a performance to YouTube that ultimately changed her life.

It didn’t hurt her chances that she has a voice which seems to come from some supernatural or celestial place. And her new EP School Nights, which BlackBook premieres here, is as stunning a debut as we’ve heard in all of 2017. Musically sophisticated yet strikingly vulnerable, tracks like “Meantime” and “Die Young” have an almost hymn-like quality, the latter marked by its soaring strings and stark confessions of emotional uncertainty: “I keep my doubts in the back of my mind.” And “Sugar High” – a haunted, noir-like lament that has an almost David Lynchian essence – proves the range of her songwriting perspicacity.

But it’s perhaps the soulful lead single “Good Hurt” which is most affecting, with its mournful, visceral piano and tormented declarations of, “I should know better.” Indeed, it leaves little doubt of her future greatness. (Though we’ll hold the “next Lorde” proclamations for now.)

“These very personal songs have been tucked away for so long,” she confides. “They’re like my little babies.”

 

You’re just 19 and from a small town in Missouri. How exactly were you “discovered?”

It was pretty much a long shot. I performed locally at coffee shops and tiny venues and posted my performances on YouTube. Another artist, Troye Sivan, saw one of my videos and tweeted about it…and that got me some buzz and attention from a few record labels. Now here I am, still awestruck that this is even happening.

You have a singularly unique singing style. Who are some of your vocal influences?

I love Stevie Nicks and Karen Carpenter, those are my main  influences. I used to try to mimic their voices exactly when I was younger. Stylistically, Lana Del Rey and Lorde inspire so much of my writing and how I move my voice.

There’s certainly a dark thread running through your music. Are the songs a way of working those things out for you?

I write exactly what I feel. When I was writing this EP, I was in a very dark place at the time, and it definitely helped to write and release what I was feeling. Sometimes it’s hard to listen to the songs and realize how sad or crazy or alone I used to feel. I am in such a happier place now.

There’s also a bit of a cinematic quality to your songs. Are you influenced by film?

I just recently got into film. I really love film scores and how they’re such an important part of telling a story. I try to write my songs in a way you can visualize the story in your head – I incorporate specific details so you can really see and feel the same things that I do.

Is the School Nights EP a collective reflection of you leading up to this moment? Or is it pointing the way forward?

I feel like The School Nights is a reflection of so many different sides of me. Some parts of it are things that I still have to work on, but others I have let go of and have grown out of. It has taken me a long time to write all of these songs, so I was at various stages in my life. I just hope that it can make someone feel like they’re not crazy for feeling the way they do, and that it’s okay to feel sad or happy, or both at the same time.

How do you feel about it now that it is finished and ready to be released?

To be honest, I’m nervous…but so excited at the same time. I feel pretty vulnerable with [these songs] being released; but I’m so proud, and I know this is just the beginning of what I have been working so hard for. This all feels like such a dream.

(N.B.  She launches an extensive North American tour with Foy Vance in Vancouver on September 27.)

 

The Coolest European Cities You Don’t Know, Part I

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We’ve been plenty busy in 2017, museum-hopping in Paris, flirting in Rome and clubbing in the Berlin Kreuzberg underground. But cultivated Europhiles that we are, we’re always feeling the call of some of our less-trodden, yet still favorite cities on the Continent.

Nothing beckons us to Europa quite like the turning of autumn, with its exhilaratingly crisp evenings, stylishly scarfed locals, and those transcendently evocative fragrances that fill the air of each city (the latter a particular treat for those forced to breath the noxious fumes of New York and LA every day).

Part I of our sojourn takes us to fashionable Antwerp (Belgium) and sophisticated Maastricht (The Netherlands). Take note, if you’ve yet to fall for the charms of the Benelux, a couple of days in each city will cure you of that straight away.

 

Antwerp

Clockwise from top left, The Jane Restaurant; Antwerp architecture; Hotel Julien; MoMu

 

If fashion has held a central place in your life and you haven’t yet been to Antwerp, you should readily acknowledge a slight tinge of embarrassment. From the Antwerp Six on to today’s new guard of Belgian design, the exalted Royal Academy of Fine Arts continues to turn out some of the most astonishing talent, whose creations can be found in the vanguard boutiques in and around Nationalestraat – where you’ll also stumble upon the hallowed flagships of the likes of Dries Van Noten and Ann Demeulemeester. Nearby, as well, is the MoMu, the city’s incomparable fashion museum, which as of December 10 will host Olivier Theyskens, She Walks in Beauty. (Between boutiques, stop in for a de rigueur lunch at Verso Cafe, within the concept shop of the same name.)

Antwerp is also a place of staggering physical beauty, with its gothic-looking Flemish Renaissance cityscape and majestic harbor. The latter is now home to industrial-chic restaurants like Het Pomphuis (in a grandiose former pump house) and the sleek, Michelin-starred ‘t Zilte, on the top floor of the MAS (Museum aan de Stroom).

And speaking of vanguard, the thought-provoking M HKA museum, and independent galleries such as Valerie Traan, Stella Lohaus and Annie Gentils are central to Antwerp’s thriving contemporary art scene. If it’s architecture that sets you atingle, plan a leisurely stroll along the Cogels Osylei, a street in the Zurenborg district where art nouveau, neo-Renaissance, neo-gothic and Tudor-revival styles (amongst others) all come together in a strange but elegant sort of harmony.

Antwerp nightlife, it must be said, is totally bonkers. Start with a glamorous dinner at The Jane, fitted into a stunning 19th Century former chapel; the 13-course prix-fixe menu is €140, but the upstairs bar has much more agreeable prices, and seats you closer to God. Continue on to the extravagant scenes at over-the-top dance clubs like Red & Blue, Publik and Cafe D’Anvers. Expect a significant degree of mind-altering.

Stay

Hotel Julien is a smart, mostly-minimalist guesthouse with an intimate subterranean spa; Hotel Banks is a stylish sleep amidst the best fashion shopping; De Witte Lelie is the joining of three 17th Century townhouses into a place of utterly ethereal beauty (and favored by notable fashion designers).

 

Maastricht

Clockwise from top left, Kruisherenhotel; River Meuse; Stijl boutique; Maastricht streets

 

Famous as the place where in 1992 the modern European Union and the euro were born (the anti-Brexit, if you will), Maastricht is actually a seductive mix of international college town and exquisitely cosmopolitan city. And seriously, nearly everyone seems to have a bloody great sense of style here. With its right and left banks straddling the majestic Meuse River, the ethereal setting might easily have you thinking it can’t possibly all be real.

Wedged almost covertly between Belgium and Germany (Cologne is just 70 km away), history and modernity play very well together in this comely Southern Dutch town. Roman cathedrals bookend narrow 17th Century streets, which are abuzz with urbane cafes, indie fashion boutiques and intimate contemporary art galleries. And to be sure, one of the vigorously recommended activities is just…walking around.

Remarkably, for a relatively small city, Maastricht packs in rather a lot of Michelin stars. Tout a Fait, Beluga loves you, Toine Hermsen, Au Coin des Bons Enfants and the glorious Chateau Neercanne, just outside the center, all boast at least one – and chefs can be wildly experimental. But there are also more bars per capita than even Amsterdam – so a jenever (gin) soaked night on the tiles requires little planning. Still, make sure to hit The Lab for perception-altering cocktails, and Complex for bleeding-edge dance music.

Culture vultures should make time for the architecture and design gallery Bureau Europa, as well as the Bonnefantenmuseum, with its fascinating mix of Italian and Flemish Renaissance and baroque works, and brilliantly curated – Richard Serra, Sol Lewitt, Neo Rauch, Gilbert & George – contemporary collection.

Stay

The Kruisherenhotel (a member of Design Hotels) might literally be the most spectacular hotel in the known universe, fitted as it is into an awe-inspiring, 15th Century former monastery and cathedral; the Beaumont, right on the buzzy Stationsstraat, has minimalist rooms and the chic Harry’s restaurant; Hotel Dis is an artistic 7-room guesthouse with its own gallery.

 

 

 

 

 

Drink Sake, Play DJ! Tokyo Record Bar Opens in the West Village

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There’s a thing in Japan – where it’s popular for bars to be themed around record collections. Of course, an evening out with a bunch of vinyl-heads doesn’t exactly scream “fun,” does it?

So when Ariel Arce (former Wine Director at the now shuttered Birds & Bubbles) decided to open her new Tokyo Record Bar in the West Village, she wisely added a bit of sex appeal to its audiophile allure. The kitschy-chic room is actually located below Air’s Champagne Parlor, which she just opened in August on a picturesque stretch of MacDougal Street – so it comes with a built-in subterranean intrigue.

Yet despite its music geek appeal, there’s actually a bit of Japanese formality to it all – with specifically timed “Vinyl Jukebox” seatings at 6:30pm and at 8:30pm (seriously, don’t be late). A $50 prix-fixe gets you a 7-item Izakaya dining experience, and the singular kick of getting to act as co-curator of the 90-minute dinner soundtrack. At 10pm, it switches to normal seating, a la carte menu and a proper DJ sort bringing the tunes.

The drinks menu is, hardly surprisingly, focused around sake and shochu based cocktails. Oh, and if you’re really into Nordic black metal, you might have to go ‘byov(inyl).”

 

Star DJ Whitney Fierce’s Insider Guide To LA’s Hip (North) Koreatown

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Onomatopoeia. You know, when a word sounds like what it’s actually describing (boom!). We’re thinking this can very much apply to names, as well – especially when it comes to star DJ Whitney Fierce, who is known for fiercely shredding it behind the decks, while also dazzling any room with her inimitable presence.

A keen internationalist, she’s spun for the likes of Vogue, Dior, Topshop and Marc Jacobs, and been featured on the bill at Rock in Rio USA, Meltdown London, Nuit Sonique (Paris), Red Rocks (Russia) and the Istanbul Electronica Festival. This Saturday, September 18, she’ll share billing with New Order at the legendary Hollywood Bowl; and she’ll be at Brooklyn’s House of Yes on the 23rd, before jetting off to engagements in Australia.

 

 

When she’s not globetrotting, she calls Los Angeles home, specifically North Koreatown. Bordering the likes of Silver Lake and East Hollywood, it maintains a careful balance of local charm and charismatic cool.

“It’s brilliantly central and I love it, ” she enthuses, “because contrary to popular belief, it’s an LA neighborhood that’s actually walkable. Being here for five years, I’ve watched it change from a crunchy multicultural area to what is becoming a hipster enclave. But it’s still inclusive of the people who are originally from here. It’s this amalgamation and juxtaposition of old school and new, classic and hip, simple and fancy that makes me fall in love with it every time I get home.”

In between international stops, we asked her to take us through some of her fave spots in her beloved NK-Town.

(Twitter and Instagram, @DJWhitneyFierce; Listen on Soundcloud)

 

Sqirl

Very current, chic, and delicious breakfast/lunch spot that started as a preserves company. Their toast options carry that history, but you can find me neck deep in a Sorrel Pesto Rice Bowl w/Kokuho rose brown rice, sorrel pesto, preserved meyer lemon, watermelon radish, lacto fermented hot sauce, French sheep feta and poached egg – then to double up on the egg fare, I’ll always have a Lait ‘N’ Egg to drink, which is a Vietnamese style iced coffee shaken w/ egg whites.

Commonwealth and Council

An up-and-coming gallery/artist space that’s artist run. With multiple generations at the helm, you’ll see work here that you wouldn’t find anywhere else. from classic exhibitions to video, performance, and installation work. They show artists from around the country and the world, from many different backgrounds and cultures; it’s a great place to stop in to expand your boundaries and your mind!

 

 

EMC Raw Bar

My favorite raw bar. I am obsessed with oysters, to the point that a couple friends and I have a #GoutRace in the works. Happy hour is amazing, with dollar chef’s choice oysters and super affordable drink offerings. Don’t forget the live uni y’all. Seriously.

Poketo

Nestled in the lobby of the mega hip Line Hotel, this tiny store has so many of my favorite things, it’s absurd. I can always count on them to carry the most amazing and left field fragrances, natural bath and beauty products, and their fun bits and accessories are staggeringly well curated.

 

 

Yang San Bak

My personal favorite Korean BBQ spot, a block from the Line Hotel, Yang San Bak serves the finest self-grilled meats in the hood. Their combos come with soju and/or beer, and their banchan is incredible. And seriously, the kimchi moat is something that you didn’t know you needed in your life, but you do. Perfect for late night eats after oysters and drinks.

Baroo

It’s described on Yelp as Asian Fusion, which could be the most boring way to say what this gem of a place actually is: perhaps the best take on modern Korean I have ever put to my lips. Perfect for lunch or dinner, and definitely don’t forget their house made lavender kombucha.

 

 

HMS Bounty

A couple of blocks from EMC is a classic LA establishment, a watering hole for all people of all walks. Simple cocktails in the most amazing nautical themed atmosphere. The jukebox and the steak lunches take this spot to another level. Heck, my mom used to frequent the place when she moved to LA, and I’m always down for a legacy beverage.

The Normandie Club

Right across from YSB, nestled in a row of super cute new spots (Cassell’s – amazing hangover food, try the breakfast burger; Le Comptoir, an eight seat restaurant that reimagines French cuisine; and the semi-secret Walker Inn, with omakase-style cocktails). The Normandie Club is my neighborhood watering hole, but with a lot more to offer. They always have fun wines and their cocktail game is on point. The atmosphere is hip and the music is fun, you can meet people or bring your crew, and it’s the perfect place to end your evening and then, in my case, stumble eight blocks home.

 

Live Like a British Pop Star: The Residence at John Lewis Debuts in London

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As fantasies go, getting accidentally locked in a luxury department store overnight is surely up there. But what if you were actually given permission to stay?

That’s sort of the idea behind the The Residence at John Lewis, a totally unique, furnished in-store-apartment concept. It opens this weekend at their Oxford Street London location (with versions in Liverpool and Cambridge, as well), featuring a gorgeously designed living room, dining room, kitchen and bedroom. Exquisitely curated, everything within is available for browsing and purchase.

But surely, nothing so quotidian as shopping would get us this excited. Rather, the ultra posh apartment is on offer for impossibly luxurious sleepovers, as well as decadent dinner parties or brunches for you and your most fashionable friends. What’s included? A private concierge and mixologist, a fully Waitrose-stocked kitchen, a chicly stuffed wardrobe in guest’s size, as well as an hour’s worth of private shopping time. And, of course, the chance to live like your favorite British pop star or supermodel, if only for a brief spell.

Those hoping for the chance to experience an overnight stay or brunch/dinner, can apply at any of the three stores this weekend or next (16th, 17th, 23rd and 24th.) Godspeed.

 

 

 

The Redbury Hotel NYC Gets a Stylish New Italian Cafe

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Despite the fantastically successful rebirth of his very American Union Square Cafe last December, Danny Meyer’s sights have ostensibly been set squarely on building a new Roman Empire along a tight stretch of, let’s call it, “Lower East Midtown.” (LoEMid?)

His Maialino has, of course, been a sensation (behold the regular parade of celebs from Louis CK to Khloe Kardashian to Barack and Michelle) since it opened at the Gramercy Park Hotel in 2009. That was followed by Marta at the exceedingly trendy new Hollywood-export Redbury Hotel in NoMad. And this week it got a little sister in the form of Caffe Marchio, a cool, casual cafe and wine bar in an adjacent space.

With its patterned floors, marble countertops and towering columns, it looks like it could have been airlifted from Roma’s Via Del Corso. And with Exec Chef Joe Tarasco and Pastry Chef Jess Weiss helming the kitchen, it serves up tastily authentic sandwiches and pastries – accompanied by Italian beers and wines and, best of all, Old-Country-strong espressos…meant to be enjoyed standing up.

Surely, it’s a good time to be an Italophile in NYC.

 

 

NYC Nightlife Exports: 1 OAK Opens in Tokyo, PDT Coming to Hong Kong

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It’s a mad, mad, mad globalized world. And so the export of NYC’s top nightlife spots seems almost an inevitability. Especially as marquee chefs like Jean-Georges, Nobu Matsuhisa and Daniel Boulud have already taken their restaurant empires full-intercontinental.

And so it is that 1 OAK has just opened its first Asian outpost this month in the great metropolis of Tokyo. Richie Akiva and Ronnie Madra’s Butter Group had recently debuted their beach club spinoff in the Maldives; but the Japanese capital seems particular suited to the glitz-and-glamour ethos of 1 OAK – which has been notable for its supersonic-a-list clientele, including Beyoncé, Madonna, Rihanna and Halle Berry.

Roy Nachum has once again created the exclusive art installations adorning the wildly surreal space – which is certainly not lacking for V-V-V.I.P. areas where celebs can savor their luxurious privacy.

 

 

Some 2800 km away in Hong Kong, another Gotham late-night legend will be debuting this fall. Indeed, cocktail pioneers (meaning, they were doing it before everyone else was) PDT had previously collaborated on a pop-up at the city’s plush Landmark Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong hotel – and now it’s going permanent. Expect a dark, sexy space, a recreation of its secretive “phone booth” entrance and, of course, an unparalleled drinks program by exalted liquid alchemist Jim Meehan.

A definite opening date has yet to be set – but if your November travel plans include Hong Kong, you should be all set.

 

 

Foodie Ibiza? Superstar DJ Guy Gerber’s Insider Guide

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It’s no secret that the gorgeous Balearic Island of Ibiza is the clubbing capital of the world all summer long. But when the mega clubs close sometime in October, it becomes something totally else. And with autumn temps in the 70s, stunning beaches and scenery, and year-round sunshine (not to mention far lower hotel rates), those not disposed towards pumpkin picking and foliage might easily consider it for a fall weekend getaway.

Superstar DJ Guy Gerber knows Ibiza as well as anyone. A three-time Resident Advisor Top 10 Live Performer, the Israeli globetrotter has been a fixture on the scene for a decade, running critically-acclaimed nights at, amongst others, Pacha (which, for the record, stays open all year) – and he’ll be spinning at Paradise at DC10 there this Wednesday and next, September 13 and 20. In between, he’ll be making a very high-profile New York appearance this Saturday night, the 16th, bringing his Ibiza club RUMORS to the Knockdown Center in Queens. For dance heads, it’s an occasion not to be missed.

In the midst of his mad schedule, and as summer turns to autumn, we asked him to give us his expert guide to going foodie in Ibiza. And really, who wouldn’t love to settle down for a great meal after months of non-stop dancing?

 

 

La Paloma

Probably one of my favorite places, you can spend hours eating and drinking here. It’s in an absolutely stunning location, and there are few spots better to while away an afternoon or evening over freshly prepared, Tuscan-influenced cuisine.

Cala Bonita

Wow this place is amazing – such a beautiful little beach location. I once DJ’d a party for a friend here, so it always brings back that memory. It’s quiet, secluded and a really nice spot to hideaway. Not to mention the Mediterranean food is just phenomenal.

 

 

Izakaya

These guys have another spot in Amsterdam that’s next level – this one in Ibiza is brand new, and it’s also top. They’re super nice and always inviting us to go after RUMORS every Sunday. It’s definitely among the best Japanese food destinations on the island, if not the best. Make of meal of the creative Sakana small plates.

Hostal La Torre

This place is owned by the Mambo Brothers, who are very good friends of mine. I think it captures the essence of Ibiza for me, and it has an amazing view of the sunset. Perfect to have a drink and relax with creative tapas, fresh ensaladas and great ceviche.

 

 

Locals Only

This place is right in the middle of Ibiza town, it has a really relaxing vibe and the food is perfect every time. The seafood with an Italian influence is fantastic – and they use only the freshest produce. It’s a bit of an institution.

Maison Le Vrai

This place has a really interesting vibe, it’s sort of like a secret upscale rustic restaurant that makes really delicious, gourmet-level street foods. I’m also a big fan of the music they play here – it’s nice to listen to other styles on the island than just house and techno.

 

 

BlackBook Exclusive: Montreal Songstress Charlotte Cardin’s Iceland

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You might have guessed it – but oui, there is a French language version of The Voice in Canada. And in the first season of TVA’s La Voix in 2013, an 18-year-old girl from Montreal named Charlotte Cardin dazzled with her ethereal presence.

Main Girl, her US debut EP, was released by Atlantic this past week. It’s replete with soul-baring yet strikingly sophisticated, jazz-inflected confessionals, the lyrics exhibiting a remarkable depth of wisdom for her age. Indeed, on the title track she admonishes, “you misunderstood me all along.” And the startlingly self-possessed “Dirty Dirty” finds her gracefully acquiescing “You’re a mess in your own way / So let’s mess it up together”

Her alluring voice is at once self-assured and fragile – and through all the contemporary cool, one can readily make out the influence of one Billie Holiday.

For the haunting video accompanying first single “Main Girl,” Charlotte found herself fittingly wandering the isolated landscapes of Iceland. BlackBook asked her to share a few of the highlights of her visit.

 

The Place

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see many of Iceland’s most famous sites, as we were there on a mission. That being said, the landscapes that were filmed in nature are mind-blowing and definitely worth the trip.

The Shoot

We went a bit rogue when shooting the video, as no matter where you place the camera, the landscape was breathtaking. It’s a bit surreal to be amongst massive glaciers and all that natural beauty.

The Locals

Icelandic people are incredibly friendly and accommodating. We were made to feel at home no matter where went.

The Food

One night, in the basement of the Sæta Svínið Gastropub, the whole team and I did some karaoke. We had a blast!

The Drink

One of the guys from our team tried Iceland’s famously strong Brennivín (like a schnapps) – but maybe not something for everyone’s taste, haha. A lot of drinks were made with the Icelandic vodka called “Reyka.” It has a hint of vanilla to it.

A Secret

We usually have to use fake smoke on our shoots; but this time it wasn’t necessary because of the volcanos!

 

(N.B. Charlotte launches a North American tour with Nick Murphy – fka Chet Faker – this Friday at Union Transfer in Philadelphia. They’ll play Brooklyn’s Baby’s All Right on October 3.)