NYC Staycation: Pod 39 Hotel

 

 

It’s a well-worn trope that New Yorkers, despite living in a city with 1200 neighborhoods, spend most of their time in exactly two: the home one and the work one. Ask any Upper West Sider where Bath Beach is, and be prepared for a stare as blank as a catatonic. (It’s in South Brooklyn.)

Yet venturing even a few miles from one’s home/work base can seem like an exotic journey if done right. After all, the travel zeitgeist is so much about going somewhere new and living like a local. But since we didn’t have time for ice fishing in Finland, we opted for a staycation in a neighborhood we haven’t spent all that much time in.

Since our home/work ‘hoods are Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan, with the exception of that annual doctor visit, we rarely venture above 14th Street. Murray Hill may as well be Mumbai. Yet that’s where we found ourselves recently for a stay at the ever smart Pod 39 Hotel. There are a number of Pods around town and their chief selling point is good design at exceedingly approachable rates.

 

 

When it comes to style, it helps that this Pod occupies the former Allerton House Hotel, which was given Landmark distinction in 2007. The century old red brick building, which boasts terra-cotta detailing and wrought-iron light fixtures, opened in 1918 as economical housing for ‘hard working, refined, ambitious young men,’ and 40 years later the Salvation Army took it over, converting it into residences for women. The genders were finally allowed to co-mingle at 145 E. 39th Street, when the Pod people (sorry, pun intended) stepped in.

We were actually quite surprised with our room, which despite its obvious economy of scale, seemed spacious and chic. The fact that the view out the windows was of a brick walled interior space that led up to a small square of skyscraper dotted sky only accentuated the historic NYC vibe. Modern life was waiting just downstairs, however, as the lobby and adjacent restaurant, the recently opened Empellon Al Pastor, teemed with youthful energy in the evening. Groups were split between those downing tacos and margaritas, and those patient enough to wait in the long line for the rooftop bound elevator.

 

 

We settled in with a trio of new friends in a private room off the main dining area, where we watched the scene from a distance while savoring a tasty sampling of fish tempura and sweet potato tacos, broiled oysters, and lobster rangoon, all washed down with spicy cucumber margaritas. Everything was absolutely sublime (as it is in Empellon’s East Village location). Afterwards we joined the throngs at the Pod 39 Rooftop, the setting of which, with its century-old archways and columns, and 360-degree view of midtown, is really something spectacular.

Being a rooftop bar in a hip hotel, however, meant that it was packed to capacity, so we headed out for a brief walk around the comely, inviting neighborhood, stopping for a bottle of wine for the room. The knowledge that we were only a mile or two from home didn’t displace the feeling of otherness we had at being happily out of our element. Back at the Pod we did something we rarely do in Brooklyn, watched the local news on the wall mounted flat screen – because that’s what you do when you’re “out of town.”

The next morning we had a leisurely breakfast in the lobby’s Playroom Lounge before heading out to join the stream of workers making their way to the office. It may have been our imaginations, but we sensed a slight inkling of newfound ambition, and refinery, in ourselves – perhaps thanks to the ghosts of the ambitious young men who once occupied the Allerton…and certainly to the rejuvenating properties of a night in a strange but stylish bed.

 

BLACKBOOK PREMIERE: Brasko’s Wicked Cover of T. Rex’s ’20th Century Boy’

 

 

 

It seems enigmatic that a delicate looking young dandy with a penchant for petite frilly blouses should choose Nashville as a homebase for his conquest of the dance pop charts. Certainly the town has been expanding away from its country roots over the last decade; but, you know…it is still south of the Mason Dixon.

Yet Nashvegas is where we find Brasko, a recent transplant of even less cosmopolitan environs, whose funky disco and semi-clad Studio 54 meets La Perla trunk show aesthetic is perfectly poised to provoke.

His newest single, which BlackBook is thrilled to premiere here, is a precocious remake of the T. Rex glam classic “20th Century Boy” – which, with its snarlingly distorted guitars, half-time beat ad slithery lyrical couplets (“I move like a cat / Charge like a ram”), is a joyously head-banging antidote to all the soullessly produced pop that has been popping in our in-box lately

 

 

Of course, the song should be familiar, as it was the last big chart topper for Mark Bolan’s legendary band in 1973, coming on the heels of eight previous Top 2 UK singles. Bolan and producer Tony Visconti had pretty much invented glam rock three years earlier, scooping even David Bowie for the first glitter dusted release, and setting the stage for Roxy Music, Slade, and their like to flounce it up through the middle of the decade.

“Bolan was one of the true pioneers of glam rock,”Brasko enthuses. “He was one of the first men to go on national television wearing full makeup – even before Bowie. It was important to me that my fans knew I did my homework. If you want to lead the future you have know the past, so I chose to revamp ’20th Century Boy’ and make it a hit again.”

The track is takes from his debut album SEXDREAMSUPERSTAR, which will be released at a later date in 2019.

 

Radiohead Outwit the Hackers, Release Stolen ‘OK Computer’ Sessions

 

 

As we’ve all come to learn, crime, in many cases, does actually pay. However, you’ve apparently got to be pretty savvy to outwit those Radiohead boys.

Case in point – a hacker recently tapped into Thom Yorke’s minidisc archive, and gained access to 18 hours of OK Computer outtakes/miscellania. The thief reportedly demanded a ransom of $150,000 – on threat of making the purposely unreleased material public – a demand which the band, quite reasonably, decided not to cave in to.

Rather, Radiohead have put the 18 “clips/files” up on Bandcamp, with the purposely cheeky price of just £18 for purchase. And in keeping with their ideological propensities, they are donating all the proceeds to Extinction Rebellion, an organization devoted to forceful but nonviolent resistance to all policies opposing positive action on climate change and biodiversity loss.

 

 

“Instead of complaining or ignoring it,” explains guitarist Jonny Greenwood, “we’re releasing all 18 hours on Bandcamp in aid of Extinction Rebellion. Just for the next 18 days. So for £18 you can find out if we should have paid that ransom.”

He also tries to downplay the musical significance of the material – though any serious Radiohead fan would surely shell out ten times that amount for access…for, if nothing else, the sake of completism.

“Never intended for public consumption,” he insists, “it’s only tangentially interesting. And very, very long. Not a phone download. Rainy out, isn’t it though?”

One imagines few will find disappointment with their purchase.

 

Shudder to Think’s Craig Wedren’s New Book ‘My 90s’ Documents Rock’s Last Wild Decade

 

 

While the 1990’s, as with every era, had its share of musical abominations (two decades is still not enough time to absolve Creed and Nickelback), it was in other ways an extremely fertile period of musical creativity, giving us Britpop cheek (Oasis, Blur, Pulp), the mainstreaming of hip-hop (Tupac, Jay-Z), and the rise to mega-stardom of the once-fringe-dwelling likes of Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins.

And down in D.C., Shudder To Think were sort of evolving the “mission” of DC hardcore label Dischord, with their jittery but heady brand of modern art rock.

Fronted by singer/guitarist Craig Wedren, STT thrived throughout the decade, signing to Epic Records in ’94, even while Wedren battled Hodgkin’s disease. And by the time of their demise in ’98 (remember when bands used to actually break up?), they had left a lasting influence for so many new bands to draw upon. Oh, and Jeff Buckley, Incubus and Pearl Jam had been counted amongst their fans.

 

 

Wedren went on to considerable success as a film and TV composer, penning the scores to Laurel CanyonWet Hot American Summer, and countless others. So it comes as little surprise to learn that he’s also adept with a still camera; and a new, limited edition book, My ’90s – Polaroids by Craig Wedren, strikingly bears that out.

In it, he returns to those wild pre-Millennium times, when he documented Shudder to Think’s life on the road with the fellow zeitgeisters of the era, via a Polaroid Spectra. In his charmingly grainy, sometimes even surreal style, he captured members of Fugazi, Smashing Pumpkins, Foo Fighters, even Rain Phoenix and Karen Elson of socio-political troupe Citizens Band. There’s also a shot of STT’s Nathan Larson recording their contribution to the glam rock film Velvet Goldmine; a Vanity Fair party at Cannes; actress Frances McDormand seated with director Jim Jarmusch also at the exalted South of France film festival; and a several almost hallucinogenic scenery snaps.

Still a busy boy these days, Wedren’s most recent soundtrack projects have included GLOW and the critically acclaimed Aidy Bryant Hulu series Shrill. His excellent 2018 album Adult Desire Expanded includes the single “2Priests” – which he will be playing live July 13 with once-labelmates Jawbox at the Regent Theater in Los Angeles.

 

 

BLACKBOOK PREMIERE: Disquieting New Sanctuary Lakes Video For ‘The Long Fade Away’

Image by Jackson Dickie 

 

It’s an intriguing pairing, to be sure: Andrew Szekeres from Midnight Juggernauts, and Tim Hoey from Cut Copy, both Melbourne bands who have been significant participants/contributors to the post-Millennium new new wave. They are now collaborating under the moniker Sanctuary Lakes, and advance single “The Long Fade Away” certainly does not disappoint – though it’s admittedly nothing like one might have expected from them.

Indeed, with its “Space Oddity” intro (mellifluously strummed acoustic guitars, fluttery synths), it hints at something decidedly more introspective. It eventually settles aesthetically somewhere between a Cocteau Twins lament and Beatles psychedelia, at once both sonically widescreen and intimately, affectingly poignant.

 

 

The accompanying Christopher Hill and Jackson Dickie directed video, which BlackBook premieres here, shows the pair crossing a seemingly endless expanse of desert, looking rather hopeless about their situation. About three minutes in, they at last reach the ocean, walking straight into the waves until they disappear from sight – a rather unsettling image, that is nevertheless not necessarily what it seems.

“We wanted Sanctuary Lakes to sound like the entire record is submerged in water,” Hoey explains, “creating a feeling of comfort rather than distress. We worked with long time collaborators Chris and Jackson and set off down the coast of Victoria [Australia] in the middle of a heatwave and impending sandstorm to bring this vision to life.”

The duo’s self-titled debut album is out June 21 on Cutters Records, but is available now for pre-order.

BLACKBOOK PREMIERE: The Mysterious Wilder Woods’ Soulful New Single ‘Supply & Demand’

 

 

It’s nearly impossible to retain a “hidden” identity in this age of rampant social media saturation and privacy invasion. But a genuinely mysterious artist going by the nom de guerre Wilder Woods stirred up a bit of chatter earlier this spring with a couple of intriguing singles – “Someday Soon” and “Sure Ain’t” – whilst somehow still managing to remain shrouded in secrecy.

But he at last gave up the riddle this past week, as Wilder Woods was in fact revealed to be Bear Rinehart of Needtobreathe. Still and all, the singles keep coming – and latest, “Supply & Demand,” which BlackBook premieres here, is surely the best of them to date.

 

 

A sultry, sensual bit of classic Motown-soul that sounds straight out of 1972, it comes complete with dramatic strings, slinky wah-wah guitar, and an absolutely unstoppable hook. Lyrically, it’s about the healing power of true love – and there’s certainly nothing more we need right now than exactly just that.

“Sometimes the hardest part about loving someone,” he explains, “is knowing what they need when they need it. It sounds a lot simpler than it is, but ‘Supply & Demand’ is a classic love song about figuring out what that is. It might be something romantic, or a lot of times in my case, it starts with doing something selfless.“

 

 

The trio of tracks are teasers for what will be his eagerly awaited debut album, due out August 9 via Atlantic. In the meantime, we have the exclusive announcement of a 27-date North American and European tour, stretching the length of September and October, dates below.

“You always hear about bands ‘finding’ their sound,” WW/BR says of the upcoming album. “I don’t know if I really understood how difficult, but important, that journey really is until I went on it myself.  We ended up with a record that weaves its way between the classic soul artists that I love and a more modern, alternative way of producing them. You can certainly hear influences from Marvin Gaye and Bob Marley, all the way to The Temptations and even Springsteen – but I’m proud of how different it actually is from all those things.”

As well he should be.

 

 Wilder Woods on Tour

September

5              Toronto, ON                       Mod Club
7              Philadelphia, PA                World Café Live
8              Cambridge, MA                 The Sinclair
9              Brooklyn, NY                      Music Hall of Williamsburg
11           Washington, DC                9:30 Club
13           Raleigh, NC                         Lincoln Theatre
14           Charlotte, NC                     The Underground
15           Birmingham, AL                WorkPlay Theatre
18           Atlanta, GA                         Terminal West
19           Nashville, TN                      The Basement East
23           Chicago, IL                           Metro
24           Minneapolis, MN             Fine Line Music Café
25           Madison, WI                       Majestic Theatre
27           Lawrence, KS                     The Granada Theater
28           Omaha, NE                          Slowdown
30           Denver, CO                         Bluebird Theater

October

2              Salt Lake City, UT              Metro Music Hall
4              Portland, OR                       Hawthorne Theatre
6              San Francisco, CA             The Independent
7              West Hollywood, CA       Troubador
20           Hamburg, DE                      Hakken
21           Cologne, DE                        Helios 37
23           Paris, FR                               1999 Club
24           Amsterdam, NL                 Paradiso
25           Glasgow, UK                       King Tuts
27           Manchester, UK                Deaf Institute
28           London, UK                         Camden Assembly

SoFi-Chic: Urbanica The Meridian Hotel is Miami’s Laidback House of Style

 

After many an escape to the heat of Miami from a curiously cold New York spring, we’ve developed a bit of a magic city routine that inevitably involves strolls along the beach promenade, shopping on Lincoln Road, and many a bevvy at one of the plush hotels that line Collins Ave. More recent trips, however, have had us upending said routine by venturing into parts unknown – like our recent introduction to SoFi, South Beach’s Tribeca-shaped southernmost wedge between 5th Street and the ocean.

5th St is a natural demarcation line between the hard-partying Ocean Drive scene to its north, where Lummus Park starts, and the more subdued residential area to the south. And we were happy not to have to share its quiet streets with the throngs of shell-shocked tourists and questionably attired locals one finds in the trenches of SoBe.

 

 

We were staying at the perfectly situated Urbanica The Meridian Hotel, a minimalist oasis that reflects the dialed-down vibe of the neighborhood.

Cheeky though it was, we were quietly delighted when the Meridian’s fashionably bearded concierge greeted us with a salutation of “welcome home” as we alighted curbside. The immediately proffered mojito only added to the cozy feeling. Once upstairs, the genuinely monochromatically white in décor rooms exuded a sense-depriving calm, and we indulged in some much needed down time.

 

Minibar

 

Our first evening upon us, we started at the hotel’s newly opened Minibar, a chic, mid-century-meets-tiki oasis where we downed a few of their signature cocktails, including a South Beach ‘Z’ Pack, made of tequila, mezcal, ginger and honey.

We then dared to cross 5th into the heart of SoBe for the resto-meets-nightclub (aren’t they all in Miami?) Myn-Tu, which is next door to and sister of the perpetually trendy Mynt (get it?). The neon lights and scantily dressed servers, while certainly fun, didn’t instill in us lofty gastronomic expectations; but we were delightfully surprised, feasting on lemongrass soup, jackfruit gyozas, sea bass lettuce cups, and other sublimely prepared delicacies. A post dinner drink at the formerly subdued Setai hotel surprised us, as the once quietly elegant interior courtyard had transformed into a throbbing house party. Again, the nightclub thing.

 

Myn-Tu

 

After a restful night we breakfasted on eggs and antioxidant smoothies from the Meridian’s Food Marchand in its charming courtyard, before a long, lazy day of sun and sand – especially as the hotel is just a couple of easy blocks from the beach. Walking back, we indulged in some of the best ceviche we’ve ever had at the charming My Ceviche, taking our orders next door for $3 beers at the welcoming SoBe Hostel.

That evening a jaunt across the bay to Wynwood took more energy than we had counted on, as the once (okay, maybe quite awhile ago) off-the-radar boho arts district has recently become SoBe West, with an inordinate number of new security controlled club/bars/restos, and the throngs of partyers they tend to attract.

 

Sophie’s

 

We were curious to check out the new Yucatan influenced encampment Proyecto Tulum, which boasts not only food and drinks inspired by the Mexican resort town, but art, design, music, and even culture from the same. Strolling the sizable outdoor space from one individual area to the next did indeed remind us of the magical ancient Mayan town to the south.

Back in the dramatically chiller SoFi, we walked the deserted streets to the back-alley entrance of new club Sophie’s (get it?). Reflecting its dialed-down location the space eschews Miami’s typical blingtasticness for a more downtown cool, even ’90s-ish ambience. The LL Cool J and Pulp soundtrack only reinforced its cultural cred. We were starting to feel at home at SoFi.

Of course, real home was soon calling, and after another fabulous breakfast at The Meridian, we made our way to Miami International. But in a town we thought we knew so well, we were excited to have made a new neighborhood discovery, one we were eager to get to know better.

 

BLACKBOOK PREMIERE: Eerie New Society of the Silver Cross Video for ‘The Mighty Factory of Death’

Image by Lucas Mobley

 

 

For us, World Goth Day has never been quite sufficient – after all, 24 hours is never really enough goth. Thus we’re always happy to give it at least another day or week’s extension.

And so it is that BlackBook premieres here the particularly eerie new video for “The Mighty Factory of Death” from those dark Seattle rockers Society of the Silver Cross (SotSC, if you will). Consisting primarily of Joe Reineke (formerly of The Meices and Alien Crime Syndicate) and life partner Karyn Gold-Reineke, their spiritual travels through India have left them crafting a musical manifesto that can perhaps best be described as “yogic metal.”

 

 

Indeed, on this track, Middle Eastern and Indian influences (nice harmonium) give further weight to their languid psychedelic hard rock, while the pair intone foreboding lyrics like, “When it’s time / Falling like the autumn leaves.” (Think: Dead Can Dance with rockist tendencies.) The accompanying video has a definite funereal quality, imaging a man watching images of his life passing before him as he prepares to be committed to the ground.

“The playful and childlike nature of the dollhouse allows for perspective and reflection without crossing into the macabre,” explains Karyn. “The video is steeped in metaphor throughout, and the scene sets the stage for the viewer to ‘observe the observer,’ or become consciously aware of the dramatic play which is life, watching someone watch their life flash in front of their eyes.”

SotSC‘s debut album debut album 1 Verse will be released June 28.

BLACKBOOK PREMIERE: Clever New Video for Dear Boy’s Shimmering Anglo-Pop Single ‘Limelight’

 

 

If you want to understand the power of music to move through the decades, consider that a mostly obscure Scottish label, Postcard Records (which last only from 1979 – 1981), could possibly be influencing some cool kids from Los Angeles in 2019.

Indeed, L.A.’s charmingly monikered Dear Boy brilliantly recall those “Sound of Young Scotland” bands like Orange Juice and Aztec Camera – with their shimmering guitars, sparkling melodies and widescreen post-punk atmospherics. From the first notes of skillfully flanged guitar, it’s like a time machine back to when mellifluous melodies seemed the only reasonable riposte to the bleak, mean Glasgow streets.

 

 

The song is taken from their recent five-track Strawberry EP – and the accompanying video, which BlackBook premieres here, shows the band being playfully, erm, fondled by a pair of red-gloved female hands.

“Most of our music lives in a darker universe,” says singer-guitarist Ben Grey, “so we sometimes like to counter that with a little bit of playfulness in the videos. We’re optimists after all. Once we came up with the initial idea, everybody’s individual personality took over. You’re seeing a glimpse of what we all see in each other every single day.”

The band will be opening for the Psychedelic Furs and James on a 20-date North American tour in July, including an appearance at NYC’s Rooftop at Pier 17 on 7/12.