BlackBook Premiere: Visceral New Reliant Tom Single ‘Nevermind The Garbage’

Image by Amanda Kaye

 

 

Inspiration can take many forms; but often it’s hardship and instability that are the catalysts for the best art.

For Claire Cuny of Brooklyn-based avant-garde rockers Reliant Tom, the unexpected passing of her father in 2018—on the day of their debut album release no less—provided ample inspiration of the more somber sort, which she has since tapped into for the making of their follow up Play & Rewind. “Nevermind The Garbage” (which BlackBook premieres here) is the first single from the album, and is released this Friday, March 27.

 

 

“The song is about trying to return to a semi-normal routine,” Cuny explains, “by learning to manage the grief and anxiety that overcame me after the sudden loss of my father.”

Building from moody ballad, to Cobain-worthy midsection (it’s impossible not to think of him when the word “nevermind” is brought up), and ending in a sparse trance of harmonics, the track viscerally captures the rise and fall of emotions that came with the death. Of course, Cuny’s longing for a return to normality is something exceedingly relatable right now, as the coronavirus outbreak has left us with anything but.

 

Six (Mostly) French Things We Love About the Wythe Hotel’s New ‘Le Crocodile’ Restaurant

Images by Read McKendree

 

These days, with weekend hordes taking over Williamsburg’s N. Wythe Avenue, and the spillover reaching over to Greenpoint’s Franklin Street, it’s easy to forget that about a decade ago, both hoods were just reaching ‘coolhunter’ recognition point. Indeed, when the Wythe Hotel opened in 2012, it brought a jolt of grownup urbanity to an area more used to self-parodic hipster dives.

The rooftop bar, then The Ides, now Lemon’s, was pulling people across the river from the Gansevoort, and the Reynard restaurant was a genuine scene.

 

 

But this being NYC, things changed quickly once developers realized that all those empty lots and car repair shops on the northside had billion-dollar views of Manhattan, once you built up a few stories. Boutique hotels, and their restaurants, now outnumber bike shops and dance clubs…even Output, after five years of Berlin style nightclubbing, closed in 2018. So the Wythe’s new restaurant Le Crocodile arrives prepared to do battle with all these other new epicurean contenders…and luckily it’s, well, armed to the teeth.

Boasting chefs from chic Greenpoint bistro Chez Ma Tante—itself a notable result of gentrification—Le Crocodile (how long before everyone just starts calling it Le Croc?) is now serving up classic French fare, with wonderfully inspired touches, and atmosphere to spare.

Here’s what we loved.

 

 

Le Style

In both Brooklyn and Paris, restaurateurs seem equally aware of how lighting, recognizable design elements, and intelligent use of space are all critical in creating an invitingly endemic ambiance. Here it’s a delicate balance of BK meets Par-ee (by local design studio LOVEISENOUGH), with brick walls, booths of deep burgundy leather, prevailing dark wood detailing, patterned floors, and theatrical globe chandeliers all lending warmth to the high-ceilinged industrial space. The effect is both dramatic and welcoming. Seated next to us was a heavily tattooed couple avec toddler…so we felt right at home with the crowd, as well.

Le Steak

Steak frites was once as important in our lives as our Serge Gainsbourg records—but its ubiquity has dampened its significance. Le Crocodile, however, brings the steak au poivre, not as common as you would think in NYC…and it’s as good as any we’ve had in our fave Marais brasseries. Seriously.

Le Frisee

Almost as crucial is a good salade Lyonnais. And Le Crocodile smartly reinvents it with the familiar lardons replaced by chunks of smoked eel to incredibly delicious effect. We were instructed to mix the semi-poached egg around as the dressing, and the result was epicurean sublimity.

 

 

Le Pâté

Though the various duck and chicken liver incarnations also hold a special place for us, we’re honestly lucky to find an unimaginative pâté de campagne on any given menu. But here it comes in six different and glorious possibilities, including country pâté with foie gras and pistachio, chicken liver pâté with cassis jelly, and pâté grandmère with apple mustard. Order one up at the bar, paired with a rustic red glass of Burgundy, for some serious art de vivre.

Les G&Ts

Gin and tonics are a signature at the bar, with six versions of the classic (by drinks wizard Jim Kearns of Slowly Shirley fame) that combine a variety of spirits with varying tonics; we had Tanqueray No. 10 London Dry Gin with citrus tonic, and it was simplicity and perfection at once. The enormous wine goblet it was served in was a bit of a head scratcher at first…but then we just went with it.

Les Desserts

Complacency often informs the bottom of bistro and brasserie menus: here’s your crème brûlée, or a familiar sorbet, and that’s about it. But Le Crocodile offers nothing less than a dozen very sweet options, including profiteroles, tarte tatin, chocolate pot de crème and, oui, crème brûlée. If you’re having a Proustian moment, the madeleines come in generous groupings of six or 12.

 

BlackBook Rooms w/ a View: The New Thompson Washington DC Hotel

 

 

It was slightly ironic that a recent trip we took to DC coincided with the Oscars, as it reminded us of the obviously insulting line ascribed to a number of political pundits, including Joe Scarborough: “Washington is Hollywood for ugly people.” Seeing Charlize, Brad, et al, on the small screen, did again prove that still nothing can compete with Tinseltown in the (manufactured) glamour department—yet HWood be dammed, we were on your way to what was surely the capital’s most glamorous new hotel.

Opened in early January, the brand-new Thompson Washington DC, the Beltway outpost of the brand whose roots go back 20 years to Manhattan’s actual Thompson Street, where 60 Thompson (now SIXTY Soho) was one of the first destination hotels for the post 9/11 prosperity generation. Twenty years on and the vibe at this Thompson was just as cool, with a huge, light-filled lobby and bar dominating the ground floor space. The reception desk was tucked away in a corner.

 

 

Our room was pure class—no flimsy or overly cheeky design elements—with elegant, dark wood and brass furniture and fixtures, a very well stocked mini bar (we’re fine with in-room yoga mats and wellness options, but not at the expense of vodka and prosecco), and a spacious terrace overlooking DC’s hot new hood, The Yards, in the old Navy Yard.

On our first evening, we were thrilled to check out the outpost of one of our NYC faves, Danny Meyer’s Maialino Mare, an offshoot of Danny Meyer’s Gramercy Park celeb magnet, which focuses on Roman trattoria fare; we indulged in their specialty fried baby artichokes, cremini mushrooms with white wine and anchovy, fettuccine with ruby red shrimp, with each dish building to an encore of lemon custard with toasted pine nuts and an almond crust.

 

Maialino Mare

 

Up and out the next day, we were determined to take advantage of as much as we could in a town with increasingly interesting diversions—even some that aren’t affiliated with the Smithsonian. The Navy Yard itself is on the southeast side of downtown, on the banks of the Anacostia River; Nationals Park is two blocks west, and amidst the numerous older nautical buildings are rising shiny apartments and stores to accommodate the latest wave of policy wonks/wonkettes. We started with a bracing stroll along the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, stretching 20 miles on both sides of the river; we only made it about a quarter mile before getting distracted, realizing we should have probably grabbed a bike from Capital Bikeshare, as the Thompson provides them gratis.

After a day of cultural pursuits, including stopping to awe at a few monuments (while we still have a democracy), and a tour of the inspiring Freer Gallery of Art (The Peacock Room is James Whistler’s opulent masterpiece of mural art, and a must see) we headed back to the Yards for dinner at District Winery, an awesome space that includes said winemaking operation, a wine related boutique, and the restaurant Ana, where we were impressed to discover some of the tastiest vegetarian options on any menu we’ve yet come across.

 

The Peacock Room at Freer Gallery of Art

 

Not that there wasn’t plenty for carnivores, from roasted scallops to a NY strip, but we ordered the excellent market vegetable “Shawarma” with roasted vegetables, beet falafel, pink lentil hummus, creamy tahini sauce, and lavash cracker, and Meadow Creek Grayson cappelletti with pickled pear, cultured butter, onion petals, and basil oil; the sourdough spelt bread was a particularly special treat.

We retired to catch the last half of the Oscars (still too long), congratulating ourselves on how much we saved not bothering to deck out like Scarlett and Leo, while still enjoying a lavish dinner. And flopping down in our thrift store loungewear, we were contented with the luxury of catching the awards show on a state of the art, 55″ flat screen.

 

Somewhere

 

The next day, before heading back north, we took a walk around some of the Yard’s shops, stopping in Steadfast Supply, a creative retail shop and curated events hub featuring goods from local small businesses and independent brands…and Somewhere, a sleek space dedicated to bringing the global fashion conversation to the capital. Both boutiques gleamed with newness of a new kind of DC.

Sadly, the one thing we didn’t get a chance to try was Trapeze School NY, located just a couple of blocks from the hotel. Merely a good excuse for us to already be planning a springtime return to the Thompson.

 

Downtown NYC Enigma Eszter Balint Returns to the Stage with ‘I Hate Memory’

 

 

For those of us whose impressionable years owe as much to avant-garde film as they do David Bowie and The Clash, Eszter Balint’s turn as a Hungarian teenager visiting New York in Jim Jarmusch’s absurdist 1984 film Stranger Than Paradise will be forever remembered.

Like her character, Eszter also emigrated west from Hungary, when the performance art troupe started by her father—Squat Theater—moved to the Chelsea Hotel in the early ‘70s, developing a niche alongside Andy Warhol’s Factory productions. Meanwhile in the UK, Genesis P-Orridge and Cosey Fanni Tutti’s COUM theater group was creating similar happenings before morphing into Throbbing Gristle…but that’s another story.

After her debut in …Paradise, Balint continued working in film, with parts in Woody Allen’s Shadows and Fog and Steve Buscemi’s Trees Lounge—but her turn as Louis CK’s girlfriend in the second season of Louie won raves, and landed her squarely back in the cultural zeitgeist.

 

 

But over the last decade and a half, Balint has actually concentrated almost exclusively on making music, releasing a brace of critically acclaimed albums, and playing with the heroes of the downtown NYC experimental scene, like Marc Ribot, Swans, and John Lurie (her co-star all those years ago in Stranger Than Paradise).

So it’s genuinely gratifying to see her returning to the stage. Indeed, next month she’ll be workshopping—meaning, it’s not a final product—what she calls an anti-cabaret, that goes by the intriguing title I Hate Memory. Based around a set of songs, the show reads as an autobiographical journey, with a psychological subtext that sounds more than relevant for these less than ideal times.

‘The show is about a period time when there was more of a collaborative spirit in the air,” she explains, “so to work with others in a what feels like playground is fitting. So it’s a little different from my past work as a songwriter where I work in a much more solitary way until recording the songs or performing them live.”

 

 

And she will indeed be working with an impressive list of creative conspirators: musicians Marlon Cherry, Brian Geltner, Kato Hideki, David Nagler, and actors Esme Thorne, Felice Rosser, Tammy Faye Starlite.

“At the heart of this whole thing are the songs,” she enthuses, “which is still what turns me on the most. I love songs, I live for songs, I worship at the altar of music and songs. But it’s incredibly exciting to be expanding the canvas and fit them into a bigger vision.”

Performances are March 20, 21, 27 and 28, at Dixon Place on NYC’s Bowery. It’s a rare opportunity to see an even rarer talent at her most essential.

 

Stranger Than Paradise

French Yé-Yé Revisited: Third Man is Re-Issuing Three France Gall Records on Vinyl

 

 

In England they were the Ready Steady Girls, after the pop TV show Ready Steady Go!, in France the Yé-Yé girls: female pop singers who were launched continuously throughout the 1960s as a counter to the hundreds of male bands that exploded onto the scene in the wake of the Rolling Stones and Beatles. From Lulu to Marianne Faithful, Sylvie Vartan to Sheila, their presence, and success, was staggering, and certainly paved the way for the next generation of female singing stars in the ’70s.

In order to cut through and have staying power, each chanteuse had to have something that genuinely set her apart; and for Paris-born France Gall that was youth, as well as an untrained voice that teens could easily identify with—a proto-punk-like ‘I can sing like that’ sort of appeal, if you will. The daughter of musical royalty—her father was a songwriter for Edith Piaf and Charles Aznavour, amongst others—her star rose immediately after her debut release at just 16 sold over 200K copies.

 

 

Soon luminaries, including Serge Gainsbourg, naturally, were involved in her career, which blossomed throughout the ‘60s. Ups and downs followed, but Gall persevered, and the ensuing decades saw her inhabit various personae. Recording in multiple languages, including German and Japanese, proved immensely successful, and the 1970s and ‘80s were prosperous times. Alas, Gall died just two years ago at age 70.

It’s particularly exciting, then, but hardly surprising to hear that the cool kids at Third Man Records are re-issuing three of Gall’s mid-60s albums. They will all be on colored vinyl, of course, for maximum hip cred. They will also be throwing release day (February 21) dance parties in select cities to celebrate them. See below for the list of said events, and pre-order Baby Pop, 1968 and Poupée de Cire, Poupée de Son.

 

France Gall release day parties (February 21):

UFO Factory – Detroit, MI
Vinyl Tap – Nashville, TN
1606 Cahuenga Vinyl Bar – Los Angeles, CA
TV Eye – New York, NY
Aux 33 – Montreal, QC

BLACKBOOK PREMIERE: New Lindy Vision Single ‘Restless’ is a Dark, Poignant Post-Punk Stunner

 

 

Not since the Pointer Sisters have three XX chromosome siblings been this musically thrilling. But, Lindy Vision, the Albuquerque trio of vocalist Dorothy Cuylear, guitarist Natasha Cuylear and drummer Carla Cuylear are nothing less than a sonic force of nature.

Which is why we’re excited to premiere “Restless,” their propulsive new synth-funk track— it’s an immediate flashback to the early 2000s, when next wave post-punkers Interpol and Yeah Yeah Yeahs were providing the soundtrack to the zeitgeist. That the song lyrically explores their fractured upbringing at the hands of alcoholic parents is ironic…as the grooves recall so many post-Millennium nights of dancing and bad behavior.

 

 

Also citing influences like Depeche Mode and Blondie, the three Native/African American groovers have been turning out new wave inspired emotional musings on #adulting for half a decade now. But with “Restless,” they have genuinely cemented their status as a genre-crashing powerhouse.

The track is taken from the upcoming EP Adult Children Part II, out March 6

“It’s an observational song,” says Dorothy. “It’s written from the perspective of our late mother and her struggle with homelessness. As adults, we witnessed our mother deal with her addictions and personal trauma, and the suffering that comes along with lack of shelter. It captures how trapped our mother felt in her situation and how restless and tired she felt towards the end of her life on this earth.”

Jim Jarmusch & Carter Logan’s New SQÜRL Track ‘Magic Hour’ is a Tribute to Cinematographer Robby Müller

 

 

It’s safe to say that Jim Jarmusch’s films would not have looked the way they do without Dutch cinematographer Robby Müller, who passed away in 2018, age 78. He worked with Jarmusch on such indie classics as Paris, Texas, Mystery Train, Ghost Dog, and Coffee & Cigarettes—but was also behind the aesthetic of the likes of Repo Man, Barfly and the Oscar winning Lars Von Trier film Breaking the Waves.

Another Dutch cinematographer, Claire Pijman, has just made a documentary in 2018 about Müller called Living The Light; and a new “inspired by” soundtrack, appropriately, has been recorded by Jim Jarmusch & Carter Logan’s project SQÜRL—to be released under the pithy title, Some Music for Robby Müller, out January 31 via Sacred Bones Records. In the meantime, we have the first track, the haunted, evocative and yes, very cinematic “Magic Hour.”

“It’s inspired by the fleeting periods of the day occurring just before sunrise and just after sunset,” Logan explains. “The light shifts continually, soft and warm, yellow, gold, sometimes pink, and the sky turns to a very particular and deep shade of blue, but only for a few minutes. Robby always loved filming during these brief ‘magical’ moments while the diffuse light continually evolves and eventually slips away.

 

 

Jarmusch tells of first meeting Müller at a bar on a boat in Rotterdam, during the city’s film festival (this year’s edition opens this Wednesday, January 22).

“Robby became my close friend, my collaborator and my teacher too. From him I learned about the emotional qualities of light, about telling stories with a camera, about artistic intuition, collaboration, and integrity.”

The soundtrack, obviously then was a deeply personal undertaking for the director, who enthuses that the music was inspired by Müller’s “perceptions, his wonderful presence, his mind, his heart and his twinkling, mischievous eyes—through which he communicated, and with which he surveyed the same illusive world still vibrating around us.”

 

BLACKBOOK PREMIERE: Melancholy New Lola Marsh Single ‘Hold On’ Was Inspired by Chaos & Confusion

 

 

Tel-Aviv duo Lola Marsh—singer Yael Shoshana Cohen and multi-instrumentalist/producer Gil Landau—describe the inspiration for their new single “Hold On” as personal chaos and confusion. Yet those feelings could easily apply on a universal scale thanks to the current political, environmental, and economic climate. Still, when it’s happening to you, it can at least act as a good creative impetus.

“‘Hold On’ refers to a chaotic and confusing time for us,” explains Cohen, who bears a striking resemblance to Penelope Cruz. “We struggled to keep it all together—the band, our personal lives and our changing relationships.”

 

 

As has been proven again and again, from great pain can come great art; and “Hold On” is a particularly sublime example of just that. An opulent, melancholy track that’s part Sergio Leone, part Lana Del Rey, it starts with a moody piano riff, before exploding into an echoey chorus that never lets up.

Landau offers, “We truly believe that our greatest success is that we have been able to keep our music alive and overcome many challenges during these times.”

Lola Marsh will play Rough Trade in Brooklyn February 8, followed by shows in SF and LA, before embarking on an extended European tour that concludes at the egoFM Fest on March 28 in Munich.

 

Listen: Nick Zinner’s ‘Knives and Skin’ Soundtrack is Chillingly Hallucinatory

 

 

For anyone to be able to hold his or her own next to the leopard print leotard clad exploding fireworks factory of a front woman that is Karen O takes a certain level of supreme coolness. Obviously that was achieved by a pale, 115 lb (with a good 20% of that being hair, really excellent hair) soft-spoken young man whose musical prowess had quite a bit to do with it. Thus was Nick Zinner, champion of turn of the century guitar gods, and the unchallenged not so secret ingredient in one of NYC’s last great rock bands, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

In the middle of the last decade, after ten+ years of magnificence, the Yeah 3s started slowing down, which gave the hard working Zinner time to experiment. And so he did, playing in two other bands, and collaborating/performing with the likes of Santigold, TV On The Radio, Arcade Fire, Damon Albarn, Scarlett Johansson and, well, there was that orchestral performance at Rockefeller Center. He also produced and worked on soundtracks, even such mainstream fodder (and a personal fave of ours) as Mad Max: Fury Road.

 

 

One such soundtrack that has benefited from his enigmatic artistry is the recently released Knives and Skin, a deliciously unnerving millennial fever dream, which story surrounds the mysterious disappearance of a popular high school girl, and the emotional chaos/galvanizing that occurs afterwards (The Hollywood Reporter described it as “Twin Peaks meets Donnie Darko.”) Zinner’s score of dark, synthy instrumentals perfectly captures, and accentuates, the tone of director Jennifer Reeder’s surreal suburban nightmare.

The Knives and Skin Soundtrack will be released digitally on January 24 via Lakeshore Records—but we have an advance track, the moody, ominous, yet hauntingly beautiful “Promises Promises.”

“I thank Jennifer for trusting me to score her visionary feature,” Zinner enthuses. “The aim for me is always to create a soundtrack that helps to support and define the world and characters of the film without overpowering them. It was thrilling to work with such a wide scope of personalities and experiences, but still try to maintain a—mostly dark—emotional continuity through it all.”