In the Shadow of Frank Lloyd Wright: A Very Well-Designed Weekend in Scottsdale

Above image: Canal Convergence

 

 

In the 1930s, Frank Lloyd Wright started making regular treks from Wisconsin to Scottsdale, Arizona. The climate suited him, and in winter months, he found it easier to breathe. By 1937, he’d made the desert oasis a permanent winter residence and constructed what would become one of his most well-known masterpieces, Taliesin West. The city built up around him over the following decades, going from vast and empty desert land to a thriving metropolis.

Today, though he’d hardly recognize it, Wright’s legacy lives on there. From the architecture he influenced, to Scottsdale’s longstanding commitment to preservation, sustainability, and art. 

 

Canal Convergence

 

This month, over 200,000 people congregated to witness Canal Convergence, an annual art festival that started as a diversion for when the local canals were drained. It’s since evolved into one of Scottsdale’s most anticipated attractions (though Spring Training still reigns supreme). And like Wright discovered almost a century ago, the weather does provide a breath of fresh air this time of year. 

We joined the crowds to explore the abundance of art, design, and culture that defines this cosmopolitan Southwestern city. Here’s what we did.

 

Cattle Track Arts & Preservation

This hidden gem gives local artists and artisans a supportive space to create, much like a commune without all the living quarters (though there is a van). Owner Mark McDowell, a painter himself, walked us through the historic complex, which dates back to the 1930s. Today, Cattle Track welcomes art talent across several mediums, including painting, photography, ceramics, and even, well…blacksmithing. They also have a gallery space that defies art world conventions: artists can hold shows, sell their works, and keep 100% of the profits. 

 

 

Cosanti 

Italian-American architect Paolo Soleri made a home in Scottsdale after a stint apprenticing for Wright at Taliesin West. Cosanti served as his gallery, studio, and residence, and today the space houses a molten bronze bell casting business. A walk around revealed several earth-formed concrete structures styled to dramatic effect by Soleri’s ecologically-inspired vision. Elaborately designed bronze bells hang throughout, adding an audible sensory experience.

 

 

Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art

At SMOCA the art begins outside, as James Turrell’s “Skyspace” is seamlessly incorporated into its facade. It’s one of only a handful of Turrell’s completed works in the world (though Kanye West is helping him finish another). Inside, Counter Landscapes: Performative Actions from the 1970s to Now (on view through January) encapsulates the powerful dynamic between artist and environment. Marina Abramovic, Agnes Denes, Antonia Wright, Sarah Cameron Sunde all have works on display.
In one room filled with hanging planters of creosote bush (a local plant with a potent scent), we watched a video work of Wright falling through an icy lake again and again. In another, Sunde uses her own body as a measurement of the rising tides in a video series titled 36.5/A Durational Performance with the Sea. Intense stuff.

 

 

Taliesin West 

A must-see for design aficionados, Taliesin West is Wright’s sprawling desert compound just outside downtown Scottsdale. He, his third wife, and a band of apprentices took to the land in the ‘30s to create what is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. He discovered there was in fact water flowing not too far underground, and turned a piece of desert into a working design laboratory. 
Each space holds its own otherworldly vibe: a movie room feels like a bunker with rock walls and uplighting (a technique we have Wright to thank for); a concert hall is specifically shaped to amplify music; a theater is cloaked in red velvet. Wright made space for the things he loved, and his appreciation for the arts ran deep. He once cited Beethoven as the greatest architect, noting he could make a symphony out of only four notes. To that end, Wright famously made every structure in Taliesin West out of materials he found in the desert. Even the color palettes were inspired by the natural landscape (lots of Cherokee Red). He spent the last 20 years of his life here — the most prolific of his career, and is said to be buried somewhere on the grounds. 

 

 

Restaurants

The Mission Old Town

It would be a disservice to head to the Southwest and not partake in some great Latin cuisine – and this is the place to do it. Here, chef Matt Carter reinvents his French culinary training with a menu focused on South American flavors. We loved the tableside guacamole, shrimp tacos, and the Malbec braised short rib. 

 

 

Citizen Public House 

It’s hard to say what to enthuse more about here, the food or the drinks. In a relaxed environment, chef Bernie Kantak and company’s New American marries the inventive with the familiar. For starters, we sampled the crab cakes and the original chopped salad, which has its own Facebook page. The seared scallops are a fan favorite too, as are tipples from the barrel aged cocktail list, like the bourbon-based Rose Garland. 

Zuzu at Hotel Valley Ho

While the hotel itself is reminiscent of yesteryear, it was refreshing to see their on-site restaurant is firmly planted in today. Zuzu had a beautifully curated wine list and plenty of imaginative shared plates, courtesy of Executive Chef Russell LaCasce. The constantly shifting and always delightful dessert menu is worth saving room for.

 

 

Hotels

Hotel Valley Ho

Originally opened in 1956, Hotel Valley Ho has long been a go-to destination for out-of-towners. Back in the day, Hollywood starlets frequented the space for its privacy and charming mid-century design. As they say, everything and nothing has changed. After a couple of ownership shifts, the hotel was recently restored to its original splendor – though many of the interior elements have remained untouched since its inception. Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner would be pleased – they had their second wedding reception here. 

The Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Bungalows

Hyatt’s boutique arm of hotels (Andaz means “style” in Hindi) are known for paying homage to their surrounding environs. In Scottsdale, the Andaz mirrors the desert, and the artists and architects that have made it what it is today. The property sits on a single level and feels more country club commune than luxury hotel – in the best way. Poolside cabanas come attached to the more coveted suites. Be sure to stop by restaurant Warp and Weft, which features hand-made installations and ceramic dishes from Cattle Track artists. Executive Chef Nate Larson infuses his menu with seasonal Sonoran cuisine, every dish is inventive fresh, and full of Southwestern flavor. 

 

Cannabis Wellness? L.A.’s New Aeon Botanika Will Be a Luxe Marijuana Mecca

 

 

Los Angeles, a veritable mecca of “Mary Jane” and the country’s largest legal pot market, is nothing if not right on top of the latest trends for getting, well, high. There’s an uptick in the (mainstream) market since pot was legalized in L.A. as of January 2018 – the law passed with a victorious 57% majority. So if you’re Cali sober, an active member of the weed-as-wellness congregation, or just looking for a space to buy and smoke your herb that feels more spa, less windowless basement, then we have some very good news. 

Indeed, Aeon Botanika is opening a gorgeous, 7,000-square-foot flagship in the heart of West Hollywood in early 2020, complete with retail shop, dispensary, restaurant, and a Moroccan cannabis lounge. They’re actually one of only five companies to receive a retail and lounge license in WeHo.

Situated just off the Sunset Strip – on Santa Monica Boulevard between N. Alfred and N. Croft Streets – the behemoth boutique will be a destination for “newly elevated, plant-forward wellness experiences.” We can hardly wait. 

 

 

This definitively marks a new era of marijuana retail – it was only a matter of time – that feels more right for L.A.’s posher sensibilities. The Moroccan lounge, for instance, will beckon guests to sample the goods on site with its dramatic vaulted ceilings, skylight, and Mediterranean-inspired decor. 

Co-founders Nicole Fox, a seasoned activist and registered dietician, and Veena Parekh, a restaurant industry veteran (Foreign Cinema, Zuni Cafe), the two women behind the establishment, see cannabis at the forefront of an ever-evolving wellness community. 

“We are in a time when more people are turning to cannabis as a medicine and including it as part of their wellness lifestyle,” offers Fox, who is eager to combine her two passions at Aeon Botanika. “I am beyond grateful to the City of West Hollywood, who have always supported the movement to end the prohibition of this healing plant.” 

 

 

Ferrier Architecture Studio is designing the space, while Keith Greco will handle the interiors. (Some of which are pictured in these advance renderings). Angelenos may know Greco’s work from popular spots like MidCity’s The Little Door, or Cliff’s Edge in Silver Lake. 

Aeon Botanika will also feature a full restaurant concept serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner – with a coffee program directed by Ritual Coffee Roasters. Fred Eric of Fred62 will serve as culinary director.

They’ll also offer appointments and sessions with a licensed integrative dietitian, acupuncturist, massage therapist, and a functional medicine physician. And, of course, all the primo chronic your heart desires. 

 

Iceland Airwaves Preview: Stunning New Hugar Video For ‘Grandi’ Imagines an Environmental Apocalypse

 

 

As yet another Iceland Airwaves festival approaches (this one a little later in the year, November 6 – 9), indie aficionados can again look forward to a knowingly curated lineup of international faves – Cautious Clay, Shame, The Howl & The Hum – as well as the cream of Iceland’s endlessly incomparable music scene.

One of the latter is Hugar, the ethereal duo of instrumentalists Bergur Þórisson and Pétur Jónsson. We had actually raved about them earlier this year, upon the release of their captivating single “Saga”  – and now BlackBook has the privilege of premiering their astonishing video for the hypnotic new track “Grandi.” It’s a haunted journey through a possible future environmental apocalypse, and we can only hope the end of the world looks so spectacular.

 

 

“‘Grandi’ is the final installment of a series of videos we did with Máni Sigfússon,” Þórisson explains. “We explore the relationship between humans and the environment if we were to carry on our path. Set in a dystopian world where circumstances have escalated to a point of no return, we follow a group of humans trying to protect and shield themselves while leaving the environment unprotected and unshielded. Taking their first steps towards discovering the truth that lies ahead.”

The track itself builds from a contemplative stillness to a chill inducing atmospheric grandiosity, with a sonically haunted quality that recalls both Sigur Ros and Thom Yorke.

As for Iceland Airwaves, Hugar’s performance can be expected to be a particular highlight again, it it has been the past two years.

Jónsson enthuses, “It’s always a really special occasion for the Icelandic music scene and for us. Everybody goes all in. We will be performing a special show and it’s always exciting to play in Iceland since almost all of our shows are abroad.”

 

Listen: New Anders / Rich the Kid Single ‘Sticky Situation’ is Sonically Based on Cannabis

 

 

If cannabis had a defining quality, it would surely be scent. After all, no one has ever mistaken the smell of weed for, well…anything but.

Yet what if the “sonic” qualities of cannabis plants could be harvested, and used to make music that could, um, take you higher? Which is what Toronto R&B singer Anders and L.A. rapper Rich the Kid have just done with their new single “Sticky Situation” – released today via EOne. With an assist from Drake producer FrancisGotHeat, it utilizes extracted vibrations and bio-rhythmic sounds that MERRY JANE, a cannabis lifestyle company (you knew that was coming), was able to cull from the base plant.

 

 

The track itself is a sultry slice of R&B/hip-hop, with sly, languid beats and spooky atmospherics. But it was MERRY JANE that actually extracted samples created from cannabis strains, by recording electrical currents running through the plant, and converting them to raw midi audio files – which FrancisGotHeat then manipulated and mixed.

“I’m very excited for people to hear this project,” says Kai Henry, Chief Strategy Officer at MERRY JANE. “We [got] something entirely different from cannabis plants by extracting vibrations and bio-rhythmic sounds from our own Sticky Situation strain to create this song. [We are] proud to be the first media company in the world to release music from a cannabis plant.”

Don’t expect them to be the last.

 

Bourbon + Boots: An Epicurean Weekend in Austin

 

 

Last week was a big one. We all heaved a collective sigh when a whistleblower stood up to White House corruption – could the Republic be spared after all? As the pundits speculated, we were ready do what any self-respecting American would in times like these: drink bourbon. 

Turns out, Texas is the place to find it. Dan Garrison, owner and founder of Garrison Brothers Distillery, hosted us in Austin, as we experienced firsthand the process of making and drinking Texas Straight Bourbon. From red and rural Hye, to weird and wonderful Austin, we sipped, swirled, tasted, and toed the line of political discourse. By week’s end, we found ourselves enthralled with Austin’s charm, Hill Country’s bucolic farmland, and the hospitable (and decidedly un-P.C.) cast of characters we encountered along the way.

Here’s what we did.

 

 

 

Garrison at the Fairmont Austin

We started our journey at the Fairmont Austin, a 1,048-room high-rise located off Red River Street, adjacent to the Sir Swante Palm Neighborhood Park downtown. The hotel’s enormity does not eclipse its charisma, and the space echoed its surroundings with local art, design, and music throughout. Fairmont Austin prides themselves, as Texans do, on imbuing the South Central spirit wherever they can. 
We met the Garrison Brothers at the aptly named restaurant, Garrison (purely a coincidence we were told) run by Chef Jason Purcell – formerly of such temples of gastronomy as Bouchon and Aureole. Over dinner, the gentlemen showed us the bonds bourbon can forge, and the delightfully effervescent cocktails it can anchor. 
The chef’s tasting menu featured items like citrus cured snapper and a creamy foie gras tart, paired with bourbon-based cocktails thoughtfully crafted by Andrew Grenz, the hotel’s beverage majordomo. One table favorite was the “Farrah’s Watching,” a zesty concoction made with – naturally – bourbon, amontillado sherry, corn, lemon, and celery bitters. 
Beyond the name, there was a natural kinship between the two Garrisons. From the wood-paneled walls, to the restaurant’s commitment to “open flame, wafting smoke, and high-quality meats” – all signs pointed to a Texas-born bourbon pairing, and the Garrison Brothers stepped seamlessly into the role. 

 

Garrison Brothers Distillery  

The next day we found out just where this bourbon comes from. On a winding hour plus drive to the Garrison Brothers distillery, we bore witness to America the Beautiful in some of its most rural forms: broad blue skies, cartoonish white clouds, tree-lined hills, and acre upon acre of ranches bearing lone stars, wood-burned signage, and the occasional Trump banner.   
Hye (part of Hill Country) is rapidly becoming a destination for alcoholic beverage production, specifically wine, artisanal beers, and bourbon. The hills are made of limestone, which removes iron from local streams and creeks. Iron is the mortal enemy of any whiskey, which is why Kentucky makes such a great breeding ground for bourbon: the entire central portion of the state sits on a shelf of limestone. 
Garrison realized the opportunity and capitalized on it. In 2007, he released his first run of Garrison Brothers bourbon – 2,000 bottles that sold out almost instantly; it was the first made outside of Kentucky and Tennessee since Prohibition. (Bourbon has to be American-made, but it does not have to be Kentucky-made.) He knew he was on to something. They now bottle some of the finest, richest bourbon on both sides of the Mississippi. We were more than happy to confirm just that.

 

 

Pitchfork Pretty + C.L. Butaud

Once back in East Austin, we made our way to Pitchfork Pretty, a vibrant, upscale eatry embracing the city’s local quirks and newfound cosmopolitan sensibilities. Executive Chef Max Snyder relies on local, seasonal ingredients from the restaurant’s own garden down the road, and the menu offered a unique collection of experimental-meets-down-home classics like habanero vinegar–brined fried chicken and poached quail eggs. 
It was here we also met Randy Hester, purveyor and founder of Texas-based C.L. Butaud wines. Hester was yet another friend of Garrison Brothers (we sensed a theme), and for the night provided a sampling of his 2017 Tempranillo and 2018 Albariño, the latter was aged in whiskey barrels. He’s one of a few attempting to elevate Texas wine culture, and he’s got the chops to do it: he worked at some of the best wineries in Napa, including Cakebread, Realm, and Colgin. While continuing to perfect the craft in a new climate, with new growers, he’s keeping his sales local for now. But we imagine it’s only a matter of time before his labels – some designed by artist Deer Dana – start popping up in the best wine shops around the country.  

 

 

Hillside Farmacy

For brunch the following day, we hit the seriously charming Hillside Farmacy. The building where the restaurant resides was originally built in the 1950s as Hillside Drug Store. It closed in the ‘70s, but the restaurateurs swooped in to revive the space, while maintaining its classic ambiance. 
The design – white-tiled backsplashes, copper-plated bar seats, and antique china cabinets – harkens back to its ‘50s pharmacy roots, but the menu is decidedly modern and fresh. The chef indulged us with a selection of brunch favorites like buttermilk pancakes with blackberry compote, BBQ shrimp with lobster gravy and grits, and a Monte Cristo sandwich we still can’t stop thinking about. 

 

 

HELM Boots 

Brunch, as it does, inevitably led to shopping – and we were fortunate to get acquainted with a local Austin favorite, HELM Boots. Owner Joshua Bingaman sat on a floor cushion in the store on East 11th Street and told us about the inspiration behind creating HELM. A former sneakerhead (he and his brother owned the wildly popular Subterranean Shoe Room in the Mission District in San Francisco), he recalled a pair of his grandfather’s work boots. “The boots, his coveralls, and his Lucky Strikes were what I remember most.”
Much like Garrison Brothers endeavored to transform perceptions about bourbon being exclusive to Kentucky, Bingaman shows there’s more to Texas than cowboy boots. A meld of hiking boot, dress boot, and moccasin, HELM even include a little nod to sneakerheads in their design: the white rim of rubber around the sole. 

 

 

South Congress

Our journey ended at South Congress Cafe, located on one of Austin’s more renowned avenues. Bunkhouse Group’s trendy Hotel St. Cecilia, Guero’s Tacos, the legendary Continental Club, and Allen’s Boots all called this highly trafficked stretch home.
We sipped, yet again, bourbon-based cocktails over crab cakes and beignets, and talked about Austin – how it’s changing, gentrifying, and how the influx of new city dwellers bring their own cultural influence to town. Change is inevitable. And though we may not always agree, there’s common ground to be found at tables like this one – over food, laughter, and of course, Texas Straight Bourbon. 

 

Garrison Brothers Distillery

Artist Karen Hackenberg’s New Book is a Pop Art Take on Environmental Apocalypse

 

 

“Have fun saving the world or you are just going to depress yourself,” once said David Brower, founder of the Sierra Club. This quote makes its way onto the intro pages of artist Karen Hackenberg’s self-titled new book…and fittingly so. 

The world, quite literally, is getting buried in trash. The war on single-use plastics came too late and now we’re scrambling to find a piece of earth that’s still pristine. (Good luck!) Our oceans bear much of the burden. When the aftermath of a day at the beach washes to shore, Hackenberg can’t help but capture it. She organizes the contents, photographs them “with ear to sand” and then replicates the scene on paper and canvas with gouache and oil paints. 

In the book, readers will find these thematic works from multiple series: Floating World, Watershed, and History Painting. Each depicts a shoreline riddled with detritus. In one painting, we see an empty, clear ice sack – on it a polar bear leans on a melting glacier. 

 

 

“I collect this local flotsam as it bobs in on the waves from far and near,” Hackenberg explains, “I pose and photograph it on the beach where it stands. By using ironic beauty and humor in a subtle way, I entice the viewer to take a look closer, counteracting defeatism in the face of the world’s overwhelming ecological crisis.” 

While the underlying message screams doomsday, the images border on the cheerful, thanks to her nouveau Pop Art style. She also demonstrates a clear command of form and content – even titles (like Have an Ice Day for the polar bear ice bag painting) play a distinct role. 

 

 

“My work is influenced by the ideas embodied in Pop Art by artists such as Claes Oldenburg, Ed Ruscha and Andy Warhol,” Hackenberg, who studied at Rhode Island School of Design, writes in the book’s intro, titled The Unshakeable Habit of Noticing, “and by the iridescent light found in the paintings of realist still life painter Janet Fish.” 

Indeed, her deft hand and conceptual cleverness beg for a deeper look, and that’s the whole point. Our planet is unquestionably suffering – a result of industrialization, consumerism, overpopulation, carelessness. All of us, in one form or another, are forced to reckon with it in big (mass extinction) and small (paper straws) ways. Hackenberg, who describes herself as an activist, reckons with it in her work: suffering seen through a beautiful, somewhat humorous lens. Art is pain is art and so on. It forces us to take notice of the devastation around us, but not without giving us some pleasure in doing so. 

 

Sunset Blvd. Staycation: The Mondrian Los Angeles

 

 

The Sunset Strip never fails. Though this particular stretch of WeHo looks more like SoHo these days, what with how the sun ricochets off all the scaffolding. The construction is incessant, but that’s what happens when a place is as steeped in history as this: it builds off its own heat, up and out until you can’t move an inch without seeing a hard hat.

The beauty of Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood though – somewhere around N. Olive and La Cienega – is that the streets ooze all that Old Hollywood charm, but with modern amenities. The Mondrian Los Angeles, which just underwent its own $19 million-dollar renovation, pulses in the heart of it all. Even valet is a scene.

 

 

Wanting to check out the makeover, we had the brilliant idea of a doing a day and night of the old and the new on The Strip. 

We checked in early enough to catch some sunlight by the Mondrian pool. There’s a beautiful casita known as Sky Bar wrapped in flora, and a little outdoor restaurant, Ivory on Sunset; the views are miraculously unbothered by all the economic growth. After a dip, we headed up to one of the glorious new suites, which are as spacious and appointed as they get, even for glamour puss Los Angeles. A cartwheel would be appropriate; it’s big enough. There’s also a full wet bar, and floor-to-ceiling windows, allowing us to continue oohing and aahing at the view. 

 

 

Right across the way from the Mondrian we hit The Comedy Store, where the top comedians come to work out material and shock the crowd (luckily, we’re not easily offended). The photographic evidence lines the walls of the foyer: Richard Pryor, Robin Williams, Sandra Bernhard…the legends. Even if you don’t catch someone with a “name” (which is pretty unlikely), the cover and two drink minimum won’t be in vain.

We grabbed a seat close to the stage, but not too close. On any given night Harland Williams (aka the serial killer in Something About Mary) will be there doing crowd work for his entire set. You don’t want to get caught in his line of fire…though it’s truly hilarious when someone else does.

 

 

Before the comedy and after the pool, we did an old school happy hour at The Sunset Trocadero. (It opens at 6pm.) Don’t be tempted by Cabo Cantina, even though the margaritas are decent and come two at a time. It’s a tourist trap. So is the Saddle Ranch Chop House, though that might actually be worth a visit. After all, where else can you ride a mechanical bull in Los Angeles? Nowhere, pretty sure.

The Trocadero, though, feels like it dates back to the birth of The Strip. Wood-lined bar and paneled walls, friendly bartenders, seafood cocktail, filet mignon tips and sashimi toast appetizers. It’s a locals destination – though it once was schmooze central for the likes of Fred Astaire, Cary Grant, Jean Harlow and Judy Garland. Plus, if you catch the timing right and snag a seat on the patio, you’ll see the sun glisten on those multi-million dollar celebrity homes nestled into the Hollywood Hills, and wonder how the hell someone gets that rich when the rest of LA is moving to Highland Park. Real estate, like The Industry, is everything in this town.

 

 

Speaking of real estate, The Mondrian of course finds itself in the primest of spots for travelers, or in our case, staycationers. After cry-laughing at The Comedy Store, or getting looks and martinis (both slightly dirty) at Chateau Marmont, or riding the bull or doing whatever else Sunset Boulevard can throw at you, plopping into those incredibly comfortable Mondrian beds feels as close as you’ll get to Heaven while still within the borders of the 90069 area code. But not before we raided the mini bar for fancy chocolate-covered almonds. And took a luxurious rain water shower. And got a little nostalgic and tuned in to network TV. The world was our oyster at the Mondrian!

In the morning, we took breakfast by the pool at the Ivory on Sunset, and made one last trip up the Strip for shopping at the lovely Book Soup and then Fred Segal. Though we would strenuously recommend staying in bed and just ordering room service, while taking in the view of all the soon-to-be high rises next door. Because really, what’s more L.A. than that?

 

BLACKBOOK PREMIERE: Soulful New States & Capitals’ Single ‘Criminal Mind’

 

 

Much the same as, say, Nine Inch Nails, States & Capitals, while seemingly a sprawling name for a band (like…how many states and capitals?), is actually, essentially, the clever nom de guerre for the 22-year-old, dramatically coiffed musical mastermind Richie Arthur.

Possessed of an almost preternatural way with a melody, come this August 2, Arthur will at last release the States & Capitals debut album, tellingly titled Feelings. Hopefully a harbinger of more of the same, the title track first emerged as a single in May, flaunting a cool, ridiculously infectious groove – sort of like INXS going calypso. Now BlackBook premieres here the follow-up, “Criminal Mind,” an unapologetically ’80s referencing soul-pop stunner.

 

 

It’s all here: the lavish synths, the retro-electro handclaps, and Arthur’s sensual, velvet-smooth vocals. The end result is like some rarefied, elegant marriage of Prefab Sprout sophistication and the insouciant seductiveness of The 1975.

“When working in the studio,” he recalls, “this tune was really the first time I ever tried adding more in-depth guitar parts…and honestly is how I learned I was capable of doing so. It really opened the gates for the rest of the record, and a whole new element I’m going to continue to build on.”

States & Capitals will be appearing live at The Well in Brooklyn August 2, and at the Debonair Music Hall in New Jersey August 9.

 

BLACKBOOK PREMIERE: Noir-ish Video for Phebe Starr’s Visceral New Single ‘Touch XXX’

 

 

It’s been six years since Phebe Starr‘s debut EP Alone With You. But the Aussie indie electronic pop darling has since released a series of excellent singles, while earning considerable praise from the likes of Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue and Nylon, the latter enthusing, “She packs the emotion that has helped propel artists to indie-icon status.”

We couldn’t agree more, and so were thrilled for the arrival of her newest single “Touch XXX.” Not at all as risqué as it sounds, it’s rather a heart-rending, contemplative ballad that actually recalls Elton in the ’70s, albeit with contemporary production. In it she piercingly laments, “I wanna touch you but you your heart’s so cold / I wanna feel you but your mind won’t let go,” and you can veritably feel the pathos cut right through you.

The accompanying video, which BlackBook premieres here, is a jittery work of melancholy noir, with not just a few seeming nods to David Lynch.

“I worked with Sydney based photographer and videographer Ash Lim,” Starr explains. “We never set out to make a video, it just happened organically. He brought this oddly shaped, hand-cranked, old school film camera which makes up most of the frames in the video. During the time of recording, I was going through a breakup and the loss of a friend. It was a rough time in my life. Ash was a constant, always having a cup of tea at the ready. We would capture those moments and constantly share ideas and create.”

Her new EP Ice Tea Liberace will be released this August 30.