Listen: Sexy Cool New Marian Hill Remix of Hayley Kiyoko’s ‘Curious’

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Fans of Hayley Kiyoko have charmingly taken to referring to her as “Lesbian Jesus.” But beyond any rumors of divinity, we’ve also just been really digging on her tunes – especially since her utterly infectious single “Feelings” was released last fall.

Another new song, “Curious,” arrived last month – and the accompanying video (she does do a great video) quickly racked up nearly six million views. Now comes this Marian Hill remix, which infuses the already exuberant track with a whole other kind of jittery, sexy cool – the perfect antidote to these winter doldrums. Indeed, we’re guessing it’s inspiring spontaneous dance parties from coast to coast.

And speaking of springtime, March 30 will at last see the release of her debut album Expectations (on Atlantic). She’ll also be launching an extensive North American tour in San Diego on April 11, which includes a pair of highly anticipated shows (April 15 & 22) at this year’s Coachella.

What better time to join the ranks of the Hayley disciples?

 

BLACKBOOK PREMIERE: Striking Video for Xavier Dunn’s Haunting New Single ‘Isic Tutor’

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Xavier Dunn was a mostly unknown indie-folk crooner until early 2016, when his cover of Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” went soaring up the Spotify charts. Still flying just under the radar, the talented Aussie songwriter-producer has a new deal with 1825 Records / Atlantic, and will proffer an EP of tracks not originally recorded by Iggy Azalea this spring.

We’re duly intrigued and genuinely moved by a first single, the enigmatically titled “Isic Tutor.” Indeed, it is a paradigm of ethereal neo-soul music (think Sam Smith crossed with The Blue Nile), all gossamer atmospherics, languorous comportment and Dunn’s smooth, visceral falsetto.

The stark, sensual accompanying video (which BlackBook premieres here) uses color as something of a metaphor for the unexpected ebbs and flows of feelings and emotions – and features an appropriately bemusing “device.”

“‘Isic Tutor’ musically explores the themes of unrequited love,” explains video director Cole Bennetts. “I wanted to introduce a motif that is representative of that theme. I thought an all white Rubik’s Cube worked rather nicely; no matter how hard you push and pull, the puzzle can not be solved – yet the answer is right in front of you…”

 

 

Frank Ocean Just Covered ‘Moon River’ & We Can’t Stop Sobbing

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As Valentine’s Day crept to its inevitable close, Frank Ocean decided to make sure those few individuals who hadn’t already ended up in tears found their way to emotional ruin before the night was out. Yes, that’s right: he posted a cover of “Moon River,” the Oscar-winning Henry Mancini classic from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and the song that plays as Big leaves Carrie for Paris.

In the late, late hours of the night, Ocean dropped his latest surprise cover, which follows in a series of new tracks he’s released since his 2016 masterpiece Blonde.

We hadn’t considered just how good of a fit “Moon River” would be with Ocean’s soft, crooner vocal style. The cover remains both true to the original and yet also sounds totally up to date.

Here’s his take, plus the Audrey Hepburn original.

 

BLACKBOOK PREMIERE: Sultry New Ruth Koleva Single ‘I Don’t Know Why’

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Another Valentine’s Day is behind us, and as ever, it was a day filled with romance, despair, doubt – and in our case, the perfect soundtrack to go along with all of it.

Of course, nothing much changes once the calendar flips over to February 15. Which makes this the ideal day for BlackBook to premiere Ruth Koleva‘s alluring new single “I Don’t Know Why,” which is replete with all the uncertainties that love brings into our already confusing existences.

In her signature smooth, seductive vocal style, the sultry Bulgarian songstress philosophizes, “Need to learn from my mistakes / The mood is swinging with the wind / Now I have to pay the price for letting you inside.” Musically, the track is as sensuous as it is groovalicious, crossing classic jazz stylings with contemporary R&B vibes.

 

 

“Talking about love,” she explains, “my version of it comes with a lot of patience, understanding and being able to give time and space to someone. I wrote ‘I Don’t Know Why’ about the special moments, you have to understand their behavior, their mood swings, to be able to fit in their world. People are unique, and most of us are crazy in our own way. And real love to me is about being able to go through difficult times together.”

Of course, our love for Ms. Koleva (for the record, Mark Ronson is also a big fan) comes only with the demand that she keeps making more music just like this – a demand which will surely be fulfilled when her new album, Confidence. Truth, is released Stateside this March 30.

 

 

A Los Angeles Day in the Life, With Honey Child’s Claire McKeown

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With all the divisive bellowing clogging up our television screens, perhaps nothing could be more welcome and illuminating than a…”choir of angels.” Which is arguably the best description of Claire McKeown’s celestial Los Angeles musical collective Honey Child.

Having launched her musical career on the operatic stage – and, naturally, with the voice to match – McKeown searched her soul for the inspiration to write her own…”pop” songs. Though the result was as much “pop” as Amadeus was just a “movie.” Indeed, Honey Child are in fact a collective of seven ethereal women, who together make self-described “heroine folk.” And in fact it might just blur all those boring old musical genre codifications. (We like to call it “chamber punk.”)

“I was performing scenes from Wagner’s ‘Tannhäuser,’ ‘Lohengrin,’ and ‘Die Walküre’ for the patrons of the Orange County Performing Arts Center,” Mckeown recalls, “in anticipation of the mounting of The Ring Cycle the following season. But I wanted an audience of freaks like me.”

 

 

New single “…and so goodnight…” is like some magical cross between Doris Day and Klaus Nomi, with a flamboyantly pastel video to match. As ever, however, it is the harmonic magnificence of McKeown and her curious and glorious choristers that induces the greatest chills and thrills.

As Honey Child have just released their self-titled debut album on February 9, we caught up with McKeown to discuss opera, sonic intoxication and a perfect day in the life of her inspirational home of Los Angeles, where she resides in Silver Lake. 

 

 

What made you decide to make the transition from opera to operatic pop?

I made the tough decision to not pursue a career in traditional opera. This set off a mental meltdown complete with a conversation with the Devil. I had never written music before that, and haven’t stopped since. No matter the style of music I may write, the years of training in opera will always be present in my sound and aesthetic.

How was Honey Child formed? Is it a set lineup?

Honey Child was formed when I was dealing with a slaughtered heart. I got caught in the classic and predictable affair with a bandmate of a former project. It didn’t end well. He was a huge part of my day to day life. Besides having to deal with the heartbreak, I also had to relearn how to live life with out my best friend. It was incredibly difficult, but I started writing these heartbreaking songs and arranging tons of vocal harmonies – I asked friends to sing with me in a makeshift choir to cover all these parts. For the first two years of Honey Child there was a revolving roster of choir members; but now we are a set group of seven.

 

What are the live shows like?

I try to go above and beyond for live shows, I want you to have an experience unlike any you have ever had. My favorite thing is to play to for people who have never seen us before. They see a group of seven women dressed all in white, like some sort of cult, and they know they are in for something out of the ordinary. Then when we sing our goal is to transfix, silence and intoxicate you with our sound.

What can we expect musically from the album? What are some of the influences, including lyrically?

Expect passionate honest music filled with ethereal voices. Also, expect to hear an almost live album – this was a celebration of musicians sharing time and space with each other and some of the songs are recorded completely live. My influences on this album for instrumentation and choral arrangements run from The Beatles to Bach, and vocally from Dusty Springfield to Maria Callas. The lyrics are influenced by the Jack Kerouac idea of “first thought, best thought.”

What inspires you about Silver Lake?

I’m surrounded by dreamers.

 

Clare McKeown’s LA Day in the Life

Self-Realization Fellowship, Lake Shrine

It is rare for me to brave the traffic and head to the west side of Los Angeles, but I will to go here. This is my happy place. My place to meditate, be silent, and wash myself of anything plaguing me. It is a flower filled wonderland all around a lake with ducks, turtles and swans.  The minute you enter you can feel the peace and serenity made here by Paramahansa Yogananda and the years and years of humans meditating. I stroll around the lake and marvel at the beauty of the world we live in.

Spacedust

This glam rock shop in Echo Park is filled with tons of eclectic gifts. Michelle Rose, who runs the shop, has set up a space for local artists (including her own couture) to sell their paintings, ceramics, candles, clothes, cards, bags, soaps, jewelry, books. The last thing I bought here was a David Bowie religious candle.

 

Cafe Stella

I’ll wake up early and stroll over here before the brunch crowds fill it up. I love the avocado toast and a side of bacon. Or, the soft scramble and prosciutto on sourdough. Their coffee is from the Intelligentsia next door, which is a big reason I come here.

Kombu Sushi

The happy hour lunch menu here is wondrous. They have this delicious spicy tuna on crispy rice, and I adore their chirashi bowls. The ambience is typical for a sushi bar except they may be projecting John Waters’ Cry Baby or Roger Vadim’s Barbarella on the wall.

 

 

Figaro Bistrot

I come here to pretend I am in Paris. I can admit this nerdy behavior since I know I am not the only one who does this. Their pastries are so good and almost too beautiful to eat – the almond croissant is the best I have ever had. That with a latte and a book to read and I’ll stay for hours.

Taix

This is the first place I always suggest when meeting friends for drinks. I recently heard it described as “the punk rock senior center,” which make me smile because it is so true. I always order an Old Fashioned when I am here, because their’s may be the best in town.

 

 

Mh Zh

This is a contemporary Israeli restaurant. I come here with friends and we order everything on the menu. The highlights for me are the lamb ragoo, the ribeye, hummus and bread, and the braised cabbage. So basically the whole menu.

The Theatre at The Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles (United Artists Theatre)

This place steals my breath and I feel lucky every time I walk through its grand doors. I was there last Halloween for the newest Philip Glass opera La Belle et la bête and was elated for days due to the ingenious show and the opulence of the venue.

 

Lena Waithe Has Landed A Deal With TBS For Her Comedy Series ‘Twenties’

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Lena Waithe has just signed a pilot deal with TBS for her show Twenties, which she wrote in – you guessed it – her twenties.

It marks Waithe’s second original series deal she’s landed in recent months, following The CHI, which she created and executive produces for Showtime. Twenties is about a queer black girl and her two hetero friends – she described it to Vulture as “my Master of None about life in my 20s, set in L.A.”

The show takes a lighter tone than the more dramatic CHI, and certainly is less intense than the coming out episode of Master of None, “Thanksgiving,” for which Waithe became the first black woman to win an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series.

 

Common, The CHI

 

 

“I always wanted to tell a story where a queer black woman was the protagonist, and I’m so grateful to TBS for giving me a platform,” Waithe enthused in the revealing Deadline report this week. “Queer black characters have been the sidekick for long enough; it’s time for us to finally take the lead.”

TBS has a slew of exciting projects in their upcoming lineup: The Last O.G., starring Tracy Morgan and Tiffany Haddish, will premiere April 3, and Miracle Workers, starring Daniel Radcliffe and Steve Buscemi, is also in development.

BlackBook Exclusive: LA Troubadour Greg Laswell’s Visceral ‘Valentine’s Day Soundtrack’

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The truest romantics are those that possess the most ambiguous, possibly even bemused view of the mysteries of love. After all, you can’t truly know the dizzying heights, until you have allowed yourself to be dragged through mire down below.

LA songsmith Greg Laswell – sometimes and rightly compared to the likes of Leonard Cohen and the late Jeff Buckley – has long been reporting in song on just such perilous ups and downs as these. His last album, 2016’s heartrending Everyone Thinks I Dodged a Bullet, was a masterstroke of musical catharsis, an unflinching confessional set to a vividly evocative aural soundscape.

He’s back with a haunting new single, “What Do I Know,” which might be his most sonically sumptuous song yet. As a chorus of melancholy strings paints the backdrop, his piano taps out a characteristically delicately beautiful melody. And no surprise for Mr. Laswell, it’s lyrically shot through with emotional perplexity and doubt: “Everything is fine / Thank you for asking / Of all the years to miss out on, you did well / Allow me one great lie: you’re not quite gone.”

 

 

If “What Do I Know” is indeed the first taste of full new album, it surely augurs greatness. But in the meantime, he’ll also launch a 16-date North American tour on May 31 in Phoenix – a can’t miss for coloring your spring.

More immediately, however, we asked him to curate a very Greg Laswell sort of playlist for this Valentine’s Day 2018, one that doesn’t fall back on the cliched refrains of hearts and flowers – but that goes much deeper into heralding us towards a more labyrinthine understanding of the ways and means of amour. Indeed, from Lana Del Rey’s chilling “Born to Die,” to Placebo’s poignant cover of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill,” it’s an uncompromising soundtrack for a sometimes unforgiving holiday.

“I’ve never been particularly fond of Valentine’s Day,” he confides, “and I understand it can be very polarizing. But every song is a love song on some level. We all write about love, loss, heartbreak, love again…and since I like to soundtrack my life, a Valentine’s Day playlist seemed appropriate.”

So even if you find yourself staring romantically across a theatrically set dinner table this evening, you will surely be equally sated on food for visceral thought.

“Happy” Valentine’s Day.

 

Museum of Sex Opens Exhibition on Japanese Photographer Nobuyoshi Araki

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New York City’s Museum of Sex knows how to have fun – as embodied in its primal exhibition, The Sex Lives of Animals. Yet it’s also proven time and again that it can confront more complex sexual matters with a mix of the cerebral and the provocative.

And so it is with its new show The Incomplete Araki: Sex, Life, and Death in the Work of Nobuyoshi Araki. The legendary Japanese photographer (born into the horrors of war in 1940) uses bondage almost as a medium unto itself, exploring the divisions between the public and private, the fictional and the autobiographical. Co-curated by Maggie Mustard, a Riggio Fellow in Art History and expert on Post-War Japanese Photography, alongside Mark Snyder, Director of Exhibitions at the Museum of Sex, more than a thousand prints, polaroids and books weave a narrative on eroticism, fetishization, feminism, even sentimentality – he documented his loving wife of 20 years Yōko’s battle with uterine sarcoma, which took her life in 1990.

Unflinchingly controversial, Araki’s list of admirers is impressive. Indeed, he has photographed Björk and Lady Gaga, as well as shooting campaigns for the likes of Bottega Veneta and Alexander McQueen.

“I want to make photographs that maintain their incompleteness,” he maintains. “I don’t want them to lose their reality, presence, speed, heat, or humidity. Therefore, I stop and shoot before they become refined or sophisticated.”

The show is now open, and will run through August 31.

 

Listen: Ellie Goulding Covers Don McLean’s ‘Vincent’ as a Special Gift For Fans

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With her third and most recent album, Delirium, having been released back in 2015, we admit we were beginning to wonder just what was up with one Ms. Ellie Goulding.

But we have our answer, as the ethereal Brit songstress has just released this stunning update of Don McLean’s classic “Vincent.” McLean had his heyday in the ’70s, was perhaps never considered all that cool (he was no Marc Bolan, to be sure); but he gets the occasional revival via covers by Madonna, James Blake…and now Goulding, whose version of his lyrical tribute to Vincent Van Gogh graces it with sublime, almost gossamer atmospherics, that give it a remarkable emotional immediacy.

She posted on Instagram about the cover.