BLACKBOOK PREMIERE: Visceral New Video for the ROZES + Mat Kearney Collab ‘Walls’

Image by Delaney Royer

 

Philadelphia songstress ROZES came crashing into the public consciousness in 2015 as the voice and co-writer of the Chainsmokers hit “Roses” – followed by the 2016 release of her tellingly titled debut album Burn Wild. But she was elevated to heroic status earlier this year, when her song “Halfway There” was chosen as the official anthem of the 2019 Women’s March.

Now she’s teamed up with platinum-selling Nashville-by-way-of-Oregon stalwart Mat Kearney for the equally anthemic single “Walls,” about two people who can’t scale the emotional divides they’ve constructed between them. “You don’t even hear the sounds of all my cannons raging / Behind your walls,” ROZES howls in lament during the song’s massive choruses.

 

 

“‘It’s about the emotional space between two people who seem to each stand stubborn in their views,” she explains. “It feels so current in today’s world, whether it’s romance, friendship, or family, sometimes we stand on the opposite side of those we love.”

The accompanying video shows them indeed standing on opposite sides of a glass barrier, unable to reach through to one another. It perfectly captures the desperation of the lyrics, as well as the socio-political tenor of our times.

“‘Walls’ came about very organically the day ROZES and I met,” Kearney recalls. “I had written the title and some of the chorus awhile back. When I played it for her, she pointed out how we could write it about a relationship, as well as something much bigger. Walls are something we put up to the ones closest to us, as well as the people we know the least.”

 

 

BlackBook Film Spotlight: Daniel Craig, Chris Evans Star in Peculiar Whodunit ‘Knives Out’

 

 

International Geekdom very much knows Rian Johnson as the writer/director of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. But for those of us who couldn’t give a toss about X-Wing pilots and Leia Organa, it’s all about his scandalously overlooked 2008 masterpiece The Brothers Bloom – in which Mark Ruffalo and Adrien Brody played the hippest con men literally in the history of cinema.

And with the new film Knives Out (in theaters November 27), the iconoclastic filmmaker again gets a shot at doing what he does best: getting unforgettable performances out of a brilliant ensemble cast, reading a script that tilts the English language just sideways enough to come off as artfully oddball. To be sure, like Hal Hartley and Wes Anderson before him, Johnson’s characters speak in a calculatedly stylized dialect, with a slightly off-kilter cadence and rhythm that wouldn’t be in the least recognizable to your average (is there any other kind?) linguistic literalist.

It’s also wickedly smart, with just the right amount of winking self-awareness.

 

 

For it, Johnson manages to gather Chris Evans, Daniel Craig, Toni Collette, Michael Shannon, Lakeith Stanfield (Atlanta), Katherine Langford (13 Reasons Why), even Jamie Lee Curtis and Christopher Plummer on the same screen for a genuinely peculiar crime drama that makes Clue look like Law & Order. Curiously, the victim, Harlan Thrombey (Plummer), is a very successful writer of mysteries (how meta) – until he becomes one on his 85th birthday.

Stanfield and Noah Segan play cops who come to the creepy old mansion – Thrombey’s home – where the birthday celebration was taking place, and encounter a familiar cast of damaged and narcissistic characters, including the victim’s son and daughter (Shannon and Curtis), and the latter’s self-absorbed son (a deliciously snide Evans). Eventually, Craig arrives to steal the show as detective Benoit Blanc, who is somewhere between Twin Peaks and Agatha Christie, but with a very pronounced southern accent – making him a truly original creation – it would be a shame, in fact, if this were his only film appearance.

It’s laced with social commentary and insightful meditations on class, almost all delivered with a kind of wry, kooky wit (shades of the Coen brothers). The house itself is just as much a character, an ominous country pile that’s weirdly decorated and eerily lit. But in the end, Knives Out is very much Rian Johnson’s film, with a style, dialogue and acting performances that could have surely only been conjured by him.

 

Janelle Monae Covers ‘Lady and the Tramp’ Classic ‘He’s a Tramp’

 

 

We love Janelle Monae when she’s singing out outer space, and technology, and other things that pop singers generally don’t sing about while they’re busy singing yet another song about cheating boyfriends. But we must admit, we’re literally (okay, not literally) charmed out of our socks by her sly, smooth as silk cover of “He’s a Tramp,” the beloved track from the Disney classic animation Lady And The Tramp, updated for the new live action version.

Thankfully, she doesn’t try to drag it unnecessarily into the 21st Century, instead going full retro, but sassing it up and vamping it up just enough to make it sound fresh and fabulous.

The new Lady And The Tramp film opens today, November 12, starring the voice talents of Justin Theroux, Tessa Thompson, and of course, the glorious Mlle. Monae.

 

New Anna Calvi Track ‘You’re Not God’ Is Featured on the First ‘Peaky Blinders’ Soundtrack

 

 

We were early to the Anna Calvi party – though we certainly weren’t alone. In fact, sonic godhead Brian Eno was acting as something of a mentor to her when she first emerged on the scene in 2009.

A decade later, she is still dazzling our ears (and souls) with her consistently startling art rock creations. And her critically acclaimed third album Hunter has just been shortlisted for the 2019 Hyundai Mercury Prize, her third consecutive nomination. But the startling new track “You’re Not God” actually appears on the first soundtrack for the exalted Netflix British crime drama Peaky Bilnders. She had also written and performed the soundtrack to season 5, and returned to do the same for season 6.

The song itself opens with a blast of thundering blues rock riffs and banshee wails, only to descend into some rather unsettling heavy breathing, set to an ominously chilling soundscape. If you’ve seen the show, it would hardly surprise you.

Calvi is also a riveting live performer – and will be appearing at The Echo in LA December 4, as well as Rough Trade in Brooklyn on the 7th. Very, highly recommended.

 

 

 

Listen: Alex McArtor’s Haunting New Single ‘Touch’

 

 

The kids are alright. Better than alright, actually – they’re kind of blowing us away.

Indeed, last week we made a big fuss over 10-year-old fashion illustrator Dear Giana. And now we can’t stop playing the chill-inducing new track “Touch,” by Texas songstress Alex McArtor – just 17 years of age. But she hasn’t grown up listening to fluffy chart fare. Rather, she claims to be influenced by The Doors and Jesus & Mary Chain; and her music generally sounds like it’s perpetually looking for a David Lynch scene to soundtrack.

“Touch” (from her debut EP Spoken Word) specifically recalls another favorite southern-gothic goddess, Chelsea Wolfe. But in its echo-drenched guitars, anxious atmospherics, and McArtor’s haunted wail, you can hear echoes of everyone from Sky Ferreira to Lana Del Rey to even the Bad Seeds.

 

 

“I wrote ‘Touch’ at 15, while I was in a really angry, confused mindset,” she explains. “The concept of the song is someone finally feeling at ease after a long period of darkness – yet the light feels as if it’s slipping away. During that period of time, I found my escape through music.”

The accompanying neo-noir video exhibits her equivalent flair for dramatic visual histrionics.

She recalls, “The video was just supposed to depict the angst of the song and lyrics that I wrote at that time. I was going to literally make the video just me yelling in the camera for four minutes straight, but then I decided probably not the best idea.”

Alex McArtor will play the Annie O Music Series series at The Penthouse at the Standard East Village hotel in New York this Monday, November 11.

 

BlackBook Interview: Disco Legend Gloria Gaynor is Still Surviving

Image by Alex Arroyo

 

 

 

A massive, era-defining hit song can be as much a curse as a boon to one’s career. Indeed, Mick Jagger famously said he’d rather be dead than sing “Satisfaction” at 45 (but guess it’s okay at 75); and commercial success was certainly partly to blame for Kurt Cobain ending it all at 27. Gloria Gaynor, thankfully, has no such issues regarding her 40-year old uber-smash “I Will Survive.”

Immediately successful on release, the ubiquitously disco-era empowering anthem was not only a platinum-selling #1 single, but also won a Grammy, and is included in the Library of Congress National Recording Registry. Silver lining, all these years later, the song rings just as powerfully as it did back then (it remains an anthem of gay pride).

Still, it has been Ms. Gaynor’s boundless talent and formidable pipes that have sustained her over the decades. And while, she did take a decade and a half break from making music, since returning to the studio in 2002, nothing has been able to stop her.

Always outspokenly spiritual, Gaynor has released a number of religious albums – and her latest, Testimony, continues that trajectory in its repertoire of rootsy gospel. BlackBook checked in with the beloved icon between one of her many transatlantic engagements.

 

 

 

Your new album Testimony sounds so good. How nice it is to hear analog-sounding recordings, real recordings, the real sound of the bass. 

I had fun doing it, especially with all of the musicians in the studio together. That’s something that hasn’t happened in years. At least not for me.

I saw a little video footage of it. You did pretty much cut everything all together?

Yeah, a lot of it. Not all of the songs, but most of them. Yes, yes. I’ve always said, because I really believe it to be true, that the best recordings come when musicians are performing together and live.

Obviously, it’s a gospel record but not your first spiritual recording – you did a Christian record a few years ago as well?

Yeah. Gospel just means “good news.”

Is that what it is? I was going to ask the difference.

Gospel has come to be a genre that is basically the good news set to rhythm and blues music…

That’s a good way of putting it.

…where Christian music is the good news set to pop music. There’s another genre of quote-unquote Christian music that is set to country music. And that’s what’s from the south. So it’s all the same ideas with different genres, and as I said, the “good news.”

Did you always consider yourself pretty religious? 

“I have. But I didn’t become really serious about it until after ‘I Will Survive.’”

 

 

You include a Bob Dylan song “Man Of Peace” How did you decide to do that? Are you a Dylan fan?

It was totally (producer) Chris Stevens’ idea; but the moment he told me about it and let me hear the song, I was like, “Yes. You got an arrangement for that? Absolutely.”

I haven’t looked into it that much, but I wonder if that came from Dylan’s own Christian period.

I don’t know. I was wondering about that myself. I cannot wait for him to hear it and get some feedback on what he thinks of this, how we did it.

Dylan’s amazing, he’s still so prolific and active as a performer and songwriter 50 years on. Do you still feel a connection to your songs from so long ago?

Oh, yeah. Especially “I Will Survive.” I’ve come to…at points it was a double-edged sword, you know? People think it’s the only song I can sing, people think it’s the only thing I recorded. Others think it’s the only hit I’ve ever had. It has come to be the foundation and the core of my purpose.

At least you love it. It must be tough for an artist to have successful songs that they maybe don’t like, and they have to sing them for 40 years.

I know! Yeah. That can be rough. But I have to say, I never get tired of doing “I Will Survive.”

And the story around its recording and release is pretty epic.

[After falling from the stage at New York’s Beacon Theater in 1978] I was in the hospital with this surgery on my spine. My label sent me a letter saying that they were not going to renew my contract. They were just going to let it run out that year, and they were going around the company saying, “The queen is dead.” Then the new president came and decided that he wanted to repeat the success that he’d had in England with a song called “Substitute.” And he wanted me to do it, to record the song. He sent me out to California to do that and the producers had made a deal that they would record that song if they could write the B-side.

 

 

 

And gee, what could that B-side have possibly been?

When I asked them what it was, they said, “We don’t know yet. What kind of songs do you like to record?” I said, “Well, I like songs that are meaningful, that touch people’s hearts, have good melodies.” They said, “We think you’re the one we’ve been waiting for to record this song we wrote two years ago.” So I’ve always believed that God told them, “Sit down, write a song, hold onto it. I’m going to send you somebody.”

What was the process of recording Testimony?

It was three years in the making, because we were trying to get some duets – we were trying to get Yolanda Adams. We had finally decided, okay, enough. We’ve spent enough time on this album. We’ve got to put this out. Sorry we can’t have Yolanda, maybe another time. And just before we were about to master it we found out she was going to be in New York at the same time I was going to be in New York. We decided to have her come in and re-do “Talkin’ Bout Jesus” and remotely produce it from Nashville. She’s awesome. She brought the thunder on that ensemble, she did.

She does sound great. You live in New Jersey now – did you like traveling to and working in Nashville? Had you done that before?

No, I hadn’t. I’d only performed in Nashville once, in one day and out the next. But it was nice to spend some time there, get to know the people, figure out the lay of the land. I really love Nashville, love the atmosphere. People are very friendly and helpful. Love that it’s a music town.

I know you still are out there performing quite a bit. What’s the schedule like in the coming months?

Last night – no, not last night…night before last I came back from Dubai. Before that I was in Mexico. The week before that I was in Manila and Singapore. So yeah. I’m getting around, and I am loving every minute of it.

What do you hope for the new album?

I’m really hoping that this album inspires, uplifts, encourages, empowers people. And that there is more to come.

 

New FKA twigs single ‘Sad Day’ is Hauntingly Beautiful

 

 

We’ve not made a secret of our undying love for FKA twigs since she debuted with LP1 in 2014. But new single “Sad Day” strikes a particular chord, since it very much recalls another songstress who has long held our adoration.

Indeed, the hauntingly beautiful new track seems nothing if not a unabashed homage to one Kate Bush – with its breathy vocals, sensual harmonies, lilting piano and convulsive dynamics. Ms. twigs is also herself a master of lyrical melancholy: “Every time you look outside your window / Everything is just the same as before / You are turning round and round / You see, it’s a sad day for sure.”

The track is taken from new album Magdalene, to be released this Friday via Young Turks. She also kicked off a select North American and European tour this past weekend, which takes her from Vancouver to Amsterdam’s Royal Theatre Carré on December 3. Not to be missed.

 

The New Underworld Single ‘Listen to Their No’ is Proggy, Exuberant

 

 

Ever the conceptual chaps, Underworld‘s highly ambitious new album DRIFT SONGS (released October 25) was the end result of the unprecedented 52-week DRIFT Series. During that time, the exalted electronic duo of Karl Hyde and Rick Smith published snippets of music, film and text every Thursday, leading up to piecing it all together for the final product.

We’re particularly excited for a new double A-side single which has also just been released: the proggy, psychedelic but exuberant “Listen to Their No,” along with “Soniamode (Aditya Game Version),” a dark, slightly ominous synth stormer.

Seemingly tireless, the pair had been doing the (mostly European) festival circuit all summer, including headline slots at Sonar, Latitude, Lollapalooza and Vivid, for which they played a four night run at the Sydney Opera House. But hop a flight across the Atlantic, and you can still catch them at Antwerp’s Lotto Arena, November 22, Amsterdam’s Ziggo Dome, November 23, and London’s Wembley Arena, December 7.

 

Watch: Kim Petras Breaks Free in Hyper-Sensory New Video For ‘Icy’

 

 

In an interview earlier this year, Kim Petras told BlackBook, “I feel like I’m a different person every single day, but I think all it’s 100% me. For this particular era, I wanted it to feel like you’re hanging out with me when you listen. I’m kinda inviting you into my life.”

This is especially exciting considering that in her hyper-sensory new video for “Icy,” she’s never been more alluring, or sensually captivating…which definitely makes us wish we there, well…hanging out with her.

In it, we see her trapped in a glass cube, struggling to break free. She does, of course, and then, face painted silver, we see her splashing around in a bath of ice. (Brrr…)

 

 

“I wanted the visual to feel fresh and signify becoming a stronger version of myself,” she explains. “The video starts with me feeling trapped, but I escape and evolve into a bionic version of myself through the pain of heartbreak.”

The opulent, groovalicious track is taken from her recently released 12-track project Clarity. The Clarity Tour will take her from Vancouver on the 21st to San Diego in early December, before she kicks off the European leg in Amsterdam on January 24.