Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Nick Zinner Bringing ’41 Strings’ Spectacle to Rockefeller Center

Image by James Richards IV

 

If you were swept up in the whirl of extravagant acts populating the post-Millennium New York music scene, you probably couldn’t help but think, “I could definitely see these bands eventually going orchestral.” It took them awhile, but Interpol did go and release late last year an orchestra-emboldened version of “If You Really Love Nothing,” from their 2018 album Marauder. But prior to that, all around artful Yeah Yeah Yeahs guitarist Nick Zinner had made a veritable mission of exploring his, well, classical side.

He actually wrote “41 Strings” with Berrin Noorata all the way back in 2011 – and like Vivaldi’s epic “Four Seasons,” it is meant to evoke winter, spring, summer and fall. (Notably, the spring section of the composition is currently the theme song for HBO’s Vice.) But never one to just conceptualize, he has since taken it around the world, performing with, yes, full accompaniment at such esteemed venues as London’s Royal Festival Hall, and the exalted Sydney Opera House. Now he’s bringing it back home for a truly grand music spectacle at Gotham’s glorious Rockefeller Center, on Saturday, July 27, at 6pm.

 

 

For the momentous event, Zinner has assembled an impressive 51-piece orchestra, including the considerable likes of Lenny Kaye from the Patti Smith Band, Jaleel Bunton of TV on the Radio, Nancy Whang of LCD Soundsystem, Ryan Sawyer of Gang Gang Dance, Paul Banks from the aforementioned Interpol, and, naturally, Yeah Yeah Yeahs bandmate and drummer Brian Chase. All this, plus a 35-piece string ensemble, with arrangement by violinist-violist Gillian Rivers.

“I’m so excited to bring this piece back to New York City,” Zinner enthuses, “where it was written and first performed in 2011. It’s always a massive undertaking, and a true joy to perform; and it’s a real honor to be able to do this in such an iconic space as Rockefeller Center.”

Of course, since it would be a cultural travesty to limit this sort of magnificence to an elite, insidery audience, the “41 Strings” performance is, indeed, open to the public. But just be warned…there will be no tree lighting ceremony to accompany the piece.

 

Image by Jason Williamson

Is Tilman Singer’s ‘Luz’ the Next Great Psychological Horror Film?

 

Perhaps the genuine thrill of Stranger Things is that the viewer has no real idea of what is actually going on. Like, really – what the hell is with that portal already?

It’s that same condition that very much makes the new film Luz by first time director Tilman Singer so riveting…and unsettling. It toys with our imaginations, messes about with chronology… Indeed, stylistic signifiers seem to straddle any number of decades, though one might not necessarily be incorrect in pegging it to the ’90s.

Luz is a Chilean cabbie working in a (naturally) noir-ish looking town in Germany. She wanders bloodied into a curiously eerie police station, and eventually finds herself undergoing some sort of unnerving metaphysical interrogation. Supernatural inferences abound, and it becomes clear there is an occult aspect to what is going on – though interpretations could very widely.

 

 

To be sure, this is demonic possession stuff, but not the hackneyed head-spinning and maniacal growling sort. Luz is psychological horror of the highest order (note 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes), crossed with surrealistic suspense thriller – and all smartly stylized to appeal to the most scrupulous of celluloid aesthetes. And though there are some notable visual and transcendental similarities to David Lynch, overarching self-consciousness is eschewed here for sheer visceral intensity.

It’s equal parts peculiar, preternatural, sinister and deeply disquieting. Leave everything you thought you knew at the door.

Tilman Singer’s Luz opens theatrically in New York (IFC Center, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema City Point, Nitehawk Cinema Williamsburg) and Los Angeles (Laemmle Monica, Laemmle Glendale) on Friday, July 19. A nationwide, multi-city release will follow.

 

Mika Announces ‘Tiny Love, Tiny Tour’ of North America + Mexico City This Fall

 

 

For awhile, all anybody could talk about regarding Mika was if he would be the one to play Freddie Mercury in what would eventually become the Oscar-winning biopic Bohemian Rhapsody. The November 2016 announcement that the role would go to Rami Malek then shifted the conversation to why it wouldn’t be Mika.

Eight long months on from the film’s debut, Mika has decisively steered the Mika conversation back to, well…Mika.

Indeed, his new single and video “Ice Cream” was released May 31 to much enthusiasm. And though it sounds like he’s been listening to a lot of Prince and Scissor Sisters, one can’t help but notice it makes no shame of paying groovalicious homage to Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust.” The slinky, sultry synth-funk track finds him lasciviously rattling off clever couplets like, “The grass is turnin’ yellow /
Streets are slow and mellow” in a falsetto that would surely make Freddie proud.

 

 

It’s taken from his first new studio album in five years, My Name is Michael Holbrook (it is), out October 4.

“I didn’t know what to do when it came time to start the [recording] process and was honestly kind of at a loss,” MIKA recalls. “I felt a little disappointed by the commercial side of the industry. I didn’t want to make a record by numbers or by committee. I wanted to make an uncontaminated, homemade pop record.”

No surprise, he’s also just announced that he’ll be taking that new music out on the road this fall, for his Tiny Love, Tiny Tour of North America + Mexico City – before heading off on a not so tiny tour of Europe. If you’re planning to be in Zurich November 22, well…we’ll see you there.

 

Tiny Love, Tiny Tour

September 13                                          New York, NY                                          Brooklyn Steel
September 15                                           Montreal, QC                                                       Corona
September 16                                           Montreal, QC                                                       Corona
September 18                                      San Francisco, CA                                                  Fillmore
September 21                                         Los Angeles, CA                                                       ACE
September 24                                         Mexico City, MX                                       Plaza Condesa

Mika Live in Europe

November 10                                             London, UK                           Shepherd’s Bush Empire
November 12                                        Barcelona, Spain                                             Razzmatazz
November 13                                           Madrid, Spain                                                 La Riviera
November 15                                             Pau, France                                                          Zenith
November 16                                         Toulouse, France                                                     Zenith
November 18                                  Aix-en-Provence, France                     L’Arena du Pays d’Aix
November 19                                    Saint-Étienne, France                                                   Zenith
November 21                                     Geneva, Switzerland                              SEG Geneva Arena
November 22                                      Zurich, Switzerland                                        Komplex 457
November 24                                              Turin, Italy                                               Pala Alpitour
November 26                                           Ancona, Italy                                       Promenteo Palace
November 27                                           Roma, Italy                                             Palalottomatica
November 29                                          Bologna, Italy                                             Unipol Arena
November 30                                        Montichiari, Italy                                              Palageorge
December 2                                              Livorno, Italy                                     Modigliani Forum
December 03                                              Milan, Italy                                    Mediolanum Forum
December 14                                       Brussels, Belgium                                       Forest National
December 15                                            Lille, France                                                          Zenith
December 17                                           Dijon, France                                     Le Zenith de Dijon
December 19                                 Floirac, Bordeaux, France                                     Arkea Arena
December 20                                          Nantes, France                                                        Zenith
December 22                                             Paris, France                                    Accor Hotel Arena
January 24                                                 Caen, France                                                        Zenith
January 25                                                 Niort, France                                             L’Acclameur
January 29                                  Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg                                        Rockhal
January 30                                            Montbéliard, France                                              L’Axone
February 1                                                 Padova, Italy                                                       Kioene
February 2                                                Bolzano, Italy                                                   Palaonda
February 5                                                  Napoli, Italy                                            Palapartenope
February 7                                                   Bari, Italy                                                      Palaflorio
February 8                                         Reggio Calabria, Italy                                       Palacalafiore
February 13                                         Utrecht, Netherlands                 TivoliVredenburg – Ronda
February 14                                          Strasbourg, France                                                    Zenith

18th Century Sex & Feminism: The Audacious ‘Harlots’ Returns For Season 3

 

 

Try as they might, a new generation of period dramas – The Borgias, The Crown, Versailles – will never quite convey the gravitas, or raw, visceral depths of any number of Merchant Ivory films – A Room With a View, Maurice, Howards End…or, for that matter, the original Brideshead Revisited.

Arguably, the pinnacle of said dramas is Milos Forman’s 1984 masterpiece Amadeus, in part due to its willingness to upend historical accuracy for dramatic wallop – but mostly for its clever contextualization within a knowingly contemporary point of view. Which is sort of the creative, nay ideological device driving the still somewhat-under-the-radar but cheekily brilliant British series Harlots – the third season of which premieres this Wednesday, July 10, on Hulu.

Set in 18th Century Georgian London, the production is entirely written and directed by women (Allison Newman and Moira Buffini, to be specific), and thus possesses the keen incisiveness necessary to emotionally elevate its already rather compelling storyline. Essentially, it’s about a pair of competing houses of ill repute; and at a time (meaning now) when women’s sexual liberty is under assault from Alabama to Saudi Arabia and beyond, it is exquisitely, relevantly feminist in its tone and narrative.

 

 

The ever commanding Samantha Morton stars as Margaret Wells, head of a successful brothel, who finds herself at “war” with rival Lydia Quigley (Lesley Manville) for the lion’s share of the motivatingly profitable sex industry. Like Amadeus, it manages to come off slightly campy, but never silly, scandalous but never merely gratuitously titillating. In the third season, both madams have been “sidelined,” with Quigley put away in the Bedlam mental facility, and Wells escaped to America, specifically New York. Margaret’s daughter Charlotte (well played by Jessica Brown-Findlay) takes over the business, in a mimic of typical patriarchal nepotism.

The excellent cast also includes Liv Tyler as Lady Isabella Fitzwilliam, and her relationship to Charlotte gives the series an engagingly queer subplot. And it must be said that even the costuming is used as a mood setting device, eschewing flounciness for the business of character definition.

It’s interesting that Fleabag, Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s comedy of (horrible) manners is being held up as the latest feminist television paradigm – when in truth it’s really just another tired collection of privileged characters treating one another hideously and feeling sorry for themselves. Harlots is arguably far more effective as a depiction of the essence of female resolve and determination because, obviously, the stakes are so much higher.

See for yourself.

 

New Order Release Fascinating Liam Gillick Live Video for ‘Utraviolence’

Image by Warren Jackson

 

 

When New Order released a post Peter Hook album, Music Complete, with a new lineup in 2015, they seemed to be speeding towards a whole new era of relevance, exhibiting a renewed energy that had arguably eluded them for years. Notably, their live shows over the last few years have consistently dazzled.

So, why not capture it in a recording?

They have, with new label Mute releasing possibly the most enigmatically titled album in pop history, ∑(No,12k,Lg,17Mif) New Order + Liam Gillick: So it goes…, this July 12. Gillick, should you have missed it, is the venerable conceptual artist who has become something of a visual director to the band (like Anton Corbijn to Depeche Mode).

 

 

Recorded at the 2017 Manchester International Festival, it features well-loved hits like “Shellshock” and “Bizarre Love Triangle,” along with some surprising obscurities – one of which is the moody, solemn “Ultraviolence,” from their 1983 album Power, Corruption & Lies.

They have also chosen to release it as a live video, which effectively shows off the extent of Gillick’s influence on New Order’s current stage show. If it leaves you sufficiently intrigued, the band will take to the road again this July 7, for a 17-date UK/European tour that takes them into October.

 

Madonna is Launching a ‘Madame X’ Channel on SiriusXM

 

 

It’s gotten mixed reviews, but you have to give Madonna credit, surely, for creatively venturing into the unknown on her latest album Madame X – her 9th to place at #1. And some of the tracks, like “God Control” and “Killers Who are Partying,” prove what she’s capable of when she steps outside of her comfort zone.

She also knows how to promote the living daylights out of everything she does. And so this Monday, July 1, she will launch the month long “Madame X Radio” channel on SiriusXM, following hot on the heels of her sure-to-be-monumental Pride Island performance the night before. It will be all Madonna, all the time, 24/7, 31 days a month – with exclusive stories pegged to Madame X, explorations of her inimitable ability to bring together disparate cultures through pop music, and, naturally, a bit of Material Girl history.

 

 

“This channel brings you into the intricate world of Madame X,” she enthuses. “You’ll learn more about the creative process behind my latest album and gain a deeper understanding of what drives me as an artist and a performer.”

Considering how few performers throughout history have been so analyzed and scrutinized from the outside, this will give her countless devotees the chance to hear it from Ms. Ciccone herself.

Bitch…she’s Madonna.

 

Fever Ray Will Release a Live Album This August

Image by Carolina Mendozza

 

 

In an age where social media has sucked all the mystery and imagination out of our pop stars, possibly no one has so successfully cultivated enigma as has Karin Dreijer. Indeed, as one half of exalted Swedish brother-sister electronic duo The Knife, they built a staggering worldwide “cult” without ever actually revealing their faces.

In 2009, she peeked slightly out from undercover, releasing a landmark album under the nom de guerre Fever Ray, a primal meditation on the onset of motherhood. But, with The Knife having disbanded in 2014, it took far too long for a second Fever Ray album to be birthed, which was 2017’s Plunge.

 

 

Her stage performances have become the stuff of legend, shot through with metaphor, surrealism, illusion – and some rather freakish, at times even terror-inducing costumery. Fever Ray at last took to the road again in 2018, to much enthusiasm, acclaim and even more weirdness. And this time, they’ve captured it all in recorded form – which it has just been announced will become their first ever live album, Live at the Troxy, from their March 2018 spectacle in London.

It will be unleashed onto the world this August 2, via Mute, as always. But, par for the course, the music itself is still tightly under wraps. So, obviously, plan so spend the next fives weeks shivering with anticipation.

 

Listen: Aussie Songstress Montaigne’s New Single ‘Ready’ is an Anthem of Self-Possession

 

 

As another Pride Month winds down, we’re all too reminded of how far the struggle for equality still has to go. So we’re particularly excited to see the month off with the heroic new single by Aussie queer pop up-and-comer Montaigne (real name Jessica Cerro).

Tellingly titled “Ready” (from her upcoming second album Complex) she poignantly documents a life moment where breaking free from fear and uncertainty seems the only way forward. Her courageously self-possessed lyrics are indeed shot through with the thrill of possibility: “I’m out on the wind / So catch my wings / I think I’m ready to go / Feel like the barrel of dynamite waiting for a flame to come ’round.” And who hasn’t felt that way at some point?

 

 

Musically, it moves from elegant, reflective ballad into an explosive, almost industrial tinged R&B anthem, with thundering drums, and Montaigne’s chill-inducing vocal performance. It’s the sound of empowerment x 100…at least.

Recipient of a Best Breakthrough Artist ARIA Award (the Australian Grammys), she’s already shared a bill with the likes of Blondie and Cyndi Lauper, and won praise from Sia herself for her remarkable cover of the latter’s beloved track “Chandelier.” And though as of yet she’s only scheduled to tour her home country, you can pretty well expect to hear much more from her in 2019.

 

Pride Month: PBS’ ‘The Lavender Scare’ Poignantly Documents the Struggle For LGBT Rights

 

 

During this Pride Month, it is important, nay imperative, to remember how much, just 60 years ago, the gay community had to fear for its very existence.

Indeed, the gripping new documentary The Lavender Scare looks chillingly back at how, at the height of Cold War paranoia, President Eisenhower declared all homosexuals to be “security risks,” promising to rid the federal government of all gay and lesbian employees. It was the start of a decades long witch-hunt, in which thousands were put out of jobs for no reason other than their sexual orientation.

 

 

The doc, based on the award-winning book by historian David K. Johnson, also enlightens as to how this action ignited protest rallies, that then served as the inspiration for what would become the greater struggle for LGBT equal rights – a fight, of course, which carries on to this day. It’s poignantly directed by Josh Howard, who boasts 24 Emmys, primarily for his work with 60 Minutes, and narrated by seven-time Oscar nominated actress Glenn Close.

At a time when the rights of LGBTQ persons are again very much under attack, the timing, certainly, could not be better.

The Lavender Scare airs throughout the month of June on PBS.