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.”
It started in 1985 with the purchase of century-old but declining costume jeweler Georges Desrues – and currently Chanel’s Métiers d’art employs more than 5000 craftspeople. The shows for its annual collection are amongst fashion’s most anticipated events.
Now the Métiers d’art is getting a new 25,000 square meter Paris headquarters, dubbed Le 19m, which has actually been happening fairly under the radar since construction began in the autumn of 2018. And located in the somewhat remote (in relation to the city center) working class district of La Porte d’Aubervilliers, it has mostly escaped the everyday view of the French fashion and media cognoscenti.
But the exalted fashion house has just released a set of renderings, following an October 8th ceremony marking the completion of the overall structural work. And actual photos come by way of the capturing of artist Case Maclaim‘s ongoing mural work along the perimeter, which is meant to pay tribute to the work of the artisans employed to see it through to completion.
It’s a bit of architectural “meta,” if you will.
“Le 19M is an ambitious project,” explains Chanel President Bruno Pavlovsky, “as much for its urban and architectural qualities as for its functionality and its objectives in terms of innovation and sustainable development. Our goal is to maintain and develop the exceptional heritage of the Métiers d’art, at the crossroads of Paris’s cultural influence and the societal issues of fashion.”
The project will be completed in 2020, and also feature a 1200 square meter “agora” (the Ancient Greek word for “assembly”), a public space for gathering and the exchange of ideas.
When Timothée Chalamet, as Henry V, worries out loud, “I’ve been forced to rely on the counsel of men whose loyalty I question every waking moment. I need men around me I can trust,” it’s hard not to transpose those words to the current occupant of the American White House. Yet, as Niccolò Machiavelli was so keen to point out (decades later and in a different country), isn’t that the worry of everyone in power?
Since winning a 2018 Best Actor Oscar for Call Me By Your Name, Chalamet has been primed for an epic role to rocket his young career to the next level of gravitas – and his turn as the exalted English sovereign in Netflix’ The King just might be it. Especially as, rather than settling on the usual heroism halo (as Henry is given by Shakespeare, upon whose writings the film is loosely based), we get a stark, brutal meditation on the cold, isolating realities of power. To be sure, Joel Edgerton as Falstaff tells him bluntly, “Kings have no friends. Only followers, and foes.”
And indeed, Chalamet doesn’t play Henry with Kenneth Branagh‘s towering dauntlessness – but rather with much existential anxiety. So we have a leader for this 21st Century age of self-reflection and self-doubt, despite his story taking place more than 600 years ago. And the war, even the glorious victory at the Battle of Agincourt, is depicted with unmitigated grimness. Still, the actor takes him from neophyte monarch to worldly warrior king via a convincing emotional arc.
Directed by David Michôd (writer/creator of Animal Kingdom), The King is visually arresting, especially in its depiction of the gruesomeness of war. It also gets good performances out of Lily-Rose Depp, Sean Harris, and Robert Pattison as the Dauphine of France. But it is Chalamet’s vehicle to be sure, with his Henry V so perfectly embodying all the film’s modern world moral ambiguities.
They may have disbanded (for good?) in 2011, but R.E.M. continue to pop up in cognoscenti conversation as one of the grand architects of the age of modern rock, which, unfortunately, also seems to have disbanded. Their monumental sophomore album Reckoning just hit 35, and has been on the lips of the cultural chattering classes, surely due to a just-published new book, Begin the Begin, about their early years in Athens, GA.
Things ended amicably for the exalted quartet, and in the years since, Michael Stipe has lived a seemingly unhurried professional life, jumping up on stage with Chris Martin, recording a song with his pal Courtney Love, even doing a little soundtrack work.
It’s hard not to be excited then, to hear actual new music from the enigmatic frontman / possessor of a voice that everyone knows made even Bono jealous. The first track, “Your Capricious Soul,” has just been released, and it’s a moody, ethereal bit of art pop. And if we’re being honest, if not for his utterly inimitable vocal phraseology, it might even be mistaken for Radiohead.
“I took a long break from music,” Stipe explains, “and I wanted to jump back in. I want to add my voice to this exciting shift in consciousness.”
As befits the always ideologically piqued Stipe, the release is tied to a movement, in this case the recent global rebellion protests against climate change. In fact, all the proceeds from the song over the next year will go to the very zeitgeisty new group Extinction Rebellion, which organizes non-violent protests against government inaction on climate change.
“They gave me the incentive to push the release and not wait,” he says of the organization. “Our relationship to the environment has been a lifelong concern and I now feel hopeful…optimistic, even. I believe we can bring the kind of change needed to improve our beautiful planet Earth, our standing and our place on it.”
There’s also a haunting accompanying video by noted filmmaker Sam Taylor-Johnson.
It’s not unfamiliar territory for Phantogram – considering their 2016 track “Run Run Blood” was no bundle of cheer. And the dark synth-pop duo’s newest single “In a Spiral” again announces its harrowing position right in the title.
Recorded in Joshua Tree, its bleak lyrical viewpoint pulls no punches: “I can see the end is coming round / Every day, every day, in a spiral / Better help me now, I’m going down,” howls singer Sarah Barthel. Musically, it opens with a chilling, operatic screech, before settling into ominous, Depeche-Mode-like atmospherics, with a menacing beat, and funereal but opulent synthesized strings. Despite its personal overtones, one needn’t work hard to read into its apocalyptic metaphors – certainly nodding to the current socio-political zeitgeist.
“I started chopping up sample patterns, and we all messed around with a few analogue synths ’till we found the right vibe,” says Barthel’s musical accomplice Josh Carter. “There’s a lot of energy in this song with dark, interesting wordplay. An inspiring feeling of making music in the desert. Beauty in desolation.”
If the world doesn’t end, Phantogram will play a House of Vans show in Philadelphia this Friday, October 11, before gigs in Bilbao, Mexico City and the U.S. throughout November and December.
The thing about art…it has a way of expressing what we often find ourselves so unable to express – especially in times of real tragedy and sorrow. And adversity (war, illness, natural disasters) does have a way binding us together more viscerally than we may have ever thought possible.
Singer Rachael Sage was diagnosed with endometrial (uterine) cancer in 2018, and fought a battle that she seems to have won – the disease having now gone into complete remission. But perhaps as importantly, for herself and for all those fighting that same fight, she has put the experience into words that capture all the pain, confusion and heroism of the struggle so beautifully and poignantly. Indeed, her absolutely shiver-inducing new single “Bravery’s on Fire” (which BlackBook premieres here) is a remarkably open and unflinching account of what she went through emotionally, and is sure to act as inspiration to so many others going through the same.
“I went on a very internal journey to summon strength I never knew I had,” she reveals. “The song is about finding the courage to admit one’s own vulnerability and fragility – which can be very challenging for anyone, let alone a performer, to embrace.”
Of course, along with such an event come all the usual exhortations on never taking life for granted – but it is absolutely something we all need to be reminded of from time to time.
“It is an indescribable privilege to wake up every morning and decide what to do with my day,” she explains. “And having come through such an unexpectedly dark time, I’ve certainly heard the wakeup call to be as appreciative and present as possible in my own life.”
The single will be available on all online platforms on October 4, with 100% of the proceeds going to Women’s Cancer Research (during Cancer Awareness Month). Rachael Sage & The Sequins will also perform at two benefit events in NYC during October: An Evening of Music & Dance Benefitting Yoga 4 Cancer at NOW:Yoga on Saturday, October 12 from 8-10pm; and the single release show at Rockwood Music Hall on Tuesday, October 29 at 8:30pm, which will also benefit MGH and Sloan-Kettering.
With the possibility of 13 more months of divisive political warfare ahead, we couldn’t think of a better philosophical counter than, “Party Party Party” – which just happens to be the name of the bizarrely provocative new Princess single.
The duo of Michael O’Neill (founding member of JD Samson & MEN, collaborator with The Gossip, CSS and Peaches) and contemporary artist Alexis Gideon, who has exhibited everywhere from Boston to Stockholm to Málaga, their “concept” album Out There will be released this November 1. And in the lead up, BlackBook premieres here the outlandish, dayglo new video for “Party Party Party” – which we can only describe as some surreal midpoint between John Waters, Sigue Sigue Sputnik and the Teletubbies.
The jittery synth-pop track nods to the likes of Sparks and Devo, with sardonic lyrics, cooly monotone vocals and, well, a xylophone. More importantly, it has a zeitgeisty message for our times.
“‘Party Party Party’ is a metaphor for escapism in our culture,” explains O’Neill. “From a place of privilege, we often take part in emotional avoidance and we neglect important issues. Perhaps it’s a necessity in this extremely damaged world? The video uses irony to explore our own toxic masculinity in an effort to take responsibility as men.”
We’re considering forwarding a copy to the White House.
Despite its overarching alien/CIA plot line, Stranger Things‘ considerable success likely has had a lot to do with a kind of short-range nostalgia. To be sure, it plays perfectly to a certain sort of yearning for the earnest cynicism of a budding Gen X America, before the internet and social media rendered innocence impossible and youthful skepticism, well, quaint.
Into its aftermath comes this startlingly meditative new film, deceptively titled 18 to Party, by first time director Jeff Roda. The entire narrative takes place over the course of a single evening in 1984, outside (then inside) a ratty-cool post-punk nightclub in small town America. The camera is turned on a group of nerdy/hip, insightful and culturally aware teens, as they pontificate on and earnestly grapple with the “issues” of the day – something like The Breakfast Club meets Waiting For Godot. So a discussion, for instance, on the number classmate deaths over the preceding year comes off at once anxious and also curiously detached, the latter a hallmark of the Gen X modus operandi: let yourself feel…but then act like it was a lapse in judgment.
No surprise then, the perfectly reasonable entreaty, “What are the chances that two kids die on the same day?,” is sneeringly met with, “In this town, pretty fucking good.”
Parents, UFOs, drugs – angel dust, how antiquated – all get a philosophical airing, and the references are spot on (“You can’t hug your kids with nuclear arms.”) A fellow student’s suicide pact is even acknowledged by the gathered as being influenced by a scene in a film, a very modern world observation. In fact, it’s all so knowing, that the soundtrack includes not just a bunch of tired Pretty in Pink rehashes, but something as hip as Orange Juice’s “Blue Boy,” surely a paradigm sonic and emotional encapsulation of its time.
The film also nods to that very-new-at-the-time 1980s phenomenon, whereby media/entertainment had morphed into self critique. To wit, an argument about how much U2 sucks, because they “stole their sound from The Alarm,” concludes with the hilarious statement, “In five years, let’s see who’s still around.” And when one kid snarks, “Who the fuck watches 60 Minutes?,” you can’t help but think that today it would be, “Who the fuck still has an iPhone 4?”
And indeed, if this plot line were transposed to 2019, the characters would likely all be alone in their bedrooms, staring at their phones and face-timing with their not nearly as close friends. Sure, the kids in 18 to Party are sort of self-therapying – but they’re doing it together in a kind of ritualistic manner; they feel distinctly alienated by their times, but they deal with it as a tribe.
It’s in a way about the fading of innocence that comes with the coming of age. But it is surely also a letter of longing for a time when young people turned to other young people for emotional assurance and consolation – a responsibility that has now terrifyingly been handed over to soulless little metal devices.
Now that every corporate hospitality brand is in the “boutique” hotel business, it can be hard to remember just how thrilling it was when it was still an independent, visionary phenomenon. Indeed, from Munich to Miami to Marrakech, daring hoteliers were changing the way we stay, and the way we see.
Another such visionary was Claus Sendlinger, who founded Design Hotels in 1994, before there was even really a widely discernible boutique hotel industry. But the organization collected those that did exist into its exacting ideology, as a way of presenting a unified, yet wildly divergent new culture.
The Design Hotels Book 2020 will be released this fall to celebrate 25 years of opposition to all the banal conceptions of hospitality that came before it. Beautifully shot by such venerable photographers as Robbie Lawrence, Jake Curtis, Danilo Scarpati and Nacho Alegre, it features thoughtful, extended essays on 25 new, carefully selected member hotels – from the Stamba Hotel in Tbilisi to the Dexamenes Seaside Hotel on the Peloponnese Coast to the stunning Kazerne hotel in the Netherlands – from the perspectives of design, art, food and anything else that makes a genuinely great hotel.
Of course, Design Hotels now represents over 300 hotels in more than 60 countries – and each is presented on the pages of the book in the most visually dynamic way. Some long time devotees, like us, have even been known to use the directory as a travel wish list for the coming year.
“These hotels stand out because of the people behind them,” says current Design Hotels™ CEO Peter Cole. “These are true originals, whose passion, sensibility, and vision shine through in the minutest details of the guest experience.”
The Design Hotels Book 2020 will be released October 28, but is available now for pre-order.