The Miserabilist Presents The Twelve Saddest Christmas Songs Ever

Christmas songs are the epitome of pop culture tradition. Some people don’t believe it’s time to get in the spirit of the holiday until they hear Wham’s “Last Christmas” piping out of a J. Crew speaker. And sprouting up within the tradition of “merry” Christmas songs is a tradition of sad-as-Hell holiday songs, which range here from 1930’s murder ballads to Low’s “Taking Down the Christmas Tree.” All prove that Charlie Brown isn’t the only one thinking “there must be something wrong with me… Christmas has come, but I’m not happy.”

Private Charles Bowen & The Gentlemen From Tigerland – “Christmas in Vietnam” (1967)

Charley Jordan and Mary Harris – No Christmas Blues (1935)

Kitty Wells – “Christmas Ain’t Like Christmas Anymore” (1962)

Low – “Taking Down The Christmas Tree” (1999)

Vince Guaraldi – “Christmas Time Is Here” (1965)

The Emotions – “What Do The Lonely Do At Christmas” (1973)

The Carolina Buddies – “The Murder Of The Lawson Family” (1930)

Merle Haggard – “If We Make It Through December” (1973)

Elvis Presley – “Blue Christmas” (1957)

The Orioles – “It’s Gonna Be (A Lonely Christmas)” (1948)

Joni Mitchell – “River” (1971)

Judy Garland – “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” (1944)

Take Your Lavish Lifestyle On The Road With You This Holiday Season

Traveling to inhospitable guest rooms this holiday season? It’s easier than ever to take your lifestyle with you. Here are BlackBook’s picks for making your stay at the in-laws’, the family cabin, or Dad’s Winnebago as luxurious as a five-star hotel.

1. The J. PANTHER RUC TOTE ($590; is everything you could ask for in both an everyday bag and a long-weekend carryall. It zippers shut to keep out snow and rain, and the lightly waxed canvas keeps everything dry.

2. Make any musty or over-potpourried guest room your own with a scented candle from CIRE TRUDON. We love the woodsy Balmoral and the Havana-inspired Ernesto. Use their elegant long matches to rekindle the flame (candles $85; matches $12; both at

3. Barnes & Noble’s SIMPLE TOUCH WITH GLOWLIGHT NOOK ($119; is barely larger than a phone, has a battery that can last a month, and allows you to trade day for night reading with The Touch of a button that backlights the screen.

4. A ready-made heirloom, THE JAMES DIXON FLASK ($550; is based on an early 20th century design—its upper half wrapped in rich brown leather and its orbed screw cap and removable cup made of sterling silver. We suggest filling it with a spirit as complex and mellow as TULLAMORE DEW’S 12-YEAR-OLD SPECIAL RESERVE WHISKEY ($40;

5. BANG & OLUFSON’S BEOLIT 12 PORTABLE SPEAKER ($799; is a sleek update to the company’s classic 1960s transistor radio. It features a leather handle, and you can get eight hours of sound from the rechargeable battery.

6. No critters were harmed in the making of Restoration Hardware’s deceptively soft LUXE FAUX FUR THROWS ($99; They come as portable as can be in a blanket roll with a leather handle.

7. Get the best shave your great-grandfather never had with The Art of Shaving’s BOCOTE WOOD STRAIGHT RAZOR and 4 ELEMENTS OF THE PERFECT SHAVE KIT (razor $225; shaving kit $115; Or pack even lighter with JOHN MASTERS ORGANICS 2-IN-1 FACE WASH AND SHAVE FOAM ($22;

Photo by Joshua Scott.

BlackBook’s List Of The Best And Brightest Stars Of 2013

The New Regime 2013

Whether in front of the camera, or up to the mic, or behind the bar, the stars collected in our sixth annual declaration of the best brightest talents in film, music, television, art, and nightlife are all ready for their close-ups. Pay attention to these faces, because you’ll be seeing them often.

The New International: ALICIA VIKANDER

In the recent adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Sweden-born Alicia Vikander plays Kitty, the virtuous, if naïve, counterpart to the immoral titular character played by Keira Knightley. Kitty is one of the few characters in the film to break out of the claustrophobic stage setting employed by director Joe Wright that ensnares the other Russian aristocrats. Not that being on stage has ever daunted the 24-year-old. “My mother’s an actress, and when we didn’t have a babysitter, I would come with her to the theater,” she explains. Already an award-winning actor in her home country, Vikander became an international star after appearing in the Danish film A Royal Affair earlier this year, playing the adulterous Queen of Denmark, Caroline Matilda. Although Anna Karenina was her first English-language film, she’s eager to continue to work on international projects. To that end, she shot alongside Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore this past summer. “It’s a very big adventure film,” she says of the project, helmed by Russian director Sergei Bodrov. And although Vikander is returning home to Sweden, she hopes to make her way back to the States soon. “The industry is so small in Scandinavia,” she explains. But for Vikander it’s not the size of the industry that counts. “I just want to continue to work with people—actors and directors—I admire.” —Tyler Coates

Photo Alisa Connan
Styling Angie Smith
Makeup Emma White Turle @ Red Represents
Hair Alex Price @ Frank Agency

The New

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau has been a hair’s breadth from becoming a household name for longer than seems justifiable. He starred in two Fox series that didn’t catch—as a 400-year-old homicide detective in New Amsterdam, which had an eight-episode run, and as the lead in the cult favorite sci-fi pilot, Virtuality, which was co-written by Ronald Moore (Battlestar Galactica) and directed by Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights)—but with his front-and-center role as the incestuous, gold-plated Jaime Lannister on HBO’s Game of Thrones, he’s finally beginning to take his rightful place in the spotlight. In the fantastic 2011 Norwegian film Headhunters, he played a revenge-seeking CEO who put his nemesis through a world of shit, literally. (Mark Wahlberg is planning a stateside remake of the film, and Nikolaj jokes about how busy the actor/producer is, saying, “He does catering on Game of Thrones.”) When asked about his lead role opposite Jessica Chastain in the upcoming Guillermo del Toro-produced supernatural thriller Mama, he instantly sings the first line of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” “I can’t watch movies like that,” he says. “They freak me out.” In an appealing confession for someone so tall (6’ 2”) and square-jawed, he says, “The idea of ghosts scares the shit out of me,” adding that he even had trouble watching the rough cut of the film. “I had to turn the sound off.” In 2013 he’ll appear alongside Tom Cruise and Olga Kurylenko as a battle-hardened weapons expert in the big-budget sci-fi epic, Oblivion, and opposite Juliette Binoche in A Thousand Times Goodnight. When prodded for hints about season three of Game of Thrones, which premieres in March, he’s appropriately tight-lipped. He also admits to not reading the books until after he gets the scripts. “I don’t want to get attached to anything too specific with the character because they make changes for the show,” he says. “I don’t want to start questioning their decisions. After all, they got us this far.” —Adam Brent Houghtaling

Photo Aaron Richter
Styling Christopher Campbell
Grooming Tayler Treadwell
Location Acme Studios, Brooklyn

The New Sound of Young America: HAIM

“We grew up on TLC, Aaliyah, Missy Elliott, Backstreet Boys, and ’N Sync,” says guitarist and vocalist Danielle Haim of the ’90s R&B influence in the sister act’s sound. “We still listen to Top 40 radio most of the time, but through our parents we listened to classic rock and Motown and funk.” All those sounds blend together in the celebratory pop of HAIM. Danielle, 22, has the highest profile in the band, having toured with Julian Casablancas and Jenny Lewis, but along with multi-instrumentalist Alana, 20, and bassist Este, 24, the trio—who recently added drummer Dash Hutton to the band—have years of live experience after playing in family band Rockenhaim with their parents when they were young; “Alana was four,” says Danielle. “We always thought we would end up working together on something more serious. We just didn’t know how to get there.” They went the great-artists-steal route while learning the songwriting process, taking their favorite songs and refashioning them as their own. They soon began playing live and building a loyal following in their native Los Angeles. But recording proved to be a difficult process. “Every year we would go into the studio and try to make a record and it always sounded… not good,” says Danielle, but each instance was an education. After “fucking around on three songs for six months” the Forever EP finally appeared this past February, and their fortunes have sharply improved ever since. They recently signed to Columbia Records and are now under a little more pressure to turn out a full-length album, which Danielle vaguely suggests they’ll be ready to release in the early half of 2013. —ABH

Photo Dan Monick
Styling Christopher Campbell
Makeup Sandra Ganzer @ Jed Root
Hair Candice Birns for using Orbie Haircare
Location Siren Studios, Los Angeles

The New Hollywood Believer: NATE PARKER

“I think I’m an activist before I’m an artist,” says actor Nate Parker, whose favorite roles exhibit a strong social perspective. “I love the arts, but I think a platform is no good if you can’t use it to better your fellow man.” With electrifying supporting roles in Spike Lee’s coming-of-age drama Red Hook Summer and Nicholas Jarecki’s Wall Street thriller Arbitrage, the 33-year-old Virginia native claims he tries to make it “extremely difficult not to cast” him. But Parker didn’t always have Hollywood ambitions. Having received a degree in computer science from the University of Oklahoma, it was only after accompanying a friend to an audition in Dallas that he was inspired to begin acting. At the audition, Parker was approached by a manager who asked him to read a monologue and, after watching him perform, insisted that he move out to Los Angeles immediately to pursue an acting career. “I try to live my life completely without fear,” says Parker who, without hesitation, uprooted his life—moving to Los Angeles within four days. As a “firm believer in process,” before auditioning for his longtime hero, Denzel Washington, Parker wrote a 100-page biography of the character he was in contention for after hearing a tip about the elder statesman’s own methods. He impressed the Oscar-winning actor/director, landing a role in his film, The Great Debaters. “These journeys we go on as actors, in many ways, are a call to tap into our own experiences,” says Parker. And perhaps it’s his competitive background as an athlete, or the fact that he left home at the age of fourteen and endured the life experiences of someone much his senior, but Parker’s work ethic and confidence are unquestionably setting him ahead of the young Hollywood pack. —Hillary Weston

Photo Dan Monick
Styling Natalie Toren
Grooming Kristen Shaw @ Jed Root

The New Thespian: LILY RABE

“I’ve always wanted to perform,” says Lily Rabe, channeling the plucky sensibility of her childhood self. “I remember going by the Broadway Dance Center and seeing the dancers in the window. The teacher said I was too young to train there—I was still wearing diapers. My mother told me that within two weeks I had potty-trained myself and was like, ‘Alright, let’s go!’” While adamant against acting as a young girl, she came around to the craft in high school. It’s no surprise given her fortitude—and her pedigree (her parents are playwright David Rabe and the late actor Jill Clayburgh)—that she’s become a respected performer by the age of 30. “I was so determined to do it differently from my parents,” she explains. “I wanted to forge my own path.” After attending Northwestern University, Rabe returned to her native New York and landed a role in a Broadway revival of Steel Magnolias in 2004. Highly praised performances followed, most notably as Portia in The Merchant of Venice opposite Al Pacino’s Shylock, for which she earned a Tony nomination. After two more starring turns on stage, Rabe headed to L.A. to play poltergeist Nora Montgomery on American Horror Story. She returns to the psychosexual drama for its second season—American Horror Story: Asylum—as Sister Mary Eunice, and this time around goes head-to-head against recent Emmy winner Jessica Lange. “It’s the best kind of challenge, and I’m having an incredible time,” she gushes, while keeping mum about this season’s shocks and terrors. Both American Horror Story and her starring role in The First, an upcoming biopic about silent film legend Mary Pickford, will keep her on the west coast for a few more months, but she’s already planning a trip back east. “I’ll return to New York soon,” she says. “I get itchy when I’m not doing a play.” —TC

Photo Emilie Elizabeth
Styling Marissa Joye Peden
Makeup Joanna Schlip @ Cloutier Remix
Hair Danny Rishoff @ Tracey Mattingly
Photo Assistant Adrian Espinosa
Location The Jesus Wall, Los Angeles

The New Short Seller: JIM GAVIN

“All the stories in the collection were rejected everywhere until I sent one to The New Yorker, unsolicited, and they took it,” says author Jim Gavin of the pieces that make up his first short story collection, Middle Men, which is being published this coming February by Simon & Schuster. From his home in Culver City, Gavin writes about a side of Los Angeles that is often overlooked in favor of the city’s more glamorous reputation. His stories are sun-bleached and overflowing with bloviating salesmen and well-meaning people with dried-up checking accounts. “They’re all stories I wanted to tell for a long time, I just didn’t know how,” he says. “They’re very autobiographical.” The titular two-part story, “Middle Men,” comes straight from his own experience as a plumbing supplies salesman. “That’s what people want to read about,” he quips, “industrial plumbing in southern California.” “I think writing fiction in Los Angeles is fun,” he says. “There’s a healthy remove from the New York literary world and there’s a great fiction scene flourishing here in the shadows of Hollywood.” For a time, he worked on the sports desk at The Orange County Register—“It gave me a thick skin, but it burnt me out. I lived like a vampire.”—and recently finished an MFA at Boston University, but he credits a handful of adult education classes at UCLA as being a turning point in his life. “That’s when I started to get serious [about the work],” he says. Following the sale of the collection, he’s moved on to his first novel, which has also been sold to Simon & Schuster—but don’t expect to see it any time soon. “It’s a fun, grueling, terrible process,” he says. “I have no idea what I’m doing, but I can sort of see the horizon.” —ABH

Photo Emilie Elizabeth

The New Double Threat: SAINT LOU LOU

“We’re floating.” These are the first words Miranda Kilby (the brunette one) says after we establish a trans-oceanic connection with her and her sister, Elektra. And the twins, both 21, should be floating. The universal adoration the duo has received for their first single, “Maybe You,” is nothing less than amazing; the song is a hypnotic re-imagining of ABBA’s melancholy side as run through a chillwave filter (listen at They certainly didn’t expect it to spread like wildfire over the internet as it has (it’s since been released as a single via Kitsuné Records). “It was crazy. It was a rough demo that took off and then got mastered and became the single,” says Miranda. “Overnight it became this big thing.” Born in Australia, but raised primarily in Sweden with holiday jaunts back down under, the girls grew up in a musical environment, but were initially more interested in becoming academics. “I think Saint Lou Lou chose us,” says Elektra. “Time chose us. It does feel like destiny.” They’re still getting to know themselves as songwriters while they carefully gather material for more singles and, eventually, an album. When asked about what they’re working on for the future, they say people will be surprised. “Some of the songs are more up- tempo,” Miranda says. Elektra quickly leaps in to add, “When we say up-tempo, it’s still down-tempo.” As the interview wraps, Miranda asks, “So are you going to use the crazy twins angle? The sultry twins angle?” A question she quickly follows with the sweetest of threats: “I don’t like that. If you do, we’ll come and knock on your door one day. You can be sure.”—ABH

Photo Alisa Connan
Styling Angie Smith
Makeup Emma White Turle @ Red Represents
Hair Alex Price @ Frank Agency
Photo Assistant Jack Lawson
Stylist’s Assistant Danielle Whiteman

The New Innovator: CHADWICK BELL

“I was a little awkward. I’d paint all the time, all night even, then go to school the next day with the paintings,” says 30-year-old womenswear designer Chadwick Bell of his teenage years in Southern California. Bell was drawn to art at a young age, but ultimately gravitated toward fashion, getting his start in retail at Dolce & Gabbana while studying design and media arts at UCLA. After graduation, he and Vanessa Webster, a childhood friend-turned-business partner, set their sights on the Big Apple. “I was visiting Vanessa while she interned in New York during our sophomore year of college, and it sort of sealed the deal that this is where we needed to be,” he says. “New York just felt right,” he adds. “I’m just a little too high strung for California.” Bell found his first muse in Webster, who in turn likes to say that she discovered his talent. “There’s a mutual push between us,” says the designer. “Nobody can get me to do things the way she does.” Chadwick Bell—the brand—made its debut at New York Fashion Week in fall 2008. The collection stemmed from one of his many fantasies about “the Chadwick Bell woman,” someone who is always “worldly, modern, chic.” That season he found inspiration from a 1940s Robert Capa photo of American socialite Slim Keith holding a shotgun while bird hunting with Ernest Hemingway. For spring 2013, Bell places his muse in the American Southwest (“New Mexico, to be exact”), envisioning her on a “personal crusade for clarity.” While focusing on minimalism, illusion, and austerity, the collection, entitled “Nirvana,” features clean lines and a neutral color palette with splashes of green and yellow. And then it’s on to next season’s designs. “All we can do is recreate and reinvent,” he says. “I plan to be doing this forever.” —Ryma Chikhoune

Photo Alexander Wagner
Photo Assistant Ken Morton


Zal Batmanglij’s hauntingly seductive first feature, Sound of My Voice, opened this past year to critical praise, establishing him as one of the most innovative voices in a new wave of American independent cinema. “I’m excited to make movies that feel real even in the most fantastical situations,” says the 31-year-old director. After studying anthropology at Georgetown University, Batmanglij attended AFI’s graduate school for directing—and what better course of inquiry for a filmmaker whose debut walked the line between in-depth ethnographic study and psychological thriller? Sound of My Voice, co-written with the film’s star Brit Marling, tells the story of a couple who infiltrates a cult in order to expose its leader who claims to have time-traveled from the future. “A story is a disguise that allows you to bypass people’s defenses and enter the innermost chambers of their hearts,” Batmanglij says. Following their success with Sound of My Voice, Batmanglij and Marling collaborated again for his upcoming directorial feature, The East, a drama about a young woman who goes undercover to join an anarchist collective—starring Marling, Ellen Page, and Alexander Skarsgård. “So much of what Brit and I have to do as writers is to go live,” says Batmanglij, who actually stayed in an anarchist collective with Marling prior to making the film— understanding the importance of “living something authentic” in order to come back and tell an original story. Inspired by directors from Krzysztof Kieslowski to Alan J. Pakula, it’s evident that Batmanglij has a zeal for creating stories that stem from the anxieties of the modern age as shown through a lens that exposes the mysticism lurking just beneath the surface. “I feel tremendously lucky to be a filmmaker in this decade,” reveals Batmanglij, “but it’s also daunting because nobody knows what the fuck is going on. We live in a strange, strange time.” —HW

Photo Dan Monick
Styling Natalie Toren
Grooming Kristen Shaw @ Jed Root

The New Multi-Talent: DOMHNALL GLEESON

“I hate having my picture taken,” says actor Domhnall (pronounced “tonal”) Gleeson during our photo shoot. It’s a surprising confession considering the infectious energy he brings to the set as he poses and pratfalls for the camera. One of a family of acting Gleesons—he’s the son of character actor Brendan Gleeson, and his brother, Brian Gleeson, is also an actor—Domhnall seems to have his fingers in every aspect of the business. His resume is already flush with choice roles in films like the final two Harry Potter installments (as the scarred, elder Weasley, Bill), 2010’s Never Let Me Go and True Grit, and the recent adaptation of Anna Karenina, but that’s just the beginning. He earned a Tony nomination in 2006 for his part in the Broadway play The Lieutenant of Inishmore, co-wrote and starred in sketches for the six-part Irish comedy show, Your Bad Self, and wrote and directed two short films—2009’s What Will Survive of Us, which he refers to as “the anal sex one,” and Noreen, which stars his father and brother as incompetent police officers. Writing, acting, directing—is there anything the 29-year-old Dubliner can’t do? “I haven’t done any interpretative dance yet,” he says with a long sigh. But he has gotten a haircut. When asked about what happened to his trademark long ginger locks, he laughs and says, “Really…I’d done as much with my hair as I possibly could.” Coming up, he’ll play the romantic lead opposite Rachel McAdams in About Time, and he’s learning to play guitar for the rock comedy Frank, for which he’ll go head-to-head with Michael Fassbender. And it turns out he’s camera-shy when filming as well, admitting that being in front of the camera is nerve- wracking. “What’s so terrifying—and exciting—is that it remains forever.” —ABH

Photo Aaron Richter
Styling Christopher Campbell
Grooming Tayler Treadwell
Location Acme Studios, Brooklyn

The New King of Cocktails: JOAQUIN SIMÓ

“I love this window,” Joaquín Simó says, gesturing to a large half-moon aperture facing a soggy Avenue B in New York’s East Village. After five-and-a-half years making cocktails in the inky shadows of venerated spirits den Death & Co., and earning the title of America’s Best Bartender at this year’s Tales of the Cocktail industry gathering, the academic-turned- bartender is seated comfortably in his recently-opened bar, Pouring Ribbons. “The devil is in the details,” he says, referring not only to novel cocktail ingredients like his house-made corn milk, but also to remembering customers’ names and their favorite drinks. Simó, a Cuban-Ecuadorian-American, learned hospitality from a priest at his first job, making coffee in a Miami church office. He picked up the art of bartending—shooting the shit, cutting people off—from a couple of Irish guys in Boston. And he perfected the trade of making cocktails— balancing ingredients, the art of the elegant pour— with guidance from modern legends like Phil Ward and Brian Miller (both formerly of Death & Co. and now at Mayahuel and Lani Kai, respectively). Now Simó makes a Southside that would put the 21 Club to shame and blasphemously stirs up a killer Negroni without a drop of Campari (he prefers Luxardo Bitters). On any given night Pouring Ribbons is busy with a mixture of recognizable barkeeps, chefs, and cocktail aficionados. It’s a bar owner’s dream. “I knew New York was going to make or break me. It is the best city in the country to be completely anonymous, or the city where you can find the biggest, brightest stage.” —Leslie Pariseau

Photo Eric Medsker
Photo Assistant Anthony Tafuro
Location Pouring Ribbons, NYC

The New Pride of Manchester: JOSEPHINE

“When I was a kid I used to listen to a lot of indie rock,” says 29-year-old singer-songwriter Josephine Oniyama. “A lot of Oasis and Nirvana, and my mom used to play a lot of highlife music like Fela Kuti and King Sunny Adé. And as I’ve gone along I’ve begun to enjoy the American Songbook and American folk like Woody Guthrie and Odessa.” Her addictive debut album, Portrait, is reflective of the many influences that informed it. She also feels a deep connection to her home city of Manchester, which has produced some of the greatest U.K. bands including The Smiths, The Stone Roses, and the aforementioned Oasis. “I’ve always felt connected to the history here,” she says. Portrait was written and recorded over a long length of time, and the album’s final material was finished a full 18 months before it finally saw release in October. In terms of songwriting, she says, “I’m a years kind of person,” explaining that the germ of a song—a riff, a verse, a chorus—can sit for 12 months or more before it takes another step forward. “When it comes to finishing songs off, I’m terrible,” she says. “It’s a great help to have people like my producer to help carry it along.” She co-wrote three tracks on Portrait with British singer-songwriter Ed Harcourt—including the sweeping album opener, “We Were Trespassers,” and the fragile finale, “House of Mirrors.” Now with a bona fide critical success to her name, she’s been hitting the road with The Noisettes and Rodrigo y Gabriella, and in the new year you’ll find her playing a string of U.K. dates with Paloma Faith. —ABH

Photo Alisa Connan
Styling Angie Smith
Makeup Emma White Turle @ Red Represents
Hair Alex Price @ Frank Agency
Photo Assistant Jack Lawson
Stylist’s Assistant Danielle Whiteman

The New Prince of California Cuisine: ARI TAYMOR

Alma is the most exciting restaurant in Los Angeles right now and it sits in the most unlikely of locations: next to Las Palmas, a hostess club on South Broadway in Downtown, and across the street from the United Artists Theatre, a long-empty movie palace. The restaurant opened in June, and Ari Taymor, its 26-year-old chef, is already one of the most intriguing culinary names in the country. His cooking is a compelling version of California cuisine that balances reverence for farmer’s market produce with the avant-garde aesthetic and complex textures of Nordic culinary heavyweight René Redzepi, chef at Copenhagen’s lauded Noma. In Taymor you can chalk up another motivating victory for Alice Water’s inspirational Berkeley restaurant, Chez Panisse. It was a meal at the influential locavore restaurant nearly six years ago that led him to pick up a chef ’s knife. He sharpened his skills at Bar Tartine and Flour + Water in San Francisco, but when it came to stepping out on his own, he headed for Los Angeles. “I wanted to seclude myself from the influence of the Bay Area,” he says. “It’s too hard to shut yourself out from it and develop your own style.” He needn’t worry. His style is already distinct, but Alma is very much a work in progress. The kitchen may make squid-ink ice cream—a black orb of which sat on top a dish of dry-aged steak tartare—with a $4,000 Pacojet, but diners still sit in the faux snakeskin booths selected by the previous tenants. The contrast between exacting food and disheveled surroundings is charming, but Taymor can’t wait to make changes. “Having lights that don’t look like they came from a brothel in Katmandu, and not having a countertop made of Formica, those things are important to me, but not more important than being able to cook and plate food.” —Willy Blackmoore

Photo Emilie Elizabeth
Photo Assistant Adrian Espinosa

The New Solo Show: DIGITS

“I just can’t stop releasing music,” says Alt Altman, the 27-year-old, Berlin-based, Toronto-bred mastermind behind moody synth-pop act Digits. There’s ample evidence to back up that statement. In 2012 alone he released the Death and Desire mixtape, the seven-song album Where Do You Belong, a serialized story album called City of the Dead, and his next EP, Only Affection, is already complete and ready to be released early in the new year. He started Digits, which grew out of his old band Europe In Colour, in 2009 with the release of his first album, Hold It Close, and the new project quickly became his focus. When asked about how it felt when The Guardian compared his mixtape Death and Desire to Human League’s unimpeachable synth-pop classic Dare earlier this year, he still sounds shocked and excited: “It was the craziest experience,” he says. “My jaw was on the floor and I even thought, ‘This is a bit much.’ Everything really took off after that… more press, more shows, everything’s been different.” When quizzed about the R&B influence that runs through much of his recent music, it becomes clear that Altman is approaching the genre sideways. While his contemporaries like the xx, How to Dress Well, and Nite Jewel pull from ’70s classics and ’90s Top 40, Altman’s soul influence comes from hip-hop and house music. “Frankie Knuckles’ work with Jamie Principle has always been a touchstone for me,” he says, “and I’m also a huge Prince fan.” Live, Digits is truly a solo show. “I’ve never played a Digits show with anyone else on the stage,” Altman says, “My drums are generated by a laptop, but I play two synthesizers live and also use a looping pedal for various synth lines and backing vocals.” It’s important to him that his fans see more than a guy standing at a computer. “I’ve been to a lot of electronic shows where it felt like nothing was happening live. So I prefer to make my shows as live an experience as possible.” — ABH

Photo Norman Wong

The New Soft-Rock Renegades: DIANA

When speaking with Joseph Shabason (saxophone and synths) and Kieran Adams (drums, samples, and synths), founders and songwriters for Toronto-based four-piece Diana, words like “substance” and “texture” tend to crop up a lot. “Joseph and I met at jazz school, which is also where we met [bassist and guitarist] Paul [Mathews],” says Adams, “but by the time we graduated, neither of us was enamored with the idea of a career as a jazz musician. At some point Joseph got a keyboard and a Pro Tools setup and we started writing pop songs, but I don’t think we figured out how to really do it until we started writing for [our first] album.” Their music is soft, fuzzy, and smart, and much of their inspiration comes from ’80s touchstones like Talk Talk’s The Colour of Spring, Tears for Fears’ Songs From the Big Chair, Roxy Music’s Avalon, and Bryan Ferry’s Boys and Girls. “I think music from that era has a combination of intelligence and pop sensibility,” says Adams, “and there’s a progressiveness in the sonic aesthetic of those albums. It’s all well played and carefully delivered.” When singer and guitarist Carmen Elle came into the process, the Diana sound gelled instantly. “I think I saw her perform when she was 16 and I was 23,” laughs Adams, “and we knew she was a perfect fit for the material we were writing.” Shaboson adds, “We would give a picture of what we wanted for a song and she would run with it. The recording of the vocals was actually hilariously quick.” Listeners can find some of the band’s work on their Soundcloud page, Forest Family Records has released their first 12-inch single, “Born Again,” and they expect their full-length to see the light of day this spring. They’re also planning a big tour in the new year that will take them through the U.S. and parts of Canada. —ABH

Photo Vanessa Heins

The New Lord of Light: DEV HARLAN

“No matter what the medium, good design is timeless, and if something has good design qualities, it will hold up outside the medium,” says Dev Harlan, a New York-based light artist whose work is a coolly modern juxtaposition of video mapping and sculpture—the projections throwing patterns of ephemeral color and light over his fractal, pyramid-based objects. “I consider video projection mapping a medium in the same category as sculpting, painting, or drawing. It’s an expressive medium, but not the be-all end-all of the work.” Harlan was homeschooled, so it’s no surprise that he became a self-taught artist. He worked in commercial design for five years, but his interest began to drift as he became more involved in experimental films and paper-craft models, all of which led to his unique work blending sculpture and light. Though he primarily works with video mapping technology, he’s also worked with L.E.D. lighting and says, “I consider myself an artist who works with light rather than an artist who works with video.” Harlan’s goal is to get as close as possible to the experience that his sculptures are glowing and says, “The projectors are a necessary evil.” He’s done commissioned work for fashion label Y-3 (at 2012’s New York Fashion Week) and the launch event for Target’s Jason Wu fall 2012 line, but it was a video of his 2011 work “Parmenides I”—a room-sized fractal orb awash in video mapping projections—that has increased his exposure more than anything else. Concerning the future, Harlan says, “It’s totally intuitive. I’m not entirely sure myself.” —ABH

Photo Alexander Wagner
Photo Assistant Ken Morton

The New Wild Card: SCOOT MCNAIRY

To call Scoot McNairy an overnight success would be selling the multifaceted actor short. For the past decade, the 32-year-old Texas native has been steadily building momentum—working everywhere from independent film, to the stage, to behind the camera, producing such features as the award-winning In Search of a Midnight Kiss (in which he also starred). But lately, McNairy has been busy working with some of Hollywood’s most acclaimed directors and garnering attention from critics and audiences alike. With roles in Ben Affleck’s political thriller, Argo, and Andrew Dominik’s Killing Them Softly, McNairy holds his own in two of the year’s most lauded films, showing off his well-honed acting chops and ability to disappear into his characters. “It’s hard to tackle two roles at once,” admits McNairy. “I invest so much in the character. I consume myself 100 percent in their daily thoughts.” After moving to Los Angeles from Austin, Texas, to become a cinematographer, McNairy began taking acting classes for fun. He admits he was never particular about which aspect of the film world he wanted to be in. “I just knew that I wanted to work on movies,” he says. McNairy will continue his streak of challenging films with Steve McQueen’s Twelve Years a Slave and Gus Van Sant’s Promised Land, both of which are slated to open in the new year. “It’s been a great experience working with these directors; the creativity that they allow you to bring as an individual is something I wasn’t expecting,” says McNairy, who not only plans to continue taking on interesting roles, but looks to pursue directional ambitions of his own in the future. —HW

Photo Dan Monick
Styling Christopher Campbell

Makeup Sandra Ganzer @ Jed Root
Hair Candice Birns for using Orbie Haircare
Location Siren Studios, Los Angeles

BlackBook Exclusive: Unreleased Deer Tracks Song Announces 2013 Album ‘The Archer Trilogy Pt. 3’

The Deer Tracks duo David Lehnberg and Elin Lindfors are set to release their sophomore album, The Archer Trilogy Pt. 3, on February 12 via The Control Group. To whet your appetite for the new material, take a listen here to “Okta Crash,” an exclusive unreleased track that you won’t find on the new album, and head to the group’s Soundcloud page to listen to the incredible new track, "W."

With the release of the new album, the trilogy that began in 2011 with the release of Prologue, the EP The Archer Trilogy Pt. 1, and The Archer Trilogy Pt. 2 comes to a close, and the Swedish duo’s signature sound—Lindfors’ breathy vocals and Lehnberg’s paranoia synths and guitars—are more tightly wound than ever.


Former Bond Girl Olga Kurylenko Digs Deep In Terrence Malick’s ‘To The Wonder’

Olga Kurylenko—the Ukraine-born, Paris- bred, London-based model-turned-actor who made a big splash as the combustible, revenge-seeking Camille Montes in the 2008 James Bond film Quantum of Solace, and who stars in the upcoming Terrence Malick film, To the Wonder—will never be cryogenically frozen.

It’s not that she doesn’t trust the science—though she doesn’t—it’s that she doesn’t trust human nature: “What if they forget to unfreeze you?” she asks with Slavic sincerity. “Who’s giving you a guarantee that they won’t throw you in the garbage? I don’t trust anybody. There’s no way I’m going to trust that someone will unfreeze me. There’s no way.” She follows up with a soft, wistful punctuation to her train of thought, an endearingly peculiar feature of her conversational style: “But it would be nice to never die.”

We’re seated at a shadowy corner table at French brasserie Plein Sud in New York’s Tribeca neighborhood. After settling in and ordering oeuf dur mayonnaise (“I love mayonnaise,” she says), I present her with a small token of appreciation for re-arranging her schedule and taking the time to fly up from Miami, where she’s currently shooting the second season of the Starz series Magic City. It’s a copy of Alan Lightman’s small and magical Einstein’s Dreams—a book about a young, woolgathering Albert Einstein that imagines a series of bell-jar worlds where time moves backwards, in circles, in waves, and not at all. We discuss the book for a few minutes and, perhaps through its subtle suggestion, our conversation over the next hours bends backwards, rolls in circles, and jumps fitfully between topics, as any good conversation should.

Earlier in the evening, my first interaction with Kurylenko comes via text message while I wait in the lobby bar of her hotel. She’s stuck in traffic and running late. Then comes the more revealing, “I’m hungry, tired, and I need a massage!” It sounds enough like a command to allow my slightly lubricated imagination to momentarily get away from me, but she follows up quickly with an abating “LOL” that put my head back between my shoulders.

She arrives shortly after, apologizes again for being late, and shoots up to her room to drop off her bags, giving me a moment to jot down my first impressions: “She’s tall [5’ 10”], long, lithe, and comfortably dressed in jeans and a light, loosely fitting gray cardigan. She’s a natural beauty, her hair pulled off her face into a ponytail, and her green eyes are filled with energy despite protestations to the contrary.”

Actually, let’s start at the very beginning…

Kurylenko was born on November 14, 1979, in Berdyansk, Ukraine, a small port city located on the northern coast of the Sea of Azov. When she was born, the Ukraine was a Soviet republic. She was 12 years old when Ukraine passed a referendum on a declaration of independence, which became a leading factor in the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991. “Suddenly we were poor and we couldn’t eat,” she recalls. “My mother’s salary would run out and the envelope would be empty. And it was always an envelope, never a bank. There was no point in a bank.”

The experience had a profound effect on her, and to this day she always pockets little snacks to carry with her because she’s afraid of being hungry. “It’s a psychological fear,” she says. “I loved birthday parties because they had food in abundance. I would just eat. Up to here,” she says while she snaps her hand to her jawline. “But I was still hungry. The very first years when I immigrated to France I had to learn not to do that. I had to learn how to live with money.”

But before France there was a trip to Moscow, with her mother, when she was 13. An agent approached her on a subway platform about a modeling opportunity. Her mother was hesitant, but fortuitously allowed the young Kurylenko to later travel back to Moscow and learn how to be a model.

She was 16 when she left Ukraine for France, and it wasn’t long before she signed with a modeling agency and began working steadily, eventually securing commercial work with Campari, Bebe, Kenzo, and Victoria’s Secret and landing on the covers of Vogue and Elle.

“From the moment I got to Paris I never struggled,” she says. She tells me that it was watching Emily Watson’s performance in the 1996 film Breaking the Waves that made her want to be an actor. When I suggest she was setting the bar pretty high, she bites back, “Hey! Otherwise what makes you dream? Of course it’s the big things that make you dream.”

As a child her dreams were neither of acting nor modeling; they were of Bach and ballet. “I was so good,” she says of the seven years she spent studying piano as a child. “I played so much Bach, Mozart, Prokofiev, Schubert, Beethoven… and I’ve forgotten everything!” And then talk turns to her youthful love of dance.

“I loved ballet,” she says. “It’s such a pity I had to stop.” After a moment I ask why. “I got hit by a car and my leg was broken. Badly.” She puts her hands together and then pivots them apart at the palm and says, “One piece was sticking this way and the other was going that way.” It wasn’t compound, but she could still see the break. “I was 11 and I freaked out. I thought, ‘This is it,’ and I looked at it and I didn’t think someone could put that back together,” she says. “I was traumatized. I thought that was the end of me.” When the cast came off, she remembers, “I had to re-learn how to walk because the muscles had atrophied, and one leg was much skinnier than the other, and my knee wouldn’t bend anymore.” She tried to return to dancing, but was so far behind she got discouraged and stopped.

But she’s returned to dance recently with vigor. “I don’t go to the gym! I take dance classes,” she says. Her character, Vera Evans, on Magic City—about a Miami Beach hotel in the early 1960s—is a dancer, “so it’s partially for the role,” she says. “It’s so much fun though. To feel your body moving. I’m like, what have I been doing all these years?”

We talk about Magic City for a moment. The show also stars Jeffrey Dean Morgan as her embattled husband, Ike Evans, and her current beau, Danny Huston, as a sadistic mobster named Ben “The Butcher” Diamond. “I don’t like that they film so fast. We’re shooting episodes in nine days, but I love doing it,” she says. “You never know where the story is going. And we’re a family now.”

For years she’s kept a journal, and when I ask about her writing she says she’s sadly been too busy to keep up with it. “I think about it all the time,” she says. “There are so many things out there that aren’t true. I always think about the day when I write something real and people will be truly shocked.” She gets excited and her back straightens: “It will be nothing like the image people have of me,” she says, adding that she’s storing her life for an eventual memoir. Wait a beat. “If I survive.”

I ask if survival is a concern. She takes a delicate sip of New York City tap water and says matter of factly, “I’d like to live until I’m 200 years old.” (New York City tap water is good, but not that good.) Kurylenko is shooting for Ponce De Leon numbers, for 2179. Back in 2012 we continue to talk about life and death themes, and before we know it we’re returning to Berdyansk. “My grandfather died right in front of me,” she says. “I was eight or nine. I saw his last breath. It was disturbing, but I grew up in someplace so rural that by eight I had seen lots of dead people. You leave the coffin out and people come by. So I would go and look at every grandfather and grandmother that had died.” She pauses. “I’m glad I saw him die because I was there in his last moments. He wasn’t alone. He knew we were there.”

She starts to cry, but gathers herself quickly. I apologize for the dark turn our conversation has taken, but she says, “No. It’s good because I’m so busy that I never think about him or my grandmother. They’re a part of my life, but I forget to think about them. Now I’m remembering them. It’s good.”

And now we’re touching on the kind of dreamy poeticism that pervades the upcoming Terrence Malick film, To the Wonder, which stars Kurylenko as Marina, an independent woman struggling to understand the capricious nature of love. To the Wonder premiered at the Venice Film Festival in September to conflicting reports of boos and standing ovations—as Malick films are wont to do. Some stars, including Rachel Weisz and Michael Sheen, were unknowingly edited out the film, but Kurylenko was less concerned about ending up on the cutting room floor. “Terry told me that it was Marina’s story,” Kurylenko says, “but he’s done that before where the actor who was the main character didn’t even end up in the movie. He kept his word though. It is Marina’s story.”

The atmospheric film is pure Malick. Kurylenko stars alongside Ben Affleck, who plays her cold, distant lover, Neil; Javier Bardem as the wandering priest Father Quintana; and Rachel McAdams as Jane, one of Neil’s old flames. Marina experiences love and its dissolution, vacillating between free-spirited joy and uncontrollable fits of despair, and the film makes the suggestion that love is like the lens flares that flicker in the corners of so many of Malick’s films—or like the quicksand at Mont Saint-Michel that Marina and Neil dance on during the height of their adoration for one another: you have to catch it just right.

“I miss Terry,” she says. “It’s so amazing to be a part of his work. I think we had a connection, and his writing is so simple and beautiful.”

During filming, script pages would arrive every morning, “first thing, and never before because he doesn’t want you to rehearse too much and overthink it,” she says. “They always tried to recuperate the pages, and what they didn’t get back Terry or his assistant instructed us to burn. Nice fire,” she says, rolling her eyes. “It’s the most horrible act that can be done. Burning those pages.”

When asked about working with Ben Affleck, she surprisingly says, “It was awful. He had to be Neil, this cold person, and I assume he was instructed to stay in character on the set. I don’t know, but I assume because I just realized that’s what he did to all of us.” I suggest that it sounds like a form of psychological torture. “It was!” she says. “I went nuts. There are moments that, as Marina, I went completely crazy, but Terry didn’t put that in the movie,” she says. “Apparently it was too terrifying. People saw it and they freaked out, so it was cut. He drove me to that state though.”

Her voice slows and softens one last time as she sums up the experience of working with Malick. “It’s because of experiences like working with Terry that I feel like my life has been worth living and that my life makes sense,” she says.

It’s getting late and our night winds down. I walk her to the elevator bank in her hotel and she thanks me for the conversation, and I thank her in return. She wonders if I have enough material. I assure her that I do. As the elevator doors open she steps in and says, “Well… if you need more there’s always tomorrow.”

BoomBox: The Amazing Drift Along A “Gentle Stream”

Tauntingly named, The Amazing is something of an indie supergroup in their native Sweden. Lead by singer/songwriter Christoffer Gunrup and Dungen’s Reine Fiske, the group doesn’t stray too far from the latter’s slightly more trippy sound with his full time gig. Though a little less dappled with psychedelia their latest release, “Gentle Stream,” hews closely to the formula displayed on their 2009 self-titled debut and 2010’s six-song mini album Wait For a Light to Come.

Obvious touchstones reveal themselves quickly through fragile, sotto voce vocals and a languorous flow that instantly recalls Nick Drake and Red House Painters/Sun Kil Moon anchor Mark Kozelek on tracks like “Flashlight” and “The Fog.” There’s also a bit of Bread’s more rollicking soft rock side on tracks like “Gone” and “Dogs,” and a more recent antecedent would certainly be Toronto’s Great Lake Swimmers. (I also thought immediately of the fantastic, but lesser-known Chicago band, Pinetop Seven.)

Though their music may not be as puffed-up as their name would suggest, The Amazing does largely live up to it. Now that I think about it perhaps their name isn’t so much braggadocio as it is a suggestion that slowing down allows you to encounter the surprising and wonderful in the world around you. And that is a bit amazing.


Nick Drake: “Northern Sky”

Sun Kil Moon: "Lost Verses"

Great Lake Swimmers: “Your Rocky Spine”


Pinetop Seven: “Fringe”

BoomBox: “Museum” Is The Best Work of Fiction I’ve Heard All Year

“Museum” is the new single from London-based band Fiction, and I can’t stop listening. The group makes precision pop for now (and then), people sharing some ’80s-inspired DNA with acts like Wild Beasts and Yeasayer. Their first three singles—“Careful," “Big Things,” and “Parakeets”—influenced by a dose of post-punk groups like A Certain Ratio and The Comsat Angels (who coincidentally had an incredible 1982 album titled Fiction). “Museum” mixes up a touch of Lloyd Cole and the Commitments with a heavy helping of China Crisis, which isn’t a group people chatter about much these days and that makes the song sound fresh with skittish wonder.

Formed in 2009 by singers/multi-instrumentalists Mike Barrett and James Howard and guitarist Nick Barrett—current bassist/vocalist David Miller signed on later—the group have been active in the U.K. for a couple years now, scoring multiple radio appearances, a spot on the Kitsuné Maison 11 compilation, and even landing a Ford campaign that raised their profile considerably. “Musuem” is the group’s fourth single and the first song from their upcoming debut album The Big Other, which will see release via Moshi Moshi on March 4.

And in case you’re interested in some evidence of that China Crisis sound here a couple gems:

"When the Piper Calls"

“Some People I Know Lead Fantastic Lives"