Weekend Recovery: The Sensual Drift Of Ikebana

Mysterious Tokyo shoegaze duo Ikebana have unconventionality built right into their name: it refers to a Japanese art of flower arranging that is not so focused on the blooms as it is on the stems and leaves, minimalist lines, and spaces. Their gentle aural equivalent is just what you need after that weekend debauch in the Hamptons. 

Ikebana’s next album, When You Arrive There, arrives on July 8th, along with a remix from Yo La Tengo’s James McNew, which sounds very promising indeed. For right now, though, try “Kiss,” beggining with slow, deliberate chord-plucking and the intimate sensation of fingers sliding up and down a guitar neck. The second half opens up with a dreamy strum, filling in the anxious emptiness with reverb.

Then we have the barely-there video for "Alone," which operates on more of a minor, dissonant plane. The visuals are grainy shots of light and shadow, a city at night viewed from a copse of trees, and an insistent brightness not unlike what we imagine when thinking of alien abduction. Overall, a great way to ease into the madness of the work week—or stay cocooned in bed, whichever.

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Carly Rae Jepsen’s ‘Kiss’: The Triumph Of Brainless Synth-Pop

Sweet merciful Jesus, how I’ve waited for this day.

Having just listened to Carly Rae Jepsen’s debut album the whole way through for the first time, I am ecstatic to report that it encompasses the exact type of overly saccharine, paint-by-numbers, hook-within-hook, usually Swedish, synthesizer-based pop music I have been ridiculed for listening to for nigh a decade. Really, I can’t exaggerate how good it feels to come out of—do they have closets in Sweden?

This won’t be like when I declared my affection for Nicki Minaj’s ravey throwbacks on Roman Reloaded only to find out I’d been stranded in the dancefloor wilderness. Because there’s no way Jepsen’s Kiss doesn’t spawn a few hits beside “Call Me Maybe,” which is pretty transcendently formulaic in its own right. Surely “Drive” will get some radio play just because people liked the movie. Even “Good Time” is brilliantly hateable—a lyrical retread of a Black Eyed Peas single, featuring the Owl City guy? Fuck me, that’s genius: I’ll be humming it up until I pull the trigger.

You have to appreciate how much studio engineering went into something quite so undercooked as a song called “Your Heart Is A Muscle.” That’s straight-up cribbing from a sixth-grader’s diary. (If you’re a sixth-grader who had that concept stolen from your diary by Carly Rae Jepsen, email me at milesklee@gmail.com and we will blow the roof of this thing, I promise.) But again, bravo. We were all so busily outraged about the dumbing-down of the Top 40 that we never stopped to consider it might eat an IQ test instead of flunking it. Thanks, Carly, for lowering rock bottom once more.

Follow Miles Klee on Twitter.

Morning Links: Gene Simmons Endorses Mitt Romney, Ryan Gosling Saves Journalist’s Life

● For what it’s worth, KISS frontman and condom purveyor Gene Simmons has officially endorsed Mitt Romney. "Hindsight is 20/20,” he explained in an interview with Fox News’ Gretchen Carlson yesterday. "I have some real issues with the economy and how it’s being done. America should be in business and it should be run by a businessman."  [Huff Post]

● President Barack Obama will deliver a special introduction to the first presentation of a restored print of the classic 1962 movie To Kill A Mockingbird on the USA cable network Saturday night. [MediaDecoder]

● Sitting comfortably atop the Billboard charts this week, Madonna’s MDNA is her eighth album to reach the number one spot. Only Barbra Strieisand can claim to have done better, with nine chart toppers. [ArtsBeat]

● Ryan Gosling, angel of the streets, has done it again, this time sweeping journalist Laurie Penny from in front of an oncoming taxi cab and saving her from near death. [NYO]

● Nicki Minaj told Funk Flex yesterday that the artist she wants most wants to work with is Beyoncé. [RapRadar]

● Hilary Duff has posted the first pictures of her "most wonderful, sweet, adorable baby" on her official website. Aww! [JustJared]

● Robert Pattinson continues to push hard against his teen heartthrob roots, this time preying his way through Paris’s high society, one bedded woman at a time, in the steamy new trailer for Bel Ami. [Vulture]

Afternoon Links: IFC To Air 32 More Chapters of ‘Trapped in the Closet,’ January Jones Defends Betty

● Cancel all your plans: In addition to a third season of the beloved Portlandia, IFC has ordered 32 new chapters of R. Kelly’s ambitious musical series, Trapped in the Closet, all to be aired in the next year. [ArtsBeat]

● Clams Casino’s swelling remix of Florence + The Machine’s "Never Let Me Go" is almost as nice as this summer come early in New York. [GvsB]

● Gene Simmons promises "no fake bullshit" on the upcoming Kiss/Motley Crue tour. "Leave that to the Rihanna, Shmianna and anyone who ends their name with an ‘A,’" he says of his fellow stadium-fillers. Ouch! [Billboard]

● Kim Kardashian coolly explained to Ryan Seacrest yesterday that she couldn’t possibly be involved with Kanye West, romantically or otherwise, because, she says, “I think I’m still married." Enought already! [Radar]

● “I find myself defending her a lot more often, just because people are pretty hard on her lately,” says January Jones, a new mother herself, of her Mad Men character, Betty. "All of her actions are justified … And, you know, Sally shouldn’t be masturbating at other people’s houses or she’s going to get slapped." [The Daily]

● Slate’s got a lengthy but worthy excerpt of Enemies, A Love Story, a 25,000 word oral history of "the original frenemies" Siskel and Ebert that is hosted in full by The Chicagoan. [Slate]

Our Man in Miami: Taking a Drive with Desmond Child

Thank Zeus for cool friends. No sooner had a certain electronica act passed on having a chat with yours truly than a gal pal o’ mine set up an interview with someone infinitely more palatable—and enduring. So rather than having to force myself on a couple too-cool-for-school Canadians, I got to get with the cat who’s largely responsible the soundtrack of our lives. So there.

That’s how I found myself sitting in the backseat of a Dodge Nitro speaking with legendary producer and songwriter Desmond Child yesterday afternoon. The ever glam Debbie O made the connect, and I couldn’t have been keener on the prospect had I suggested it myself. Child just so happened to be holed up in one of Ricky Martin’s stately abodes wrapping up the Latin heartthrob’s latest LP. Martin’s home, as you might imagine, is literally fit for storybooks. But even more impressive was the fact that it had been converted into some kinda sound factory. The moment I crossed the threshold I could feel the magic in the air.

Child had to jet away for a few days to take care of a couple things, so I hopped on board for the drive to the airport. And while all I heard of his latest production came in snippets through one of Martin’s three studio doors, I nevertheless sensed something brewing that just may knock the proverbial socks off the whole wild world. Confirming my suspicion was Child himself, who told me just enough about Martin’s next collection of songs to make everybody’s day. But first, I asked him to backtrack through some of his career highlights, which still leave me somewhat agog.

Would you consider Kiss’ “I Was Made for Loving You” your breakout track? It was my first international hit, and yeah, it helped put me on the map as a songwriter with bands. Up until that point not very many bands wrote with professional outside songwriters. At the time, though, I was really an artist with Desmond Child & Rouge, and it was more of a collaboration between artists, because Paul Stanley was a fan of our group. He’d come down to the shows all the time, and one day he said, ‘Hey, let’s write a song together.” So he co-wrote a song on our first record called “The Fight,” and I co-wrote “I Was Made for Loving You” for Kiss’ Dynasty. I think I did better than he did in the exchange.

And Stanley is the one who recommended you to Bon Jovi, right? Right. Bon Jovi was on tour in Europe with Kiss—they were the opening act. And I think they really liked another song I wrote with Paul called “Heaven’s on Fire,” which also became a hit for them. Jon asked Paul about me, and Paul gave him my phone number. And then I went over to New Jersey to write with this new band called Bon Jovi. I ended up co-writing four songs from Slippery When Wet, including “You Give Love a Bad Name” and “Livin’ on a Prayer.”

And you’ve been working with them ever since? Yeah, I served as Executive Producer on the last four albums.

I know you’ve also worked with Alice Cooper, who gave me a great interview last year. Was that the Trash record? Yes, I co-wrote with Alice and produced Trash. That had a song called “Poison” on it, which was his big comeback song.

Have you worked with him since? Yeah, in fact, we worked recently with Bob Ezrin. Wow! The immortal Kiss producer! Yeah, but he also produced all of Alice’s early records too.

Did he do Killer and School’s Out and all of those? Yeah, and Billion Dollar Babies and Welcome to My Nightmare… He’s an amazing producer and one of the most wonderful people I’ve even known.

You’ve also co-written with Joan Jett. Was “I Hate Myself for Loving You” the only song you two wrote together? No, we did “Little Liar” and “Get Off the Cross I Need the Wood”…

You guys wrote a song called “Get Off the Cross I Need the Wood”? That’s brilliant! (Both laugh) We did a few other songs together too.

I also wanted to ask about that Hanson track, “Weird,” which is a really beautiful song. Thanks. Maybe other than “Livin’ on a Prayer,” that is singularly one of my all-time favorite songs. I always perform it whenever I’m asked to sing somewhere.

I’ve also got Cher in my notes, with three exclamation points. How did that come about? John Kalodner, the legendary A&R man at Geffen Records, signed Cher when no one believed in her as a recording artist anymore. I had been working on Aerosmith’s Permanent Vacation, where I had co-written “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)” and “Angel,” and I was also having success with Bon Jovi at the time, and he asked if I’d produce her. I’d met her back while she was doing the play Come Back to the Five and Dime Jimmy Dean when another producer had used a couple of my songs, so Kalodner re-introduced us, and she was thoroughly enchanting. I ended up bringing in a bunch of my friends to do the record, including Jon Bon Jovi. And that’s when she met Richie Sambora.

Oh, so you’re responsible for that? (laughs) Yeah, it’s all my fault! (laughs) Not that I could’ve stopped it. Instant chemistry.

Another triple exclamation point I’ve got is for Lindsay Lohan. She did your song “I Live for The Day.” Really? How? Why? Actually, I didn’t work with her. The song was pitched to her and she cut it. In fact, I’m ashamed to say I’ve never even heard her version. The record company didn’t send me a copy, because they don’t do that anymore, and at the time I didn’t know how to download, so, through one thing or another, I never got to listen to it.

More recently you worked with Mika. What’s he like? Yeah, we co-wrote a song with Jody Marr called “Erase.” He’s wonderful. A great guy, very smart.

Then there’s Katy Perry’s “Waking Up in Vegas.” Yeah, that went number one a year ago. She’s amazing. She’s absolutely adorable and gorgeous and funny and irreverent – exactly as she is in her songs.

Okay, that brings us to the next Ricky Martin record… I’m really excited about the music, the content, because since he’s come out it’s unleashed his creativity and the scope of what he can sing about and say and do. He’s a formidable person – an activist, a philanthropist, a humanitarian. All of the work he’s put into his charity—it’s all going into the music. His personal life too, and how much his life has been changed by his children. Once he opened that door a floodgate of energy and creativity just really exploded.

So, it’s fair to say that the next Ricky Martin record will be unlike anything we’ve ever heard before? Definitely. We really reached a creative fusion of rock and pop and electronic and Latin music – it’s all over the place in a really great way.

Gene Simmons Has the Best (Worst) Publicist in the World

His predatorial tongue has given me nightmares—just like that ghost hand from the Evil Dead franchise—since I was a little kid. And now that the ubiquitous Gene Simmons is, well, more ubiquitous, so are the fever dreams. First, there was that sex tape. Then, spots on “The Celebrity Apprentice,” which was a misnomer, by the way. Now, there are “Ugly Betty” cameos, the third season of “Gene Simmons’ Family Jewels,” and an upcoming book called Gene Simmons’ Ladies of the Night: A Historical and Personal Perspective on the World’s Oldest Profession, out July 8. But here’s the kicker:

“In connection with the book’s release, Phoenix Books is giving one lucky fan the chance to win a personalized voice mail greeting from Gene Simmons himself!” reads the press release that found itself in our inbox this morning. An answering machine message? Fans are asked to head over to GeneSimmons.com to write a brief essay about the book.

This reminds me of that one time when thespian Pauly Shore called my friend’s cell phone, looking to pick up a girl he’d met earlier at a bar. We saved it, and all of our friends used it as our answering machine message for a month or two. It seemed totally weird after a while.

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