Where I’ll Be for Halloween

It’s time to get Halloween serious and dust off my Elvis costume. For at least 15 years I have been Elvis. Not the skinny young one used by the U.S. Post office in the early ‘90’s for white envelopes, but the fat old one they used for bulk mail. The first time I put on my white sequined suit with the wig, the shoes, the bangles, and the sunglasses, I could feel the King’s energy in my veins—it transformed me. As Elvis, I have hosted many a costume contest, and sung on the subway to thunderous applause. I have walked in the parade and had a zillion photos taken with babies, girlfriends, and tourists. Each year I add a little more padding, and the wig gets a little more gray, as art imitates life. Last year, I added real freeze-dried flies to the wig, but the schtick is getting a bit old and it may be time soon to bury the old codger. This year Elvis will appear two more times: as I DJ as him at the Hudson Hotel’s monster soiree with my pal Paul Sevigny, and as I jet out to LA for the actual night of Halloween, a Standard Hollywood gig. Should I just wear the costume on the plane? Will they let me board if I decide to?

When Halloween falls on a Sunday, many celebrate on the Saturday before. The big gig at the Hudson on Saturday has something seriously delicious in each of its hospitality spaces. London-based new wave/electro-pop duo La Roux will DJ in the Hudson Bar space. I’ll be right beside them with Paul in the Library. 4AM will host Hudson Hall with their elite DJs Jus-ske and Jesse Marco on tap. Good Units will have Suzanne Bartsch doing her annual Halloween Party, with Patricia Fields hosting and a bevy of downtown’s glitter crew. It will be a fabulous night for all, and with its mix of cultures, possibly the closest thing in a long time to resurrect the ghosts of Halloween clubs of yore. Also on Saturday, the gorgeous, fabulous, and famous Tinsley Mortimer will set the tone at Horror on the Hudson, a monster bash on Pier 92. With its 75,000 square feet of floor space and super-star DJ Mel Debarge, this event is the in place for the crowd who has everything. I expect lots of rented costumes and hand held masks. If that isn’t enough try Porn Star Halloween at SL, or the EMM group’s other party at Tenjune, with a live set by Slick Rick. Devo is at the Hammerstein. Every joint in town will be banging. There will be a million house parties to boot. Getting a taxi will be a nightmare.

image

And that’s just the pre-October 31st happenings. DJ extraordinaire Jeannie Hopper is getting into the mix with a boat-bash at the Chelsea Piers on Thursday. Has Sunday become a redheaded stepchild for the week of events? Will people actually have energy, money, and a clean costume come Sunday? To the purists, its all about Sunday, and it all starts with the parade. Joonbug has taken over Capitale and its 40,000 square feet, and will judge costumes and such, but I believe there will be a little less Halloween this year than usual. With work the next day, and so many things happening all week, costumes will be a mess and pockets a bit empty.

Halloween is a great windfall for clubdom. It’s a mini New Years Eve without the crash of the first week of January. These days, big ticketing and promotional companies like Joonbug and Club Planet rent out all the joints in town for New Years Eve, and sell tickets using e-mail, text messaging, and on-line lists numbering into hundreds of thousands of interested parties. Their clientele are looking for a sure thing on the big day, and use these companies to design – and define – their festivities. The clubs do well in this agreement mostly because the energy normally used in promoting this event has gone to these people, and they can work on the all-important Christmas season. Their efforts are focused on ways to make money during the chill of January. New Years Eve, unlike Halloween, kills all things clubby for days before, and days after, as people spend it all in one big blast or go away on holiday. Halloween brings much-needed revenue for the entire week leading up to it, and doesn’t kill the next week completely. What happens in costume stays in costume, and people quickly return to their normal routines. Unlike New Years, the Christmas season and all of its expenses is far off. For these reasons, I believe that Halloween is the biggest night/week in clubland. For the first year in two decades I will not be in town to enjoy it.

La Roux Gets ‘Sidetracked’ by Curating a New Record

In Early 2009, Elly Jackson became something of a sensation, partly because of her trademark flame-red cowlick, but mostly for the string of slinky electro-pop hits she delivered as lead singer of the British Eighties throwback La Roux. While Ben Landmaid, Jackson’s producer and partner, has largely skirted the spotlight, shunning interviews and live performance, Jackson has positioned herself squarely in the glare. Her ghostly visage announced the group’s eponymous debut album as it does their latest work, Sidetracked, a carefully curated collection of La Roux’s influences, from the obvious (Tears for Fears) to the obscure (Hally & Kongo Band). Fans expecting a follow-up to their debut will have to wait. Sidetracked only features one proper new song from the band, a cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Under My Thumb.” Here’s Jackson on covering the Stones and how awful it is to be pop star.

Eighties greats like Japan and Heaven 17 feature in your line-up. How did you manage to narrow down your choices for the album? I couldn’t! So essentially, it’s a list of mine and Ben’s favorite tracks, and they’re all on there for different reasons – some are songs we listened to while making the record, and others are songs we grew up to. The general production, sound, and attitude of Eighties pop has been the driving force for La Roux. We just wanted the compilation to be a snapshot of our musical tastes and influences.

I see you managed to sneak in a modern band with Coco Sumner’s outfit, I Blame Coco, although it’s been cleverly remixed to Eighties effect. I’m particularly proud of that remix. It’s the first I’ve ever done and I did it by myself. I think people assume I just write lyrics and sing over tracks that’ve been played and produced by Ben.

You’ve already been working your version of the Rolling Stones’ “Under My Thumb” at various live gigs. Why decide to put it on an album now? We played it live and it got a fantastic response from our fans, so I wanted to make a recording of it available. I wouldn’t feel comfortable releasing a cover as a single, so it’s great to be able to have it on Sidetracked. As with the Coco remix, this was something I did on my own and am really proud of.

What do the Rolling Stones lads think of your version? They probably bloody hate it! Honestly though, I have no idea. We’re not going to get in touch with Mick and say: ‘Hey Mick, look what we did to your song!”

You seem to never stop, what with endless tours and albums. What’s been the hardest part of your journey to success? Never being at home and never seeing my friends or family. You work constantly, it’s exhausting, and people have very little sympathy. You get a lot of “Yeah, how awful, you’re a pop star,” but I don’t think people understand how stressful it can be.

La Roux Live at Viktor and Rolf

The French love a strike. Today there’s one that’s causing traffic pile-ups all over Paris, so you can imagine that the 9am car ride over to Viktor and Rolf—with no time to stop for coffee—was not exactly the best way to start my day. But oh how the tables turned once I (finally) arrived at the show!

First, I had an enormous Starbucks right outside the doors to the show. And, once inside, I discovered I was in store for yet another surprise pick-me-up: a performance by La Roux. The androgynous English electro-pop sensation turned out tunes (though she looked like she could have used a venti latte herself), while the Dutch duo Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren sent out a summery mix of khaki, navy, and black looks, from light-as-a-feather, gentlemanly suiting and evening wear, to layered, casual looks. I’m definitely feeling more awake now.

Check out the photos from the show. Ignore the balding man and focus on the summer looks emerging from the hall. image image image

Reading Coachella’s Fine Print: Breakthrough Performers Worth Checking Out

So you’re selling livers, kidneys and daring yourself to forgo food for weeks until mid-April in order to pay for your trip to Coachella. It’s understandable, really. And while the big draws, like Muse, Jay-Z, Gorillaz and MGMT, appear on this flier (not this one) in enormous typeface, the true breakouts are in such fine print that you’ll likely go blind trying to read their names. But please don’t! Instead, consult a handy guide to Coachella’s fine print gems, after the jump.

(‘DiggThis’)

APRIL 16 Quite good: La Roux Best bet: Kate Miller-Heidke. As demonstrated by this very capable cover of Britney Spears’ “Toxic” below, Miller-Heidke may be the most welcome Australian pop import since we allowed Natalie Imbruglia an American conquest. Miller-Heidke has also earned a stamp of approval from Ben Folds already. Also her last album contained this bit of genius.

APRIL 17 Quite good: Tokyo Police Club, Corrine Bailey Rae Best bet: Sia. Known in part for her work on Christina Aguilera’s Bionic and for her contributions to Six Feet Under, Sia has done the impossible: Maintaining street-cred while peddling sensitive emotronica ballads.

APRIL 18 Quite good: Miike Snow, Little Boots, Matt & Kim, Hadouken! Best bet: Florence & the Machine. Recently nominated for a Brit award, this band, comprised of lead singer Florence Welch and a host of rotating collaborators (the eponymous “Machine”) may probably perform one of the best sets of the Coachella weekend.

Nouveau Rouge: Elly Jackson of La Roux

Elly Jackson is on the move. No, really. The clicking of the 21-year-old musician’s heels punctuates each pause in a transatlantic phone call as she walks down a busy London street. But as quickly as the redheaded front woman seems to be moving, her career—as part of chart-skipping, beat-happy British pair La Roux—is moving even faster. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a good artist or if you’re a shit artist,” she says of her success. “If you’ve got a catchy song, people will catch onto it really quickly.”

And Jackson’s songs are nothing if not catchy. La Roux’s infectious, bop-along singles include “In for the Kill,” “I’m Not Your Toy” and “Bulletproof.” The last, Jackson’s first number-one hit in the U.K., pairs an unstoppable hook with lyrics made for the desperate teenager inside us all. “This time,” sings the self-empowered new-waver, “I’ll be bulletproof.”

image Suit by Nova Dando. Jackson’s own jewlery. Top photo: Shirt by Jonathan Saunders.

Jackson has the generational habit of punctuating her thoughts with a not-entirely truthful, dismissive shrug. (See: “I think people were ready for something a bit different. I don’t know.”) But she and songwriting partner Ben Langmaid do know something the rest of us don’t—how to write an insidiously memorable pop song. And they learned it from the greats. “Freddy Mercury, Prince, David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Grace Jones, Blondie, Marilyn Monroe,” Jackson says, rattling off her influences. “An icon is someone who doesn’t sell themselves out, someone who has ideas of their own. I don’t think we really have icons anymore. There were only a handful of them to begin with. ”

image

She could continue, but Jackson—whose eponymous album just got its American release and who is now hitting the road stateside—is a busy lady. “You never see icons doing shitty interviews or shitty TV things just because of the money, or anything like that,” she says, casually curbing the conversation. We let her go. She’s got work to do.

image Shirt by Erika Trotzig. Vest by Missoni. Pants by H&M.

Photography by Paul Farrell. Styling by Nova Dando. Makeup by John Christopher. Photographer’s assistant: Mike McCartney. Stylists’s Assistant: Bubbles. Location: Holburn Studios, London.

October Music Reviews: Islands, Gossip, La Roux

Islands, Vapours (Anti-) – Once a schizophrenic, overstuffed Montreal outfit full of potential, Islands have finally learned to edit. The result: an infectious and weird third album that was worth the wait. Lead singer Nick Thorburn, more commonly known by his stage name Nick Diamonds, and his crew have stripped away the orchestral layers and theatrical pomp that turned the band’s sophomore album, Arm’s Way, into a bloated, highfalutin’ rock opera. What’s left is masterful, refreshing synth-pop, served up pure and simple. Snappy drums drive the album’s first single “No You Don’t,” while Thorburn’s charming, spot on lyrics come through loud and clear — “Don’t buy dope from the man you don’t know.” What he said. –Alexandra Vickers

Gossip, Music For Men (Columbia) – Disappointingly, Beth Ditto and company’s follow-up to Standing in the Way of Control favors formula over originality. All the key Gossip elements — Ditto’s demanding tenor, clanking guitars, hard-kicking drums and high-hat accompaniment — are in place, but the spirit has been micromanaged: Music for Men is Gossip, tamed. This less-than-sparkling effort includes the single “Heavy Cross,” which sounds like an outtake from their more Control’d efforts (read: more Franz Ferdinand, less Aretha Franklin). — Foster Kamer

Air, Love 2 (Astralwerks) – The title of stylish Parisian duo Air’s sixth album proves typically inscrutable: while there is no Love 1, the goth prog recorded here sounds like a sequel to their 2000 soundtrack for The Virgin Suicides. Spooky minor chords, ominous ambiance and krautrock rhythms make this the perfect score for a ’70s horror film or tragic romance — or The Virgin Suicides 2. The willfully avant atmospheres may be off-putting at first, but after sufficient listens they gradually take on a powerful slow motion immediacy. — Matt Diehl

Florence + The Machine, Lungs (Universal Republic) – This much is true: lead singer Florence Welsh has some thundering pipes. Supported by backing band the Machine, Welsh’s huge voice dominates every moment of this debut and firmly establishes her as a major player among modern U.K. chanteuses. But while Florence has obviously spent her youth listening to Kate Bush (like Bat For Lashes) and Etta James (à la Adele and Amy), she has an unhinged, unpredictable streak all her own. Typical of all tracks on this album, “Kiss With A Fist,” an exuberant rockabilly meditation on domestic abuse, is perverse and undeniably powerful. — M.D.

La Roux, La Roux (Cherrytree) – La Roux has captivated the U.K. with all the speed of their rapidly paced songs, reviving the ’80s faster than you can say, “R.I.P., John Hughes.” If their sound is a bit more Human League than Breakfast Club — no detention here — at least their name is inspired by front woman Elly Jackson’s signature Ringwaldred cowlick (La Roux means “red-haired one” for those who ne parlent pas français). With songs like the reckless and emotive “I’m Not Your Toy,” “Colourless Colour” and “Tigerlily,” a new wave homage to MJ’s “Thriller,” Jackson and partner Ben Langmaid have all the ammo they need for Stateside success. — Cayte Grieve

La Roux, La Roux

Synth-pop duo La Roux has captivated the U.K. with all the fervor of their rapidly paced songs, trying to revive the ’80s faster than you can say, “R.I.P., John Hughes.”

If their sound is a bit more Human League than Breakfast Club—no angst here—at least their name is inspired by front woman Elly Jackson’s signature Ringwald-red cowlick (La Roux means ‘red-haired one’ for those who ne parlent pas français). With songs like the reckless and emotive “I’m Not Your Toy,” “Colourless Colour” and “Tigerlily,” a new-wave homage to MJ’s “Thriller,” Jackson and partner Ben Langmaid have all the ammo they need for stateside success.

Michael Jackson Invades iTunes Charts Worldwide

Grief! Anguish! Confusion! Ire? Well sure — if you’re any number of pop aspirants or B-list pop idols seriously gunning for a comeback, Michael Jackson’s untimely death may be something of a nuisance. As seen from a number of trends on iTunes sales charts across the world, the King’s death has derailed the usual goings-on in some countries, while in others, his presence remains detectable, but not so earth-shattering.

U.S.: Top of the pops this week is Jackson’s “The Man In the Mirror,” while remaining a monopoly on the rest of the Top 10, including the third best-selling single and those from 5 to 10. Inside the Top 10, his only competition comes from Black Eyed Peas, but I suppose there’s no accounting for America’s hit-and-miss taste. He has dominion of a considerable chunk of the Top 100 as well.

U.K.: But the Brits are feeling us on this one too. In fact, like us, “The Man In the Mirror” sits atop the chart. It fends off stiff competition from this alt-pop chick with the Zac Efron-inspired haircut, and Kelly Rowland, Lady Gaga. However, counting Jackson 5 hits, over 40% of the British Top 100 is currently dominated by the singer anyway. This is however most depressing for Sophie Ellis-Bextor, who was #1 in CD sales, but otherwise, just outside of the Top 10. Also, Number Ones, one of Jackson’s best-of compilations, leaped an incredible 120 spots to the top this weekend.

Finland: In Finland’s Top 100, where only two of Jackson’s songs appear in the Top 20 — and oddly, way below Don Henley, although a whole bunch of them round out the rest of the Top 100. Although he does occupy five of the country’s Top 10 albums, including the top spot. But you can never fault the taste of a country that sent a song like this to #1.

Greece: Music-buyers here are kind of like their Finnish friends — Jackson sits on the edge of the Top 10 with “Billie Jean,” but otherwise almost has a monopoly on the Top 10 albums.

Japan: Not so surprisingly, the only major sign of Jackson’s legacy is in the #11 chart placing of the Jackson 5’s “I Want You” — which remains shut out of the Top 10 by singers such as this and this and even Utada Hikaru, whose American success has been slim to nil. Although other Jackson 5 hits like “ABC” and “I’ll Be There” sit comfortably inside the Top 40.