Estelle’s Back with a Brand New Album

To celebrate the launch of her new album True Romance, Gilt City paired up with Grammy Award winner Estelle last night at trendy workspace, Neuehouse. Estelle performed some tracks to delighted audience members including artist Maya Farrow and television’s Bevvy Smith.

The crowd watched her belt out her latest songs, ‘Conqueror’ and ‘Something Good’ and throwback tune, ‘American Boy’.

Gilt City And NeueHouse Celebrate A Sneak Peek Of Estelle's True Romance

 

The R&B singer describes the link between her album and current state of being: ‘‘This is the first album I’ve written single. You know, not in some serious committed moment. It’s just a different perspective now.’’

The courage and true romance behind the aptly titled album are evident in her voice. Listen to ‘Conqueror’ below and you’ll see what we mean.

Images courtesy Theo Wargo/Getty Images

BlackBook Premiere: Journey Across NYC With Golden Suits’ New ‘Swimming In ‘99’ Video

When a person endures in one year a rat infestation, a break-up, and a barren bank account, you’re tempted to say, “yeah, yeah, so what?” But when it happens to a musician? Well, the whole tumultuous 365 days are rolled into a 10-song solo album featuring a new, surprisingly sunny tune you play on repeat, whose video resembles a watch commercial. Such is the case with BlackBook‘s exclusive lyric video premiere of the song “Swimming In ‘99” from next month’s release of Fred Nicolaus’s new, namesake album.

As a 13-year member of the folk-electronic duo Department Of Eagles, Nicolaus sets out on his own under the band name Golden Suits, and, in the new video from the eponymous album, brings us along on his journey across New York, from the corner bodega to a fortune teller, with each spot chronicled in Google Maps.

Why the two watches? Each is a bookend of the year that inspired the album, with one bought at its beginning, and the other at its end.

World, say hello to “Swimming In ’99.”

Golden Suits official site; Follow Bonnie on Twitter here.

Catch An Interactive Sigur Ròs Concert Online This Afternoon

Icelandic post-rock legends Sigur Ròs released their latest album, kveikur, this week. It is, no joke, their best in years. Their fanbase agreed vociferously, taking to a revamped page of the band’s website to stream the new music early and react in real time, posting rapturous Instagrams, Vines, Tweets, and videos with the hashtag #kveikur as they enjoyed their first listen. Today, something even cooler is going down.

At 2:50 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, aim your web browser at sigur-ros.co.uk/kveikurlive360, and prepare yourself for a genuine treat. Sigur Ròs will be playing “a selection of songs from the record live during a special 360-degree interactive webcast from Dresden, Germany.” What this means is that “fans will be able to take control of the 360-degree cameras that will be placed around the stage,” zooming around the event however they please.

Pretty nifty, no? I wouldn’t mind remotely taking control of a camera in Dresden, Germany, even if I were just filming a parking lot. But with Sigur Ròs yowling their epic dark fairytale ballads, it’ll be more like you’re filming your own overpriced concert DVD. Hey, if Martin Scorsese can do it … right? To tide you over, here’s “Ísjaki,” a definite album highlight.

 

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Get An Art History Lesson With Okkervil River’s ‘It Was My Season’

Don’t get too excited—while this may be the season we all associate with boogie boards and poolside margaritas, for Okkervil River’s Will Sheff, summer is the time for heated self-loathing and steamy despair. The first single, "It Was My Season," from the band’s next album, The Silver Gymnasium, has arrived, along with a charmingly simple video.

Sheff himself sets up the visual:

"In 1916 the painter Maxfield Parrish—part of a small-town New Hampshire art colony that included such famous writers and artists as August St. Gaudens and Emma Lazarus—designed and painted a stage set for a local play entitled “The Woodland Princess.” The set consisted of several layers and depicted a typical New England forest scene with a lake and distinctive rolling hills in the background, and it was designed so it could be lit to simulate the light of dawn, early morning, full afternoon sun, and dusk. Since then the set has remained in the Plainfield Town Hall at the center of Plainfield, New Hampshire, the town that encloses the little village of Meriden where I grew up.

Over the span of “It Was My Season,” we see the course of a fully artificial day—24 hours of changing light in five minutes. The subjectivity of time is clearly an ongoing theme for Sheff and company, as The Silver Gymnasium’s songs take place in 1986 New Hampshire. “We’re dumb, we’re dead / Shut up about it now,” go the typically merciless lyrics here. Here’s hoping this band doesn’t shut up for years to come."

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Voyage Through Innerspace With The Video For Ablebody’s ‘Sally Hot Jazz’

On any given morning, my inbox is fully of a lot of quite pretty new music. But after a while, beauty for its own sake gets a trifle monotonous. Anyone can build a dreamy, inoffensive synth wash: the question is where you go from there. Ablebody, the solo project of Christoph Hoccheim, has a pretty good idea.

Hoccheim has played guitar for shoegaze-pop outfits The Depreciation Guild and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, but where those groups rely on fairly straightforward melody to animate most songs, Ablebody is interested in continuing to mutate the hooks in surprising ways. As one commenter had it: “Sally Hot Jazz,” from the All My Everybody EP, is “so harmonically off-balance. It really stretches your ears.”

Indeed, the harmonic shift around the 1:50 mark is the closest anyone has come (this year) to understanding what it is that makes Kevin Shields’ compositions for My Bloody Valentine so cool—you’ll want to go back again and again to feel out the strangeness of that groove. The video is a nice throwback as well: simple but trippy enough to get the job done. Get your Friday chill on with the entire EP, streaming below.

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BlackBook Premiere: Azar Swan’s Taut And Filthy ‘In My Mouth’

Earlier this year, The Knife’s Shaking the Habitual proved a startling leap forward for the electronic duo but left a void where some of us would have liked to hear more spooky club bangers. But now comes goth-pop duo Azar Swan, whose first self-identity-obsessed video for “Amrika,” and new sinuous grindfest “In My Mouth" – out today as a digital 7” on Pendu Sound – has resolved that dire shortage.

If you were wondering about the title, well: Zorah Atash, who handles the spine-tingling vocals for the pair, says the song "is about not being about to fight our instincts. It’s a sort of in-the-jungle love song. A primordial love song."I’d say that about covers it. 

With a spring-coiled beat, cold synth stabs, and bells that could ring in doomsday, you’re definitely poised above an abyss, sexual or otherwise. Either way, it’s a track with extreme gravity that’ll still let you move (suggestively) on the dance floor.

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Don’t Sleep On The Ballet’s ‘I Blame Society’

I bought my first actual CD in forever at NYC Popfest at The Bell House on Saturday night, from a band I didn’t even see, because I loved (but lost) the previous album (which isn’t even on iTunes? terrible), and to all appearances, many of the amazing songs Flowers played are yet unreleased, and The Bats killed, but I have everything they’ve ever done already. Great call, me: I Blame Society by The Ballet, officially out on June 10, is a perfect summer pop record.

Ages ago—or in 2009, same difference—Pitchfork compared the first single from Bear Life, “Chinatown,” to one of the more upbeat numbers in The Magnetic Fields repertoire. That ear for melody and talent for totally assured, pitch-perfect vocals certainly holds across both albums, and titles like “Cruel Path” and “Difficult Situations” should alert you to the winningly dry and direct lyrics.

The standout, however, is a hopelessly blunt question: “Is Anybody Out There?” Dropping in where chillwave and shoegaze merge for a pink swell of cascading guitar and synth pads, the track just so happens to boast a superbly fitted music video—I think that’s where I’m getting the “pink” description from. Bear Life may be a chore to track down, but unlike its predecessor, I Blame Society is on Spotify, so you no longer have any excuse not to become as obsessed with The Ballet as I am.

 

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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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When Saints Go Machine Unleash ‘Infinity Pool’

Copenhagen-based electro-pop outfit When Saints Go Machine returns to record store shelves today with their second full-length, Infinity Pool. And it’s awesome.

A sonic departure from 2011’s Konkylie, their latest effort sees the foursome—comprising vocalist Nikolaj Manuel Vonsild, Jonas Kenton on synth and backing vocals, Simon Muschinsky on keys, and drummer Silas Moldenhawer—paying homage to ’90s rave as well as hip-hop. Despite the audible shift, which features songs significantly more electronic than tracks past, Vonsild’s signature falsetto remains an obvious constant, luring listeners in with its velvety, tremulous sound.

The album mesmerizes, with standout numbers such as the percussion-heavy “Iodine,” the ominous and eerie “Mannequin,” and the hard-hitting rapper-tapped “Love and Respect.” The latter contributes something unexpected to the mix, namely Atlanta-based artist Killer Mike, whom the Scandinavian dudes were stoked said yes to their request for a few bars.

I caught up with Saints’ sweet-as-can-be 32-year-old lead Vonsild last week, an overseas call that revealed several interesting tidbits about the unique group. Read on for more and, come June 24, catch them live in the U.S. for the first time ever at Brooklyn’s Glasslands.

Congrats on your second record. How does it feel to finally share it with the world?
We’re excited. What are people going to say? It’s a bit nerve-racking. Now we can go play a lot of gigs.

How do you like life on the road?
I like touring, but you don’t have any privacy. That’s the thing. If you want privacy, it’s a set of headphones and a computer. But, we love playing concerts. And, as long as there’s good food, it’s cool. [Laughs] As long as you get your vegetables, that’s okay.

Have you always wanted to make music?
Yeah. I don’t remember ever wanting to be a fireman or something. I wanted to make music from a very early age. First I played bass, but I never rehearsed. At some point my teacher said I had to rehearse, or she wouldn’t teach me. So, that stopped. Then I got into early ’90s rap music. I had this friend—we were making music together—and I asked if I could use his equipment. He said I had to get my own. I was like, You fuckin’ asshole. [Laughs] You know? So, I got my own. That got me started. I have him to thank, maybe.

Blessing in disguise. What rappers were you into?
Souls of Mischief, Nas, OutKast, Goodie Mob, N.W.A, Scarface, Geto Boys, Del the Funky Homosapien, Bone Thugs … almost everything.

What inspired Infinity Pool?
To us, it’s reminiscent of ’90s rave culture. We grew up during that era, so that’s a big part of our music. We try to do something else with it. Lyric-wise, everything I’ve experienced the last couple years; personal experiences and what’s going on in society. But, the greatest inspiration is just working with each other.

Aw. What was the process like and how long did it take?
Around two years, a year-and-a-half maybe. When we finish an album, I start writing the next one right away. Only because I’m afraid I might forget how to write. It feels like you have to keep working, so I keep working. And then, at some point, the rest of the band takes it up as well. Then we work together on finishing it. And, when we make music, we produce the record as we’re recording. More than anything, we’re producers. We don’t sit down with a guitar and write songs.

So how exactly do you write songs?
Sometimes it’s just a thought, something I thought about for a week or a month or a year-and-a-half. [Laughs] I sit down in front of my computer and start playing with chords. I start producing while I’m writing. I’m always sitting with a microphone beside me. I like to put down lyrics and start producing at the same time.

How do you collectively select songs that make the final cut?
We don’t all have to have the same understanding of a specific song. As long as we all have a strong feeling for a song, that’s what we want. We have a lot of discussions, sometimes arguing, because it’s so important. But, that’s what ends up on the album: stuff we think has a special sound. An original idea. Something we think has a classic signature or something you would pick up in five years and say, I want to sample this. If we think a song has [these elements], then it’s on the album.

I expect it’s still difficult to narrow down. Who in the band cracks the whip?
All of us. We’re all cracking the whip. We’re all perfectionists. We just keep working. We don’t stop. That’s why it’s so hard to make an album. We’re all hard on ourselves. We have the goal of making something we think is special, that we really feel for. We like to stay inspired and, to do that, we have to keep moving forward.

What would you be doing if not this?
I would be a chef. That’s meditation to me. Listening to music and cooking. We eat a lot of food in our band. Every time we play a concert outside Denmark, we try to figure out what restaurant we’d like to visit and what kind of food we’d like to eat.

How long has it been since you’ve been to New York?
We’ve never been with the band! But my brother used to live in New York.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re here?
I used to like sitting on the stoop in Bed-Stuy by my brother’s apartment. That’s the best thing to do in New York. I eat a lot of food when I’m in New York, always. And go to a lot of concerts. Everyone’s playing there.

Your songs are frequently remixed, often to great effect. What’s your take?
It’s makes you see your own music in a new light. People listen to a remix and they go back to the original. It works to our benefit.

You must feel blessed to be able to earn a living making music.
We do feel blessed. We’re fortunate. We have a lot to be happy about. I’m just glad it’s possible for us to keep working and to live off what we do.

Any expectations for Infinity Pool, reception-wise?
We were really surprised by how people reacted to the [first] album. Now, people are calling it a breakthrough album. But, when it came out, no one said anything. For us, it’s a natural progression, like making music: slow and then it takes shape. Hopefully people will like this album, get something from it. Or a lot of people, hopefully, will think it’s a good album and it will make them feel something. That’s what I hope for, at least. 

[More by Nell Alk; Follow Nell on Twitter]