Wednesday, December 29, 2010

My favorite resources of the year - NPR Music

I don't know if this makes me a dork, but I do occasionally listen to NPR. I've always liked the types of subjects they discuss on air and knew that they did some music coverage. It wasn't until I started following their website, however, that I really discovered the depth (and breadth) of their music coverage.

My favorite program is probably World Cafe, hosted by David Dye. It's been a great way to keep up with my favorite artists, as well as discover some new ones.

Some of my favorite interviews:
Johnny Flynn
The Black Keys
Cloud Cult
Karen Elson
Mountain Man

An unexpected gem in the heart of Northwest Ohio

This afternoon, I visited a place I never thought could exist in this area, the Kent State Fashion Museum. I've mostly known the school for a tragic event that took place there 40 years ago, but the university does boast a notable fashion design program.

The museum itself started when costume designer Shannon Rodgers and Jerry Silverman donated nearly 4,000 costumes (including many period pieces) and an extensive collection of decorative pieces to the school in 1985. Shannon Rodgers had designed costumes for the Star Wars films and was a native of Ohio.

I was able to see a number of impressive pieces, including many period pieces, mainly from the 18th century; beautiful Indian textiles, including saris; and even a collection of personal clothing and movie costumes that once belonged to Katharine Hepburn.

What was most surprising was that the museum actually owned the Katharine Hepburn collection, which consisted of her entire wardrobe, gifted to them by her estate. There's a pretty good story of how the museum ended up with her wardrobe (paraphrased):

When Katharine died in 2003, her family divvied up most of her possessions, but did not want her clothing. She had wanted her clothing to go to a teaching institution, so her estate first tried to give the collection to some schools around Hollywood, but none of them wanted it. They then tried New York to appeal to the Broadway scene, as Hepburn did a lot of theater in her career. But none of them wanted the collection either. At one point, the director of the Kent State Museum had the opportunity to speak with the owners of the clothing and requested that it go there. After doing some research into the school and museum, they decided that it would be a good fit and gifted the museum.

Few of the pieces, however, were labeled, so museum staff and to sit and watch all of her movies to place some of the pieces. Despite this, a great deal of what they were given remains uncategorized and subsequent attempts to place them, even a visit from the Katharine Hepburn Society, haven't gotten them anywhere.

Now, of course, some of those museums who initially turned down the collection are now asking Kent State to lend them so that they can put them on display.
Some of her costumes they had on display:

The Iron Petticoat
From The Iron Petticoat

Adam's Rib
From Adam's Rib

The Little Minister
From The Little Minister

Stage Door
From Stage Door

The museum also had costumes from The Lion in Winter, Suddenly, Last Summer, The Ultimate Solution of Grace Quimby, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, Long Day's Journey into the Night and A Delicate Balance. In addition, they had a large number of her television and Broadway costumes and at least eight pairs of her slacks.

In addition to the Hepburn collection were a number of fairly contemporary pieces by major designers, including Chanel, Balenciaga, Oscar de la Renta and Yves Saint-Laurent.

Saint LaurentRodgersMackieBeene and de la Renta

The museum really was amazing. I know I'll be going back in April for the sustainable clothing collection. If you're ever in the Cleveland area, swing by Kent State, you won't be disappointed!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

My favorite red carpet looks of the year

This was the year that I saw my favorite style stars change. In the past, I was more in awe of those stars who exuded simple straight-forward style, but I've come to like those who are more unique and avant-garde in their styles (not Lady Gaga avant-garde, but more accessible avant-garde). These are my favorite looks from the past year.

10. January Jones in Versace at the Emmy's
January Jones Emmys
For being a somewhat typical-looking blonde, January Jones takes a lot of fashion risks and always looks great doing it. I loved her Versace Emmy dress from last year and she went with the same designer this year. I don't love her hair, but the dress color is great on her and that's a silhouette not many could pull off.

9. Kyra Sedgwick in Monique Lhuillier at the Emmys
Kyra Sedgwick Emmys
While I've come to appreciate the risk-takers, I still love classic styles. Kyra's is the perfect example of a classic silhouette. The dress is simple, but uber-flattering and this is by far one of my favorite colors.

8. Jennifer Lopez in Zuhair Murad at the Met Costume Gala
Jennifer Lopez Met
There were so many dresses like this one this year (including Anne Hathaway at the same event), but I loved this one the most. For one, J.Lo is so much better when she takes it easy, she tends to glam it up too much for my tastes. Also, I loved the design on the skirt, it made the dress more than just another sparkly gown.

7. Blake Lively in Marchesa at the Met Costume Gala
Blake Lively Met
Blake Lively gets a lot of flak for showing it all off (she was nicknamed Boobs Legsly by GoFugYourself), but I think she dresses in a way that's appropriate for her age and body. And hey....if you've got it... I love this dress for both the bold color and romantic detailing, which seem to work almost in antithesis of each other.

6. Cate Blanchett in Armani Privé at the Tony Awards
Cate Blanchette Tonys
This is a look almost no one else could pull off, Cate even outshines the model who wore it on the runway. It perfectly shows off how long and lean she is. It's a classic suit in a non-classic fabric. Quintessential Cate.

5. Rachel McAdams in Elie Saab at the Academy Awards
Rachel McAdams Oscars
Solid color and embellished dresses are a dime a dozen, which I why I loved this dress. The watercolor print made this gown one-of-a-kind. The colors perfectly complemented her, I don't think anyone but a blonde could pull it off. I wish she had done some more jewelry, especially around her neckline, but she looks amazing nonetheless.

4. Diane Kruger in Elie Saab at the SAG Awards
Diane Kruger SAG
Diane Kruger is my favorite risk-taker mainly because, despite taking risks, she almost always looks amazing. The color is amazing (mustard is not an easy one to pull off), it fits her perfectly and she's complemented it all perfectly with her hair, make-up and accessories. It's still somewhat risky, but simple and it works wonderfully.

3. Rihanna in Elie Saab at the AMAs
Rihanna AMAs
Rihanna takes a lot of chances that I don't always love, but this was a great look for her. It's covered, yet still sexy, that same amazing color from Sedgwick's dress, perfectly detailed. She didn't overdo things with jewelry or her hair (thank God). I want this dress...

2. Zoe Saldaña in Louis Vuitton at the Golden Globes
Zoe Saldana Globes
This may be my nomination for color of the year. Everyone looked good in this color, especially Zoe. What I love more about this dress is the raggedy nature of the skirt. While I didn't like it initially, it really grew on me. It's unique and interesting, but still undeniably chic.

1. Diane Kruger in Christian LaCroix at the Golden Globes
Diane Kruger Globes
This dress is just straight-up weird. It's an atypical red carpet color, there's this strange ombré thing going on around the bodice and what's that white thing? This dress is the perfect example of Diane Kruger's ability to pull off just about anything and still look amazing.

Other Favorites:
6054047762730423SHOWBIZ Cannes 19089460200746Tilda Swinton Berlin598371536042335662426676Olivia Wilde BAFTA59313686

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Ruffles and lace and polka dots...OH MY!!

Another fashion show, this one part of Valentino's Spring 2011 collection. Just about every piece had romantic ruffles, but the pieces that really shined are those about three-quarters of the way through the show, featuring lace. (I love lace, BTW).

Valentino S11-3

Valentino S11-2

Valentino S11-1

Seems celebrities are loving this collection, especially the lace, as much as I am! The collection has already made it to the red carpet; Kirsten Dunst wore one of the lace pieces to the premier of All Good Things earlier this month:

Kirsten Dunst in Valentino

...and Jessica Alba wore another lace number for "Trevor Live" just a few days later:

Jessica Alba in Valentino

Have a very indie Christmas

Hipster Christmas
I'm not usually a fan of Christmas music, but a slew of Christmas songs by indie artists have been released over the past few weeks that could start to change my mind. The songs, even the traditional Christmas tracks, match well with each performer's styles. It's like listening to just another song by these artists that just happens to have a Christmas theme!

Atlas Sound - "Artificial Snow"

Sufjan Stevens - "Silent Night"

Beach House - "I Do Not Care for the Winter Sun"

Los Campesinos! - "Kindle a Flame in Her Heart"

She & Him - "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"

Wavves & Best Coast - "Got Something For You"

Enjoy and have a Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Chanel Pre-Fall 2011 collection

Although I understand how some people can find high fashion inaccessible, I love it. One of my favorite brands that I dream of one day having the means to buy is Chanel.

Karl Lagerfeld released his pre-fall 2011 collection for Chanel earlier this month. The collection was influenced by Byzantine styles, ranging from the styles of the common-folk to more royally-inspired pieces. The collection started out with simple black pieces with exquisite gold accessories and embellishments before introducing bright, royal colors and some very interesting footwear.

Overall, I loved the collection, it did a good job melding different textures, colors and fabrics into something extremely intricate, but still cohesive:


When good bands go bad

Mine is Yours

I got a bit of an unpleasant shock today. I went to pick up the latest issue of Under the Radar magazine today. After reading through their best of lists and articles, I got to the review section and a review of Cold War Kids' upcoming album, Mine is Yours. I've been a pretty big fan of this band since about 2006 when they released their debut, Robbers & Cowards. They're thrown under the indie rock umbrella, but have (had?) a very unique sound with howling vibrato vocals and dissonant piano chords that I instantly loved.

Their second album, Loyalty to Loyalty was a little bit of a disappointment in that the songs were less structured, but their basic sound was still present and it was still a decent listen. I was, therefore, very excited when it was announced they would be releasing a new album. That excitement, however, waned a bit after reading the review:

"Cold War Kids make a play for stardom..."
"Cold War Kids seem to be aiming for something more akin to Kings of Leon..."
"...Willett sings on 'Skip the Charades,' the biggest, and also worst, grab at a radio-friendly...hit."

Not one to take reviews at face value, I sought out a couple of tracks from the album. And...dear God...they were right. I listened to "Louder than Ever," and it did sound like Kings of Leon track. And not any of their good stuff from before Closer, Kings of Leon NOW. That's not good.

I can only hope that those two tracks are just flukes aimed at getting more radio play and that the rest of the album is the Cold War Kids I know and love. However, since the album was produced by the same guy who produced Kings of Leon's last album, I have a feeling it won't be.


P.S.: just realized the producer, Jacquire King, also produced Modest Mouse's Good News for People Who Love Bad News, so...take from that what you will.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

My 10 of '10 - Albums

So, I guess it's that time for that requisite top 10 albums of the year list. This is a surprisingly difficult list to make, it's really easy to forget the albums I couldn't get enough of at the beginning of the year in favor of those I can't get enough now. I think, however, that I got my list about where I want it, here is my top ten of 2010.

10. Avey Tare Down There
Down There
This is an album I bought two times over. I downloaded it from iTunes the day it came, excited over what I had heard in an NPR preview. Listening to it on the bus to class one day I thought, "How great would this sound on vinyl?" The next day, I headed to Landlocked Music and purchased their last copy (though I'm sure they got more in since). Perhaps needless to say, it's great on's great in any format. Other members of Animal Collective who forayed into solo material, Panda Bear for instance, have made great stuff, but I feel Avey Tare has done it best so far.

"Lucky 1"

9. Beach House - Teen Dream
Teen Dream
I had checked out Beach House a little bit over the summer, but never delved deep into their music. This past fall, however, I saw them open for Vampire Weekend and I was awe-struck by their sound. Dream pop, at times, can become slightly boring and one-note. Victoria Legrand's voice really elevates this group's sound. At this point, to say I'm a fan of husky-voiced women may start to become a redundant theme around here.


8. Cee-Lo Green - The Lady Killer
The Lady Killler
I honestly didn't jump on the "Fuck You" bandwagon at the same time that everyone else did, I didn't even see the viral music video until last week. I got excited about Green's album after hearing a preview on NPR and realizing that he had recorded a cover of Band of Horses' "No One's Gonna Love You." As I've stated in a previous post, that song itself is amazing, but the rest of the album lives up. It has an old-school soul feel to it, but, in melding so many sounds and genres, still manages to come off distinctively modern.

"Bright Lights, Bigger City"

7. Vampire Weekend - Contra
I loved Vampire Weekend's first album and, given the attention that they gained from that release, I feared they would experience a sophomore slump. They didn't...while I don't consider it to be better than the first album, it's a great progression for a group that could probably very easily get stuck in a stylistic rut. They've managed to introduce a broader element to their music, but have still kept that Kwassa Kwassa sound that makes them great.

"Giving Up the Gun"

6. Yeasayer - Odd Blood
This is another album that I really didn't love the first time I heard it, but this one grew on me through multiple listens. I randomly listened to "Ambling Alp" one day and really liked it, listening at least two more times in a row. Once I sufficiently got myself into that one song, I explored the rest of the album and was more appreciative of its experimental, psychedelic sound. While "Ambling Alp" was my initial favorite, it has definitely taken a back seat to some of the other tracks on the album.

"I Remember"

5. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
The Suburbs
Concept albums don't often excite me. At times, I find the songs to be too interrelated for any one to stand out and be great. It took a music video to get me into this great album. The interactive video for "We Used to Wait" took this band, in my mind, to a whole new level. I liked that they were willing to use technology to make the listening experience much different than most of what's out there. I can also relate to the album, having grown up in the suburbs and seeing people who felt what many of the lyrics describe. In support of this album, the band provided what is perhaps my favorite SNL performance of all time (sorry Kanye).

"Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)"

4. The Black Keys - Brothers
I developed a strange obsession with The Black Keys this past weekend, which I think was due to spending an entire Sunday afternoon on watching music videos. I watched their video for “Tighten Up” and loved the humorous approach they took to the lyrics...who knew 8-year-olds could lip-sync so well? Since then, I've been listening to the album almost non-stop. The music is simple and straightforward, no fancy bells and whistles (I like that term a lot lately...) This album also provided perhaps my favorite packaging this year, I love very specific labeling.

"Ten Cent Pistol"

3. Dum Dum Girls - I Will Be
I Will Be
This is one of those albums I loved the first time I heard it. However, this band certainly has not received the attention they deserve. Their sound is somewhat unique, given some of what's gotten the most attention recently. I've always likened them to a lo-fi Blondie. This is another band that opened for Vampire Weekend (that was obviously a good concert for me), and I was actually marginally more excited for them than I was for the main act.

"Bhang Bhang, I'm a Burnout"

2. The Tallest Man on Earth - The Wild Hunt
Some people can't get past this guy's voice; to me, it's what makes the music. He is also an amazing guitar player. I'd call him a guitar god, if that didn't bring up images of crazy electric guitar solos. Not only does he have a distinctive voice and mastery of the guitar, his lyrics are just beyond most of what you hear today. They're full of imagery and symbolism that, quite frankly, goes over my head at times, but he still manages to weave a vivid story with every song.

"Love is All"

1. Local Natives - Gorilla Manor
Gorilla Manor
I honestly don't know how I got into Local Natives. No one told me about them, I didn't read about them in a magazine or blog. I think I just saw their album come up as a suggestion on Napster and downloaded it on the spot. It was a good thing I did, it's a truly amazing album. Their sound evokes harmonized folk music, percussion-driven tribal music and 1980s new wave all at the same time. The result is wonderful and I'm happy I randomly downloaded it.

"Who Knows, Who Cares"

Just missed the top 10:
11. Spoon - Transference
12. the bird and the bee - Interpreting the Masters: Hall & Oates
13. The Drums - The Drums
14. The Walkmen - Lisbon
15. Glasser - Ring
16. Sufjan Stevens - The Age of Adz
17. The Morning Benders - Big Echo
18. Sleigh Bells - Treats
19. Laura Marling - I Speak Because I Can
20. She & Him - Volume 2