Saturday, November 27, 2010

Kanye West and Penelope Cruz have the same sense of style

So, I'm watching the rerun of of October 2's Saturday Night Live, on which Kanye West performed. Upon seeing his outfit, I was reminded of something Penelope Cruz wore last year at the Broken Embraces premier. I looked up her picture and, lo and behold, they are wearing the same outfit.

Who rocked the all-red ensemble more?

Friday, November 26, 2010


John Legend and The Roots cover "Wake Up"
"Wake Up" is a song by the Arcade Fire and was included on 2004's Funeral. An acoustic version was also used in the trailers for Where the Wild Things Are. John Legend and The Roots's recent album, Wake Up, is apparently named after the song (even though there's another song on the album with "wake up" in the title), but their recording of the song had not been released with the album. Their version is mostly faithful to the original song, adding a funky interlude after the second verse. It's a beautiful recording.

Everyone covers The xx
I guess The xx is just one of those bands that everyone loves. Just in the past few days, covers by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD) and Gorillaz have been posted. OMD covered "VCR" and Gorillaz covered "Crystallized." Both bands added their own unique sound to the songs.


Gorillaz - "Crystallized"

Music videos from King Khan & BBQ Show and Here We Go Magic (bands separated by the "and")
A couple of new music videos this week. The first is from King Khan & BBQ Show for the song "Invisible Girl." If you haven't heard of the band, their sound has an old-school rock and roll sound to it, very basic and very stripped down...nothing fancy. The video features trippy underwater puppet action and a bird with a bad case of diarrhea.

The second video is from indie rock band Here We Go Magic, who themselves have a somewhat ambient/dream-pop sound. The video is a bit (a lot) graphic, especially towards the end, plus there's some male nudity to go along with it, so be careful where you watch it (in others words, NSFW).

Atlas Sound releases home recordings
This week, Atlas Sound (Bradford Cox of Deerhunter) released four home-recorded albums, named Bedroom Databank Vol. 1-4, for free through Mediafire. They extend the ambient/shoegaze/experimental sound present in his previous work. My favorite has been #3 and, specifically, "Mona Lisa," which sounds a bit like something Girls would put out. Unfortunately, Sony has removed all but the first album, citing copyright infringement. I'm sure there are some mirrors already out there and I would keep an eye over at his blog for any updates regarding the recordings.

Well, for now, here's the first: Bedroom Databank Vol. 1

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Girls! Girls! Girls!

And, no, the title is not in reference to the Mötley Crüe song. Yesterday, the band Girls released a new EP, Broken Dreams Club. excited, I seriously love this band. Their debut album, Album, was amazing and, having heard the closing track yesterday, this promises to be even better!!!


Track listing:
1. Oh So Protective One
2. Heartbreaker
3. Broken Dreams Club
4. Alright
5. Substance
6. Carolina

Monday, November 22, 2010

New music videos

Male Bonding - "All Things This Way"

Male Bonding is a relatively new band out of London. They have a noise rock sound, which I find interesting as not many of the noise rock bands that have been coming out lately have been from outside the United States. It's a pretty basic video, just showing the band performing the song at a show. The song itself is great, though, with a bit of a surf rock sound to it.

Band of Horses - "Dilly"

Band of Horses has become one of my favorite bands, their last album "Cease to Begin" was one of my most played last year. They released a new album, "Infinite Arms," earlier this year and this video is for the third single. It's a fun video with a spaghetti western production value to it and featuring a motorcycle gngn that rides, dances and shoots people with their finger-guns. I love the name of the gang, "LSDemons." The video is a bit graphic, so if you think it may be too much for you, there is a clean version.

Twin Sister - "All Around and Away We Go"

I know I recently said that I had an issue with Andrea Estella's voice as she performed with The Morning Benders, but here, her voice works well. The song is from their debut EP, Color Your Life. The video is a colorful, '80s-esque dance-fest; the dancing reminds me of the moves I would make up in middle school. You can tell the band had fun shooting it, making the video really enjoyable to watch.

Arcade Fire - "The Suburbs"

This video, directed Spike Jonze, is more of a short film. It follows a group of teenagers living, of course, in the suburbs. It's a great concept, with the kids living in what appears to be a militarized suburban area. The main conflict of the film comes after two of the boys are stopped by the Army forces. The video manages to make me feel nostalgic about my childhood, even through the military elements in the piece, which, of course, I didn't experience as a child growing up in Indiana.

Sufjan Stevens - "Too Much"

Another trippy colorful video this week, this one from Sufjan Stevens for his latest release, The Age of Adz. The stop-motion left me feeling a little dizzy, but it's a cool video. I believe I saw a bunny in the opening sequence, as well as one of the performers wearing rabbit ears, could this be a reference to his previous releases, Enjoy Your Rabbit and Run Rabbit Run?

Simian Mobile Disco - "Sweetbread"

This is one of the lead singles from their upcoming album, Delicacies, in which all of the tracks are named after foods that the band has eaten while on tour. Given that, I'm not sure what this particular video has to do with sweetbread. The video features a man butchering some meat, not sure what kind of animal, maybe lamb or goat. I wouldn't suggest watching if your vegan or vegetarian, or just have a weak stomach.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Fashion news from the week

I decided to separate the fashion and music news because there was so much going on this week across the board.

Winter Holiday dresses from Urban Outfitters
Just in time for the holiday season, Urban Outfitters has a released a list of "12 Days of Dresses" with dresses named for each day of Christmas. My personal favorite is the Drummer's Dress. It has just the right amount of shimmer to be festive, but is still understated.
photo from
In their ever continuing effort to take over the world, Google has launched a new fashion site called Basically, what it does is quiz you about your style by asking you to choose your favorite between two pictures (usually of celebrities or fashion bloggers). It then asks you to choose your favorite silhouettes of dresses, skirts, tops, shoes and pants. Then your favorite colors, patterns and designers. It also asks you to choose your least favorite among those categories. From that, they determine your style. Mine turned out to be a mixed of boho, casual and edgy. It then compiles a store (or boutique) of items based on your style. While it's a good concept, it's been done before, and to greater effect. I've used a service called Covet for nearly a year now that uses almost the exact same process to determine your style. What it does as well, however, is allow the user to enter preferred price ranges for each item. For example, I won't pay more than $100 for a pair of shoes. Just in my Google Boutique, there is a pair of $250 shoes, a $500 dress and a $375 pair of pants. Am I ever going to buy these items? No, and I'd prefer not to see them. Also, Covet sends daily e-mails of items that meet my specifications. I like that, even if it does make me want to buy. One thing that the Google application is doing to set itself apart, however, is adding a social networking component. So, I can create my boutique and other users can follow the boutique.

Bella Swan's wedding dress
I'm not going to pretend to be a Twilight fan. I am not; I have read none of the books nor have I seen any of the films, and do not ever plan to. I do, however, love a good fashion story and there is one here. There has been much speculation going on about who would design Bella Swan's wedding dress for the final film in the series. The most heavily rumored was Zac Posen, who recently denied his involvement, stating that he designed for real women. Still, someone is going to be designing the dress and there are many designers still up for the project. InStyle recently released a series of drawings made by various designers, from Lela Rose to Christian Siriano, of potential dresses for the film. While I can't speak to Bella's style and what would best fit the character, I personally love the romantic lace of Monique Lhuillier's design and Prabal Gurung's modern creation.
pictures from

Lanvin for H&M
In their latest designer collaboration, H&M has launched a collection with major fashion house Lanvin. A lookbook and video were released several weeks ago, and a fashion show was held Thursday night. The collection was officially released this morning to great fanfare. In not beyond amazed with any of the pieces, but it's a cute collection overall. I'm also not in love with the price tags. As seems to be the case with all of H&M's designer collections, it's priced at a great premium to the general collection. While it's much less expensive than the designers' collections, it's still a bit more than I think the average woman is willing to pay.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Music news from this past week

The Beatles on iTunes
In news that neither shocked nor amazed anyone, the Beatles' catalog is now available on iTunes. With all the fanfare that Apple put into the announcement, I was expecting something bigger, perhaps related to iTunes' features or format. I do, however, enjoy reading the responses from the Twitterverse about Apple's announcement. Both NPR and The Huffington Post have posted lists of "who cares?" tweets, and they're really quite funny. My personal favorite: "Hey Mom, congrats! You know all those Beatles albums you already own on vinyl, cassette, AND CD? Now you can buy them on iTunes, too!" I can't imagine that anyone who was interested in the Beatles' music was waiting with baited breath for the albums to become available on iTunes, but sales my indicate otherwise, they are currently among the top sellers on iTunes (though that figure is relative, we may never know absolute sales). Personally, I've acquired all of the albums by either borrowing them from the library or buying physical CDs. Like some have said, though, this may be more important to Steve Jobs than it is to anyone else.

Upcoming album releases
There have been several news stories this week regarding upcoming releases from various artists. Iron & Wine released the cover art for Kiss Each Other Clean, due out January 25. The artwork reminds me of the "art" I would do as a kid where you would draw all over a white sheet of paper of various colored pencils, cover it all with black crayon, then scratch the crayon away. It's nice artwork, but I agree with Pitchfork, it would have been nice to have a picture of two people literally kissing each other clean.

Although this news is apparently already several weeks old, I missed it when it was first reported. Indie pop band Girls is releasing a new EP this coming Tuesday. Their debut album was amazing, one of my favorite releases of the past year or so. If what I have read about the new EP so far is to be believed, their new work will be even better, I can't wait!

Also announcing a new album this week is Talib Kweli, who is, in my opinion, one of the best rappers out there. He will be releasing Gutter Rainbows, a solo album, on January 25 (already turning out to be a good day for me!)

Lykke Li has released some more information about her upcoming album, Wounded Rhymes. Although we still don't have a release date, she's revealed a bit more about her inspirations, partnerships and released a track listing.

Fun collaborations
The Morning Benders and Twin Sister have come together to record a cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams." The combined cover was performed at Webster Hall in NYC. No offense to Andrea Estella of Twin Sister, but the performance was going just fine until she showed up. I love her band, but she does not sound good here.

Fever Ray, of The Knife, has contributed music to the new Red Riding Hood movie. Initially, the story was that she was to be in the film itself, but she has stated that that is not the case. In any case, her overall aesthetic and style fits really well with the dark nature of the film.

A tribute album to Joanna Newsom will be released next month and will feature covers by M. Ward, Billy Bragg and Owen Pallett (Final Fantasy), just to name a few.

Signed to record labels
Indie folk band Frightened Rabbit has been signed to Atlantic Records after three years on indie label Fat Cat.

Fairly new indie rock band Cults has also been signed to another major label, Columbia. I had the opportunity to see them when they came to Rachael's Cafe a few month ago. I liked their sound and am excited to hear that they're working towards releasing their first full release.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Is it too little too late?

MySpace has made a lot of changes lately, from almost to completely revamping profile pages to reorganizing its homepage to a more Facebook-esque design. Now, the news is that the site would like to change its focus from being just a social networking site to being an entertainment network by focusing more on allowing users to organize their favorite music, TV shows and movies. In a way, as I interpret it, moving from being user profile-driven to being fan page-driven. They're hoping this change will allow MySpace to stay relevant given the greater popularity of Facebook and Twitter and differentiate it from those other sites.

I, personally, like the idea. Just in terms of music, I prefer MySpace to everything else; personal band sites, Facebook pages, iTunes' Ping. When I'd like to find out more about a new artist, MySpace is the first place I go to because I know I'll be able to easily find what I'm looking for. I can easily find out who's in the band, how they describe their sound and who they're influenced by without having to read through a long band biography. And, because of MySpace's in-built music player, I can listen to their music while reading up on the band without having to open a new tab or window. While Facebook pages also allow for a music player, I like the size of Myspace's and that it's organized more like an external music player, such as iTunes or Windows Media Player. Another benefit of MySpace over Facebook for musician pages, something that I hated about MySpace for personal pages, is the ability to personalize the page. For bands, personalization allows to further the band's brand and not be locked down into a specific color scheme or format.

Apple's Ping application is just about pointless, in my opinion. I read recently that it had millions of users (probably just counting all people who have iTunes accounts) but only around 2000 artist profiles. Even if every artist that sells through iTunes creates a page, its reach would still very limited. Would artists that can't sell on iTunes, like Girl Talk, be able to maintain pages on Ping? Would newer artists who are still in the process of recording and getting their names out their be able to maintain pages? A big part of me thinks no. Also, iTunes would never allow for full song previews even through their pages, it would still be the 30 second listens.

MySpace already provides a good, standardized platform for musician pages. If it's going to pursue this refocus, there certainly are some things that I think it could do better:

1) Separating friends into fans and musicians. Musicians can add both users and other musicians as friends on MySpace. It would better to separate user accounts and band accounts in the friends list. Perhaps turning user friends into fans.

2) Do something about how pictures are organized. It's difficult to view pictures on MySpace.

This is apparently MySpace's last ditch effort. If it fails to produce results, Rupert Murdoch may be done with the site.

As we speak, there is a joint announcement between Facebook and MySpace going on. I don't know if it relates to this proposed revamping, but I'll keep you updated if this is related.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I wannawannawannawanna

This past weekend, I made a somewhat impromptu trip to Cincinnati to see my friend, Kevin's, band perform at a place called The Mockbee. The band, Walk the Moon, were having their CD release party and music video premier. I've known Kevin for about five years, though not extremely well. A mutual friend had played some of the band's songs for me when he came to visit a few months ago and I liked what I heard. I figured the trip would be a good opportunity to hear more and get out of Bloomington for the night.

I got into Cincinnati, checked into my hotel, then headed out to find the venue. After driving around and getting lost several times (seriously, the road planning in Cincinnati is horrible), I found the place. The building itself is really cool. The facade was somewhat industrial, but the inside was a true surprise. It's an old building, the walls are stone and the space is cavernous. Even most the doorways are evocative of a cave, with people having to duck under many of them to get through. The upstairs was where all the action was happening, the main room that I entered through had several canvases on the walls, where guests and fans could paint, crowd-sourced art, in a way. There were also, as there are at most shows, a few tables set up for selling band merchandise. Beyond the CDs and T-shirts, there was a shoe designer; a girl who drew with various colors of Sharpies on white plimsolls and canvas shoes. The final effect was really cool, I wish I had gotten a picture of them.

My friend getting his art on.

There was a small room to the side that provided an entrance to the stage. The show experience was extended there with the presence of a face painter who painted anyone who wanted some face art. Of course, I got me some!

The main room, where the bands performed, had another canvas and a screen in the corner for the music video premier.

The whole place had a strong hipster feel to it. One of the main veers being served was PBR and most of the people in attendance were obviously dressed in clothing mostly from Urban Outfitters or American Apparel. So, of course, I loved it.

The show started. The first band on was The Harlequins, a rock band with a somewhat classic sound. The room was still slow at that time of the night, but I really enjoyed their sound, I'm a big fan of classic sounds.

This guy was getting really into it.

The next band was Gold Shoes, a rock/hip hop band. The room had picked up considerably by that time and the band had great energy and really got the crowd going. They were a pretty unique band, I liked their melding of diverse genres.

Finally, it was time for the main act. The set started with the big music video premier. The video was for their song, "Anna Sun," and was filmed at The Mockbee. The first part of the video is a single shot through the venue which transitions into a field with painted people and crazy dancing.

After the video, the band launched into some of their songs from the new album. Altogether, they had a great sound. They are admittedly influenced by Talking Heads, Animal Collective, the Killers, Local Natives (!!), among others. These influences were definitely evident throughout the set with strong pop sensibilities with some heavy percussive elements, they even reminded me a bit of Vampire Weekend, with a little less kwassa kwassa. They performed a couple of covers as well. The first was of Michael Jackson's "Thriller," during which members of a local (to Cincinnati) dance troupe, Pones, Inc., came out to perform. They also covered a song by the Talking Heads, "Burning Down the House," as the first encore.

All in all, it was a great performance and a great experience overall. I had never seen a band command an audience like these boys did. The people there were extremely excited about the band and even knew all the songs. I've also never seen so much attention to providing a full experience; with the face painting, crowd-sourced art and music video, it was more than just a concert.

I would definitely suggest giving the band a listen:

If you like what you hear, their album is available on iTunes.
I Want! I Want!a - Walk the Moon

Also, be sure to check out the other bands that performed:
The Harlequins
Gold Shoes

Also, here's that amazing music video for "Anna Sun."

New Music Tuesday

Once again, it's Tuesday (well early Wednesday morning, technically) and time for new album releases. This wasn't a huge week for indie releases, but some great mainstream, contemporary stuff came out.

Norah Jones - ...Featuring
This album comes almost a year to the date after her previous release, The Fall, which saw her veer away from her jazz roots and delve into more of a roots sound. This new album is not made up of newly recorded material, but compiles numerous recordings that Miss Jones has done over the years with other artists. The album features "Here We Go Again," recorded with Ray Charles before his death, which won a Grammy back in 2005. Also on the album is "Little Lou, Ugly Jack, Prophet John," recorded with Belle & Sebastian and included on their album Belle & Sebastian Write About Love released just a few weeks ago.
"Little Lou, Ugly Jack, Prophet John"

The Pipettes - Earth vs. The Pipettes
This is the second album from the cheeky British girl group and comes after a bit of a line-up change. The band has a bit of an old-school sound, trying to recreate the sounds Phil Spector created with some of his girls groups back in the 1960s, while giving a modern edge. I haven't had the chance to hear much of the new album yet, but I hope that they've held onto the harmonized sound and somewhat racy lyrics present on the first album. I'm not crazy about the first single from the album, I hope the rest of it is better.


Yael Naim - She Was a Boy
This Paris-born Israeli singer first gained some prominence when her song, "New Soul," was used the commercial for the first Macbook Air. I loved the song as soon as I first heard. The album, self-titled, contained some pleasant surprises, including a cover of Britney Spears' "Toxic." It's a great cover, I never thought I'd like that song. Well, she's back with a new album, which holds to her interesting mix of French and Israeli styles, unfortunately, though, there are no songs on this album in either French or Hebrew, which is what I loved about her last album.


Girl Talk - All Day
This is the latest album from the mash-up master. It presents the same thing that his previous albums have offered, a fun mix of popular new songs and old songs you didn't know you had forgotten. Already, fans have crowd-sourced the names of almost of all the songs he used on the album's Wikipedia page. The album is available as a free download from his record label, Illegal Art. The download from the site is extremely slow, so I suggest using one of the mirror links provided on the page.

Other Releases
The Pipettes - Joy to the World
Walk the Moon - I Want! I Want!
Stereolab - Not Music
Rihanna - Loud

Monday, November 15, 2010

New music videos

Lykke Li - "Get Some"

This is the official video from the first single to her upcoming album. Great song, interesting say the least.

Gorillaz - "Doncamatic (All Played Out)"

The video is for a new song that is not on Plastic Beach. I'm not sure if it will be on the new album coming soon. I feel it's supposed to be a continuation of their previous video, but I'm not sure what the story is supposed to be exactly. It's still a cool video, hopefully a story comes out as they release more singles.

Spoon - "Nobody Gets Me But You"

This video, for a song from Transference, released earlier this year, was filmed at The Cake Shop, a small venue in NYC.

Sleigh Bells - "Riot Rhythm"

This is an unofficial video for the song. It's a pretty cool concept, weird, of course, but fun to watch. Fun fact: the kid was one of the actors in M.I.A's video for "Born Free."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The week of the Talking Heads

I had a crazy realization this evening (just a few minutes ago, actually) that this past week, in a way, has been the week of the Talking Heads. I'll explain...

Tuesday, I was in a group meeting for one of my classes. The group is one of those that always inevitably descends into lack of focus with all of us blasting music in a break-out room. That particular day, one of my group members said something that immediately made me think of perhaps one of the band's most popular songs, "Burning Down the House." So, I immediately You-Tubed the song and played it for the team.

Friday, a friend of mine decided to have a danish-making party. While we were waiting for the danishes to finish baking, we decided to play a little Rock Band. As another friend was scrolling through the songs, I saw "Psycho Killer" on the list and it was the only song I wanted to sing really badly. There were other songs I liked, but "Psycho Killer" was the only one I was really really excited about.

Saturday, I went down to Cincinnati to see a friend's band perform (more on that in a later post). The band, Walk the Moon, as admittedly influenced by Talking Heads and, of course, their first encore was a song by the band. They performed...drum roll please..."Burning Down the House!" We have come full circle (although there's only, like, two points on that circle).

Driving back from Cinci this morning, Talking Heads on my mind, I had the urge to listen to another band that was influenced by them, Local Natives. So I played Gorilla Manor, their debut album, and was very happy to hear "Warning Sign" a cover of a song guessed it...Talking Heads.

Psycho Killer, qu'est-ce que c'est?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Fashion and Music News

New Gorillaz album
While touring for Plastic Beach, released earlier this year, Damon Albarn has been recording a new record. This new album is being recorded on an iPad, and it would be the first official iPad-recorded album. Albarn hopes to have the album out by Christmas this year, despite having released an album only eight months ago. I'm interested to hear what an iPad album would sound like.

To tide us over until this new album is released, here is the hit music video for "Stylo" from Plastic Beach...starring Bruce Willis!

Victoria's Secret fashion show
This past Wednesday, the 2010 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show took place in NYC. It was another year of push-up bras, big boobs and even bigger wings (seriously...they were huge this year). I was happy to see Constance Jablonski, one of my favorite models, walking in the show. The show also included Adriana Lima, Chanel Iman, Alessandro Ambrosio and many many other models. While I wasn't a big fan of many of the looks, it was like a parade of next year's slutty Halloween costumes, for which the theme is apparently, sports, it's still fun to see the looks. And I'd really like to know how Anja Rubik balanced in her wings. The actual broadcast of show isn't until Nov. 30.

all pictures from

New Panda Bear single
Panda Bear, of Animal Collective, will be releasing his third single, "Last Night at the Jetty," from his upcoming album, Tomboy, on December 6. The single is, of course, already leaked on the web. It's a good song, the sound is evocative of both his bandmate, Avey Tare's, songs and conventional pop sounds, while keeping with the somewhat avant garde aspects that he and his band are known for. It's also a bit more subdued than the sound on Animal Collective's last album and a bit of a departure from his last album, Brothers. Apparently, on this release, the songs will be shorter and more structured. The album doesn't yet have a set release date, but should be out, hopefully, either later this year or early next year.

Verizon iPad commercial

The first commercial for Verizon's iPad is online, and I do think it's a really great ad. It departs from the typical format that commercials for Apple products that have been prevalent the last couple years and, rather than showing the product's features, really drives home the point that Verizon is constantly making...that they have the best coverage. And, of course, thanks to the current iPad ads, people already know what the product can do. I'm happy to see that Verizon didn't waste time reiterating what the iPad can do and used the ad to further its own brand. I like the song in the background of the ad, too, just can't figure out what it is.

Arcade Fire on Saturday Night Live

Last night, awesome Canadian band The Arcade Fire performed "We Used to Wait" and "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)" on Saturday Night Live. It was an awesome performance, during the second song, members of the band wore black jackets with blue LED lights all over them and singer Regine Chassagne wore a sparkly gold dress. Love and LOVE! I was surprised by their performance, I didn't imagine them to be the type of band to be particularly interactive with the audience, but Win Butler was out in the audience singing to people. The band also contributed to another one of Andy Samberg's music projects. It was altogether strange, but awesome at the same time.

The entire episode is on Hulu, you can watch the individual performances here, here and the Samberg skit here.

Also, if you haven't had the chance already, check out their music video for "We Used to Wait." (Google Chrome recommended for viewing)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Dirpy is dead

I first heard about Dirpy this past summer from one of my favorite geeky tech sites, Geek Sugar. The service allowed users to convert the sound from You-Tube videos into mp3 files that you could import into iTunes and even upload to your iPod or other music player. I only used the service a few times, but it was an awesome resource. This past week, the service was shut down. The front page was replaced with a note that the creators had decided to discontinue.

The discontinuation reminds me of what happened to Ruckus a few years ago. Ruckus was a subscription site that offered free music downloads for college students. It only provided WMA files, but of course we all had our way around that limitation. It too was suddenly discontinued one day, with the homepage replaced with a note about the discontinuation and a thank you to those who had helped to support the site.

Good thing there are a lot of similar services out there, as well as several Mozilla add-ons. I just really liked the way that Dirpy was organized.

Add.: If you used Dirpy and are looking for something to fill the void, here's some sites that provide the same service.
Listen to You-Tube
Vid to MP3

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Fashion Show redux

I went ahead and watched the premier of the second season of "The Fashion Show" on Bravo last night, wasn't bad!

They did fix a lot of the problems that were inherent in the first season of the show:

The co-host: Kelly Rowland seemed an inappropriate choice for a show about fashion design. Iman is a great replacement. She's established and has a lot of experience in the fashion industry, working for and with many great designers. Just her presence alone brings a higher-caliber element to the show that was sorely missing before. She may even be more qualified to judge fashion that...GASP!...Heidi Klum. I do have a bit of an issue with her personality as portrayed on the show, it seems like she's trying to be like Heidi. I don't know if they just happen to have similar personalities or if that's the way the show has been scripted.

The consultations: They completely did away with doing a Runway-esque walk-through on the show and made Mizrahi the sole figure in the workroom. Rather than taking a look at the designs as the designers work on them, he looked at their idea boards prior to them beginning the work. This time around, he actually gave them guidance! However, I do wish it came later in the overall process.

The fashion show itself: While the designs were still shown in front of a full audience, Bravo did away with the guise that their opinions meant anything to the final results. Only the three main judges and judge had input into the final choices.

I am happy that they stuck the full audience. Along with allowing the contestants to control every aspect of their show (lighting, styling, choreography, etc.), it makes it like an actual fashion show and not just a competition.

Although I do still have some minor gripes with the show, my biggest issue is the format of the judging. It seems like an afterthought, like they made all of these changes, then realized they had not revised the judging. The winning team's designs were praised (no real critiquing) in front of all of the contestants, while the designs of the losing team were critiqued only in front of the losing team. It seemed to me to be disorganized.

The final show and the judging:

I will say though, many of the designs of the winning team were pretty damn good. The winner wasn't my favorite, though, I liked this little ruffly white number.

The strongest point of the show, besides Iman, is the guest judges. Much like replacing Rowland with Iman, they've replaced random judges with actual fashion players like Rachel Roy, Dita von Teese, Rachel Zoe and many others.

I am starting to become convinced that Bravo has a fairly strong replacement for "Project Runway," although I don't believe they'll ever reach the success of the original show, the changes they've made to this one show that they are serious to creating a unique product and I'll keep watching...for now.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Fashion Show

Last year, Bravo created a new reality competition show called "The Fashion Show." The show came after Bravo lost the hugely popular (and good) "Project Runway" to Lifetime. And while Lifetime seems determined to run the great show into the ground, Bravo didn't do much better with "The Fashion Show."

The original format seemed like more an attempt to replicate the format of "Project Runway." It involved around ten contestants, mostly working on their own clothes, sometimes working in teams. One of the judges was a major fashion designer (Isaaz Mizrahi) and the contestants showed their work in a weekly runway show. Almost exactly like "Project Runway."

The few things that they did differently showed why "Project Runway" worked so well. Rather than actually providing insight and input during walk-throughs, like Tim Gunn on "Project Runway," the judges (Mizrahi and Kelly Rowland from Destiny's Child) just grunted and made funny faces at the designers, never actually critiquing or providing guidance. That guidance was part of what made "Project Runway" so great; Tim Gunn's personality and the quality of his input made the show enjoyable and fairly informative.

Another difference on "The Fashion Show" was that the designs were shown in front of a room full of "fashion experts," who rated the designs; the judges then choosing their favorite out of the top three. The bottom three were given a closer inspection to determine quality. Both of these aspects, while seemingly good ideas, seemed useless in the greater context. The input of the "experts" took a backseat to the judges' opinions, making the group of experts tangential and pointless.

While I don't if they've fixed all the problems in the second round of the show, there are some promising changes that tell me that Bravo is interested in making a show that stands up in its own right and not a copy of "Project Runway."
  1. New judge: Kelly Rowland was a likable personality, but she's not a fashion icon or a fashion trendsetter. She didn't add to the show. Thankfully, they've replaced her with fashion great Iman. While, based on the previews, I feel she may be trying to "Heidi" it up, I think this is a good change.
  2. Change in competition: Rather than contestants all competing against each other week after week and only sometimes working in teams, contestants will be placed into one of two teams and required to create a whole collection every week. This is a huge change from the way "Project Runway," its offshoots or its copies have organized the competition. I think it could be an interesting change. However, there is that possibility that, since they will always be on teams, it will become more of a personality/conflict show than one focused on talent.
What stuck out to me about the first season is that I didn't remember any of the designers or what they created. With "Project Runway," I can recall designers I liked from almost every season and what they created. Hopefully, with the new season of "The Fashion Show," there will be some truly memorable designers.

While I don't think Bravo will ever recreate what they had with "Project Runway," this new format of "The Fashion Show" is promising...I'll give it a chance.

Out with the old...

In with the new!

New Music Tuesday

It's that time of the week again when new albums are released and it's another good week!

Cee-Lo Green - The Lady Killer
I wrote about this album last week when it was released for streaming on NPR. Well, now the album has been officially released. I took the opportunity to listen to it in it's entirety a few days ago and it really is a great release. Most of the songs take on a more upbeat sound, like the lead single, "F*** You," of course, without the subject matter. My favorite by far, however, is his cover of Band of Horses' "No One's Gonna Love You." As great as the original is, his version gave me chills the first time I heard it. If you haven't taken the opportunity yet, be sure to check out those songs and the rest of NPR.

The Tallest Man on Earth - Sometimes the Blues is Just a Passing Bird (EP)
I first fell in love with The Tallest Man on Earth when my friend John played his cover of Paul Simon's "Graceland" on his radio show this summer. He released an album, The Wild Hunt, earlier this year. I don't think the EP is as strong as the album, but it's still a strong release from this amazing guitar-picking artist.

"Like the Wheel"

Other releases today:
The Concretes - WYWH
Kid Cudi - Man on the Moon 2
The Greenhornes - 4 Stars

Monday, November 8, 2010

Music and fashion news for the day

I don't know if I'll do this everyday, but I would like to compile news related to fashion and music that I found interesting and hopefully, you will too.

The MTV Europe Awards took place in Madrid last night, and while many of you know I'm not a big fan of most mainstream music, there was there. My favorite of the purple carpet was Rihanna in a ruffled white Marchesa.

Danger Mouse (the other part of Gnarls Barkley) announced a new spaghetti western-inspired project that will be a collaboration with Jack White and Norah Jones. Seems like it could be a very interesting project, but I've liked everything White has done, so I think it will be good.

Passengers aboard a Delta flight from Minneapolis to New York got a surprise when Kanye West started rapping mid-flight. I would have liked to have been on that flight. There is a video of the performance at the link.

In news that I guess can encompass both music and fashion. Some of Michael Jackson's still living siblings have put of a Jackson Five clothing line, one they apparently started working on a week after his funeral. The line will be available in spring at Urban Outfitters, so those of you in Bloomington ill have access to it.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Surprising musicians

My recent post about former You-Tube CEO's interesting side project got me thinking about those people who are known for work in one area, but choose music as a side project...and who are actually good. So, this won't be about female "celebrities" who choose to extend their "brand" by releasing albums, i.e. Paris Hilton, Heidi Montag and, soon, Kim Kardashian. Nor is it about actors who lead run-of-the-mill bands in their spare time, like Kevin Bacon, Bruce Willis or Russell Crowe. No offense to any of them, but some people really should stick to their day jobs.

There are a few, though, that forayed from other areas of entertainment into music and created something really amazing. Three stick out in my mind:

Karen Elson
Karen Elson may not be a name many of you know, but in the fashion world, she's a big deal. She is known for a bright red hair and pale skin and has modeled for Burberry, Versace and Chanel, among many others, as well as appeared on the covers of Nylon, Marie Claire and W, also among many others. About five years ago, she married Jack White of the White Stripes. According to her, she started writing songs, but was too ashamed to play them for her husband. One day, however, he heard her practicing in a closet and encouraged her to continue writing and working on her music. And good thing he did, she's created some really amazing stuff. Her debut album, The Ghost Who Walks, was produced by White and features hauntingly sweet folk rock.

"The Ghost Who Walks"

Scarlett Johansson
I shouldn't have to explain who Scarlett Johansson is. The actress debuted on the music scene two years ago with her album, Anywhere I Lay My Head, a collection of Tom Waits covers. She followed that up the next year with Break Up, a collaboration with Pete Yorn. While it may seem strange to most for her to have become a musician, it's not a random thing. She was considered for the role of Maria in a 2005 revival of The Sound of Music, recorded a song for Unexpected Dreams – Songs From the Stars in 2006 and performed at Coachella with The Jesus and Mary Chain in 2007. What I love about her and her music is that she hasn't attempted to make something for the masses. It's not generic pop music, her voice hasn't been heavily processed or altered. While she does have a very interesting singing voice that not everyone would love, her choice of inspiration and style creates a very unique listening experience.
Watch the video for "Falling Down" here.

Zooey Deschanel
Zooey Deschanel, the cute actress from 500 Days of Summer, also entered the music scene in 2008, with her band She & Him. The band is a duo with Deschanel and established musician M. Ward, who has primarily been a solo artist. While Deschanel pursused a career in acting, she had been writing songs and singing almost her entire life. She & Him has an indie-pop-slash-alt-country sound to them. Deschanel has a sweet voice. Their first album, Volume One, was one of my favorites when it came out two years ago. Earlier this year, they released their second album, aptly title Volume Two. It's still good, but the first was a really great record.

"You've Really Got a Hold on Me"

So those are my favorite actresses/models turned musicians. If you have any beloved actors, models, etc. that released good music, please let me know!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Stream Cee-Lo's full album on NPR

I'm sure all of you have heard Cee-Lo Green's (of Gnarls Barkley) infectious single, "F*** You." His album, The Lady Killer, is due out next week and you can currently stream the entire album on NPR. Right now, I'm loving his cover of "No One's Gonna Love You" by Band of Horses!

First Listen: Cee-Lo Green, "The Lady Killer"

By the way, NPR makes many albums available for streaming before the release dates, recently, they also streamed Avey Tare's Down There. So, check the site for your anticipated releases.

I guess everyone's gotta have a side project

While it's not strange to hear of actors, singers or models move towards making their own fashion lines, this new one takes the cake. The CEO of You-Tube, Chad Hurley, has stepped down from his post in order to focus on his fashion line. The company is called Hlaska (combination of Hawai'i and Alaska) and makes "stuff that a young Silicon Valley employee would wear to work." He's defended it as not being a random move by comparing it to You-Tube, he was making something he needed but couldn't find on the market. Apparently, the line has been in operation since 1994.

I will say though, some of the stuff is kinda nice:

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

New Music Tuesday

So, I totally realize that this is a day late, but some really great things came out yesterday that I still must tell you about.

This is a pretty good week in terms of album releases for fans of a variety of types and eras of music.

The Autumn Defense - Once Around
For all you alt-country fans is the fourth album from Autumn Defense, the side project of John Stirratt, of Wilco, and Pat Sansone. I actually just recently heard of this band, but have been a fan of Wilco for a few years now. What I've heard from them so far seems to meld well with the sound that Wilco has, it's not anything incredibly in terms of sound, but it's still listenable.

"Back of My Mind"

Brian Eno - Small Craft on a Milk Sea
Brian Eno is a very prolific producer who has worked with U2, Coldplay, Talking Heads, among many others. So, this guy may appeal more to mainstream music fans. His own music has an ambient feel to it, differentiating it significantly from the work he produces for other artists. The album is an instrumental and the result is very surreal. Though it may not be everyone's cup of tea, you should definitely check it out if you want to find out what happens when the man behind many of the most iconic albums in the past few decades creates for himself. If you're also a David Byrne (of Talking Heads) fan, check out his most recent collaboration album, Everything that Happens Will Happen Today.
Brian Eno - 2 Forms Of Anger

Elvis Costello - National Ransom
If you're an '80s punk rock fan, you may like Elvis Costello's new release. Although his music has shifted in style in recent years to somewhat of a alt-country/bluegrass sound, it's still fun and catchy. Like his previous album, Secret, Profane & Sugarcane, it is produced by T Bone Burnett. The new album holds to the country sound he explored on the previous album. Fun tidbit: "Sulphur to Sugarcane" from his previous album has a shout out to Bloomington, Indiana!
Elvis Costello - National Ransom

Jamiroquai - Rock Dust Light Star
Do you remember Jamiroquai? "Virtual Insanity"? The awesome music video? Growing up in the days MTV still showed music videos, it was one of my favorites. The acid funk jazz band has a new album out. The lead track, "Rock Dust Light Star," holds to everything I've loved about the band, but definitely shows maturity from the "Virtual Insanity" days, incorporating more styles of music...I think I heard a little bit of an ambient background in there.

"Rock Dust Light Star"

Matt & Kim - Sidewalks
If you've ever watched one of their music videos, you know that Matt & Kim are so happy, it delves into the region of annoying, but I still love their music. The new album is still impossibly perky, but subdued a little bit. It sounds like they're experimenting a little bit with instrumentation.


Monday, November 1, 2010

Bunny Day and the Mercy Buckets

Last weekend, well, the weekend before Halloween, a good friend of mine came to the Pourhouse in Bloomington with her band. Well, duo technically. Their music is a bit difficult to describe,but basically, it's folk. Beyond that, they've been described as Balkan, freaky folk (if you're in such a mood), junkband, folka (folk/polka, if ya don't know) and swampwater. It's a crazy mix, and their music truly reflects the best way possible. It's also incredibly catchy.

The duo consists of two pretty girls, Amy & Lacey, who play guitar, accordion (Lacey), banjo (Amy) and saw (Lacey)...obviously, not all at the same time...and sing. Accompanying them is a slew of various friends to add a percussive element, supplying anything from the basics, like tambourines to more unique instruments, like wooden boxes suitcases stuffed with towels. What results is a homegrown, DIY sound that manages to be accessible, yet incredibly new and unique.

I first had the opportunity to see them back in May, when they performed at the Swan Dive in Germantown, Louisville, as well as watch them practice at home before the show. They've grown a lot in the short time since them and I can't wait to see where they go from here, even if it is just to say that "I knew them when..."

Below is the song that always gets stuck in my head I think of the band:

I'll be sure to post the next time they're in town!