Openly bisexual Japanese-American director Gregg Araki recently released the trailer for his new dramatic film White Bird in a Blizzard which explores the life of a teenage girl following her mother's sudden disappearance.
The film is an adaptation of Laura Kasischke’s novel and stars Shailene Woodley, Gabourey Sidibe, Christopher Meloni and Angela Bassett among others.
You may know Araki from his HIV-road movie The Living End, his "Teenage Apocalypse Trilogy" — all of which featured queer teens living in disarray — his bisexual romantic comedy Splendor or his critically-acclaimed film Mysterious Skin which starred Joseph Gordon Levitt as a gay hustler.
Araki's tenth and most recent release (Kaboom) won the Cannes Film Festival's first ever Queer Palm award for its recognition of LGBT issues during its 2010 premiere. White Bird in a Blizzard will premier at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival this January.
Oh and the song in the trailer, in case you're wondering, is "Sea, Swallow Me" by Harold Budd.
Aside from Watch the Throne, the anticipated collaborative effort from Kanye West and Jay-Z, the summer release drought continues this week. But that doesn't mean there isn't new music to be heard: This time around, I've assembled a handful of free and legal downloads to give away — including a track that's somewhat personal to say the least.
WHY: Los Angeles singer-songwriter Pat Grossi literally began his career as a choirboy, so it's no wonder that last year's Curtis Lane EP introduced a voice that was as angelic as it was ghostly. For his forthcoming debut album, You Are All I See, Grossi reins in his new wave tendencies and breaks new ground with an almost textural R&B — as if Jonsí from Sígur Ros decided to sing the D'Angelo back catalog. This is, trust me, an incredible thing.
WHEN: You Are All I See is released August 23 via Vagrant.
WHY: Longevity is a rare beast in the music industry, but it doesn't take a genius to figure out how it's done: Liverpool electropop vets Ladytron are entering their second decade as a band because they've always been intent on expanding and redefining the boundaries of what it is that they do. With "White Elephant," the band goes back to basics, composing a classic pop standard through a modern pop lexicon. If that's tension that you hear, they're doing it right.
WHEN: Gravity the Seducer is released September 13 via Nettwerk.
WHY: I don't generally merge my two career paths in any way, but it's free download week and I'm in the giving spirit. While the majority of you might only know me for my work here, I'm actually far better known as a musician, having played in a number of bands and worked as a songwriter for others over the last twenty years. Last month, I was commissioned to do a remix for one of the best working artists right now — London singer-songwriter James Yuill — and the resulting track turned out to be one of my favorite things I've ever worked on. If it gives you a more multidimensional image of who I am, then I suppose that's a good thing, right? Enjoy!
WHEN: James Yuill's excellent Movement in a Storm, featuring the original version of "Crying for Hollywood," is out now.
Yesterday, an English high court heard testimony from Swedish club producer Avicci alleging that Simon Cowell and Leona Lewis are responsible for plagiarizing his forthcoming single, "Fade Into Darkness," on Lewis's current single "Collide." Avicci is hoping to prevent the commercial release of "Collide," which is currently scheduled for September 4 in the UK, and the producer has a case: Cowell's label approached Avicii's management to use the song for Lewis, but they declined, having already secured a fall release with Ministry Of Sound. Sad to say, I'm not sure "Collide" is a song worth fighting for.
Influential UK tech-house label Soma celebrates their 20th anniversary this year with a 3-CD retrospective of the label's history. No small footnote to that history, the collection opens with "Drive" — a previously unreleased Daft Punk demo from 1994. The track was originally meant to be included on Daft Punk's first 12-inch EP for the label, but was left off in favor of future classic "Da Funk."
Poly Styrene may have passed away before its release, but her final album, Generation Indigo, still breathes life: "Ghoulish" is being released as a new single this week, and the song is backed with a haunting remix by Hercules & Love Affair that volleys between hypnotic Italo-disco and classic Detroit techno.
It was announced this week that Amy Winehouse's North London home will become headquarters for the Amy Winehouse Foundation — an organization established to help young people with substance abuse problems. Meanwhile, Tony Bennett promised to donate 100-percent of the royalties from "Body & Soul" — his recent duet with Winehouse — to the foundation.
Former Mojo Magazine editor and David Bowie biographer Paul Trynka talks about his latest book, David Bowie: Starman, and gives his best educated guess for the singer's future based on all he's learned: "My heart says he'll come back, but my head says he's not likely to."
World music-slash-indie hybrid Beirut return from their recent cross-pollinations with Blondie for a new record called The Rip Tide, due out on August 30. The entire album is streaming at Soundcloud now. Also worth checking out: German techno favorites Modeselektor are offering teaser streams from their forthcoming album Monkeytown, including the much anticipated "Shipwreck" and "This" — both of which feature Radiohead's Thom Yorke on vocals.
Notable indie director and queer film icon Gregg Araki recently spoke with the Guardian at length about his love for the British shoegaze movement and its recent revival: "The sad thing is, today a band like Slowdive wouldn't be able to have a career. They hardly dealt in huge figures, but they sold enough to get a career out of it," he says. "There's no money for such things at the present, no incentive for record companies to repackage their music."
This week's Rdio playlist was inspired by the recent announcement of nominations for this year's MTV Video Music Awards. I decided to dig into the archives in order to figure out who some of the best losing nominees were, and I was actually quite surprised by what I found. (For example, Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" lost its Video of the Year nod to Van Halen's "Right Now." True story!) But as I continued to dig, I was more surprised to see artists like Jeff Buckley or Roni Size/Reprazent in the nominee pool at all; there seemed to be as much of a story in the artists that got shut out of the VMAs as there was in the winner's circle. So this playlist celebrates the videos that should have won (the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' clip for "Maps" was insanely moving), the videos whose nominations were surprising (Belly's Star is one of the better lost albums from the '90s), and the videos whose artists became next-big-things that didn't quite make it (although Amerie's "1 Thing" still stands as an essentially flawless R&B track). Losers of 2011, take note! You're in excellent company.
SOUND & VISION:
Best Coast — "Our Deal"
It sounds more like a movie than a music video, but the latest single from Best Coast is totally getting the cinematic treatment: Directed by Drew Barrymore, this Warriors–like romantic tragedy stars Community's Donald Glover, Kick-Ass star Chloë Moretz, and, umm, iCarly's Miranda Cosgrove, among others.
Hunx & His Punx — "Lover's Lane"
Having already transcended the queer-punk label with their across-the-board well-received Too Young to Be in Love album, Hunx & His Punx rewrite your prom night with this campy but crucial video for "Lover's Lane" — as if the girl-group era had been merely a foil for gay love this whole time.
Wild Beasts — "Bed Of Nails"
If Smother wasn't one of the best records released so far in 2011, it was certainly one of the most unique. Wild Beasts singer Hayden Thorpe has the kind of highly literate, androgynous voice that endeared us to artists like Marc Almond and Antony Hegarty; on "Bed of Nails," he utilizes that falsetto to raise the anthemic potential on the best hypnotic Krautrock rhythm since "Running Up That Hill."
Toro Y Moi — "How I Know"
As far as indie pop goes, the latest from chillwave's most prominent defector Toro Y Moi is way more sunny than scary. But that doesn't stop the single from getting a satirical, and often hilarious horror treatment: It's a place where ghosts aren't afraid to bust out vintage American Bandstand choreography and bubblegum can literally kill you.
Anglican Bishops in South Africa call for release of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga in Malawi: "As we have previously stated, though there is a breadth of theological views among us on matters of human sexuality, we are united in opposing the criminalisation of homosexual people. We see the sentence that has been handed down to these two individuals as a gross violation of human rights and we therefore strongly condemn such sentences and behaviour towards other human beings. We emphasize the teachings of the Scriptures that all human beings are created in the image of God and therefore must be treated with respect and accorded human dignity..."
Study: lubricants used for anal sex increase HIV, STD transmission risk. "In one study involving nearly 900 men and women in Baltimore and Los Angeles, the researchers found that those who used lubricants were three times more likely to have rectal sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Another study that subjected popular over-the-counter and mail-order lubricants to rigorous laboratory tests discovered that many of the products were toxic to cells and rectal tissue. If in humans, these products have the same effect, the cells might be rendered more vulnerable targets for HIV infection than they already are."
Gregg Araki wins first Queer Palm at Cannes for Kaboom. "Awarded to a film for "its contribution to lesbian, gay, bi or trans" issues, the jury looked at a dozen movies before handing it to Araki for his university campus tale about a bisexual student convinced he is the witness of a gruesome murder." Clip.
Former German spy and the man who loved him sentenced for leaking state secrets: "The 43-year-old German was sentenced to two years and three months in prison, while the 29-year-old Macedonian was given a suspended 14-month sentence.
The Lieutenant Colonel in Germany's BND secret service was found guilty of betraying state secrets to the Macedonian interpreter who became his partner.
Prosecutors said the lover had been allowed to read classified German documents as well as the agent's notebook computer during bedroom encounters in 2007 and 2008. The data leaks had seriously hampered German security interests abroad."