Hons and Rebels

The Mitford Sisters are iconic siblings who managed to put themselves at the heart of politics in the 1930s and have an enduring mystique. Unity Mitford became a confidante of Hitler while her sister Diana married the British Fascist leader Oswald Moseley. However, their sister Jessica choose a different path. She veered violently to the …

The Contender

The current explosion of radical politics made me turn to a Marlon Brando biography I’ve had on my shelf for a few months.‘The Contender’ is a fascinating delve into the life of one of the centuries best actors and most exciting cultural figures.Even before he was famous for his stage performance in Streetcar Named desire’, …

Downtown 81

Nostalgia is rife right now for obvious reasons. Who wouldn’t want to retreat to a more peaceful time?But that said, I’m a New Yorker, and part of me quite enjoys the drama. My idea of escape is to return to the gritty eighties of downtown Manhattan where an artistic and musical explosion was happening after …

Noir Nights

I’m a long-time fan of film noir, but this lockdown has allowed me to start delving a bit deeper, both re-watching old classics like ‘The Postman Always Rings Twice’ and discovering new gems like ‘Detour.’What struck me very forcibly was how strangely Un-American the genre is in one respect – they are very fatalistic. We …

The Sound I Saw

Roy DeCarava documented the great days of jazz. His book ‘The Sound I Saw’ has some of the most iconic images of the medium. Perhaps even more famous for his collaboration with Langston Hughes, ‘The Sweet Flypaper of Life,’ DeCarava is now enjoying something of a revival thanks to ‘Light Break’ a retrospective of his …

Mother

Paul Graham spent two years taking pictures of his elderly mother in a care home. The images are simple. His mother sits in a chair, sometimes staring at the camera other times dozing off. Anyone who has watched their mother slowly fade away would have loved such a subtle and clear-eyed memorial to the last …

Homecoming King

Esteemed and jaded writer Daniel Mantovani (played by Oscar Martinez, who gives a pitch-perfect performance of a world-weary man who has the gift of a comedic eye for reality) decides to accept an invitation to fly back to his old hometown Salas in Argentina.Pretty quickly, he discovers this idea to have a downside.At first, he …

Shortly After Takeoff

My favorite album of the first half of this weird year is the very strange and wonderful ‘Shortly After Takeoff’ by BC Camplight, the stage name of multi-instrumentalist Brian Christinzio from Philadelphia.Christinizio relocated to Manchester, England, a few years ago, and has created an album full of references to things like Oldham chip shops and …

Taxi

Ryan Weideman came to New York in 1980 and soon began working as a taxi driver. From the front of his cab he began taking pictures of his clients, which led to a quite singular portfolio of a new York that no longer exists.

Sheltering in Place

One of the few delights of being holed up in your tiny apartment for weeks at a time is a chance to revisit some favorite books. With not much else to do, you can also enjoy the added benefit of truly concentrate on what you’re reading.Paul Bowles was an American expatriate who had been taught …

Quickies

Stephen Merritt is not a man for the 5-minute guitar solo. Some of his songs are less than a minute long, and many albums have 40 tracks or more.He’s taken this to a natural conclusion on his new album ‘Quickies.’ The theme of his songs is love but love Brooklyn style. Full of wit and, …

Night Moves

A simple spoken word sound as if he was so laidback, he couldn’t be bothered to sing, Baxter Dury has one of the most distinctive and literate styles in modern pop music.The characters that populate his songs are seedy, often semi-criminal, lounge lizards who are strangely unaware of themselves. They speak to us in a …

The Big Goodbye

Chinatown is considered to be one of the most seminal films of the Seventies. Starring Jack Nicolson and Faye Dunaway, with a cameo by the legendary film director John Huston, the film was produced by the notorious Robert Evans and directed by the infamous Roman Polanski. All of which makes it the perfect subject for …

Lartigue in Color

Jacques Henri Lartigue was a fortunate man, wealthy and alive at the time that photography started to become an art form, he started taking pictures in childhood and continued into old age. Better known for his black and white work, recently his color work has been collected in the book ‘Lartigue: Life in Color.’ The …

Golden Days

Austrian pub culture is not something I’ve ever given much thought to until seeing Clemens Marschall’s photobook, ‘Golden Days Before They End.’ It’s reminiscent of Anders Peterson’s ‘Cafe Lehmitz,’ which did something similar in the 1970’s with a bar Hamburg’s red light district. Whereas Peterson worked in black and white, Marschall works in a rich …

The City Within

Brooklyn is my home.And it’s also the subject of photo book by Alex and Rebecca Norris Webb. They have attempted to capture Brooklyn in all its diversity using their brilliant grasp of color photography and composition.

Ex-Voto

Alys Tomlinson booked herself a ‘pilgrim package’ tour to Lourdes, France capturing visitors to the site, and the ex-voto, or religious offering left behind by worshipers as a show of devotion. Soon she expanded her study to include the Christian sites of Ballyvourney in Ireland and Grabarka in Poland. What emerges is a strange parallel universe of people, who …

In My Room

Saul Leiter was trained as a painter and overtime began to use his painterly eye to create some beautifully abstract new York street photos which are among the finest of the genre. He also created some stunning images of artist models in his apartment and studio, very much int he style of 19th century French …

Life Isn’t Everything

Mike Nichols committed the unforgivable sin of never writing his memoirs. A man who seemed to be at the epicenter of American cultural life for more than five decades, who directed the all time classic The Graduate, as well as Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Catch-22, Working Girl, Closer and many many more would have …

Femininties

French fashion photographer Guy Bourdin had one of the most unique visions in fashion photography, taking pictures that told a story as much as they sold some clothes. A protege of Man Ray his images reflect a true artistic vision and also a cruel streak reflected in his treatment of some of his models. In …

A Hidden Life

Right at the death of the year, I’ve seen the best film of 2019. Terence Malick used to be everyone’s favorite director back when he worked away from Hollywood having directed two masterpieces in ‘Badlands’ and ‘Days of Heaven.” Suddenly after a 25 year absence he returned with the excellent Thin Red Line. Then things …

Dubliners

Legendary street photographer, Martin Parr, described Eamonn Doyle’s photos as the best he’d seen in years. It’s hard not to agree with that statement. Taken on the streets of Dublin, they are graphic and raw and like all good examples of the genre hint at the lives of their subjects. A book featuring a sample …

California Trip

Dennis Stock is most famous for a shot he took of James Dean walking through Times Square in the fifties but there is lot more to him as the book California Trip shows. Covering every thing from the hippie lifestyle to rock concerts, Stock captures the feeling of California during en epoch making era.

There’s No Place Like Home

For some reason, I’ve never seen E.T. Until this week, when I got a chance to see it on a big screen courtesy of Noah Bambauch who chose it as one of his favorite films This might seem like an odd choice for the director of Marriage Story, but E.T. is also, in part, a …

Kiwanuka

Michael Kiwanuka’s new self titled album is probably my favorite release of the year. It’s production has a slightly early seventies feeling and is packed with hooks and choruses that would be effective in any era. In short, it’s the sort of album you can put on and leave on

Say Nothing

As we come to end of year lists I can’t say there were too many books that blew me away. That is perhaps not the best phrase to use about a book on the IRA but that is effectively what the book ‘Say Nothing’ did to this reader. Written by Patrick Radden O’Keefe it told …

Thanks for the Songs

This year has ended with a nice surprise. The release of a posthumous Leonard cohen record released and produced by his son under instructions from his father. It’s a really beautiful piece of work that comes in a shade under 30 minutes. Personally, i am huge fan of the short album. i dont see any …

Time for Peace is Now

Kanye West’s recent gospel album has thrown a bit of heat on the genre and ‘Time for Peace is Now’ a compilation of old school religious music recently received the honor of being best reissue on Pitchfork. This track is one I have been playing repeatedly, while marveling at how incredible it is that the …

Old Fellas

At three and half hours Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman might be called epic but for the entirely personal and character driven storyline, which drills down onto the films main subjects, hitman Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa ( Al Pacino) and mob boss Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci.) The lives lived by men …

Natalia Lafourcade

I went to see David Byrne do an interview at The New Yorker Festival and got to ask him a question, which was, ‘What album or artist that many people don’t know would you recommend?’ His answer was the Mexican singer Natalie Lafourcade. It was great reco. These tracks are from her album ‘Musas’

American Utopia

If you never got chance to see the Talking Heads live, this is about as close as you’re going to get. David Byrne’s musical uses his back catalogue to great effect as it turns his life’s musical journey into a song and dance abstract extravaganza. He’s joined on stage by 11 immigrant musicians from around …

My Family and other Animals

Monos (Monkeys) is a kind of Colombian Lord of the Flies where members of a FARC style squadron find themselves Monos (Monkeys in English) takes as its subjects a ragtag squad of teenage soldiers trained by an unspecified FARC style liberation movement. They have been tasked with looking after a captured American civilian. It soon …

Life in Black and White

Not only was the late Peter Lindbergh one of the greatest black and white fashion photographers in history, he also managed to be free from the scandal that has recently plagued Mario Testino and Bruce Weber. it seems you can take pictures of the beautiful without molesting them.

Midsommar Murders

One of the most original horror films I’ve seen in the last few years, Midsommar takes ‘The Shining’ premise of horror with the lights on and turns it into horror when the suns out. It’s set in a remote part of Sweden where the daylight hours seem to stretch on forever. A group of American …

Man Behaving Badly

Just what constitutes a terrible boyfriend? Selfishness? Infidelity? Deceit? Theft? All of the above? In Joanna Hogg’s ‘The Souvenir’ shy film student Julie, played by the very charming Honor Swinton Byrne, has a chance to find out. Her boyfriend Anthony, beautifully played by Tom Burke, is the epitome of old world upper-class charm with his …

Transit

In Christian Petzold’s film ‘Transit’ France has been taken over by a foreign force intent on cleansing the country of its undesirable elements. Georg attempts to escape the crackdown by assuming the identity of a dead author and fleeing to Marseille. From here with the aid of a transit visa he hopes to go to …

Aldous

Hannah Harding otherwise known by her stage name Aldous Harding produced my favorite album of 20017 ‘Party,’ a slow-burning folk gem that is less of a party of more of a wake. Now she is returning with her new album ‘Designer,’ the less stark but equally beautiful follow-up. Above is a track that gives you …

Song by Song

For the last two and a half years Martin Zaltz Austwick and Sam Pay have set themselves the task of doing a podcast on each and every Tom Waits song in chronological order, starting with the songs on his debut album ‘Closing Time.’ This herculean feat cannot be done alone, so during the series Martin …

Robin de Puy

Born in 1986, Robin de Puy grew up in her parents’ family hotel in the small village in South Holland. She graduated from the Fotoacademie Rotterdam in 2009 and in 2013, she received the Dutch Photographic Portrait Prize for a shot of fellow photographer An-Sofie Kesteleyn; in 2015 she took a 10,000km road trip across …

Hilma af Klint

Hilma af Klint was a mystic, spiritualist and an abstract artist who more or less invented the form. Yet it is only in the last few years that her work has started to enter the public consciousness. In part because she never displayed her pictures in her lifetime and when she died in 1944 gave …

Shoplifters of the World Unite

What constitutes a family? That is the question at the heart of that poignant and heartwarming Japanese film ‘Shoplifting.’ As its title suggests, it features a makeshift family who makes ends meet by petty criminality. I say makeshift as the connections between them are not blood ties as such. The grandmother is not actually the …

Love in a Cold Climate

In Pawel Pawlikowski’s film ‘Cold War’ it’s tough being true to yourself as a musician in Communist Poland. Not only do you have to sing Polish folk songs and tributes to the glorious revolution but you also have a hard time living with the one you love. The films two main characters composer and pianist …

Seymour reads the Constitution

Brad Mehldau is one of the greatest exponents of jazz piano in the world and has released a new album ‘Seymour Reads the Constitution’ with his regular trio that shows the power of beautifully played well-interpreted songs, whether they be by Paul McCartney or Frederick Loewe.

Just a Phase

Mildlife are an Australian outfit that produce synth infused jazz/funk that reminds me of something like the Jan Hammer Group at times. Their new EP/mini-album is appropriately enough called ‘Phase II,’ but the one I’m currently listening to is the 2017 release ‘Phase.’ Here’s a sample.

Shiroi

Mansur Brown is guitar player on the jazz label ‘Black Focus’ and his album Shiroi (which apparently means white in Japanese) is a great showcase for his skills. Purely instrumental, the album manages to hold your attention throughout and has been on constant rotation in my home this month. Here’s a sample

Endangered

Tim Flach spent two years photographing animals on the brink of extinction for his book ‘Endangered.’ The results are poignant but hopefully will inspire people to donate to the myriad of animal charities that do great work trying to protect our wildlife.

Under Her Spell

Esperanza Spalding is a jazz/R’n’B/pop singer who doesn’t neatly fit into the typical musical genres of today. Here new album ’12 Little Spells’, was launched a track at a time, though you can hear it in its beautiful entirety on Spotify. The album has been accompanied by a quite magical stage show featuring incredible choreography, …

First Reformed

Written by the man behind the Taxi Driver, Paul Schrader’s First Reformed is a tense look at a man slowly unraveling as his faith comes undone. Reverend Toller ( Ethan Hawke) plays a preacher who is nursing a tragedy, the death of his son and the consequent disintegration of his marriage. When he is called …

Fates & Furies

A poignant collection of western tales courtesy of the Cohen Brothers, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is perhaps the perhaps the most original piece of television Netflix has ever commissioned. Taking the classic western tropes such as gunslingers, wagon trains, Native American tribes, outlaws and gnarly gold prospectors they twist the genre in a way …

Homage to Catalonia

One of the pleasures of lockdown is to read and also reread. It’s been a long time since I picked up a George Orwell book, decades in fact, but I was moved to take up his classic depiction of fighting in the Spanish Civil War to be reminded in an age of keyboard social justice …

Steely Dan

The more I listen to Steely Dan, the better they become. Unlike other groups who tended to stick to the same tried and trusted bandmates, the Dan brought in the cream of US seventies session musicians to join them on their quest from Chuck Rainey to Larry Carlton.This band brought in jazz legend Wayner Shorter …

Rage On

Sometimes a band defines a moment and right now that band is ‘Run the Jewels.’ Their latest effort encapsulates the rage over the George Floyd murder and reaches beyond rap out into the general musical world ‘Just’ is particularly good with it’s punchy lyrical refrain “Look at all these slave masters posing on your dollars”