Archive for October, 2009

Halloween Mania Music Mix

Halloween Image

Happy Halloween Passionati-s!

From our friends at LaLa, here’s a great way for you get in the mood for halloween no matter where you live. Its an unusual celebration that I love – people celebrate it in different ways in countries around the world. This mix will get you in the right mood!

Love and masks,


James Cameron is back with “Avatar”

AvatarIn Theatres Worldwide December 18 – In the epic action adventure AVATAR, James Cameron, the director of Titanic, takes us to a spectacular new world beyond our imagination. On the distant moon Pandora, a reluctant hero embarks on a journey of redemption and discovery as he leads a heroic battle to save a civilization.

You’ve heard the hype, this is James Cameron first feature release in a long time. Regardless of who and what its influenced by – Star Wars, Halo, or Second Life, the trailers are gripping and I can’t wait to see the film. Here is the the US teaser and the full length international trailer. What do you think?

– Duncan Alney

In Person: Rajina


Rajina’s about the things that matter. Whether it’s family, friends or helping a stranger. Unfailingly happy anywhere. She’s inimitable, hip, and everywhere at once, with the power to bring out gut laughter from those around her.

Despite living and working in social media, I’m still significantly driven by people I know in person. Whether it’s the subtle nuances of their eyes or how they own a room when they walk into it, it’s their personal charisma that I love – regardless of whether it’s high or low profile. Here’s the first group of people I know, presented how I see them. They’re people I admire or love, in their own way. The images were selected to tie in specifically to how I see each of them, individually.

Duncan Alney

Pete Yorn, in person.

Pete & Scarlett
Ok first, play this song and then read on.

Earlier this week, the mid-afternoon drag came creeping up on me, and I started thinking about a nice latte at my favorite coffee shop. I’m walking in to the place and who should be sitting right in front of me – reading the paper. Pete Yorn. Dark brown blazer, jeans, cool kicks, unkempt in that oh-so-hip way.

Before I could think of a suitable introduction, I heard my voice “Mr. Yorn! Wow! Right here in our coffee shop!” How could I have possibly called him Mr. Yorn? He looked up, seemingly tired and fighting a cold (which I found out later) – “Yes?”. We ended up talked for a bit. Turns out he’s friends with Robert Francis who we just interviewed a couple of weeks ago.

So what’s Pete Yorn like in person? He’s casually stylish, non-chalant, and disarmingly nice (as nice as he could be – being interrupted by a bright eyed, earnest um, person). We chatted about the new record “Breaking Up” with Scarlett Johanson. I ordered my drink – iced red tea – which the lovely baristas had to brew for me from scratch and then ice down. So I left for a quick walk. I returned to get my drink and I was picking it up I noticed that “Mr. Yorn” was leaving. He glanced over, smiled and said “see you later, Duncan”. I waved back and said bye. Here’s a toast to “Mr. Yorn” and his new album “Break Up”  with Scarlett Johanson, which is inspired by the 1960s duets of Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot.

Duncan Alney

Wildbirds & Peacedrums – The Snake, 2009

“impressive, and unexpected, range of influences and instruments, The Snake is a sprawling, orchestral experience”

Wildbirds & Peacedrums’ new album, The Snake, is the second album from husband and wife Mariam Wallentin and Andreas Werliin. Filled with an impressive, and unexpected, range of influences and instruments, The Snake is a sprawling, orchestral experience.

Marketed as “Jazz” music, I was pleased by the R&B intros, gospel vocals, and afro-beats found in songs like ‘Chain of Steel’, ‘Places’ and ‘Today/Tomorrow’, reminding me of My Brightest Diamond or M.I.A. Meanwhile, songs such as ‘Island’, ‘Great Lines’, and ‘There Is No Light’, open up the album to something altogether more spacious and primal. Like Bjork meets the White Stripes.

Wildbirds & Peacedrums, Photograph by Jonathan Leijonhufvud

Wildbirds & Peacedrums, Photograph by Jonathan Leijonhufvud

Vocalist Wallentin deftly mixes impassioned vocals, chants, scats and calls to create mood and texture, at times only with her breath. For example, on the intro to ‘So Soft, So Pink’ she becomes a human didgeridoo before her angelic siren vocal hangs itself over a snare drum beat, eventually breaking down into a soaring, dreamy and abrupt conclusion.

The Snake, however, is really a highlight of percussion. Employing a standard drum kit along with xylophones, symbols, hand percussion, steel drums and more, Werliin steers the songs in every direction by altering with the tempo. Moving from slow, driving marches into rapid-fire and crashing punctuations, he keeps you on edge for the next turn without dominating, but rather accentuating the vocals.

As a listener with an affinity for the album format, I appreciate the way The Snake slowly winds its way through unexpected genres, never settling down for long in one place and never repeating itself.

Give the track Today/Tomorrow a listen.

Chris Huffman is an interactive designer and art director. He collects maps and swag, loves all things melodic. He’s the principal at

Lauren by Greg Perez


Agent provocateur Greg Perez is redefining himself and the people around him.


Greg Perez is a Cuban-American. He’s the happiest guy I know. Invested in his work 100%, he’s a process photographer. Painstaking in his approach, and committed to aesthetics and bringing his value system to his images. Greg Perez is on the rise.

– Duncan Alney

Dommin: poisonous love, exorcising agony and a free song download

Dommin is the sound of the brokenhearted,” explains Kristofer Dommin, frontman for the Los Angeles quartet that puts a very fresh spin on a very familiar pain. Dommin are inviting everyone to join them in the dark introspection that goes hand in hand with heartbreak. On their Roadrunner Records debut, Love Is Gone, due out in February 2010, Dommin delves into complex relationships, damaged psyches and much more.

Dommin - Passionati image

Dommin is the sound of the brokenhearted

At the center of their haunting, gothic-tinged rock is the enigmatic Kristofer Dommin, who croons about poisonous love, exorcising agony through a wall of distortion and a jagged sonic sieve. Kristofer, also the band’s guitarist and principal songwriter, sums up the band’s message best, “It’s about finding love, losing love and personal reflection – universal themes that transcend genre distinctions. The emotional element is more defining than how much keyboards, guitars or drums we have in a song.” It is also Kristofer’s unique and compelling voice that drives the power and passion of every word he sings.

Bassist Billy James offers a direct take on the band’s uniquely layered sound, saying “It’s alternative, dark, romantic rock that has a lot of heavy guitars, keyboards and passion behind the lyrics and music. Kris is a very intense person and his lyrics reflect a lot of his personality. He’s using his experiences, his voice and our influences to make something really special.”

Kristofer continues, “The majority of the music concerns love and relationships. These things have been around as long as people have. We all roughly feel the same things and go through the same things. We all go through tough times. We all recover. We all move on. And then we all go through these things again. That cycle is a large part of the human condition. We learn about ourselves in the process and about others. We’re not all that different.

Here’s the dark, driving single “My Heart, Your Hands” from earlier this year.

“It’s whatever really moves me,” Kristofer says about his lyrical approach. “A song for me is never complete until I’m able look back and make sense of things. So, in some ways, I feel like a storyteller. Everyone responds to life’s challenges differently. Some people go out and run a mile. Some people paint. I write music.”

The origins of Dommin can be traced back to 2000, when Kristofer formed the band in San Dimas, just outside of Los Angeles. He added Billy James to the fold as keyboardist two years later and the band’s line-up began to take shape as James eventually switched to bass when the pair found Konstantine in 2006. Dommin’s vision was becoming fully realized. By this time, Kristofer had already written many of the songs that would comprise Love Is Gone. The last ingredient in Dommin’s sonic stew came in the form of drummer Cameron Morris, who joined in 2007.

Dommin’s songs are like individual epics, each showing off the band’s broad range of emotional depth and ability to cycle through several moods, tempos and musical styles with considerable deftness. In the soaring opener and one of the album’s many highlights “My Heart, Your Hands,” the song’s epic keyboard embrace gives way to raw, powerful riffs which slash away at the listener and serve as the bed to an unforgettable chorus and a somber message. “I Still Lost” traverses even darker territory. Kristofer opens up about the song’s subject matter, saying “It’s a very defeated and humble song about feeling like no matter what I did, no matter how hard I tried, it just wasn’t going to work the way I wanted. Regardless of all my efforts, I lost. So that’s what I said to myself, I still lost. I tried this. I still lost. I did that. I still lost. It was a statement that defined that moment in my life.”

dommin 3 passionati“Tonight” bleeds with sprawling, melodic touches and is driven by Kristofer’s intimate vocals. The intricate web and sonic soundscape Dommin designs on its songs is quite evident in the twisted Doors-like “Dark Holiday” while “‘Without End” is a “romantic song, but it’s about a very unhealthy, obsessive love.” Kristofer cites the title track “Love is Gone” as his favorite song on the record, since “it defines the basis of all the songs on the album. It’s a very tortured, painful album in the sense that even the songs that seem like a positive spin on love, at its source, involve a very noxious kind of love.”

Kristofer finds influence and inspiration outside of the norm and in an unexpected places – from crooners of the ‘40s and ‘50s to film scores. “I’m into everything from theCinderella Man score to The Transformers soundtrack. Anything that sounds really moving and epic appeals to me. People fail to recognize how much the music in a movie is affecting their mood and experience. I’ve always paid  close attention to it and having the keyboards in Dommin is virtually like having an orchestra at our fingertips.”

Ultimately, Dommin’s music is truly for everybody. Given the relatable lyrics, it’s easy to see why disaffected youth, the lovelorn or even the average Jane or Joe will be magnetically attracted to Love Is Gone. Dommin speaks on a topic that affects us all and the music acts as a unifying force for those who flock to music when life knocks them down. “We make music for anyone who is feeling what the average person feels in a day,” concludes Kristofer. “The words and music are there for those misunderstood people who need to know that there is someone out there who feels the same.”

Welcome to the end of love and the beginning of Dommin.

Download the hot new track “Dark Holiday” here.


– Duncan Alney

Tegan and Sara’s “Sainthood”?

devotion, delusion, exemplary behavior in the pursuit of love and relationships

Produced by Chris Walla and Howard Redekopp. Mixed by Dave Sardy. Recorded at Sound City (Los Angeles) and Two Sticks (Seattle). Tegan and Sara’s sixth studio album – Sainthood – addresses secular themes of devotion, delusion, and exemplary behavior in the pursuit of love and relationships. Inspired by emotional longing and the quiet actions we hope may be noticed by the objects of our affection, Sainthood is about obsession with romantic ideals. In the service of relationships we practice being perfect. We practice our sainthood in the hope that we will be rewarded with adoration. As we are driven to become anything for someone else, we sometimes become martyrs for our cause. Love, like faith, can never be held in an individual’s hands. But the story of a great love affair – especially one that is unrequited or has ended too soon – can be woven like scripture or a bedtime story. And so the themes of Sainthood are tied together by this simple title, borrowed, with great respect, from the lyrics of the Leonard Cohen song “Came So Far For Beauty:” I practiced all my sainthood / I gave to one and all / But the rumors of my virtue / They moved her not at all.


Escape to Jaisalmer, India’s fortress city in 5 minutes with Don Alney

Don Alney travel story Entry Way

Peerless and irresistible, the fortress-city of Jaisalmer towers tall and proud, in lonely grandeur. To me it is reminiscent of a many splendored phoenix, arising from the burning sands of the Thar Desert, and ready to soar into the pale blue of the desert sky.

Jaisalmer possesses some of Rajasthan’s most exotic yellow stone mansions, most of which are situated along a lane which, seen in the early morning sunlight, seems carved out of burnished gold. Built during the 18th and 19th centuries, the delicate latticed windows and skilfully carved walls, the superb stone carvings and the architectural magnificence of these havelis, are the siren songs that have lured countless tourists to Jaisalmer. Of its many lovely mansions, there are three, which are sheer poetry, in stone. However, the indisputable piece de resistance is the celebrated Patwon-ki-Haveli. The beauty and the grandeur of these mansions narrate a saga of hard sandstone yielding to the chisels of skilled sculptors, brought all the way from Jodhpur. The magnificent buildings soar five storeys in their ochre-gold splendour. Their graceful pillars, remarkably designed corridors, elegant chambers, delicate latticework windows and breathtakingly carven balconies make Jaisalmer a thing of beauty, — and a joy forever.

Don Portrait
Don Alney is a freelance travel writer and photographer, seeking the ‘forever moment.’ Email don d at Check out this stuff here

David Hoppe on why we are nothing without stories

David Hoppe is so many thing to me. He’s a former ad-man, an advocate for change, a believer that everyone can make a difference, a writer, a story teller, and above all a compassionate, kind human. We caught up with him recently and talked to him about the importance of stories to our lives, our culture, our way of life…

– Duncan Alney

Objectified: Our Relationship with Manufactured Objects and, by Extension, the People who Design Them.


Objectified movie poster by Michael C. Place

If there’s one thing Passionati loves, it’s good design. Whether it be a chair, a wine bottle, or an iPod, design is everywhere. It’s all around us. We stumbled upon a great new documentary that illustrates these points exactly and shows how much we take great design for granted…

Objectified is a feature-length documentary about our complex relationship with manufactured objects and, by extension, the people who design them. It’s a look at the creativity at work behind everything from toothbrushes to tech gadgets. It’s about the designers who re-examine, re-evaluate and re-invent our manufactured environment on a daily basis. It’s about personal expression, identity, consumerism, and sustainability.

Through vérité footage and in-depth conversations, the film documents the creative processes of some of the world’s most influential product designers, and looks at how the things they make impact our lives. What can we learn about who we are, and who we want to be, from the objects with which we surround ourselves?

Read director Gary Hustwit’s post about the film. Objectified is the second part of a three-film “design trilogy” by Gary Hustwit, details on the third film will be released soon.

Paola Antonelli (Museum of Modern Art, New York)
Chris Bangle (BMW Group, Munich)
Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec (Paris)
Andrew Blauvelt (Walker Art Center, Minneapolis)
Tim Brown (IDEO)
Anthony Dunne (London)
Dan Formosa (Smart Design)
Naoto Fukasawa (Tokyo)
Jonathan Ive (Apple, California)
Hella Jongerius (Rotterdam)
David Kelley (IDEO)
Bill Moggridge (IDEO)
Marc Newson (London/Paris)
Fiona Raby (London)
Dieter Rams (Kronberg, Germany)
Karim Rashid (New York)
Alice Rawsthorn (International Herald Tribune)
Davin Stowell (Smart Design)
Jane Fulton Suri (IDEO)
Rob Walker (New York Times Magazine)
and more participants TBA

Robert Francis says “Follow your heart”

Robert Francis, maker of 100% genuine American music, talks about being intimate and personal. His new record “Before nightfall” comes out today. If you missed our preview of the album – check it out here.


"if something is intimate & personal, it will overcome any sort of criticism because it’s real"

It’s crazy looking at your picture and seeing a 22 year old guy and then listen to you sing about sing about subjects 40 year olds sing about. Yeah, well thank you. Its, strange, man.

Your music has been called timeless, genuine, 100% American music. I’m very appreciative of having that come along with the music. I think I’ve made it a point to stay focused, to stay true and heartfelt over a long period of time. It shows me that if you follow your heart and do what you that things will happen in the way you’d like them to.

What’s “Climb a mountain really about? What was going on when you wrote it? Around that time, I was pretty unhealthy. I woke up one morning and I felt like my back had shut down, and I started getting horrible cramps everywhere. I went to the ER and they said I had pneumonia, and they gave me some antibiotics. The antibiotics didn’t work and I was throwing up a dixie cup of blood a day. I went back to the hospital, and they said it has spread to both lungs. I was there for 3 days. This was at the heart of writing the record. The song is about two hopeless people in two completely different places at the same time. Both of them are handicapped in different ways. It has to do with the girl that I wrote the record about. My first love. And how I the way that I took care of myself and she took care of herself disabled us from being able to be together, being able to take care of ourselves. I wrote it in the hospital in the three days just thinking about the past and different memories. It’s a little collection of thoughts.

It’s a gripping, unputdownable track. Thank you.

What was it like working with Ry Cooder? I love him. He’s the best. He’s been such a supportive figure in my life since I can remember. He’s always made sure I never really doubted myself. He’s an incredible musician. Any opportunity to get him to play on something of mine or play on something of his. It’s a joy.

Your album is reminiscent of Jackson Browne’s Too late for the sky. Love that record.

Your style is intimate and confessional. What’s it like? It can be hard at times. When you put any type of art form into the world, especially something that is deeply personal to you, it’s easy to watch people tear it up. And I think if one can be ready for that criticism, I think it toughens a person up. But I think if something is intimate and personal, it will overcome any sort of criticism because it’s real.

It must be interesting for you to know that other people are living their experiences, or that their experience are being forged through your experiences. It’s specially interesting when they hear the record, the way I interpret things and they realize things they hadn’t realized before.

Whats your favorite drink? Basil Haydens. It’s a bourbon. I drink it neat.

Are you a Facebook guy or Twitter guy? I tried for a second to do the facebook thing. It got me doing strange things. I tried Twitter for a second and I cant keep up. I’d say neither.

What’s next for you? Probably going to tour for the unforeseeable future, and start writing the next record. I’ve already begun. Just really try to keep thing goind and keep my head together, and keep making records.

We’d love a list of 10 songs that you like. Sure that’d be cool.

Love the story? Click here to buy the album on iTunes.

– Duncan Alney

Ted Russell Kamp’s “Song Writer” Play List


"I've focused this list on songwriters" - Ted Kamp Russell

We recently featured an interview with Ted Russell Kamp and his dark, acapella, spare rendition of “Crazy”.  I asked Ted if he’d send us a play list. Here’s the playlist which focuses more on his song writer inspirations. “I was thinking about being more eclectic and including classic country or blues or jazz, but I focused on the songwriter’s (which I am truly glad to do) because of the nature of your piece.” The only track that is missing is “I’ve got a feeling” by the Beatles because it isn’t available on LaLa. Check out this list – I’m listening to it now! – Duncan Alney

Fall Sexy Mix: Chris Huffman’s pix

passionati_fall_sexy_mixFall in America where Chris Huffman, our brand new music head, lives is when it gets cooler. “This list is designed to help you snuggle yet get a bit of a grab in”. We think its pure, naughty, flirtatious, and sometimes very surprising. Did we say its unpredictable? There are a couple of tracks that didn’t make it on here because of being unavailable on LaLa – specifically, When 2 r in love (prince) and Suffering Satchels (beautiful girls). So, turn it on and lets get started!

Chris Huffman is an interactive designer and art director. He collects maps and swag, loves all things melodic. He’s the principle at

The Dinosaur: a short story

32193647When he woke up the next morning the dinosaur was still there. The cold light of day had turned its glowing eyes flat, dull and expressionless. All along its dusty plastic carapace he could see the cracks and fissures caused by clumsy, grasping fingers. There was little comfort in knowing that it would no longer be missed, dropped or pulled apart.

He remembered buying it that busy December evening. Frantically juggling its purchase between a trip to Sainsburys* for forgotten mince pies, while he was en-route to Marks** for bubbly. The Christmas crowds were relentless that year in their pursuit of Roly the Dinosaur. The film’s recent success meant that most parents would be forced to buy the Roly Dinosaur to avoid any wailing histrionics from their Roly bereft and disappointed offspring on Christmas day. It was hell in Hamleys*** and he had catapulted himself over a stack of Lego bricks designed as a green ogre’s hovel to get to the display of Rolys. There were three left and he seized the nearest one much to the irritation of the lady jogging behind him who breathlessly grabbed the other two. He raced past the in-store elves and the bubble blowing demonstration to a till that had just opened up much to the annoyance of those patiently queuing at the other till. He remembered how he had sneaked across to old Mrs Lenten next door to stow away the gift wrapped box with its telltale Hamleys ribbon. It had been one of those Christmases where things just came together. Trish had delegated the cooking to him and he had whipped up a mean roast, gravy and sprouts with a splash of Worcestershire and a smear of wholegrain mustard, his erstwhile culinary companions. It had even snowed the night before dusting the ground around the house with an all day breathy whisper of festive frost. Timmy and Trisha had dashed off in a melee of hats, scarves and coats to  his mother’s for a quick exchange of soap and talc for Woolworths vouchers, before driving her home for Christmas dinner. Timmy was good that way. He had not insisted on his present. As part of the plan as soon as they left he went across to Mrs Lenten and exchanged an Oxfam greeting card and a peck on her powdery leathered cheek for the precious Hamleys parcel. It had been a wonderful day.

He looked up once again at the dinosaur on the shelf above the bed. It gazed down at him impervious, dead, dull and plastic. The April dawn’s light in the room was brighter now. In the past he would have been bounding up and down the stairs excited by the prospect of a dry day in these wet parts. A dry day would have been a day spent outdoors racing Timmy, chasing Trish and would have ended with them collapsed in a heap in the lounge with a pile of newspaper wrapped Fish and Chips. He was scared now as he could not feel a thing as he lay here, a grown man of thirty four curled up in a ball on the floor of his son’s bedroom. He had been lying here for eleven hours. Eleven long hours since he had been visited by the police officers with the news of the head-on collision between Trish and Timmy’s Peugeot and the articulated lorry.

Key: *Sainsburys – popular British supermarket  **Marks -Marks and Spencer popular British retailer  ***Hamleys – Britain’s oldest toy shop

Michael Braga is a British Indian. He’s managing director of the Motive Marketing Group. His true passions are writing, music, and films.

Elvis Perkins in Dearland: RIFYL early rock n roll, folk, and gospel

First, this new find from our brand, spankin’ new music correspondent, Chris Huffman. He says its your new favorite song. Check it. Check it. Check it.

Elvis Perkins in Dearland

Elvis Perkins in Dearland - "Exquisitely melancholic, old soul voice"

Elvis Perkins in Dearland’s new eponymous album feels very much like the second line to his exquisitely melancholic and much-hailed solo debut Ash Wednesday Ash Wednesday gained Elvis a dedicated and reverent following for its nuanced meditations on death and grief—many moments on that first record felt as if the listener had tip-toed into the intimate confines of a private elegy, enveloped in that wondrous, old-soul quality of Elvis’s voice.

There are still plenty of private moments on Elvis Perkins in Dearland, but Elvis is now joined by a talented trio of friends that toured with him in support of Ash Wednesday.  Along with Elvis on guitar and lead vocals, Elvis Perkins in Dearland is Brigham Brough (upright bass, saxophone, vocals), Wyndham Boylan-Garnett (pump organ, guitar, harmonium, trombone, vocals), and Nick Kinsey (drums, percussion, banjo, clarinet, vocals).  Many of the new songs on Elvis Perkins in Dearland were honed on the road by the four bandmates, whose natural ease with one another allowed them to constantly experiment with arrangements on the fly.

Produced by Grammy Award-winning producer Chris Shaw (Public Enemy, Bob Dylan, Ween) and Elvis Perkins In Dearland, the album was recorded in Upstate New York in the latter part of 2008.  Shaw recorded and mixed the album as well.

Elvis Perkins Group

There's a mournful tromp of the tuba on “Chains, Chains, Chains” (played by the estimable Howard Johnson, who has recorded with John Lennon and the Band)

“On this new record we wanted to capture the spirit of our performances,” drummer Nick Kinsey said.  “The challenge was to get down that spontaneity.” Perkins says, “This album is faster and younger than Ash Wednesday.  Being in a studio with three other creatives instead of just one was a new thing for me.  It takes four times as long to decide everything… but in the end, this kind of interplay made for much good.”

Chris Huffman is an interactive designer and art director. He collects maps and swag, loves all things melodic. He’s the principle at

Righteous Hip Hop’s Ambassador: Mos Def

Mos Def: Righteous Hip Hop

Righteous Hip Hop's Ambassador: Mos Def

Before you get deep into this article, check out this new-ish track from Mos Def. First this shit is off the hook because it features Mos Def with the legendary Slick Rick (can I say BAD ASS), second its a fantastic fusion of Bollywood background music which forms a gorgeous, relaxing tapestry on which these two masters (from two totally different eras in rap) come together. Check it please now! As my cousin Christopher says, its fully on.

In 1996, Mos Def became an underground favorite in the hip hop world, which lead to his legendary collaboration with Talib Kweli. The two formed Black Star whose debut release would become one of the most critically acclaimed hip-hop albums of a generation. The following year Mos released his solo debut, Black On Both Sides, which was certified gold and credited by critics as bringing hip-hop back to its soapbox roots. In 2004 came The New Danger (Good Tree Media/ Geffen Records), Def’s highly-anticipated and critically acclaimed sophomore solo album. Met with praise from both critics and fans alike, Rolling Stone gave the collection 4 Stars and hailed it as “Ghetto rock and righteous hip-hop.” The first single, “Sex, Love and Money” earned Def a 2005 Grammy nomination for Best Alternative/ Urban Performance. Mos Def released True Magic (Good Tree Media/ Geffen Records) in late 2006, which brought the artist another GRAMMY nomination for Best Alternative/ Urban Performance for the album’s first single “Undeniable.” Mos Def’s new album “The Ecstatic” was released by Downtown Records in 2009.

Mos Def – “Casa Bey” from Downtown Music on Vimeo.

As with his music, Mos has demonstrated insight and passion with his acting career and has appeared in a variety of film and TV projects including Monster’s Ball, The Italian Job, and in the critically acclaimed HBO movie Something the Lord Made, for which he received nominations for a 2004 Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor In A Miniseries Or A Movie, Golden Globe Award (Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture), and NAACP Award. Def has also appeared in the feature films The Woodsman, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005), 16 Blocks (2006), Dave Chappelle’s Block Party (2006), Michel Gondry’s Be Kind Rewind (2008), and Darnell Martin’s Cadillac Records (2008).

Mos completed his Broadway debut in 2002 in the Tony nominated, Pulitzer Prize winning, Topdog/Underdog and re-teamed with playwright, Suzan Lori Parks and director George Wolfe for the off- Broadway play, Fucking A, for which he was awarded an Obie Award.

In addition to his acting credits Mos has served as the host, music supervisor and co executive producer for the HBO series Def Poetry, which returned for its sixth season in 2007. Def has also served as a writer, producer and actor on the MTV sketch comedy series Lyricist Lounge.

Mos Def has also collaborated with Converse to design a line of sneakers. His signature sneakers feature laser-etched pictures of the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan skyline, and are available now in stores. In the summer of 2008 the artist announced a deal with Undercrwn to design a limited collection of apparel.

Why Robert Francis is making 100% genuine (timeless) american rock music

Confessional, Candid, Mature, Authentic, and he’s only 22

“I know that for some musicians, writing songs is like therapy and the way they get their emotions out,” says Los Angeles-based singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Robert Francis. “But for me it’s more than an outlet — it’s a way to keep me from completely losing my mind.”

Robert Francis - Butterflies - Marc Gabor

"There’s not a shred of anything within my songs that isn’t 100 percent genuine.” - Robert Francis on his songwriting

Such an intense statement may sound like the drama of being 21, which Francis is, but listen to the two albums that he’s created, 2007’s indie release One By One and his upcoming major-label debut Before Nightfall, and it becomes clear that it’s true. As NPR has noted about Francis’ modern take on timeless American rock: “He has laid himself out in song and created some incredibly moving and beautiful musical moments.”

“Honesty is what makes a good song,” Francis says. “I don’t think there’s a reason to write unless you’re writing about something that’s deeply important to you. If I write anything, it has to be 100 percent heartfelt. There’s not a shred of anything within my songs that isn’t 100 percent genuine.”

Francis’ work pulses with an undercurrent of forceful candor that cannot be faked. The songs on Before Nightfall are so personal that Francis has trouble explaining the specifics of what they’re about, but he does offer that One By One came out of the emotional turmoil he suffered after a failed relationship, whereas Before Nightfall looks back on that relationship through the healing prism of time and finds hope in starting over and moving on to something new. “Songs like ‘Darkness,’ ‘Climb a Mountain,’ ‘Junebug,’ and ‘Keep On Running,’ are about knowing that the person you love is out there on their own and you can’t do anything about it,” Francis says. “They’re about how impossible love becomes more impossible. But I think there’s optimism in the songs; I don’t think of them as sad. I think they’re kind of uplifting.”

Francis’ frankness goes down easier than you’d think thanks to his husky baritone voice, finger-picked acoustic melodies, and uncluttered arrangements. Burnished by his keyboard work (Francis plays piano, Mellotron, Hammond B3, Wurlitzer, Farfisa organ, and Solina synth), bandmate Graham Lathrop’s elegant pedal steel guitar, and backing vocals from Francis’ sisters Juliette and Carla Commagere, the songs on Before Nightfall glow with an earthy, homespun quality that draws on everything from country, to folk, to blues, to roots rock. Highlights include the aforementioned “Climb a Mountain,” which features slide guitar from one of Francis’ early mentors, Ry Cooder (his sister Juliette’s father-in-law), the heartfelt country-tinged “Playground,” and closing acoustic ballad “Do What I Can,” where the emotion is so palpable, you can hear Francis’ voice quaver as he slides into his upper-register.

The intimate sound is deliberate, Francis says. “On the records I love, the vocals are right there. It sounds like you’re in the room with the person and all the other instruments support the story. The greatest records were made like that. In no way was I trying to make a ’60s or ’70s throwback record, but the songs called for that intimate vibe. I wanted to get the band in a room, do it live, and make it sound as immediate as possible.”

To help him achieve that immediacy, Francis enlisted Grammy Award-winning producer D. Sardy (Oasis, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Marilyn Manson, among many others), whom he credits with “helping me come into my own with my voice.  Sardy helped me sing out and make the vocals as raw and intense as possible. He was not the guy who was going to spend three hours on some crazy synth sound. He was the guy who said, ‘Let’s do this — but just you guys. Let’s make an old-school rock record.’”


“But for me it’s more than an outlet — it’s a way to keep me from completely losing my mind.” - Robert Francis

Sardy and the band (bassist Alex Kweskin, drummer Richard Gowen, and guitarist Graham Lathrop) kept the proceedings relaxed by making the studio feel like home. “I basically brought my living room to Sunset Sound,” Francis says. “We brought all the rugs and some posters and lamps and recreated this little world that felt just like where we rehearse. We set up in a circle, stocked up on what we needed, and went to town.”
It was the way Francis imagines his favorite artists, like The Band, Gene Clark, Bob Dylan, and Greenwich Village folkies Karen Dalton and Dino Valenti made records.  “There was a time when a few amazing artists moved up to Bearsville to get away from the city and really just make beautiful music,” he says. “They weren’t concerned about what was going on outside their bubble. They created their own universe. And that’s what I wanted to do – to forget about everything and just concentrate on four guys in a room making music the way we wanted to make it.”

– Filed by Duncan Alney

“The Umbrella” hits the spot

Aashni Shah’s smart little film is getting mileage

This film is on the film festival circuit. Its use of color and metaphors is thought provoking. For a short film, it tastes like a slow cooked meal with great ingredients and a lovely sauce. Can’t wait to do an interview with Aashni. The films blurb doesn’t do the film justice – you HAVE to check it out. ” The Umbrella is a film about the cycle of life. Set in an everyday metropolitan scenario, and shot in stark colours, it conveys the powerful message of ‘What goes around comes around”. The film achieves this by following a bright red umbrella during the course of a single morning, using it as a simple metaphor…On the way, the film also explores the themes of blindness, chance, and urban living.”

In Person: Lindsay Manfredi


The one and only, Lindsay Manfredi.

Lindsay Manfredi

She’s talented, with a story to tell that is bound to be raw, sexy, and full of surprises. Lindsay is
ready to launch. Essentially, she’s in love with life. Find her on

Despite living and working in social media, I’m still significantly driven by people I know in person. Whether it’s the subtle nuances of their eyes or how they own a room when they walk into it, it’s their personal charisma that I love – regardless of whether it’s high or low profile. Here’s the first group of people I know, presented how I see them. They’re people I admire or love, in their own way. The images were selected to tie in specifically to how I see each of them, individually.

Fresh hope and restless energy: A music list for October

Beautiful, ragged songs for your evening

Yeah, the year is ambling to a close. A weird year, no? Either way here’s a list of songs that I’ve been listening to over the last few months. Occasionally sad and often simple, mixed in with a little elusive, unabashed sweetness. Missing (thank god) is the over produced facade of main stream music. This is a list which is real, a little raw, and with a sprinkle of wonderful baked in. Its far from organic and perhaps slightly nostalgic, but in the end I’m sure you’ll be happy with this beautifully ragged list. Listen and leave me your thoughts!

Is Ted Russell Kamp channelling Kris Kristofferson and Gram Parsons?

Either way its very good

I met Ted Russell Kamp earlier today. While I’d heard the name associated with Shooter Jennings before, I’d never had the chance to check out his music. Ted and I had made plans to meet up around 11 p.m. to have some sake and talk more. I did a couple of searches and was pretty much blown away immediately. His cover of the Gnarls Barkley track “Crazy” really works – its dark, spare, and full of blue-eyed soul, not to mention the a cappella wall of Ted singing different parts (it’ll stop you in your tracks). Ted spends 6 months of the year touring with Shooter, but when he’s not touring he’s recording and putting out records (he’s getting ready to tour Europe in early 2010).

While listening to some of Ted’s recent work, I couldn’t help thinking of Kris Kristofferson and Gram Parsons – both heroes of mine, and hugely influential in their contributions to the american music. Of the “Divisidaro” record, Gypsy’s Tune, Close your eyes Maria, and Looking for someone (a duet with the legendary Jessie Coulter) are all moving tracks that gave me a real sense that Ted’s singing about things he really knows. The newer record “Poor Man’s Blues” has a song Player Piano that is engaging to say the least.

Ted’s a handsome guy, down-to-earth, and a real thinker. Some of his fans joined us as well – Stacy, Katie, and Josh McCullough – all from Anderson and it was fun to be in the mix with Ted and the McCulloughs. The conversation ranged from patriotism to Shooter’s shoes to living on the coasts. I had a blast doing the interview. I hope you enjoy it.

Music love lives at Grimey’s

I recently caught the Dynamites featuring Charles Walker at Luna Music, and I had the chance to interview Doyle Davis, the man behind Grimey’s. I’ve heard and read the buzz about Grimey’s so I decided to call Todd Robinson, founder of Luna Music (and Records) and a hyper-connected man musically. Here’s what he had to say (Grimey’s is )”Nashville’s de-facto Spot for music lovers record heads and great customer service. It’s the music city’s most fantastic hub for music knowledge and superlative musical selection. I mean Elvis Costello asked to sign records there, David Brynne has done signings there, Metallica did a secret concert recently and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. And of course they have “The Basement” which is a live music venue downstairs. So it pretty sweet what they do.”

It seemed appropriate to get the official Grimey’s point of view and so I called Anna, the general manager of Grimey’s, who said, “people operate under the assumption that the only music in Nashville is country or blue grass – while thats true – we have lots of local rock, jazz and funk bands, and grimey’s works to showcase the independent music or this country and internationally. Most of us find ourselves here is our common love for music and the community that surrounds music – song writers, musicians, producers and so on. We have in-stores all the time. You could say we’re enthusiastic about music here.”

So check out Grimey’s online and next time you’re in Nashville – you know where to go!