Have you noticed anything different about Los Angeles lately? Something unusual, out of place? An infestation, if you will, but one…that is musical in nature?
For the past couple weeks the city has become home for the latest installation of Play Me, I’m Yours, a sprawling, free public art installation, where 30 pianos painted by local artists will be placed in high-traffic public spaces around the city – and anyone can play them! The project was conceived by a London artist, then went to NYC, and is now in Los Angeles. You can view all the piano locations here – most of them can be found Downtown, but there are a few mid-city, a couple in Santa Monica, even ones in Torrance and Burbank. The piano I would especially like to point out to you is outside of the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood.
When I was little I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. A painter, to be specific. It was the clearest way I knew how to translate images and stories in my head into something I could see and touch. I always told myself that someday – when I was a real artist – I would finally be able to paint the perfect sunset. I tried a few times of course, but I just couldn’t get the textures, layers or nuances in each vivid shade. No matter. Someday I would get there. Well, that day still hasn’t come, but living in California and getting to see the most beautiful sunsets every day from the 5th Floor of my office building has certainly brought it to the forefront of my mind again.
After weeks of hype and buildup, “Inception” is finally in theatres. Many people I know rushed to see it this weekend, including myself. And the verdict? Ultimately, mixed. Too much hype? Too slow? Too thick? Except for the last moment, which I won’t reveal here, but I found bothersome – I thought the film was a marvel. Stylistically cool, amazing editing, action that kept you at the edge of your seat, and frequently baffling writing. They just kept raising the stakes until I myself felt like I was experiencing everything with the characters. Most of all though, I was impressed by the richness of the world Nolan creates. What would the plane of your subconscious look like? Who would be in there? What would they do? He thoroughly and creatively capitalizes on dream experiences we’ve all had to answer those questions and set the rules – having a dream within a dream, waking up from the sensation of falling, etc.
Right before I went into the film, I found myself struggling with the last few songs on this nightmare mixtape. It was a hard one, especially since a week before even starting it the perfect nightmare song fell into my lap via Strangers in Stereo. It was “Cola” by Beaty Heart and it fit all my criteria: dreamy, strange and builds into a terrifying climax. But then I couldn’t find anything to match it. First off, I had a hard time finding songs about nightmares that sounded the way I wanted. Tonally I didn’t want to go too electro, or veer into noise rock, or into ambient shoegaze – though I was tempted. I sought the artists that represented the cross section of all three. If you know any seriously let me know, because I had an impossible time.
Music and food have always been two things tied closer to emotion than almost anything else. When you’re in a great mood you want to bop down the street to Ben Lee or The Beatles. When you’re pissed you might pull out some Aerosmith or Alkaline Trio. And especially when you’re bummed out, a pint of ice cream or chicken noodle soup, a warm blanket and some Bon Iver sound really good.
This week it’s all about comfort food and comfort tunes. Like a chef pairing your wine and entrée, I’ll be pairing each playlist with a delectable recipe perfect for when you need a pick me up. We start with a cold day classic: soup. Chicken noodle is of course the most traditional, but below check out a fantastic Rachel Ray recipe for Smoky Sweet Potato Chicken Stoup – I’ve made this one before, pretty sure I messed up somewhere, and STILL had a great dish that lasted for days. Sort of like this playlist (except I NEVER mess up, obvi) – so eat up, team.
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
2 medium carrots, peeled
2 ribs celery
1 large onion, peeled and halved
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1-2 chipotle chili in adobo, finely chopped, plus a spoon of sauce from the can
Salt and black pepper
1 teaspoon dry thyme (eyeball it)
1 bay leaf
1 cup dry white wine (eyeball it)
5 cups chicken stock
1 large sweet potato
3/4-1 pound chicken tenders, cut into bite-size pieces
4 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, a generous handful, roughly chopped
1/2 cup sour cream, for garnish (optional)
Heat a soup pot over medium-high heat with two tablespoons of EVOO, about two turns of the pan.
While soup pot heats, chop carrots in half lengthwise then slice into thin half moons. Add the carrots to the pot while it heats, stirring to coat the carrots in the EVOO. Chop and drop in celery and onion, chopping as small as you can, but don’t make yourself crazy. Add the garlic, chipotle, and adobo sauce and stir to combine. Season the veggies with salt, pepper, thyme, and bay leaf. Cook the veggies together for one minute. Add the wine and reduce a minute. Add the stock to the pot, cover the pot, and raise heat to high. Bring the stoup to a boil, remove the cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.
Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into quarters lengthwise, then thinly slice into bite-size pieces. Add the cut chicken and sweet potatoes and simmer five minutes until sweet potatoes are tender and chicken is cooked through. Turn the heat off and add the scallions and cilantro. Serve each portion of stoup with a dollop of sour cream on top.
As I said in the last post, what people prefer to shake their booty to can be wildly different – Cher! Rihanna! Tiesto! – depending on a plethora of fickle and random variables. Putting together the perfect soundtrack for a cocktail party presents similar challenges in different ways. The music sets the tone for the evening. It needs to be relaxing but not depressing, a hint of attitude, a dash of energy, but most of all it can’t distract from conversation. In my experience, the biggest determining factor here is age, both of planner and guests. Aunt Mary may never appreciate Radiohead’s “Let Down” despite your detailed explanation of the beautiful intricacies of Thom’s voice, but chances are Mozart might be a bit stuffy for her (though ideal in grandma’s mind). The difference between 25 and 35 might be Nneka and Brian Setzer. Not that I’m saying Brian Setzer isn’t cool or that classical music isn’t timeless or fun to listen to. It just never ceases to entertain me that even with the same fairly restrictive parameters the selection can still be so different.
The xx are coming to the Fonda on June 5 and the Wiltern on June 6. Hurry up and get your tickets!
Even though the new School of Seven Bells album, Disconnect from Desire doesn’t drop until July 13, you can catch the band at The Echo on June 2. Tickets here.
And because these days no one can think of “cocktail” without immediately thinking of Mad Men (thanks to the dynamic combo brilliant composer David Carbonara with superstar supervisor Alexandra Patsavas), here’s one of the most touching and amazingly well written scenes from the show: