‘A Tender Trap’ by Joel Alme

Joel Alme - A Tender Trap

Joel Alme - A Tender Trap

It’s a well known fact that the Swedes make the best pop music. Take Gothenburg’s Joel Alme for example. His song – A Tender Trap – is a perfect slice of baroque pop served-up with brooding vocals and melancholic lyrics. It’s the type of thing that the Swedes do better then anyone else, they can take all the pain of heartbreak and turn it into a life-affirming anthem, filling it with rich instrumentation and soaring melodies.

A Tender Trap is a great example of this, and the video allows us to peer into Alme’s world as he makes his way through the Wintery harbours of Gothenburg reminiscing on lost love and thinking about happier times. The song is the lead single and title track of Alme’s third album, which is released May 9th on Razzia Records.

Philip Kennedy

March 26, 2012 / By

Stunning Black and White Landscapes by Christian Villacillo

Black and White Landscape by Christian Villacillo

Black and White Landscape by Christian Villacillo

Black and White Landscape by Christian Villacillo

Black and White Landscape by Christian Villacillo

Somedays you just can’t beat black and white photography. I recently came across the portfolio of artist and photographer Christian Villacillo and was instantly taken by his stunning shots of nature. Villacillo is originally from the Philippines but now lives and works in Canada where he seems to draw closely from the landscape there.

Inspired by the likes of Ansel Adams, Michael Kenna and the Romantic landscape painters, Villacillo photographs capture the beauty and stillness that can be seen in the natural world. Above is only a taster of his work, make sure to check out the rest of what he does by visiting his website.

Philip Kennedy

March 22, 2012 / By

Strange and Beautiful Paintings by Yosuke Yamaguchi

Phoebe by Yosuke Yamaguchi

Yakoku Cover - Yosuke Yamaguchi

We Know You by Yosuke Yamaguchi

These paintings are by the Tokyo based painter and designer Yosuke Yamaguchi. What really attracts me to Yamaguchi’s work is how he creates unique fantasy worlds. His paintings are places where two girls can hover amid a mass of floating debris or where a large bull can stand watching a girl in a swimming pool. They’re wonderfully strange images and alluring to look at.

While the people in his paintings may look melancholy and the colors are muted, these are really beautiful works and they are delicately made with inks and watercolors. To me, they feel a bit like the paintings of Edward Hopper were re-imagined by David Lynch and brought to life by Marcel Dzama, but even as an analogy that feels a little limp as Yamaguchi’s work is truly unique.

To see more of Yamaguchi’s work, make sure to visit his frequently updated Flickr page where you can see a lot more of the projects he has worked on.

Philip Kennedy

March 21, 2012 / By

‘Baby’s In Black’ – An Interview with Author Arne Bellstorf

Baby's In Black by Arne Bellstorf

Baby’s in Black is a stunning graphic-novel written by the German author and graphic artist Arne Bellstorf. Set against the backdrop of The Beatles early gigs in Hamburg, it tells the tragic true-life story of the romance between the young photographer Astrid Kirchherr and the artist and musician Stuart Sutcliffe. Bellstorf’s book is based on a series of conversations he had with Kirchherr, and the story perfectly captures Kirchherr’s blossoming romance amid the exciting subculture of early 1960’s Hamburg.

It is a story which is told with beautiful restraint and tenderness, and it is easily one of the best graphic-novels that I’ve read in a very long time. I was fascinated to learn more about the book and so I asked Bellstorf a few questions.

Astrid and Stuart from Arne Bellstorf's Baby's in Black

What are some of the challenges in telling somebody else’s story – particularly one as sensitive as Astrid Kirchherr’s?

Well, it’s a very tragic story, of course, and I normally wouldn’t have wanted to tell a biographical story like that. But after having met Astrid, I recognized that we actually shared a lot and that my approach to tell the story would correspond with her attitude. I was interested in the time, the youth culture in Hamburg and what it was like being young in the early Sixties. Astrid went to the same art school as I did, and I could relate to her life in many ways, despite all the things that were different back then. We both tend to think in pictures, she’s a very visual person, and she basically liked the idea of telling her story in little black and white panels. It was a kind of mutual confidence, I guess. I mean, the character in the book may be still something I invented, and in the end it’s a fictional work. I could only try to capture something of the real Astrid. We talked about what was important to her, aesthetically, and what influenced her – French existentialism, Jean Cocteau, Oscar Wilde, Cool Jazz – and what happened when Rock’n’Roll merged with all these things.

We also spoke about the time she spent with Stuart, the two years until his tragic death, this short but intense relationship, but I wanted to focus on the beginning of it all: Their first encounter, the whole love at first sight thing, the magic physical attraction going on between them. They got engaged after only a month without speaking the same language, and Stuart actually began a new life when he left the Beatles and his family in Liverpool to stay with Astrid in Hamburg. The end of the story is a delicate matter, and we never spoke too much about the time after Stuart’s death. That’s what makes it such an existential tale, it’s absurd ending. You can’t really speak about something that doesn’t make sense. I had to find a way to depict that, and I’m glad that Astrid liked the solution I came up with.

Picture of houses in Hamburg from Arne Bellstorf's Baby's in Black

How difficult was it to research? Was it a challenge to recreate 1960’s Hamburg?

Not really. I mean, I wanted to do a book about the Sixties anyway. I live in Hamburg, near Reeperbahn, and most of the places are just right outside my door and I know the area quite well. As far as clothing is concerned, I got a lot of help from Astrid. I also bought a few books with old photographs at second hand bookshops and flea markets, and I got the impression that the Sixties are quite well documented – except for the filthy underground clubs, of course. As for the Kaiserkeller for example I could only rely on what Astrid had told me and the reports that I found in numerous Beatles books.

Panel from Arne Bellstorf's Baby's in Black

What inspires you?

When I was drawing I’d often listen to early sixties music, girl groups, R’n’B and all those North-American artists that inspired the Beatles. I find almost everything from the Sixties very inspiring, the music, the design, the movies – and I think that’s why I wanted to do this book, it’s the birthplace (and heyday) of pop culture, and you can’t understand youth culture in Europe without going back to the Fifties and Sixties – be it mass phenomenons or small subcultures. When you look at Astrid, the “exis” and their androgynous look, the black clothes, and their romantic, cool attitude, they seem closely related to movements like new romanticism and goth. So when it comes to inspiration, I like to look back at past decades, there’s so much to explore.

Panel from Arne Bellstorf's Baby's in Black

What are you working on at the moment?

I did a lot of commissions recently, working for magazines and newspapers. Then I’m still traveling with Baby’s In Black, the book’s been published in several countries since it’s release in Germany. I do have a few ideas for another book, but the next thing I’ll release is a small collection of one-page comics, hopefully coming out this summer.

Many thanks to Arne for taking the time to answer our questions. Details on where to buy your copy of Baby’s In Black can be found on his website here.

Philip Kennedy

March 20, 2012 / By

‘People In Her Mind’ by Poor Moon

Poor Moon

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People In Her Mind is a beautiful new track from up-and-coming four-piece Poor Moon. Made up of Christian Wargo and Casey Wescott from Fleet Foxes, and brothers Ian and Peter Murray of The Christmas Cards – the band recently signed to Sub Pop Records, who will be releasing their debut EP next week.

If the EP sounds as good as People In Her Mind, then we’re in for a treat. Coming across like a more Zombies-influenced version of Wargo’s earlier band Crystal Skulls, this track is just a really sweet nugget of pop goodness. With a full album due this August, chances are that we’ll be hearing a lot more from Poor Moon this year. I for one can’t wait!

Philip Kennedy

March 19, 2012 / By

‘Under the unminding sky’ – Paintings by Gregory Thielker

Being from Ireland means that I’m used to the rain. It feels like I see it nearly everyday. And despite a despairing dislike for the stuff, I must admit that sometimes I do occasionally find myself swept up in a simpleminded and childlike daze as I watch it run down my window. It’s a simple pleasure but one which I can’t help but like.

Perhaps that’s why I find myself really in love with these paintings by the American artist Gregory Thielker. Taken from a series called Under the unminding sky, his work capture the beauty of the rain, but it also explore the relationship between it and the medium of painting. As water falls on the windshield, Thielker’s style explores how the environment outside changes through fluidity, texture, transparency and mixing. Check out the whole series on Thielker’s website here.

Philip Kennedy

March 16, 2012 / By

The Small Print’s ‘Illustrated Alphabet’

The Small Print's 'Illustrated Alphabet'

The Letter D by Rilla Alexander
‘D’ by Rilla Alexander

‘M’ by Kevin Waldron

'I is for Inca' by Steve Simpson
‘I’ by Steve Simpson

Over the last few years Irish creative collective The Small Print have been running a number of exciting projects with artists and illustrators from all over the world. In 2009 they setup OFFSET, an annual international creative festival held in Dublin. This event has gone on to become an entity all of its own. Last weekend I attended OFFSET 2012, and many of the speakers there showed their contributions to another Small Print project – The Illustrated Alphabet.

Released last December, the project invited 26 of the very best illustrators from around the world to produce fifty-two original pieces – one illustrated letter and an image based on that letter. The resulting work is pretty amazing and features a broad range of disciplines and concepts. Above are three examples from OFFSET speakers Rilla Alexander, Kevin Waldron and Steve Simpson.

As well being a really fun project, The Illustrated Alphabet also shows such a rich display of disciplines and ideas. Prints from the project are currently for sale through Print-Process and come in a variety of sizes.

Philip Kennedy

March 14, 2012 / By

Songbird sculptures by Emily Sutton

Dartford Warbler 2 by Emily Sutton

Goldfinch 2 by Emily Sutton

Wren 2 by Emily Sutton

I love these beautiful bird sculptures made by illustrator Emily Sutton. Emily currently lives in the Yorkshire countryside, where she says she lives in a house on a hill in the middle of nowhere. Much of her work is influenced by the landscape and creatures of her surroundings, so I guess she gets to see a lot of birds from where she lives. She’s already has made over twenty unique songbird sculptures and each one is really lovely. You should check out her full series of birds here.

Philip Kennedy

March 13, 2012 / By