Song of the Day

SHARON VAN ETTEN
Serpents


DOWNLOAD: Serpents

Sharon Van Etten has a new album coming out next year and to get us all jazzed up, she’s giving away ‘Serpents’, a rambunctious sizzler that has me picturing her swirling out of control, her arms flaying, totally enraptured by the song. Her plaintive vocal stays locked in the same mid-register throughout…a buzzing, pleading drone…set alongside a howling slide guitar, the constant beat of a snare drum and layer upon layer of trebly guitars. The new record, Tramp, is due out in February on the indie power label Jagjaguwar Records, and she’s playing with some serious folks…the Dessner twins, Aaron and Bryce of the National, Matt Barrick of The Walkmen and Jenn Wasner from Wye Oak on backup vocals. Go check out Sharon on her website

***EDIT: Just thought I would add this, even though it’s a month later…a wonderful piece on Sharon in the Sunday NYTimes Magazine

Song of the Day

SCHOOL OF SEVEN BELLS
The Night


DOWNLOAD: The Night

When the news broke last year that Claudia Dehaza was going to be leaving the Brooklyn-based trio School of Seven Bells, my heart sank a little. It’s hardly a secret that I’m a big fan of their luxurious, shoegazey dream pop…they’ve been featured on The List three times before, HERE, HERE and HERE…and God knows I’ve pretty much worn out their albums, Disconnect From Desire and Alpinisms, so it’s understandable that I couldn’t imagine how the band could continue without the harmonic melodies Claudia and her twin Alejandra spun into their songs. But the new duo of Benjamin Curtis and Alejandra Dehaza have recently completed a new album, Ghostory, which is scheduled for a February release. With a bit of creative knob-twiddling, Alejandra is able to harmonize with herself while Benjamin stays at the top of his game assembling layer upon layer of guitars, synthesizers and frantic drumwork into what is unmistakably the SVIIB sound.

You can follow School of Seven Bells on their website and if you’re into planning ahead, the Album Release show is gonna be February 28th at The Mercury Lounge

Saying Goodbye to Sam Palmisano

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I’ve been shooting Sam Palmisano since he was named CEO of IBM back in 2002, and as CEO’s go, I always found him to be a very honorable, straightforward guy. But I also knew that since he had reached IBM’s mandatory retirement age of 60 he would be stepping down, so when I got the call to photograph him a couple of weeks ago for what would probably be his last hurrah at the helm of the largest IT company in the World, it was a little bittersweet. I did three covers with him and made a lot of connections with IBM in the process. But connections aside, I was still ‘warned’ by the P/R person that Sam didn’t like being photographed and that he would only have five minutes. I assured her that I knew the drill and that Sam and I went way back…we would be ready to rock-n-roll the second he walked through the door. We were taken to the Board Room and went about turning an area that could easily double as the bridge of the Star Ship Enterprise into a white studio, then we quickly set up a second shot, ‘cuz I didn’t wanna come away with just just one since this might be the last time I got to bother Sam with my camera. And when Sam arrived, true to form, he warmly greeted us and asked how we had been doing since the last time I had to put him through a photo torture session. And then with the P/R person looking at her wrist, our five minute clock began to tick down…

The IBM Boardroom…

You can see how we set up both situations side-by-side, mostly because I knew if I had to walk Sam more than 50 feet a second shot just wasn’t gonna happen!

The simply ridiculous area we dropped our white background…

…how it looked on camera…

…and the final spread in the magazine…

The second shot was deceptively simple…I planned to work with the ambient light in the room and drop him against the stainless steel wall that I had lit with only two of my DIY Kino-Flo lights…

And the final image…

I just checked the metadata on the files. The first shot was at 17:06:54…the last frame was at 17:14:55…..Sam must have enjoyed our last session together ‘cuz he let me go over by three minutes and one second.

Last-Minute Xmas Gift Suggestion & the Song of the Day


GABRIELLE AIMEE
Have You Ever


DOWNLOAD: Have You Ever

I know it’s only been a month since I told you guys about Gabrielle Aimée, but since then her self-titled debut album has been released and if you’re looking for a last-minute stocking stuffer, I can’t think of a better way to spend eight bucks! That’s right…it’s on Amazon as an mp3 download for only eight bucks (or $9.99 if you wanna get it from iTunes) and there is even an option that allows you to send the album directly to that special someone as a gift. The eleven tracks are so smart, so sexy, so tight and just so damn much fun, they had me movin’ my ass from the minute I put the record on. BUY THIS ALBUM !!! Then head over to her facebook Band Page and show Gibbles some love by clickin’ the ‘LIKE’ button.

Gettin’ Smart at the Museum of Math

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Not to get you guys thinking that I’m in a creative rut or anything, but hot on the heels of last weeks post about my Digitalman, here’s the series of photos I did of Glen Whitney…a Harvard-educated mathematician and former hedge fund manager…for a story on philanthropy in Barron’s Penta.

An unapologetic numbers geek, Whitney is pulling together about $30 million and building the Museum of Mathematics in a prime 20,000 square foot raw space on East 26th Street right on Madison Park in Manhattan. Since the construction hasn’t even begun on the museum, Adrian and I thought it might be kinda cool to inject some math into the portraits, and maybe using a projection technique would be one way to to pull it off. But the magazine budget wasn’t quite as lofty as the previous ad shoot, which meant spending the kind of money required to produce the job with the super-spendy toys I used on the Digitalman was not gonna be in the cards…so we went about as low-tech as possible, left the strobes at home and decided to work with the available light and use nothing but a digital projector. And it all ended up being not only a lotta fun, but we got some very cool portraits of Glen in the process.

I did a location scout, ‘cuz I really needed to get an idea of exactly what we had to work with…a dark, dirty cavern with lots of rough concrete walls and pipes was what I found…

After spending a few days making various Photoshop ‘slides’ using hundreds of real math equations, we rented the biggest digital projector the budget could afford, and Bo and I headed off to MoMath…

Any early test…

…and a couple of the final selects. We used the ambient light from the construction worklights to fill in the background areas, but the shot was essentially lit entirely by the digital projector…

Next, we moved to an area that was a bit cleaner and less cluttered for a cover image…

…and I broke out my home-made Kino-Flo florescent lights and we did this…

The Museum of Math is scheduled to be completed next year…check out the details on their website and make sure to take the kids when it opens!

Song of the Day

DOBIE GRAY
Drift Away


DOWNLOAD: Drift Away

I cried when I heard Dobie Gray died today. Crazy, huh? But for some reason I can remember exactly when I first heard ‘Drift Away’, the song that would define his entire musical career, and what that time meant to me. I was only 14, but God…when I heard the twang of the guitar that opened the song and then his deep, buttery smooth voice, it just cut right through me. And 38 years later, if that song comes on I feel the same way I did on that summer day when it first played through my Dad’s car radio…

Song of the Day


WYE OAK
Civilian


DOWNLOAD: Civilian

I have no meaningful excuse as for why I haven’t put anything from the latest Wye Oak album, Civilian, up on The List since it was released earlier this year, except my usual, “I’ve been lazy and neglecting my duties as your free pipeline to new music”…but I will try to rectify that today. I had been listening to a couple of early mixes from the album since late last year, but it wasn’t until this past weekend that I ponied up the cash to buy the record, and my God it’s good! Last on The List with ‘Take It In’ back in June of 2009, Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack have crafted a seductive lamentation of angst, apprehension, rebirth and redemption.On the title track, Wasner’s voice is carried steadily along by a chugging, locomotive-like beat that without warning turns into a wall of Neil Young-like reverb and noise that hits you like a punch on the face.

“I still keep my baby teeth
in the bedside table
with my jewelry…”

I don’t know why, but that lyric gives me chills.

And the other nine songs on the album are just as lush and tight and smartly written. Don’t let me go spending your hard earned cash for you, but if you like this song, then the album is a must-buy…head on over to the iTunes Store now! For you New Yorkers, Wye Oak is opening for The National on Thursday December 15th during their week-long stand at The Beacon and you can follow them on their website.

Finally, here’s a bonus video of them doing an acoustic version of ‘Civilian’ on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert Series

Video of the Day

LOW ROAR
Give Up

I’ve been playing songs from the Low Roar album nonstop ever since Ryan Karazija began leaking them to me months ago, and today he debuts a hauntingly beautiful video for ‘Give Up’, directed by his friend Ali Silverstein and shot by Brian Fawcett.

Making a DigitalMan

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Sure…with a little Photoshop and a lotta time you could probably manufacture an image like the one above, but wouldn’t it a lot more fun to pull out a $10,000 lighting gizmo and do it all in-camera?!! That’s just what we did to illustrate the idea of the flow of a digital data stream. The hyper-priced toy was the Profoto ZoomSpot

…the type of follow spot used to create stage lighting effects, but in this case it’s fitted with a 4800 w/s flash tube. All I had to do was make up a few transparencies of ‘zeroes’ and ‘ones’ to drop into the projector and then we could play around with color combinations and lighting ratios until I got the kind of dramatic image I had floating around in my head. The lighting diagram shows the setup wasn’t that complicated…

A large Chimera Super Pro and both skim lights were covered by two Full CTB gels to bathe the entire set in blue light. The background light…with a half-blue and a magenta gel…was aimed through a wooden Matthews cucoloris that created the shadows on the seamless. All that remained was to get the color and lighting ratio of the ZoomSpot just right so that the projected image popped at just the right intensity. Two full CTO gels and setting the spot about one stop brighter than all those blue lights was what we ended up with.