Fresh beats from DJ Kungs, plane bad behaviour and Berlin’s U-Bahn tunes in.
Here’s how to make the most of early summer, writes Tyler Brûlé.
If you’re in the northern hemisphere, you’ve probably already hosed down the terrace, made a couple of runs to the garden centre and jotted down dates for a party on the balcony, a mini-roadtrip and a shopping list for some seasonal top-ups for your table and beach tote. If you’re coming up short in a few areas, here are some names, destinations and solutions to get you in the groove.
1. Can’t find the keys to the cabana? Zürich-based L’Elefantino can fix that with its chunky, vibrant woven lanyards.
2. Need balcony seats that won’t take up too much space? Lona from Portugal does a classic director’s chair.
3. In the market for a better pot for your peonies and tomatoes? Danish family firm Bergs can keep you in full bloom.
4. Best kit for those 7Ks that you’ll be running every morning? Satisfy in Paris does some of the best fabrics and patterns for cutting a lean dash.
5. Want an upgrade for centre court? Copenhagen label Palmes will help you look your best on clay or grass.
6. What to serve for sundowners? How about Mount Gay’s Andean Oak Cask? Start by perfecting your take on a dark and stormy.
7. Two options for rosé. monocle will release another 1,000 bottles of Swiss rosé. Till then, there’s Domaine de l’Ile.
8. Something to snack on? Order some pistachios from Beirut’s Alrifai.
9. Want to cool down? Journey up to Vals in Graubünden canton and check in with the wonderful Ruth at Brücke 49.
10. Dull weather? The Marbella Club always delivers on sun and service.
Undercover pedestrian activists in Los Angeles; sought-after souvenirs of Hong Kong: here’s what’s caught the eye of Monocle’s writers across the globe.
Of Toronto’s many nicknames, “city of neighbourhoods” is dull but accurate. Now city hall has recognised an extra 34 districts, increasing the total to 158. Asking directions just became more confusing.
Tokyoites are known for being tidy – and the city’s Metro agrees. The authority removed the last of its rubbish bins, citing security. But the ¥100m (€73m) spent on rubbish collection in 2021 might have more to do with it.
Crosswalk Collective, a group of Angelenos, highlights pedestrian safety by painting diy crossings under cover of darkness, much to the dismay of the authorities. “Until City Council acts,” says the collective, “we paint crosswalks.”
Canary Wharf in London is getting a “green” makeover. The Eden Project, famous for its Cornish biodome, will install pocket parks and floating pontoons. Fingers crossed this brings life to a corporate city corner.
Böög, an enormous rag doll with a head full of firecrackers, was set alight at Zürich’s folk festival. The time it takes for the head to explode forecasts when warm weather arrives. It took a while, so expect an Indian summer.
As people leave the city for good, souvenirs with an image of “old Hong Kong” are flying off the shelves. This will peak in June, when international schools close and families squeeze last-minute keepsakes into their suitcases.
With dancefloors at clubs and parties set to be full this summer, many hosts will be looking for the ideal record to keep spirits high late into the night. Our hot tip: turn up Club Azur, the newest album from French DJ Kungs, which was released earlier this spring and includes countless unashamedly danceable tracks.
While there are plenty of chances to see Kungs at European festivals this summer, know that if you don’t, you’ll be able to hear him on Monocle 24, where his songs are on high rotation. Here, we speak to the man behind the decks, Valentin Brunel.
Tell us about the inspiration behind Club Azur.
I took a lot of inspiration from the late 1970s and early 1980s Italo Disco scene. I started making the record in 2020. It was a really dark moment for everyone, and I wanted to create an album that would make people dance when clubs finally opened again. I watched documentaries about 1980s Italo Disco and the high-energy movement, which had lots of really colourful moments and crazy music videos. There were fewer standards around the music: today every song has to be three minutes long for Spotify, but back then there were eight or nine-minute tracks.
The first track on the album is called “Zebulon”. What’s the story behind it?
Zebulon is a nightclub that I used to go to when I lived in Los Angeles in 2018. It has French owners and they like to play mostly funk and disco music, which always made me feel like I was travelling back in time. The people who dress like it’s still the 1980s and they’re there only to dance. One night when I was on my way there, the guy driving me was playing super loud funk music in the car. So, I took my phone out and I recorded him explaining the feeling he had when he first heard funk music and used that as a sample on the track.
Does Zebulon provide a good model for the ideal summer nightspot?
Yes. It has what I love in a club: a dance floor filled with people who are not there to take photos, but to dance.
France seems to have a strong scene when it comes to electronic music and DJs. How has that come about?
Ever since Daft Punk, who emerged in the 1990s, had huge success around the world and created new ways of marketing music, there has been a spotlight on French electronic music. There are lots of inspiring people in the scene – I love all my friends in it – and I even had the chance to work with legendary producers such as Martin Solveig. If you’re making electronic music, you are really lucky to be French.
The world is emerging from a hiatus on air travel but being grounded does not appear to have suffused travellers with gratitude. Airlines in the US are logging record numbers of disruptive passengers. Some altercations involved whining about masks but others were more serious: five-figure fines were imposed on two passengers for violent conduct, one of whom bit somebody. Such extremes are rare but all can be avoided by the golden rule of travel: if any of your fellow passengers notice you at all, you are doing it wrong. As US secretary of transportation Pete Buttigieg put it, with commendable terseness, “If you are on an aeroplane, don’t be a jerk.”
Pulling the plug
To widespread bewilderment, Nigeria’s government abruptly disconnected more than a third of the country’s mobile phone accounts, leaving tens of millions of Nigerians unable to make calls.
The reason given – often the case when a government does something so swingeing – was security. Nigeria wants all Sim cards to be linked to nins, National Identification Numbers. Authorities fear that unregistered phones are being used by insurgents, fraudsters and sundry miscreants. Authorities in Zambia, Ghana, Kenya, and Tanzania are also pursuing purges of untraceable mobile accounts. South Africa has even tried to tie Sim cards to biometric data.
It is doubtless the case that in Africa, as elsewhere, people use burner phones for nefarious purposes. But it’s also the case that regulations of this sort are most likely to appeal to governments who give honest citizens good reason for wanting to maintain their privacy.
Grocer to home
Independent grocery shops play an important role on high streets, providing affordable, fresh produce to their communities. In recent years this has been undermined by households buying groceries from supermarket chains online. In New Zealand, some consumers are taking it a step further. In a race to the bottom, some Kiwis are now ordering cheaper produce from Australian supermarkets and having it shipped by air for the sake of a small saving. While novel, this undermines food security and confidence in local growers. Our tip: focus on saving the high street grocer instead and shop local.
It’s common to write obituaries in advance but publishing them early can be awkward. Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo was mocked for its headline announcing that Queen Elizabeth II had died. Who else has the press killed prematurely?
In 2012, US broadcaster NBC News announced that astronaut Neil Young had passed. They were, of course, referring to Neil Armstrong but the blunder gave new meaning to Young’s song, “Sleeps With Angels”.
On the death of Marvel creator Stan Lee in 2018, New Zealand’s The Gisborne Herald announced that film director Spike Lee was no longer with us. His response? “Not yet.”
Pelé and many others
Radio France Internationale accidentallypublished a swathe of advance obits in 2020, citing a technical issue.
Platform for art
Wherever you’re heading, the fundamentals of a good metro station are universal: ease of use and safety, logical passenger flows, clear signage and decent lighting. That said, truly memorable metro stations do this and offer more than simply a series of platforms through which to pass in as short a time as possible.
This explains the appeal of my home city of Stockholm’s metro system, where each station is a public work of art in its own right. In many, the ceilings and walls have been left as rough rock after blasting and then painted in bright colours and patterns, each one different from the next. Go to Kungsträdgården station and you’ll find sculptures simulating an archaeological dig and a ceiling mural that nods to the dangers of nuclear fallout (this part of the station was completed one year after the Chernobyl disaster). It’s a museum-worthy experience for the price of a trip across town.
With this in mind, it’s heartening to see Berlin – ahem – take note, and add a musical element to a handful of its U-Bahn stations. The trial by transport operator BVG is now piping a different radio station into four of the city’s metro stops. If the concept is a hit, it will roll out across the network. Though it’s not explicitly stated, one goal is to entice people to take off their headphones and be in the space with others for a moment: a high ideal for an underground space. Now, let’s see who’s listening.
Illustrator: Clo’e Floirat