DX Award :: Strange and Beautiful Music


Strange and Beautiful Music is yet another in a series of IPPA reviews of entertainment and music industry sites. The reason why we’ve recently featured so many sites from this category has nothing to do with the reviewers’ personal tastes in song, but much more to do with the fact that the entertainment industry has figured it out — Internet marketing works, particularly if you have a good site.


ARCHIVED DESIGN AWARD PAGE :: 1998 DX AWARDS

This page is republished for historical and archival reasons, highlighting the history of online design and the work of some of the many talented individuals who were instrumental in the early days of online media.


We are honored to select Strange and Beautiful Music as this week’s recipient of the IPPA’s Award for Design Excellence.


Strange and Beautiful Music is yet another in a series of IPPA reviews of entertainment and music industry sites. The reason why we’ve recently featured so many sites from this category has nothing to do with the reviewers’ personal tastes in song, but much more to do with the fact that the entertainment industry has figured it out — Internet marketing works, particularly if you have a good site.

Strange and Beautiful Music, however, is in a class by itself — even among other music sites. It was produced by one the best online agencies you can find, The Speared Peanut Design Studio. From the first screen, you know you are looking at absolutely first class design and content.

For those not “in the know,” Strange and Beautiful Music is the new record label for the group, John Lurie and The Lounge Lizards. They are so New York and so offbeat, you’ve either heard of them (from times long ago) or you’re, well, like most of the rest of us. In any case, what they create is something really cool — actually, both interesting and cool. Truthfully, as sounds go, there is nothing else like this on the planet.

The website too does the sound justice. Layout, animation, color, content, it is all spot on what it should be. In fact, this award is almost strictly about the graphics and layout. The music, which is a bit eclectic to say the least, is perfectly mirrored into the graphics. Beyond the visuals, the rest of the site works well too, and indeed is even above average, but probably nothing you’d write home about.

So returning to the review, let’s start with the imagery. This edgy style is a fascinating mix of high design with web concepts — and without the distressed approaches of “Ray Gun”, increasingly a look that just seems a bit dated on its own. Everyone, without exception, loved the little jumping guy on the home page and how it both fits and stands out when juxtaposed against the rest of the imagery, particularly with the fish bones. If you want to talk about edgy, that is as far as you have to go to start talking.

Another thing that is worth noting is the use of subdued color. Rather than hot reds and blatant yellows (which have their place), instead you’ll find dark sanguine and deep, sophisticated mustard shades. These colors play well with the photo-imagery that dominates the inside pages. Many of the images are layered against solid background colors achieving a web-based duotone look. You’ll also find that the photo selections are themselves quite strong.

Delving into the site, the copy is generally quite good — indeed strong stuff — exactly as you would expect for a music site. Sometimes, the copy soars, often it is just a bit too much like a CD review, sometimes it is almost impossible to get through.

Compare this final sentence of one passage:

“There’s nothing like this stuff, nothing like it,” Lurie agrees. Then he stops for a moment and wonders aloud. “Is there?” No John, there isn’t.

…with this unending sentence:

There’s a hint of African juju music in “The First and Royal Queen,” an easy Gershwin-like swing to “She Drove Me Mad”; the rolling Gnawan pulse of “The Birds Near Her House” explodes into a Coltranesque rave-up via the drummers of Burundi; klezmer, minimalism and cartoon music all infiltrate “John Zorn’s S&M Circus.”

OK, so you don’t have to buy that CD…. Another problem with the content is that it hasn’t been kept up to date. If you look at the calendar of upcoming shows, you’ll find the last entry is for November 1998. Come on, guys, the Web is about REAL TIME stuff, not yesterday’s news.

Programming-wise and on the technical front, you will find the work here to be good. Nothing all that extraordinary, but a good shopping system nonetheless. The layout works and is FRAMEs-based, which is almost always an effective solution for e-shopping.

Overall, the site works well, looks great, and is a fun read. If you have a moment, listen to some of the audio tracks — way out there beyond the Hudson Bridge is all we can say, but then so is the design. Come to think of it, David Lynch (the Director of “Lost Highway”) ought to look these guys up…. Like they say, this music is “Strange and Beautiful”.

Scoring (10 is Maximum):

Graphics Design…….. 8.8

Programming………… 7.2

Content and Copy…… 7.5