Off Beat Music Guide

The Avett Brothers Concert Review- 9/8/09 August 30, 2009

Filed under: Concerting,Music — bethstephenson84 @ 4:14 pm
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Rolling Stone magazine recently releases their Artists to Watch for 2009, and not at all to my shock or surprised did I see that North Carolina’s own, the Avett Brothers made this year’s cut. My lack of surprise came not from expecting the group to make the list, but from RS missing the boat completely on this band. And it’s not just the fact that RS chose a band that has been successfully making albums for the past 9 years that once again seems to discredit this magazine, but it’s also the fact that the only reason they were chosen was because of Rick Ruben’s involvement with their new album, and not because their outstanding musical talents. How much more mainstream and sellout can you be RS? Ah, but I apologize because this is a rant for another day. What I really want to talk about how amazing the Avett Brothers concert was and how much I am looking forward to the new album.

I recently went to see the Avett Brothers perform in front of a sold out crowd in their hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina. This was my first Avett Bros concert experience and I couldn’t imagine a better place or time to see the group. With their new album set to release on September 29 and the excited locals creating the just-can’t-keep still kind of ambiance, the band gave a commanding performance with more energy than I have seen at a concert in a long, long time.  This band just seemed to be having fun doing what they love; which is something I can’t say of all of the artists I’ve seen perform this year *cough* Kings of Leon.

The most interesting thing I took away from the concert is how different their live performance is from their albums. While neither experience is better than the other in my opinion, I found that the concert was much more loud and energetic than the album versions. Where the albums are more vocally heavy, the live show had a much larger sound with a cello, upright bass, piano, banjos and heavy percussion. It was refreshing to see them take popular tracks and bring them tempo up to encourage crowd involvement.

Below is the setlist for this show. I was particularly happy to hear “Ballad of Love and Hate,” “Paranoia in B Flat Major,” “When I Drink” and “Murder in the City”. Their new material, while a bit of a departure from their previous efforts, was performed with a warm reception from the crowd.

Setlist

1. Pretty Girl From Matthews
2. Left on Laura, Left on Lisa
3. Swept Away (with Bonnie)
4. Talk On Indolence
5. Ballad of Love and Hate
6. Tin Man
7. Colorshow
8. Salina
9. I and Love and You
10. Shame
11. Die, Die, Die
12. Go To Sleep (with Bonnie)
13. Tear Down the House
14. When I Drink
15. Slight Figure of Speech
16. Murder in the City (daughter, HER mother)
17. I Killed Sally’s Lover
18. Head Full of Doubt, Road Full of Promise
19. Perfect Space
20. Will You Return
21. Paranoia in B Flat Major
Encore:
22. Old Joe Clark
23. Distraction #74
24. Kick Drum Heart
25. Salvation Song

I purchase the EP of “I and Love and You” several weeks ago and I am definitely excited for the new album and I cannot wait for another chance to see the band live again. I hope you enjoy the few photos from the show and I am working on getting the videos to upload.

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Twilight Saga: New Moon Soundtrack News August 29, 2009

Filed under: Best of 09,Music,Soundtrack — bethstephenson84 @ 7:09 pm
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This is actually really exciting news, and not because I am a fan of this series. Taking a huge shift from Twilight‘s soundtrack, which was full of Linkin Park-esc tunes, the New Moon soundtrack will feature  much more melancholy sounds. According to Paste Magazine, Thom Yorke, Bon Iver and Death Cab for Cutie will all appear on the soundtrack which is to be released on Oct. 20. Death Cab announced on Thursday their song “Meet Me on the Equinox” would be featured on the soundtrack. No word on which Bon Iver or Thom Yorke songs will be used, but no doubt they will be characteristically  heartbreaking.  Looks like I will be adding this album to my collection!

 

#1 : Best of 09 (so far) August 27, 2009

Filed under: Album Review,Best of 09,Music — bethstephenson84 @ 8:32 am
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dan_auerbach_keep_it_hidDan Auerbach- Keep It Hid

Call me a skeptic, but the minute I hear a member of a beloved band is taking his/her music solo, I get that nauseous pit in my stomach, the kind you get on the last day of vacation or when you finish a good book or when you break up with somebody.  It feels like the end of something great, something you may never get back.  I admit that this same skeptic m plagued me when I purchased Dan Auerbach’s first solo album Keep It Hid back in February. I just knew it was going to suck and ruin The Black Keys forever… but sound the alarms and alert the presses folks, because I was wrong. Dead wrong. This album turned out to be not only my favorite album of the year (thus far), but arguably some of Auerbach’s best work to date.

Over the past few years, I have grown to really love the gritty, raw sound of The Black Keys. They are one of a handful of bands that have restored my faith in the music of this generation.  Maybe it is the unpolished honesty of the sound or the 1960s rock vibe I find so refreshing in an overly synthesized world. But whatever the case, it must be said that The Black Keys’ sound is what it is due to the collaboration and mutual artistry of guitarist/singer, Dan Auerbach and drummer, Patrick Carney.  So before exploring Auerbach’s solo effort, I would advise that you not dive in expecting an exact replica of Auerbach’s work with the Keys.  Instead look for a strong similarity to the rough, bluesy sound but with melancholy and truth all its own.

Although Auerbach enlisted the help of friends and family, he had full control over the creative direction of the album by not only penning the album, but playing guitar, drums, percussion and keyboards throughout.  With track titles like “Trouble Ways A Ton”, “Heartbroken, In Disrepair” and “My Last Mistake”, it’s pretty clear what Auerbach’s emotional state was while making this album. But I think it is that vulnerability in both his ballads and up tempo tracks that make Keep it Hid so unique, because while he belts out his tales of heartbreak and woe, he never asks the listener to partake in his misery.  Instead, we find ourselves compelled to listen because everything he sings feels real and true.

I will admit that Auerbach may have an unfair advantage in this Best of 2009 race due to the shear amount of time I have dedicated to the album.  For months I have kept this album in constant rotation, and to this day, I remain in awe at the subtleties and painstaking nuisances within each song that make the album feel new and fresh with each listen.

When asked about his experience with making this record, Auerbach said, “I didn’t want to make a record of just songs I liked, thrown together. I wanted it to work from start to finish. The kind of classic record where you put on headphones and listen to it from start to finish and takes you somewhere else – that the was the goal.”  It was a lofty goal, but one that paid off big time in the end.

Oh, and here’s a very important side note: Both Auerbach and Patrick Carney insist that the Black Keys have not broken up. Whew…

Listen: Mean Monsoon

Listen: My Last Mistake

 

#2 : Best of 09 (so far) August 24, 2009

Filed under: Album Review,Best of 09 — bethstephenson84 @ 6:41 pm

elvis-perkins-in-dearland-cd-cover-album-artElvis Perkins In Dearland-  Elvis Perkins In Dearland

I wish that my first experience with Elvis Perkins in Dearland had been cooler; that I would have come across his album in funky vinyl shop and listened to the opening notes of “Shampoo” with the decades of musical genius surrounding us. As it was, I stumbled across his name while reading an article in a trusted music source (whose initials are not RS) and I listened to those first notes via iTunes surrounded only by leftover dishes from dinner. It was not at all the environment that this level of artistry deserved and yet I was sold on what Perkins was pushing without any questions, or hip ambiance in this case.

Perkins, the son of the late Anthony Perkins of Psycho movie fame, began his career with a lovely solo album released in 07. The album garnered some critical acclaim and set him on the path toward this self titled album with his newly formed band Elvis Perkins in Dearland. The sound created by Perkins and his band is difficult to put in words because it is such an experience: a merging of genres, decades, influences and sounds. What emerges is arguably the most complete album of the year.

As I have previously stated, I am an album person. I want an artist to tell an entire story with an album and fully stir in me whatever emotion they are trying to express with every single track. Perkins overwhelmingly accomplishes that by being diligent in his effort to stay true to the goal he lays out in the first note of the first track. And I applaud the order in which the tracks are placed; they are so exquisitely chosen as to never take you too deep into a dark place without bringing you up for a breath of air.

This album is defined by two things: the mood and Perkins’ voice, and neither one would work as well without the other. Perkins’ sound is a mixture of equal parts Bob Dylan and Buddy Holly, and depending upon the song he can sound more like one than the other. “Hours Last Stand” gives off the Buddy Holly vibe and “How’s Forever Been Baby” sounds like a 1970s Dylan, but despite the similarities to these musical legends neither performance comes off as contrived.

This album is for those with imagination. The mystery, darkness, whimsy and humor of this 45 minute album remind me of the tales of gypsies from classic literature. The sound is almost other-worldly.  At times it seems wild and unpredictable and at other times it is sweet and heartbreaking. The use of brass, horns and the occasional flute makes this album, which could come off as a replica of decades passed, seem fresh and completely unique.

In interviews, Perkins can come off aloof and maybe even a bit pretentious, but then again I think that can be said of most musicians. In the end, I’m not really concerned with how the guy is when he’s out from behind the microphone, because what he does on this album, and hopefully live, is pure quality. I’ve purchased tickets for the November show in Atlanta and the wait may kill me if the excitement doesn’t first.

Listen: Hey

Listen: Hours Last Stand

(Download is safe, I promise.)

 

#3 : Best of 09 (so far)

Filed under: Album Review,Best of 09 — bethstephenson84 @ 6:29 pm

andrew-bird_noble-beastAndrew Bird- Noble Beast

I would venture to say that Andrew Bird is one of the most complex artists in the music scene today. And I am not just referring to the names of his songs (but they are all doozies). What I love about Bird, this album and most of his previous efforts, is his ability to carve out his own niche in the music industry with little regard for what’s happening in Top 40 radio. His incorporation of classical violin training, his love of folk and jazz and his remarkable whistling ability creates a sound that is hard to rival.

With a voice reminiscent of Rufus Wainwright minus the melodramatics and lyrics that are nothing if not challenging, Andrew Bird seems to wage a war between materialism and nature with hisNoble Beast. And after the roughly 60 minute listen, it seems Nature is declared the victor in this sweeping album. With songs that tend to sound more like poetry with their alliteration and rhyme schemes than pop ballads, Bird brings the listener along for a magical trip into the landscapes of his imagination, and our bags are packed before the first track has ended.

The strength of this album, in my opinion, is Bird’s ability to compose these individual songs that become almost mini folk operas. My favorite example of this is “Anonanimal” which feels like three unique chapters with its tempo and mood changes. The way he marries the different tempos and beats might seem forced from any other artist, but this flows beautifully leaving the listener wishing for longer cuts of each section. You get that same feeling from “Not a Robot, But a Ghost” which feels like a trip to an exotic country where you are constantly being taken on detours, but each new landscape proves more beautiful than the one before.

I delayed my purchase of this album, which was released in late January, because I wanted to wait until I had enough time to give it my full attention. It would be difficult to appreciate the intricacies of Bird’s music by keeping it strictly background; which is not to say that it wouldn’t be a perfect addition to a dinner party playlist, because it would. It’s just that once you have experienced Bird’s music, you appreciate the subtlety of what he is doing. As for me, it only took about 2 full listens before I knew it would be on my list for 2009; it’s just that good.

A wise friend told me that you have never really heard an artist until you have heard them live, and while I have my tickets purchase for Bird’s Chapel Hill concert in October, I have only ever seen videos of his live performances. Based on what I have seen, I don’t plan on being disappointed.

Listen: Anonanimal

Listen: Fits & Dizzyspells

 

#4 : Best of 09 (so far)

Filed under: Album Review,Best of 09 — bethstephenson84 @ 6:24 pm
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149428.Dirty Projectors CoverartDirty Projectors- Bitte Orca

Back in June I went to see TV on the Radio play to a sold out crowd at Amos’ Southend in Charlotte. I had TOTR on the brain that night, so I was anxious to get the opening band out of the way. But much to my surprise I got my first taste of the pop deliciousness that is The Dirty Projectors. I also got to see that “little opening band” use their hip-hop beats and odd harmonies to completely overshadow the headlining act.

Like a kid on Christmas morning, I woke early the next day to download their album, and since then I have been carrying on a public love affair with The Dirty Projectors and Bitte Orca.

I don’t think it’s fair to compare artists to one another, since hopefully it is their goal to create something new and unique (boy bands excluded). In the case of The Dirty Projectors, I don’t even think I could compare them to anyone if I wanted to because their sound is just so unique and way too hard to classify. In fact, it feels like they are purposefully fighting against being pigeon holed into any category, which is one of the main reasons they are on my list this year. The best way to describe this band and their sound is to look at the title of this album. The band confesses that “Bitte Orca” has no meaning at all; they just liked the way it sounded. And it’s by this principle of creating really interesting sounds that the rest of the album is defined. You might not have any life changing revelations from their lyrics, but you can’t help but remember their sound.

So Here’s line-up of the band, as directed by me: Dave Longstreth (the fearless leader, singer and guitarist); Amber Coffman, Angel Deradoorian, Haley Deckle (the angels/singers/players of various instruments); Brian Mcomber (skilled with a beat); and Nat Baldwin (bringer of the jazz/bassist). Each member of DP plays his/her role with such great precision that their shows comes off more as orchestrated events than jam sessions. The band as a whole is completely reliant on each member’s participation and in my opinion, the result is just magical.

The sounds is a mix between hip hop, pop and new wave with each song having a life and a flavor all its own. If we were to compare this album to a novel, it would probably most closely resemble Alice In Wonderland with its odd characters, occasional discord and overall whimsy. “Stillness is the Move” has a distinctive hip hop vibe with Longstreth relinquishing the mic to Amber Coffman for her R&B twist. “Cannibal Resource” and “Temecula Sunrise” are indie-pop treats that incorporate the talents of all band members.

For me, the crowning jewel of this album is “Useful Chamber”, a song which houses the line that inspired the album’s name. This song in particular does the best job of showcasing the way Longstreth brilliantly orchestrates the odd with the beautiful. The “angels” flow gracefully from harmonies that strike a bit of discord to perfectly pitched harmonies which have garnered them their celestial title. This production of mixing the unusual with the beautiful is a constant theme throughout and it is executed with enough tact to keep the listener begging for more. The allure is that you never know what’s in store with the next track.

This is a young band (envision Urban Outfitters ads, and you’ve got a pretty accurate picture) and their youth can be felt all over the album. The downside to this youth is that sometimes the lyrics can be a little too preachy and maybe a bit self-righteous. The upside is they are not afraid to experiment with sounds and ideas, and as a result the album is bursting with creativity and possibility. It’s nice to see artists testing the limits instead of trying to imitate. Kudos.

Listen: Useful Chamber

Listen: Stillness is the Move

 

#5 : Best of 09 (so far)

Filed under: Album Review,Best of 09 — bethstephenson84 @ 4:36 pm
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m_ward-hold_time-artM. Ward – Hold Time

There is something mysterious about M. Ward. No, I am not talking about the fact that he goes by “M”, because M stands for Matt which is not that mysterious. I dunno…maybe it’s his soft voice or the elusive way he avoids being in the spotlight. Whatever the case, people like mysteries and all sorts of people like M. Ward. He is a song-writter at his core, and his talent in writting coupled with his love a blues and folk has created another beautiful album in his ever expanding collection.

Throughout M. Ward’s almost 10 year career, you can clearly chart not only his steady musical evolution, but his personal evolution into spirituality as well. The latter has shaped his folk albums into something that might make even the most die-hard hipster shake in his Chuck Taylors, but instead Ward has garnered even more acclaim for his work and created an even larger following. I believe that it’s the honesty and unpretentiousness of Ward’s questioning and endless pursuit of his faith that makes his latest effort Hold Time so charming and successful.

With his warm and cooing voice, Ward dazzles with songs ranging in topic from religion and transformation (“To Save Me”, “Fisher of Men”, “Epistemology”) to good, old-fashion love songs (“Hold Time”, “Rave On”, “Never Had Nobody Like You”). It is his songwriting that has turned him into the indie-pop superstar he is today, and the writing seems to always be his focus when creating new music. In numerous interviews, Ward references older country music and gospel artists as his musical influences, and true to his word, that’s exactly the vibe that can be felt on this latest album.

And after working with artists like Cat Power, Bright Eyes and My Morning Jacket, Ward collaborated with Zooey Deschanel to form the group She & Him which birthed an even more retro vibe to his music that carries over into Hold Time. Deschanel even appears on two of the tracks of the album, solidifying her influence on the creative direction of his music.

The songs on this album tend to be extreme; either slow and melancholy or lively and up-tempo, but not much in between. I have heard other attempts like this from different artists fail because of loss of vision or honesty, but those are attributes that Ward has in spades, and so Hold Time flows beautifully.

The sound is old; the equipment used to produce the album is old; and the lyrics evoke an older time; and yet this album is a breath of fresh air. My favorite time to listen to this album when I am getting ready for work in the morning because it’s toe-tapping rhythms and over-all positive outlook just make the rest of my day a bit shinier.

In a recent interview, Matt Ward said that his biggest influence was Johnny Cash and the Cash albums his father made him listen to as a child. In many ways Ward is a lot like Cash; he has the ability to transfer his spiritual convictions to his music without alienating his audience; and like Cash, he has the ability to make the most raw, stripped down sounds resonate. Most importantly though, Ward has Cash’s ability to musically evolve while staying true to the music he loves.

Listen: To Save Me