Off Beat Music Guide

Album Review: Dead Man’s Bones October 26, 2009

Filed under: Music,New music obsession,New Release — bethstephenson84 @ 3:57 pm

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In honor of Halloween, I thought it only fitting to write a little about one of my new favorites, Dead Man’s Bones.

Not only does this band get points for being really good, they get bonus points for creating a completely Halloween themed album.  I feel like this is a genre that gets completely neglected, and I’m glad to see a band finally step up to the plate with some spooky tunes.

In all honesty, this album had the potential to be extremely campy, because well, Halloween is a campy holiday… but this isn’t The Monster Mash.  Instead, it is a raw, throwback type album with the Silverlake Conservatory of Music Children’s Choir providing some seriously eerie accompaniment.

The collaboration between Zach Shields and Ryan Gosling was an unlikely one. The two met while Gosling was dating actress Rachel McAdams and Shields was dating her sister Kayleen, and they found that the only thing they had in common was their love of horror films. This common interest blossomed into a friendship which led to the obvious next step…creating a band to write songs about graveyards, zombies and lost souls. Naturally.

The album took about two years to make with Gosling learning to play both cello and piano and Shields taking up the drums for the endeavor. Rules were created to keep the album as stripped down and real as possible. Along with playing all instruments on the album, these rules banned electric guitars and click tracks.  And in a move reminiscent of The White Stripes of the Black Keys, the band limited themselves to no more than 3 takes on a song, opting for a more flawed realism. The result only adds to the album’s ambiance.

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Now Hear This: Halloween Playlist

Filed under: Music,Now Hear This — bethstephenson84 @ 12:15 pm
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Here’s my personal Halloween playlist.  More fun than spooky.

I Put A Spell on You- CCR

Doomsday- Elvis Perkins

Strange Times- Black Keys

Monsters- Band of Horses

Something is Not Right With Me- Cold War Kids

My Body’s A Zombie For You- Dead Man’s Bones

Helena- My Chemical Romance

Bones- The Killers

New Born-Muse

Halloweenhead- Ryan Adams

The Beginning is the End is the Beginning- Smashing Pumpkins

Wolf Like Me- TV on the Radio

Aly, Walk With Me- The Raveonettes

Closer- Kings of Leon

Thriller- MJ (obligatory)

New Pony- The Dead Weather

 

Here Come The Waves: The Hazards of Love Visualized Trailer October 13, 2009

Filed under: Music,Music News,Watch — bethstephenson84 @ 2:14 pm

I talked about this a while ago and I mentioned it again yesterday, and then magically the trailer for The Decemberists’ Here Come The Waves: The Hazards of Love Visualized appeared today! (Maybe if I also mention winning the lottery a lot that will magically happen as well.)

As expected, this looks like it will be an optic delight. Enjoy!

 

Album Review: Avett Brother’s I and Love and You October 12, 2009

Filed under: Album Review,Music,New Release — bethstephenson84 @ 9:29 pm

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Have you ever had a friend who was, let’s say, pleasantly plain but in a way that really suited them, and then one day they do something really drastic like get a super trendy haircut or decide to dress in the latest trends? It’s a big adjustment at first and you kind of want to ask them what in the heck they were thinking…but then over time those trendy things sort of become that person. You don’t notice them anymore because deep down that person is still the same person you love. If you know that feeling at all, you will know how I feel about the Avett Brothers’ newest release I and Love and You.

It must be said that I am an unswerving Avett Brother’s fan and have been for many years. And as I’ve previously mentioned, I tend to have problems honestly critiquing albums of beloved artists because my loyalty tends to trump my discernment.   That being said, you may not can hold me to any of the following rants because I like these guys. And although they have chosen to take a slightly different path with this album, its still got Avett Brothers written all over it.

This time last year, the Avett Brothers were just a raggedy old bluegrass band who sang songs about pretty girls from Chile, Cedar Lane and Matthews. And this is the AB that I fell in love with: simple music, mostly banjoes, acoustic guitars and drums all brought together by loud twangy harmonies. It is the stuff of southern road-trips, bonfires and cook-outs.

This year is a completely different story. The Avett Brothers decided the time was right to grab a larger audience and see how far their alt-country wings could take them. The resulting album is as close to mainstream as I can ever imagine these guys will get.

With the help of super producer Rick Rubin, the band took their usually stripped down sound and incorporated strings and piano to create a much larger, fuller sound.  And much to my relief, the band’s vocals and lyrics have been relatively unaffected. They still have a distinct southern drawl and they still sing sweet little love songs (of which “January Wedding” is my favorite).

And love is not the only theme. It wouldn’t be an Avett Brother’s album without themes of insecurity, doubt and fear, and this album is no exception.  Scott and Seth Avett are nothing, if not impeccable song writers. They pen songs that could make the most hard-hearted person tear up, myself included.

Although I am impressed by the band’s latest effort and I am proud of this album, I’m not going to jump the gun and say this is the best album they have ever made. In fact, if I were important enough to file a complaint with this album, it would be that it’s almost too packed with power ballads for my taste. With the exception of “Kick Drum Heart” and “Slight Figure of Speech,” the album is comprised almost solely of piano ballads seemingly designed for the purpose of keeping the ladies swooning. I wish there was a little more of the up-tempo vibe you get from seeing the band live incorporated into the album: just good-old-fashion  loud, stomping, singing-at-the-top-of your-lungs kind of music.

With mixed emotions, I see that the whole world has suddenly fallen in love with this little backwoods North Carolina band, and I really can’t blame them. Selfishly, I wish that I could keep them a secret a little longer and not have to fuss with big, impersonal venues and music videos on VH1, but I guess I can’t help but be excited that people get to fall in love with this band I love so much. (But just a suggestion, check out their back catalog as well. You won’t be disappointed!)

 

Album Review: Noah and the Whale’s The First Days of Spring

Filed under: Album Review,Music,New Release — bethstephenson84 @ 12:22 pm
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There are break-up albums and then there are albums like this.

Most break-up albums, or the ones we are most familiar with, are melancholy and full of laments over how great the relationship was and how they want their lover back. And then of course, there’s the angstier version, where they detail how they are gonna stick-it-to-em by finding someone better.

In the vein of Kelly Clarkson’s break-up anthems, which I have seen more than my share of girls belt out at somewhat inappropriate times, I think the break-up album is fairly superficial, just scraping the surface. As catchy and as true as these songs and albums may be, I cannot help but feel they never seem to get down to deep dark places of a newly ended relationship.

I don’t think this can be said of NATW’s second studio album The First Days of Spring.

(The back story: Lead singer Charlie Fink recently broke up with former band-mate turned singer/songwriter Laura Marling. And judging by the album’s lyrics, she was the one doing the breaking.)

I don’t want to be accused of overselling this album, so I will say that it isn’t completely devoid of the usual clichés of a break-up album (but really there are only so many ways to say “I’m sad” or “I want you back”).  Lines like “still here hoping that one day you may come back” and “I saw my world cave in, felt like giving up” don’t exactly showcase Fink’s originality, but then those are only a few lines out of the many written for the album, and even in the cliché, he sings them in a way that you know he means them.

This album’s uniqueness is best appreciated by taking a step back to look at the whole story Fink is telling.  Somewhere along the way, this surpasses being a break-up album and becomes a healing album. And although the sad instrumentals throughout the eleven tracks aren’t very convincing of that fact, the album’s first line, “It’s the first day of spring and my life is starting over again,” fully describes Fink’s mindset and determination.

The most refreshing thing about this album has to be Fink’s brutal and sometimes unnerving honesty in song writing.  He holds nothing back. In the song “Strangers,”  Fink details his first sexual relationship after his break up and the guilt and regret that trails that bad decision. It feels like we are getting direct excerpts from Fink’s diary, and the result is uncomfortable and familiar at the same time. We all know about regret and Fink does a superb job of capturing that feeling in song.

The only glimpse we get of the playful and whimsical sound of their previous album Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down is the song “Love Of An Orchestra” which features, you guessed it, an orchestra. While it is arguably the best song on the album, its sound is such a polar opposite of the other tracks on the album that it is a little distracting. I think they should have saved it for an EP or for their next album where Fink will undoubtedly detail the awesomeness of a new relationship.

I’m not sure that I would recommend this album to a person who recently ended a relationship, because while the overarching theme is healing and recovery, the dark moments are dark enough to push someone into some serious crying jags. For me, this album was beautifully melancholy; a wonderful rainy day album that forces you to reflect on the ups and downs of relationships.

I feel confident saying that this is NATW’s best album to date, but sadly looks like it may be their last. Shortly before this album was released, it was rumored that Charlie Fink was leaving the band to pursue a career in medicine (I know, WTF?) For the sake of us, the fans, I hope this isn’t true because this album proves what they’ve got in them and only leaves us wanting more.

 

Watch: The Decemberists’ “The Rake Song”

Filed under: Music — bethstephenson84 @ 7:44 am
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As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, The Decemberists are slated to debut mini films set to songs from The Hazards of Love. And while this is not part of that much anticipated feature, it is a little treasure that will hopefully satiate us until then.

The video for “The Rake Song” was created and directed in Moscow, by Alex Dashino and Varvara Volodina. Alex and Varvara are students at Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design, London where they specialize in  Moving Image.

Much like The Hazards of Love, this video is cooky and stunning at the same time.  Completely enjoyable.

 

New Dead Weather Video October 5, 2009

Filed under: Music,Now Hear This — bethstephenson84 @ 7:24 pm

In honor of the last post, here’s the newly released video for “I Cut Like A Buffalo” directed by Jack White himself!