Off Beat Music Guide

Anticipation January 26, 2010

Filed under: Music,Music News — bethstephenson84 @ 7:05 am

In honor of the last post, I thought I’d share the albums I am looking forward to in 2010.

Yeasayer- Odd Blood (Feb. 9)

  • This band can get really out there sometimes, but I can’t help myself, I like them. I really do.

The National (TBA)

  • It’s been almost 3 years since their last LP and I still love “Start A War” as much as the first time I heard it. Hope this album lives up to its predecessor.

MGMT (Spring 10)

  • See post below.

Fleet Foxes (TBA)

  • I’m excited and nervous at the same time. Lead singer claims this album will be less “poppy” and “a little less upbeat” than their self titled debut.  Don’t know how I feel about that just yet.

She & Him- Volume 2 (March 23)

  • Waiting for this album is like waiting for the sun to come out. I’ve already heard the new track “In the Sun” and it promises good things from Mr. Ward and Ms. Deschanel.

Band of Horses- Night Rainbows (TBA)

  • I’ve already heard several of the new tracks live and they did not disappoint. Looks like these guys will stay true to their So-Cal/Western vibe.

Dr. Dog- Shame. Shame (Spring 10)

  • With a new fancy shmancy producer and a stripped down sound, this album looks like a direction changer for the Philly quintet. I bet it will be good though!

The Walkmen (Spring 2010)

  • While I was not impressed with this band’s live show, I like their music. I will use the 13 new songs from this album as a reason to give their live show a chance at redemption.

The Dead Weather (TBA)

  • Thank goodness Jack White has decided to stick it out with this band for another album. Horehound was such a treat last year, and I can’t wait for something dark and bluesy in 2010.

Cat Power (TBA)

  • Here comes another heartbreaking album from Chan Marshall. No word on a release date yet, but I’ll be stocking up on Kleenex in the mean time.

And a few more: BlakRoc-Blakroc 2,  Deer Tick- More Fuel for the Fire EP, Santigold, M.I.A., Blitzen Trapper, Wavves, The New Pornagraphers


MGMT Talk New Album: Congratulations January 25, 2010

Filed under: Music,Music News — bethstephenson84 @ 6:06 pm

I was reading an article in Spin Magazine recently about MGMT. Actually it was a Q&A with MGMT, a fact that instantly peaked my interest considering those crazy kids really do say the darnedest things. Often I find that it actually feels like I’ve taken drugs when I watch interviews of these guys, which means they must be having lots of “fun” if I can get a contact high through the television.



In this Q&A with singer Andrew van Wyngarden, he talks about their highly anticipated follow up to Oracular Spectacular. While this album, Congratulations, has not been given a specific release date, van Wyngarden did promise it would be available this spring. Not soon enough, if you ask me.

Some more drugs

The interview is pretty funny and I one of my favorite parts is where he talks about MGMT’s fame compared to that of the, er, eccentric Lady Gaga. He says

“Well, at first I brushed her off as crap. And then I realized that her videos are really creative, and I like that she’s getting more and more bizarre and spreading that to the mainstream. VH1 would say that she’s driven, that she wanted to be as famous as possible. That’s a very different goal from us. But I respect that she’s doing what she wants to do.”

Ah, but you can’t have it all, can you Andrew?

Of course van Wyngarden couldn’t help but bring up the duo’s habitual drug use. It is starting to feel a bit cliché  though and it really goes without saying at this point. Listening to their music, watching their videos, reading their interview or even just looking at pictures of them all clearly indicate they do lots of drugs. No need to point out the obvious.

The interesting bit of information van Wyngarden did divulge in this Q&A is that Congratulations is much “darker” than Oracular Spectacular. He says “In a weird way, it’s like a soul record. And there’s an instrumental track, the second to last song on the album, called ‘Lady Dada’s Nightmare.’” Classic.

I think this album will make or break MGMT. My hope is that Oracular Spectacular wasn’t just a fluke and this album will seal the deal for this band. If nothing else, I expect that it will be entertaining.


Album Review: Fanfarlo’s Reservoir January 22, 2010

Filed under: Album Review,Best of 09,Music — bethstephenson84 @ 12:02 pm

I hate to sound whiney, but there’s just too much music to listen to these days. And right when I (arrogantly) think I’ve got a handle on what’s going on in the music world, I realize I don’t even know the half of it. I battle with spending lots of time listening to a few good albums or spending a limited time exploring the endless abyss of music available in this indie era.

I shudder at all of the bands I overlooked or simply didn’t have time for last year. And of course I shudder at the bands I wasted time trying to like (Animal Collective. Sorry, but there it is). One of the bands I’ve gotten a delayed start on is the London- based indie band, Fanfarlo. They released their debut album, Reservoir, in October of 09, and I didn’t start listening to them until late November when I had pretty much mentally wrapped up my list of the Best of 2009. So although this is not a new release, I want to give this album a proper review, even if it is a few months late!

There’s something to be said for an album’s opening song. Unfortunately  many bands completely neglect to put thought into this particular song, which to me is the equivalent of wearing Crocs to a job interview or burping in someone’s face when you first meet them. I know I’ve beaten a dead horse on this blog talking about how much I value track placement in albums, but it’s because I truly believe placement can make or break an album. The first song has to set the tone.

Fanfarlo’s Reservoir, has one of my favorite opening tracks of the year with their song “I’m a Pilot,” a song that’s beat doesn’t feel like it’s produced by drums at all, but instead some atmospheric elements of another era altogether.

The whole album has that feeling of another lifetime.  And while their use of more orchestral instruments like the violin, trumpet and mandolin may account for that nostalgic element, I think it’s lead singer Simon Balthazar’s whimsical voice that does it for me.  ( I need to make a side note here that Simon Balthazar has to be the coolest name in the world.  If I were a man, that’s what I’d want my name to be.)

The songs on this album are fairly fun and upbeat with lyrics that are bit darker. I really like every single song on this album, but my favorites are “Luna,” “The Walls Are Coming Down, “ “Drowning Men,” “Harold T. Wilkins” and of course “I’m A Pilot.”

What I like most about Fanfarlo and Reservoir is the same thing I like about Elvis Perkins in Dearland. These bands both push past the limits of the current musical climate and make music in a way that is beautifully and uniquely their own.

And I feel that’s it’s only fair to give this band and album an honorary spot on my Best of 09 list because I think if I’d gotten around to listening to them in October, they surely would have found a spot there.


Album Review: Beach House’s Teen Dream January 20, 2010

Filed under: Album Review,Music,New Release — bethstephenson84 @ 7:23 pm
Tags: ,

If I were to compose the soundtrack to my life right now at age 25, it’s pretty much a given that Victoria Legrand would have a mighty powerful presence on that list. Her recent collaboration with Grizzly Bear on the track “Slow Life” has kept me in a dreamy trance for the past few months, impatiently awaiting some new tunes from Beach House, the band she shares with the oh-so-talented Alex Scally.

As luck would have it, NPR recently began streaming Beach House’s upcoming album, Teen Dream, on their website for all of us anxious fans who have spent the past year annoying friends and family with repeats of the same Legrand song over and over to the point where said friends and family have threatened bodily harm on the fan in question if the madness didn’t stop. Okay, so maybe that was just me.  Whatever the case, God bless NPR for finally sharing.

If I were to say the basic Beach House elements are still intact in this new album, I would strictly mean Legrand’s voice and vocal stylings are still intact. The stripped down, minimal style of Beach House albums gone by has been replaced with a smooth 80’s synth vibe that only highlights Legrand’s haunting vocals. The result is a pure pop/indie/synth sensation.

For the record, I wouldn’t dare describe Victoria Legrand’s voice as “pretty,” mostly because I think even the underlying implication of vulnerability in that word goes too much against the grain of the strength and power that her voice commands.  It feels like she’s evoking vocal powerhouses of the 1960s like Marianne Faithful with her smoky, sultry voice, and yet there’s less femininity in her sound than Faithful.

The feminine quality Legrand may lack in her vocals is more than made up for in her lyrics. This album beautifully captures the rollercoaster ride of emotions that comes with falling in and out of love. It’s bright, cheery, moody, thoughtful, exciting and lovely all at once. And yes, I realize that last sentence was extremely melodramatic, and I can only blame my growling stomach and lack of sustenance for my overuse of adjectives.

Here’s the gist: the album is good. Make sure to check out “Walk in the Park” because it’s my favorite.

Oh, and I realize that I went on and on about Victoria Legrand and sort of made a mockery of Alex Scally by leaving him out during the majority of this. Forgive me, it was completely unintentional. He’s great! Listening to the album will do him far more justice than any words I could write.

More to come later but I must eat now before my ramblings become even more incoherent than usual.


Album Review: Vampire Weekend’s Contra January 18, 2010

Filed under: Album Review,Music,Music News,New Release — bethstephenson84 @ 6:02 pm

Vampire Weekend’s Contra couldn’t have come at better or a worse time for me. Providing us the brilliant gift of eleven sunny songs in the smack dab middle of winter has brightened my mood considerably; but then when I step outside and it’s not at all like the dreamy, warm landscapes Ezra Koenig and the boys create in this album, I seriously consider leaving my life in North Carolina for a life of peddling shells on some island in the Caribbean — something my parents and student loan lenders wouldn’t appreciate.

But then that’s the best summation of this album I can give. Much like their self titled debut album, Contra just feels warm and exciting. Koenig’s soaring voice and distinct enunciations complimented by surfer pop and African-inspired rhythms creates a mind-blowing musical journey that only requires a little SPF and a pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarers.

The album starts out with a homerun in “Horchata,” a song that really drives home my greedy longing for summer.  I almost get the feeling they are mocking my pain with lines like “Winter’s cold is too much to handle” with the peppy steel drum laughing at me in the background.

The next few songs breeze by with the same carefree sound as “Horchata,” until you get to “Taxi Cab” which shines both in its lyrics and the performance. I could go on and on about it, but Koenig has such an amazing voice that even in its softest moments demands your attention. He plays with words and the enunciations of words in such a way that it makes you feel like you hearing them for the first time. It’s truly breathtaking, and this talent is particularly showcased in this song.

Traveling down the album list, the next standout is “Diplomat’s Son,” which features an intro from the delightfully eclectic M.I.A. who brings even more pep to these guys’ already bouncy sound. And then there’s the album ender “I Think Ur a Contra” which has many of the same endearing elements as “Taxi Cab” but with an even softer, smoother sound.

After listening to this record on repeat for the past week, I can’t help but draw a comparison to Paul Simon’s Graceland, a compliment that I have been hoping to extend for years to some band. Koenig has the same crispness in his voice that popularized Simon, and the band explores the same African sounds as Simon did in his beautiful Graceland. But while the similarities are there, make no mistake: this album is Vampire Weekend from the first note to the last, and it truly is a delight.


Damien Rice FINALLY Talks about Lisa Hannigan Split January 15, 2010

Filed under: Music,Music News — bethstephenson84 @ 5:21 pm
Tags: ,

And it’s just as I suspected…romance. Now I am a sucker for a good love story, unless it ruins something I love more, like music! reported that in Rice’s recent interview with Hot Press, the usually reluctant singer/songwriter opened up about the rift that caused he and musical collaborator Lisa Hannigan to end their “professional relationship.” As it turns out, it wasn’t so professional after all and after some sort of lover’s quarrel before a concert in Germany the two decided to go their separate ways. And as a result of this quarrel, Hannigan has refused to speak with Rice for over two years.

But leave it to Damien Rice to wax-poetic about the whole thing. He admits the stress and fatigue of the business caused him to be “a complete asshole on many occasions.” He adds “I love her. I love her so much. And I love her so much that I love that she hasn’t spoken to me—because even in that I have learned so much over the last two years.”

Awwwww. (gagggg)

Here’s my advice. Patch it up. Hannigan’s solo album was pretty good, but I don’t think either one of them will repeat the success they have had with one another in their solo careers. And also, I just really need a happy ending.


Concert Review: Band of Horses (NYE Show) January 6, 2010

Filed under: Concerting,Music — bethstephenson84 @ 6:05 pm

I don’t buy into the hype of New Year’s too much. Call me a dreamer, but I generally prefer to start years off on a mediocre note so I feel like the best is yet to come. But this year, the opportunity to kick off 2010 with one of my favorite bands was just too delicious to pass up.

Band of Horses wrangled up their legions followers (for the second New Years in a row) to play one of my favorite venues in my world, the Tabernacle in Atlanta. I had seen these guys play this past summer in Charlotte and was blown away by their talent (and I’m not just talking about  their abilities to grow facial hair, although that is impressive). The energy these guys put into their concerts is sort of mesmerizing, especially considering their albums aren’t what you would call completely high energy. Don’t get me wrong, they have up-tempo music but they are best known for their softer, sweeter numbers like “No One’s Gonna Love You” and “Detlef Schempf”.

And while they performed both of those songs at this show, the softness of the album just doesn’t translate to their live show, in a good way. Indeed, it is their infectious energy that makes these concerts so fun. Lead singer, Ben Bridwell is so laid back in his concert banter that it’s no wonder why their albums come across in the same manner. And it somehow makes their beer bottle busting music video for “No One’s Gonna Love You” that much more enjoyable knowing how approachable and funny these guys are. During the 3 hour show, some loony jumped on stage to take the mic and some girl through her ginormous purse on stage and the band seemed to get just as big of a kick out of these shenanigans as we did; something that cannot be said of other, more uptight bands I have seen this year.

Here’s what it boils down to: this wasn’t the best concert I’ve seen all year, but it was entertaining as hell. My one complaint, which was shared by the other ten people  concerting with me, was the band’s show ending rendition of “We Are The World”.  Now, I know these guys are a bit of jokesters and I am holding out hope that this was their New Year’s prank on us all, but I can’t help but wish they would have ended the show with the crowd favorite “Ode to the LRC” with everyone singing in unison “the world is such a wonderful place…la dee da da”. A girl can dream….

I got a lot of great footage from the show and in case you were wondering if my night was so spectacular that the rest of my year will be ruined because of it, fear not; completely sober and ever-so-graceful me fell down a flight of stairs at the end of the show. The good news here is that 2010 can only go up from here! Enjoy the videos.