Off Beat Music Guide

Album Review: Bon Iver, Bon Iver May 27, 2011

Filed under: Album Review,Music,Music News,New Release,Uncategorized — bethstephenson84 @ 12:13 pm
Tags: ,

Let’s get it out of the way, apart from Justin Vernon’s trademark falsetto, Bon Iver, Bon Iver is nothing like For Emma, Forever Ago. And in my opinion it didn’t need to be. Justin Vernon’s pining and isolation resulted in a full and complete album. He put it all on the table and left little room for a Part 2.

So much of what I love about that album is the story of its creation; the months of isolation in the woods writing songs about lost love and heartbreak, never expecting anyone to hear them. We did, of course, hear them and we fell in love with them. He captured lightening in a bottle. For Emma was absolutely perfect for the collectively heartbroken world in 2008, but now it’s time to move on.

And here we are a couple of years later, ready to move on. And it feels as though the Bon Iver boys are right there with us, writing our soundtrack on Bon Iver, Bon Iver.

Over the past 3 years, Vernon has given us hints about the direction he would take with this album. The Blood Bank EP eased us into a bolder sounding Bon Iver and the title track easily became my favorite song of 2009.

Where For Emma is stark and minimal, Bon Iver, Bon Iver is intricate and lavish. Vernon mixes synthesizers with pedal guitars and creates sounds that Vernon himself described as “Civil War-sounding heavy metal.” It’s odd for sure, but then Vernon has never been an easy read. I remember reading once that Vernon often has no idea what his songs are about; it’s as if the words just come through him and he is little more than a scribe. Way to rub it in, Vernon. We get it, you are a genius.

Much like For Emma, this album is full of challenging and breathtaking lyrics. It reads much more like poetry than music, and much like poetry, I think the meaning is meant to be personal. The listener is supposed to take ownership.

I’ve had the album for couple of days now, and I can say without any hesitancy that I like it. My favorites so far are “Perth,” “Minnesota, WI” and “Calgary.” I anticipate, much like my experience with For Emma, that my favorites will change pretty regularly though. I am sad to say that “Beth/Rest” is currently my least favorite song on the album, despite multiple attempts to LOVE it. Maybe that will change when I hear it live.

This album is all about journeys and destinations. Many of the song titles are places, both real and imaginary, and even the album’s title is a destination. Destination doesn’t necessarily have to mean the end though. I like to think Bon Iver, Bon Iver is just a stopping point on this band’s journey and that we’ve got many more gorgeous miles ahead of us.

Track list:

1. Perth
2. Minnesota, WI
3. Holocene
4. Towers
5. Michicant
6. Hinnom, TX
7. Wash.
8. Calgary
9. Lisbon, OH
10. Beth/Rest



I’m alive November 3, 2010

Filed under: Music,Music News — bethstephenson84 @ 5:24 am

Hey…yeah…I’ve been, well, unforgivably absent. But fear not! I’ve got TWO shows on the line-up for this weekend. Sufjan Stevens on Saturday night and Mumford & Sons on Sunday night. Expect some serious bloggin soon!


Music Videos of the Week April 2, 2010

Filed under: Music,Music News,Music Video,New Release,Now Hear This — bethstephenson84 @ 3:51 pm
Tags: ,

Here are two new videos that I was very excited to see released this week. Two completely different styles for two completely different bands. Love them both.

MGMT- Flash Delirium

Band of Horses- Compliments


Gabriel Covers Bon Iver and Vice Versa

Filed under: Music,Music News,New Release — bethstephenson84 @ 3:39 pm
Tags: ,

As most of you know, if you read my blog, I am a pretty big fan of Bon Iver and basically anything that Justin Vernon touches.

A couple of months ago I was pleasantly surprised to see that Mr. Peter Gabriel had done a lovely cover of Bon Iver’s “Flume” for his recently release album, Scratch My Back. Critics have been pretty mixed in their reviews of Gabriel’s album which include covers of songs by David Bowie, Neil Young, Arcade Fire and Radiohead to name a few. Here’s his version of “Flume”:

Today I ran across an article from Stereogum detailing Vernon’s reciprocal cover of Gabriel’s “Come Talk To Me.” Both “Come Talk To Me” and “Flume” will be released by Jagjaguwar on April 17. Don’t go looking for on iTunes though. It will be released in limited quantity on a split 7”.

I think both covers are lovely, but I am pretty bias (reference Sentence 1). Judge for yourself.


Update and Overload March 24, 2010

Filed under: Music,Music News — bethstephenson84 @ 12:15 pm
Tags: , ,

It has been an eternity and a half since I have posted and I have a lot to catch up on. I would blame this extended absence solely on my real life job, but in all honesty it’s been fun things like the Oscars, trips to Cabo, quality time with sweet friends etc. that monopolized my time…in a good way.

I love the first part of the year in the music world because it’s faced paced. While artists are shoveling out new music each week, the constant anticipation of what albums are on the horizon is always palpable in articles and interviews. It really keeps me on my toes!

So, where to start?

She & Him released Volume 2 this week and much to my relief, it is just as sugary sweet as Volume 1. It’s warm and catchy and just plan adorable. Like puppies adorable.   I would categorize this as the perfect windows-down-sun-shining-toe tapping kind of album.

Laura Marling released the video for the third track “Rambling Man” from her album I Speak Because I Can, due stateside April 6th. It’s a much darker (literally and figuratively) Laura than 2008’s Alas I Cannot Swim. She looks and sounds much more mature in this video and you can’t help but hear the similarities to Joni Mitchell in this single. I’m a Laura Marling fan and I like the way her music is evolving so you can bet I will be purchasing this album in a couple of weeks!

We are getting so close to hearing actual tracks from the new Dead Weather album Sea of Cowards. The video for the first single “Die By the Drop” was leaked online yesterday for like half a second before it was snatched off by cruel, cruel people who are determined to make us all suffer.  The buzz I’m hearing is that the album is pretty much a continuation of Horehound, which can only mean it’s gonna be bad ass.

And speaking of Jack White, it was announced this week that he indeed recorded an album with none other than Jay-Z. I am scared to get my hopes up, but there’s just no stopping it…I predict amazingness.

The ever eccentric Girls is set to release an EP some time this year (vague enough for ya?). While a full LP won’t be out until next year at the earliest, we should expect this EP to be just as strange and wonderful as Album.  Owens told Drowned in Sound that he wrote seventy songs and narrowed it down to 6 for this EP. Seventy songs? What’s the hold up on the LP, then? Anywho, Owens talked about one of the songs: “It’s called ‘Carolina’ – there’s a version of it on the internet – and it hasn’t really been done justice yet. It’s written about this girl who was ‘Miss Teen South Carolina’…, and they asked her a question and she said something silly about wanting to teach people in Iraq how to read, and I thought to myself“Did she really just say that?” All I have to say to that is “awesome.”

On a personal note, I am very excited about all my upcoming concerts. Here’s what I have lined up for the Spring, thus far: the XX, Japandroids, Vampire Weekend, Beach House w/ Washed Out, OK Go, Blitzen Trapper and Phoenix. As usual, I’ll keep you posted with video and pics after each show.


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.