Off Beat Music Guide

Best of 2010 (so far) June 25, 2010

In honor of Paste Magazine releasing their Best of 2010 (so far), I thought I’d take a stab at my own list.

Thinking back to the beginning of this year, I was anticipating so many wonderful albums from some of my favorite bands, and for the most part I haven’t been let down.

So here’s my list, in no particular order (I know that’s a cop-out, but I will save the numbering for the end of the year.)

Laura Marling I Speak Because I Can– Judging by the tears that always creep into my eyes while listening, you might think Miss Marling’s sophomore album wouldn’t make it onto my list. But then this girl has always known how to make me cry, and I love her for it. I’m convinced that she has to be the oldest 20 year old on the planet; but whatever her troubles, she certainly knows how to pen a song.

Frightened Rabbit The Winter of Mixed Drinks– These Scotsmen easily won me over with this rip-roaring album (which is coincidentally mostly about loneliness and reflection). I got a chance to see these guys live a couple of months ago and it was just fun, just like this album.

The Black Keys Brothers– This was a no brainer for me. These guys have had me hooked for years and this album’s experimentation with soul and funk is solid gold. When I listen to this album, it feels like I’ve known these songs my whole life.

Vampire Weekend Contra– Apart from releasing this album of great summer anthems smack dab in the middle of one of the coldest winters in my city’s history, I can’t say enough good things about this band’s second LP. I love this album from top to bottom.

Beach House Teen Dream– If Victoria LeGrand’s voice were any lovelier, I would send out a memo to all other songstresses to just throw in the towel. Teen Dream is just what the title suggests; a perfectly lovely dream. I can enjoy this album in any mood.

The National High Violet– There are moments in this album that physically take my breath away. I was confident that they couldn’t top Boxer, but then I heard “Afraid of Everyone” and I knew they had really outdone themselves with this one. And then there’s the fact that Sufjan Steven helped collaborate on the album… (full on swooning going on over here)

Mumford & Sons Sigh No More– This folky London based quartet stole my heart in early 2010 with this fun (and surprisingly pensive) album. At moments it has a distinct Americana and bluegrass feel and at other times it feels very foreign, like Irish pub music. The superficial part of me loves their accents, while the true music lover in me really appreciates the good songwriting.

Local Natives Gorilla Manor– I only picked up this album when it was release in February and yet it already feels like very old friend. I wish all pop music was this clever and fun.

Suckers Wild Smile– I had heard rumblings about this band for a while, but I finally got to see them live a couple of months ago, before the release of Wild Smile. The only thing I love more than their Afro-pop, Bowie infused musical style, is this band’s insane personal style…a Saint Bernard printed cape, really, really?

Janelle Monae The ArchAndroid– She’s got funk. She’s got soul. She’s got style. Love, love, love this album.


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

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