Off Beat Music Guide

More on Bon Iver August 6, 2011

Filed under: Concerting — bethstephenson84 @ 10:37 am
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I found a couple of pretty amazing videos of the band’s performances of “Skinny Love” and “The Wolves (Act I & II)”. They are from the Atlanta show at the Cobb Energy and Performing Arts Center, and it makes me a little sad to see how much better the band is in an indoor venue. I will make sure the next time I see them it is somewhere like this. Just amazing…

Skinny Love


The Wolves (Act I & II)

The Wolves (Act


Concert Review: Bon Iver August 1, 2011

Filed under: Concerting,Music,Now Hear This — bethstephenson84 @ 11:04 pm
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Where: Raleigh Amphitheater and Festival- Raleigh, NC

When: July 29, 2011

After a couple years of not-so-patient waiting, I finally got to see Justin Vernon’s most recognized project, Bon Iver, play a live set last Friday night at The Raleigh Amphitheater and Festival. And while the location was not ideal for this band, the music was just as magical as I had hoped. Let’s make no bones about it, the live performance doesn’t come close to their albums. (Keep in mind this is coming from someone who I think these albums can only be experienced through headphones.) But I realized before I heard them that it would be nearly impossible to translate the intimacy of the albums to the live show.

The Good: My favorite moments of the show were ones I least expected. The band’s cover of Bjork’s “Who Is It” exercised every ounce of this band’s talent and grew my heart by about three sizes—Grinch style. My two other favorite moments involve songs from For Emma, Forever Ago. I must say that it’s not that I didn’t want to hear these songs in particular, but I had really low expectations for the For Emma songs. I didn’t think they could make it interesting or unique live. As usual, I was wrong. The powerful drums and the crowd sing-a-long in “The Wolves (Act I and II) were chill bump worthy. The band turned their haunting song into something much more robust and powerful just in time to break our hearts with that killer line “What might have been lost.” And just when I thought they had outdone themselves, they played “Skinny Love” as the encore. Vernon took center stage with his guitar as his 8 or so bandmates corralled around microphones behind him. While he was telling us to be patient and be kind, the boys behind him provided the percussion with their hands and feet. It felt old, like a song that’s been sung for a hundred years.

The Bad: The venue wasn’t a good fit for this band. Outdoor venues aren’t made for quiet songs and that was proven over and over again that night. I would love to have seen them somewhere like The Tabernacle in Atlanta.

My other disappointment with the show was the pace. It felt like the first few songs were rushed. I think I felt that disappointment deepest because they were songs from the new album and they could have been something really special if they’d have played their hearts out from the first note. It took about 5 songs for the band to really get into it, but when they did, it was excellent.

The Ugly: The heat. It was about 103 degrees in Raleigh that day. This is another reason I am a fan of indoor venues.



Minnesota, WI



Beach Baby

Hinnom, TX


Who Is It (Bjork cover)

Blood Bank





The Wolves (Act I and II)



For Emma

Skinny Love

Here are a few videos from the show. To check out more, head over to my YouTube page at:

Blood Bank


re: Stacks


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

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



Gabriel Covers Bon Iver and Vice Versa April 2, 2010

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


New Moon Soundtrack Review November 24, 2009

Filed under: Album Review,Soundtrack — bethstephenson84 @ 3:31 pm
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Okay, so I wanted to put off writing this post until after I had seen the movie. Part of this I must credit to my laziness  (which I’m sure is evident from my lack of posts) and the other part is my belief that a soundtrack can be really amazing just as a musical compilation, but if it doesn’t fit in the context of the movie, well then it kind of defeats the purpose.

So, if you know me, you know that New Moon’s opening date has been marked on my calendar pretty much since the date was announced.  And while I have a lot of thoughts on the movie (verses the book), some bad and some good, I will try to stay focused on the soundtrack and keep my extreme fandom to a minimum.

Those who’ve read this blog at all will know that I was chomping at the bits for this soundtrack if for nothing else but the contributions of some seriously bad ass musicians, the likes of which include Bon Iver (with St Vincent!!!), The Killers, Thom Yorke (of Radiohead), Grizzly Bear and Death Cab. The lineup read like a follow-up to the oh-so-brilliant Dark Was the Night album which was released earlier this year and has yet to be taken out of constant rotation. But enough of that plug…

The immediate stand out in this album for me was the Grizzly Bear track “Slow Life” which features the talented Victoria LeGrand on vocals. It’s moody and lovely, and lyrically fits the storyline without slipping into the realm of cheesiness.

Bon Iver’s “Roslyn” and Thom Yorke’s “Hearing Damage,” while both highly anticipated, could only be described as mediocre upon my first few listens.  I have the exact opposite opinion now. In fact, I now consider “Roslyn” the best song on the entire album. Part of that is due to repeated listening, but it’s mostly due to their placement within the film.  The Bon Iver track fits beautifully into the melancholy of Bella’s life without Edward, and the Thom Yorke track provides an amazing backdrop to arguably the best sequence of the film where the wolves seek out Victoria and Bella decides to make the leap. I still get chills a little thinking about those few shining minutes of the movie.

A few other standouts on this soundtrack are Eskimo Joe’s “Thunderclap” which sounds like a fist pumping 80’s power ballad (uhh-mazing!) and Lykke Li’s “Possibility” which was used during Bella’s time lapse after Edward leaves. And “The Violet Hour” by Sea Wolf couldn’t be more catchy and fun.

The most bittersweet part of this soundtrack has to be the instrumental song “New Moon (the Meadow).” I say bittersweet because it is exactly what “Bella’s Lullaby” should have been:  soft, sweet and a little heartbreaking.  And when you listen to this piano solo compared to Catherine Hardwicke’s clumsy choice for the lullaby, it makes you wish someone would just go back and redo the first movie just to include this song.

My biggest disappointment with this album is the Death Cab for Cutie song “Meet Me on the Equinox.” It’s not that it is a bad song, it’s just not as good as the rest of their stuff.

There’s been a lot of talk about this album being a failure in terms of how it compares to sales of the Twilight Soundtrack.  This doesn’t surprise me at all. There were huge marketing/public relations efforts saturating the production of the first film of the franchise, aimed at making these sweet and charming novels into emo-loving Hot Topics driven melodramas. And the Twilight soundtrack was a huge part of that push.  The idea behind it, of course, was to hock as many Twilight branded products as possible and maximize profitability. Not a bad plan from a marketing perspective. But as a fan, it’s heartbreaking. What does underwear, lip gloss and perfume have to do with this story?

But then that is my whole complaint with the first movie and soundtrack. Bella and Edward weren’t cutters who donned star printed black hoodies and nose rings.  In fact, Bella was very understated and demur preferring t-shirts and jeans over anything trendy, and Edward was a fan of classical music, for goodness sake! That just doesn’t scream Linkin Park and black lipstick to me, but I have strayed from the topic again…

No, the only thing that has surprised me about this soundtrack is the fact that someone at Summit had enough sand to compile an album that uses fairly popular bands to draw attention while still staying true to the mood of the book. It’s a melancholy book, but it’s not angsty and doesn’t require the gimmicks of the first soundtrack.  This album doesn’t feel forced at all, but instead compliments the movie wonderfully. I wager that even the most anti-Twilight people who appreciate music couldn’t help but fall in love with this album.


Review: Volcano Choir September 25, 2009

Filed under: Music,New Release — bethstephenson84 @ 9:47 am
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volcano_choir_unmapI wanted to save this as an end of the week treat. And since I have had almost five days with the entire album, I thought it was time to share.

I really didn’t need further proof that Justin Vernon was a gifted musician. As Bon Iver, his release For Emma, Forever Ago consumed my iPod last year. In late January of this year, as if he knew I was going through withdrawals, he gifted us all with the EP Blood Bank. Then Dark Was the Night gave us not one, but two amazing Vernon songs: “‘Brackett, WI” (as Bon Iver) and “Big Red Machine” (as Justin Vernon with Aaron Dessner).

This week Vernon, with his latest side project Volcano Choir, has once again quenched my thirst for his haunting and melancholy music with the LP Unmap. This album is much like a dream in that the overall feeling is familiar but everything is somehow still very strange and surreal. Vernon’s falsetto voice echoes throughout the album, but unlike the acoustic quiet of For Emma, Unmap finds him experimenting with new and often unusual sounds. This musical discord (and I say that in the most loving way possible) appears to be a result of Vernon’s collaboration with Collections of Colonies of Bees for this album.

The album is heavy on sound and light on lyrics, but the sounds are interesting enough to keep me wanting longer cuts of each track. Both “Island, IS” and “Cool Knowledge” are much more intricate in their sounds than the bare sounds of his previous releases. And while this album has Justin Vernon written all over it, it is a completely different musical direction for him. It’s refreshing to see him be so experimental with his music. The results are truly stunning.

Listen to “Island, IS” here.


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!