Off Beat Music Guide

Best Albums of 2011 December 5, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — bethstephenson84 @ 8:57 pm
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Every year I get so excited about writing this post. Not only do I get to relive an entire year of music in a few short days, but I get to be super pretentious and opinionated about it.

This year was the year of the sophomore album. My top 3 albums of the year are dazzling follow-ups to three of my all time favorite albums. And then there’s Adele, who basically took over the world with her sophomore album. It’s humanly impossible not to love that album.

I discovered some great new music this year and enjoyed some fantastic shows. In fact, my concert experience is what helped me decide between my number one and number two albums of the year. Fleet Foxes just blew me away. I still catch myself smiling thinking about that show, and it was months ago. And Bon Iver’s album and concert were just magical

So, here are my Top 25 of 2011.


  1. Fleet Foxes- Helplessness Blues
  2. Bon Iver- Bon Iver
  3. Girls- Father, Son, Holy Ghost
  4. Washed Out- Within and Without
  5. The Decemberists- The King is Dead
  6. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.- It’s A Corporate World
  7. The Head and the Heart- The Head and the Heart
  8. Smith Westerns- Dye It Blonde
  9. Dawes- Nothing is Wrong
  10. Destroyer- Kaputt
  11. The Black Keys- El Camino (I just heard this all the way through 2 days ago. It might actually move up the list after more listens)
  12. Wye Oak- Civilian
  13. Adele- 21
  14. James Blake- James Blake
  15. Laura Marling- A Creature I Don’t Know
  16. M83- Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming 
  17. Ryan Adams- Ashes & Fire
  18. Elbow- Build a Rocket Boys
  19. tUnE-yArDs- whokill
  20. Givers- In Light
  21. Those Darlins- Screws Get Loose
  22. The Civil Wars- Barton Hollow
  23. Kurt Vile- Smoke Ring for My Halo
  24. The Low Anthem- Smart Flesh
  25. The Middle East- I Want That You are Always Happy


Don’t hold back. Let me know what you think about my list. What were your favorite albums of the year?



Best of 2011 (so far) June 22, 2011

Filed under: Best of 11,Music,Now Hear This — bethstephenson84 @ 12:50 pm
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My goodness, 2011 is nearly half over. And what a spectacular year it has already been for music! Several of my favorite veteran musicians have created outstanding albums to add to their already impressive resumes, and like every great year, new bands have emerged and made me fall in love with music all over again.  Here are my ten favorite albums of the year (so far). And these are in no particular order yet.


The Decemberists: The King is Dead – I had high expectations for this release, especially considering my adoration of their previous effort.  The resulting album is a refreshingly different with sweet songs that could provide the soundtrack to a beautiful spring day.



Givers: In Light If Dirty Projectors and Vampire Weekend birthed a band, it would be Givers. Need I say more?



Kurt Vile: Smoke Ring for My Halo– Oh, the voice. The voice and the sadness. You can’t turn it off because it’s too beautiful and too real.



Bon Iver: Bon Iver I’m not sure what he’s talking about 80% of the time, but there’s something in Justin Vernon’s voice when he croons “And at once I knew, I was not magnificent” in the song “Holocene” that moves me. I still find myself gasping when I hear it.



The Head and the Heart: The Head and the Heart– Feels like I’ve known these songs my whole life. Gorgeous songs about a slow, simple life.



Smith Westerns: Dye It Blond– These youngsters have managed to capture summertime perfectly. Makes me wish I was 16 again…minus the acne and the drama.



Fleet Foxes: Helplessness Blues– It’s nearly impossible to get these songs out of your head. The album is addictive.



 Destroyer: Kaputt– What a lovely homage to 80’s pop, complete with synthesizers and drum machine beats. It doesn’t come off as contrived or ironic either, which is rare for this hipster generation.



King Creoste & Jon Hopkins: Diamond Mine A year is only as good as its best rainy day album. This one is nearly perfect. And don’t be surprised if you shed a tear or two yourself.



Elbow: Build A Rocket Boys– Feel good music. The best thing about this album is that you can go as deep or stay as shallow as you want with the music. You will have a good time either way.



Concert Review: Lost in the Trees February 3, 2011

Filed under: Concerting,Music,Now Hear This — bethstephenson84 @ 12:17 pm
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Lost in the Trees- Charlotte, NC 1/22/2011

Where: Snug Harbor, Charlotte, NC

When: January 22, 2011

I like having concert weekends. The more you can cram into Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, the better. After seeing Those Darlins on Friday, I went back to Snug Harbor on Saturday to hear the much lauded Lost in the Trees.

I’ve done a lot of research on this band, and it seems that the only common denominator is lead singer/composer Ari Picker. The rest of the band has been made up of something like 20 of Picker’s friends who weave in and out of the band as they like.

Picker put together his band of misfits while studying film scoring at Berklee College of Music. And it’s easy to see where his flair for the dramatics has crept into the compositions of Lost in the Trees’ debut LP All Alone in an Empty House. The strings are dark and mysterious, menacing even some times, but the folk elements of the music provide an overall comforting effect.

The variation of the band I saw was comprised of two cellists, a violinist, an accordionist/vocalist, a drummer and Picker on lead vocals/guitar. This was a sound the likes of which the punk/rock-in-roll venue, Snug Harbor had never heard.

Picker opened the set with vocalist/accordionist Emma Nadeau in a very stark minimalist style. It was a bit shocking to hear Picker’s first few notes burst out amidst the crowd of Pabst Blue Ribbons and decorations of stars and tinsel. His clear and haunting voice, reminiscent of Damien Rice, made for a theatrical backdrop to the other five band members’ parade onto the stage as a giant white dragon. Yep, it was about as weird as it sounds.

Lost in the Trees- Charlotte, NC 1/22/2011

The stage show may have been a little over the top. The girls, who all wore dark clothing, glittery eye makeup, and feathers in their hair, were force feeding us their caricatures of woodland sprites.

Yeah, yeah, yeah…we get it; you are “lost in the trees”.

But I have no complaints other than the theatrics. I found the band to be one of those rare treasures that sound even better live.  Their harmonies were lovely and the string instruments absolutely breathtaking.  The band certainly warrants the hype surrounding them.

Pardon the darkness of the videos. Snug Harbor is 99% bar/ 1% concert hall, so dark lighting prevails. Also please pardon the drunk guy beside me who sang/talked the entire time.

Walk Around the Lake

Lovely instrumental while Picker fixes a broken guitar string


Concert Review: OK Go May 26, 2010

Filed under: Concerting,Music,Uncategorized — bethstephenson84 @ 8:29 pm
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Where: Visulite Theatre- Charlotte, NC

When: May 12, 2010

I’m going to keep this short and sweet. If you like this band’s music videos then you will definitely like their live show. Cool effects, random bell playing and tons of confetti made this show one of the most entertaining shows I’ve seen in a while. Now if we could only keep lead singer Damian Kulash from spouting out ridiculousness in between songs…

Here are some of the videos I took during the show. Enjoy!

I Want You So Bad I Can’t Breathe

What To Do (Bell Version)

This Too Shall Pass


Concert Review: Local Natives May 13, 2010

Filed under: Concerting,Music,Uncategorized — bethstephenson84 @ 11:41 am
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Where: Local 506-Chapel Hill, NC

When: May 4, 2010

I love this band for so many reasons. Sometimes when I listen to them, I can hear echoes of the harmony driven band Fleet Foxes, and other times it feels like they have taken notes directly from indie rock darlings, Yeasayer.

And while I’m afraid this description may seem to imply that Local Natives lack originality, I assure you nothing could be farther from the truth.

Vocalist and mustache wearer extraordinaire, Taylor Rice’s distinctive voice has helped this band to carve out a niche in the decidedly oversaturated indie music genre. And his voice really adds extra flair to the lovely harmonies, which are supported by band mates Kelcey Ayer and Ryan Hahn on their debut album Gorilla Manor.

The use of percussion really drives this band’s sound, and the live show was a testament to that with Ayers often playing a second set of drums while still maintaining keyboarding duties.

But Ayers wasn’t the only one pulling double duty. With the exception of drummer, Matt Frazier, all of the band members took turns playing various instruments throughout the hour and a half set. As I’ve said before, I have a special place in my heart for bands that operate like this.

The band sounded great live:  strong voices and excellent music quality. And sadly, I don’t thing the videos really don’t do the band justice.

While all of the songs on Gorilla Manor are amazing, my favorite live performances were “Shape Shifter” and “Sun Hands”.  Opening band Suckers made a very loud appearance during “Sun Hands,” so make sure to check out that video, if nothing else!

Shape Shifter

Sun Hands