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.


Concert Review: Dan Auerbach 11/14/09 December 4, 2009

Filed under: Concerting,Music — bethstephenson84 @ 12:02 pm
Tags: , ,

I like going to concerts alone every once-in-while.  Don’t get me wrong, having someone to share your mutual appreciation (or obsession) with is a great thing but if the situation arises where I must go it alone, I’m just saying I don’t hate it.

For one, it’s a lot easier to secure a front row position when you don’t have to worry about anyone but yourself. And equally as important, you can pull out all of the moves and obnoxious screaming you want and not have to worry about embarrassing your concert buddy.

I ramble on about this 1) to raise awareness of the awesomeness of the solo concert experience and 2) to describe my own Dan Auerbach concert experience (embarrassing moves and all).

If you caught my earlier posts on the Best of 09 (So Far), you’d know that Mr. Auerbach easily made the top of that list with his solo effort Keep It Hid, which was released in February of this year.

I’m gonna keep this as brief as possible, since I think the videos speak for themselves. Dan Auerbach puts on an amazing show. In fact, he’s the epitome of what a concert experience should be: He played all the songs from his album, making sure everyone got to hear his/her favorite and took us from extremely high highs with songs like “My Last Mistake” to beautifully low lows like “When the Night Comes” all while being frightfully ill with the flu!

I traveled from Charlotte to Chapel Hill to catch this concert and I could not be more grateful that DA was such a trooper and stuck it out through the concert even though he was visibly sick. Unlike the rock star persona he has with his band the Black Keys, Dan had to forgo cheap beer and liquor for hot cups of tea in between songs. I know, I know…If you are asking yourself right now if it’s possible for this man to be any more awesome, the answer is of course “no”.

It was honestly very difficult to hear his vocals on several songs, but I’m not sure if that was a technical issue with Cat’s Cradle or if it was a result of the flu. Whatever the case, the crowd filled in the vocals when necessary and the band deafened us with their amazing performances. And considering DA played all the instruments while recording the album, the band but insane amounts of energy into making the music sound even better than the original songs.

Sick or not, you would have been hard pressed to find moments where Dan faltered much. You’ve got to respect an artist that loves the fans enough to come out and give it everything he’s got, even if it wasn’t 100 percent.

I’d love to see the band again when everyone is on the top of their game, but if this is the only impression I am to be left with, I wouldn’t mind a bit. Excellent songs, excellent music, excellent band and excellent musician.

Check out some of my video from the show here:


Now Hear This October 1, 2009

Filed under: Music,Music News,Now Hear This — bethstephenson84 @ 3:41 pm
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Time for an update on two upcoming projects that I have previously mentioned here.

The first is the Jack Kerouac-inspired collaboration album of  Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie) and Jay Farrar (Son Volt) entitled One Fast Move Or I’m Gone. I mentioned earlier how this album is based upon Jack Kerouac prose and how it’s been about 2 years in the making. Well, luckily for us, NPR’s Fall Music Preview segment included their newly released track  “These Roads Don’t Move” from the previously mentioned album. It’s got a very alt-country vibe that I really dig.

Featured on that same NPR segment is BlakRoc, the new hip-hop side project of blues-rock band The Black Keys. The song entitled “Ain’t Nothing Like You (Hoochie Coo)” features the acclaimed rapper, Mos Def. This song is surprisingly fresh and catchy. I was worried that this project would be a little gimmicky, but after hearing this track I am looking forward to hearing the entire album.

I would encourage checking out NPR’s entire Fall Music Preview, which you can listen to here. They also discuss one of my most anticipated albums of the Fall, Dead Man’s Bones from the band of the same name.  Please, please give their song “My Body’s A Zombie For You” a listen. I defy you not to love this song.


Black Keys Are Gonna Do What??? September 22, 2009

Filed under: Music,Music News,New Release — bethstephenson84 @ 7:14 pm

Brace yourself for this one…my favorite blues-rock band, The Black Keys, will be releasing a hip-hop album in late November. Under the pseudonym BlakRoc, Patrick Carney and Dan Auerbach have collaborated with Jim Jones, Mos Def, Q-Tip, RZA, Raekwon, Ludacris, Nikki Wray, Billy Danze and the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard to test their creative limits with this rock/rap project.

This project seems to have come out of nowhere and I love how the Keys are keeping us on our toes. This teaser trailer promises good things, but then I wouldn’t expect less from this band.