Weekend Recovery: Empty Chairs, Heavenly Beat, Julia Holter

It’s not exactly another heat wave, thank god, but we have a feeling the last couple days of hazy, leaden skies and pints of whatever nefarious Añejo rum punch they’re serving at brunch these days have you feeling a little sluggish today. If I were you I’d just crank the A/C and let these few new tracks swaddle you in soft sound.

Empty Chairs, a solo act turned three-piece, just turned up on our radar, with a debut full-length, Caveat Emptor. The buyer really needn’t beware when the single is as pretty as “Eyelashes,” which starts out with a Beach House vibe but quickly becomes something more sonically complex as different cascading dream-pop samples come into play, all bound together with deft vocal harmonies.
Then you’re ready to move onto the hooky Balearic charms of “Complete,” from John Peña’s second album in as many years as Heavenly Beat, Prominence. Peña was once the bassist for Beach Fossils, and his sense of rhythms that are, well, heavenly, has carried over well to his own project. This material comes after he scrapped an entire LP’s worth of songs for being too uninteresting, so you’re assured of a top pedigree here.
Then, for the truly adventurous (or near-comatose) listener, there’s the utterly transporting, madly transfixing music of Julia Holter. The heart of her third album, Loud City Song, out tomorrow, is “Maxim’s I,” a track that climbs from strange industrial hiss into an ambient ballad from what seems a century ago to a gorgeous orchestral climax—all of it steeped in the French air of the Parisian restaurant it’s named for.

BlackBook Tracks #31: It’s Too Cold to Exist

Word on the street is that we’re in the dead of winter right now. (Another compelling reason to be at Sundance right now is that it’s actually warmer in Park City than it is in New York.) Summer music may be more fun, but this is the time to curl up with a mug of cider and songs that come from cold places.

Torres – “When Winter’s Over”

My current favorite pastime is listening to Nashville singer-songwriter Torres and emoting deeply. Her music sounds perfect when everything is numb except for your feelings, and “When Winter’s Over” hits the spot. Unfortunately, winter is not actually over yet.

Beach House – “I Do Not Care For The Winter Sun”

The temperatures keep dropping, but at least Victoria LeGrand’s voice will keep you warm. Let’s pretend that is physically possible.

Niki & The Dove – “Winterheart”

My heart is frozen. So is my soul.

JEFF the Brotherhood – “Hypnotic Winter”

Nashville rockers JEFF the Brotherhood manage to sound pretty optimistic about the season, which we could probably all do with.

The Dodos – “Winter”

If you’re already starting to get angry about Valentine’s Day coming up, this is for you. The bittersweet jangle works wonders.

Belle & Sebastian – “Winter Wooskie”

“Who’s that girl? She must be nearly freezing” is a semi-iconic Belle & Sebastian line that’s apt for this week. In classic fashion, “Winter Wooskie” paints a wistful portrait with just the right amount of detail.

Nico – “Winter Song”

John Cale recently paid tribute to Nico with a host of other artists, including Sharon Van Etten and Alison Mosshart. Since you’re not going outside anyways, now seems like the perfect time to revisit Chelsea Girl.

Fleet Foxes – “White Winter Hymnal”

Because with those harmonies, it’s easier to pretend that this is just “crisp” and “refreshing.”

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Governor’s Ball Festival Returns to Randall’s Island With Kanye, Kendrick, More

It’s freezing and gross in a considerable chunk of the country, which means it’s time to start thinking about summer, and with it, the crowded, drunken, heavily-Instagrammed bacchanalia that is the summer music festival. Your first major festival lineup announcement of 2013 happened today, in this case the third-annual Governors Ball Music Festival, which returns to its home on Randall’s Island June 7th, 8th and 9th. The biggest names on the flyer are Kanye West and Kings of Leon, as well as one blacked-out name to be revealed later (let the speculation begin!). The bulk of the bill features people whose albums you really liked last year, or whose albums you didn’t really like but maybe read about a lot on music blogs, including Japandroids, Kendrick Lamar, Grizzly Bear, the xx, Nas, Dirty Projectors, Best Coast, The Lumineers, Gary Clark Jr., Beach House, Azealia Banks and dozens of other year-end list luminaries. Like musical confetti made from cut-up Pazz & Jop ballots. 

Other notable names on the lineup include one of BlackBook’s Stars of 2013, HAIM, Swedish party starters Icona Pop, Erykah Badu, Feist, festival regular Pretty Lights, Wild Nothing, Fucked Up and Dillon Francis. Those less inclined to care about the music can find food courtesy of a few familiar trucks, including Asia Dog, Mexicue and Pie for the People. There is also ping-pong, croquet and bocce and something called a "Silent Disco," which seems to be on the bill at a lot of festivals and the impetus for some half-baked thinkpiece somewhere about the way we live and share music now. Tickets for the big festival thing go on sale this Friday at noon. 

Several top-rated tracks of 2012, including Kendrick Lamar’s "Backseat Freestyle" and Japandroids’ "The House That Heaven Built," soundtrack the Austin Peters-helmed lineup video, which features Jonathan Sollis and Fabrizio Goldstein strolling around New York in tuxes and dark sunglasses, on a neverending quest to make it rain. Watch.

Beach House And Other Bands In Car Commercials

That’s one major car accident for Beach House.

The Baltimore-based band, which just this week released a new album titled Bloom, was allegedly approached recently by an advertising agency looking to license the track “Take Care” for use in a Volkswagen commercial. The band declined, but here we are watching that commercial and the song in it – done by an outfit called Sniffy Dog – well, it sounds an awful lot like “Take Care.”

“The ad agency actively tried to license “Take Care” from us for weeks, to which we politely declined,” the band wrote in a statement on its Facebook page. “People’s comments/anger should not be directed towards VW or us. It was the ad agency that made these moves. I hope this also clarifies to fans and non-fans just how ‘Take Care’ and the VW ad song are related.”

In our review, BlackBook called the album “shimmery and upbeat,” which might be just what got the ad agency so excited. But hey, Beach House could in worse company—bands including The Walkmen, Wilco, Cat Power, Phoenix, Sleigh Bells and Grizzly Bear have had songs in car commercials and no evil has yet come of it.

You can check out some of our favorites below.

A Pinko in France, Gay Nups for Biden, New Animal Collective Tracks For All

Francois Hollande, a Socialist, beat tiny modelizer Nicholas Sarkozy in their race to the French presidency. Hollande, who has promised to tax those making more than a million euros a year at 75%, is known for saying ““Austerity need not be Europe’s fate.” France’s first elected Socialist president will take office May 15, right around the time we suspect Carla Bruni will develop a crush on him. [NYT

A new single from indie rock favorites Animal Collective won’t be available until later in the summer, but late Sunday night the band shared the 7-inch’s tracks, “Honeycomb” and “Gotham,” via their website. [Animal Collective]

During an appearance on Meet The Press Sunday, Vice President Joseph Biden revealed that he is “absolutely comfortable with…men marrying men, and women marrying women,” a stance that doesn’t exactly jive with the White House’s stance on marriage. Less progressive? Biden’s pop-culture knowledge. The Veep went on to say, “When things really began to change is when the social culture changes. I think Will & Grace probably did more to educate the American public than almost anybody’s ever done so far. People fear that which is different. Now they’re beginning to understand.” [MTP]

Bloom, the new album from Baltimore’s own Beach House — a record we reviewed a week ago — has finally been made available to the listening public. Or at least the listening public that hasn’t yet downloaded a leaked copy. Check out the record our reviewer called “artful and captivating. [NPR]

In Which We Review Beach House’s New Album Before You

Over the span of its brief career, Baltimore-based duo Beach House have been able to do a lot with very little. By that, we mean that Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally have been able to construct some vast and sweeping dream pop with a simple set-up that usually consists of slide guitar, programmed drums, organ, and, of course, Legrand’s captivating voice. Despite its limited resources, Beach House have always created hypnotic soundscapes that sound infinitely larger than the sum of its meager parts. Legrand and Scally have managed to set themselves apart by incorporating some of the classic drone elements of their shoegaze and dream pop influences into their own ambitious and multi-layered approach to songwriting. It wasn’t long before people began to notice.

In 2010, the band embarked on a considerable upswing with the release of Teen Dream, its third album and first for Sub Pop. On Teen Dream, the duo abandoned some of the more sparse sounds found on earlier records like Beach House and Devotion in favor of more lush and fully realized pop elements. Teen Dream also happened to be the band’s most successful and accessible album to date.

Although Teen Dream is a rather intimidating yardstick with which to measure the band’s next record, 2012’s Bloom does quite well for itself. That might have something to do with the fact that Legrand and Scally essentially made a record that picks up exactly where the previous one left off. They even enlisted Teen Dream’s co-producer Chris Coady to assume the same role on Bloom.

The album has drummed up a considerable amount of well-earned buzz with the release of the track “Myth.” Although Beach House remains a lean and streamlined outfit in terms of personnel, “Myth’s” dreamy expanse proves that it doesn’t take many people to create a truly large and entrancing sound. Victoria Legrand’s vocals are as smoky and ethereal as ever.

Clearly, placing this stunner at the top of the album was a calculated move. One can’t help but view the lyric “what comes after this momentary bliss” as an optimistic nod to the rest of the record.

From there, Bloom launches into the shimmery and upbeat “Wild.” Here we get a healthy dose of Alex Scally’s languid slide guitar and driving synth pop sensibilities anchored by the duo’s trademark layered soundscapes.

On “Lazuli,” the bouncy synth lines and uncharacteristic catchiness belie the inherent darkness of Legrand’s lyrics. It’s not until the fifth track, “The Hours,” that Scally and Legrand drop a particularly captivating chorus. Although Legrand is wispy and lilting as she sings, “frightened eyes, looking back at me…” it’s clear that she’s constructing an artful and captivating melody. Underneath all of the  breathy vocals and reverb is one of the more pronounced invitations to actively sing along rather than sit back and passively absorb Scally and Legrand’s meticulously crafted pop ruminations.

Of course, the album isn’t meant to be viewed as a collection of tracks, but rather one unified and cohesive piece of work. The fact that none of the songs clock in at under 4 minutes adds to Bloom’s expansive quality in that the tracks don’t so much stand alone, but bleed into one another.

Also, throughout the record, Legrand’s lyrics take a turn for the morose. The track “New Year” sets a meditation on disappointment and disillusionment against a light and bouncy rhythm. “Wild” works as a wistful ode to lost innocence, as demonstrated in the lines “my mother said to me I would get in trouble/ our father won’t come home cause he is seeing double.”

On “Other People,” it’s easy to get so distracted by the nods to Head Over Heels-era Cocteau Twins that one might totally miss the all-consuming sense of isolation in the lyrics. However, that’s the beauty of Legrand’s songwriting. She can explore feelings that are dark and complicated without being so literal or on the nose. If there’s one aspect that’s always been consistent throughout the band’s songwriting, it’s subtlety.

Although Beach House can’t be accused of breaking any new ground on Bloom, the duo should be lauded for finding a formula that works and sticking to it. For now, that’s quite enough.

Photo by Liz Flyntz

Pitchfork Music Festival Finalizes Lineup: Beach House, Wild Flag & More Join the Fun

Today, Pitchfork added the final batch of bands to its 2012 music festival lineup, well ahead of the July 13-15 weekend where the excitement will go down in Chicago’s Union Park: Beach House, Wild Flag, Real Estate, Atlas Sound, Big K.R.I.T., Nicolas Jaar, Cults, Chavez, Ty Segall, Oneohtrix Point Never, Youth Lagoon, Thee Oh Sees, King Krule, Lotus Plaza, Dirty Beaches, Lower Dens, Milk Music, the Psychic Paramount, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Outer Minds, and A Lull. The festival might not ever be as fun as the year when they sold Sparks at the beer tents, but sometimes life forces you to make sacrifices for sanity’s sake. You can look at the final lineup, which is looking pretty healthy, after the click.

Pitchfork, in my opinion, is the best deal in national music festivals. For the cost of a one-way plane ticket, you get to see dozens of relevant, high quality bands at varying points in their life cycle: buzz acts finding their live presence, indie veterans who’ve settled into a comfortable set list, and the random top-shelf name brand gifted with a headlining set for a crowd that’s absolutely reveretial of their presence. And the people watching! The people watching is absolutely superb. Three-day passes are sold out, though you can still purchase individual one-day tickets if that weekend is still looking free on your schedule.  

Friday, July 13:

A$AP Rocky
Willis Earl Beal
Big K.R.I.T.
Clams Casino
Dirty Projectors
Tim Hecker
Lower Dens 
The Olivia Tremor Control
Outer Minds 
Purity Ring

Saturday, July 14:

The Atlas Moth
Atlas Sound 
Danny Brown
Cloud Nothings
Flying Lotus
Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Hot Chip
Nicolas Jaar 
Lotus Plaza 
The Psychic Paramount 
Schoolboy Q
Sleigh Bells
Wild Flag 
Youth Lagoon 

Sunday, July 15:

A Lull 
Beach House 
Dirty Beaches 
The Field
King Krule 
Kendrick Lamar
The Men
Milk Music 
Thee Oh Sees 
Oneohtrix Point Never 
Real Estate 
Ty Segall 
Unknown Mortal Orchestra 
Vampire Weekend

Air & Beach House’s Victoria Legrand Collaborate on New Song

If you were genetically engineering a perfect strain of bloggable music, you could do worse than choosing Air and Beach House as your initial DNA. Though Air hasn’t been as recently prominent as they were in the early years of the millennium, their precise, understated electronic music still rings true. Meanwhile, Beach House is your local barista’s favorite band. Put together, they make exquisite sense.

On their upcoming album, La Voyage Dans La Luna, the French duo has collaborated with artists like Beach House’s Victoria Legrand and Au Revoir Simone. You can hear the first effort, "A Trip to the Moon," over at NME. It’s a slightly spooky electronic jam in which Legrand’s whispery voice floats over the back end like some lost siren. As the album drops on February 6, 2012, it’ll be perfect for brooding to on Valentine’s Day if you’re without a date or party.

Below, listen to Air’s "Universal Traveler," off their album Talkie Walkie.

Beach House Come out of Winter Hibernation to Play Conan

I know it’s totally the wrong season for Beach House’s brand of psychedelic surfer pop, but last night the band put on their warmest coats and sweaters (which don’t actually look that warm) to grace Conan’s stage, providing us with a little taste of what’s to come in six months when we’ve all become unfrozen. Say what you will about the new Conan – I’m pretty sick of him by this point – but the man books some good musical guests. If anything, his show has become a showcase for indie bands that might not always make the stage at Leno. Warm yourself after the jump.

Video Above.