Not many indie artists or labels know how to do vinyl right. When they do, it is worth noting. Prepare for Beach House to release its new album via Sub Pop Records on May 15. Bloom, the dream pop duo’s fourth album, will see release in the usual CD and MP3 formats. But, as the members of Beach House recorded on tape, it is the vinyl that will do their luscious brand of music the most justice.

I spoke to Beach House’s singer and keyboardist, Victoria Legrand, last month before she and her songwriting partner, guitarist Alex Scally, headed out on tour in support of the new album, with Dennis Franz once again providing drums and percussion. Two stories resulting from this interview have already appeared in the “Miami New Times. One was a blog piece that highlighted a snippet of our near 40-minute conversation over the phone: “Beach House’s Victoria Legrand Talks ‘Myth,’ Music on Vinyl, and Rituals.” Read it by clicking on the Crossfade logo below:

The next article was a longer feature piece that appeared as the lead story of the music section in the print edition of the paper, earlier this week. She spoke about the band’s return to a rather large venue in Miami Beach after playing it only as an opening act for Vampire Weekend, just a year-and-a-half ago. That was when I first heard Beach House, and in my opinion, they stole the show (Beach House seal the deal opening for Vampire Weekend). She also gave some insight into some as-yet unheard tracks from the new album. Read it by clicking on the “Miami New Times” logo below:

As usual in my conversations with musicians, I could not use everything we talked about in those two pieces alone. Some highlights included the detail Legrand offered into the recording of Bloom, which resulted from seven weeks of sessions at Sonic Ranch Studios in Tornillo Texas, during the Fall of 2011. Just as they did with 2010’s Teen Dream, Legrand and Scally once again hired Chris Coady as co-producer. “They make it really easy to just be there and just do your thing,” she said of the studio. “That’s really all an artist can ask for. It’s not how fancy or anything it is. For us, it’s always been about the equipment, the soundboard. We recorded on two-inch tape like we did the last record, so a lot of it’s on tape.”

Audiophiles know that the ideal source for analog vinyl is, of course, analog tape. Legrand recognizes that, as well. “Tape has a certain thing to it,” she noted. “It’s just the way you handle it. The way you treat it, how hard you drive the takes or whatever. It’s just like this amazing material. It can do really awesome things with sounds … There’s still elements of eight track on this album and certain instruments that we use, but it’s always been part of our sound. Everyone uses computers at certain points, but I just feel like … some people say that you can’t tell the difference, but I think you can. I think you can feel something definitely different.”

You can read much more of my conversation with Legrand in the Q&A and story for the “Miami New Times” linked above. One last thing she clarified:  Though I note she is the niece of famed film composer Michel Legrand in an earlier post on this blog (New restoration of ‘A Trip to the Moon’ heads to cinemas with score by Air), she said: “I’m related, but I have no relationship with him. We don’t talk,” she added with a laugh. “I think I saw him when I was 4 years old. I think he’s like in his 80s now? Still tours, but he’s had pretty much no influence in my life in terms of music and family. It’s probably just genetic, honestly.”

The band has just begun its tour for Bloom. The remaining tour dates are as follows:

05/05 – Carrboro, NC @ Cat’s Cradle
05/06 – Charleston, SC @ Music Farm*
05/08 – Miami Beach, FL @ The Fillmore*
05/09 – Orlando, FL @ Beacham Theater*
05/10 – Jacksonville, FL @ Freebird Live*
05/11 – Birmingham, AL @ The Bottletree*
05/12 – Athens, GA @ Georgia Theatre*
05/13 – Asheville, NC @ The Orange Peel*
05/15 – New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom
05/23 – Brighton, UK @ The Haunt
05/24 – London, UK @ Village Underground
05/25 – Belgium, BE @ De Kreun
05/26 – Amsterdam, NL @ Melkweg
05/27 – Berlin, DE @ Volksbuhne
05/29 – Paris, FR @ Maronguinerie
05/31 – Dudingen, CH @ Bad Bonn Kilbi Festival
06/02 – Barcelona, ES @ Primavera Sound
06/03 – Montpellier, FR @ Le Rockstore
06/04 – Bordeaux, FR @ Theatre Barby
06/05 – Nantes, FR @ Stereolux
06/06 – Lyon, FR @ Epicrerie Moderne
06/07 – Blarritz, FR @ L’Atabal
06/08-09 – Porto, PT @ Optimus Primavera Sound
07/01 – San Diego, CA @ House of Blues **
07/03 – Los Angeles, CA @ El Rey Theatre **
07/06 – Aspen, CO @ Belly Up Aspen **
07/07 – Albuquerque, NM @ Sunshine Theater **
07/09 – Tulsa, OK @ Cain’s Ballroom **
07/10 – Lawrence, KS @ Liberty Hall **
07/11 – St. Louis, MO @ The Pageant **
07/12 – Memphis, TN @ Minglewood Hall **
07/13 – Louisville, KY @ Forecastle Festival
07/15 – Chicago, IL @ Pitchfork Music Festival
07/17 – Indianapolis, IN @ The Vogue **
07/18 – Pontiac, MI @ The Crofoot Ballroom **
07/19 – Cleveland, OH @ House of Blues **
07/20 – Columbus, OH @ Newport Music Hall **
07/21 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Mr. Small’s Theatre **
07/23 – New York, NY @ Central Park Summer Stage
08/31-09/02 – North Dorset, UK @ End of the Road Festival

* w/ Zomes

** w/ Wild Nothing

Summing up “Rocktober”

November 2, 2010

After a too long dry spell of visiting bands in South Florida, October was packed with out-of-town acts I wanted to see live. I even missed some, like Matt and Kim, Massive Attack and Thievery Corporation due to the overlap of shows. I even couldn’t drag myself out to see Caribou because I was too dang tired from the week before! It was a first for South Florida, as far as I was concerned. Hopefully we’ll have more of these kind of months.

I did a lot of comparing of the shows in my resulting live reviews, so let me sum up some of the standards, here.

Best performance

Hands down went to LCD Soundsystem. I have never seen such a large band of musicians gel so strong on stage, while keeping a groove with such consistency. One song after another infected the system. It was a transcendental experience of music. I was buzzing for days afterward on the natural high of their sounds, and I am dying to see them again. I had high expectations based on their albums and they surpassed them. Heck, they are among the best live bands I have seen in my life.

Best show

Anther band with high expectations going in: the Flaming Lips. I had only seen them live once before, a few years ago, but these guys were able to put on a show that demanded a follow-up. That called for a trip to Orlando, as previous plans would mean we would miss their geographically closer weekend show in Boca Raton. It was well worth the drive and hotel stay.

With their confetti canons and costumed friends dancing at the side of the stage, and lots of other surprises, the show was an unrelenting experience. Beyond that, singer Wayne Coyne showed a masterful connection with the audience. He was on stage even during the opening act, Le Butcherettes, just on the sidelines, cheering them on and waving at the audience. Throughout, he was in constant dialogue with the fans, be it an opening speech about the hazards of their bright lights or in the deeper moments of the music. There was no band with that much flash and that much connection this month or that I have probably ever experienced.

Most surprising opening act

I had never heard Beach House until they opened for Vampire Weekend. Of all the opening acts I caught this month, Beach House proved the most absorbing. Their glowing pyramids on stage proved them the showiest of the bunch. Even with the terrible sound that made Victoria Legrand’s lyrics mostly unintelligible, their dreamy sounds shown through. It was the only opening band who compelled me to buy a record after the show.

Biggest let down

Vampire Weekend directly followed Beach House but left me cold. I had been regretting missing their stop at the Fillmore during their support of their last album, but now I am over it. They went through the motions of connecting with the audience, but it was all a bunch of clichéd arena antics.

They certainly did their music justice, but the energy seemed canned. Out of all the shows, this is the one that most felt like a cabaret show.

Best effort transcending Fillmore’s stage

Most of these shows took place at Miami Beach’s Fillmore. None projected themselves beyond the stage better than Phoenix. They used screens and a light show meant for the theater and not just on stage, and singer Thomas Mars threw himself into the crowd more than once. He was the only singer I saw at the Fillmore this month do that, so props for him on that effort.

It was also the friendliest crowd (sure, Lips fans are friendly, but they are mostly high). They may have stormed the stage, but only after Mars started yanking people up and inviting them to do so. Otherwise, there was no moshing or even pushing throughout the set, and I was right up front. I was even able to have some nice conversations with the strangers around me about music. A roadie handed two of the teenage girls I was talking with after-show passes because, he said, they smiled at him.

Most challenging

Yes, the band with poppy hits like “Kids” and “Electric Feel” proved the most challenging. As a music fan born of an appreciation for Bowie and art rock, MGMT exceeded my expectations live at the Miami Beach Fillmore, as I heard stories of drug-fueled, slack performances in the past. For all I know those were false because these guys certainly did justice to their music, which is probably the most complex and challenging music of all of the bands I saw over the course of October.

I also read grumblings about the set list in a major magazine review, and the fact that the band did their hits early and lost steam from then on (I forgot which magazine this was, but I’ll save them the embarrassment). To me, one of the most inspired actions by the band was to diverge from their own set list, as described thanks to a photographer’s report here. The highlight was their 10-minute version of “The Handshake” mixed with Magazine’s coda for “Burst” followed by their 12-minute early-period Pink Floyd/Beach Boys prog-rock epic “Siberian Breaks.” I caught both on video (though “Siberian Breaks” was cut halfway through due to space limits on my SD chip):

During these two moments, I never saw so many walkouts of people who were clearly there to hear the hits and leave. Sure, they got to hear the seventies-inspired disco cut “Electric Feel,” but they would miss “Kids,” which capped this near half-hour prog-rock rock odyssey. I hope MGMT keep searching the prog in their blood.

(Copyright 2010 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

As established in my last post praising LCD Soundsystem, the bar for live alternative rock has been set high for the rest of the year, and quite possibly my lifetime. Vampire Weekend had a tough act a to follow because once you know their music, you know what to expect. There’s little room for extra groove and tangential surprises. In fact the only surprise for me came with opening act Beach House, who I never bothered to listen to, though many had recommended them to me. After seeing them live, I now see why.

The four members of Beach House took the stage shrouded in darkness and mostly illuminated by three large, throbbing illuminated pyramids, which sometimes created a visual effect of a cavern disappearing into infinity behind them. For some reason (poor sound or my altered state?) I could not understand a word Victoria Legrand sang with her husky, breathy voice. Her vocals carried memories of Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star or a mellow Liela Moss (of Duke Spirit), as she stroked the keyboard. The songs unfolded slowly and reverberated with undulating keyboards and mellow affected guitars, on a steady beat that poured out softly thanks to guest drummer Graham Hill use of soft timpani sticks on the kit. It was some beautiful, dreamy stuff. I videoed three songs here:

Then Vampire Weekend were on, and they brought energy and spunk to their songs on a very simple stage set-up with a couple of projected images for visuals. It was really about the music, and they did their songs respect. The crowd ate it up and sang along when ordered to do so. Not much else to say beyond that their performance was tight with a nice flow of songs culled from their two albums, their self-titled debut and Contra. I was able to video several songs; they are all complete:

This one got cut after my memory card got full:

(Copyright 2010 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

Vampire Weekend have a new video. This time for the second promotable track from their upcoming full-length Contra (due out Jan. 12). Watch it here:

Their first single was “Horchata,” and they once had a free mp3 download of the track on their website. Now the same video above dominates their site (a large file that may load slow on some computers, so the link above moves best). You can still download the “Horchata” mp3 at We All Want Someone to Shout For. Check it out, here, with lyrics included.

I’m still kicking myself for missing them at the Gleason Center in Miami Beach during their last tour. I had not given their debut album a proper chance at the time. All the critics couldn’t stop talking about their African roots music, which grated my sensibilities while listening to the album via Napster. The influence really is not as pronounced as most critics might have you think (although they sing “Peter Gabriel” in their track “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” that doesn’t mean it sounds like “Biko.”*). Needless to say, the album later grew on me and I picked up the vinyl at Sweat Records. Here’s to hoping they return to South Florida for their second album!

*By the way, you can hear Peter Gabriel’s version of the song here (thanks again, Will). It’s a collaboration with Hot Chip.