12/09/2010

Betsy Lee does The AntiVillains: A guest post.


Have you ever been in a music space or bar, hanging out with your friends, and suddenly heard music so striking that you had to walk away from your conversation to listen intently? This July, The AntiVillains did that to me. I was one of maybe 20 people in the bar, and only a handful of us were standing and watching the set—which is a bummer for the music scene in LA because that show was a must-see in my mind.

In classic Album-A-Week style, the first 3 adjectives that come to mind are:
Aching
Gorgeous
Harmonic

Choosing my three favorite songs on the record was difficult because So Much for Romance has many styles and strengths in different tunes. As of this moment, I’m going to bite the bullet and go with:
"The Only Sound"
"I Can’t  Fall Asleep"
"Warning"
"Don’t Get Excited"

Wait, that was four. Just listen to the whole record, really, like in the Wayback Times. Nothing can replace the experience of hearing an album beginning to end, anyway, like the old school folks did. You know, for people who were alive before mp3s. Not that I was, of course. I’m 4 and a genius who met the blog host when they volunteered at a pre-school. But I digress. Back to the music.

At the beginning of “To Be the One,” the opening track, you might think of Mazzy Star. Hopefully, that sounds like the compliment I mean it to be—Hope Sandoval’s voice is ethereally gorgeous, just like The AntiVillains’ chanteuse Sarah Cohen’s is.

Some of the songs feature harmonies with a male voice, Sarah’s brother Ben, that evoke some tunes by Dean Wareham & Britta or a couple tracks off Jesus & Mary Chain’s Stoned & Dethroned.

Along with the gorgeous, dreamy quality to the music, though, is a jazz component brought by the band’s drummer, Sam Woldenberg. Not afraid of sparseness and with a great dose of smart syncopation, Sam brings a critical component to the band, elevating them from the folksy singer-songwriter duo they might be to a more well-rounded, artistically diverse band.

I implore you to start here when listening to The AntiVillains: http://vimeo.com/16047235.This video highlights the ineffable beauty of deciduous trees in Autumn, layered with the gorgeousness that is the band’s sound—simplicity at its finest. This newer song is not on So Much for Romance, and it was just recently released and sent to me by Ben Cohen. The first time I watched this, I was so moved that I actually cried.

As for the album cover: right after I saw the show, I went to Sarah Cohen and bought the album. However, since then, I’ve lent it to a friend, and so I can’t take a picture as is the normal procedure for this blog. I can tell you, though, that the cover features bouquets of flowers hanging upside down, and for me, that image conceptualizes preserving temporal beauty, much as this recording does.

I have much more to say about The AntiVillains; in fact, I’ve already done an interview with them and have another piece of writing in final draft stage (blatant plug) if anyone out there has a place for a piece on this fantastic young band. You want to say “I was there when…” about them. Trust me on this.

Author’s Note:
Betsy Lee is a music fiend who started playing instruments at 2, got her Fisher Price My First Record Player at 6, and started hitting shows in earnest as soon as she was able. She’s a freelance writer and photographer based in LA and can be reached at betsy@thetimeyouhave.com