Under-appreciated Albums: “The Hazards of Love”, by the Decemberists

A few weeks ago the National played at the Ryman, and fellow staff writer Nick Kline and I happened to meet up there. We talked about music, favorite bands, past concerts, and then we hit upon The Decemberists — we’d both seen them live, on their 2009 A Short Fazed Hovel tour, where they played the entirety of their recent album The Hazards of Love. Nick mentioned as an aside that HoL his least favorite Decemberists album, and conversation moved on.

Perhaps this (and, admittedly, a bad case of writer’s block) is what motivated me to write this. While I don’t necessarily know why it’s Nick’s least favorite, nor do I even know if he likes or dislikes it, the general opinion developed since The Hazards of Love‘s release is that’s it’s overwrought, weird, has too many guest vocals, is too repetitive, and too metal. By the time of the release of The Decemberists’ next effort, the superb The King is Dead in 2011, frontman Colin Meloy admitted “Even I’m starting to believe it, like, ‘I guess The Hazards of Love did kind of suck, didn’t it?’”.  By 2013, it’s largely been swept under the rug, left hiding under the skirt of the bigger and strong releases in their six-album catalog. Yet, I can’t help but love this album.  [Read more...]

Jillian Stein and a New Project

I have a second music child to look after now--RVU Records, Vanderbilt's student-run recording company.
I have a second music child to look after now–RVU Records, Vanderbilt’s student-run recording company.

Hi everybody,

Thanks for your continued support of The VU Backstage!  Jillian Stein was a phenomenal guest last night.  Her music gives off a very retro, late 60s-early 70s folk vibe, and you can easily draw comparisons to Joni Mitchell (who, as it turns out, is her chief influence).  Catch the full episode right here.

This next bit of news is extremely exciting and relevant both to the show and to WRVU.  It has taken weeks of development on my part and involved a litany of other people, both students and fully grown adults.  It required a fairly large investment by the Vanderbilt Student Communications board.  It has the potential to change the music scene at Vanderbilt FOREVER.

Jillian Stein played a great show on The VU Backstage last night.  Also, building suspense for the "bit of news" I'm about to drop.
Jillian Stein played a great show on The VU Backstage last night. Also, building suspense for the “bit of news” I’m about to drop.

Have I built you up sufficiently?

HAVE I???
Irrelevant picture of a cat, to further build suspense.

HAVE I????????

[Read more...]

Michael Pollack and Singing Your Own Lyrics

Michael Pollack has always had confidence behind a piano; only recently did he gain confidence behind a microphone.
Michael Pollack has always had confidence behind a piano; only recently did he gain confidence behind a microphone.

Hello everybody!

My name is Zach Blumenfeld and each Sunday at 9pm central I host The VU Backstage, which features a live performance by and interview with a Vanderbilt student musician.  This week’s guest was Michael Pollack, who gained fame when he played New York State of Mind with Billy Joel on January 30th.  He’s really come a long way from where he was the last time I had him on the show, in February.  Since then, Michael has gone viral on YouTube, appeared on nationally broadcast talk shows like Today and Jeff Probst, recorded and released an eponymous EP, and played in front of a sold-out crowd at the Best Buy Theater in Times Square.  If you missed the show, you can catch the whole thing here.

[Read more...]