Bel Air
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Bel Air

New York City, New York, United States | SELF

New York City, New York, United States | SELF
Band Americana Singer/Songwriter

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"Jersey Beat Review"

BEL AIR - Pole to Pole (www.myspace.com/belairtheband)

Offering up 12 tracks worth of pleasingly mellow’n’melodic laid-back and reflective soft rock, this album gets off to a nicely soothing start with the gently lulling opening song “[Used] to Believe.” The basic sound is folksy country suffused with a touchingly substantial amount of regret and melancholy, the vocals are warm and affecting, the arrangements spare, tight and harmonic, and the songwriting clear, sharp and thoughtful. The bouncy acoustic guitars and sweet harmonica playing add a little extra tasty’n’tuneful flavor to the already enticing and engaging mix, thereby ensuring that listening to this album overall rates as a very pleasant and satisfying experience. - www.jerseybeat.com


"Americana-UK Review"

Breath of fresh air from Brooklyn

Primarily a trio of songwriters from Brooklyn, Bel Air present two poles of a countrified rock band and a more folky introspective aspect, at times depending on the writer and singer of the respective song. Whichever style comes out on top depends, I suppose, on one’s personal preference but at least they are evenly balanced with some quality writing and playing present throughout. Allison Langerak is the folk chanteuse. Cool, vulnerable and very listenable, she has a posse of songs that range from the good time vibe feeling of “Looking Up” (that belies the song’s message of a wearied resignation to the difficulties of accomplishing just about anything to the excellent “Sometimes” which could have graced a Sandy Denny album. In a similar vein is “Don’t Hold out for Me.” where Ms. Langerack sounds vulnerable and strained over a song reminiscent of The Continental Drifters or The Cowboy Junkies.

Jeff Mensch supplies the majority of the remaining songs. Opener “Used to Believe” evokes The Jayhawks while “This City, pt. 2” harks back to Garcia’s Workingman’s Dead” (with a mention of Uncle John’s Band among other Dead allusions). The pedal steel here (played by Mike “Slo-Mo” Brenner who guests on several other songs) is excellent. Mensch also purveys a restrained folkier style as displayed on the song “Goodnight.”

The writing trio is completed by Wyatt Tuzo who provides an untitled instrumental and the closer, “Street fair” both featuring strong acoustic guitar figures. Brenner adorns the latter with some wistful
playing.

Overall a strong debut with some standout songs and one looks forward to hearing more from them. - Americana-UK.com


"Fire Drills Review"

Fire Drill:
Brooklyn just keeps overflowing with its musical talent and the debut from Bel Air continues the rush. Pole To Pole is rooted in the Americana sound which offers a combination of male/female lead vocals and multi-layered harmonies that balance the musically solid album. The record also features slide guitarist Mike Brenner (Marah, Magnolia Electric Company) on several tracks which rounds out its alt-country flavor while building on several members indie rock backgrounds. The cohesiveness of the group and strong collaboration of ideas ultimately creates an enjoyable debut which is perfect for any time of the day listening.

Key Track: "Looking Up"

Band With Similar Fire: Whiskeytown - http://thefirenotefiredrills.blogspot.com


"Twangville Review"

For years, it seemed as though it was the louder, more rocking bands that garnered the majority of attention and buzz from indie-kids and the music media in general (see: grunge, or the recent “garage-rock” revival with the Strokes, or even the alleged “reinvention” of rock by Radiohead, Beck and/or The White Stripes, etc…). With that said, in recent times we are seeing a shift in the wave of notoriety away from the many rearrangements of rock’s past to some of the quieter, sensitive and even brooding bands of today. Bands such as Iron & Wine, Swell Season, Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver are some absolutely shining examples of acts that throw lyrics that read like classic literature, aching melodies, soft harmonies and relatively sparse arrangements and production into a pot and whip up some pretty amazing concoctions that seem to usher in a new form of Folk that most silver-haired folkies are likely not ready for.

Bel Air, from Brooklyn also bring much of the “Neo-Folk” vibe to the table with their debut CD, Pole to Pole and even expand the formula with a rootsy swagger. The album features lead vocals that seamlessly alternate between Jeffrey Mensch and Allie Langerak. Most of the cuts posses quiet and sometimes fragile arrangements of acoustic guitar and soft percussion. Even the occasional sax and violin creep gently in to lend the disc a sense of diversity that your typical Folk (neo, freak, or any other kind of “folk”) record may not have. Similar to Iron & Wine and the others I mentioned before, Bel Air isn’t looking to make a specific type of album as far as category or genre is concerned. Their influences range from Indie to Brit-Pop and those are all evident here.

With most albums that feature multiple lead singers, I tend to find myself leaning in a specific direction towards a favorite side (sorry Patterson, I seem to dig more of Cooley’s DBT stuff). In the case of Pole to Pole, I find myself favoring the tracks where the Mensch has lead duties, even though I tend to prefer the more rustic, almost Dido-like vocals of Langerak. Hopefully you get the notion that this is a solid and even disc, and it doesn’t suffer from the inconsistent, up and down nature of many discs that feature the dual vocal lead.

Tracks such as “Used to Believe” and “This City, Pt. 2″ both contain elements fo folk and pop and even veer into “Alt-Country” territory without feeling contrived or cliched. The production of Pole to Pole proves to be as valuable of an instrument as the acoustic guitar on the disc. The relatively clean, yet raw vibe of the disc truly does provide the listener with the feeling of listening in on a group of talented friends hanging out with some guitars, a stocked cooler and perhaps even a recording machine that just happens to be running in order to document the proceedings. - Kelly Dearmore - Twangville.com


"Rootsville Review"

Allie Langerak, Jeffrey Mensch and L. Wyatt Tuzo are the founding members or the successful garage act "Breakup Breakdown" but were apparently up for a new challenge. It is not the first time in its history that their sites were set on alternative country music/Americana/roots genre and this triad from Brooklyn did not escape this generally rewarding musical diversion. In the meantime, Drew Kilpatrick, drums, a fourth ex - Breakup Breakdowner joined Bel Air and also Matt Hyams, bass, has swollen the ranks. Their debut album " Pole To Pole" came largely from "on the road' to a mobile studio (Philadelphia) and is, according to my humble opinion, not so much about breaking new ground. Indeed, the group of five, clearly reflective of, among others, the Cowboy Junkies - but without the I - wanna -die melancholy, Gram Parsons & Emmylou Harris, Whiskeytown, Neko case ..... etc. Mike "Slo-Mo" Brenner (Magnolia Electric Company, Marah) extended a helping hand on dobro, pedal & lap steel and although the songs clearly have a country music flavor, you cannot avoid the 60's British Invasion and 90's indie rock sounds (songs: "You Can't do Much" , "Street Fair" and "Don't Hold Out For Me") The duo Mensch/Langerak may pocket the majority of the songwriting royalties and that should be able to deliver a nice bonus. The opening track "Used to Believe" , "Riverside Drive" (Shea Hess - violin), "The Last Thing" and "Looking Up" (with Andrew Kilpatrick on drums & percussion) clearly recalls the glory days of country music/rock (SOMETHING HERE ABOUT CAN'T HELP BREAKING OUT IN A GRIN ???). The musical pearls, "Almost" and "This City, pt.2" belong with melancholy Country music; "Sometimes" and the bluesy lullaby "Goodnight" are undoubtedly the marquis of this superb album. Intimate arrangements and multi-layered male and female vocal harmonies. I dare say "dream country" of Bel Air! (SWA) - rootsville.be


"Berkeley Place Review"

Brooklyn’s sorta-Americana group Bel Air have released their debut album, “Pole to Pole,” a collection of songs created and first performed in the studio. The band sounds vaguely like Cowboy Junkies, but without the I-wanna-die melancholy. “This City” is country the way the Grateful Dead did country, only without the jams, while “Used to Believe” is more reminiscent of Gram Parsons. “Sometimes” is a sad country lament, but “Goodnight” is a perfect send off—a bluesy lullaby. No pretentious fake Southern accent, no forlorn honky tonk twang, nothing but an honest reflection on the miseries of urban life—“This city is killing me,” the chorus wails, and it’s easy to understand why. There’s a few guest shots by Mike “Slomo” Brenner (Magnolia Electric Company, Marah) on slide guitar, but other than that it’s all Bel Air. The roots-rocky record has 5 songs sung by Jeffrey Mensch and 5 by Allison Langerak. The latter are sweeter to listen to, as Allison’s vocals are fantastic, but the former are often better written songs. All in all, it’s a very solid release. - Berkeley Place


"Dream Alt-Country: The 8MS Interview with Bel Air"

Bel Air formed from the ashes of Break Up/Break Down, a Brooklyn rock band that had developed a devoted following. The trio of Allison Langerak, Jeff Mensch, and Wyatt Tuzo left Break Up/Break Down and joined up with Matt Hyams and Drew Kilpatrick to, in Allison’s words, “form the Country band I always wanted”.

They just recorded their first album, Pole to Pole. I sat down with Allison and Jeff on the day they picked up their cd. Wyatt joined us midway through.

I’ve since had a chance to listen to the cd, and listen and listen. I keep returning to two tracks in particular, 'this city, pt. 2', on which Jeff sings lead, and 'you can't do much', which features Allison. 'This city' has a loose, open quality with Jeff's breaking voice underscored by a country guitar and a rootsy, simple drum beat. 'You can't do much' has a haunting blues guitar loop over which Allison sings in her beautiful clear, round tone.

The entire cd is warm and inviting and, as the three bandmates happily discuss in the interview to follow, full of different ideas and sounds. A definite alt-country vibe wends its way through the various songs but with unexpected forays into blues and roots and folk that give the cd its depth and excitement. - EightMillionStories.com


"Pop Matters Review"

With three different songwriters, an album can tend to sound disjointed and discombobulated. The opposite is the case with Bel Air, a Brooklyn quintet founded by three veterans of the fairly successful garage band Breakup Breakdown. All of the tracks contain a loose Americana edge from twangy ballads ("Almost") to punk- and Buddy Holly-influenced pleas to women ("Riverside Drive") . Intricate arrangements (featuring instruments including various percussion, melodica, saxophone and violin) follow male-to-female-slung vocals and multi-layered harmonies to form what Bel Air calls “dream country.”

Songs featuring Allie Langerak conjure images of 1990s female-led alt-pop (e.g., Cowboy Junkies, Cranberries, The Sundays), with a casual, drifty pop side to its gritty Americana backdrop. Slow and comforting twang added by Mike “Slo-Mo” Brenner (Magnolia Electric Company, Marah) softens the loveliest of ballads and deepens the breadth of the soulful lullabies. “This City, Part 2” almost seems to proceed with tongue-in-cheek references to the music and scene of the Allman Brothers and Gram Parsons. Their Southern country guitar rock and the narrator’s spouting various grandiose life plans that most people only consider when severely stoned. - Sarah Moore - popmatters.com


"Band of the Week on EARFARM"

Bel Air isn’t trying to be all things to all people, they’re just simply being themselves. But given the band’s penchant for drifting from one form of American music into another and back again, they often succeed where others have failed. That is, they hit upon many of the foundations of American music on their debut album Pole to Pole - country, blues, pop, rock, and folk - with disarming ease; and, as a result, are handily inching towards pleasing fans of each of these divergently related genres all at once.

Originally pieced together as a side project of the Brooklyn garage rock band Breakup Breakdown, Bel Air’s three founding members (Allie Langerak, Jeffrey Mensch, and Wyatt Tuzo, all former members of Breakup Breakdown) decided for a very honest and natural musical approach to this next band. Something that would better touch upon the music they loved to listen to when listening to music for the most basic reasons. As a result, the trio took songs written by Langerak and Mensch and recorded them in the band’s Greenpoint practice before ever playing a live show. The arrangements are intentionally sparse, allowing each instrument plenty of space in which to stretch out and reveal the subtle, spare beauty of Bel Air. On tracks such as “Looking Up” and “Sometimes”, Allie’s sweet, warm voice delivers a touch of melancholia that perfectly balances Mensch’s ’60s tinged folk-rock that shows up on “This City (pt. 2)” and “The Last Thing”. When she’s singing, think Dido channeled through Emmylou Harris. When he’s singing, think the country side of Jerry Garcia mixed with the pop-sensibility of Ray Davies. All of this plays out in front of an undeniably disciplined rhythm section and clear understanding of the value of that ’space between the notes’. The surgically effective guest slide guitar work by Mike “Slomo” Brenner (Magnolia Electric Company, Marah) rounds out a very fine band and provides yet another understated highlight. Bel Air’s music is, perhaps, best defined as a combination of the sounds/roots of country (Americana for short) and the heady/dreamy personality of shoegaze. Belt buckle-gaze perhaps? - earfarm.com


Discography

Pole to Pole 2008
Into the Sea 7" 2009
Fortuna 2010
Spring EP 2011
Summer EP 2011
Fall EP 2011
Winter EP 2012

Photos

Bio

Bel Air is a five-piece Americana band based in Brooklyn. The band may be rooted in classic American music but varied influences (british folk, 90’s indie rock, classic country, 60’s pop) and multiple songwriters move the band beyond a simple Americana classification into a world of their own.

Formed in 2008, Bel Air has toured the Eastern & Southern U.S. numerous times, been selected for the CMJ music Festival four times, and played such renowned New York venues as the Mercury Lounge and Bell House. They can usually be found near their home base in Greenpoint, Brooklyn playing both electric and acoustic shows.

The band has completed a series of four EP's released in one year - each one corresponding to the season it was released in. "Spring" was released in late April followed by "Summer" which was released in August. "Fall" came out in early November and "Winter" was released in February.

Past releases include two full length albums, Fortuna and Pole to Pole and four EPs, Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter.