Beth Arentsen
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Beth Arentsen

Band Pop Singer/Songwriter

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Dec
18
Beth Arentsen @ Wolffer Estate Vineyard

Sagaponak, New York, USA

Sagaponak, New York, USA

Nov
22
Beth Arentsen @ The Strand Theater

Lakewood, New Jersey, USA

Lakewood, New Jersey, USA

Nov
19
Beth Arentsen @ The Living Room

New York, New York, USA

New York, New York, USA

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Music

Press


"Take the piano chops of Tori Amos, the self-confessional lyrics of Fiona Apple, the melodic sensibility of Sarah McLachlan and the grit of Rachael Yamagata, mix it all together and you have the sheer brilliance that is singer/songwriter BETH ARENTSEN." - PerezHilton.com


"It sounds like a hit to me." - WOR Radio


On a balmy night in September 2004, I saw Beth Arentsen perform at The Fez on Lafayette Street in Greenwich Village. Her show happened to mark the end of my first week living in New York City. She sat at the piano, glass of wine in hand, and held the audience spellbound with a trio of songs that could not have been inspired by anything other than her own life. These were not diary entries, mind you, these were wounds set to music that hadn’t quite healed. Like those around me, I sat transfixed. At that particular show, Arentsen performed three songs: “Captain of Me”, “Spider” and “Penelope”, a song based on a myth in Arentsen’s New Jersey hometown about a woman who narrowly escapes death-by-disembowelment. The Fez, sadly, has long shuttered its doors but the melodies of those songs have found a permanent home on Sap, the stunning debut album by Beth Arentsen.

The independent music scene in New York has no shortage of singer-songwriters willing to map their personal turmoil onto music notes. Not unlike her peers, Arentsen’s stories are highly specific, sometimes cryptic, and about as familiar as flipping through a stranger’s scrapbook. Her songs are vessels for a lifetime of broken hearts and unrealized dreams yet she triumphs in making the listener actually care about her battle scars through accessible melodies and an expressive vocal style.

On her debut, Arentsen employs a tight musical unit who create an impressive musical consistency across each of the ten tracks on Sap. Key to the album’s seamlessness is producer Jimi Zhivago, who ensures that Arentsen’s vocals and the keys on her piano are crisp and in the foreground. Brian Wolfe’s deft drum and percussion skills and the mournful cello of Veronica Parrales anchor the songs without overwhelming them. Zhivago adds brushes of bass and organ underneath the tracks to give a richer hue to the album’s acoustic patina.

These elements are marvelously in place on “Used to Dream”, the opening track on Sap. It’s an arresting excursion to the center of Arentsen’s torn heart, with an intensity that builds and ceases to climax until the very last note. “I left you / for the simple satisfaction,” she sings over piano chords that contain just a hint of anger beneath them. “I’m jumping through flame hoops/just to get your reaction,” she continues with Wolfe’s drum shifting the song towards a simmering four-chord pattern. Parrales’ cello punctuates the mounting drama with a bracing staccato rhythm, leading to the chorus wherein Arentsen’s voice, plaintive but not desperate, implores, “It won’t make it right if we / keep it wrong / It won’t make it right if we / go too long / down the same road of the long haul / And I want to go home.” Most impressively, Arentsen sustains that momentum, musically and lyrically, for the bulk of the album’s 45-minute run time.

A waltz-like rhythm envelopes the gorgeous “Captain of Me”, which was one of the songs I heard Arentsen perform at The Fez three years ago. Over an exquisite piano melody, she sings:

If you could only be captain of me
When my tears leak gasoline green
When my sails whip clouds to cream
When I’m crashing on the reef
You’ll choose to sail the sea

The chorus is a beautiful marriage of imagery and music, especially because Arentsen’s phrasing doesn’t render the lyrics secondary to the melody. Each word is sung with intent and purpose. From Arentsen’s lips, the “mm” in “cream” becomes tangible whereas another vocalist might have easily faded the consonant sound into the next line.

“Arms of Three”, another tune wrapped in three-four time, uses a tree as its central metaphor: “And these branches keep falling off of me / wondering when it’s my time of year / I’ll shake these thoughts / they hang off me / branches weak from wear.” A toy solider-marching drum motif links Arentsen to her past, a part of her life that, based on this song, doesn’t seem completely resolved. Though she yearns to “shake” disturbing thoughts from her mind, finding distraction in everything from Central Park to the melody of “Heart and Soul” ("I’m safe when I bang on the keys"), her attempts are in vain. “Arms of Three” ends on a dissonant chord as the drum motif bubbles underneath, emphasizing how parts of Arentsen’s past remain unresolved long after the song fades.

Such intimate moments are in no short supply on Sap, an album that amounts to one of the most promising debuts of 2007. Arentsen’s dreams ("Conquistadora"), nightmares ("Penelope") and reality ("Like They Care") fight for our attention while she wrestles through every one of them on her piano. Alternately charming and haunting, hopeful and frustrated, the songs of Beth Arentsen do, indeed, stick like “sap on wood.” - PopMatters


Unlike other leading lady singers (ie: Fergie and Gwen), Beth Arentsen hasn't banked on her band P-1's image or success to parlay her solo career into similar image and success. Instead, she's created a unique sound in her solo debut, Sap, completely outside of P-1's atmospheric club tracks and dance beats. And uses her own label to release it. Reminiscent to her earlier career as a film and television pianist, Arentsen combines soft tickled ivories with a deep, emotional and artistic lyrical expression that she herself calls, “…dangerous and uncomfortable themes of love, loss, sexuality, gender and abuse.” - Pink Magazine


As a member of P-1, New Jersey-native Beth Arentsen (a.k.a) B.A.) released a couple of dance-pop albums (2004's "Step" and 2006's "Power"). But on her solo debut, B.A. transforms herself into Beth Arentsen, ditches the club beats and lights out for the singer-songwriter territory. An unlikely transition , to be sure, but one that Arentsen pulls off quite admirable. With her lovely sporano and songwriting senssitiviey, comparisons to Tori Amos, I suppose, are likely. But unlike Amos, who can be just a little to look-at-me precious, Arentsen comes across as a genuine and vulnerable instead of merely pretentious, possessing the storyteller's poetic sensibility without the purple obtusity. She also manages to channel some of the dreaminess of Sarah McLachlan without disappearing into the either. (Just check out the best track of the set, the closer Conquistadora, a spare ballad that features Arentsen so entwined with her muse and her piano, it’s almost chilling).
Tracks like the cello-flushed Laura Nyro complexity of Used to Dream, the sly wink that is the title track ""But I got one thing up my sleeve/It's a man who'll never leave/Next to everything he looks good") and the haunting Captain of Me make "Sap" one of those rainy Saturday afternoon CDs for when you're in the mood for something a little cerebral but not too heavy; something with more teeth than your typical pop, yet with the comfort factor of your favorite, well-worn sweater. (***1/2)
- Mark-Christopher - Gay Chicago Magazine


Every so once in awhile, a superb vocalist emerges of the pop music scene. One of the finest is Beth Arentsen, former lead singer of the Latin beat group P-1. Following Alicia Key's example of piano based songs, Arentsen has written songs of a deeply personal expressing abuse ("Like They Care"), love lost and found ("Sap"), relationships ("Used To Dream" and "Spider"). One song, "Ode" is used as an opening verse to "Conquistadora," a plea for a more simpler meaning of life. These very probing songs may not be to everyone's taste. However, for the brave, this CD represents a highly rewarding experience into a new world by an upcoming singer / songwriter / performer well worth more exposure. - Journal Into Melody - Richard Jessen


If forming a grunge band was the big trend of the last decade, this decade’s trend would be the rise of the singer/songwriter. Though there have been plenty of famous solo artists for years and years, this particular decade has seen more and more artists either abandon bands to go off on their own or try to release their music on their own from the start. But despite this bombardment of songwriters, Beth Arentsen (of jazz-funk band P-1) is one whose music is immediately striking. With the perfect mix of melodic singing and instrumentals coupled with complex songwriting, Sap is an album worthy of listener’s attention.

Arentsen has an absolutely beautiful voice that will immediately draw listeners in. Her voice has that perfect level of melody to it, and could potentially put her on the mainstream map if she continues to put out albums like Sap. The lyrics on this release are much more complex than one might expect, mixing in seemingly personal songs with others that seem to be a commentary on events she has seen on a personal level. On some tracks it is hard to tell when Beth Arentsen is singing about herself and when she is simply using it as a metaphor to express something deeper, and that is a sign of great songwriting.



The instrumentals also help to make Sap a genuinely enjoyable listen. Arentsen is an excellent piano player, and has enlisted the help of other talented musicians to make her music stand out. There is still a hint of jazz influence at times, but Sap is closer to adult pop music. This is to say that it’s more mature and has much more evolved ideas than what one would consider to be commercial pop music. At times there are a few songs that feel a little strange within the overall scope of the album (the introduction to “Captain of Me” feels a bit awkward), but overall the instrumental arrangements are very well done.

Though it seems as though another singer/songwriter releases their debut solo album almost every month, Beth Arentsen’s is one to grab as it delivers intriguing lyrics with delightful melodies. Hopefully this isn’t the last we hear from Arentsen, as she could definitely gain some notoriety in the future. Sap is an album that [for lack of better words] will stick with listeners for quite some time.

Chris Dahlberg

November 22, 2007 - Cosmos Gaming


It is no exaggeration to say that the music field is over saturated with singer-songwriters trying to make a name for themselves. From the ranks of anti-folk rising stars like Regina Spector and Chris Garneau, to acoustic songstress mainstays like Alanis Morisette or Tori Amos, betharentsen.jpgsinger-songwriters from every shade and flavor of the musical spectrum have exploded onto the music scene, shirking over-produced record labels and offering an increasingly eclectic body of work.

I recently had the opportunity of sitting down with singer-songwriter, Beth Arentsen, a veteran of the music businiess, to discuss the launch of her first solo album Sap and her upcoming performance at the LGBT Community Center in New York City. While her music is far from ground-breaking or avant-garde, the songstress weaves together a touching and deeply personal tapestry in a nostalgic swell of whimsy, poetry, and personal narrative.
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I was first introduced to Arentsen, when Bil sent me a request to interview a singer-songwriter who was coming to my neck of the woods for a performance at the LGBT Community Center. I am relatively new to this whole media/press world, having never taken a journalism course or had any real journalistic experience (aside from heading a small gender studies 'zine in college). This would mark my first interview. I was nervous. I didn't know what to expect, especially with the ridiculous behavior of celebrities nowadays, I was ready for an ego-maniacal "musical artist" to come trouncing through my door expecting to be treated like a goddess and offering only the crudest of insight for my piece.

Arentsen was nothing like I expected her to be. Beth walked into the quaint New York coffee shop dressed down in jeans and a smile. She didn't stink of celebrity self-importance or artist ego (which is surprising considering how she has rubbed elbows with fame before, being former roommates with a certain "infamous gay celebrity blogger" *hint hint* and former classmate and friend of Jake Shears of the Scissor Sisters). Rather, she spoke of her newfound sense of stability with her husband Rick, and home in New Jersey by the ocean, which has always been a constant source of inspiration for her. Her childhood was filled with many hours sailing with her father out on the open water. This sense of wanderlust and adventure makes itself quite evident in her music.

Arentsen is perhaps more widely known for her work, headlining with the electro-jazz-funk group, P1. Soon after starting her music career, Arentsen was signed by a record label and matched with the instrumentalists which would eventually form the group P1. While she greatly enjoyed her time working with P1 and their electro-funk sound, which was dramatically different to her early piano-based acoustic sound she developed playing in New York's East Village while at NYU, Arentsen eventually felt moved to create a solo work which got back to her roots as a songwriter.

"We created two great albums. And to be honest, we gave the label our two albums, we fulfilled our responsibilities. We never stopped; P1 is still out there, it's still a force. But we did stop touring so we could follow our solo projects.

"So I grabbed some friends who have always been playing with me, and we created this quirky little trio. And it's just easy for me. I don't need to be in the studio. I don't need any gimmicks or walrus sounds or pro tools. I just grabbed friends and went into the studio and laid down very acoustically, and very honestly, the ideas I had for my album."

It is this acoustic and honest sound that distinguishes Arensten's album from her previous work with P1. The layered and rich acoustical style which permeate the songs in Sap reflects at a deeper, more contemplative tone than her previous work with P1. I will have to say that the style utilized with each of the songs can at times make it difficult to distinguish songs from each other. But where Arentsen's music really shines is in her storytelling.

"Penelope," inspired by a local folk tale of Arentsen's childhood home on the Jersey shore, evokes a haunting tale of Penelope Stout, a Dutch settler woman, who after becoming shipwrecked and washing up onto the Jersey shore, was attacked by native inhabitants. Legend tells that she managed to find shelter in the safety of a hollow tree and was able to nurse herself back to health, and would go on to become a progenitor of the new settlers in the early settlements of America. Arentsen takes different shards of Penelope Stout's story of adversity, self-reliance, and survival and weaves a musical mystery which unfolds as the song unwinds.

The finale song of Arentsen's album, "Conquistadora" is her most poignant. A simple piano introduction eases into an atypically fragile shade to Arentsen's voice, which tends to be smokier in her other songs on the album. Arentsen's song resonates with a deep bittersweet sorrow and a release of emotion and in the end peace.

"I really love 'Conquistadora,'... because it is about going home and about really searching for what you want out of life and where you think you should be, even when everyone is telling you they think you should be. And that's what this solo album is about to me. Everyone was telling me, 'Stick with P1, it's an indie label distributed by Warner. This is great, keep performing the shows.' But I really had to stop and take stock, and create the music I'm feeling right now. And when I think of 'Conquistadora' it is also the last song I wrote and recorded on this album. It always keeps me centered... I really feel it... that I made the right decisions... That it's really important to stay real and true to yourself."

Beth describes "Conquistadora" as a bridge to her new work, which is still being constructed. Many of the songs on Sap were written during her early and mid-twenties. It will be interesting to see how her sound and lyrical style will evolve as she enters a new area in her life. Arentsen says she looks to create an edgier sound with her new album. If you are interested in hearing some of her new songs she's got cooking, try and make her performance at the NYC LGBT Community Center, where she plans to debut several new songs; including one about her relationship with said famous gay celebrity gossip columnist. Oooh the intrigue.

Beth Arentsen performs on Thursday, October 2, 2008 at the LGBT Community Center in New York City from 7-9pm. - Jason Tseng


"With the kooky flair for the dramatic and piano prowess of Tori Amos along with the thoughtful lyrics and business acumen of Ani DiFranco, Arentsen has moved confidently from her work as the lead singer in the jazz/funk/electronica band P-1 to her recent, more personal solo CD, Sap." - Dramanonymous.com


Discography

2009 "Nicer" EP self-release
2007 "Sap" self-release
2006 "Power" Forever Soul/3MD/RYKO/WMG
2004 "Step" NoVo/Lightyear/WEA

Radio Play:
"Spider" being played on 90.5 WBJB, also chosen for station's 2008 Spring Membership Drive CD Sampler.

Additional spins on
WOR
Sirius Satellite Radio

2008 Asbury Music Award Nominee:
Top Female Acoustic Act
Top Keyboard Player

Borders Emerging Artist Series Performer 2008
past performers include Nicole Atkins & Chris Barron

Photos

Bio

Hailed by AllMusic, Perez Hilton, and PopMatters as an "artist to watch," NYC/NJ's Beth Arentsen is set to release her new EP "Nicer," following her critically acclaimed, self-released solo debut, SAP (2007). With emotionally charged lyrics, a commanding stage presence and a head-turning voice, Beth draws comparisons to Kate Bush and Alanis Morissette.

Beth Arentsen moved to New York City to study experimental theater at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and to perform her music in Lower Manhattan's music halls. It was her love of songwriting that eventually led Beth to Austin’s SXSW. Armed with a demo and a smile, Beth caught the interest of a Chicago label, NoVo Records, which signed her to be the front woman of the [jazz-funk] band, P-1. Crossing all formats and genres, P-1 released two albums (Step through NoVo/Lightyear/WEA and Power through NoVo/Ryko) enjoyed commercial radio play (including 1 hit "P-1 Groove" on NYC's CD 101.9) and landed songs in film and television (Fox Searchlight's Trust the Man and ABC's Samantha Who?)

Inspired by the success of P-1, Beth focused her energy into a more personal project. The end result was Sap, produced by Jimi Zhivago(Rufus Wainwright) and recorded at The Magic Shop in NYC. Sap departed from the electro vibe of P-1 in favor of a more stripped-down telling of Beth’s tales that dew upon Beth’s early childhood on the ocean and experiences living above the asphalt. Her most recent release, Nicer, fuses together both the acoustic qualities of Sap and the electronic influences of her P-1 albums.

Beth regularly performs in New York City at Joe's Pub and The Living Room and in Asbury Park, NJ at The Saint and Twisted Tree. Other national venues include: The Metro (Chicago), Eisenhower Park Summer Stage (Long Island, NY), the John Drew Theater (East Hampton, NY) as well as many festivals, colleges, benefits and product launches including, Scion. She has also appeared live on commercial and satellite radio and morning television.

For inquiries, contact Flying Perfect Media: flyingperfect@gmail.com

Digital Lover written by Beth Arentsen and Anton Bass featured in an episode of Samantha Who?