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Universe and Villa

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Album Review

There's a subtle undercurrent of mad glee that runs through Universe and Villa, singer/songwriter Stephen Becker's second Le Concorde release, a subtlety that peels away with each repeated listen. This is grandly arranged — yet deceptively simple — metropolitan pop music in the vein of the Beautiful South, Belle & Sebastian and the Magnetic Fields that oozes enough self-deprecating wit, good-natured cynicism, and pure-pop posturing to satisfy both Morrissey and Fountains of Wayne fans alike. Tailor-made for late night, summer-in-the-city driving, Becker's meandering voice can be both fey and brutal — "I Hate Rock and Roll" — but it's his soaring falsetto that's the record's most dangerous weapon. The mesmerizing "Controlling," with its Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie-channeling-Prince, arcs from nearly spoken word to full-on banshee wail (the album's high point), while the ABC-inspired "Archeology of Cruelty" shows an artist who is unafraid to challenge his listener's adherence to the "genre-fication" of indie rock. While Universe and Villa may not hit the mark all the time, it hits a couple of moments within each song every time.


Formed: 2003 in Chicago, IL

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Le Concorde is the second group name adopted by singer/songwriter Stephen Becker, following his previous one, Post Office. Becker, a Northwestern University Ph.D. who grew up in Seattle, had two album releases as Post Office, 1996's Public Displays of Affection and 2001's Chris Stamey-produced Fables in Slang on the indie label Spade Kitty Records while based in New York. He then relocated to Chicago and launched Le Concorde, employing brothers Ellis Clark and Tom Clark of Epicycle as well as Ed...
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Universe and Villa, Le Concorde
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