Month: February 2015

Coachella Band Preview: Alt-J

With 43 days left until Weekend One of Coachella 2015, music prep time continues to run out. That’s why today I’m previewing another band playing a bigger role in this year’s festival compared to the last time they played in 2013.

Formed in 2007, English indie rock band Alt-J has exploded on the indie music scene within the last two and a half years since the release of their first album An Awesome Wave in 2012. Their name comes from their symbol ∆ (the delta sign) which can be typed on a Mac by pressing alt-j (I actually did it to type the symbol in this sentence…so cool). Members Joe Newman, Thom Green, Gus Unger-Hamilton and former member Gwil Sainsbury (replaced by Cameron Knight this past year) created the band while studying at Leeds University. They eventually signed a record deal in late 2011 and released An Awesome Wave that following spring (although it wasn’t released in America until September 2012).

I first heard of Alt-J one Saturday morning in October 2012 right before heading out of the house. One of my favorite actresses, Troian Bellisario (star of TV’s Pretty Little Liars), had posted about the song “Breezeblocks” to some form of social media. I listened to it and downloaded it right after while I was waiting for my mom to be ready to go to where ever we were going that morning. I remember being in the process of downloading it when my mom said she was ready to leave. A day later I downloaded the song “Something Good”. Since that time I would hear an Alt-J song here or there and download it. It wasn’t until this past September when Alt-J released their Grammy nominated second album This is All Yours that I decided I needed to get the album on vinyl (ended up getting it for Christmas).

Although I knew about Alt-J for a little over 2 years I never went through a major phase when I listened to them constantly. I feel like they’re the kind of band you put on when you’re just relaxing in your room. Their sound is basically indie music with electronics that create this (at times) Arabian-like style especially in songs like “Fitzpleasure” and “Taro”. It could partially be Newman’s vocals that create that effect as well. Its definitely something to listen to. The hit off their latest album “Left Hand Free” has more of an indie rock feel, but still has that same unique Alt-J sound that is evident in all their music.

This year at Coachella they’re playing the Saturday date on Weekend One and Weekend Two in more of a headlining role. With their rise in the indie scene and the amount of sold-out shows they’ve played, it’s only natural to see them on the main stage this time around. It should be one of the highlights of the weekend for sure. With not much prep time left, it’s time to start checking these guys out.

Song recommendations:

1. “Breezeblocks”

2. “Left Hand Free”

3. “Fitzpleasure”

4. “Something Good”

5. “Warm Foothills”

6. “Tessellate”

7. “Every Other Freckle”

8. “Pusher”

9. “Hunger on the Pine” (As a side note, this song features Miley Cyrus…so let that sink in.)

10. “Taro”

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The 87th Annual Little Golden Man Figurine Awards

Two weeks ago was the biggest night in music, but last night was the biggest night in movies. Obviously I got into the whole thought of award shows in my Grammy’s post. While researching for that post I found out the Academy Awards (a.k.a. the Oscar’s) are the most prestigious, most watched, and oldest awards given out in entertainment. If you’ve been following my blog since the beginning, you’ll know that I saw and wrote posts about 3 movies that were nominated for several Academy Awards (Boyhood, Whiplash, and Birdman). Each of those took home Oscars last night. Boyhood’s Patricia Arquette won Best Supporting Actress. Whiplash won 3 awards for Best Supporting Actor (J.K. Simmons), Sound Mixing, and Film Editing (all well deserved). Birdman shared the top honor with most wins last night (with The Grand Budapest Hotel) with 4 awards including Cinematography (called it), Best Original Screenplay, Director (Alejandro González Iñárritu), and the coveted Best Picture.

In other big award moments of the night, Eddie Redmayne took home the Oscar for Best Actor for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, and Julianne Moore won Best Actress for her role as a linguistics professor diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s in Still Alice. But like the Grammy’s, the Oscar’s are more than just an awards presentation. They’re a show, and there were some pretty notable moments to take from the show aspect. In my opinion, there was nothing quite as good as taking an epic selfie or delivering pizza to the audience, but still this year delivered in its own way.

John Legend and Common’s performance of “Glory” from the film Selma was incredibly moving. Lady Gaga slayed her performance which was an ode to Julie Andrews and the Sound of Music that was celebrating its 50th anniversary. Then there was host Neil Patrick Harris in his underwear. He pulled off the Birdman skit for sure. However to me, I think there were two other pretty fantastic and inspiring moments that happened.

The first was when Patricia Arquette was delivering her acceptance speech after receiving her award for Best Supporting Actress. Rather than just describing it, you can watch it here. What she said was so important for all women, but what was even more awesome was the way her message touched Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez. Both responded in such a way that indicated their support of what she said. The second was when Graham Moore received his Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Imitation Game. His acceptance speech can be seen here. His message to “stay weird, stay different” definitely reached so many that watched. Those words were incredibly important for self-acceptance no matter who you are.

It seems more often than not, a lot of Oscar acceptance speeches touch on cultural issues in a way that speak to so many affected by these issues. The recipients seem so humbled by the tremendous honor and dedicate their achievement to those that have influenced them in some way shape or form. I mean I guess that’s typically how it goes with most awards, but I think with an Oscar it’s like the grand prize so the winners are much more grateful than with other award shows. Not that other awards don’t matter, but with the Oscar’s there’s a little something extra.

So with all the awards presented and the cast and creators of Birdman on stage accepting the award for Best Picture, the 87th Annual Little Golden Man Figurine (Academy) Awards (and awards season in general) came to a close. Another year of great films in 2015 is ahead before the next Oscar’s presentation. Until then the winners can enjoy their achievements. However I think everyone at the Oscar’s is truly a winner, because they all had some part in incredible film making. But let’s be honest, you really came out on top last night if you left with a Lego Oscar.

Why Bayside is Still Cool 15 Years Later

And now I realize, I’d give anything I had to walk a day in my old shoes wondering what my first smoke would be like, my first fuck, my next fuck up, or the next band that would change my life, and it changed my life.

Those were lyrics from the song “Blame It On Bad Luck” by the band Bayside, who hail from Queens, New York. I thought they were pretty appropriate for what I’m about to say. This year, 2015, Bayside is embarking on a 15th anniversary tour from March-April (they were founded in the winter of 2000). In 15 years time they’ve managed to play numerous tours worldwide, release 6 full length albums (along with a few EP’s/Splits), and maintain a steady “cult” fan base all while staying true to their name.

I first heard of Bayside some time in late 2005-early 2006 when I was driving home from somewhere with my friend Bridget. I’m not exactly sure how she told me about them, but I do know that she put either their CD or a mix CD with their music on it in my car and proceeded to tell me their story. If you know anything about Bayside, you’ll know that this was around the time of the Never Sleep Again Tour which ended up being a somber time for the band. On October 31, 2005 while on the tour and en route to Salt Lake City, UT from Boulder, CO, the band’s tour vehicle hit a patch of ice causing the van to skid off the road and flip over. Drummer, John “Beatz” Holohan, was killed and bassist, Nick Ghanbarian, seriously injured his back. Both Anthony Raneri and Jack O’Shea escaped the accident with minor injuries. After missing several dates of the tour, Raneri and O’Shea rejoined as an acoustic duo in mid-November (the tour finished in December). In February of 2006 Bayside released an acoustic album with the songs they played on the end of that tour, a few acoustic covers, and the song “Winter” which was written in memory of “Beatz”. “Winter” was the first song I heard by Bayside in the car that night and Bridget told me the meaning behind it. I remember looking up the band and reading news releases about “Beatz” and the accident when I got home that night. It broke my heart and at the same time I fell in love with “Winter”. I’m pretty sure I downloaded “Winter” and two other songs, “Don’t Call Me Peanut”, and “Devotion and Desire” shortly after.

I really didn’t get so into Bayside until later 2006-early 2007 though. I saw them live for the first time in May 2007 with my high school bandmates. At that point Chris Guglielmo took over as drummer and the band had released The Walking Wounded in February of that year. From then on I saw Bayside perform about 6 or 7 more times, which doesn’t even include the 2 times I was supposed to see them but couldn’t make their shows for weather related reasons. To this day, I’ve never seen another band play live as much as them (although I Am the Avalanche is pretty close). Even though I don’t currently listen to them as much as I used to (sadly not that much at all to be honest), I still purchase every new album they release and try to follow what they’re up to. The reason being is that I have so much respect for Bayside.

They’re still the same dudes I first heard when I was 16. Their music has evolved in a way that has kept them true to their roots. It still has that same distinct Bayside style sound. Plus Anthony Raneri’s vocals are truly original to his name. These guys have never been sell-outs like some bands who make music based on what a record label tells them to do. They’ve always written and released what they’ve wanted to put out there. I think that’s why they’ve maintained their steady fan base through the years without being labeled as “mainstream”. They never disappoint. They’re also quick to call out bands and other musicians who play crap music for the masses or do things that they don’t agree with.

I remember in 2008 when Anthony Raneri wrote a blog post after attending a Metro Station show questioning their success since he never really saw them playing instruments during their set (I’ll include a link to the excerpt he wrote). He concluded the post by saying “Shake it. Peace.” Between calling them out and those perfect last two sentences, I remember having a good laugh after reading the post. He had endless respect from me for that.

Just yesterday I read another article which talked about how Bayside released a brand new song for the deluxe re-issue of their 2014 album Cult called “Dancing Like An Idiot”. The new song references their definition of “bullshit” Warped Tour bands. After reading that article and listening to their new song, I had another good laugh. Of course I’m not sure what bands they’re talking about anymore since I don’t really follow that scene or go to Warped Tour, but it just proved to me how Bayside is still the same kind of awesome they were in 2008 when Ant talked about Metro Station or in 2006 when I first heard them. So when I quoted their song to start this post it wasn’t because “Blame It On Bad Luck” is my favorite Bayside song or because I strongly miss my past (it is my favorite song, but I’m really looking toward the future these days), it’s because I always thought of Bayside when I heard the words “the next band that would change my life”. And they did. That’s why they’ll always be pretty important to me no matter what I’m listening to. And as long as they keep doing what they’ve been doing for the last 15 years, I’ll still respect them just as much as I always have. Keep shaking it. Peace.

Song recommendations:

1. “Blame It On Bad Luck”

2. “Winter”

3. “Devotion and Desire”

4. “Montauk”

5. “Masterpiece”

6. “Duality”

7. “Landing Feet First”

8. “On Love, On Life”

9. “The Ghost of St. Valentine”

10. “Don’t Call Me Peanut”

(Feel free to listen to the acoustic versions of recommendations 1, 3, 4, and 5 too if you’d like. They were all featured on Bayside’s acoustic album.)

*Link to 2008 Metro Station excerpt- http://djrossstar.buzznet.com/user/journal/2719491/bayside-singer-disses-metro-station/

**Link to 2015 “Dancing Like An Idiot” article- http://www.billboard.com/articles/news/6473041/bayside-dancing-like-an-idiot-lyric-video-exclusive-anthony-raneri-interview-warped-tour

The Countdown Continues: European Friendlies

Over the last week and a half the USWNT has been over in Europe training. They also participated in two international friendlies against France and England. As of today there are 110 days until the start of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. But after two less than convincing performances this week, doubts continue to rise about a team long considered a heavy favorite to win this summer’s biggest tournament.

The USWNT played No.3 FIFA-ranked France last Sunday in Lorient in front of a crowd of 15,663. The team failed to put together a strong attack on offense and with some mishaps on defense went down 2-0 shortly into the second half. The France goals came within a minute of each other, as Eugenie Le Sommer headed a cross from Elodie Thomis into the left side of the goal at the 50th minute mark. Then in the 51st minute a bending cross by Jessica Houara found its way to the back netting by bouncing in off the left post. The USWNT had a few chances late in the game, but did not score. Most notably, upon entering the game Abby Wambach was awarded a penalty kick after going down in the box. She failed to convert as France goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi made the diving save to her right. The U.S. ended up falling 2-0 to France.

Besides facing Brazil in December, France will most likely be the best team that the U.S. women face until the World Cup in June. It was a good test for them. It clearly pointed out weaknesses that they need to work on in the coming months. But still with a few less than favorable results in the past few months, the questions keep popping up about the strength of this team and whether or not they’ll be lifting a trophy by the beginning of July.

Yesterday’s match against England provided a slightly better outcome, but still demonstrated that the USWNT has plenty of work to do before June. The red, white, and blue opened the scoring in the 25th minute with a header goal by Alex Morgan off a cross from Lauren Holiday. It was Morgan’s 50th of her international career. The lone goal stood to be the deciding marker of the match in what looked to be a more improved performance by the U.S. squad. England seemed to be holding back for the first half of the game. The second half saw more offensive chances for them though. In the 56th minute, England would have tied the match after a strike from Fran Kirby was knocked off the crossbar by USWNT goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris (playing for the suspended Hope Solo which is another story in itself). The rebound of the save found the feet of England’s Jodie Taylor and she placed the ball in the back of the net. However, Taylor was ruled to be offside. From there, England failed to threaten the American defense until stoppage time when U.S. defender Ali Krieger headed a dangerous cross away to solidify the win for the United States.

Although improvements were made from the game against France and the United States seemed to maintain better possession and create more offensive opportunities, the score didn’t indicate such a dominant performance. And really, it wasn’t. After the Morgan goal, the USWNT looked the most comfortable they had been since going overseas. They created plenty of scoring chances in their attacking third until the end of the first half (the attack seemed to slow a bit for the final 45). The midfield looked much better than it did in the match against France. Ali Krieger, who played as a sub in the France match, started the game against England and seemed to be an added improvement in the U.S. defense. But, (and this is a big but) England isn’t France. France created so much more efficient counters on the United States. Their midfield proved to be more dominant than England (and the U.S. for that matter). Their defense handled the offensive attack that the U.S. tried to initiate. Even England’s overall size is smaller compared to France. So it makes sense that the U.S. would have performed a bit better. However, the game could have easily ended in a tie. So the outcome, even though it was a 1-0 win, could have been better for the USWNT, and is a good indication that there is still a lot of work to be done for a team that seemed destined for World Cup glory.

In two weeks the USWNT will begin the Algarve Tournament in Portugal where they face off against Norway (March 4th, 2 p.m. ET), Switzerland (March 6th, 12 p.m. ET), Iceland (March 9th, 1:30 p.m. ET), and another yet to be determined opponent (March 11th, Time TBD). Following the tournament, only 4 friendlies remain until June 8th when the U.S. opens their World Cup group play against Australia. So far, this ride to the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup has been rocky, but I still plan on following this team every step of the way and updating on each triumph and downfall. Only time will tell what will happen in June. Will they achieve the greatness they have been searching for since 1999? I still believe. Do you?

The Biggest Night in Music…or Something Like That

If you watched the Grammy Awards last night, I’m sure the one question running through your mind is “Was there anything Sam Smith didn’t win?” The answer is surprisingly “Yes!” no matter how you look at it. Sure you can say he didn’t win a Grammy for every category, but he wasn’t nominated for every category. However, he also did not win in every category he was nominated for (Pharrell won with “Happy” for Best Pop Performance), although it sure seemed like he did.

Anyway, I originally had planned to do a Grammy Awards recap today but then right before the show started last night I realized I really didn’t care to watch it. Prior to this I saw three of the categories I cared about were already awarded. Best Rock Performance went to Jack White for “Lazaretto”, Best Rock Song went to Paramore for “Ain’t It Fun” and Best Alternative Album went to St. Vincent for her self-titled album (see you at Coachella Jack and Annie!). After that I only cared if The Black Keys won Best Rock Album or if Haim won Best New Artist. Neither did. So there wasn’t much else for me to see. The performances weren’t my cup of tea nor were the other categories. I might have been mildly interested to see if Taylor Swift won anything for “Shake It Off”. That song may be a guilty pleasure of mine but I will not confirm or deny that (she didn’t win at all). Still, that was something I could wait to find out later without watching the show.

So I barely watched the Grammys. Instead it got me thinking, “Why do people watch the Grammys? Why are they so special? Heck, why do people watch any award shows and what makes some more important or better than others?” So I did some research and decided to answer those questions here.

First “Why do people watch the Grammys?” and “Why are they so special?” Well to give an answer to both of these questions at once (sorta) is because the Grammys are the oldest and most prestigious awards in music. The show started in the late 50’s and has continued until this point. So that’s why they’re special and I think part of why people watch. Another reason I think people watch is because they want to see if their favorite artists receive a major achievement. I’m sure some people watch to see the performances and drama that occurs with a live award show. There’s probably people that watch just so they can feel included to talk about the show the next day at work or school. Then there’s the people who watch for the fashion. There’s probably other reasons too, but I think those are some of the big ones.

I guess the same can be said for why people watch any awards shows. They care about what the show celebrates whether it’s music, tv, movies, etc., or they care about fashion and pop culture, or they just watch it for pure entertainment. What makes some award shows better than others? Well I think like I said before is how old they are and how prestigious they are deemed by society.

That’s the thing though. The Grammy Awards (probably other award shows too) were criticized plenty of times for just being some big spectacle that celebrates the music industry, caters to people for entertainment, and is less about the actual music than they want you to believe. Like many things in our culture, award shows get blown out of proportion. It’s society that makes us believe that awards are important and certain awards are more important than others. That goes for anything. I guess it’s the case that people need to feel validated sometimes and awards help with that. But I think it’s important for those receiving awards to feel validated no matter what, like the people who make music purely to make music by expressing themselves and creating a beautiful compilation of sound. There’s validation in just being able to make music. One of my favorite Grammy moments of all time happened when Justin Vernon of Bon Iver won two Grammys in 2012 for Bon Iver, Bon Iver and Best New Artist (he wasn’t new at the time but we’ll let that slide). Through his acceptance speech he basically indicated that the awards meant so little compared to the music which was so much more important. I’ve always respected musicians like that who put the music first. It is what’s most important. Awards are just an added bonus.

So I think it’s important for those of us that actually care about what the awards are for to remember what is really important about them. Hell, even if you care about the fashion or the water cooler discussion the next day it’s important to know the real reason for having an award show. Music, television, movies, etc. are all forms of art. They’re beautiful creations of tremendous amounts of work that have been shared with us. That is what is so incredible about them. That is what is most important.

Coachella Band Preview: Jungle

63 days remain until the first weekend of Coachella 2015 which means the prep time for listening to bands is slowly dwindling. That also means so is the time to preview some of the bands playing. Another act playing the festival this year is Jungle, a relatively new band (formed in 2013) I heard of about a month or two before the lineup came out. I downloaded a pretty catchy song called “Time” by these guys after hearing them on some sort of indie playlist/website. Then when I saw they were playing Coachella I decided to check out more of their music. I wasn’t disappointed, but I didn’t really know too much about this band until I started doing some research on them for the blog.

Jungle, formed in 2013, was founded by two childhood best friends Tom McFarland and Josh Lloyd-Watson (known as J and T). Both are from London, England. Their sound though is what sets them apart from other bands that fit on the indie spectrum. In fact, I doubt there are many, if not any other bands playing Coachella that are similar in music style to Jungle. When I decided to listen to more of their music my first impression was that they sounded like a group straight out of the 70’s, but with a modern vibe. Think indie funk. Never did I think I would be into music that sounded like something you’d hear on Soul Train, but their music works. I love it.

Another reason to love this band is that they focus on their music as an art form. They put effort to express their music in a certain way through their music videos. From simply using eye contact to form a connection with the audience, to dancing on roller blades, to using an insanely talented 6 year old break dancer, their videos present certain messages that go beyond a normal music video. Their music in general also features plenty of non-traditional instruments and sounds that adds to the artistic nature of this band.

In the coming months until the festival I plan on listening to Jungle frequently. I’m in the process of securing their self-titled debut album as part of my Coachella preparations. I can’t wait to see what they offer at a live set which I plan on attending at the festival. If you’re heading to Coachella this year or just looking for some new bands to get into, I recommend listening to Jungle. They’re definitely something different, but like I said it just works.

Song recommendations:

1. “Time”

2. “The Heat”

3. “Burnin’ Easy”

Super Bowl XLIX

I don’t think I’d be a good sports blogger if I didn’t write something about one of the biggest days in all of sports. So here it is. The NFL Championship game or the Super Bowl, as it’s most widely known, is the 2nd most watched sporting event in the world (bonus points if you can name the first). Within the last 10-15 years though, it’s become more like a show and less like a football game (until maybe the second half when things finally get settled down and the highly publicized halftime show is over). Then again there’s still the commercials. It’s probably the only time all year when anyone even pays attention to the commercials. So basically it’s become something that football fans and non-football fans alike watch every year.

Super Bowl Sunday is also one of the biggest party days of the year. Tons of pizza, wings, beer, chips, dip, pretzels, hoagies and more are consumed on Super Bowl Sunday. People get together with friends or go out to bars and restaurants to watch the game. It’s a day that really is so much more than football. But let’s face it. Without the actual sport, this day wouldn’t exist at all.

This year’s game took place at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona (home of the Arizona Cardinals) and featured a matchup between the teams with the best regular season record in each conference the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks. It was an even matchup throughout the entire game and could have went either way. The Patriots opened the scoring in the 2nd quarter with a TD pass from quarterback Tom Brady to wide receiver Brandon LaFell. Running back, Marshawn Lynch of the Seahawks put up 6 when he scored with a little over 2 minutes remaining in the half. Then in the last two minutes before the big Katy Perry halftime show both teams each scored touchdowns. Seattle’s came on a gutsy pass call with 6 seconds left (rather than just kicking a field goal that would have assured them 3 points) that if they hadn’t converted, would have left them going into the second half still down by 7.

Since this is a music blog too I guess I should mention the half time show. I don’t listen to pop music including Katy Perry, but it’s kind of impossible not to know her songs since I usually end up hearing these big deal pop songs in one way or another. Although, there was that time I happened to see her Warped Tour set in 2008 (yeah warped was weird that year). Anyway, she was joined by Lenny Kravitz and Missy Elliott in an elaborate half time show which is the standard for Super Bowl halftime shows these days. If there’s anything she did right though, it was sharks and palm trees.

The second half of the game saw a strong start by the Seahawks as they took the lead for the first time in the game with a 27 yard field goal by Steven Haushka in the 3rd quarter. They followed it up about 6 minutes later with another touchdown and extra point giving them a 24-14 edge over the Pats going into the 4th. But with a game so tight from the get-go, you knew the Patriots were going to push on and attempt to tie the game or take a lead. That’s just what happened. The Patriots scored two 4th quarter TD’s giving them a 28-24 lead with 2:02 on the clock. It was plenty of time for the Seahawks to try to score a touchdown and win the Super Bowl for the second consecutive year. During their final drive it seemed as though they might do it. They ended up on the NE 1 yard line on 2nd down as they let the seconds tick off the clock. Rather than letting Lynch try to run the ball in for what would have been the game winning touchdown, a questionable pass call lead to an interception thrown by quarterback Russell Wilson. Malcolm Butler of the Patriots was the guy who intercepted the ball and secured the fourth Super Bowl win in the last 15 years for the New England Patriots. Tom Brady won his fourth Super Bowl and third Super Bowl MVP award tying him with quarterback great Joe Montana and the rest is history until next year when the Super Bowl turns 50 and the game moves to the newly established Levi’s Stadium in San Francisco, California.