Month: March 2015

Coachella Band Preview: Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness

10 days til Coachella! Yes I said it. It’s almost here. I fly out in a little over a week and the anticipation is killing me. I’m beyond stoked. I’ll probably have one more festival blog post between now and then, but this is it. Home stretch. If you haven’t been listening to any of the bands playing the festival, now is the time to cram. This band I’m about to preview is one of those smaller festival sets that you might not have heard of yet. Maybe you have though. If you’re like me and grew up with the punk/emo/indie/alternative scene in the early to mid-00’s, you may very well know the name of this guy who is responsible for Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. His name is Andrew McMahon (duh).

Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness is the solo project of former Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin front man, Andrew McMahon. Compared to both of those bands Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness sounds a lot like Jack’s Mannequin’s pop rock, piano rock style but with a slight indie sound as well (Something Corporate was more pop punk). Even though the sound is similar to Jack’s Mannequin, the lyrics represent a different time period in this artist’s life. Jack’s Mannequin songs were more about breaking free, dealing with the struggles life brings, and then rising above them. Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness’s first single “Cecelia and the Satellite” is about McMahon’s daughter who was born in February 2014. The music in this new band is a lyrical progression of his life. The band’s debut self-titled album was just released in October (2014). McMahon has since been playing venues around the country in promotion of his new band and album. He’s also playing a bunch of festivals and events this summer with a few solo dates mixed in. To get a full history on this new project though, you really have to understand where he started.

Vocalist and pianist, Andrew McMahon, along with bassist, Kevin Page, drummer, Brian Ireland, and guitarists, Josh Partington and Reuben Hernandez (later replaced by William Tell) formed Something Corporate in 1998. Through their time as a band the group released three albums, Ready… Break (2000), Leaving Through the Window (2002), and North (2003). By 2004-2005 the pop-punk band decided to go on hiatus with a promise that the break wasn’t an end to the group (the band played a few shows together at various times since their hiatus began and had a reunion tour in 2010 but did not release any new material since North). During the break, McMahon took the time to work on his side project Jack’s Mannequin, but life had other plans for the musician.

While on tour in 2005, McMahon woke up one morning with an inability to speak, so he went to the doctor to get checked out. After getting some tests done, McMahon was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. He was 22. That summer tours were cancelled and he went through intense cancer treatments. The day Jack’s Mannequin’s debut album, Everything in Transit, was released, McMahon received a stem cell transplant from his sister Katie. The album sold 25,000 copies in its first week. By December, McMahon had made a full recovery and played his first show in 6 months. Jack’s Mannequin released two more albums The Glass Passenger (2008) and People and Things (2011), but by 2012 McMahon was ready to close the door on Jack’s and that time period of his life.

Now flashback to late 2003 when I still listened to the radio and pop music. I was a freshman in high school and had yet to hear of bands like Dashboard Confessional, Brand New, and Taking Back Sunday. One of my friends told me about this song I should listen to that she heard about from this boy she liked for several months called “Punk Rock Princess” by a band called Something Corporate. I listened and got into the song for the sake of my friend. Sometime after that though, within the next year to be precise, I really started listening to Something Corporate. Sure it might have been after the whole Dashboard discovery, but still. I purchased Leaving Through the Window and fell in love with songs like “Hurricane” (one of my favorite songs of all time), “Cavanaugh Park”, and “I Woke Up in A Car”. I got North around fall/winter of 2004 and fell more in love with the band with songs like “She Paints Me Blue”, “Ruthless”, “21 and Invincible”, and “Space”.

When Warped Tour announced in 2005 that they were coming to my area, I had all intentions of going. I had heard about the festival for the past year and was super excited to be able to experience it. I was even more excited when I found out Something Corporate was on the tour and playing my date. Unfortunately, that was 2005, the same year McMahon was diagnosed with leukemia and SoCo cancelled their Warped Tour dates. I was bummed because Something Corporate played a show near me in the spring of 2005, but I had missed out on it. That summer at my first Warped Tour, I remember there was a Jack’s Mannequin merch table that I guess stayed on the tour after SoCo announced they wouldn’t be playing. It was promoting the new album due out a few weeks later (my date was in early August). I ended up buying a t-shirt from them. I also bought Everything In Transit upon its release and loved it (although not as much as those SoCo albums). Three years later I finally saw Andrew McMahon perform as part of the annual spring concert at my college. He was still with Jack’s Mannequin, but of course the show didn’t go without a few Something Corporate songs. After that, I really didn’t follow Jack’s Mannequin or Andrew McMahon as much. Only within the last year when Andrew began touring with his new band did I find out what he had been up to.

Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness plays both Saturdays at Coachella 2015. Seeing this new Andrew McMahon band at Coachella would be another case of nostalgia for me (like with Brand New). However, since the opportunity to see him again has presented itself, I may as well take advantage of it (just like I hopefully plan on doing with Brand New). If other bands I want to see play at the same time, I might have to pass. If not though, I’ll definitely be at the Andrew McMahon set. I’m guessing the set won’t just be songs off the self-titled album either. There will probably be some Jack’s Mannequin and Something Corporate songs thrown in the mix. I’ll cross my fingers for “Konstantine” (one can only hope). I have listened to his new stuff though and it’s good so either way I know I’ll enjoy it. If you check him out, hopefully you will too (even if he is a dad now and doesn’t still spell confusion with a “k”).

Song recommendations:

1. Cecelia and the Satellite

2. Canyon Moon

3. High Dive

4. Halls

5. Black and White Movies

(Just in case you really want to be prepared…Something Corporate recommendations:

1. Hurricane

2. Space

3. Konstantine

4. The Astronaut

5. I Woke Up In A Car

AND…. Jack’s Mannequin recommendations:

1. The Mixed Tape

2. Holiday From Real

3. Dark Blue

4. Bruised

5. Kill the Messenger)

 

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Coachella Band Preview: Brand New

If you had asked me in the months between when I purchased tickets to Coachella until when the Coachella lineup came out who I thought was going to play the event or who I wanted to see at it, I could have given you a bunch of bands. The Arctic Monkeys. The Black Keys. Alt-J. Cold War Kids. Florence and the Machine. The list goes on and on. When the lineup came out in January, some of those bands made the cut (i.e. Alt-J, Florence, etc.). Many did not. What I wasn’t anticipating was seeing a band on the list that had been a major part of my life since around the time I started listening to “good music” in high school. It was a band that I haven’t listened to in several years because my taste in music changed quite a bit (when I strayed on a more indie route from my punk rock/emo/scene kid days). Even though that is the case, I can’t pretend I wasn’t stoked to see their name on the poster.

Coachella is noted for booking artists and bands that appeal to a wide array of music tastes. So, it shouldn’t have come as such a shock to see Brand New’s name on the lineup. I wasn’t expecting it but like I said, I was still pretty stoked. If you had asked me during my senior of high school who my favorite bands were, Brand New would’ve been in the top 3 so possibly seeing them as part of my first Coachella experience would be pretty rad.

Formed in 2000 from Long Island, New York (one of the best music scenes in the late 90’s-early 00’s), Brand New is made up of members, Jesse Lacey , Vincent Accardi, Garrett Tierney, and Brian Lane. Since their creation, Brand New has toured world wide, played countless festivals, and even performed on some late night television shows. They released their debut album Your Favorite Weapon in 2001. The second album, Déjà Entendu, came two years later and was a change in style from their first album. The first album was angsty, emo punk rock about all kinds of relationships. Most notably a few songs on the record supposedly took a dig at Taking Back Sunday guitarist, John Nolan, who was childhood friends with frontman, Jesse Lacey (for more on the bands’ feud you can check this out). The sound on the second album was way more mature. It was more alternative rock, more mellow at times, and much less angry. It was a progression of sound as well as success as it surpassed sales of their first album in a matter of weeks. Brand New’s third album, The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me, was released in November 2006 and featured one of their most successful singles, “Jesus Christ”. The sound in this album also progressed from their second album. Although I would also consider it alternative rock, the band’s punk rock roots were less evident in it compared to Déjà Entendu (at least it seemed that way to me, but you could argue). Daisy, their fourth full length and latest album, was released in 2009. The sound in it was comparable to their third album and didn’t stray as much as the transitions between the other 3 albums.

In late 2004, a friend of mine introduced me to Brand New by burning me a copy of Your Favorite Weapon (it was actually the same friend who introduced me to Bayside). I was a huge fan from that point on. I listened to the CD constantly. I’m pretty sure I ended up getting Déjà Entendu not long after. It might’ve even been for Christmas 2004. I loved almost every song on Your Favorite Weapon though. In particular, “Failure By Design” was my all-time favorite. I related to the lyrics so much since I was such an emo kid at age 15. I purchased a Brand New t-shirt at Hot Topic (before Hot Topic got trendy) that is still to this day one of my favorite band tees. My Brand New “Because Mics Are For Singing Not Swinging” zip-up hoodie (another dig at Taking Back Sunday) was my go to during my senior year of high school. I screamed the lyrics to “Seventy Times Seven” when I got in fights with friends, and then I would put that song on the mix tapes I made them.

The first time I saw Brand New play live was in October 2006, my senior year of high school, when they were on tour with Dashboard Confessional. They opened for Dashboard. I saw them two more times after that. Both came in the spring of 2010, my junior year of college, within a week or two of each other. Yes, it was two shows on the same tour. I haven’t seen them since. I haven’t really had the desire to either since I experienced that second “musical enlightenment” in the spring of 2011 (my music taste changed a bit for those that haven’t read my blog posts).

Seeing them this year at Coachella would be like an added bonus (since I never expected to see them there). They’re playing on Sunday for both weekends in what will be their first Coachella appearance. I haven’t listened to them to prepare for their set because I’m sure if I do end up seeing it I’ll know the songs well enough already. However, if you end up seeing their set, I have a feeling they’ll be playing some new material. In November 2014, they announced a fifth album was in the works. I haven’t heard when it’ll be released but I’m sure they’ll use this opportunity to play a few new tunes. So if you’re like me and Brand New was part of the soundtrack to your teenage high school days (or if you’re into the kind of music they play), their set is worth checking out. It’ll definitely be nostalgic.

Song recommendations:

1. Seventy Times Seven

2. Failure By Design

3. The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows

4. Okay, I Believe You But My Tommy Gun Don’t

5. Jesus Christ

6. Archers

7. At The Bottom

8. Jude Law And A Semester Abroad

9. The Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot

10. Soco Amaretto Lime

Coachella Band Preview: Alabama Shakes

Too hyped that Coachella is only 3 weeks away? Me too. I’ve been listening to music, planning what to pack, and figuring out some other things I need for my arrival in beautiful Southern California. It’s about to get so real. In the meantime though, I’ve decided to blog about a band from the south playing the festival this year for their first time, Alabama Shakes.

Alabama Shakes was formed in 2009 when lead singer/guitarist Brittany Howard and bassist Zac Cockrell began writing songs while still in high school together in Athens, Alabama. They recruited drummer Steve Johnson to join the group  prior to recording some of the tracks they had been working on. Later, guitarist Heath Fogg came on board and so began their life as Alabama Shakes. They were formerly just called The Shakes but added the “Alabama” to differentiate from other bands also known as The Shakes. Their first album Boys & Girls was released in April of 2012, but they started gaining attention prior to that due to the release of a four song EP in September 2011. The band received Grammy nominations for “Best New Artist” and “Best Rock Performance” the following year for their work on the debut album.

I first heard of Alabama Shakes in the spring of 2012 shortly after the release of Boys & Girls. I heard the single “Hold On” and really enjoyed it. Then I remember reading about the group/album thinking, “these guys are gonna be like Foster the People was last year. I need to get into them before everyone else finds out about how good they are. (I like to say I knew about bands “first”.)” So I went out and bought the album. I told all my friends to listen to them. I saw they were touring and selling out shows after a solid performance at SXSW (South by Southwest) that year. However, what I thought would happen didn’t really happen as I expected. Alabama Shakes did end up receiving those Grammy nominations that were predicted when I first heard about them, but I still think Foster the People blew up more.

The band plays a blues, soulful type of rock known as roots rock, which is a combination of folk, blues, and country rock. They could also be classified in the Americana genre. Now that I think about it, it makes total sense why I got into Alabama Shakes in spring 2012. It was also at that point that my interest in The Black Keys started to peak. I purchased El Camino probably a month before I got Boys & Girls. Although I wouldn’t classify their styles and sounds as being the same, both Alabama Shakes and The Black Keys have some similarity with the blues rock sound they produce. Alabama Shakes definitely has more soul and a country-ish feel to their music though. I guess I kind of progressed to Alabama Shakes after listening to The Black Keys.

Like some other bands/artists playing Coachella this year, Alabama Shakes also have a new album due out soon after the festival (the week after Weekend 2 to be exact). The sophomore album is called Sound & Color and the group has already released two singles from it, “Gimme All Your Love” and “Don’t Wanna Fight”, but I doubt those will be the only new tracks the band plays in Indio. This year Alabama Shakes joins Coachella for the first time in a minor headlining role. They play Friday on both weekends. There’s not that many bands I have on my must-see list for Friday, but Alabama Shakes is one of them. I remember wanting to see them in 2012, but not having anyone to go with (at that point I wasn’t too keen on going places by myself). So now I can finally fulfill those wishes.

Song recommendations:

1. Hold On

2.Don’t Wanna Fight

3. Hang Loose

4. Always Alright

5. You Ain’t Alone

6. Be Mine

7. I Found You

The Countdown Continues: Algarve Cup 2015 Final Recap

After going 2-0-1 in group play, the United States Women’s National Team faced off against France in the final of the 2015 Algarve Cup in Portugal yesterday. It was a rematch for both teams who played each other about a month ago in Lorient, France when France came out on top with a 2-0 win. The final at the Algarve was just the opposite as the USWNT sailed to a 2-0 victory. The U.S. came out strong and confident maintaining possession much better than they had a month prior. That mentality and play translated to an early goal as Julie Johnston converted a header off of a Lauren Holiday free kick in the 7th minute. It was Johnston’s first of her international career. The early goal allowed for the momentum to be in the USWNT’s favor for much of the first half. Their second goal came right before the break at the 41st minute mark when Christen Press displayed an incredible individual effort by slicing through the French defense and firing a low shot into the back netting from just outside the 18. In the second half France possessed the ball better but the U.S. closed the door on the few opportunities they had including a PK in the 81st minute. It was awarded to France after Meghan Klingenberg was whistled for taking down Marie-Laure Delie in the box. Hope Solo read the kick the whole way. She dove to her right and knocked away one of France’s best opportunities to score. As the clock wound down, France failed to mount a comeback and the USWNT walked away from the tournament as the 2015 Algarve Cup Champions.

Overall I believe this was the best performance of the tournament for the USWNT especially against a formidable opponent like France. The game was intense and physical the whole way through. It was something you’d expect from two top teams. Unfortunately I don’t think France played with the same amount of confidence they did a month ago. It was either that or the U.S. just stopped any early momentum in France’s favor.

In my opinion every player on the pitch did well in the final. Sure there’s always room for improvement and it’s not like they played a perfect match (it can never be perfect), but the effort was there for everyone as this team had one goal in mind (to win the Algarve Cup) and came away with it. Hope Solo put up her strongest game in net so far considering her shaky start exactly a week ago. She was challenged more in this match than she had been during the rest of the tournament, but she passed with flying colors. Julie Johnston, who I think had a decent first match last Wednesday and a sub-par second match on Friday, played a solid defensive game in the final. She came out strong, but scoring that opening goal gave her an abundance of confidence going forward as she played her best match of the tournament.

Defender Becky Sauerbrunn who played her 4th consecutive complete game had an excellent performance. Becky was called upon from the get-go to play a huge role when Christie Rampone, who was getting back to match fitness after an injury suffered in the January camp, and Whitney Engen, who had a hamstring injury, were left out for the entirety of the tournament. In the last year Rampone, Engen, and Sauerbrunn had been rotating as central defenders. In the 4 years since the last Women’s World Cup, Becky Sauerbrunn’s growth as a player has been immense. She was named Defender of the Year in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) for the last 2 years (the NWSL has only been in existence for 2 years) and was part of the FC Kansas City squad that came away with the NWSL title this past September. With longtime USWNT centerback Christie Rampone hitting the age of 40 this summer during the World Cup, Sauerbrunn proved she’s ready to step up and be a leader for this team in Canada. She’s a player that this team needs to be successful this summer. With her consistently solid play, she’ll no doubt provide that strong defensive role for her team.

I thought the one weak point of this match for the USWNT was during the final 10 minutes of play and 3 minutes of stoppage time. It seemed as though they sat back much more, gave away possessions, and let France control the play. I know 90 minutes is a long time and there were some tired legs out there, but had France scored in those final minutes, momentum would have shifted. As a longtime hockey fan, I’ve constantly heard how a 2 goal lead is the worst lead in hockey, and I’ve seen why on plenty of occasions. I know soccer is a completely different game (although there are some similarities), but 10 minutes plus stoppage time is enough time to put away 2 goals. Fortunately it seemed like France’s efforts to score were a bit lackluster. In an elimination match in June that’s sure to change. So along with that change, I would also hope the team responds by controlling the play and limiting France’s possession as the clock winds down.

Finally before I wrap this up. I wanted to bring up something I’ve noticed from watching the USWNT play since the coaching change last April when Jill Ellis took over for Tom Sermanni. I mentioned bringing this up in the last blog post after talking about Meghan Klingenberg making a statement for herself to be the starting left back in the World Cup. Both Klingenberg and Press have been getting a lot more minutes within the last year as well as Whitney Engen. Also within the last year Ashlyn Harris has replaced Nicole Barnhart and newly-retired Jill Lloyden as Hope Solo’s back-up. Don’t get me wrong, I believe these players have worked hard to be in those positions, but it seems peculiar that the minutes for these players really started to pick-up since Ellis took over. The thing is though along with Ellis, Tony Gustavsson came in as an assistant coach. Gustavsson coached Klingenberg and Press when they played for Tyresö FF of Sweden (the team folded last year shortly after their appearance in the UEFA Women’s Champion’s League Final) . Klingenberg played there from 2012-2014. Press played from early 2013-2014. Gustavsson was the coach from 2012-2014. He also brought in Engen, Harris, and Ali Krieger in late 2013 to help the squad during their Champion’s League run. He was an assistant with the USWNT in 2012, but at the time Pia Sundhage was the head coach. It seems since the coaching change Gustavsson has definitely had an influence on the team. It might be the case that the playing time for some players, Press and Klingenberg in particular, has increased due to the fact that Gustavsson has some pull on the U.S. bench.

Like I said, Press and Klingenberg are both fantastic players. They’ve gotten better and deserve to play for the USWNT. Ashlyn Harris is an extremely hard worker and it’s rewarding to see her play as the number two goalkeeper for this team after being left off the last World Cup roster because she “needed to develop more” and not making the Olympic roster due to injury. However, it’s just interesting to see how politics may play a slight role in all of it. I guess it happens in every sport. I could be totally wrong too. Maybe Ellis has seen something in all these players for a while now and they’re finally getting their chance to shine.

No matter what the case is though, I hope they’re ready for the World Cup. I hope the whole team is ready from the players to the coaches and everyone in between. Because now that the Algarve Cup is over, a little less than 3 months remain until the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup begins. There’s 4 matches left and the USWNT still hasn’t reached their peak. If the Algarve Cup was any indication though, the team is definitely improving. By June I expect to see a group of players ready to battle at the highest level in one of the greatest tournaments in the world for the ultimate prize. It isn’t easy to become world champions, but I would count on the United States Women’s National Team to put up one hell of a fight to get that crown.

Here are the highlights from yesterday’s final at the Algarve:

Johnston Goal

Press Goal

Solo PK Save

 

 

The Countdown Continues: Algarve Cup 2015 Group Stage Recap

For the past two weeks the United States Women’s National Team has been training and competing in the Algarve region of Portugal for the 2015 Algarve Cup. The yearly event which the USWNT has competed in 20 times (including this year) since its start in 1994 (22 years) provides solid competition against some of the world’s best teams. This year is no different as 9 out of the 12 teams competing have qualified for the 2015 Women’s World Cup (Brazil, China PR, France, Germany, Japan, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States) and 6 out of those 9 teams are ranked in the FIFA Top 10 Women’s rankings (Brazil, France, Germany, Japan, Sweden, and the United States). This tournament is one of the last true tests for the USWNT before the World Cup begins in June as only 4 friendlies will remain after the competition finishes (3 of the friendlies are against teams competing in the World Cup).

I’ve been following the tournament pretty closely. So I’m warning you in advance, this is an in depth look at the 3 group matches. Each game is sectioned off in bold.

Game 1

The competition began last Wednesday, March 4th as the U.S. squared off against Norway. The match ended in a 2-1 victory for the red, white, and blue with both goals coming from the feet of midfielder Carli Lloyd. The USWNT went down 1-0 late in the first half with a goal from Norway’s Ada Hegerberg. Lloyd’s first tally came in the 55th minute when she ripped a left footed shot from 18 yards out. The second goal came less than 10 minutes later in the 62nd minute when a Christen Press shot hit a Norway defender’s right arm leading to a hand ball call. Lloyd took the ensuing PK and placed the ball into the top right corner for the go-ahead goal.

Some key things I took from this match were firstly the USWNT debuted their brand new 2015 away kits. The kits were fire. From what I’ve read it seemed like many people were not fans of the new kits initially but I liked them from the first time I saw them back in January where an image was released to the internet prior to the official announcement. I’m not sure if the consensus changed after the debut last week, but I have to say I’m still a huge fan nonetheless. The striped blue fade jerseys with the white stripe down each side looked awesome with the navy with white side stripe shorts. I included a picture at the bottom of this post so you can judge for yourself.

Secondly, Hope Solo made her first start in goal since receiving her 30 day suspension for matters that happened during the January camp. She looked a bit shaky in this match at times, but still ended up with a key save in the 54th minute. As much as I love back-up goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris, I feel like this team is incomplete without Solo. In the wake of her suspension there was talk that she might not be allowed to play in the World Cup. Fortunately that looks like it won’t be the case. Sure she needs to be more disciplined outside of soccer and I’m sure she knows that especially in a World Cup year, but regardless, she’s the best goalkeeper in the world. For the U.S. to have a chance at a World Cup title she needs to be in net this summer. It’s as simple as that so I was glad to see her back.

Thirdly, it seemed like the U.S. had trouble finishing their chances. This has actually been a recurring theme as of lately for the team. They needed to be better in the attacking third. It seemed like when they did have chances, the majority came from the attack on the right side of the field in thanks primarily to the work of Carli Lloyd, Ali Krieger, and Christen Press. That may have had something to do with what the lineup looked like for Wednesday’s game (because Friday’s match had more attack from the left).

Lastly, I wanted to touch on some players who I thought were key in the game Wednesday as I mentioned above, Carli Lloyd, Ali Krieger, and Christen Press.

Carli Lloyd who scored both goals and was named Woman of the Match was an absolute beast on Wednesday. She’s a special player. She’s got a rocket of a shot that she can easily use to score from outside the 18 (we saw it Wednesday). She’s a tireless worker on the pitch. She’s a leader for the team and most importantly she seems to raise her game when the team needs it most. She was playing on Wednesday with a noticeable black eye that she apparently received in training and it made her look like an absolute bruiser, which works since she plays a very physical style of soccer. She’s a key piece for this team to be successful at the Women’s World Cup. They’ll need her to be on top of her game and on the pitch as much as possible this summer so hopefully she’ll be up for the challenge. With a mentality like Carli’s though, I have no doubt she will.

Ali Krieger, one of the most underrated players on the USWNT and in my opinion the best right back in the women’s game, was stellar during Wednesday’s match. She played a full 90 and constantly made runs up and down the right side of the field. She joined the attack trying to create scoring chances by sending crosses in from the right. She also got back/sprinted back at times to defend the opposing attack. She did this with ease while also stopping chances from developing and making some important defensive plays. In the opening minutes of the game, she single handedly made one of the key saves of the game when Solo, dealing with some traffic, was unable to get her hands on a cross that came into the box and landed at the feet of a Norway attacker. With Solo off her line, Krieger stepped up and blocked a shot that was surely headed for the back of the net. What was even more incredible in that moment was Krieger’s quick decision to get her arm tucked into her body against her chest. Had her arm/hand been in the air or not against her body the U.S. may have been called for a hand ball in the box. It was an incredible effort by the defender. Like Carli Lloyd, Ali Krieger is another key piece for the USWNT and once again to be successful this summer they’ll need her. There should be no questions about who the right back will be for the starting XI in June because Ali Krieger is nothing but world class.

Christen Press played a key role for the team vs. Norway as well. She looked dynamic out on the pitch creating chances for the team. Her first touch was a thing of beauty. She had a shot go off the post and another that just went wide of the net in the first half. It seemed that there was chemistry developing on the right side between her, Lloyd, and Krieger. From watching Christen Press in the last two years though, the thing I’ve noticed is that at times she can be inconsistent. Her game seemed to drop off a bit in moments where as a forward her team really needed her to step up and score. For example, last year in the UEFA Women’s Champions League Final her play was lacking and she wasn’t the one to step up when her team needed her most. Sure everyone has bad games but to me the best players in any sport are the ones who find a way to win. That’s something I’ve noticed has been missing from Press’ game. Can that change? Sure. There’s no doubt she is a fantastic player and has the ability to change it too, but it will be interesting to see whether or not it will happen come June and what role she will play in the USWNT’s World Cup run. I’m hoping for the best for her and that she rises to the occasion.

Game 2

The second match of group play for the USWNT in the 2015 Algarve Cup came on Friday, March 6th against Switzerland. Once again the U.S. persevered as they cruised to a 3-0 victory leaving them one win away from a spot in the Algarve Cup final. Their first tally came at the 54 minute mark of the second half when forward Alex Morgan directed a Lauren Holiday free-kick into the back of the net. The second goal happened when Amy Rodriguez collected a rebound, turned, and chipped a shot past opposing goalkeeper , Stenia Michel in the 72nd minute. The final goal that allowed the team to get the 3-0 shutout win came when Abby Wambach took advantage of a poor back pass by Switzerland and shot the ball over the head of Michel and into the back of the net. Her goal came in the 81st minute. Of note, Hope Solo had a huge save off a Laura Dickenmann strike in the 60th minute that could have changed the U.S. surge in momentum in Switzerland’s favor.

Important notes from Game 2 are as follows: The team still looked to be having trouble with that final pass/finishing effort, especially early on, but looked a little better with it than on Wednesday. Also different from Wednesday was that in the first half in particular the attack was generated from the left side through the work of Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, and Meghan Klingenberg. They created a number of opportunities for the team early. Klingenberg looked very good at the left back spot, a position occupied by Lori Chalupny in the Norway match until Klingenberg subbed for her at the start of the second half. Klingenberg played a full 90 on Friday and it seems like she’s been making a strong case to be that starting left back for the World Cup. Although, there might be some other reasoning as well which I’ll touch on in the future.

It was Megan Rapinoe’s first game back (other than playing for a couple minutes on Wednesday at the very end) after injuring her knee during the January camp. She’s also a pretty special player and she plays in such a way that mirrors her personality. She’s crafty, creative, and clutch. With her you never know what you’re gonna get whether it be on the pitch or just in general. Because of that, there’s been questions about her consistency on the field, but to me it seems like she always comes out to play in the big games. She’s another important piece to the puzzle for the USWNT and I’m hoping to see her in a prominent role for the World Cup. I mean let’s be honest (or should I say lesbehonest?) without that cross from Pinoe, Abby doesn’t tie the game in the 123rd minute of extra time to send the 2011 quarterfinal to PK’s. She’s clutch.

Alex Morgan, the face of U.S. soccer, who is actually more than just a face demonstrated why that’s the case in this match as she has done time and time again in the past. After playing a relatively quiet first half, she scored the opening goal 9 minutes into the second. That’s the thing about Alex Morgan. She always finds a way. She’s always dangerous, even when she doesn’t get too many touches on the ball. When she does get touches though, she creates opportunities for herself or her teammates to score. In the last two years she hasn’t played as much as she could because of ankle injuries that left her sidelined for months. Even now as she makes her way back from a second ankle injury that kept her out of part of the CONCACAF qualifiers until the matches overseas against France and England, she’s still a threat. She’ll be a main focus this summer for many reasons, but her level of play should be the reason at the top of the list. If the United States does come out on top, she’s sure to be part of the reason. Like Rapinoe, she’s also clutch. But more importantly, she’s one of the best in the game.

Finally, the last thing I took from Friday’s match vs. Switzerland was that around the 65th minute mark Switzerland’s play seemed to drop off, an indication that at this point they’re not as fit to keep up with the USWNT. That being the case, the chances started coming together towards the end of the game for the American women. The last goal in particular was proof that Switzerland was tired. Once the World Cup comes around that will no longer be the case. So it left me wondering, would the outcome have been any different if that didn’t happen? From the past couple matches, I feel like it would. Maybe the U.S. would have still won, but maybe not. Hopefully it will change when June rolls around, but even at this point the USWNT have not reached their peak. Then again, I think everyone wants them to peak in June anyway.

Game 3

On Monday the USWNT took on Iceland in the final game of group play. With a win they would guarantee themselves a spot in the final against France. However that’s not exactly what went down, but they still got that spot in the final. The result of this match-up ended in a 0-0 draw giving the USWNT 7 points out of a possible 9. The 7 points were good enough to get them to the Algarve Cup final though. Unfortunately due to “lighting issues” the game was not broadcast in any form via the television or internet. I followed along on twitter, but it’s not comparable to watching the game so it’s difficult to recap my view on things.

Of note, the lineup in the Monday’s game was a bit different than the lineups that played in the first two games. Ali Krieger, Carli Lloyd, Christen Press, Lauren Holiday, and Julie Johnston who all started the first two games were left out. Lloyd subbed in at the half, while Press and Holiday came in at the 60 minute mark. Krieger and Johnston were given the day off. Between all three matches the lineups were never the same though. The only constants through the tournament so far have been Hope Solo and Becky Sauerbrunn who have played the entirety of each game. Everyone besides defender Crystal Dunn, back-up keeper Ashlyn Harris, and defenders Christie Rampone and Whitney Engen, who were sidelined for injury issues, logged minutes.

Some other things I noted from the game tweets was that the theme of the team not finishing their chances continued through this game as well and was evident by the scoreline. From what I read, it seemed like Iceland sat back, played a tight defense, and waited for counter opportunities similar to what Trinidad & Tobago did back in October during World Cup qualifying where the end result was a 1-0 U.S. victory. Even with the draw though, the U.S. will get a re-match from about a month ago with #3 FIFA ranked France for the title. They’ll play today at 12:00 p.m. ET and the match will be aired on Fox Sports 1 (this is actually the first time the Algarve Cup was broadcast on TV in the United States…pretty cool). We’ll see if the team has improved since their last battle with France that ended in a 2-0 France win. Hopefully they have and it’s an exciting match. I’ll update again tomorrow with a recap of the final and closing thoughts on the Algarve Cup as the USWNT heads into the final stretch of games before taking on Australia June 8th in their opening match at the 2015 Women’s World Cup.

Here’s links to the video highlights from each match:

USA vs. NOR March 4, 2105

USA vs. SUI March 6, 2015

USA vs. ISL March 9, 2015

The starting XI debut the new away kits prior to the team's opening match at the 2015 Algarve Cup on March 4th vs. Norway. Photo courtesy of U.S. Soccer.

The starting XI debut the new away kits prior to the team’s opening match at the 2015 Algarve Cup on March 4th vs. Norway. Photo courtesy of U.S. Soccer.

 

 

Coachella Band Preview: St. Lucia

Oh man. Do you know what day it is today? It’s officially one month until Coachella 2015 kicks off. I’ve been trying to preview one band per week that’s playing this year and that I listen to/am interested in seeing at the festival. So with four weeks remaining, time is short. This week I’ll be writing about a band playing Coachella for the second consecutive year, which is a rarity for many artists.

Jean-Philip Grobler, known to the music world as St. Lucia is relatively new to the indie music scene. He released his debut album When The Night, which was years in the making, in September 2013. Grobler, born in South Africa, started out involved in music from a young age as part of a world touring boys’ choir. He began making his own music during his preteen years. After studying music in Liverpool for three years, he moved to Brooklyn and worked for a company as a jingle writer prior to being signed by Neon Gold Records. The record company re-released his independently released self-titled mini-album in March 2012.

St. Lucia’s music uses both electronic and non-electronic instruments to create almost an experimental pop type sound. It has also been described as 80’s synth-pop. I first heard of this electro-pop artist about a year ago after I purchased tickets to attend the Sweetlife Festival in Columbia, Maryland. They were on the short list of artists to play the one day event in early May so I checked them out while I was prepping for that. I liked what I heard but wasn’t extremely stoked on St. Lucia initially. After I downloaded three songs, it took listening to my Sweetlife playlist (of songs by bands performing at the festival) on repeat to discover that I really did dig the few St. Lucia songs I had. Unfortunately due to my desire to maintain my spot for Lana Del Rey at the main stage, I wasn’t able to see St. Lucia who played on the other stage. I’m also pretty sure the set time overlapped another band I wanted to see.

Within the last year I decided to purchase When The Night on vinyl, which ended up being another Christmas gift record (along with the latest Alt-J album if you’ve been following my blog). Then when the Coachella lineup was released in early January and I saw St. Lucia was part of it, I knew I had a second chance to see this artist. To be honest, I ended up being pretty bummed after Sweetlife that I didn’t see him.

This year St. Lucia plays Sunday’s date at Coachella. Both this year and last year, Grobler’s act isn’t/wasn’t listed as a minor headliner like some of the bands I already previewed, but who knows how long that will last. Maybe the next time St. Lucia plays Coachella that will change. It’s best to check them out now when you have the chance though because I doubt he’ll play for a third consecutive time next year. I know I’m going to. I’m sure with the upbeat synth-pop tracks it’ll definitely be a fun set.

Song recommendations:

1. Closer Than This

2. All Eyes On You

3. Elevate

4. Before The Dive

5. Wait for Love

6. The Way You Remember Me

Coachella Band Preview: Florence + the Machine

It’s close to the one month countdown to Coachella Weekend One which means it’s time to ramp up your music listening. It also means it’s time to talk about another band playing the festival this year. This group out of the U.K. has been making a name for themselves since the release of their first album Lungs. With the anticipation of the release of their third album slated for this June, Florence + the Machine is sure to put on a killer set at Coachella this April.

Florence Welch and her friend Isabella “Machine” Summers are the founding members of the group which started in 2007. Along with Robert Ackroyd, Chris Hayden, Tom Monger, and Mark Saunders, the band released their first album in July of 2009. It sold over 100,000 copies in a month and debuted at #1 on the U.K. charts. The BBC supported the band and played a big role in the attention they received upon the release of their album. After touring, playing plenty of festivals, receiving award nominations (including a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist) and a few awards since the release of Lungs, Florence + the Machine released their sophomore album Ceremonials in October 2011. The album received much praise and gave more attention to the already well-known band. They received two more Grammy nominations, VMA nominations, Brit Award nominations, and other award nominations in the years post-Ceremonials release.

In 2012 Florence + the Machine played their first Coachella Valley Arts and Music Festival in a minor headlining role. This year it’s no different. Their blend of soulful and dark indie rock will be flowing through the large crowds in Indio in a little over a month with hits like “Dog Days Are Over”, “Shake It Out”, and “What the Water Gave Me”. I’m sure they’ll be playing some new material like their already released first single off their new album “What Kind of Man”. Their set is bound to be a favorite among festival-goers. It’ll be worth checking out.

So check out these songs in the meantime to get you ready:

1. “Dog Days Are Over”

2. “Shake It Out”

3. “No Light, No Light”

4. “Spectrum”

5. “Cosmic Love”

6. “Howl”

7. “Only If For A Night”

8. “Kiss With A Fist”

9. “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)”

10. “What the Water Gave Me”