Author: prostreetcross

Loving in Stereo: Album Review

Despite the past year with artists being unable to tour or play live music for quite some time, many have released new music. There were plenty of new albums I was stoked for and enjoyed last year. This year was much of the same when we didn’t know the status of events (but even still, as concerts and festivals returned). Lorde recently released her much anticipated third album. girl in red dropped her debut album in the spring. Then of course there’s still Adele’s new album which I’ve been anticipating for 2 years now. Will we ever get it? Time will tell.

Another album that recently dropped was British indie funk band Jungle’s third album, Loving in Stereo. From the moment Jungle released the first single from the album, “Keep Moving”, back in March, I knew their latest album would be another great one. Loving in Stereo was released on August 13th and it has everything you already loved about Jungle plus more.

The new album brings the same funk focused music of Jungle while bridging the gap into other genres as well. There are certain instances when I don’t like when a band or artist’s sound evolves because it completely strays from their original sound. In this case though, the evolution of Jungle’s sound is perfect. The album crosses into rap, reggae, and indie pop music while still bringing that funk sound that makes Jungle so unique. It also features collabs with rapper Bas and musician Priya Ragu. Much like Jungle’s first two albums, Loving in Stereo will keep you dancing from start to finish with bops like “Keep Moving”, “Talk About It”, “Truth”, and “All of the Time”. If you’re looking for more of that classic Jungle vibey funk sound though, you’ll want to listen to “Lifting You”, “Bonnie Hill”, or “Can’t Stop the Stars”. The album has already been charting on various album lists across the world including Billboard, OCC (UK), and ARIA (Australia) among others.

Jungle will be embarking on a tour across Europe and North America this fall in support of the album. The tour includes several U.S. dates this October. Some of the dates have already sold out. Unfortunately due to work obligations, I won’t be able to catch any of Jungle’s tour dates this fall so I’m hoping they’ll play the festival circuit next year and I’ll get to see them perform once again. This new album is so far an unexpected favorite of 2021 for me and I think the group’s best to date. I’m expecting good things for Jungle in the near future so check out Loving in Stereo as soon as possible.

We’re Going Down Down

It’s been 2 months since I last posted, which is something I’ve never done since I started this blog 7 years ago. I always tried to update each month, if not each week. I have good reason though. Over the last several weeks, I got caught up in this weird, transitional year. I finally returned to work onsite at a music festival in late June. Then the week after I was onsite at another. They were the first major events I worked in 15 months. It was awesome. Words can’t even explain how great it feels to be back at work doing what I love. Then after having visitors throughout the rest of July and dealing with some personal ongoing issues (tooth problems!), I made my huge return to Lollapalooza last week. Lollapalooza has always been one of my favorite festivals since I started working music festivals in 2016. Unlike other festivals, I did not work Lolla in 2019 so it was three years since my last time in Grant Park. The feeling of excitement for Lolla was what I was yearning for throughout 2020 and early 2021.

Before Lolla though, as I mentioned, I had several visitors throughout the month of July. One of them was my best buddy, my little cousin, Hudson. Over the last year, Hudson has gotten into alternative/pop punk band Fall Out Boy. I was a Fall Out Boy fan during high school. I saw them at my first Warped Tour in 2005. While Hudson was here, it was cool revisiting Fall Out Boy with him, especially since he knows the words to almost every song on From Under the Cork Tree. Currently, FOB is still in the news as they recently joined Green Day and Weezer for the Hella Mega Tour. Before we get into that though, let’s get into some band history.

Fall Out Boy formed was formed in Chicago in 2001 by bassist Pete Wentz and lead guitarist Joe Trohman. The group then recruited front man Patrick Stump and drummer Andy Hurley to the group, after trying out the group with other members. The band eventually signed with indie label Fueled by Ramen. They released their debut album Take This to Your Grave, under the label in May 2003. The album hurtled the band into the spotlight and substantially grew their fanbase.

In 2005, Fall Out Boy released their sophomore album From Under the Cork Tree. The album debuted at number 9 on the Billboard Top 200. The album’s top single “Sugar We’re Goin’ Down” peaked at number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 that year as well. Their second single from the album “Dance, Dance” also hit the top ten. It was post sophomore album that the band started touring in arenas and playing music festivals other than Warped Tour. The album also earned them a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist.

The band dropped their third album Infinity on High in 2007 to much success. The album debuted at number one on the Billboard Top 200. The band headlined two major tours in support of their third album and also had several successful singles including “The Carpal Tunnel of Love”, “This Ain’t A Scene, It’s an Arms Race”, and “Thnks fr th Mmrs”. In December 2008, the band released Folie á Deux, their fourth full length album. Again, the album became a top ten hit, but did not quite reach the level of popularity as their prior two albums.

The band then went on hiatus from 2009 until 2013, when in February they announced their fifth record Save Rock and Roll and a reunion tour. The album’s top single “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light Em Up)” peaked at number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100. In 2015, the band released their sixth album American Beauty/American Psycho. This album produced hits like “Centuries”, “Uma Thurman”, and “Immortals”.

The band’s latest album “Mania” was released in September of 2017. The band embarked on the yearlong Mania tour in support of the album, which included a stop at Wrigley Field in Chicago, the band’s largest headlining stadium show to date. As I mentioned, the band is currently playing on the Hella Mega Tour with Green Day and Weezer. The tour was announced in 2019 and was delayed in 2020 due to the “panny D”.

Fall Out Boy is widely considered a pop punk band, but their music bridges into alternative, emo, pop, and punk along with other sub-genres. Through the years, I feel like Fall Out Boy’s music went from punk heavy to more pop-mainstream. Their shows have too. From playing, general admission small shows to seated larger venue shows, Fall Out Boy’s persona has changed. As an early Fall Out Boy fan, it was weird working their show in 2017 and not seeing a place for a pit. Nonetheless, I’m sure there have been some pits during their sets at Hella Mega.

After some family deliberation, my cousin and his wife decided they want to wait for a Fall Out Boy headlining tour to take Hudson to see them, instead of splurging on Hella Mega tickets. Until then, I guess we’ll just keep up this Fall Out Boy phase. They’ve become a band that has spanned the decades, which is something I didn’t really expect or even think about when I started listening to them in high school. It’s to the point that Fall Out Boy has truly become a family show. If you haven’t already, give Fall Out Boy a shot, but I’m sure you probably already have at some moment through the years. I guess we truly will remember them for centuries.

Decco

Back in April, I was checking new music on my Release Radar playlist on Spotify. I was stoked to see that Kygo had released a new single and even more excited to listen. The song was alright but I was very intrigued by the artist singing on the new track because I was into his voice. The artist was named James Gillespie. I decided to check out his page and sample a few of his songs, which is where I found my latest music discovery, the electronic duo, Decco.

Decco is the project of songwriters and producers Joacim Persson and Sebastian Arman. Both spent years writing and producing for artists such as John Legend, Kelly Clarkson, and Selena Gomez before teaming up to form Decco. Their first single, “Shooting Stars” featuring Mapei, came out in 2016. Shortly after the duo released remixes of the Alex Vargas song “Higher Love” and Dua Lipa’s “Thinking ‘Bout You.” Throughout the last five years the producers have been releasing new singles here and there with their latest being “I Didn’t Know” featuring James Gillespie which was released in September 2020. Although they’ve been releasing music for the last five years, they have yet to perform a live set.

Their music style fits in the tropical house genre of electronic music, but slightly less tropical/island vibes than what you might get from Kygo, Matoma, or Sam Feldt. Their tracks have a very vibey type of sound. Despite their limited discography, I feel like each song that they’ve released gives off a different feel and uses different elements/instruments. It’s not quite unique to the genre but it’s always cool when an artist can create a sound that is signature to them yet still unique in its own right.

Usually when I discover a new artist, band, or group, I get excited for their new albums or their tours/festival appearances, but with Decco I’m not sure what to expect. This project seems more of a side hustle for Persson and Arman with singles coming out every so often. I feel like they’d be more likely to appear as Decco at a festival than to go on tour so I’m hoping that can eventually happen, especially with music festivals and concerts finally making a comeback this year! We’ll see what the future holds. In general though, Decco is great. I’ve been listening to them constantly since I found them in April and I highly recommend them if you’re into electronic music.

if i could make it go quiet: Album Review

Since discovering girl in red last fall, I’ve joined the fans anticipating her debut album and finally it’s here. if i could make it go quiet, the debut album from girl in red, was released on Friday. The album was released through indie label AWAL and produced by girl in red herself, Marie Ulven, along with Matias Tellez and includes some production credit from Finneas O’Connell (aka Finneas, the brother of Billie Eilish). Throughout the past year girl in red released a few tracks in anticipation of the album including, “midnight love” and “Rue” last year, followed by “Serotonin” in March 2021 and “You Stupid Bitch” two weeks ago.

The album, as promised, features what we know and love about girl in red with a more mature feel. So yes, it’s indie pop/rock music about girls and love, but also with a jam about mental health and lacking serotonin. The quality of the record definitely feels more developed from girl in red’s earlier work too. This is the kind of album that could be the soundtrack to a solo drive in your car while on a road trip. I could also envision listening to this album while laying alone in a wide open field.

My early front-runners for favorite songs on the album are “Body And Mind”, “Serotonin”, which is an absolute banger, “You Stupid Bitch”, and “I’ll Call You Mine”. One thing I’ve always got from girl in red is that she doesn’t hold back in her writing. She says what she wants and it’s evident in so many of her tracks on the debut record. Listen to “Serotonin”, “Did You Come?”, and “hornylovesickness” if you want to see what I mean. I think this attribute to her music is what makes girl in red so great in her own way.

So far I feel like this year has had a slow start, both in general and musically, but even though we’re 5 months in, there’s still time. There’s plenty of potential for good things to happen and great new music to be released. girl in red’s debut album is one sign of that optimistic view for this year as it’s a solid indie album from front to back. Ironically, it boosted my serotonin and I hope it does the same for you as well.

Live Music is Back?!

It’s been over a year now since Coachella got “postponed” and the live music industry shut down indefinitely. Thanks to vaccines and an ever growing need to re-open the economy, those of us who work in events amongst massive amounts of people are finally starting to get back to work. Maybe some of us aren’t quite “back” yet but we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Gigs are popping up. Fall tour dates and festival dates are being announced. We know people who have gotten called back to work or have gotten their jobs back. It’s all quite optimistic and honestly feels pretty good after a year where optimism was lacking. So is live music officially back? I’d say there’s a good chance.

First and foremost, we definitely wouldn’t be at this point without the vaccines. It was a slow roll out to start when the FDA gave the go-ahead for that emergency-use authorization back in December 2020. At this point though, about 1/3 of the eligible population has received at least one dose and more people are getting vaccinated each week. Although these disease protectors aren’t 100% full proof, they’ve been pretty damn effective so far and probably the best mechanism we have for defense against the virus. It’s key if you want have thousands of people hanging out together at a concert or festival. It was never going to be “safe” enough without them either unless there was zero virus risk which wasn’t an option here in the U.S., as it was in most countries as well.

Secondly, after a year of losing tons of money money money, capitalism says we gotta get back to work. I feel like most of us are eager to anyway. It’s fulfilling. I think if there’s any fear though it’s in the risk of getting sick with going back to work and of course others getting sick too. Vaccination has eased my mind a lot on that though, especially for myself. Again shoutout to those vaxes! Most states are trying to open their economies fully in the coming months. Restrictions are lightening and have been lightening since mid-March or so. The desire for normalcy is so real too which brings me to my most important and final point.

We miss the life we had before March 2020. I think we all do in a lot of ways. It was easier in ways that we didn’t even realize. There was a lot less to think about. I know I miss the easiness of it all. I’m sure you could name plenty of things you miss too. In that list, I think you could include concerts and festivals which is why many festivals that have sold tickets for the fall or beyond have sold out. The demand even seems unprecedented! Everyone is excited about the return of live music because I think so many of us missed those special moments that only live music can offer. Music heals. It’s always been true. But a lot of us feel a void without that aspect of music where you can go see your favorite bands or artists perform and truly be IN that moment (sorry livestreams!). So yes, FINALLY we are so close to getting that part back! For those of us who loved music enough to chase it as a career, it’s even more special. Obviously we’re all fans to begin with too.

When I was thinking about what to write today I almost decided to make a full post about EDC Las Vegas. The monster of all festivals announced its return for May (so soon!) on Thursday night. I had heard about the intent to have it in May prior to the official announcement and felt unsure. It felt too soon. I didn’t believe they could possibly have it. Even at this point, I’m still holding my breath a bit. Yet, do you know how exciting it is to talk to my friends/co-workers about upcoming gigs that are a month away?! It feels SO good. There’s still a lot more kinks to work out with EDC and a lot of work to be done in preparation in this short amount of time. You never know what can happen between now and then either. I think generally we can’t believe it’s happening so soon. We also feel like it’s too soon, but at the same time we’re all extremely stoked! Hopefully that makes sense to you. Needless to say it’s PLUR season baby!

If EDC goes off as planned, it’ll be a true test. EDC Las Vegas is the biggest music festival in the country. It doesn’t have the hype that Coachella gets but as far as attendance goes, it’s the biggest. It’s 150,000+ people each day for three days from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. It’s a beast and unlike any other festival in that regard. So we’ll see what happens. Right now the hype and the optimism are real. Although it’s not official until festivals and concerts actually happen, I think the real phrase is that live music is ALMOST back. In the name of positivity and good vibes though, I still think we gotta hype it up. So buy those tickets because live music is back!

Fruit Bangers

It’s not a secret that I make a new work out playlist every couple months. I’ve been doing this on Spotify since 2015-2016. My song selection is very simple. Sometimes one of my favorite artists releases new music and other times I’ll go through new music on my Release Radar or Discovery Weekly playlists and add songs that I like after my first listen and I feel are upbeat enough to work out to. Regardless, most times I’m not listening to a song repeatedly before I add it to my playlist. I’m usually going from new music or at least music that is new to me. This can cause me to occasionally find a song that I really really like after I keep hearing it day after day, which is exactly what happened two weeks ago.

While working out and listening to my first work out playlist of this year, I realized I really liked this one song I kept hearing. Until I realized what it was, I would constantly check to see the name of the song and the artist when it played. The song was called “Nectarines” by MELVV featuring Royal & The Serpent. Then it hit me. It’s only been a few months since I found another song I like about citrus fruit! Before “Nectarines” it was “Tangerine” by Glass Animals. In the summer, I found another guilty pleasure in listening to “Watermelon Sugar” by Harry Styles. That’s a ton of fruit music in a short period of time!

I decided to start doing some research. Although it’s not super common, there are plenty of songs written that have food titles. Most of the songs aren’t really about food though. They’re usually metaphors for one thing or another, but even so, there are a solid amount of songs with food titles out there. “Chocolate” by the 1975, “Banana Pancakes” by Jack Johnson, “Cherry Pie” by Warrant, and “Flaming Hot Cheetos” by Clairo are just a few of the food songs I thought of. I’m sure you know a few others. As I researched, I realized that there was also plenty of drink songs. There might be even more than there are for food. Some that I found and thought of are “Soco Amaretto Lime” by Brand New, “Beer” by Reel Big Fish, “Cola” and one of my personal faves “Diet Mountain Dew” by Lana Del Rey, “Poprocks and Coke” by Green Day which is kind of a food and drink song, “Strawberry Wine” by The Chicks, and then some of the most notable ones like “Gin and Juice” by Snoop Dog, “Tequila” by The Champs, and “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” by Rupert Holmes (I counted it because it is in the parentheses and I mean come on!). I’m sure you could think of more as well, especially if you like country music (booze songs for days!).

When I started doing research on food songs, I was specifically searching for fruit songs though. I mean after two citrus bangers within months of each other, there had to be more right? Of course! I mentioned “Watermelon Sugar” earlier, which wasn’t Harry Styles’ first fruit song. “Kiwi” was on his debut album. “Peaches” by The Presidents of the United States of America was a hit too. “Raspberry” is a deep-cut by Grouplove. Besides drink songs, Lana Del Rey also has her own fruit track called “Cherry” and then Bay Ledges, whose song “Safe” was one of my top songs of 2018, has a song called “Mango”. There are other fruit songs out there too. It was just surprising to me that there have been so many that I’ve liked in a short period of time.

For now, instead of trying to find more fruit bangers, I’m just gonna keep jamming (fruit joke…get it?) to “Nectarines” and maybe soon enough there will be another fruit song I love. So here’s to all the fruit songs, the food songs, the drink songs, and even the songs that mention all of the above which is way more than I want to research. That shit would be bananas…B-A-N-A-N-A-S.

Daft Punk ISN’T playing at my house, my house

I knew I wanted to make a post today, but I didn’t expect it would be something Coachella related. Here we are though! As of this morning, Daft Punk (my way, way, way late music discovery of 2020) are no more. The iconic electronic duo have called it quits after 28 years together. They posted a video entitled “Epilogue” to their website which includes a scene of one of the robots blowing up followed by an image of two robot hands formed into a triangle (a representation of the pyramid they used on their Alive Tour in 2007) with “1993-2021” written beneath the image. Many media outlets reported the news with confirmation from the group’s publicists saying they are in fact retiring. Big sad!

About 10 months ago during what was dubbed as “Couchella” because of the panny d related Coachella postponement, I took an interest in Daft Punk and proclaimed that I’ve become one of those people who want them to headline every year. When my friend sent me this news earlier today, I was shocked and heartbroken for a solid…oh I don’t know 5-10 minutes? The reason being….retirement isn’t always forever. Reunions happen and there’s a certain festival FAMOUS for reunions. What festival is that? Coachella! Duh! Even if the reunion never actually happens, or it takes years and years, there’s still hope that we get to see Daft Punk live. This isn’t something to be devastated about. Obviously take it seriously because as of right now, yeah, they’re serious about it. Appreciate Daft Punk for what they gave for 28 years. Appreciate them for their impact on the electronic music world. Appreciate their music that you love because you know you’ll still be playing it for years to come. But do NOT be sad about this! Things change. Reunions happen. Bands get back together. Your odds of seeing them live now are just about as much as they were yesterday before this announcement. I swear. These guys do not tour often.

Anyway, if you’ve learned anything from the last year, it should be that anything is possible! Both good and bad, but let’s think about the good instead because no one like a Debbie Downer. I’ve been all about a few mantras this year and I’m gonna give them to you (and also relate them to music for the sake of the blog)…..

  1. “2021 Energy” – The point of this is to get out of that negative 2020 mindset. Bad shit always happens. Last year was very bad, but this year will be better. Stay hopeful! Stay optimistic! This year isn’t last year and it will be better. Just start believing it. I’m a firm believer that I’m going to be back working music related things at some point this year. I already was able to work again once which although was not at a concert or festival, was something and one of my goals for 2021. Small things matter. Baby steps matter. That brings me to the second mantra…
  2. “Transition” – See this year as a transitional year. It’s not going to be the exact life we want quite yet, but we’re slowly getting back to it. Baby steps. Small accomplishments. We’ll get there. One step at a time. And before you know it we’ll be back at Coachella!
  3. “Panny D” – Change the name of the game. Pandemic felt so damn serious and scary and yes of course it’s still happening. We’re still working on those vaccines. People can still get sick. People are still dying! So yeah it’s serious. But this name changing is more of a mental thing. I feel like last year we let the pandemic own us. This year let’s own it. By changing the name, it feels less serious (mentally). It’s more casual. I know you’re probably worried that making it like this might make people take it less seriously literally, but you know what, everyone was already doing that anyway. Stop worrying and trying to control everyone else. You can’t do it. What you can do though is take care of yourself. Put yourself first. If changing the name isn’t for you, then so be it. Don’t do it. But it’s helped me get out of that negative mindset and you just gotta do what works best for you. That’s not saying to not be safe. Be safe when you need to be, cause we’re getting there. But you can still, be safe and not let it get you down.

That’s it. Those are my big three so far. There might be more on the way, but until then this is all I’ve got. It’s the mental set and it’s helped me refocus this year. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel and we can see it. I promise. Concerts will be back. Festivals will be back. Coachella will be back. Daft Punk will be back. See what I did there?! Ha!

So for now, spend the rest of the day listening to Daft Punk, dream about hearing them play live again because guess what? It’s still possible. As long as Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, are “alive” and well, it can happen. Maybe they headline Coachella in a few years as a reunion set. Maybe they bring out LCD Soundsystem as a surprise guest and they perform “Daft Punk is Playing at My House” together. I mean I can dream right? Maybe they don’t? Who knows? But anyway…robots can be rebuilt and anything is possible. So stay positive and keep the vibes up that maybe we’ll “get lucky” enough to hear them perform “one more time” because if you know Daft Punk you know that their “work is never over!”

Doses & Mimosas

It’s so weird not writing about this year’s Coachella artists during this time. As a result, new music has been sparse since the turn of the new year. As soon as the clock hit midnight on New Year’s Eve though, I was filled with a new kind of energy. Even though this year so far is still a continuation of 2020, it feels better. It feels more optimistic and hopeful. It’s definitely not going to be the ideal year, but it will be better. I see it as a transition from the disaster that was 2020 to a return to normalcy. It’s all a process, but we’ll get there.

On New Year’s Eve, I hung out with a few close friends. We decided to get dressed up and ring in 2021 together. While getting ready that night, my friend put on her playlist that she uses when she’s in the mood to dance and a song that I’ve known for several years came on. It was the track “Doses & Mimosas” by Cherub. For some reason, it just hit the right way. I couldn’t get it out of my head all night and the entire the next day. Neither could she. So we listened to it a bunch in the 40 or so hours we spent together. That song reflects the energy I want to carry in the year. I now listen to it all the time since I added it to my new work out playlist. So I thought since I’m enjoying it so much, why not talk a little bit about the artists that created it.

Cherub is an electronic indie duo from Nashville, TN. Formed in 2010, Cherub is comprised of Jordan Kelley and Jason Huber. They met while studying music production in college at Middle Tennessee State University. In 2011 they released their first EP, followed by their first album in digital form MoM & DaD in 2012. Their big hit “Doses & Mimosas” was part of that album and contributed to the growth they experienced afterward. They signed with Columbia Records and re-released the track on their debut studio album Year of the Caprese. Since then the group released a second studio album Bleed Gold, Piss Excellence and embarked on several tours all over the country. This past July the duo released a compilation of previously unreleased songs titled DJ BJ’s Faves.

Back when “Doses & Mimosas” was on the scene, I had trouble finding an interest in Cherub because I was more into indie rock. However as I’ve gotten into electronic music in the last several years, I now have an appreciation for the group. They truly have a more indie based electronic sound than I initially thought to the point that I’ve taken an interest in their other tracks as well. There’s nothing like overdue music discovery. Maybe at some point I’ll get to hear “Doses & Mimosas” live and I’ll be reminded of the vibe I had in early 2021. Until then we can at least be stoked that we’re done with the “bitch ass hoe” of a year that was 2020 and I’m gonna keep that energy, momentum, and optimism flowing through this transitional year as long as I can.

2020 Sucked But Here’s Some Music That Didn’t

In 2016, which everyone claimed was a terrible year, I started a personal music recap for the year as a way to find something good to talk about. I kept it up because 2017 was an absolutely amazing year for music and then just kept going with it. 2016 was nothing compared to this year though. To be honest I had a pretty good 2016, but like most people, I didn’t have a great 2020. I’m usually a pretty positive person and try to look for good things when bad shit happens, but this time around there wasn’t a lot of good. Barely any actually. The bad far outweighed it. Where I found my hopefulness though is that someday it will get better. If I made it through high school and my emo years, I knew I’d be able to get through this emo year. Thankfully, even in the absence of live music and the career path I started for myself in 2016, artists still released albums. Some albums were delayed, but eventually got released. Some albums were even unplanned such as Taylor Swift’s folklore and evermore. Music discovery was one thing that wasn’t cancelled this year and for that I am grateful. So here you go, my top music faves from 2020:

“Heat Waves”, Dreamland -Glass Animals

I usually only pick a song, album, or artist to focus on for each of these, but this one was tough to distinguish. In 2020, there are no rules though. Glass animals released their latest album Dreamland back in August but a month earlier dropped the song “Heat Waves”. I fell absolutely in love with song immediately. I knew a few days after I first listened to it that it was the song of the year for me. I couldn’t stop listening to it for weeks even after the album was released. It was my most played on Spotify as well. The album was also my favorite of the year. It featured other great bangers like “Tangerine” and “Your Love (Déjà Vu)” and several other great ones as well. The album was an ode to childhood in the 90’s, but still captured the smooth yet trippy, groove style of indie music that Glass Animals is so well known for. I feel like it’s highly underrated and most definitely my favorite album of 2020.

Women in Music Part III -HAIM

Before Dreamland was released, if you asked me, I would have told you that Women in Music Part III or WIMPIII for short was going to be my favorite album of the year. I knew earlier on from the single releases in the spring that the Haim sisters were about to release a hit of an album. I’m not the only one that took notice either. The album was recently nominated for album of the year by the Grammys and their song “The Steps” was nominated for Best Rock Performance, a category dominated by women this year. I bought the album in July and was able to secure a signed album poster! I still have yet to hang it up, but I have plans to make it happen soon. Much like Dreamland, this album is top to bottom filled with great songs. My favorite is “Don’t Wanna”, but that’s followed by “I’ve Been Down”, “Gasoline”, “I Know Alone”, and “The Steps”. I could honestly go on with the songs too. Like I said, top to bottom, it’s fire. HAIM’s third full-length is really something special and my other top fave from this past year.

Daft Punk

Daft Punk has been around since the 90’s. I’ve known about them since the Random Access Memories era, but I didn’t quite realize that I knew them way longer than that until I watched the Coachella Documentary this past spring. There was such a focus on Daft Punk’s iconic 2006 set that I began really going through their discography. I wrote a blog post about them and how even without a physical Coachella this year, Coachella still helped me discover some new artists. They were one of my top artists of the year. I even bought Discovery on vinyl back in April. The song “One More Time” was in my top 5 most played songs of the year and I’m now one of those people who want them to headline Coachella. I’m definitely late to the game on this robotic electronic duo, but it’s better late than never.

Notes on a Conditional Form -The 1975

The 1975 dropped their latest album in the spring with plenty of track releases in the lead up to the full album that began in 2019. It was an album I highly anticipated during the spring lockdown. In fact during those weeks, I was living for new music Fridays. I claimed back in my blog post review of the album that it might be one of their best works yet. However, I’m not sure if anything will able to top their debut self-titled, but I definitely believe Notes On A Conditional Form is one of the best of the year. I spent weeks listening to the full album. I love “If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)” and “Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America” which features Phoebe Bridgers, who had a big year herself. “People”, “Frail State of Mind”, “Me & You Together Song”, and “Tonight (I Wish I Was Your Boy)” are all great too. This album came at the perfect time and I’m incredibly grateful for it and all the new music that helped me through this crazy year.

“POWER” -Kanye West

“POWER” by Kanye West is not a new song. It actually came out 10 years ago. I never even knew it back then. It first came into my life with the Power Rangers reboot movie in 2017. Then last year during Sunday Service at Coachella it also popped back in. Then yet again this past spring in the Coachella Doc it also made an appearance. It was this time though that I finally got hooked. It was another staple song of my spring time work out playlist and even a go-to I would listen to at other random moments. The intro and subsequent background music for the song which was taken from the song “Afromerica” by Continent Number 6 is just so damn catchy too. It was another better late than never situation, but it worked out fine. There were plenty of songs that got me through the spring but this one is definitely a stand out.

“New Daze” -Bay Ledges

In the summer Bay Ledges released a 6 song EP titled New Daze. The EP included a song of the same name that I really connected with. It’s my favorite new song of theirs since I heard “Safe” in 2018. The song exemplifies their chill indie vibe sound, but has that same uplifting feel that “Safe” also contains. The lyrics themselves do too. It gives such a hopeful perspective for this trash year and I really love the song for that reason as well.

“Giants” -Dermot Kennedy

Dermot Kennedy was huge for me in 2019. His show was actually the last concert I was able to attend before the music industry shut down on March 12th. After such a big year with his first album in October, I wouldn’t have expected any new releases in 2020, but in June he dropped the new track “Giants”. It’s another powerful upbeat track similar to “Power Over Me” and “Outnumbered”. He recently released a “Complete Edition” version of his debut album which contains “Giants” among other collabs, a cover, another new song, and alternate versions of old songs. “Giants” was just the new track I needed for my summer work out playlist to even further my love for Dermot Kennedy. I even enjoyed the Sam Feldt remix of the track and got a double dose of the track by including that version in my fall work out playlist. It’s quite a banger and one of my favorites of the year.

“Bodies” -The Knocks ft. MUNA

Obviously the spring and summer were filled with plenty of new tunes and discoveries of old for me this year, but I found this gem by The Knocks featuring MUNA in the fall. The song was recommended to me by Spotify after my playlist finished one night and I thought it was great. After I added the song, I couldn’t get enough of it when it played during my nightly work outs. “Bodies” was released in the summer, but it didn’t come into my life until early November. For almost the last two months, I’ve been obsessed with this song. It’s a late comer to this list of my favorites for 2020, but it deserves to be here. It’s a keeper.

“Believer” -LUDVIC, Mathoma

Spring was such a time of music discovery for me thanks to the Coachella Documentary and my weekends of “Couchella”. In that time I also discovered the song “Believer” by LUDVIC and Mathoma thanks to checking out my friends’ Spotify playlists. I love being a creep on Spotify but it’s truly a great way to discover new music and find out what your friends are listening to. Although this jam wasn’t directly because of Coachella, it came to me around that time and joined my spring playlist in the midst of some great tunes. This was one song I couldn’t get enough of though. I would frequently replay it or listen to it when I wasn’t working out thus earning this trop house style track a spot on this list of my faves from 2020.

Golden Hour -Kygo

After seeing Kygo perform at Coachella in 2018, I became a huge fan. I’ve always been partial towards the trop house style of electronic music, but that 2018 performance really set in my affinity for the Norwegian DJ. Golden Hour was another album I was anticipating in the spring with new track releases every few weeks. Kygo’s third album dropped at the end of May and I already had some favorites from the new record. “Freedom”, “Lose Somebody”, and “Higher Love” caught on quick for me. I also love “Like It Is”, “I’ll Wait”, and “How Would I Know.”

Kygo decided to do a virtual live stream festival from his home in Norway to promote the new album and support LiveNation’s Crew Nation Fund among several other relief funds. As we know, streaming shows became a thing this year. I think they’re trash. They will never compare with going to a concert or festival, but in the mean time, they’re something to watch. I watched two streams in the spring and this was one of them. The thing that kept me around was the beauty of Norway. Kygo’s set was shot partially with a drone that exhibited the entire landscape of his community. People were out on the lake watching his set from boats. It was so cool. Who would have thought this music which usually sets the vibe at in the desert of southern California so perfectly would create an insane vibe in a different setting like Bergen, Norway. It was great and it gave me another chance to hear this solid new record.

Honorable Mentions:

The New Abnormal -The Strokes (the first Strokes album since 2013, full of indie rock goodness)

girl in red (the indie version of Hayley “Lesbian Jesus” Kiyoko)

“Good” -TWIN XL (indie pop summer jam)

“Palm Springs” -Luna Shadows (pure Palm Springs vibe and I bet you can’t get it out of your head)

“Anywhere” -Dillon Francis ft. Will Heard (Thanks to a re-watch of his 2019 Coachella set it became a spring fave of mine)

I typically end these posts filled with excitement knowing I’ll be anticipating the Coachella lineup to drop within days, but this time around that excitement for my favorite festival is non-existant. Instead, I’ll be looking for another postponement to the Indio festival that was only a month away before corona dragged it and the rest of live music down. The good thing is that there’s finally a light on at the end of this tunnel. The vaccines are probably the hottest records to drop this year with a few more slated for early 2021. We’re all hoping that these creations will help get us back to the things (concerts and festivals) and people we love the most at some point next year. So I’m definitely urging you to give them a chance, because the faster you do the faster we can move forward away from this crazy upside down world we’ve been living in since March.

Besides hopefully a fresh start for the live music and events industry, 2021 should be filled with some highly anticipated new music. In May 2019, Adele hinted at a new record that was to come out in 2020. I’m not sure if this year put a damper on production, but it has yet to be released. A brief stint on SNL in October gave us some hope for new music but Adele quickly squashed those hopes in her opening monologue and shifted gears towards 2021. So as the saying goes, “rumor has it” that we’ll have some new Adele music next year after over 5 years since 25.

Lorde has also hinted at the release of new music. It will be 4 years ago in June that Lorde released her Grammy nominated sophomore album Melodrama. So this third full-length will be a highly anticipated record in 2021.

As I mentioned girl in red in my honorable mentions, her debut album should be dropping next year as well. The first single from it, “Rue”, was released in late August and I’m sure there will be more songs coming in anticipation of the release. After the big year girl in red had, thanks in large part to Tik Tok, I’m sure this debut will help grow her fan base even more.

Lana Del Rey, who just never stops making music, has an album due out for 2021 as well with Chemtrails over the Country Club. We should be seeing new music from Bleachers, St. Vincent, Spoon, Weezer, and Greta Van Fleet in the new year too.

Although it has been over 3 years now that my favorite band, Foster the People, released an album, they released an EP called In the Darkest of Nights, Let the Birds Sing on December 11th. They’ve dropped plenty of new music since their last record Sacred Hearts Club (2017) too. Hopefully touring returns at some point next year and I’ll have the chance to see Mark and the boys again soon. I miss them. I actually said the same thing at the end of last year too, but now I miss them even more.

It’s also been awhile since LCD Soundsystem has put out music so I hope to hear from them next year as well as Florence & The Machine whose last album came out in 2018. As for the next few months though, instead of going to Mexico and anticipating Coachella, I’ll be trying to ski as much as I can and keep my eyes and ears peeled for a return to the work I love so much. If all goes well, the new roaring 20’s might be in full swing by the fall. Stay tuned for that.

Although music was partially shut out this year, at least we have the technology to release, find, and hear new songs, EPs, and albums. I’m not going to try to tell you that music saved this year like it did in 2016. This year could never be saved and that’s okay. The good news is that we made it so here’s to shutting the door on a wild, lameass year and opening the next door for a better one. Onward and upwards!

Happiest Season

In a year where so much is so weird from all we ever knew, the same goes for the film industry. Most theaters are closed and major film releases have moved to digital releases or platforms. Because of this, I feel like I’ve seen a lot less new movies this year. There’s just something about paying for a movie to watch from home that I haven’t quite latched on to yet. Maybe because growing up, pay-per-view wasn’t something I did. My family had a Blockbuster membership which translated into a Netflix subscription once Blockbuster shuttered almost all of their stores nationwide (Yes, I still have a DVD subscription and I rarely use it these days. Probably should change that but oh well.) For a while that was it. Nowadays, Streaming subscriptions are plentiful. There’s Hulu, Disney+, Amazon Video/Amazon Fire TV, YouTube TV, Apple TV, etc. To have all of these, it costs just as much or more than cable though making it a battle of picking and choosing what’s worth it for you. Again I haven’t latched on, so for me, it’s just Netflix. Thankfully, I have a few a friends who have shared access to their streaming platforms with me making it easier to see some releases that went the digital route this year. One of those was the film Happiest Season which was released on Hulu on November 25th.

Happiest Season is a Christmas themed romantic comedy written by Clea DuVall and Mary Holland. DuVall also directed the film while Holland joined the cast as Jane Caldwell. Normally a Christmas romantic comedy isn’t something to write home about. There’s tons of them. What makes this Christmas rom-com unique is that it centers around a lesbian couple.

Kristen Stewart stars as Abby Holland and Mackenzie Davis plays her girlfriend Harper Caldwell. In the movie, Harper invites Abby to come home with her for Christmas after about a year of dating. Then on the way to her parents’ home, Harper explains she isn’t out to her family. When Abby argues how strange it is to be bringing a girl home for the holidays, she says that she told her family that Abby is just her roommate who didn’t have anywhere else to go for Christmas because her parents had passed away several years earlier, thus creating an interesting situation for Abby meeting her girlfriend’s family for the first time.

Obviously the movie is part coming out story, but the film doesn’t over-do it in a way that it’s the central issue. It overlaps the coming out story with the struggle of Abby and Harper’s relationship because Harper is partially closeted and some familial issues in Harper’s family indicated by both Harper and her sisters Jane, played by Holland, and Sloane, played by Alison Brie. Overall I think this layering creates something more than just another LGBTQ film about coming out.

The movie also stars Dan Levy as Abby’s friend John, Victor Garber as Harper’s dad Ted, Mary Steenburgen as Harper’s mom Tipper, Aubrey Plaza as Harper’s ex-girlfriend Riley, and Jake McDorman as Harper’s ex-boyfriend Connor which rounds out a solid cast for this modern holiday film. Tegan and Sara also contributed to the film’s soundtrack with the original song “Make You Mine This Season.” It’s such a bop too.

When I saw previews for this movie in early November I was stoked for its release. I’m usually not one to spend my days watching a ton of movies on Netflix or other services so I planned out a time I could create a movie experience where I made popcorn and watched the entirety of the film. Is this movie unreal, spectacular, and overall brilliant film-making? No. Not a chance, but it is good! It’s a super solid main stream Christmas themed rom-com with an LGBTQ storyline though, which hooked me from the get-go. There is also some great chemistry between Kristen Stewart and Aubrey Plaza’s characters. Spoiler alert though, it doesn’t amass to anything so don’t say I was creating some false hype.

I think for me this movie created a nice escape from the oddity that is 2020. It was just nice to feel a world of normalcy around Christmas time. It reminded me of the past few years that I went on vacations in December amongst the Christmas season. The movie was actually filmed in Pittsburgh and surrounding areas in early 2020 and finished right before lockdowns began so it really was a part of that last bout of normalcy. It’s refreshing to see and a hopeful reminder of what our future can hold.

So if you’re looking for a new holiday film to check out and escape the world with this year, I highly recommend Happiest Season. It’s a modern holiday rom-com that provides some funny moments and a bit of romance that doesn’t over-do the genre. It may put you in the holiday mood or it might make you a bit frustrated that Abby and Riley don’t end up together. In general though, it will definitely give you some relief from whatever negative feelings you have about this year and that’s something good that we all need.