Music

CHAMPION: Album Review

A few weeks ago Bishop Briggs released her sophomore album CHAMPION. Her debut came out about a year and a half ago and in that time Briggs has been touring while simultaneously working on new music. Bishop Briggs released the bonus track “Hold On” in 2018 as well as the single “Baby”. Neither made the cut for the new album. In the weeks leading up to the release, Briggs released several new songs featured on the album. One of those singles was the title track “CHAMPION” which has since reached the number 22 position on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart.

CHAMPION picks up right where Church of Scars left off. It’s filled with more soulful alternative/indie rock jams. It’s a great follow up, especially with sure hits like CHAMPION, the break up anthem “TATTOOED ON MY HEART”, and “CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?”. If anything I think this album differs only slightly stylistically due to the less predominant bass in the tracks. Even with that slight difference, the bass is still there, just a bit less than in Bishop Briggs’ debut.

This album is definitely worthy of a listen for alternative/indie music fans, especially those who love Bishop Briggs and her powerhouse vocals. Bishop Briggs has yet to announce any 2020 tour dates but is currently finishing up this year touring in Europe. I suspect she’ll be going strong into the new year with more shows and festivals after this new release late in 2019. Keep an eye out for her and her tunes in the new year because she’s bound to be on the 2020 concert/festival radar.

Generationals

In 2011, as you might know, I got into the indie music scene. Foster the People was the first band to really transition me away from emo, punk, and pop punk. Another band I got into around that time was Generationals. I discovered the song “Trust” through the television show Pretty Little Liars. At the time the show was in its first season and used plenty of indie music as background. To this day I still listen to Generationals from time to time and I figured it was about time I wrote about this low-key indie duo.

Generationals are an indie pop/new wave group from New Orleans, Louisiana. The group consists of Ted Joyner and Grant Widmer. The duo formed Generationals when their former band The Eames Era, famed for having a song on the Grey’s Anatomy soundtrack, broke up. Joyner and Widmer named the group Generationals after the issues in the 2008 presidential election being referred to as a “generational issues” by CNN, which they frequently watched while recording.

The group released their debut album Con Law in 2009 to mostly favorable reviews. Their first EP Trust was released over a year later in November 2010 followed by their second album Actor-Caster in March 2011. The group toured in support of bands like Broken Social Scene and Two Door Cinema Club during that time. Their music was also featured in many forms of entertainment like commercials, movies, and television shows.

Since their early days Generationals have routinely released music with the albums Heza (2013), Alix (2014), State Dogs: Singles 2017-18 (2018), and most recently Reader as Detective which was released this past July.  I’ve followed the group with songs here and there over the years. Most recently though I’ve fallen in love with the song “Gatekeeper” from their latest record and it has made me want to listen to them more like I used to back in my early days of discovering indie music.

Their sound hasn’t strayed much over the last 10 years. They’ve consistently released music that fits perfectly in the indie pop genre. They have a similar sound to bands like The Kooks or Peter, Bjorn, and John. Although they might not have as much indie scene cred as those two acts, they definitely fit their genre just as well.

If you’re into that late 2000’s-early 2010’s indie scene, Generationals are a great group to listen to. In fact, they’re just a great group to listen to regardless. They’ve been in my music rotation for long enough and there was a point I listed them as one of my top 5 favorite bands. So just listen to them. They’re timeless and pretty great. They’re generational(s)!

 

 

Legendary Venues: Radio City Music Hall

It’s been a while since I wrote about a legendary music venue, but there are still a few more I want to write about. One of them is another New York City venue. I already wrote about Madison Square Garden a when I first started this series, but now it’s time to talk about Radio City Music Hall. I’ve worked a few shows at Radio City Music Hall over the last two years, including two in September, and it’s always special when I get to be inside this legendary theatre.

Radio City Music Hall’s claim to fame is its annual Christmas Spectacular featuring the world famous dance troupe, The Rockettes, but the fame goes way beyond this annual show. The venue has hosted movie premieres, award shows, television shows, and even the NFL Draft. It’s also hosted plenty of concerts and continues to be a hot spot for bands and artists to this day. Some notable artists to play the venue are the Grateful Dead, Lady Gaga & Tony Bennett, Adele, Sting, Coldplay, Dave Matthews Band, Aretha Franklin, and Paul Simon.

Radio City Music Hall opened in 1932 thanks to the work of John D. Rockefeller Jr. and designers Edward Durell Stone and Donald Deskey. Through the 70’s the venue’s primary function was hosting stage shows. It faced financial decline in the 60’s and 70’s and ultimately was scheduled to close for good in April 1978. Fortunately a committee was formed to try to save Radio City and ended up being successful. On March 29, 1978 the interior of the building was named a city landmark and by May 12th Radio City Music Hall was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The venue went through renovations over the next two years and reopened to the public in 1980, where it began primarily hosting concerts along with the annual holiday shows.

Radio City is also the largest indoor theatre in the world. It is 160 feet from the back of the theatre to the stage and the ceilings reach a height of 84 feet. There are also three mezzanines which are shallow in size and no pillars or columns that could obstruct views, which is usually a familiar setback in older theatres. Being inside Radio City Music Hall is definitely like stepping back in time. The lobby, foyers, and even bathrooms create a vintage atmosphere. The theatre itself is as grand as described, but also feels less aged than the rest of the venue. Maybe it’s because it just feels so timeless.

One of my favorite things about working shows at Radio City Music Hall is that any band, artist, or tour that comes to the venue needs to receive special credentials for the day. All Access tour laminates don’t fly at Radio City. Everyone that works on the show receives a unique credit card shaped credential with a picture of the artist, artist’s name, date, and “Radio City Music Hall” on it. For someone who usually keeps their working credentials, it’s definitely a solid collector’s item.

Although I’ve worked about 5 shows at Radio City, I’ve never attended a concert there. I’ve also never stuck around after working to watch the show that I worked, mostly because I had to travel home or elsewhere or because the venue is fully seated and if I sat somewhere I might be taking someone’s seat. I would love to catch a concert at Radio City Music Hall sometime and since the venue isn’t far from where I live, there’s a pretty good chance that I do. If you’re ever in New York, or live nearby, you should check out this legendary venue. It would be special to see a concert or show there, but you’re even able to tour the venue on a regular basis. One way or another this is a legendary venue that you need to check out.

Coacheligible

2019 is almost over. The festival season is surely winding down as well. I consider Austin City Limits as the last major festival of the year even though there’s still several smaller festivals in the weeks following ACL until the holidays. With the end of the year approaching, there’s only 2 months until announcements for the 2020 festival season begin (some like Okeechobee and Stagecoach already have), particularly like Coachella, the first major music festival of the year.

For the last 5 years, I’ve previewed Coachella consistently. As you might have already figured out, and if you didn’t already know, Coachella is my favorite music festival. It’s one of the reasons why I work in music. With that being said, I spent a good portion of last night talking with a coworker friend about potential Coachella 2020 artists. We discussed artists and bands who have dropped or have upcoming new music, who haven’t played Coachella in a while, and who we’d love to see at the festival next year. Playing major music festivals like Coachella also comes with one more component for bands and artists: the radius clause.

Based on some internet finds, what we know about Coachella’s radius clause is that between December 15th prior to Coachella until May 1st after Coachella acts cannot play any festival in North America and cannot play any “hard ticket” concerts in Southern California. In addition, they’re also not allowed to publicize any tour stops in California, Arizona, Oregon, or Washington until after the Coachella lineup is announced, publicize any performances at competing festivals in California, its bordering states, and Washington, or a headlining concert in Southern California, until May 8, or publicize any performances at competing festivals in the remainder of the United States again until the Coachella lineup is announced. Exceptions to this are the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, South by Southwest, and Ultra Music Festival as well as appearances at Las Vegas casinos, or tour stops in other parts of Nevada minus any Las Vegas festival appearances.

Coachella isn’t the only music festival that imposes these clauses. Most music festivals have some type of radius clause which includes major contenders like Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, and South by Southwest to name a few. However, Coachella’s clauses are notable as they made news for the 2018 lawsuit imposed by a smaller music festival called Soul’d Out in Oregon. The lawsuit has since been dismissed.

The radius clause was another thing we considered last night when discussing possible Coachella performers. I’m even realizing today the clause throws out Vampire Weekend as one of my Coachella hopefuls since they’re headlining Okeechobee in March. That is unless they negotiated around the clause. This is always a possibility for performers. Sometimes smaller acts get around the clause because it would hurt them financially to not play shows, but other times it’s not always smaller acts. In 2018, top-billed Coachella artist SZA headlined Buku, but her team most likely negotiated and she was given permission to do so. More often than not though, bands and artists abide by the rules. Adding Coachella to your resume is a big deal. It’s one of the most well-known, popular, largest, and most talked about music festivals in the United States, if not the world so playing the festival is always a special accomplishment no matter how many times you do it. The same goes for working and attending the festival!

In the coming weeks I’m sure headliner rumors will start popping up and there will be more speculation over who will play in Indio this spring. Regardless of the lineup, which since 2014 hasn’t entirely impressed me, I’ll be stoked and on high alert for a twitter notification with a new lineup poster come January 2nd. Coachella will always be special for me no matter who plays, but there’s no shame in getting excited for possibility!

 

 

Without Fear: Album Review

Back at Coachella this past spring, I discovered Irish singer/songwriter Dermot Kennedy. I wrote about him and the experience a few months ago. On October 4th, Dermot Kennedy released his debut album Without Fear so I figured I had to do a review of it, especially since I’ll be seeing him perform for the second time this week!

Since the release, Without Fear has reached number 18 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums Chart. The album contains a little bit of everything. It’s got pop-bangers like “Outnumbered”, “What Have I Done”, and “Power Over Me”. It’s got hints of electronic music in songs like “Moments Passed”, “Outgrown” and “Without Fear”. “Moments Passed”  and “Outgrown” even have elements of hip-hop as well, along with the song “An Evening I Will Not Forget”.

Lately Dermot Kennedy is being referred to as the Irish Ed Sheeran. I’m guilty of this comparison as well, but Dermot Kennedy is definitely different than the red-haired English pop artist. His music is a bit darker and more folk-focused than Ed Sheeran. I’ve also compared a few of his tracks to indie folk artist, Bon Iver, especially the song “Moments Passed”. One distinguishable trait in his music compared to other artists though is his Irish accent.

Since Coachella, Dermot Kennedy has definitely been growing in popularity. He is currently on tour in support of his new album in the U.S. and Europe. He will be touring into early 2020 playing larger scale venues in the U.S. I’m convinced Kennedy’s popularity will continue to grow as time goes on. If you don’t want to be late to the Dermot Kennedy party, I highly recommend listening to Without Fear. This is a debut album you don’t want to miss.

Hey I’m Just Like You: Album Review

A few weeks ago Tegan and Sara released their ninth studio album. The Canadian duo has been making music since the early 2000’s, but this album is a bit more special than the others they released prior. The album coincides with the debut of their memoir High School. The book is about their musical beginnings, growing up, and attending high school in the 90’s. While working on the book, the twins found a bunch of cassettes with early recordings of songs they wrote during that time and decided to re-work and re-record the songs. From there, Hey I’m Just Like You was born.

The new album pays homage to their rock and punk rock roots while still incorporating the pop sound they’ve grown into over the years. The best example of this is the track “I’ll Be Back Someday”, which was one of the first songs from the album that Tegan and Sara released. The song has a very clear and distinct punk influence. The lyrics reference themes of their adolescence like drug use, relationships, friendship, love, and self-reflection. Hey I’m Just Like You is also the first Tegan and Sara album recorded by an all female team.

Tegan and Sara are currently on tour in support of the album and book. Many of the tour dates are sold out. Fortunately, I’ll be attending one of their shows next week. I already picked up a copy of the book before I left to work Austin City Limits. Then I bought the album while visiting Waterloo Records on one of my off days in Austin. It’s safe to say I’ve been prepping for the last 2 1/2 weeks, but I love a good Tegan and Sara show. I highly recommend the album if you’re a Tegan and Sara fan. This one is definitely unique and yet at the same time I think you’ll be satisfied because you’re still getting what we all know and love from Tegan and Sara.

When You Say “Best Friends” Means Friends Forever

It started with a girl. Last weekend I went to a punk show in Philadelphia. Rancid, Pennywise, and Suicidal Tendencies are all on tour together with a few other bands and they played a well known Philly venue that we all still refer to as the Electric Factory. I was supposed to attend with my friend Ashley and her friend Kelsey, but when Ashley took an offer to sell merch for Rancid, that left me and Kelsey to attend together. I just met Kelsey earlier this month so going to Rancid together really gave us the chance to hang out and get to know each other. We started talking about music and eventually got into talking about Brand New and Taking Back Sunday. They were two of my favorite bands in high school and Kelsey’s all time favorite bands. Since my Rancid hang with Kelsey, I’ve listened to both bands a couple times and for nostalgia’s sake, started reminiscing about how wild it is for someone to love both bands so much given their history.

Again it started with a girl. Jesse Lacey of Brand New and John Nolan of Taking Back Sunday were childhood best friends. They both were part of the famed Long Island music scene in the early 2000’s. As rumor has it, at some point in their friendship there was a girl that got in the way. No one knows the exact story of what happened. From what I know, it was something along the lines of Jesse was with a girl that cheated on him with John. It incited a well-known emo music feud between both bands. Songs from both bands’ first albums pointed anger and hatred towards each other (Brand New’s “Seventy Times Seven” and Taking Back Sunday’s “There’s No “I” in Team”). There was even band merch that did the same (“Because mics are for singing not swinging”, a dig at TBS frontman Adam Lazzara’s mic swinging style and “Proudly Swinging Since 1999”). Yet, while listening to these bands in high school, I loved both of them. Sure, I favored Brand New over Taking Back Sunday, but I definitely loved both and listened to each during certain periods of high school. Most of my friends did too. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone who has chosen one and hated the other? Do those people even exist?

That’s what got me thinking about it this week. It’s crazy that we loved both of these bands. The songs they wrote that took aim at each other had some incredibly violent lyrics. “And you can think of me when you forget your seatbelt and again when your head goes through the windshield!” or “Best friends means I pulled the trigger. Best friends means you get what you deserve!” I mean come on! These are intense words. They’re actually threats! But when you’re in high school in the mid-2000’s, you don’t think of it that way. You just love the music and you relate to the lyrics.

I will say though “Seventy Times Seven” was the fuel for a lot of my own teen angst towards friendships. In fact, I think both of these bands taught me about friendships through their songs. I realized the importance of calling someone a best friend and what that meant. Of course, actions speak louder than words, but…words can be powerful. You don’t want to waste words on lower cases and capitals. You want them to mean something. So in high school, I started using the term “best friend” sparingly because in my mind “best friends” meant friends forever. I learned that from Brand New. It’s still something I hold with me to this day. I actually took those words for granted recently and I needed to remind myself to not do that again after it happened so again I looked towards “Seventy Times Seven”. This is why it’s still relevant 15 years later.

Sadly though, in recent years, a lot of people began to have mixed feelings about Brand New. In late 2017, Jesse Lacey was accused of sexual misconduct and a lot of fans were upset by the allegations. Mostly, I think people realized that Jesse Lacey wasn’t who they thought he was. Before that happened, Brand New released one final album, Science Fiction, before calling it quits last year. Taking Back Sunday however is still touring. They’re embarking on a 20 year anniversary tour this fall. John Nolan is still part of the band even though he took a brief break from the group in the mid-2000’s to form Straylight Run. On the tour they’re playing their first album Tell All Your Friends in full. It’s definitely going to bring up a lot of feelings for fans and maybe even for the band. Who knows maybe we’ll find out exactly what happened between Brand New and Taking Back Sunday? Maybe not though. I will say I think the feud might have been blown up out of proportion and there’s evidence of that as well (cue the video of Jesse and John playing with Say Anything). It was still enough that we never got a Brand New/Taking Back Sunday tour. Despite everything surrounding both bands, I’m glad they gave us the music that they did. It was the soundtrack to my youth. Even if I no longer feel like a failure by design or a wishful thinker with the worst intentions, their music is still relevant to me at times and I still love connecting with people over it.

 

Norman Fucking Rockwell!: Album Review

On Labor Day Weekend, Lana Del Rey released her sixth full length album Norman Fucking Rockwell! The new album brings more of that haunting pop sound that Lana is so famous for. Lana collaborated with famed producer and Bleachers front man Jack Antonoff on the record. Leading up to the release, she released several singles contained on the new record including a cover of Sublime’s “Doin’ Time”.

I’ve been a fan of Lana Del Rey since the Born to Die days. In my opinion, her first three albums had a similar sound and feel. But since Honeymoon, her fourth album, her sound has chilled out even more, which is saying something for Lana Del Rey. Norman Fucking Rockwell! brings back some of what I’ve been missing from Lana Del Rey music for the past few years, yet still ties in that melodic, haunting and peaceful sound that has been a primary element of her last two records.

I will say lyrically Lana’s later records have more meaning and depth compared to her earlier works. However, there is something pretty awesome about the line “My pussy tastes like Pepsi cola…” This new record brings in plenty of summer and west coast vibes with songs like “California”, “Doin’ Time”, “Fuck It I Love You” and the nearly 10 minute long track “Venice Bitch”. A lot of Lana Del Rey’s music has a similar carefree Bohemian style quality with themes involving love, sex, partying, America, and the west coast. I feel like her music is something I should be against yet, I fucking love it.

If you’re into Lana Del Rey, you’ve clearly already checked out this album. Otherwise, you probably don’t need to listen to this one. It’s nothing extraordinary unless you’re already a Lana fan. Although, if you’re a west coast fan, you may find a few gems in the track listing. If you’re a Lana Del Rey fan who hasn’t listened to this one yet, you should definitely listen to Norman Fucking Rockwell! asap.

Feed the Rhythm Inside

Right before the new year I was involved with an event in Philly called HiJinx. The night before working my role for the small festival I stayed at my friend Noah’s house. We hung out with his friend Lou, had a few drinks, and played a dice game called Yamslam. He put on some background tunes while we chilled and then suddenly I heard a song that really caught my interest. It had an upbeat electronic pop sound. It made me want to get up and dance or crush a work out right there. I asked Noah who it was and he goes, “Client Liaison!” I never heard of the band. Flash forward 8 months later and now I’m a Client Liaison fan as well.

Client Liaison is an Australian indie pop duo. The group is comprised of Monte Morgan and Harvey Miller, who attended Grammar school together in Melbourne, Australia. Along with their tunes, the duo is well-known for their high quality music videos. Their first was for their first single “End of the Earth.” The song and video was released in 2012. It wasn’t until 2014 that Client Liaison released a debut eponymous EP. They began touring around the same time in support of Miami Horror and later joined Flight Facilities on tour. They began playing some Australian summer festivals in 2015 and 2016, but also made their U.S. festival debut at Firefly in 2015.

The band released their debut album Diplomatic Immunity in November of 2016. The music video for the track “A Foreign Affair” earned Client Liaison a J Award in 2017 for Australian Music Video of the Year. The band has yet to break into success in other parts of the world like the U.S. and Europe, but I feel like it’s only a matter of time before they do. Since their debut album, the band has released the singles “Survival in the City” in May 2018 and “The Real Thing”, which debuted 3 weeks ago. They will soon be releasing their second album and already have a fall tour in their homeland of Australia planned.

Client Liaison’s sound combines indie pop and electronic music. It has a very 80’s/early 90’s feel as well. That style is replicated through the band’s appearance and music videos. The song that hooked me on the group was “Feed the Rhythm” off their self-titled EP. Most of their tracks have an upbeat groove similar to that song.

Unfortunately I’m not sure if or when I’ll have the opportunity to see Client Liaison perform because their music has yet to take off in the U.S. I keep hoping they’ll either tour here or gain a few more fans in the States that really up their U.S. cred. For now, I’ll just keep listening and trying to spread the word about this duo from down under. So check these guys out! “Turn up the treble to the level and the speakers to the sky”, they’ll keep feeding the rhythm and they’re definitely full of good indie pop vibes.

Between Us: Album Review

This album review is coming in two months late, but better late than never, especially for the debut album from electronic artist, Hayden James. I wrote a blog post about Hayden James last year. I became obsessed with his song “NUMB” last May and it was a song I continually listened to through the rest of 2018. This summer he released his debut album Between Us on June 14, 2019. The Australian DJ has been in the music world since 2013. He had only released 1 EP and plenty of singles up until his album release in June, but he’s been known for some killer tracks.

His first album features a few of those songs. “NUMB”, “Just Friends”, and “Better Together” are on the record amongst several new tracks. All three were released over the last two years. Leading up to the album release, James dropped the song “Nowhere to Go” as well. The album features collaborations with indie electronic artists Elderbrook and Running Touch. Between Us is filled with house music that will get you in the groove from top to bottom. I can hear a lot of these songs being played in clubs worldwide, if they’re not already.

To all my electronic music fans out there, I urge you to check out Hayden James if you haven’t already. This new record is filled with bangers. Hayden James just started his fall tour in support of the album. He’ll be hitting several U.S. cities in September and October as well as playing dates in Australia and Europe. The tour seems relatively small based on the amount of dates and venues, but that might not be for long as I’m sure his fan base is currently growing. It’s time to hop on the Hayden James train because it’s moving at full speed and not stopping any time soon.