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(That’s What I Call A) Rally Cry: Album Review

During Weekend 1 of Coachella 2017, I worked the late shift. I was on from 4 p.m. until midnight, which meant I got to check out the festival earlier in the day. Most of you who attend festivals know that a lot of the hyped acts play later timeslots. With that in mind, there weren’t many bands I went to check out before my shift started each day. However, on Saturday afternoon I decided to check out Arkells set on the Outdoor Stage. I knew one of their songs at the time, “Leather Jacket”, from doing some browsing on Spotify. Since the set was in the middle of the afternoon when the desert heat is at its prime, there weren’t many people in attendance, especially in the guest viewing area. I was essentially front and center for the set. That afternoon Arkells played one of my favorite sets that I saw at Coachella last year. They had great energy. I enjoyed their music without knowing much of it. They even brought a random festival-goer onstage with them to play guitar during one of their songs. It was so cool! I’m surprised I didn’t write about them sooner.

On Friday Arkells released their fifth studio album Rally Cry so I figured it was appropriate to do an Arkells post along with an album review. Arkells is a Canadian alternative rock band from Hamilton, Ontario that formed in 2006. The band is named after a street in the Westdale neighborhood of Hamilton where they used to live and practice together. Max Kerman (lead vocals, guitar), Mike DeAngelis (vocals, guitar), Nick Dika (bass), Tim Oxford (drums), and Anthony Carone (vocals, keyboard, guitar) comprise the band. Kerman and DeAngelis met while in college at McMaster University and discovered their similar taste in music. The rest is history.

Arkells released their first album Jackson Square in October 2008. They received some media attention in 2010 when Kesha and rap singer Shad joined them on stage for a cover of Outkast’s “Ms. Jackson” while performing at a small venue show after the 2010 Much Music Awards. In October 2011, they released their second album Michigan Left. That year the band also announced the departure of original member Dan Griffin (he was replaced by Carone). In the next few years the band continued to tour and received a few notable accolades, mostly in Canada. One of those was Group of the Year at the 2012 Juno Awards.

Their third record High Noon was released in August 2014. The album earned them Group of the Year and Rock Album of the Year at the 2015 Juno Awards. They also released the self-produced EP Study Music. While on tour in spring 2016, they teased a new record. That record, Morning Report, was released in August 2016. It was their fourth full length. In 2017 along with playing Coachella on the festival circuit they also played Osheaga Festival and Sasquatch! Music Festival. Their song “Knocking at the Door” peaked at #1 on the Canadian alternative rock charts. It was also their first track to reach US Alternative Charts where it peaked at #39.

Now Arkells are back with Rally Cry. I’ve listened to a few songs from their other albums and I have to say from their first album to their most recent, their sound has remained consistent. It’s pure alternative rock. Kerman has such powerful and somewhat distinct vocals. I feel like their music and even the lead vocals are a similar sound to that of Cold War Kids. I’ve been listening to their single “Relentless” for a few weeks now. It’s a jam and currently on my workout playlist. “People’s Champ” is a protest anthem of U.S. President Donald Trump, which isn’t the first time the band has taken a political stance with their music. “Whistleblower”, “The Ballad of Hugo Chavez”, and “Knocking at the Door” have political meaning as well. Another track on the new record “Saturday Night” gives off a Bruce Springsteen-esque vibe. Overall though, every song has that same alt-rock sound that has gained the band recognition in Canada over the years.

If you’re already a fan of Arkells, you should be stoked about this album. I definitely think they’re an underrated band in the U.S. Their music is great and after seeing them at Coachella, I can attest that their live performances are great too. I might be seeing them play again in two weeks too! They’ll be joining St. Lucia on their current headlining tour and I have plans to check out one of the shows. They’ll also be headlining a Canada tour in February 2019. It’ll be one of their biggest headlining tours to date as they play arenas across the “True North Strong and Free.” I feel like they have the potential to make a name for themselves in the U.S. at some point soon as well too. Definitely check them out sooner rather than later by giving both their newest album and older albums a listen. All five of their albums certainly have “gas in the tank to go all night long” on whatever medium you’re listening on!

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The Film Playlist: We Are Your Friends

It’s been a while since I wrote about a film for The Film Playlist series I created two years ago. I meant to add this one sooner too. I saw it almost a year ago. I won’t give you a ton of excuses as to why I didn’t write about this sooner but needless to say, it’s better late than never.

We Are Your Friends was released in late summer 2015. Then it made it’s way to DVD by later that year. It stars Zac Efron, Emily Ratajkowski, Shiloh Fernandez, Alex Shaffer, Jonny Weston, and Wes Bentley. It was directed by Max Joseph of MTV’s Catfish. Joseph and Meaghan Oppenheimer also wrote the screenplay that was based off the story by Richard Silverman.

We Are Your Friends is a drama that focuses on the electronic music scene and is set in Los Angeles. Efron plays DJ Cole Carter, who is looking for his big break in the electronic music industry. While playing a gig as an opener at a small club, Cole meets James Reed (Bentley), a once big-name DJ who’s headlining the show. Reed and Cole connect over music and Reed invites him to a party. After a night of drinking and drugs, Cole wakes up the next morning to find himself at Reed’s house where his girlfriend and personal assistant, Sophie (Ratajkowski), also lives. From there Cole’s career begins to blossom with the help of Reed.

Out of all the films I’ve seen that involve music, this is one of the only films that really explores electronic music and the type of rave scene involved with it. From the LA setting to the partying and drug usage, this film really shows the culture that surrounds EDM. It even shows the characters attending EDC Las Vegas, which is the most largely attended music festival in a one weekend period in the United States. All it’s missing is some hard core PLUR action. The film itself received average reviews and rightfully so. It’s no Academy Award winning film by any means. The thing that makes it stand out though is that it explores a type of music that has become huge in today’s world.

As for the soundtrack, it is fantastic…that is if you like to dance and are into electronic music. It includes the song by Justice and Simian that the film was named after “We Are Your Friends” as well as songs and remixes by Hayden James, Kygo, AlunaGeorge, Deorro, Gryffin, Years & Years, and Tchami amongst others. Many of the songs on the soundtrack are featured in the film.

If you’re a fan of electronic music or a fan of music in general, this film is definitely one you want to check out at some point. The film might not be the greatest as far as movies go, but its focus is what makes it unique and worthy of your time. There’s no question We Are Your Friends is a great addition to The Playlist though.

Brighter Days: Album Review

I like to think that the spring of 2016 is when I started to get into electronic music even though I know it was a progressive interest up until that point. There were several songs I had been listening to in 2015 through the beginning of that year but it was in spring 2016 when I actually got into an electronic artist, Australian DJ, Flume. Like I said though, by that point I was listening to several electronic songs regularly. One of those was the hit “Sweet Lovin'” by British electronic artist, Sigala.

I sampled a song or two of Sigala’s other music, but really only took a liking to “Sweet Lovin'”. Interestingly enough, it helped me bond with a fellow co-worker when I worked my first music festival that summer and I actually caught part of Sigala’s set at it.

Flash forward a little over 2 years since then and Sigala’s debut album Brighter Days is out. It was released last weekend. I wasn’t even aware that he had a debut in the works, but after releasing new music over the last 3 years since he stepped onto the electronic scene, it was bound to happen.

Sigala, better known to the world as Bruce Fielder, from Norwich, Norfolk, England released his first single in 2015. The single includes samples from the Jackson 5’s “ABC”. It debuted at number 71 on the UK Singles Chart, then hit number 1 the following week. Sigala’s second single “Sweet Lovin'” reached number 3 on the chart. In 2016, Sigala began touring. He played shows and festivals throughout Europe with three appearances in the United States, Ultimate Music Experience, Ultra Music Festival, and Firefly Music Festival. He continued touring mostly in Europe in 2017 and 2018 as well. In fact his appearances at Ultimate, Ultra, and Firefly mark his only U.S. appearances to date.

His first full length album Brighter Days came out last week on September 28th. The album features 16 tracks and includes many of his singles from the last few years like, “Easy Love”, “Sweet Lovin'”, “Say You Do”, “Give Me Your Love”, “Came Here For Love”, “Lullaby”, “Feels Like Home”, and “We Don’t Care”. Every song on the album is one that makes you want to dance. Sigala’s signature house/trop house/dance-pop style is evident on each track. The new album already features a few new bangers like latest single “Just Got Paid” featuring Ella Eyre, Meghan Trainor, and French Montana and “Ain’t Giving Up” featuring Craig David.

Sigala is briefly touring in the UK this month in support of his debut’s release, but there’s no doubt that the release should bring more touring for the English producer. Hopefully he’ll be back in the states soon and I’ll have another opportunity to check him out. I’m proud to say that I was at one of his only U.S. appearances to date. I only stuck around for a few songs though so seeing him again would be amazing, especially since I got more into his music after I last saw him perform. Sigala is definitely one of my favorite electronic artists so I’m telling you now to go check out his first album before he’s appearing in a city near you! It’s great music to dance to, chill to, drive to, and especially work out to. It has kept “me coming cause it’s all that I need” so it’s safe to say that it might for you too and you won’t be disappointed!

 

Legendary Venues: Troubadour

It’s been a minute between work, life, and Coachella that I wrote something for my legendary venue series. I started it last fall and it’s time that I get back into it. As far as venues go I haven’t touched on anywhere in the mecca of entertainment, Los Angeles. L.A. is home to plenty of great live venues. The Greek, The Hollywood Bowl, Whisky A Go-Go, The Shrine, The Palladium, The Wiltern, The Fonda Theatre, and El Rey Theatre are just some of L.A.’s finest. I definitely plan on writing about a few in this series at some point, but for now it’s one of Los Angeles’ most famous night clubs, the Troubadour.

The Troubadour opened in West Hollywood in 1957 by Doug Weston. It was first just a coffee house on La Cienega Boulevard before it moved to it’s current location at 9081 Santa Monica Boulevard in 1961. The Troubadour is known as a primary foundation for the careers of many great bands and musicians including Elton John, who made his U.S. debut there in 1970 after being introduced by Neil Diamond, The Eagles, whose founding members Glenn Frey and Don Henley met there also in 1970, Buffalo Springfield, who made their live debut there in 1966, Guns N’ Roses, who played their first show at the venue and were discovered by Geffen Records on the same night, and James Taylor, who made his solo debut there in 1969. Taylor also debuted “You’ve Got A Friend” at the venue with then piano player and opening act Carole King in 1970 and first met future wife, Carly Simon, there for the first time. Many bands and musicians have also recorded live albums there such as Neil Diamond, Tim Buckley, Van Morrison, and Miles Davis among others. The venue is not only known for rock music. It is known for having stand-up comedy and was essential in the careers of comedians Cheech and Chong who were discovered there.

The music history at the Troubadour is endless. It was the place that Janis Joplin partied at the day before he was found dead of a heroin overdose. It’s been a spot for album debuts, L.A. debuts, U.S. debuts, and just first live-performances in general. Unlike some legendary venues, the Troubadour still sits at the same spot it moved to in 1961. Many bands and artists consider it a right of passage to play at the Troubadour while visiting L.A. Recently, bands like Bastille and One Direction member Harry Styles have performed there. It’s the definition of a small venue with a capacity of only 500, which makes its performance history all the more meaningful. I’ve unfortunately never been to the venue. I’ve only actually been to L.A. once (technically 3 times in one trip to California) despite the amount of visits I’ve made to So Cal, but it’s on my list as a place to visit for the next time I’m there. In general, it’s a place where live music fans should visit and if possible attend a show it because it’s definitely one of Los Angeles’ most famous and legendary venues.

Cause That’s My Favorite Part

I know it’s been almost a month, but I spent 3 of the last 4 weeks traveling, adventuring, and working. August has been my favorite month of 2018 so far, and I feel so grateful for all the great times and experiences that came with it. So now that I’ve been home for almost a week and rested up, it’s back to blog business. I know I’d feel like a total failure if I didn’t write about this artist this year, because his song “NUMB” ft. GRAACE is one of my top two favorite songs of the summer and probably the year (even though it was released in late 2017).

Hayden James is an electronic music DJ and producer from Australia. He entered the music scene in 2013 with his single “Permission to Love”. He released his self-titled debut EP in August that year as well. Since then James has toured with Disclosure and Odesza, co-wrote songs with Katy Perry for her 2017 album Witness, and toured Europe and North America in addition to releasing new music consistently. Some of his singles include “Something About You”, “NUMB”, and most recently “Just Friends”. He is currently signed to Australian indie record label Future Classic, whose clients include the likes of electronic artists Flume and Flight Facilities. In 2015 and 2016 he received two ARIA nominations for Best Dance Recording for his tracks “Something About You” and “Just a Lover”, respectively. He has yet to release his debut album, but rumor has it that it’s in the works and releasing soon!

Hayden James plays a house style of electronic music. His downtempo style of sound gives his tracks an R&B type feel. It gives off a very sensual/sexual vibe. I would compare it to fellow Future Classic artist Flume, but it’s not quite as deep house as his style. At times, the sound does give off a Flume-ish energy though.

I first listened to Hayden James while working EDC Las Vegas. My best friend played “NUMB” for me while we were both hanging out in our team’s trailer. I loved it right away and encouraged her to keep playing the song on repeat. She did and we had a continuous impromptu dance party until I had to run an errand for our team. The song has since reminded me of EDC and some things that happened while I was out in Vegas. Despite the fact that Vegas wasn’t always the happiest of times, the song always gives me a good feeling, even if the memories associated with it aren’t the best and I love the song regardless.

Since May, I’ve been playing the song on repeat whenever I get the chance. “NUMB” also got me to check out more of Hayden James’ music and I’ve since become a fan. I was able to see Hayden James perform at Electric Forest where he played sets both weekends and played a DJ set during Weekend 2. I saw the entirety of his Weekend 1 set and was able to hear my favorite song live. I then heard it at both of his sets Weekend 2. I just happened to be exploring the Forest towards the end of both of those sets and went to listen to him purely just to hear my jam. It was dope.

I’m definitely looking forward to the release of Hayden James’ debut album. No official release date has been announced yet, but word is that it’s coming soon enough. If you’re into electronic music or house music in general, he’s definitely an artist to check out. His live set was a lot of fun too. He kept everyone moving the entire time. I guarantee you’ll feel the same way if you give his music a listen and who knows maybe you’ll be playing “NUMB” on repeat just as much as I have this summer.

First the Window, Then It’s to the Wall

Last week I worked my third Lollapalooza in the box office/ticketing department, but for the first time, I managed my own ticket help. Lolla was where I started working in ticketing 2 years ago so it felt like a full circle moment being able to work Lolla in a higher position. Another full circle moment happened on Saturday night when I was able to see Vampire Weekend. I found out about the band in 2008 way before I was even into the indie rock scene. A friend of mine in my Music 101 class in college told me about them. He was also the first person to tell me about Lollapalooza so being able to say the first time I saw Vampire Weekend was at Lollapalooza is super cool and special to me. All that aside, much like Arctic Monkeys, Vampire Weekend is back from their 5 year hiatus and will be releasing a new album soon!

Vampire Weekend was formed when founding members Ezra Koenig (vocals, guitar), Chris Tomson (drums), Chris Baio (bass, backing vocals), and Rostam Batmanglij (keyboard) were in college at Columbia University. Their name comes from a summer project of Koenig’s inspired by the 1980 film The Lost Boys. With the project, he decided to create basically the Northeastern version of the film. The project also inspired the song “Walcott” as well even though he abandoned it after working on the short film for only a few days. The band started playing shows around 2006 by performing at battle of the bands around Columbia. Then in 2007 they opened for The Shins on their UK tour. They self-produced their self-titled debut album while simultaneously working full time jobs. The album was released on January 29, 2008. It peaked at number 17 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums Chart and number 15 on the UK Albums Chart.

Vampire Weekend’s second album Contra was released just short of 2 years later. It debuted at number 1 on the Billboard 200. The band also began a large festival circuit in 2010 making stops at Coachella, Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits, and Glastonbury. They had played their first Lollapalooza the previous summer. They also toured in support of the album in 2010. Contra was nominated for a Grammy for Best Alternative Album, but did not win.

Their most recent album to date Modern Vampires of the City was released in May 2013 after much talk of its release in 2011 and 2012. Like Contra, it debuted at number 1 on Billboard’s Top 200 Albums Chart making them the first indie rock band to accomplish this feat with two consecutive albums. The album won Vampire Weekend a Grammy for Best Alternative Album in 2014.

In 2016, Rostam Batmanglij announced his leave from Vampire Weekend via Twitter, but also noted that he would still continue to collaborate with Ezra Koenig. Koenig confirmed this by saying the band was working on a new album with help from Batmanglij. At Lollapalooza last week, the band announced that the 4th album was complete after playing a set list of all old hits including the song “A-Punk” three times in a row to open the set (…and I missed it!).

Vampire Weekend is a pretty standard indie rock band. Their sound is a mixture of indie rock, indie pop, baroque pop, afro-pop, and art pop. Most of their hits have an upbeat, joyfulness to their sound. You can’t help but want to dance to their tracks like “A-Punk”, “Unbelievers”, or “Diane Young”.

As I said, I found out about Vampire Weekend 10 years ago. I kept up with them by periodically adding songs to my iTunes as new releases would come out. I never saw them live though, until last week. They were on my “must-see” list for a while. Since seeing them last week, I haven’t been able to stop listening to them. It was like Lollapalooza revitalized Vampire Weekend for me. It did the same thing for me last year with The Killers. I guess that’s another reason why I like Lollapalooza so much.

If you haven’t been listening to Vampire Weekend for the last 10 years or started somewhere in between there, here’s my call for you to listen to them asap. An album release date for their fourth full length has yet to be announced, but it’s coming soon! I’m sure I’ll probably review it once it’s out, but until then there’s tons of jams to help you wait it out. I swear. Like Lil Jon, I always tell the truth.

Got More Boom Than A Dynamite Store

I know it’s been awhile again, but summer means festivals and festivals mean I get really busy. That’s a good thing though! Unfortunately, because of that, my blog is suffering this year. But, no worries because I’m back with a new post and a new band to tell you about!

Magic City Hippies from Miami, FL is the band that started when Robby Hunter was forced to stop his career as a street performer and take his talents to some place where he could play a real show. That place became a local dive bar. He recruited Pat Howard and John Coughlin to join him. The trio performed under the moniker Robby Hunter Band.

The band self-produced their first LP Magic City Hippies in 2013 and then adopted the title as their new band name. Magic City Hippies released their first EP Hippie Castle in July 2015. Their single “Fanfare” reached #1 on charts on both Spotify and Hype Machine. The group released two more singles, “HUSH” and “Heart Wants”, in 2016, and began touring as the opening act for Hippo Campus in 2017. They also played Bonnaroo last year, which was their first festival appearance. In 2018, they’ve continued touring and playing festivals with stops at Okeechobee in March and Electric Forest in June.

Their sound is primarily indie pop but there’s definitely some electronic/funk/reggae mixed in. It’s different, yet super chill. There’s even a hip hop vibe to their sound at times just from the way Hunter speaks on a few of their tracks. It’s pretty hard to classify. Super chill is probably the best description I can give you. I’m not going to say they sound like alt-j because they don’t, but their sound originality is comparable to that.

I found out about Magic City Hippies about 2 months ago when my friend Jen sent me the song “Heart Wants”. I was into them initially, but after finding out they were playing Electric Forest I decided to take a greater interest and listen to more of their tunes (since I was working at Electric Forest and would be able to see some music). I took a liking to “Limestone” and fell harder for “Heart Wants”. It’s safe to say I’d definitely buy one of their records. The great news is that they have yet to release a debut album! I’ll be looking forward to that.

In the mean time, you should check them out while they’re fresh. I always like learning about bands or artists when they’re relatively new. It’s cool to see them work their way up in the music world and build a fan base. So definitely check out Magic City Hippies as soon as you can, because they could be about to blow up!

Palo Santo: Album Review

It’s been 3 years since Years & Years released their debut album Communion. They’re finally back today with their sophomore release Palo Santo. Often, upon listening to an album for the first time, I’m not sure what to say about it. A lot of times it’s because the album needs to grow on me. I just started listening to this new Years & Years album about a half hour ago and I’m already in love though. It’s a gem. I had a similar feeling when I listened to Lorde’s Melodrama for the first time. That album was nominated for a Grammy for album of the year last year so as you can tell, I already have great expectations for this new Years & Years release.

A lot of times the sound on a second record might diverge after creating a solid debut. Palo Santo isn’t that at all. It’s an electropop masterpiece. Olly Alexander’s hypnotizing vocals make each track stand out. The beginning of the album has songs that make you want to get up and dance, while the middle is filled with songs that really create a soulful, electronic vibe. Those tracks almost remind me of something Banks or Bishop Briggs would put out. They just have more of an electronic dance feel than you’d hear from both female powerhouses. Then the album picks up the energy again and finishes with a bang. Honestly, there’s not one song I haven’t liked. It’s that good.

Lyrically, LGBTQ themes come to the forefront. With Communion, those notions were subtle. Palo Santo is the opposite. It’s almost a “coming out” of sorts even though lead singer Alexander is already an out gay man. Between this album and Hayley Kiyoko’s Expectations the LGBTQ community has plenty of music representation this year and honestly both albums are killer without that being a focus. It’s just a plus.

I didn’t plan on leaving my home today, but I might make an exception to go pick up a copy of Palo Santo. It’s one of the best records I’ve heard all year next to Vance Joy’s Nation of Two. I highly recommend it to everyone. Go listen on Spotify or Apple Music! Download a copy! Buy a copy! Just check this shit out. Years & Years have officially made a strong comeback in 2018.

Tranquility Base Hotel: Album Review

It took almost 5 years for Arctic Monkeys to release a new album. They went on hiatus after supporting AM, which is arguably their best album to date. 2018 is the return of the British indie rock band though. On May 11th, they released their 6th album Tranquility Base Hotel. The album title has never been truer though because tranquil is definitely a word to describe this record.

It has a different sound than many of their prior records. Arctic Monkeys have been labeled as a quinessential modern indie rock band. This record strays from the pure rock sound they’ve been known for. It’s more melodic and vibe-y.  Aside from Alex Turner’s crooning vocals, it doesn’t sound like an Arctic Monkeys record. I’ve been listening to the band Magic City Hippies and it reminds me of them a lot. It’s missing that edge and uptempo sound. It’s the kind of thing you’d listen to on a rainy afternoon.

After anticipating this album for at least a year and a half, I was disappointed. I got stoked on the Monkeys for a little while there in 2016 after being a casual fan since AM‘s release. I was waiting to hear some brand new bangers from the boys from Sheffield, but instead I got music that could probably put me to sleep. Maybe I’m just being picky and this record will take time to get used to, but I needed another “Do I Wanna Know?”, “Snap Out of It” or “Fluorescent Adolescent.”

Despite my disappointment in the new record, I’m still stoked that Arctic Monkeys are now touring again. I plan on working a show of theirs in July and sticking around to see their set. I’m definitely stoked for it and need to binge on their old records. I guess I have to listen to their new one too. After hearing the album, I decided not to purchase it. I was disappointed. I need to let it grow on me before I revisit the buying option. That’s what happens sometimes though. Sometimes an album isn’t what you expect or what you want to hear, but that’s what makes the good ones even better!

Almost Everyday: Album Review

Another album that was released within the last two months was Matt & Kim’s Almost Everyday. I was also fortunate enough to finally be able to see Matt & Kim perform live at the end of April. It was one of, if not the most fun show I’ve ever been to. I was starting to get tired waiting for them to come on, but as soon as they did it was pure joy for the hour and a half set they performed at Brooklyn Steel complete with blow up dolls, balloons, and a wall of death. After seeing that show, there was no question that I was going to pick up their album that was due out less than a week later.

I was eager to check out this new album because I really liked the single “Forever” that they released in the weeks prior to the album release. Almost Everyday doesn’t stray from the quality indie pop featuring synth and drums that Matt & Kim are known for. I think some of the synth sounds have even grown on this particular record.

After listening to the album, I didn’t feel like any songs jumped out at me in particular. I had a similar feeling when New Glow was released. With that album, I had to listen to it several times for a few songs to really start sticking with me. Eventually I got into a few songs on that record though. As for Almost Everyday, I’ve taken a liking to “Glad I Tried” and “Like I Used To Be”, along with “Forever”, which I already enjoyed before I heard the full length album.

Several of the songs have a lot of meaning and depth. The album was written over a time when Kim was recovering from her ACL injury and the band’s future felt like it was in jeopardy for a brief time. Thankfully Kim made it through! Truly, they both did though and this new album is a reflection of that.