alternative pop music

Ultralife: Album Review

Another week. Another new album. This time it’s alt-pop duo Oh Wonder. Yesterday they released the follow-up to their debut self-titled album entitled Ultralife. Unlike the year long, monthly song release project that culminated in their first album, the band released a few singles from their sophomore record over the past few months.

After getting into Oh Wonder over the past year and even more-so after Coachella, I was highly anticipating this new album. “Ultralife”, the first single from the album with the same name, which debuted in March, was a fun and instant hit in my book. The new album offers much of what their first album did, which is catchy, melodic alternative pop jams. The album fluctuates from soft, slower tunes like “My Friends”, “Bigger Than Love”, and “All About You” to songs that will make you want to get up and dance like “Ultralife” and “High on Humans”. If I had to name any difference in sound between the first two albums, it’s that I think the first album had more of an R&B feel versus the electronic/digital type of sound heard more prominently in the second album. Even so, I think my opinion might be a bit of a stretch.

I have a feeling that once I purchase this album and listen to it on repeat in my car, I’ll have a few undeniable favorites. “Overgrown” is already taking a commanding lead in that category. I give this album another high purchasing recommendation, especially if you already know and like Oh Wonder. You’ll easily be hooked on Ultralife after listening a few times. In addition to the release of their new album, Oh Wonder will be embarking on a world tour in support of the album. They’ll be in North America beginning in September so it might be worth it to catch them live too. I know I’ll be headed to a show after missing them at Coachella. In the mean time though, pick up a copy of the new album and “live ultralife.”

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Coachella Band Preview: Tove Lo

This is it. The final blog post before the big first weekend. I make my journey out there in two days and I can’t wait to be among that festival atmosphere. Hopefully I get a chance to see one or two of these amazing bands or artists I’ve previewed, but I keep my expectations low to avoid disappointment just in case. The final artist I decided to preview is a Swedish singer/songwriter known as Tove Lo.

Tove Lo, whose real name is Ebba Tove Elsa Nilsson, first came on to the music scene in 2014. Her career journey started way before that though. While growing up she went to music school and even became friends with Caroline Hjelt, who went on to form Icona Pop. By the end of her teenage years she formed the rock band Tremblebee. After the band broke up she decided to go after a songwriting career and earned a publishing deal with Warner/Chappell Music in 2011. Through that she often wrote and recorded her own compositions which lead to her eventual record deal.

Her stage name comes from a nickname she had growing up. Tove is part of her real name and Lo is the Swedish word for Lynx, which was her favorite animal growing up. Tove Lo’s first performances were in London and at SXSW in 2014 right around the time she released her first EP Truth Serum. The EP contained one of her most popular hits, “Habits”, which she released independently even before the EP came out. The track was re-titled “Habits (Stay High)” for Truth Serum and earned her breakout success as one of the hottest new artists of 2014. Her debut album Queen of the Clouds was released on September 24, 2014. It had much success making the top 20 on album charts in the U.S., the U.K., and Sweden. In Sweden the album is certified platinum. Towards the end of 2014, Tove Lo joined the third leg of Katy Perry’s Prismatic World Tour as the opening artist.

By early 2015 though, the breakout artist needed to take a little time away from singing as she had to have surgery on her vocal chords to remove cysts that had developed. Near the end of the year she was back at it touring across North America in support of the re-packaged edition of Queen of the Clouds which was released in October of 2015. The year rewarded Tove Lo with two Grammi Awards (Swedish version of the Grammys) and a Grammy nomination for her writing credit on Ellie Goulding’s song “Love Me Like You Do”.

In 2016 the Swedish singer announced she would be releasing her second album later in the year. She toured as the opening act for Maroon 5 to promote the upcoming release. She released the first single from her new album¬†Lady Wood in early August called “Cool Girl”. The album was released on October 28, 2016. Tove Lo recently went on a solo tour in support of Lady Wood and has plans to join Coldplay’s upcoming tour as an opening act this summer.

Along with her own success, Tove Lo has also been involved in many successful collaborations with artists such as Nick Jonas, Coldplay, and Flume, as well as earning songwriting credits for many well known artists such as Ellie Goulding, Hillary Duff, Victoria Justice, Lea Michele, and Icona Pop. One of her most successful collaborations came in 2015 when she sang on Swedish DJ Alesso’s track “Heroes (We Could Be)”. The single had high chart success in Sweden, the U.K., and the U.S.

Tove Lo’s music style is an alternative style of pop music. It might be considered synthpop or electropop. It definitely has an electronic influence and is a bit darker than your standard pop music as well. A lot of her songs have this sexual type of feel and sound. I’m not saying that’s the intention with her music either. Her style is just perfect baby making music.

I don’t remember when I first heard of Tove Lo. I know I knew her song “Habits (Stay High)” before anything else. I didn’t really like the song though, which is probably because I would only ever hear it on mainstream pop radio. Even though I’m not a huge fan of listening to that type of radio, I have a guilty pleasure song or two that gets overplayed. “Habits” was not one of those. “Talking Body” was though. I first heard “Talking Body” on a Spotify playlist and I really liked the song. It was even part of my work out playlist for a while. I never really got hooked on any of her other songs though, but I think at that point I appreciated her as more of an alternative pop artist.

So for the second week in a row why am I previewing this artist that I’ve never gotten into? In fact compared to Two Door Cinema Club, I don’t even own any of Tove Lo’s records. Well it’s pretty simple. Tove Lo plays Sunday at Coachella and I’ve only previewed two other Sunday acts, Lorde and Grouplove. If I had the whole festival to just hang out and see music, there would only be 2 performances that I’d really wanna see on Sunday which frees up a ton of the day. My familiarity with Tove Lo would make me want to check her set out. I think she’ll put on a great set and I definitely suggest you check her out if you have time on Sunday. Here’s a few songs you might want to know first:

  1. Habits (Stay High)
  2. Talking Body
  3. Cool Girl
  4. True Disaster
  5. Influence
  6. Moments
  7. Not On Drugs
  8. Got Love
  9. Heroes (We Could Be) (w/ Alesso)
  10. Say It (w/ Flume)

 

 

Coachella Band Preview: Oh Wonder

Coachella begins in 2 weeks! I hope you’ve been doing some serious music listening. If you haven’t, I’m disappointed in you. Even if you’re one of those people who doesn’t like to listen to the music before they attend the show, I’m still disappointed in you because, I mean, come on. How can you not prep even just a little?! This is one of the biggest music festivals out there. For those of you who have been prepping, here’s another band you should be listening to.

Oh Wonder is a band who began creating music together in September 2014. The band is from London and comprised of keyboardist/vocalist Josephine Vander Gucht and guitarist/vocalist Anthony West. Oh Wonder’s claim to fame comes from the release of their DIY debut album. Beginning in September 2014, the alt-pop duo began releasing one song per month via SoundCloud for one year. The year culminated in the release of their debut album which also included two unreleased songs.

The band’s song release process attracted the attention of music fans, blogs, and record labels. They eventually signed with Republic Records. Upon the release of their self-titled debut album in September 2015, the band scheduled shows in London, Paris, New York, and Los Angeles, all of which were sold out. The band has toured internationally since that time and also played a handful of North American music festivals last summer. They made stops at Bonnaroo, Firefly, WayHome (Canada), Lollapalooza, and Live Out (Mexico).

Their music is an alternative/indie pop style, but softer and more mellow than other music I would classify as indie pop. Vander Gucht and West also harmonize magnificently on every track. Their vocals create such soothing melodies that are often times catchy as well. Once you get one of their songs in your head, it’s difficult to get it out.

I heard of Oh Wonder from a music recommendation tumblr post last fall. I checked them out a few days after and decided to download one of their songs. It seemed like after listening to them for the first time, more of their music would pop up on random Spotify playlists I would listen to. I also routinely listened to the song I downloaded. It only took a few times of listening before I would sing-a-long with the music. Their music isn’t the kind of indie pop you’d want to hear to get you hyped up for something. It’s the kind that you’d put on during a sunny afternoon drive or road trip.

That being said, don’t expect a fun, upbeat indie pop style set from them at Coachella. They’re not Grouplove or Matt & Kim. Their music is more relaxed and their set will be too. They play Friday and my guess is that their set will be earlier in the day. They’re a perfect band to see at the festival because I doubt their set time will overlap with other must-see acts. Here’s a few songs you should listen to before their Coachella performance:

  1. Drive
  2. Technicolor Beat
  3. Lose It
  4. All We Do
  5. Without You
  6. Livewire

(But truly, if you just check out their debut self-titled album, you should be fine.)

 

Coachella Band Preview: Lorde

Another week down in the countdown to Coachella 2017 means another band preview. This time it’s not a band I’m previewing. It’s a singer who hails from New Zealand named Ella Yelich-O’Connor. You may know her better as Lorde.

Lorde came on to the music scene as a 16 year old in 2013. She had an interest in music growing up and performed while in Intermediate School with her musician friend Louis McDonald. It was because of McDonald’s father that Lorde signed a deal for development with Universal Music Group. He sent an audio and video recording of his son and Lorde covering two songs together to A&R at UMG. The duo performed under the name Ella & Louis. When Lorde went solo, she decided on the stage name “Lorde” because she was fascinated by aristocracy and royal folk. Because “Lord” seemed to masculine, she added an “e” at the end of “Lord” to give it a more feminine touch.

Lorde self-released her first EP, The Love Club EP, in November of 2012 via her SoundCloud and also made the record free to download. After reaching high download numbers, UMG released the EP for sales in March of 2013. Lorde released her debut album Pure Heroine in late September 2013. She embarked on an international tour in conjunction with the album release that began in North America in early 2014 and made several festival stops along the way including the Laneway Festival in Australia, Lollapalooza and three South American Lollapaloozas, and Coachella. Her debut album featured the chart-topping single “Royals” which was also a track on The Love Club EP. “Royals” earned Lorde two Grammy Awards for “Best Pop Solo Performance” and “Song of the Year” in 2014 in addition to four New Zealand Music Awards in 2013, two Billboard Music Awards, three World Music Awards, one MTV Video Music Award, and the New Zealand APRA Silver Scroll Award in 2013.

Lorde’s music style is an edgier kind of pop music. Alternative pop is how I would define Lorde’s music style, but it’s truly a combo of indie pop, dream pop, and electropop. Since Lorde hasn’t released new music in over 3 years, it’ll be interesting to hear how her new music sounds, if it fits her current style, or evolves into something slightly different, which brings me to my next point.

Since 2014, Lorde has been relatively quiet. In September of that year, Lorde released a single for the Hunger Games series’ film Mockingjay – Part 1 called “Yellow Flicker Beat”. She was also featured on the Disclosure song “Magnets” in 2015. Otherwise Lorde has not released a new album since 2013’s Pure Heroine, which is expected to change this year. Although no official release date has been set yet, Lorde’s new album is expected to drop in Spring 2017. Perfect timing considering her Coachella performance. I’m sure the new album will also involve another tour and possibly more festival dates. Along with Coachella, she will also be performing at Governor’s Ball in NYC in early June followed by Bonnaroo a week later. Several festival lineups have yet to be released so like I said there might be a few more festivals for Lorde in 2017.

I’m pretty excited to hear what Lorde’s been working on. I’ve been a Lorde fan since August 2013 when I first heard the song “Royals”. It was around that time that I booked my flight for my first trip to California to visit my cousin who lived near Oceanside, and about a month later “Tennis Court” became a song I listened to in anticipation of the trip. There are lyrics in “Tennis Court” that go “pretty soon I’ll be getting on my first plane,” which I related to at the time. My flight to California was by no means my first plane trip. I flew to Florida three other times and Las Vegas as well, but before my trip to California my most recent flight was nine years prior. I obviously got older in those nine years. By getting older, I became more worried about things than I did when I was 15, so I was kind of nervous for my flight to Cali, which made it feel like my first time. During that month before hearing “Tennis Court” made me filled with anticipation, nerves, and excitement for my trip.

After Lorde played Coachella in 2014, she dropped off my radar for a bit, until last summer when I worked at the Firefly Music Festival. Lorde playing a secret DJ set in our lounge, a secret set at the festival, or just a random festival appearance became an inside joke amongst my fellow crew members. Someone even brought up that Lorde had just disappeared so it made the thought of a random appearance or set even funnier. The joke got even better when Lorde did show up in one of our lounges at another festival. I wasn’t working at that one, but I laughed pretty hard upon hearing the story. I guess that was just a precursor to the epic 2017 she’s expected to have.

That epic 2017 all begins with Coachella. The last time she played the festival she was a prime time act on Saturday night. This time she’ll be a prime time act on Sunday night. There’s no doubt she’ll take the main stage before Kendrick Lamar closes out each weekend. She’ll probably draw a huge crowd as well. If you plan to see her even remotely close, you’ll need to get there way before her set. Maybe even before the set before hers. Along with whatever singles she releases before the festival (or her new album if that comes out too), you’ll need to listen to these songs to prep for the starlet’s serenading:

  1. Royals
  2. Team
  3. Tennis Court
  4. Buzzcut Season
  5. Yellow Flicker Beat
  6. White Teeth Teens
  7. Glory and Gore
  8. The Love Club
  9. 400 Lux
  10. A World Alone

 

The 1975

It’s astounding how many great bands/singers/music artists are from the UK. It often seems like most of the bands I blog about are from there. Even many legendary groups throughout history, like The Beatles, The Who, Queen, The Rolling Stones, and Led Zeppelin, are British. So therefore, it wouldn’t surprise you that the band I’m writing about this week also hails from the UK.

The 1975 formed in Manchester, England in 2002 when members Matt Healy, Ross MacDonald, Adam Hann, and George Daniel started playing cover shows together in local clubs as teenagers. It wasn’t until August 2012 when the group released their first EP, Facedown. The band got national radio attention with their single “The City” from the EP as well as with the song “Sex” which came from their second EP of the same title (Sex) a few months later (November 2012). In March 2013, the band released their third EP, Music for Cars. “Chocolate”, a single off the EP, reached the 19th spot on the UK singles chart. The same year the band began touring to build hype for their debut album. They joined The Neighbourhood on their 2013 U.S. tour, opened for Muse and The Rolling Stones, and played at the Reading and Leeds Festivals.

Their debut self-titled album came out on September 2, 2013. The 1975 spent the rest of 2013 and 2014 touring to promote the album and selling out many shows throughout Europe, North America, New Zealand, and Australia. The band plans to release their second album, I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It, in February 2016. Today, they announced a North American Tour in support of the new album from April to May 2016 in select cities across the United States and Canada. Their first single off the album, “Love Me”, was released in October.

The band’s music fits into the alternative/indie pop/rock genre. At times I even feel like their sound has some 80’s pop/rock style influence, especially when I heard “Love Me” for the first time. Then there’s other times where I get this R&B feel from their music. Honestly, they no doubt fit right in with The Neighbourhood on tour in 2013. It was baby-making music for the ages. Overall though, the band has their own unique indie pop/rock sound.

I was slightly late to the party when I discovered The 1975 in April 2014. I’m not even sure how I first heard of them, but I know I listened to them for a few months before I realized their song “Chocolate” had airplay on the local alternative radio station. In a much cooler world, where I would be able to attend any live music events that I want, regardless of price, location, availability, etc., I would be attending their show either in New York City tomorrow or in Philadelphia on Saturday. I probably would have already seen them live too, if I didn’t already have plans when they played at a nearby venue at this time last year. Although I potentially would have seen them live this weekend if either show wasn’t already sold out (or if I didn’t have to pay over $100 for tickets that were originally $40), I figured why not write about this band anyway. The 1975’s success over the last few years has only escalated and it continues to grow as well.¬† They’re bound to enter British music history like so many before them. If you’ve never heard of these guys, you may want to check out these song recommendations or if you’re headed to an upcoming show, unlike me, you may want to re-listen to some of these song recommendations to hype you up (or if you just want some hype for the new album):

  1. Sex
  2. Chocolate
  3. Love Me
  4. The City
  5. Girls
  6. Robbers
  7. Heart Out
  8. Settle Down

Honeymoon: Album Review

It wasn’t my intention to not post for the last month, but sometimes life happens. And so it goes. But, what better time to get back into the swing of blog posting than with the release of Lana Del Rey’s fourth studio album, Honeymoon?

Yesterday the pop goddess released her fourth full length to the masses of her adoring fans. As one of those adoring fans, I, of course, needed to buy it. Compared to 2014’s Ultraviolence and 2012’s Born to Die, Honeymoon is missing something for me. It feels like it lacks varying melodies and is less upbeat. Let’s be real though, Lana Del Rey doesn’t sing upbeat bubble gum pop music. She’s not Taylor Swift and she definitely won’t be shaking it off anytime soon. Still, even for her usual, many songs off the new album like “Honeymoon”, “Terrence Loves You”, and “God Knows I Tried”, are soft, slow and missing that little edgy background beat. Sure there’s still background music to her songs, but it’s slower than what we’re used to for the singer. This album focuses more on Lana’s powerful hypnotic vocals.

One thing remains true when it comes to Lana Del Rey: girl can sing. Focusing on the singing gives Honeymoon a different feel than her other albums where many of her songs are the whole package. Her choice of lyrics and themes also don’t stray much from standard Lana songs. None of the lyrics reach to the level of quality like “my pussy tastes like Pepsi cola” did, but there’s still some gems. I mean one of her singles off the new album is called “High By the Beach” with the line “all I wanna do is get high by the beach” repeated continuously throughout the song. One of my personal favorite lines comes from the song “24”, “if you lie down with dogs, then you’ll get fleas.” I also dig the chorus in “Freak”, particularly the lines that go “baby if you want to leave, come to California, be a freak like me too.”

Overall, I’ll probably fall in love with this album after listening to it a few times. For my tastes though, it needs to grow on me. I have no doubt it will. I love Lana Del Rey as a music artist, so it shouldn’t be a problem. If you love her as much as I do, I highly recommend purchasing the album.

My song recommendations (favorites) from Honeymoon:

  1. High By the Beach
  2. Music to Watch Boys to
  3. Freak
  4. Art Deco