Australia

Coachella Band Preview: Empire of the Sun

The first weekend of Coachella is 3 weeks away. Yes three weeks is what separates us from the hot sunny Indio Desert, the greens of the Empire Polo Fields swarming with festival-goers, palm trees swaying to the cool breeze and rad tunes, epic sunsets over the mountains, and the sweet sounds of music from incredible artists entering our ears. I only have a few band previews left before the annual festival begins and time is of the essence so I better get to it.

Empire of the Sun is an electronic/alternative rock band from Sydney, Australia. The band formed in 2007 as a collaboration between Luke Steele and Nick Littlemore. Both had worked together on music for each other’s bands before forming Empire of the Sun. Those bands each performed different styles of music. Steele brought the alternative rock genre to their new band and Littlemore brought the electronic dance music. Their first album, Walking on a Dream, was released in 2008 with the first single of the same name debuting about a month before the album’s release. Both the single and album were charted in the top ten of the ARIA charts. Although their only intention was to create a studio album, they decided to do live performances in response to the album’s success. However the live shows did not include Littlemore, who decided to opt out of touring early on. By the end of 2009, the band received 7 ARIA Awards for the album including Album of the Year.

2010 was the year the band embarked on the festival circuit playing Glastonbury and Lollapalooza for the first time and by the end of the year Littlemore and Steele discussed creating a new album for the band. Production on the album began in 2011 and Littlemore stated he would go out and tour in support of this one. 2011 also involved a North American tour for the band, which included a stop at Coachella.

The duo released their second album, Ice on the Dune, in June 2013. The new album brought more touring throughout 2013 and into 2014. The band made their second stop at Coachella in 2014 and headlined the Sahara Tent. Their music was also featured in the film Dumb and Dumber To, which came out in late 2014.

The band continued to tour into 2015 while simultaneously working on their third album. Their third and latest album was just released this past October. 2016 also marked the first time that the band broke on to the Billboard charts. It was their 2008 hit “Walking on a Dream” that earned the band the number 3 spot on the Alternative Music charts after it was used in a U.S. Honda commercial in early 2016.

Their music, as I said, is a combination of alternative rock and electronic music. It can’t be described much better than that, although some may say the band fits genres like synthpop or glam rock. I feel like their sound has stayed consistent over the course of three albums so if you love the song “Walking on a Dream” or only know music from that album, you’re bound to dig some of their more recent stuff.

I discovered Empire of the Sun in 2011. There’s no significant story of how so I’m guessing it was through a recommendation from Youtube or Pandora because I listened to similar music on either channel. Of course the first song I heard was “Walking on a Dream”. Throughout the past few years I’ve heard their other stuff here and there and I’ve liked it. I’ve also heard the song “Walking on a Dream” multiple times in various circumstances throughout the same time period. It’s no surprise it’s their biggest hit. I never got into them as a band though. Nor have I been dying to see them live, but I’ll tell you why I would definitely check them out at Coachella.

Music festivals give you an opportunity to see bands live who you might like but not like enough to buy a ticket for a touring show making Coachella the perfect time for someone like me to check them out. Empire of the Sun does some pretty cool live performances too. The performances are as much of a visual art as they are a musical art. They wear elaborate costumes, have dancers or other performers, and display mesmerizing visuals often seen as part of electronic shows. They play Friday at Coachella. They’ve already headlined the Sahara Tent at the festival once before so that might happen again. As long as their set doesn’t overlap with some other great performers, it’ll definitely be a spectacle worth seeing. Here’s a few songs to know if you go:

  1. Walking on a Dream
  2. Alive
  3. High and Low
  4. We Are the People
  5. Standing on the Shore
  6. DNA
  7. Two Vines
  8. Concert Pitch
  9. To Her Door
  10. Friends

 

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Flume

This weekend I’m volunteering at the Sweetlife Music Festival in Columbia, MD, which is right outside of the Baltimore/Washington, D.C. area. The festival is sponsored by the organic health food chain sweetgreen and focuses on both music and food under the belief of combining passion with purpose. I attended the festival 2 years ago when Foster the People and Lana Del Rey headlined. It was a blast despite the constant rain drizzle for most of the day and the monsoon that happened as Foster the People played “Coming of Age”. As a perk of volunteering, I get to attend the festival for free when I’m not working my shift. In my opinion, the lineup isn’t as good as it was in 2014. At the time I applied to volunteer, I only listened to two of the artists on a normal basis. That changed a few weeks ago. After listening to some Spotify playlists, I discovered a new tune by an Australian DJ who also happened to play Coachella this year. So yes, I probably could’ve done a Coachella Band Preview on this guy. I discovered him around the time the festival was happening though, so it was too late by then. Luckily he’s playing Sweetlife this weekend. Hopefully I’ll be able to catch his set because he seems to be all the rage this summer.

Flume, aka Harley Edward Streten, out of Sydney, Australia, first came onto the electronic scene in 2011 after he won a music competition managed by Australian record company, Future Classic. Upon winning, he signed a record deal and released his debut self-titled album on November 9, 2012 in Australia. The album reached the number one spot on the ARIA (Australia Recording Industry Association) Albums Chart. The American release of the album happened in February of 2013. That same year he headlined his first tour in Australia and played SXSW (South by Southwest) in Austin, Texas. He was named one of Fuse TV’s 30 “Must-See Acts” at the annual Texas music and film festival. 2013 also brought the DJ 4 wins at the ARIA Music Awards in the categories of Best Male Artist, Breakthrough Artist – Release, Best Dance Release, and Producer of the Year. In 2014, Flume toured internationally which included some stops on the festival circuit at Coachella and Lollapalooza. This year, after playing Coachella for the second time, Flume has the release of his sophomore album planned for May 27th. He also recently announced a World Tour which kicks off in New Zealand in July. The tour consists of stops in North America, Europe, and Australia. Tickets for the North American leg went on sale today and many dates already seemed to be sold out. It’s a hot ticket this summer for sure.

As an electronic music producer, Flume’s music fits the EDM spectrum. It’s primarily electronica, but it does have a hip hop influence. There’s tons of focus on beats in his songs. It also has this relaxed, chill feel to it so that despite the beats his tracks are much more toned down than upbeat dance/club/house music.

Like I said, I only started listening to a few of his songs a couple weeks ago, which was too late for a preview for Coachella. Apparently though, his Coachella set was incredible. If the ticket sales for this upcoming tour are any indication, he’s a must see artist right now. Hopefully my shift doesn’t overlap with his set so I can catch what might be one of the best sets of the festival. Crossing my fingers right now. If you feel like checking him out, here are a few songs you should listen to:

  1. Sleepless
  2. Holdin’ On
  3. Say It (feat. Tove Lo)
  4. Never Be Like You (feat. Kai)
  5. Drop the Game
  6. Insane
  7. This Song Is Not About A Girl

Coachella Band Preview: Sia

As I say almost every time I post a Coachella Band Preview, the days keep dwindling until the epic festival in the desert. At this point, less than 2 months remain until Coachella Weekend 1. This week I’m actually not previewing any band though. I’m previewing a singer who’s been active since the mid-90’s, but has only received great acclaim in the last 2 years. I’m not sure if you’d be able to recognize her if you saw her out on the streets somewhere due to her somewhat recent decision to not show her face when she performs. You may however know her from her over-sized platinum blonde wigs that cover most of her face. If that rings a bell, then yes it’s Sia and she’ll be performing at Coachella this year for the first time (sort of, but I’ll explain later).

Australian singer-songwriter, Sia Furler, known to the world as Sia, began her singing career shortly after she graduated high school in 1994 as a singer for acid jazz band, Crisp. By 1997 the band broke up and Sia released her debut solo album, OnlySee, but the album didn’t receive much success. Sia then moved to London where she performed as a background singer for the band Jamiroquai and lead vocalist for the band Zero 7. During the time she fronted Zero 7, she released her second and third solo albums entitled Hearing is Difficult (2001) and Colour the Small One (2004), respectively. The single “Breathe Me” off Colour the Small One received commercial success throughout several countries in Europe and even gained Sia some attention in America as the track was featured in the final episode of the HBO series Six Feet Under. By 2005, Sia decided to make the move to America in an effort to further her music career.

Between 2007 and 2010, Sia released three more albums. The first was a live album in 2007, Lady Croissant, which featured songs performed at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City in April 2006 while she was on tour and one studio track, “Pictures”. The following year she released her fourth studio album, Some People Have REAL Problems and in 2010 released her fifth album, We Are Born. Both albums had a few successful singles that were charted in a few European countries and Australia. We Are Born even won the artist two ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Association) Awards in 2010. After touring in North America, Europe, and Australia to promote We Are Born, Sia decided to retire from her career as a recording artist and focus on becoming a pop songwriter. It was at that point that the unexpected happened.

Sia wrote a song for recording artist Alicia Keys. However, the song was sent to French DJ and EDM artist David Guetta. David Guetta ended up using the song with Sia’s original demo vocals without her approval and the song, called “Titanium”, became a worldwide mainstream success. Despite the popularity of the song, Sia wasn’t pleased since she had recently retired and wanted to focus on songwriting. She did co-write songs from 2011-2013 for many artists like Beyonce, Flo Rida, and Rihanna. In a similar situation to the one with David Guetta, Flo Rida used Sia’s vocals on the song “Wild Ones”.

In 2013, Sia came out of retirement, so to speak, and released the single “Elastic Heart” featuring The Weeknd and Diplo as a song on The Hunger Games: Catching Fire soundtrack. In July 2014, she released her sixth album, 1000 Forms of Fear, which she intended to be the last album she needed to release in order to release her from her record deal, but the album became her most successful to date. It debuted in the top spot on the Billboard Top 200 and sold 52,000 copies in the first week. It reached the top ten on numerous European charts and number 1 in Australia. Along with “Elastic Heart”, which she released as a solo version on the album and as a single, the track “Chandelier” received high praise worldwide. Sia even received four Grammy nominations in 2015 for “Chandelier”, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Pop Solo Performance, and Best Music Video. After the Grammys last year, Sia announced she had completed a follow up album to 1000 Forms of Fear because of her success.

Sia’s seventh album This Is Acting was released January 29, 2016. Her first single from the album, “Alive”, which she co-wrote with Adele, debuted prior to the album release in September 2015. In the following months leading up to the album debut, she also released several other singles, “Bird Set Free”, “One Million Bullets”, “Cheap Thrills”, “Reaper”, and “Unstoppable”. I’m not sure if her latest album will achieve the same success as her prior release, but with the quality of the newest album, it may come close.

Sia’s music can be considered pop, indie pop, and electropop, but her vocals incorporate elements of hip-hop, funk, and soul. I feel like her most recent work (1000 Forms of Fear and This Is Acting) exhibits more power in her vocals than in past records as well, especially in the songs “Alive”, “Chandelier”, “Unstoppable”, and “Eye of the Needle”. If you listen to We Are Born the last album before her “retirement”, it has a much more indie pop vibe. Some People Have REAL Problems is more pop with elements of soul included and Colour the Small One is very pop as well. Healing is Difficult has a hip-hop style and almost reminds me of 90’s hip-hop/R&B girl group, TLC. It’s evident that throughout the years of her career Sia’s style has fluctuated, but it seems that she’s finally found her niche with her power pop vocals and pop/indie pop sound.

I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t heard of Sia before she was featured on “Titanium” and released her latest two albums. I definitely heard of her throughout the 00’s, but never listened to her music because it didn’t fit with what I was listening to at the time and also because she wasn’t a “big deal” musically. Even within the last two years, I didn’t listen to her music. It’s only been during the last few weeks or so that I really started getting to know this talented artist. I added the song “Elastic Heart” to my Spotify playlist of recent music finds after seeing it on my favorite soccer player’s monthly music playlist and liking the song after listening to it a few times. It was recent single “Cheap Thrills”, which again was featured on that player’s monthly playlist, that hooked me on Sia though. I just purchased her latest album on Friday and have been listening to it since. It’s good. She’s good. I may just have to purchased 1000 Forms of Fear as well, except, I definitely want it on vinyl.

As I mentioned before, it will sort of be Sia’s first time performing at Coachella this spring. She appeared during David Guetta’s set in 2012 to perform “Titanium”, but has not ever done a solo set at the annual event. Sia’s Coachella appearance will actually be her first live set in five years, so it should attract a huge audience. Not to mention in the last five years Sia’s popularity has sky rocketed. Sia plays Sunday at Coachella. If I had to make a guess, even though set times won’t be released for weeks, I’ll say she probably plays the main stage before Calvin Harris closes out the weekend. You’re most likely not gonna want to miss her performance, so to get you ready:

  1. Chandelier
  2. Elastic Heart
  3. Cheap Thrills
  4. Alive
  5. Breathe Me
  6. Big Girls Cry
  7. Unstoppable
  8. Clap Your Hands
  9. Bird Set Free
  10. Fire Meets Gasoline
  11. Eye of the Needle

 

FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015: USA v. AUS

BLAST OFF… (I hope you got this as my countdown from the last 3 games)

In the first game of the group stage at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup for the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT), they cruised to a 3-1 victory over Australia. Although “cruised” might not be the best way to describe it. The game wasn’t smooth sailing. Australia dictated the play for the first 40 minutes or so. They had more chances, shots on goal, possession, and overall control of the game. At the same time though, it seemed that both teams took a while to settle down in their World Cup opener. Australia just had the better of it. The bright spot for the USWNT in the first half was the play of Megan Rapinoe and Hope Solo. Solo came up with a few huge saves to keep Australia off the board early and from going ahead late. Rapinoe scored the lone U.S. goal in the first half in the 12th minute when her shot from about 20 yards out deflected off an Australian defender and sailed into the far corner. She also seemed to make something happen every time she got a touch on the ball. She was stellar even at the team’s lowest point. Unfortunately the poor play of the U.S. and dominance of Australia in the first 40 lead to a goal by Australian captain Lisa De Vanna in the 27th minute. The first half ended in a 1-1 tie, but the play finally started to come together at the end for the USWNT.

When the U.S. came out for the second half, they picked up where they left off in the last few minutes of the first. They controlled play. Their passing was in synch. There were less turnovers. They created more chances and capitalized twice. The first of those came in the 61st minute. The play was started by none other than Rapinoe who settled a Solo goal kick, took a few touches and sent a pass to Sydney Leroux on the left side. Leroux took control from there as she had a step on her defender. She took the ball down the left flank and sent a pass near the end line to a wide open Christen Press who kicked a one-time shot into the back netting. The third goal came from the foot of FIFA Player of the Match (well-deserved honor), yes, you guessed it, Megan Rapinoe (Yes, she was involved in all 3 goals). In the 78th minute, she took an intercepted pass from Carli Lloyd down the left flank, made one-touch to beat out her defender, and put a left-footed shot into the far side of the goal. That was it. The U.S. dominated the second half. It was a complete turnaround of their poor start. 3-1 Final. Game. Set. Match.

Of note, star forward, Alex Morgan came on in the 79th minute. Those 11 minutes plus stoppage time were the first she’s seen for the National Team since April 4th (she’s been sidelined with a bone bruise on her left knee). Now the USWNT will look to their Friday night match-up against #5 ranked Sweden, who only took one point away from their first match after a surprise 3-3 tie with #22 ranked Nigeria. They currently sit atop Group D with 3 points.

For me watching this game was kind of a surreal moment. Actually writing this blog post is too. I’ve been talking about this game since it was announced after the draw back in December. I can’t believe that it’s over and the World Cup is finally here. It feels like I’ve been waiting forever. Although four years isn’t forever, it is a pretty long time. A lot changes in four years. It’s the amount of time it takes on average for someone to complete high school or college. We grow, age, change. It really is a long time. So as I watched the game, it was much different than when I last watched the USWNT compete in a World Cup or any major tournament at that (2012 Olympics). One reason for that is that I actually know more players than just those on the USWNT. I’ve watched so much soccer since the Olympics in 2012. I’ve learned about the game. I’ve learned about players from all over the world and I’ve learned about more players from the United States than just those on the National Team. Plus, I really know USWNT better than I did back then. I’ve become a huge fan not only of the them, but also of women’s soccer.

The second reason that watching the game last night was different was that I’ve changed so much in four years. I’ve become a completely different person in so many ways. Part of the reason for my personal growths I owe to women’s soccer and a certain one or two players in particular. Without them/it, I’m not sure where I’d be as a person and in life. I know that’s a pretty heavy statement, but honestly it’s difficult to put into words how much inspiration it has provided me. To kind of quote/paraphrase one of my biggest inspirations, I’m feeling “totally confident, comfortable, and free” with who I am, who I want to become, and what I want to achieve. For that and for many other personal reasons, I am forever grateful for this sport and for those who play it.

The next game for the USWNT is only a few days away. It’ll be interesting to see if any line-up changes are made. With so many games in such a short period of time, line-up changes are imminent for the strength and well-being of the players, especially in this particular tournament since all the games are being played on turf (it changes the game entirely). From last night’s opener, it’s evident that winning a World Cup will be no easy task. It will be a battle every single time the team takes the field from the group stage to the final, if they happen to make it that far. As Coach Jill Ellis stated in a pre-game press conference, she didn’t expect the first game to be their best game. It wasn’t. It was far from it. With each game though, hopefully the team comes together and reaches their highest playing potential. The fun continues Friday night, June 12th at 8 p.m. ET on Fox versus Sweden (and former Coach Pia Sundhage). I can’t wait to see what happens.