Billboard Top 200

Damned if I Write This, Damned if I Don’t

I’m sorry to say, but it’s been another long amount of time I’ve gone without writing a blog post. It was a busy a fall with not much time at home and not much time to focus on the blog, which is a huge shame on me. As a quick update, up until last week, I only had 6 full days at home over the last 6 weeks. I spent mid-late September and much of October working 3 different music festivals (Firefly, Austin City Limits, and EDC Las Vegas). Then, I spent Halloween weekend with my family out-of-state. At this point though, I’ve finally been back for a week straight and thought it was time to make a post.

During Lolla week back in late July, I finally made it to my first Lolla after show. I saw pop punk band All Time Low at the Bottom Lounge (shoutout to my friend Emily for making it possible). Since then, I got back in touch with All Time Low, a band whose handful of songs I listened to at the end of high school/beginning of college. I can’t say I really went all in to All Time Low in the past few months, but I definitely started listening to a few more of their songs than “Dear Maria Count Me In” and “Coffee Shop Soundtrack.”

All Time Low, from Towson, Maryland (Baltimore suburb), formed in 2003 while still in high school. The group got their name from the lyrics of New Found Glory’s song “Head on Collision” (“And it feels like I’m at an all time low.”). Plenty of bands have gone through lineup changes over the years but All Time Low has remained consistent since their very early days with Alex Gaskarth on guitar and lead vocals, Jack Barakat on guitar, Zack Merrick on bass and backing vocals, and Rian Dawson on drums. In their very early days, Chris Cortilello and TJ Ihle were part of the group, but left before the band made a name for themselves.

The group released their first two EPs in 2004 before their debut album The Party Scene was released in 2005. The band signed with Hopeless Records in 2006 and released the EP Put Up or Shut Up that summer after graduating from high school. After joining the Vans Warped Tour in the summer of 2007, they released their second studio album So Wrong, It’s Right. This album peaked at 62 on the Billboard Top 200 and 6 on the Alternative Albums chart. Ultimately it lead to their rise in the alternative music scene. Their third album Nothing Personal debuted in July 2009. It reached number 4 on the Billboard Top 200 in it’s first week. By 2009 they became a headlining act at Warped Tour and had also been headlining their own national and international tours.

Since 2009, the band has been continually touring and releasing albums every few years. The most notable of those was Future Hearts in 2014 which debuted at number 2 on the Billboard Top 200, their highest charting album thus far. The most recent album they released was Wake Up, Sunshine in 2020. Other albums released include Dirty Work (2011), Don’t Panic (2013), and Last Young Renegade (2017).

All Time Low’s music style is classified as pop punk, pop rock, emo pop, and alternative, which is pretty spot on. They’ve stayed true to their genre throughout their time in existence, but I always think of them and their music style as something else, “scene” music. In the late 2000’s the “scene” subculture became a thing for alternative music fans. It developed from emo music/emo subculture. Now over 10 years later, All Time Low is a staple at emo nights around the country, where emo and other alternative music from the scene days is played for hours as millennials re-embrace super tight skinny jeans and heavy eyeliner while belting out anthems from their youth. “Dear Maria Count Me In” is one of those hits, as well as other pop punk, emo, alternative songs from that early scene era.

Despite knowing All Time Low for years, and even seeing the 1975 with them at Coachella (I happened to stand next to them), I had never seen them perform live until July. If it wasn’t for my friend Hailey, I’m not sure I would have even pushed as hard to see them either, but I’m glad we did, even if we only saw the last 4 songs. Hailey reintroduced me All Time Low as well as the Maine around that time and I’ve gotten into a few more of their songs since then including “Monsters”, “Damned if I Do Ya, Damned if I Don’t”, “Clumsy”, and “Weightless”. I’ve also re-sparked my interest in songs by several other bands I used to listen to this year including Fall Out Boy, Green Day, and Motion City Soundtrack. It’s definitely been a year of second-comings for alternative music for me.

Speaking of this year, we’re only weeks away from 2022 and for the first time in 2 years, there’s going to be a Coachella lineup drop, which means band previews and polo field hype will be back soon enough! Until then, I challenge you to get into a new old song by a band you listened to years ago. You just might be surprised how it could hit different especially if you’re over getting old.

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.

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.

How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful

According to my little stats here on the blog, it’s been 22 days since I made any sort of update. With the epic coverage of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup throughout June and trying to focus on getting my life in order plus some vacation time, I needed a little break. Right before the World Cup began, I failed to note a much anticipated release in the music world.

Since seeing Florence and The Machine at Coachella back in April (one of my favorite performances of the festival might I add), I anticipated the release of her latest album How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. It came out on May 29th, about a week and a half before the USAvAUS opener. However, I was waiting to purchase it with my gift certificate from Amoeba Music (the world’s largest independent record store with three locations in California- Berkeley (the original location), San Francisco, and Hollywood) during their monthly 15% off sale. The sale didn’t happen until mid-June so I ordered it on vinyl then. I received it by the end of June, about a month after its initial release. I didn’t listen to the album aside from an early song release or two in prep for Coachella until I had the record in my possession. I did however unintentionally hear a few songs from the album because FoxSports, who covered the Women’s World Cup, used some songs off the latest album as background music during their video montages of the tournament. Needless to say, that just got me more hyped to listen to the album.

The album was worth the wait. After purchasing the first two Florence and The Machine albums on vinyl, I had to follow suit with the third. Like the first two albums, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful delivered with the same powerful female vocals, catchy choruses, and indie pop/rock style. I  honestly love this band’s consistency as far as style goes. Although the themes in Florence and The Machine’s albums may vary, the sound never disappoints or strays from what made people fall in love with them in the first place. It may be my favorite album of theirs to date. I highly recommend it. The album topped the charts in eight different countries during its first week on the market, including the number one spot on Billboard’s Top 200 in the United States. It was the first time a Florence and The Machine album received that honor. So there’s a little proof of how good this record is besides me just saying it’s awesome. So check it out asap and check out these songs in particular:

1. Delilah

2. Queen of Peace

3. Ship to Wreck

4. How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful

5. What Kind of Man

6. Caught

7. St. Jude