bon iver

Coachella Band Preview: Phantogram, BANKS, Bon Iver, & Bastille

Thank goodness that Coachella is only a month away because this week’s east coast Snowmageddon is bringing me down. If the snow is keeping you inside or if you’re inside regardless for whatever the case may be, it’s the perfect time to listen to some bands to prep for Indio’s annual music festival. This week’s blog might be kind of basic, but it’s still necessary because I would want to see all of these artists perform their 2017 Coachella sets. I’ve given an in depth review of all these artists before so my previews for these guys will be more condensed. I’ll be sure to give links to my previous posts on each and catch you up on what they’ve done since I wrote about them last though. They are Phantogram, BANKS, Bon Iver, & Bastille.

I just wrote about Phantogram back in December. The biggest news about the band since you last heard about them is that they’re playing a bunch of festivals this summer after releasing their third studio album in October 2016. They make their return to the desert for the first time since 2011. That being said I expect they’ll have decent numbers at their Coachella set. They play Friday. As for music prep, click the link above to my previous Phantogram post. The band hasn’t released any new music since so it’s senseless to post it again. Just check out my blog from a few months ago.

When I first started this blog in 2014, BANKS was one of the first music artists I wrote about. So as you might have guessed, there’s a lot more to tell you about BANKS since my last post. My last post is actually pretty small (give me a break I was just getting the hang of this thing) and I only recommended 3 songs…what?! Let’s catch you up and give you a few more songs. After releasing her debut album to critical acclaim in September 2014 (and yes I eventually purchased it), BANKS again toured in support The Weeknd on his 2015 fall tour. She released her sophomore album, The Altar, this past September to more positive reviews. I previously compared her to Lorde. I understand where I was going with that description, but I think a better description of her sound is alternative R&B. It has a darker feel yet a soulful vibe. Since hearing about her in 2014, I’ve wanted to see her live. I actually thought she’d play Coachella in 2015 when I attended until I realized she played the previous year. She hasn’t been back since making this year her second appearance. She plays Friday as well. If you’re looking for a super chill, hip, alternative, electronic, R&B type of set, BANKS is who you need to see. Here’s a few more of her songs you should listen to along with “Goddess”, “Beggin’ For Thread”, and the “In Your Eyes” cover:

  1. Lovesick
  2. Fuck With Myself
  3. Gemini Feed
  4. Drowning
  5. You Should Know Where I’m Coming From
  6. Someone New
  7. Warm Water
  8. Waiting Game
  9. Brain
  10. Trainwreck
  11. Mind Games

Bon Iver is another artist I wrote about a while ago. Since then Bon Iver released a new album, 22, A Million this past September. It was the first album for the band since 2011. The album takes on a much more experimental sound than their previous material. Pitchfork likened it to Radiohead’s Kid A in their review of the album, which I think is a solid comparison. Bon Iver went on hiatus for a while in 2012 and reunited for the first time in the summer of 2015 to play the Eaux Claires Music Festival. Early last year they toured in Asia and since the release of the new album, the group, fronted by creator Justin Vernon, is back to playing live shows. They have a few festivals lined up for this summer including a stop at their second Coachella (third for Justin Vernon since he was a guest during Kanye’s 2011 set). They play Saturday. I’ve never seen Bon Iver live. I would love to. The timing is always off and Bon Iver is one of those bands for me that I’d want someone to go with except I don’t think any of my friends like Bon Iver that much. Seeing this band at a festival would be the perfect opportunity for me and for you if you’ve liked Bon Iver for a while (like me) or if even if you haven’t. So here’s a few songs to add to your Coachella playlist along with the list of songs I mention on previous blog post (linked above):

  1. 33 “GOD”
  2. 666 ʇ
  3. 29 #Strafford APTS
  4. 8 (circle)
  5. 22 (OVER S∞∞N)

If you couldn’t already tell from my post a few months ago, Bastille is one band who I’d definitely love to see live again, especially after their latest album. Since my post, there’s not much news to add other than the fact that they’re playing their second Coachella this year, which I believe I predicted in my blog post. They’ve also got a few other upcoming overseas festivals including Reading and Leeds. Bastille plays Saturday at Coachella. I would anticipate high popularity for their set. It’s also one that would be on my must-see list, if I’m able to catch it. As was with Phantogram, there’s been no new music from Bastille since my blog post in October, so refer to that for tunes to prep for the festival.

There you have it. Somewhat brief follow-ups for four bands/artists playing Coachella this year that I previously wrote about. I know I already suggested your attendance at each one of their sets, but honestly every Coachella act I write about is one that I’d want you to see at the festival. It kinda goes without saying. It’s seriously time to rev up those preparations though because we’re heading towards the final stretch. Coachella 2017 will be here before you know it.

 

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Coachella 2017 Lineup Release

Beyoncé, can you handle this? I don’t think you can handle this!

Yes, it’s that time of year again: festival season lineup announcements and in particular…Coachella. The Coachella lineup just dropped yesterday around 1:30 p.m. and I’m stoked (as always)! I heard lineup rumors during the past few weeks and certain predictions had me feeling some kind of jealous. However, upon the announcement yesterday I feel like 2017 still won’t be topping the 2014 lineup (toughest lineup to top ever). 2017 is still pretty epic because the Queen Bey herself, Beyoncé, is headlining. That’s why I felt the need to quote her former group, Destiny’s Child, to start this post. It was fitting, don’t you think? Anyway, this will be a first for the pop superstar, whose sure to draw a massive crowd as the Saturday night headliner. I can’t put all the focus on Bey though since there’s two other headliners. So, without further ado, the Coachella 2017 lineup is as follows:

The Headliners: Radiohead, Beyoncé, Kendrick Lamar

Obviously the big story from this is Beyoncé as I already mentioned and again yes this will be her first solo performance at the festival. She made a surprise appearance in 2014 at her sister Solange’s set.

Radiohead is no stranger to the Indio desert. Thom Yorke & company headlined Coachella twice in 2004 and 2012. They’ve even played “Creep” once while headlining there, so it’s obviously a pretty special place (they rarely play “Creep”). After the release of their most recent album, A Moon Shaped Pool, last summer, it seems fitting that the group once again headlines a Coachella festival.

Lastly there’s rapper Kendrick Lamar. He played on the Main Stage in 2012 and came out as a guest during the Dre and Snoop set that year. Kendrick Lamar has been on the rise since 2010-2011. Last year he headlined Goldenvoice’s (same promoter as Coachella) Panorama Festival, also dubbed “East Coast Coachella”, in its first year of existence. He apparently crushed his set there and drew a crowd of epic proportions, which might give you an indication of how he’ll be closing out Coachella this year on Sunday night.

Usually Coachella headliners are primarily alternative, rock, or indie or some form of a combo of those genres. In recent years, there have been rap headliners such as Jay-Z (2010), Kanye West (2011), Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg (2012) or Drake (2015) and last year saw electronic artists take the headlining spot with Calvin Harris and, if you consider them to be indie eletronic-ish, LCD Soundsystem. This year is the first time a major pop/ pop-R&B artist is headlining the festival (Beyoncé). Each night sees a different genre of music as the headliner making Coachella even more appealing to the masses.

The Other Highly Billed Performers: the XX, Travis Scott, Father John Misty, Empire of the Sun, Dillon Francis, Bon Iver, Future, DJ Snake, Martin Garrix, ScHoolboy Q, Gucci Mane, Lorde, Justice, New Order, Porter Robinson & Madeon, Future Islands, Mac Miller, Steve Angello, Glass Animals, Phantogram, Mac DeMarco, Little Dragon, BANKS, the Head and the Heart, Two Door Cinema Club, Nicolas Jaar, Bastille, Tycho, Tory Lanez, Röyksopp, Hans Zimmer, DJ Khaled, Marshmello, Lil Uzi Vert, Galantis, Kehlani, Grouplove, Kaytranada

Out of the the other top acts coming to the festival this year, the ones who stick out most to me (a.k.a. the ones I would see) are the XX, Empire of the Sun, Bon Iver, Lorde, Phantogram, BANKS, and Bastille. That means in weeks to come be on the look out for Coachella Band Previews featuring these bands and artists. Bon Iver, Lorde, Phantogram, BANKS, and Bastille will each be making their second Coachella appearance, while the XX and Empire of the Sun will be performing for the third time. All of these acts have released an album over the past year with the exception of the XX, whose third album comes out next week, and Lorde. Lorde is expected to release a new album this spring so I’m excited to hear her new material.

Other notable acts (for me) from this list are Two Door Cinema Club, Glass Animals, Mac DeMarco, and Grouplove. I would check out these acts if it fit in my schedule for sure, especially Mac DeMarco, who I missed at sweetlife last year, and Grouplove, who is a fun indie pop band that fits the Coachella atmosphere perfectly.

There’s also plenty of top electronic artists who will set the Sahara Stage on fire. Look for Dillon Francis, DJ Snake, Martin Garrix, Justice, Porter Robinson & Madeon, Steve Angello, Nicolas Jaar, Tycho, Röyksopp, DJ Khaled, Marshmello (who is basically the new Deadmau5/Daft Punk with his visual persona), Galantis, and Kaytranada there or even on the main stage. There’s no doubt that Dillon Francis and Martin Garrix should be closing out their respective nights on at the Sahara Tent. It’s bound to be lit.

The most interesting artist of this bunch is German composer Hans Zimmer. This guy is a legendary film composer so to earn a spot at Coachella is out of the ordinary. I’m interested to see what his set will be like. Will there be an orchestra there that he directs? Will it be some sort of DJ set? Will everyone sit out on blankets drinking wine and eating cheese if it is an orchestral set? There’s endless questions for this one. Interesting doesn’t even begin to describe it for me.

Another note from this group is the amount of top rap/hip-hop artists. It actually feels like an overwhelming amount of rap artists at Coachella this year compared to the usual. It might be the year for rap there. Just by the look of the lineup, they’ve booked solid acts with Travis Scott, Future, Mac Miller, and Gucci Mane, and not to mention Kendrick as a headliner.

The Rest: Bonobo, Richie Hawtin, DJ Shadow, Loco Dice, Dixon, Capital Cities, Big Gigantic, Crystal Castles, SOHN, Jagwar Ma, Francis and the Lights, BROODS, Guided By Voices, Preservation Hall, Jazz Band, Sampha, BICEP, Raury, the Martinez Brothers, Oh Wonder, Stormzy, Zipper Club, Tennis, SNBRN, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, Kungs, Floorplan, Denzel Curry, the Lemon Twigs, Nora En Pure, Joseph, the Interrupters, Sam Gellaitry, Klangstof, Tacocat, Alison Swing, Local Natives, Majid Jordan, DREAMCAR, Four Tet, Róisín Murphy, Moderat, the Avalanches, Mura Masa, Nav, Solomun, Warpaint, Banks & Steelz, Hot Since 82, Classixx, Kaleo, Breakbot, GRYFFIN, Car Seat Headrest, Daphni, Brodinski, Mitski, Floating Points, Thundercat, SURVIVE, Arkells, the Atomics, Ben UFO, Bishop Briggs, Blossoms, Chicano Batman, Autograf, Moss Kena, Red Axes, Shura, Honey Dijon, Declan McKenna, Eli & Fur, Swet Shop Boys, Chris Cruse, Tale of Us, Toots and the Maytals, Devendra Banhart, Tove Lo, Jai Wolf, Jack Garratt, Sasha, Kiiara, Real Estate, the Belleville Three, Maya Jane Coles, What So Not, PNL, Lee Fields & the Espressions, NAO, GoldLink, Allah-Las, King Sunny Adé, Marcel Dettmann, SOFI TUKKER, Whitney, Patrick Topping, HONNE, Twin Peaks, Tourist, Preoccupations, Hinds, Ezra Furman, Pond, Hannah Wants, Anna Lunoe, Grace Mitchell, Los Blenders, Show Me the Body, Caveman, Jen Ferrer

A lot of these bands and artists are playing Coachella for the first time. Some of them are new to their respective music scenes and some may only get bigger from here. Take this year’s headliner Kendrick Lamar for instance. When he played in 2012, his name was listed on the last line of Friday’s acts. Not all of these bands may make it as a headliner, but you may see some of them in the coming years selling out shows and playing festivals as a top-act.

If I were attending, I would definitely want to see BROODS, Oh Wonder, Kungs, Local Natives, GRYFFIN, and Tove Lo. I missed Local Natives in favor of Halsey at Lollapalooza, but caught the tail end of their set. They’re a great indie alternative band who I’d love to see live, or at least all of their set live. BROODS is a brother-sister music duo who just came on to the music scene in the past few years. I’ve liked everything I’ve heard by them so far. If I had the chance, I would definitely listen to them more and see them at the festival if I had the chance. I’ve also just started to get into Oh Wonder and seeing their name on the Coachella lineup makes me want to listen to more of their stuff and check them out live. I doubt these guys will be climbing the festival lineups soon but they put out some great tunes.

I’m also not sure why Tove Lo isn’t listed higher on the festival lineup. I’m sure she’ll be playing on the Outdoor Stage or the Main Stage though because she’s already selling out smaller venues. Her appeal kind of reminds me of Ellie Goulding and I’m guessing in the coming years she’ll be making her way to the top just as Ellie’s done.

Out of the few electronic artists I like, GRYFFIN is one I would love to check out at Coachella. If you read my Music Saved 2016 post from last week, you’d know I had a GRYFFIN song on the list. He’s also got a song called “Heading Home” that I’m a fan of too. Another electronic artist that you should see/pay attention to is Kungs. This kid, because yeah he’s only 20 years old, came on to the electronic scene huge with his hit “This Girl” feat. Cookin’ on 3 Burners (another song listed on said Music saved 2016 blog post). I actually just listened to some of his other stuff about 2 days ago. I liked what I heard. He released his debut album on November 4th and I’m sure you’ll hear more from him in the future. Like I said pay attention to him and see him now if you have the chance.

Some other bands worth checking out are electronic duo HONNE, rock group Arkells, and indie band Twin Peaks. You may even want to check out solo artist Jack Garratt, who reminds me of combo between Bon Iver and the Weeknd, and indie/alternative rock artist Declan McKenna, who won Glastonbury Festival’s emerging talent competition in 2015.

To those of you scored tickets and are heading to Indio this spring, have the best time of your lives. Coachella is an incredible experience filled with music that spans across genres so there really is something for everyone to see. At this current moment, I’m not officially going to Coachella as a festival attendee, but there is a possibility that I could work there. I’m not getting my hopes up yet though because I could very well be spending this year watching from my computer again. As such, I’ll be previewing bands playing the festival this year as I’ve done the last two years and writing as if I were going like I did last year in 2016 (because I did go in 2015, which started all this preview hype to begin with). So stay tuned for all the previews because festival season is almost here!

Good Winter

In the beginning of 2007, I was a senior in high school. I listened to primarily punk/alternative rock music with the occasional ska and hardcore mixed in. I had just started a band with my three friends so we could play together in our school’s senior talent show. I went to shows, hung out with my band, and felt completely in my element. At the time, I had no idea my music taste would change again four years later (no pun intended) as it abruptly did when I was a high school freshman. I had no idea what album was in the process of being created and how it would come into my life when I was in an entirely different place.

In the winter of 2007, Justin Vernon (who I mentioned in my Grammy’s post) decided to spend 3 months in his father’s Wisconsin cabin after a rough time in his life (band break-up, relationship ending, battling mono). His intention was to recuperate from those circumstances, but what happened was the creation of an incredible work of musical art. He wrote and recorded songs completely by himself. He named his project “Bon Iver” which was his own variation of the French expression “bon hiver” meaning “good winter”.

Bon Iver’s first album was released in limited capacity in late spring 2007 (500 copies). The album entitled For Emma, Forever Ago contained the original recordings Vernon did while in seclusion in the cabin. The CD release show took place at the House of Rock in Eau Claire, Wisconsin (now home to Eaux Claires Music Festival which Vernon created). After the release show, the album received some attention from blog sites and indie publication site, Pitchfork, which lead to an eventual signing with indie label Jagjaguwar. The album was re-released in February 2008 under the new label, and went on to have much success, especially the song “Skinny Love”.

In 2009, Bon Iver released the EP Blood Bank featuring three new songs, “Beach Baby”, “Babys”, and “Woods”, and previously recorded song “Blood Bank” which didn’t make the cut on the first album. Bon Iver’s sophomore self-titled album was released on June 17, 2011. The album slightly differed in its sound compared to the first which featured a more intimate approach that really focused on Vernon’s vocals and guitar playing. The sound in For Emma, Forever Ago was so beautifully simplistic. The self-titled album kept the same mellow Bon Iver feel, but featured a more advanced sound quality. Obviously it wasn’t recorded in the same type of environment as the first. It used more instrumentals and had less of a focus on the vocals and guitar. Nonetheless it was still a beautiful compilation of music. In fact, the following year the album received a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album and Bon Iver received the Grammy for Best New Artist (which always struck me as amusing considering he was not at all “new” at the time).

I had not even heard of Bon Iver until after the release of the second album. Like I said before, I was in a totally different place musically when the first album was released. When the second came out, I had just started to get into the indie scene. It was still a few months later when I first heard “Skinny Love”. I really can’t remember how or when I first heard the song. It might have been a recommendation from a friend or it might have been on a Pandora station, which I frequently used to find new music at the time. Either way, it was in September of 2011 that I first heard it. I immediately took to the song. It was much softer than other things I listened to at that time. I would tend to listen to it when I was feeling upset. I was upset often then too. I went through a difficult transitional period around that time where I began questioning a lot of things regarding my future and aspirations. To say music is what I turned to is an understatement. Music always helps me, no matter what I’m feeling, and it helped then too. “Skinny Love” was just a part of that. Within the next few months I purchased both For Emma, Forever Ago and Bon Iver. I also became a big fan of the song “Holocene”. I’ve always felt that Bon Iver’s music is the perfect soundtrack for fall and winter. It’s possible because that’s when I first listened to it. It’s also possible because it has a peaceful, mellow sound that mixes well with the cold air and lifeless conditions the seasons bring. You can be the judge if you listen to my song recommendations.

Anyway, Bon Iver went on hiatus in 2012 and has not released any new music since. Recently though, Vernon confirmed that the hiatus has come to an end as the group intends to play the inaugural Eaux Claires Music Festival in July. New material should follow. Until then we just have to wait to see what’s in-store for Justin Vernon and his band.

1. Skinny Love

2. Holocene

3. Blood Bank

4. I Can’t Make You Love Me (Bonnie Raitt cover) (so much better than the original)

5. Flume

6. Blindsided

7. Towers

8. Creature Fear

9. Hazelton

10. Perth

The Biggest Night in Music…or Something Like That

If you watched the Grammy Awards last night, I’m sure the one question running through your mind is “Was there anything Sam Smith didn’t win?” The answer is surprisingly “Yes!” no matter how you look at it. Sure you can say he didn’t win a Grammy for every category, but he wasn’t nominated for every category. However, he also did not win in every category he was nominated for (Pharrell won with “Happy” for Best Pop Performance), although it sure seemed like he did.

Anyway, I originally had planned to do a Grammy Awards recap today but then right before the show started last night I realized I really didn’t care to watch it. Prior to this I saw three of the categories I cared about were already awarded. Best Rock Performance went to Jack White for “Lazaretto”, Best Rock Song went to Paramore for “Ain’t It Fun” and Best Alternative Album went to St. Vincent for her self-titled album (see you at Coachella Jack and Annie!). After that I only cared if The Black Keys won Best Rock Album or if Haim won Best New Artist. Neither did. So there wasn’t much else for me to see. The performances weren’t my cup of tea nor were the other categories. I might have been mildly interested to see if Taylor Swift won anything for “Shake It Off”. That song may be a guilty pleasure of mine but I will not confirm or deny that (she didn’t win at all). Still, that was something I could wait to find out later without watching the show.

So I barely watched the Grammys. Instead it got me thinking, “Why do people watch the Grammys? Why are they so special? Heck, why do people watch any award shows and what makes some more important or better than others?” So I did some research and decided to answer those questions here.

First “Why do people watch the Grammys?” and “Why are they so special?” Well to give an answer to both of these questions at once (sorta) is because the Grammys are the oldest and most prestigious awards in music. The show started in the late 50’s and has continued until this point. So that’s why they’re special and I think part of why people watch. Another reason I think people watch is because they want to see if their favorite artists receive a major achievement. I’m sure some people watch to see the performances and drama that occurs with a live award show. There’s probably people that watch just so they can feel included to talk about the show the next day at work or school. Then there’s the people who watch for the fashion. There’s probably other reasons too, but I think those are some of the big ones.

I guess the same can be said for why people watch any awards shows. They care about what the show celebrates whether it’s music, tv, movies, etc., or they care about fashion and pop culture, or they just watch it for pure entertainment. What makes some award shows better than others? Well I think like I said before is how old they are and how prestigious they are deemed by society.

That’s the thing though. The Grammy Awards (probably other award shows too) were criticized plenty of times for just being some big spectacle that celebrates the music industry, caters to people for entertainment, and is less about the actual music than they want you to believe. Like many things in our culture, award shows get blown out of proportion. It’s society that makes us believe that awards are important and certain awards are more important than others. That goes for anything. I guess it’s the case that people need to feel validated sometimes and awards help with that. But I think it’s important for those receiving awards to feel validated no matter what, like the people who make music purely to make music by expressing themselves and creating a beautiful compilation of sound. There’s validation in just being able to make music. One of my favorite Grammy moments of all time happened when Justin Vernon of Bon Iver won two Grammys in 2012 for Bon Iver, Bon Iver and Best New Artist (he wasn’t new at the time but we’ll let that slide). Through his acceptance speech he basically indicated that the awards meant so little compared to the music which was so much more important. I’ve always respected musicians like that who put the music first. It is what’s most important. Awards are just an added bonus.

So I think it’s important for those of us that actually care about what the awards are for to remember what is really important about them. Hell, even if you care about the fashion or the water cooler discussion the next day it’s important to know the real reason for having an award show. Music, television, movies, etc. are all forms of art. They’re beautiful creations of tremendous amounts of work that have been shared with us. That is what is so incredible about them. That is what is most important.

Fall Playlist

So this week I was pretty stuck on what I should write about. I could have easily made a post about the USWNT and the CONCACAF qualifying tournament, but I feel like I’ve written too much about sports so far (I’ll probably still write about it at some point in the next 2 weeks though). There’s been nothing in TV or movies currently that has really peaked my interest. I didn’t feel like writing about one of the shows I’ve been watching for a while or a favorite movie. I wanted music, but no new bands struck me recently. Plus, I already have something planned to write in 2 weeks about a band I’ve loved for 10 years. Then yesterday as I was driving on what turned out to be a gloomy fall afternoon, just as most of the leaves on the trees have hit their peak to turn colors, I heard a song that fit this time of year so well.

It hit me at that moment. There are tons of songs that remind me of specific seasons including fall so why not make a playlist? Some songs may be totally irrelevant to fall. I most likely associate them with the season because I probably heard them for the first time during the fall and listened to them repetitively. Other songs just sound right to me for this time of year because they either have an eerie tone (that Halloween vibe) or they’re my ideal fall indie folk style music.

So here’s my playlist for you. It’s almost like I made you a mix tape without the whole giving you the actual music thing.

1. Asleep   -The Smiths

2. Coney Island   -Good Old War

3. Come As You Are   -Nirvana

4. So Much Trouble   -Matt Pond PA

5. Blackbird   -The Beatles

6. Mad World   -Gary Jules

7. Ships   -Lady Danville

8. Pretty Girl at the Airport   -The Avett Brothers

9. New Slang   -The Shins

10. Pale Blue Eyes   -The Velvet Underground

11. Follow Suit   -Trent Dabbs

12. The Cave   -Mumford & Sons

13. Freaks   -The Hawk in Paris

14. That’s Some Dream   -Good Old War

15. Gypsy   -Suzanne Vega

16. World Spins Madly On   -The Weepies

17. Skinny Love   -Bon Iver

18. Landslide   -Fleetwood Mac

If you’ve ever heard or know all or some of these songs, you can probably tell that this playlist doesn’t seem very upbeat. It’s not. Musically, to me, that’s how fall is represented. It’s always seemed like a sad time of the year to me because where I’m from, the days get colder, the night’s grow longer, and all the life that was once flourishing seems to be sucked out. The fall also reminds me of long drives to Pittsburgh. I’ve listened to a handful of songs on the playlist on those drives while passing elegant fall landscapes. The fall is Halloween and all things creepy. The fall is my favorite book which I read for the first time in early October as a high school junior. This is what fall is and what my fall playlist represents. So enjoy it. I highly encourage you to listen to these songs. Even more so, listen to them while taking a drive and being immersed in the season.