british band

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: The xx

Hey guess what…Coachella Band Previews are back! It was only a matter of time since the lineup release last week. Coachella is a little over 3 months away so if you’re headed out to Indio, your prep needs to begin asap. Like yesterday asap. The timing of my first preview works out perfectly because this band’s third album, I See You, comes out tomorrow! They hail from the UK and they’re called The xx.

In 2005, while still in school, Oliver Sim and Romy Madley Croft formed the band. Guitarist Baria Qureshi joined once the band started performing and Jamie Smith joined the year after. The group released their debut album, xx, in 2009 under the British indie label Young Turks. It received praise from critics in both the UK and America. It made Rolling Stone’s list of Best Albums of 2009 finishing 9th. Songs from the album have been featured on countless television and film productions as well as for sporting event promotions. The band also headlined its own tour in promotion of the album and earned spots at several major North American music festivals in 2010, including Coachella, Sasquatch, Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits. In late 2009 though, band member Baria Qureshi left the band turning The xx into a trio.

In 2012 the band once again played the festival circuit in anticipation of their second album, Coexist, which was released on September 5, 2012. Coexist combines The xx’s signature sound and integrates it with a club music feel. Jamie Smith spoke before its release about the club influence on it. It’s definitely noticeable especially on songs like “Sunset” and “Swept Away”. The second album didn’t generate as much success as their debut, but was still highly anticipated.

As I said, their third album comes out tomorrow and once again the band will embark on a touring/festival circuit route for the year. They begin touring in Europe in February, head to South America for their Lollapalooza dates, and then it’s Southern California for Coachella followed by their North American tour with more festivals mixed in along the way. As for the album itself, I’ve only heard the singles that were released early, but I recently read a review from Pitchfork claiming that the album combines classic xx and the growth of each members’ talents. Obviously the challenge for any band or artist with a largely successful album is trying to replicate that success with still being able to grow as musicians and make and play the music that the band or artist wants to create. While there will never be another xx, it’s safe to say that this upcoming album sounds tremendous so far. It even caught my ear early for someone who has listened to The xx here and there throughout the last 5-6 years. Maybe it’s a long shot or maybe it’s not, but I’m predicting some good things for the new album and the band this year.

The xx plays an indie electronic style of music. It can even induce that hypnotic dream pop sound. The xx honestly combines the best of both of my worlds at this point. While searching for upbeat electronic songs to listen to while I work out, I’m constantly wondering if there are any DJ’s out there who have a more indie sound to combine with their electronic music. The xx answers that question for me. They combine guitar with digital/electronic beats and sounds. Though not necessarily the type of music I’d listen to while working out, their music is just what I’ve been looking for.

As I said, I’ve listened to The xx here and there throughout the last 5 years. I first heard them in 2011. I’m pretty sure I heard the song “Intro” while listening to the Foster the People channel on Pandora. Eventually I discovered the song “Islands” and casually enjoyed the song for the past few years. 2 months ago, before I heard about the new album, I added the song “Heart Skipped a Beat” to my newest music on iTunes. Right before I added that song, a friend of mine told me one of her top 5 favorite albums of all time was xx. I forget the other albums she said, but the mentioning of The xx interested me since I knew about them for years without really getting into them. Between the new album and the promotion from my friend of their debut, I’ve developed a recent interest in the group and I was excited to learn that they’re expected to play Coachella this year.

The xx plays Coachella on Friday and by Friday, I totally mean Friday night. There’s no doubt in my mind that they’ll either take the Main Stage before Radiohead or play a late set on the Outdoor Stage. In fact, The xx playing as the sun sets over the mountains of the Indio desert is probably the most ideal setting imaginable. No matter what setting they play in though, their set will undoubtedly be a great one and one I would surely be at. To prep for it, pick up a copy of I See You tomorrow or listen to some of these songs:

  1. Islands
  2. Intro
  3. Angels
  4. Heart Skipped A Beat
  5. Sunset
  6. Crystalised
  7. VCR

 

Bastille

It was 2013. I was in California for the first time visiting my cousin and exploring the southern portion of the state. I can’t remember what day it was or if it was night time or the middle of the afternoon, but I sat in her downstairs bathroom catching up on social media. I saw a tweet from someone I followed that hyped up a band named Bastille. The tweet also mentioned several songs. I sat there checking each one out before I left the bathroom. I can’t say I was a fan of any of the songs. I had much more important things to focus on though, mainly being in California. That was the first time I heard of Bastille.

Months later I re-evaluated my opinions on the band. I got into the song Pompeii (like everyone else) and eventually Bad Blood. Pompeii was one of the songs I listened to in my cousin’s bathroom. The song Flaws was another, which I started liking later on too. Sometimes bands or artists have to grow on us. Sometimes we have to hear them in a different context to appreciate them. That’s what happened in this situation for me. Now a little over three years since I first heard Bastille, I fell in love with their sophomore album, Wild World.

Bastille is a British indie pop band formed primarily by lead vocalist Dan Smith, but includes members, Kyle Simmons (keyboard), Will Farquarson (guitar and bass), and Chris Wood (drums). The band was formed in 2010 as a solo project of Smith’s. The band name comes from the French holiday Bastille Day which is celebrated July 14th, Dan Smith’s birthday. The band independently released their debut single and self released their first EP before their debut, Bad Blood, came out under Virgin Records in March of 2013.

Their first album reached the number one position on the UK Albums Chart upon its release. Following the release, Bastille played SXSW and supported Muse on The 2nd Law Tour in May and June. They also played on the UK festival circuit in the summer 2013 including appearances at Glastonbury, Blissfields, and Reading and Leeds (all festivals they played in prior years as well). The band won a BRIT Award in February 2014 for Best Breakthrough Artist. In December 2014, the band released their third mixtape (the first two were released in 2012). The mixtape had all original content compared to the combination of original songs and covers on the first two.

After a somewhat quiet 2015, this past June Bastille announced their second album, Wild World, and released the first single from the album “Good Grief”. The album was released on September 9th. By the album’s second week, it topped the UK and Scottish album charts.

The success of their first album will be difficult to match, but if my opinion says anything, I thought it was excellent the first time I listened to it (Can you tell how much Bastille has grown on me?). It looks as if the band will be touring worldwide to promote their new album through the coming months. They’ll most likely be playing several dates on the festival circuit next year as well. Just by looking at their upcoming tour dates, there’s a pretty good indication that they’ll be a lock for Coachella 2017, their second Coachella.

They are undoubtedly an indie pop band, so much so that I initially questioned if they were indie at all. I think the initial reason why I wasn’t into them was because of how pop their music sounded. Maybe that’s also why I was into their newest album upon first listen. I feel like I’ve been listening to more poppy stuff lately. Too much poppy stuff if you ask me (Feel free to send me indie recommendations!). Anyway, I think their new album has many similarities to their first. Bastille has such a distinct sound that it’s difficult for me to pick out some major differences. I’m sure I could if I really studied both albums, but just take that as it is for now. If anything, there might be a hint more of an electronic influence in Wild World than in Bad Blood.

Surprisingly (or not surprisingly depending on your opinion), I’ve seen Bastille play before. They played the Sweetlife Festival in 2014, which I attended to see Lana Del Rey and Foster the People. I had lawn tickets (because it was all that was available at the time) and wanted to get a good spot for Lana and FTP so my friends and I hung out at the main stage all day. It resulted in missing Capital Cities and St. Lucia, but allowed me to see some great performances from Hozier, Bastille, and Fitz and the Tantrums. Bastille was actually my unintended favorite performance of the day. During the set Dan Smith, walked the entire length of the pavilion to the lawn area and back to the stage, which hyped up the crowd immensely. Pompeii, as their most successful song, also yielded a great crowd reaction.

If you’re into pop music, or indie pop, Bastille is a band you should check out. I also highly recommend seeing them live. I didn’t have any expectations for them at Sweetlife going in, but I thought they absolutely crushed their set. So if you do plan on checking them out or plan to see them live, these are a few songs you need to hear:

  1. Pompeii
  2. Bad Blood
  3. Flaws
  4. Overjoyed
  5. Good Grief
  6. Send Them Off!
  7. Things We Lost in the Fire
  8. Fake It
  9. No Scrubs (TLC Cover) (This cover is so so so so good!)
  10. Warmth

 

There’s This Tune I Found That Makes Me Think of You Somehow When I Play It on Repeat

I wanted to wait until this band released a new album before I blogged about them, but I changed my mind. I’ve been missing them recently. I’ve also been listening to their music, although only their most recent stuff. To me, this is a signal that I shouldn’t wait. So here’s what I can tell you about Arctic Monkeys and what their future holds.

Formed in 2002, English rock band Arctic Monkeys consists of members Alex Turner (lead vocals, guitar), Matt Helders (drums, vocals), Jamie Cook (guitar), and Nick O’Malley (bass, backing vocals). O’Malley replaced Andy Nicholson shortly after the group’s debut album was released. They were named by Cook who always wanted to be in a band called Arctic Monkeys. The band got their start by playing shows in their hometown of Sheffield and distributed their music for free. Hype by word of mouth generated for the band because of this. They drew a larger than normal crowd for a band playing the Carling Stage at the Reading and Leeds Festival in 2005. The Carling Stage which is now called the Festival Republic Stage is normally reserved for lesser known bands or breakthrough acts.

They were signed by Domino records the same year.They released their first singles, “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” and “When the Sun Goes Down”, under Domino in 2005 and their first album, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, in January 2006. Their debut became the fastest selling debut album in UK Chart history. It sold 363,735 copies in the first week. The album eventually went on to win a Mercury Prize, awarded to the Best Album from the UK and Ireland. The band released the EP Who the Fuck Are Arctic Monkeys? a few months later in April, but the explicit language on the record resulted in less airplay.

Arctic Monkeys released their second album Favourite Worst Nightmare in April 2007. Like their debut, their sophomore album peaked at No. 1 on the UK Albums Chart. It won them Best British Band and Best British Album at the 2008 Brit Awards. They spent the year extensively touring, including a stop to headline Glastonbury Festival.

The band took a short break in 2008. Lead singer, Alex Turner focused on his side project The Last Shadow Puppets. It wasn’t until 2009 that the band followed up their first two successful albums with Humbug, released in August 2009. Like the first two, Humbug also peaked at the No. 1 position on the UK Albums Chart. Prior to the third album’s release, Arctic Monkeys embarked on a world tour that included a headlining date at Reading and Leeds Festival and finished in April 2010.

The following four years brought more success to Arctic Monkeys with 2 more albums, Suck It and See and AM, both, like their predecessors, debuting at No. 1. Touring, festival appearances, and even a performance at the Opening Ceremonies for the 2012 London Olympic Games came in the wake of their fourth and fifth albums. Their fifth album debuting at No. 1 on the UK Albums Chart put their name in the history books as the first indie band in the UK to hit No. 1 with their first 5 albums during the first week of release. AM even earned them a third Mercury Award nomination (Favourite Worst Nightmare was the second), a BRIT Award for Best British Album, and a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Performance for their single “Do I Wanna Know?”.

Since 2014, Arctic Monkeys have been on hiatus. Again Alex Turner shifted his focus to The Last Shadow Puppets and releasing their second album. Matt Helders joined in on Iggy Pop’s recent album, Post Pop Depression, and has been touring with the legendary rocker since. The question going forward for me and all the other Arctic Monkeys fans is: When will they release their sixth album?

According to an article published in July on NME.com which tried to predict the release of the sixth album as well as the future album’s sound, the world might be blessed with a new record by mid to late 2017 as long as the band gets in the studio by late 2016-early 2017. For now, it seems like we’ll be waiting at least another year or maybe longer. Glad I decided to blog about them now. I’m not sure I would have lasted that long.

Throughout the years, Arctic Monkeys sound has changed and matured. The change of their sound almost reminds me of the change in my music interests throughout the same time period from 2006 to 2013. The songs on their first two albums are faster and edgy almost in a punk rock sense (totally my scene and a high school junior and senior). The first album especially blends indie music and punk rock well. Then in certain songs (like “505”) on the second album and more so on the third album their sound transitions to something smoother. Turner doesn’t spit out the song lyrics as quickly. Their third album also has this unique eerie and mysterious sound. To me it’s the perfect album to listen to during the Halloween season. Finally, the last two albums are much smoother and reflect the indie rock scene of the last 5 years (again very similar to my music tastes in the last 5 years).

The first song I heard by Arctic Monkeys was “Fluorescent Adolescent” in 2011. According to my record of when I added songs to my iTunes account, I downloaded the song right between the point where I added Foster the People’s Torches and Adele’s 21 (a good moment in time for sure). I don’t remember if anyone recommended the song or if I found it on my own, but nonetheless, it was the first. Then came “Do I Wanna Know?” two years later. I listened to the band more after AM. That record spurred my interest in Arctic Monkeys. I received the album on vinyl for Christmas in 2014, so I basically started being interested in them at the point they decided to take a break. Then recently I’ve been listening to them all over again. It makes me miss them. It also makes me want new Arctic Monkeys music. So I guess, like the more dedicated Arctic Monkeys fans who have followed them since their inception, I’ll have to wait. In the meantime, I’m going to listen to their old stuff I missed because my music interests were elsewhere. Here’s some of my favorite Arctic Monkeys songs though, in case you’ve overlooked them altogether:

  1. Snap Out of It
  2. Do I Wanna Know?
  3. 505
  4. Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?
  5. R U Mine?
  6. Arabella
  7. I Wanna Be Yours