British singers

Coachella Band Preview: Declan McKenna

Another week down and three more to go! Anticipation is building at a strong pace for me right now, as I’m sure it is for many others. The Coachella Valley is soon to become a mecca for festival-goers as it has almost annually since 1999. That means your time to prep by listening to this year’s acts is rapidly decreasing. So without further adieu, this week I’m previewing an artist who came on to the scene around 2015.

Declan McKenna is a British musician/singer/songwriter. At just 19, the young artist will be playing his first Coachella this spring after dropping out of last year’s festival, but he’s not new to the festival scene. He has gained plenty of recognition in the UK since winning Glastonbury’s Emerging Talent Competition in 2015.  Along with Glastonbury, he has played Lollapalooza and Reading and Leeds Festivals among others.

After winning the talent competition in 2015, McKenna signed a record deal with Columbia records and released singles until the release of his debut EP Stains in March 2016. His second EP Liar was released two months later. His debut album What Do You Think About the Car? was released this past July. Each of his releases include his hit single “Brazil”, which he wrote as a political protest song about FIFA (soccer/football’s governing body) and the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. All three releases also included his song “Paracetomal”.

Declan McKenna plays indie rock music. As a young developing and emerging artist, his sound is still growing though, so you might hear other styles of music in his songs too. To me, his sound is comparable to another British indie rock band, The Kooks.

I first heard of Declan McKenna from Spotify. I found his song Brazil on a playlist in 2016. When the lineup dropped this year, I recognized him from that song. Since then though, I’ve listened to some of his other stuff. I enjoy his music. He’s got some solid tunes. Although he’s been around for a couple years now, he freshly released his debut album less than a year ago and he’s been highly praised as being the next big thing on the British music scene. So he’s definitely worth checking out this year at the festival.

Declan McKenna plays on Saturday this year. Saturday’s lineup is pretty stacked in my opinion, so I’d expect McKenna to play an early to mid afternoon time slot. Another reason to expect him to play then is that he’s also not billed very highly on the lineup poster. Of course it’s only a matter of time before you’ll be able to plan out who you’ll be seeing at Coachella, I highly recommend checking out this kid. Here’s a few songs you might want to know beforehand:

  1. Brazil
  2. Paracetomal
  3. Isombard
  4. Bethlehem
  5. Why Do You Feel So Down?
  6. The Kids Don’t Wanna Come Home

 

 

 

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Hold Tight You’re Slowly Coming Back to Life

Back in 2011 when my music tastes veered towards the indie/indie rock/hipster scene, I continually looked for new music and had no problem finding it. I discovered plenty of bands/artists for the first time like Foster the People, Matt & Kim, Peter, Bjorn & John, The Naked and Famous, Young the Giant, Bon Iver, The Kooks, etc. (the list could go on because I shortened it while typing this). While searching for music during this time, I came across an artist that really intrigued me, but that I also, in a way, overlooked. She sang this incredible cover of Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love”, as well as other indie songs, which I listened to several times over a month to two month period. The coolest part was that she was only 15! I never downloaded any of her songs though and with time I found other music to listen to. Over the past few years I would see her name pop up here and there, but I didn’t pay much attention until about two weeks ago. I heard a new single of hers while listening to a playlist on Spotify and fell in love all over again.

Jasmine Lucilla Elizabeth Jennifer van den Bogaerde, more commonly known to the music world as Birdy, is a 19 year old British singer/songwriter who hails from Lymington, Hampshire in the UK. She began her music career at the age of 7 when she started taking piano lessons. By age 8, she was writing her own music. In 2008 at age 12, she won the talent competition Open Mic UK where she competed against 10,000 others. In January 2011, she released her first single, which was the “Skinny Love” cover. It was her break-out single as the song became a hit on the UK Singles Chart reaching the 17th spot and was the third biggest selling rock single in the UK in 2011. She also released her debut self-titled album in November 2011 which was a compilation of various covers and one original song. The album was a huge success in Europe and Australia.

In 2012 she released an EP of live songs which included her original song “Just A Game” from The Hunger Games soundtrack. The same year she also contributed to the soundtrack of the film Brave with Mumford & Sons, which earned her a Grammy nomination in 2013. Her second full length album Fire Within was released in September 2013. She also contributed 3 songs to The Fault in Our Stars soundtrack which came out in 2014. Most recently, she released the singles “Keeping Your Head Up” and “Beautiful Lies” from her third album, Beautiful Lies,which is slated for a March 25th release date.

Birdy’s music is in the indie pop/indie rock genre. In fact her debut album features mostly indie covers. Along with the Bon Iver cover hit, she covers Phoenix’s “1901”, Fleet Foxes’ “White Winter Hymnal”, The Postal Service’s “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight”, The Naked and Famous’s “Young Blood”, The xx’s “Shelter”, and Cherry Ghost’s “People Help the People” among other songs. Following her debut, her music hasn’t changed much. Of course she’s releasing original music now, but the indie vibe to her tracks still exists. Her voice has a young feel to it as well. It hasn’t changed much through the years either despite getting her braces off which created a distinct sound on the Bon Iver cover.

Although Birdy’s success has mainly been overseas, I have a feeling she may get a bigger following in the U.S. soon for two reasons. First, her two singles from Beautiful Lies are off the hook, especially “Keeping Your Head Up”. That’s the song I heard that made me fall in love again and catch up with what Birdy’s been up to over the past few years. Second, Birdy’s getting older. She’s done shows in America before and toured playing small venues as a guest for Christina Perri, but she predominantly does shows in Europe. Her scheduled dates so far in support of her new album are in Europe. However, she’ll be 20 in May and I have a feeling at some point she’ll want to spread her wings across the pond. Her new album might just give her some leverage to do that too. While we’re waiting to see what else Birdy has to offer with this upcoming third album, here’s some songs you should hear by this talented young artist:

  1. “Skinny Love”
  2. “1901”
  3. “Wings”
  4. “People Help the People”
  5. “Tee Shirt”
  6. “Not About Angels”
  7. “Keeping Your Head Up”
  8. “Beautiful Lies”

19, 21, 25

No the title of this post does not refer to lottery numbers. Nor are they the “lucky numbers” I received on the back of a fortune cookie. If you’re in tune to the music world, no pun intended, you’ll know those numbers are more than just numbers. They’re the album titles of three records made by one of the most popular musical artists in recent time.

Almost five years ago, right before I became a hipster in style and music taste, I bought an album from the local record store. I don’t even remember what album it was. Along with the album though, I received a free compilation CD of newly released music. This wasn’t an unusual occurrence. From time to time, the store gave out these compilation CD’s when you made a music purchase. I would always listen to them to see if I was missing out on any new music. On this particular occasion, there were a few songs that caught my ears, but there was one that really stood out. It was a song called “Rolling in the Deep” by a singer named Adele.

Pop singer/songwriter, Adele Laurie Blue Adkins, from Tottenham, London, England grew up with a strong affinity for music. She attended the BRIT School for Performing Arts & Technology and graduated in 2006 (Jessie J. and Leona Lewis were among her classmates). The same year she was given her first recording contract from XL Recordings after a friend posted her demo on Myspace. By 2008, she released her debut album, 19. It went seven times platinum in the UK and double platinum in America. She received the Grammy Awards for Best New Artist and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance in 2009 for her work on it. Her second album, 21, was released on January 24, 2011. The following year she swept the Grammy’s winning a record-tying six awards including Album of the Year. 21 reached number 1 on the charts in more than 26 countries, has been certified 16 times platinum and is the fourth best selling album of all time in the UK, certified Diamond in the U.S., and has sold over 30 million copies world wide. It’s safe to say 21 surpassed the success of her debut record.

However, for the last four years, Adele has been on hiatus. The only music she released was the song “Skyfall” for the James Bond movie of the same name in 2012. She received a Grammy, an Academy Award, and a Golden Globe for the song. A few weeks ago, on October 23rd, Adele dropped the first single from her third studio album entitled “Hello”. In its debut week, the single sold over one million digital copies. The music video for “Hello” surpassed Taylor Swift’s video for “Bad Blood” by 7 million views on Vevo in the first 24 hours after its release. Finally, today, after almost 5 years, Adele released her new album, 25. If the success of “Hello” is any indication, this album is bound to go far in the music world.

To put it bluntly, Adele is a big fucking deal. The woman has the voice of an angel. Her music is incredibly full of soul and power. It’s been known to make entire civilizations weep. Between her singing, the music, and the lyrics, the whole message she sends with her songs can deeply touch the toughest of souls. It’s truly beautiful. She is one of the greatest singers of this generation.

When I first heard her single “Rolling in the Deep”, I had no idea who Adele was. I just liked her song. I even purchased 21 a few months later because of that sole reason (and I guess because I thought she was a good singer). At the time I was a senior in college on the verge of graduation and since high school, I was a self-proclaimed pop music hater. I guess Adele sort of changed that, but if you ask me I don’t think she creates and sings the same kind of pop music that singers like, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, or Lady Gaga do. It’s a different kind of pop music. It’s not something you really rock out to on the radio or dance to in a club, but more so music you sing along to at the top of your lungs on a long drive (or listen to in your bed with a tub of ice cream, box of chocolate, and tissues after a bad day), which is kind of how my love grew for Adele in the first place.

I purchased 21 right around the time of my college graduation. Three weeks after I graduated I went on vacation with my mother and our very close family friends. It took six hours to reach our destination and the whole trip I alternated between listening to 21 and Foster the People’s Torches. That’s when I truly fell in love with Adele. When we were about 15-20 minutes from our hotel, I blasted “Rolling in the Deep” and “Rumor Has It” on repeat partly because I loved those songs and partly because they were upbeat, it was around midnight, and I was trying not to fall asleep. For those reasons, 21 (and Torches) will always remind me of that trip.

As for 25, I picked up my copy earlier today. Like the rest of the world, I’ve been anticipating it for weeks. I’ve actually been listening to it on my boombox (cause yes I still buy CD’s) on repeat while I wrote this entire blog. I can’t say I have any complaints either. Much like Adele’s singing, the album is flawless. The message in 25 is much different than her previous works though. 19 and 21 were break-up albums, full of angsty, heart-breaking tunes. Just like a lot of us out there, Adele was once an emo kid and now she’s in her 20’s, she has child, and she’s done some maturing since her last album. 25 is about growing up. Being in the same generation as Adele, this album is so relate-able. When you’re in your 20’s, you’re caught between youth and adulthood, and that’s really the whole theme of the album. The songs are filled with nostalgia. “Hello” is a heartbreak apology. “When We Were Young”, “I Miss You”, and “Remedy” reminisce an old love. “Water Under the Bridge”, “Love in the Dark”, “All I Ask”, and “Sweetest Devotion” show maturity and understanding of what being in an adult relationship is about, and “Million Years Ago” is a reminder of youth. As much as I love all of Adele’s music, my favorites are the more upbeat songs. One of my favorites on the new album, “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)”, has this pop/folk feel to it, and I fell in love the first time I heard it. The same is true for “River Lea”. It’s an upbeat track full of memories. Target also released an exclusive version of the album containing three extra tracks, “Can’t Let Go”, “Lay Me Down”, and “Why Do You Love Me?”. Since I didn’t buy the album from Target, I’ve yet to hear these songs. Don’t worry though, I plan on hearing them and loving them soon enough.

In reference to the string of numbers for album titles, each title obviously reflects the singer’s age when she wrote the music. It’s a pretty clever way of categorizing your work, if you ask me. 19 launched Adele’s career and who knows if she will ever release an album as successful as 21. I’m sure 25 is on its way to put up a good fight and earn Adele a few more accolades in the process. If you don’t feel like missing out on this completely relate-able musical journey of Adele’s life, I would recommend listening to her music and buying/downloading a copy of 25. To get you started though, here are some other songs to check out:

  1. “Rolling in the Deep”
  2. “Rumor Has It”
  3. “Someone Like You”
  4. “Set Fire to Rain”
  5. “Chasing Pavements”
  6. “Hiding My Heart”
  7. “Hometown Glory”
  8. “Make You Feel My Love”