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Coachella Band Preview: Bleachers

Okay guys….it’s a week and a half til Coachella! Who else is stoked besides me?! Even if you’re not going, that live stream is a cool way to spend your weekend (I’ve done it! Ha!). That being said, these band preview blogs are coming to an end. This will be my second to the last post before the festival. I felt like I’ve put this one off for a while for one reason or another. I guess it mostly comes down to the fact that Jack Antonoff is a badass and I felt like I could write so much about him (I condensed this post though). So in case you didn’t already know, this one is about Bleachers.

Bleachers is an indie pop band from New York City. This side project band was started by producer, musician, singer, songwriter, Jack Antonoff. He’s literally a “Jack” of all trades.  His older sister Rachel is also a well-known power house in her respected profession (fashion designer). They’re a talented family, but back to Bleachers.

Bleachers started when Jack was on the road with his former band Fun. of “Some Nights” and “We Are Young” fame. He kept his music making a secret until he eventually dropped the single “I Wanna Get Better” in 2014 along with launching a website, social media, and tour dates. Bleachers debut album, Strange Desire, was released on July 15, 2014. For the following year or more, Bleachers toured in support of the album.

Last summer Bleachers’ second album Gone Now was released and Jack and the band went on tour again promoting the new music. As part of the tour, Jack had his childhood bedroom recreated in a trailer that fans were allowed to enter and listen to the album before its release in June. Jack wanted fans to be able to understand where the new album came from as it was inspired by his youth. Spending time in his bedroom was a huge part of that.

When you think of indie pop music, Bleachers fits that stereotypical vision. The music is happy and upbeat, but still offers that indie sound put together by Antonoff. He records most of the music himself in studio. He brings friends on the road to accompany him for the live shows. He also provides the vocals for the band.

I first heard of the band in 2014 when “I Wanna Get Better” was getting radio airplay (me listening to the radio…weird! I know!). “Rollercoaster” was another song I also got familiar with around the same time due to the same reasons. Bleachers isn’t a band I got into more than their popular singles, but I still think they’d be fun to see at Coachella. I feel like an indie pop band fits the mood of the festival and I probably wouldn’t see Bleachers other than at a festival or at a concert where they’re not the only band being featured.

Bleachers plays Friday. It’s Antonoff’s first Coachella as Bleachers. For me there’s not many bands, I’d like to see that day. The Neighbourhood is definitely my first choice, but checking out Bleachers would be a great option. Bleachers isn’t listed highly on the bill, but I feel like they’ll play later in the day on either the Main or Outdoor stage. I think most people are familiar with the band and would head to see them if they don’t overlap any other favorites. That’s how they would be for me too, but with a small list of acts I’d like to see on Friday, Bleachers is a very viable option. If you’re planning on seeing them or casually dropping by, here’s the tunes to listen to this week:

  1. I Wanna Get Better
  2. Rollercoaster
  3. Don’t Take the Money
  4. I Miss Those Days
  5. Hate That You Know Me
  6. Wake Me
  7. Wild Heart
  8. Goodmorning
  9. Shadow
  10. Take Me Away
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Coachella Band Preview: the Neighbourhood, alt-J, BØRNS, Odesza, & Hayley Kiyoko

It’s only been 2 days since my last post, but that’s okay. This week I’ve decided to do two blog posts because there’s still a ton of bands to talk about and not much time left. So let’s talk about five bands who I’ve written about before that are playing the festival this year. Two of them are actually 3 of my top 4 must-see sets of Coachella 2018.

A lot of time has passed since I wrote about the Neighbourhood in the fall of 2015. Since then, there hasn’t been much news surrounding the band until late last year. In September they released their first new music since 2015’s Wiped Out!, the EP Hard. Then in early January the band dropped a second EP To Imagine followed by the release of their third album, The Neighbourhood, on March 9th. With a bunch of new music out, playing Coachella for the first time in 5 years seems fitting. They play on Friday. I’ve never seen them live and I’ve been obsessed with “Sweater Weather” since 2013. It was probably my favorite song of that year. There’s no doubt I’d love to check them out if I had the time making them 1 of the 3 bands on this list that are must-sees for me. If you plan on checking them out, here’s a few songs to get you ready:

  1. Sweater Weather
  2. Afraid
  3. Daddy Issues
  4. Scary Love
  5. Sadderdaze
  6. R.I.P to My Youth
  7. Cry Baby
  8. You Get Me So High
  9. Stuck With Me
  10. Let It Go

alt-J are no strangers to Coachella. They’ve played twice but haven’t been back to the Indio desert since 2015. Since their last Coachella, alt-J has released a new album. It came out last June. I reviewed it here. I’ve also written about alt-J two other times on this blog. Once previewing them for Coachella in 2015, where I saw them live for the first time and another time reviewing a concert I saw them play in Philly in September 2015. I really like alt-J and I love how different their music sounds from other stuff I like. They played Panorama last summer and I was able to catch part of their set. If it wasn’t for my work schedule and several other concerts I already spent money on in the fall, I would have seen them play again. They’re a band that I would rarely turn down if I had the opportunity to see, making them another one of my top choice sets for Coachella 2018 along with Haim and the Neighbourhood. They play Saturday and probably at night on either the Main or Outdoor stage. What would be the biggest heartbreak is if they overlapped with Haim. Here’s my recommendations for you if you decide to follow my lead and check them out:

  1. Left Hand Free
  2. Breezeblocks
  3. In Cold Blood
  4. Every Other Freckle
  5. 3WW
  6. Tessellate
  7. Fitzpleasure
  8. Deadcrush
  9. Something Good
  10. Hunger of the Pine

BØRNS is back at Coachella after a year break from the famous Southern California music festival. He just released his second album, Blue Madonna, back in January. The album features a collaboration with Lana Del Rey as well as plenty of new music from the “Electric Love” writer. I saw BØRNS play live in 2016. It was kind of a last-minute decision since my friend and I bought tickets about a week before the performance. It was a fun set, so I’d definitely want to see him perform again if I had the chance. He plays on Saturday as well. I would guess BØRNS would be a late afternoon-early evening set, but we’ll see what happens. These are the songs you need to prep for his set:

  1. Electric Love
  2. Seeing Stars
  3. 10,000 Emerald Pools
  4. God Save Our Young Blood
  5. Sweet Dreams
  6. American Money
  7. Past Lives
  8. I Don’t Want U Back
  9. Faded Heart
  10. The Emotion

I only got into Odesza about 6 months ago because of planning to see them in NYC with my friend, but getting into them definitely wasn’t a waste of my time. The concert we went to in December was incredible so I have no doubt that their Coachella set predictably on Sunday night at the now larger Sahara Tent will be just as good and a large draw amongst festival-goers. I would guess they headline the Sahara and overlap with Eminem as the overall headliner Sunday evening. Initially, I believed Odesza would be my Sunday night choice no question, but the inner early 2000’s middle-schooler in me has been fighting hard. Odesza will no doubt put on an incredible live performance, but I just saw Odesza. I’ve never seen Eminem nor do I think I’d ever buy tickets or choose to see Eminem, but I used to be a fan at one point. It’s definitely up for debate. What would be ideal is to be able to catch parts of both sets. However if you so choose to skip out on the Real Slim Shady, here’s a few Odesza tracks you should hear:

  1. Sun Models
  2. Higher Ground
  3. Across the Room
  4. Say My Name
  5. Falls
  6. Line of Sight
  7. A Moment Apart
  8. All We Need
  9. It’s Only
  10. Late Night

The artist I’m most excited for who is playing Coachella this year is Hayley Kiyoko. From seeing her a little over a year ago play a tiny venue in Philly that wasn’t even sold out to playing the most well-known U.S. music festival, my stoke level couldn’t be higher for Hayley Kiyoko. Her debut album, Expectations, came out today! Until this point, she’s only released EP’s, but those have gained a huge appreciation from her small, dedicated fan base. The new album builds on Kiyoko’s previous hits with bangers like “Curious” and “Feelings”. It’s got a mystical, feel good sound giving true meaning to Kiyoko’s dreampop style. As an openly gay singer, the theme in her music involves being in love with girls and complications that may arise with being gay and falling for girls. This new album is consistent with Hayley’s style that her fans have grown to love over the past few years. (I just had to give you a mini-album review here too.) She plays on Sunday at Coachella. I will definitely try my hardest to catch her set one of the weekends making her the 4th and final must-see for me. My guess would be an early Sunday afternoon set, but you never know. She may play later in the day at Gobi or Mojave. We’re a little over a week from the schedule release and probably a few days from the food vendor list, then the official planning can begin. In the mean time, check out Expectations along with these other songs:

  1. Girls Like Girls
  2. Cliff’s Edge
  3. Gravel to Tempo
  4. Palace
  5. This Side of Paradise

(On Expectations, pay special attention to “Curious”, “Feelings”, “Sleepover”, “Let It Be”, and “What I Need (ft. Kehlani)”)

 

Coachella Band Preview: Haim

2 weeks to go! Anticipation is building. Fashion is being planned. The Sahara Tent is even being moved (Yes! You can check out this article to hear about the new location.) Most importantly though, music is being listened to. I was about to do my blog post of bands I’ve already blogged about when I had a realization. I’ve never actually written a whole post about Haim. I thought I had because I reviewed their album over the summer. I was mistaken, which means it’s time to finally do that.

Haim, a Los Angeles based band comprised of sisters Este, Danielle, and Alana all with the last name Haim, decided to form a band in 2007. Growing up they were encouraged by their parents to play music. Danielle played guitar and Este played bass. They even joined their parents as a band to play benefits and church gigs while growing up. Danielle and Este also were part of the band Valli Girls, who were featured on the soundtrack to The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants with their song “Always There in You”.

When Haim initially formed, each sister was involved in their own projects. They stuck to playing local shows because of it and didn’t receive much attention in their early days. Este went to UCLA and graduated in 2010 with a degree in Ethnomusicology. Danielle was noticed by musician Jenny Lewis, formerly of the indie rock band Rilo Kiley, and was asked to join her touring band. That lead to touring opportunities with The Strokes’ lead singer, Julian Casablancas on his solo tour. She even joined CeeLo Green’s all female backing band for a short time, but ultimately decided she’d rather make music with her sisters.

After playing SXSW and releasing their debut EP Forever in 2012, the group started receiving attention from the music industry. They signed with UK label Polydor Records in June 2012 and from there began making some noise in the industry, in Europe in particular. They toured there that year both on their own and opening for Florence and the Machine. They then returned to SXSW in 2013 as a more experienced and slightly better known act.

2013 was spent working on their first album in between live shows. The sisters played Glastonbury that summer and released the first single, “The Wire”, from their album on July 29th. The album, Days Are Gone, was released on September 30, 2013. The album has since received accolades from media oulets Pitchfork, NME, Consequence of Sound, Spin, and Rolling Stone, among others.

Haim spent the spring of 2014 touring the U.S. As part of that tour, the band made their first Coachella appearance. The end of 2014 featured a few collaborative projects with Fleetwood Mac lead singer Stevie Nicks and Calvin Harris, but until last summer Haim had yet to release new tunes themselves aside from contributions to movie soundtracks from Insurgent of the Divergent series and Mockingjay – Part 1 of the Hunger Games trilogy. They joined their friend Taylor Swift on her 1989 World Tour in the summer of 2015 for a few dates and also received a Grammy nomination that year for Best New Artist. The band spent 2016 hyping upcoming new music by playing a few festivals including Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, Governors’ Ball, Boston Calling, and Austin City Limits. Then finally last summer on July 7th Haim released their second studio album, Something To Tell You, which I reviewed shortly after its release.

Since finding out about Haim in early 2014, I’ve always thought their music sounds like late 80’s/early 90’s pop rock. Surely enough, they’re considered a pop/indie rock band. All three sisters harmonize in their songs and are proficient in more than one musical instrument, but for live shows sake, you’ll see Este on bass, Danielle on lead guitar and lead vocals, and Alana on rhythm guitar, keyboards, and percussion. Their sound has been compared to Fleetwood Mac. Although I can’t think of a specific band to compare them to I still feel like their sound replicates bands of the 80’s & 90’s. One song that comes to mind that reminds me of Haim is the 1986 hit by Bruce Hornsby “Every Little Kiss”. There are definitely others too so if you can think of any specific songs or bands let me know!

For about 2 years since I discovered them, I desperately wanted to see Haim live. My desire began after I saw them perform on the Coachella 2014 live stream. I actually debated seeing them perform a few weeks after that, but ultimately passed on it because of having a few other conflicting travel obligations. Fortunately, I was able to work Lollapalooza in 2016 and caught them performing there. They were incredible live. Although they’re not a jam band, they do like to jam onstage and add special musical aspects to their live performances. For instance at Lolla, all three sisters played different rhythms on a giant drum at the same time right before their set ended. It was super cool. Their musical ability shines through in their live performances making them one of my top must-see artists this year at Coachella. They’re also one of my favorite bands, which puts them to the top of my list too.

Haim plays Saturday at Coachella. I’d expect a late day set on the Main or Outdoor stage from them, particularly as the sun sets or maybe even as the darkness encompasses the polo fields. If I’m able to, I definitely plan on seeing them, but if I can’t I won’t be that disappointed either because I have tickets to see them this spring. They’re embarking on a world tour that I couldn’t pass up on. If you want to see Haim, which I highly recommend you should, here’s the songs you need to listen to:

  1. The Wire
  2. Don’t Save Me
  3. Want You Back
  4. Little Of Your Love
  5. Falling
  6. My Song 5
  7. Forever
  8. Right Now
  9. Nothing’s Wrong
  10. Ready For You

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

 

 

 

Coachella Band Preview: Sir Sly

I don’t know about you, but winter is really getting to me. I’m sick of the snow, the ice, and the freezing cold. April needs to get here stat. Thankfully we’ve reached the 2 month Coachella countdown this week. That means it’s time to crank up the jams on another band playing the festival this year, Sir Sly.

Los Angeles based indie pop band Sir Sly formed in 2012. At one point no one knew anything about them when they reached number one on Hype Machine, a website music database that ranks the latest and greatest tunes from music blogs. They came out of nowhere with their debut single, “Ghost.” Shortly after, they revealed themselves. The group is comprised of Landon Jacobs, Jason Suwito, and Hayden Coplen. Their first album, You Haunt Me, was released in September 2014. A few songs from the album were featured in video games and ads, giving their music some exposure.

After the release and touring from their debut ceased, life happened for guitarist and vocalist, Landon Jacobs. He went through a divorce and his mother passed away from brain cancer. It inspired Sir Sly’s second album, Don’t You Worry, Honey, which was released on June 30, 2017. The music on the album doesn’t sound devastating though. The album is about being able to experience joy through pain. The lyrics focus on some serious stuff while the fun-sounding music makes it bearable. One of the most successful songs from the album, “High”, was featured on the soundtrack to Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why.

Sir Sly is described as an indie pop/rock band, but their music also has influence from other genres like electronic and psychedelic music. They kind of sound like Tame Impala meets Local Natives meets The Neighbourhood. Their music isn’t extremely upbeat, but very vibe-y and super chill.

I first heard of Sir Sly over the summer. My friend got into them and told me about the group because she liked their name. She thought it was a pun on the word “seriously”. The group actually came up with the name because it sounded cool and they didn’t want to take themselves too seriously. Kind of ironic eh? I listened to whatever song she sent me at the time and thought they sounded pretty good. I then realized that they were on the 13 Reasons Why soundtrack, which I had watched in June. I definitely liked the song “High.” Since then I feel like I’ve seen this band pop up more and more. They were booked for a summer concert around where I live that never ended up happening and their music constantly appears on Spotify playlists. Since my introduction to them, I’ve been slowly getting into their music because of this. Every once in a while I’ll get into a new Sir Sly song, but not several songs at once. It’s a slow process. Sometimes listening to music happens that way, but before you know it you realize you know almost all of a band or artist’s songs.

Sir Sly plays on Saturday at Coachella. They’re not billed very highly so I’d expect them to play in the early to late afternoon hours. They’re definitely a group to check out if you’re at the festival then and don’t have any one else you need to see. I would most certainly check them out if I was going and available, even though at this point I know about 3 or 4 of their songs. It’s bands like Sir Sly that will be the ones that impress you the most at Coachella though. You go in only knowing a song or two and come out wanting to listen to more. Here’s a couple songs just to give you a taste of this band:

  1. High
  2. Astronaut
  3. &Run
  4. Ghost
  5. Gold

Coachella Band Preview: Portugal. The Man

It’s been over a week since Coachella released their 2018 lineup. Tickets went on sale last Friday and sold out in just over 3 1/2 hours. Preparations have officially begun. So if you’re headed to the desert this April, I hope you’ve been listening to one of Coachella’s Spotify playlists or curating your own. I’ve checked out Coachella’s (which are so good by the way!) and already found 1 or 2 new bands to listen to. They might even get previewed leading up to the festival.

First thing’s first though, it’s time to get into the first band preview of the year. I bought this group’s latest album while in NYC a few weeks ago. I decided to buy it at random too, only knowing two songs from the album. It was a great decision and understandably so as it’s already been nominated for a Grammy. Although this blog post is a few weeks overdue, let me tell you a little something about Portugal. The Man.

Portugal. The Man has been around for quite a while before their latest album, Woodstock, and hit single “Feel It Still” invaded music charts over the last year. Hailing from Wasilla, Alaska, they formed in 2004 as a side project band of lead singer John Gourley and bassist Zach Carothers. The band has gone through several lineup changes but Gourley and Carothers have been the true mainstays. Currently they’re joined by Kyle O’Quin on keyboards/synth, Jason Sechrist on drums, and Eric Howk on guitar. I would try to explain their band name, but it’s a bit complicated so I’ll let this 2009 interview description by John Gourley do it, “It’s hard to explain, but it made perfect sense at the time. Over the 5 years that we’ve had the band name it’s just kind of gotten lost, but the idea was that we wanted to back somebody up. I guess in choosing Portugal, it was just kind of a random choice. We really wanted a country to be the name of our person because a country is a group of people. The man just states that Portugal is a person. So really Portugal is the band’s name and the man is just stating that he is the man.” They released demos in the summer of 2004 and embarked on a U.S. tour that fall. They released their debut album Waiter: “You Vultures!” on January 24, 2006.

In June 2007, they released their sophomore album Church Mouth and toured for the following year both in the U.S. and Europe in support of it. In 2008, the band released yet another record, Censored Colors, their third full length album. 2009 brought the band festival spots at Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza as well as a fourth album, The Satanic Satanist, and  The Majestic Majesty, an acoustic album of The Satanic Satanist. The band released another new album, American Ghetto, in 2010 marking the band’s fifth album in five years. 2010 also marked Portugal. The Man’s first Coachella appearance. Following suit of the previous years, their sixth album came out in July of 2011 after the band signed with record label, Atlantic Records in April 2010 (they had previously been a part of Fearless Records as well as a partnership with Equal Vision Records). The album, In the Mountain in the Cloud, brought the band another two years of touring and two more stops at Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza.

In 2012, Portugal. The Man did not release a new album, but in 2013, they did. They released their seventh full length album, Evil Friends. The album featured backing vocals by Danielle and Este Haim of fellow Coachella 2018 act, Haim. They announced an eighth album in 2016, but said album “failed to complete” and was scrapped after 3 years of work. After the lead single “Feel It Still” was released in March, the band dropped, Woodstock on June 16, 2017. With the success of “Feel It Still”, which has topped music charts nationwide, Woodstock has become the band’s most successful album to date after 13 years and seven previous albums.

Portugal. The Man plays an alternative rock style of music with a somewhat psychedelic/jam band flavor as well. At times their music even sounds a bit experimental. Their sound has definitely progressed and changed throughout the years and through each album. Gourley’s vocals have been a defining factor in their sound though.

I found out about Portugal. The Man while working as a radio DJ during college on my school’s radio station. Our station specialized in alternative, rap, and metal, and I had a weekly alternative radio show in which I would play a mix of my own songs combined with the music on our system. One of the songs I used to play during my show was the Portugal. The Man song “People Say”. I remember when the alternative director and her boyfriend introduced me to the band one time while we were in the studio together.  There may have been one or two other Portugal. The Man songs available on our rotation but I routinely played and enjoyed “People Say”.

I partially kept up with Portugal. The Man after I graduated and ended my radio show. I was into and downloaded the songs “Purple, Yellow, Red, and Blue” and “Modern Jesus” after Evil Friends came out. However, I was never fully into Portugal. The Man. The first time I heard “Feel It Still” was this past summer in August (I know I was so late) on a fellow Coachella coworker’s Snapchat story. I was into it immediately upon first listen. I didn’t know whose song it was either and I thought it might be by the band Electric Guest. The song sounded similar to their song “This Head I Hold”. All I knew was I was hooked no matter what. I was surprised to find out it was Portugal. The Man because it just didn’t fit the sound I was used to from them. It was and still is an absolute banger though.

Like I’ve said in my last two blogs, as well as earlier in this one, I purchased Woodstock a few weeks ago just because of my interest in “Feel It Still” and “Live in the Moment” (another great track from that record). I don’t own any other Portugal. The Man records either, despite knowing about them and having a slight interest in their music for several years now. Within the first few days of owning the record, I had it spinning on repeat. It’s great. I even put it on my list of favorite albums from 2017 after owning it for only two weeks prior to writing that blog.

Portugal. The Man plays Sunday night this year at Coachella. My guess is they play the main stage prior to Eminem. This is Portugal. The Man’s third Coachella. They played in 2010, as I mentioned, and 2013. If I was attending this year, I’d definitely have them on my must see list. My only concern is that they have such a large discography that I’m not sure what they’d play or what I’d know. Hence listening prep is key here. I wouldn’t spend hours listening to all 8 albums they’ve released. I would just get a few of their older hits and focus on the last 2-3 albums. Their most recent stuff is what’s given them the spotlight anyway, making it the obvious choice for set list selection. At least at this point you have plenty of time regardless. 3 months is so far, yet so so close that you can taste that sunshine and those good vibes.

Edit: I’m sorry everyone! Totally messed this up and forgot to put song recommendations to listen to so here they are (better late than never!):

1. Feel It Still

2. Live in the Moment

3. Purple, Yellow, Red and Blue

4. People Say

5. Modern Jesus

6. So Young

7. Noise Pollution

8. Rich Friends

9. Easy Tiger

10. So American

Lady Bird

“Anybody who talks about California hedonism has never spent a Christmas in Sacramento.” -Joan Didion, Lady Bird

On Monday I had the pleasure of seeing a film that’s been generating a ton of hype, Greta Gerwig’s coming of age film, Lady Bird. Just the other day it broke the record for positive reviews with 100% positive on movie review website, Rotten Tomatoes. It’s also been receiving some Oscar buzz since award season predictions have begun.

The comedy-drama film is set in Sacramento, California in the early 00’s and explores the relationship between a mother (Laurie Metcalf) and her teenage daughter (Saoirse Ronan) who renames herself, Lady Bird. The movie spans a year through the ups and downs of Lady Bird’s senior year of high school at a Catholic high school into the beginning of her freshman year of college. It was both written and directed by Gerwig. Lady Bird also stars Tracy Letts as Lady Bird’s father Larry McPherson, Beanie Feldstein as Lady Bird’s best friend Julianne “Julie” Steffans, Lucas Hedges as one of Lady Bird’s love interests/friends Danny O’Neill, Timothée Chalamet as another one of Lady Bird’s love interests Kyle Scheible, and Lois Smith as Lady Bird’s teacher/principal Sister Sarah Joan.

After seeing the film on Monday, I thought it was such a great depiction of the relationship between Lady Bird and her mother, Marion. Both characters are so much alike that they constantly butt heads despite caring for each other tremendously. I also thought the movie was a great ode to the city of Sacramento. The city holds a special place in my hearty because I spent 6 days there for work this past June and they were some of my favorite of the year. So seeing this movie about 6 months later filled my heart with joy. I also thought it was cool to see the capital of California get some recognition in the entertainment industry because usually if a California city is the setting for a television show or a movie, it’s Los Angeles or San Francisco. The movie was also filmed on location in Sacramento which made for accurate visuals of the city.

I’m definitely a huge fan of coming of age films and this one was no different. The story was so raw and real as well which allows viewers to have a special connection with it. As award season approaches, there will be many films being talk about and many you’ll want to see. I feel like Lady Bird is one that can resonate with almost anyone though, making it a must-see this year. The acting and cinematography are just as brilliant as the story too. I’m not saying this movie will be the best picture of 2017 but it will definitely be high on the list.

 

 

2017….The Best Year of Music?

Coming back from two weeks in So Cal has been a bummer to say the least. With Coachella, sunshine, warmth, palm trees, new friends, old friends, etc., I’ve been in a withdrawal. It’s also tough to come up with weekly blog topics because I feel like I gave it my all for the past 3 months writing about Coachella bands. However, there’s one thing that’s helped with all of the sad feelings recently. It’s the constant stream of new music flooding in from a bunch of my favorite bands and artists. Over the last 2 weeks, I’ve lost count of how many of my faves have released new tunes. I had a realization this past week that 2017 is shaping up to be the best year for music, or at least new music so I figured I’d write about it and give you a little preview of what’s to come.

Obviously there’s a ton of bands and artists releasing new music this year, way more than I plan to write about. The acts I’m mentioning are some of my favorites. Some I’ve written about in the past already. Actually that’s a lie. I’ve written about almost all of them before. The first is someone who I haven’t talked about for a while, but she’s one of my all-time favorites of the past 6 years, Lana Del Rey.

Lana Del Rey released a new single in February called “Love”. Upon its release, she said her upcoming new music was inspired by her fans and the people who supported her throughout the years. “Love” was the first of the new releases to give back to them. Until February, Lana hadn’t released new music since 2015’s Honeymoon. Then while I was at Coachella she released another new single, “Lust for Life” featuring The Weeknd. She also confirmed a few weeks before the single’s release that her new album would also be entitled Lust for Life. Although no release date has been confirmed for the new album (EDIT: The new album will be out July 21st.), there’s rumors that it will feature a few other collaborations with the likes of Stevie Nicks and Sean Lennon, son of John Lennon.

Another artist with new music out this year is Lorde. I, of course, wrote about her as a Coachella preview, but it was before she put out her new material. Along with Lana Del Rey, Lorde was one of the first to put out music this year. In early March she dropped her single “Green Light”. Then a little over a week after that she performed another new single when she appeared on SNL, “Liability”. I loved “Green Light” the first time I heard it. It’s the kind of song that makes you want to get up and dance. It’s the Pure Heroine follow up hit that I was looking for from Lorde. It got me so hyped for her new album Melodrama, which I thought may come out before Coachella, but isn’t going to be released until June 16th. “Liability” is the complete opposite. The song is so raw and emotional. It’s not something I’ve ever heard from Lorde. It sounds more like something Adele would sing. I denounced the song immediately after I heard it, but then I heard it again live at Coachella. It was incredible. Not just the song, but the entire moment surrounding the festival and the two weeks I spent in California.

She performed Sunday night and I was only able to see her performance on Weekend 2, the final night of what was the most incredible festival-working experience I’ve had thus far. Lorde spoke to the crowd of probably close to 100,000 people as if she were in a tiny dive bar and explained how much the song meant to her. Then she went on to sing her newest piece of music with everyone who cared to join her amongst the beautiful night scene at Coachella with the cool breeze blowing and lit up palm trees swaying as the ferris wheel glowed in the background. I took in the moment with two new friends I met while working the festival focusing on Lorde, the entire setting, and my one friend almost in tears because the song affected her that much. It was epic enough to force me to give “Liability” a second chance and I haven’t stopped listening to it since.

Then I came back from California and within days there was new music from my favorite band, Foster the People. I’ve liked Foster the People for 6 years now. They were one of the first bands that I liked when I started getting into the indie rock scene (See here for the story). They haven’t released new music since 2014 and I’ve been craving something new from them for the last 2 years. On April 27th, the indie rock trio released III, a three song EP with songs from their upcoming album. I listened immediately and have been listening to the songs non-stop ever since, “Doing It For the Money” in particular. I feel like the new music combines that old Torches sound with the newer Supermodel sound to create this in-between to both albums giving fans the best of both worlds. For me, it’s almost impossible to top Torches. I still keep the album in my car and pop it into my CD player on occasion. It’s one of my favorite records of the modern era, but this new album (at least indicated by the EP) has shades of Torches that gets me hyped for its release. As of today, the title and release date have yet to be announced, but I read that it should be out in June or July (EDIT: Foster the People’s new album, Sacred Hearts Club, will be July 21st).

On the same day that the world was blessed with three new Foster the People songs, Haim announced their upcoming sophomore album Something To Tell You and released a preview of the track “Right Now”. They also announced they would release a single from their upcoming album on May 3rd. Last summer when I saw Haim play at Lollapalooza they played a few of their new songs. I don’t remember what songs they played, but I do remember liking each one I heard. Each new song still maintained their signature sound. It got me excited for their new record and I’ve been anticipating it ever since. The album comes out July 7th, but until then we have the song “Want You Back” (the May 3rd single) to hold us over and any other new songs the sisters Haim decide to drop along the way.

alt-J is another band with a new album out this year. I really got into alt-J after seeing them perform at Coachella in 2015. My friends and I then saw them while they toured a few months later. Both shows were fantastic. alt-J released the first single, “3WW”, from their new record in the beginning of March. Then a few weeks later they released “In Cold Blood”. alt-J has always had this unique style of indie music and it’s again evident in their new music so far. Their new record Relaxer comes out on June 2nd.

If you thought five new records were enough, you haven’t been paying attention to music news because there’s a few more to be excited for. One of those is a record that doesn’t have a title or release date yet, but I expect it to be out later than the rest. I’m guessing it could be out any time between late summer and winter (EDIT: The new album, American Dream, comes out September 1st.), but I’m so grateful for the two new songs that were just released this past Friday at midnight in anticipation of it. After announcing their reunion last winter and headlining festivals throughout 2016, LCD Soundsystem finally released new music! They played several shows at the opening of the new venue, Brooklyn Steel, in New York City last month and debuted both songs there. The songs “call the police” and “american dream” were also just performed by the band on SNL over the weekend. I haven’t had much of a chance to binge listen to the songs yet, but I can’t wait to listen on my road trips I have coming up this month. Both songs are different and yet so good. At this point, I think I’d feel that way about anything LCD Soundsystem puts out.

So those are all my favorites that have new albums coming out soon, but there’s also a few other good music acts that I like with new tunes on the way too. Halsey just released two singles over the last month from her new album Hopeless Fountain Kingdom due out in June. So far from the new releases, her album seems like it’ll be less dark than Badlands. Phoenix will be releasing their sixth album and first since 2013, Ti Amo, on June 9th. They just dropped the first single from the new record, “J-Boy”, on April 27th. Finally a band I recently previewed before Coachella, Oh Wonder, will be releasing their second album, Ultralife, on June 16th. Over my two weeks spent in Indio, my love for and desire to see Oh Wonder grew a little more (I couldn’t see them at Coachella). Now I’m definitely stoked for their follow-up to 2015’s debut self-titled masterpiece.

Along with all that’s to come this summer, several great bands that I like have already released new music this year. The xx just released I See You on January 13th. I missed them at Coachella, but I’ll be seeing them live next week! Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness released Zombies on Broadway on February 10th and his new record has some great jams that give off a brand new electronic feel not usually heard in Andrew McMahon music. Lastly and most recently, Cold War Kids just dropped their newest album L.A. Divine on April 7th.

In total that’s 12 new albums from bands I like, about half of those being my favorites. I’ve said recently that all I need is for Florence and the Machine to release a new album this year to really put that final piece in the puzzle. Even without them this year is shaping up to be one of if not the best in music! I’m stoked so you guys better get stoked too because there’s so much to listen to!

Local Natives

It’s crazy to think, but it’s been almost a month since my last blog post and yet it honestly doesn’t feel like it was that long ago. I guess that’s what happens when you spend the fastest two weeks in the Coachella Valley working at your favorite and one of the most well-known music festivals in the world.

So yeah, I did it. I worked Coachella. It was amazing, special, wild, epic, unreal, and all sorts of other positive adjectives that you can think of. It was mostly indescribable though. I knew what to expect, but at the same time I didn’t at all. I can say though that experiencing Coachella in an entirely different way made me appreciate it so much more because it’s a first class, well-run music festival. I’m not gonna go into deep detail about my trip here. I will say that out of the bands I previewed I was able to see Kungs, Grouplove, Lorde, and Lady Gaga. If you wanna know more about my experience though, just ask.

Another thing I will mention is that I had a realization while at the festival during Saturday of Weekend 1. I definitely should have previewed Local Natives in the build-up to Coachella 2017. I was able to catch part of their set that Saturday before my shift started and I knew about 4 of the 5 songs I heard. I didn’t realize how many Local Natives songs I knew, but apparently I know a lot. I know enough that I feel like I need to go to one of their shows sometime. So I figured it was better late than never to write about them, so here goes…

Local Natives is an indie rock band from Los Angeles, CA. Members Kelcey Ayer, Ryan Hahn, and Taylor Rice all met while in high school together in neighboring Orange County, but it was after graduating college from UCLA that the group really started to focus on music. Along with Matt Frazier and former member Andy Hamm (replaced by Nik Ewing in 2012), the group moved into a house together in the Silver Lake section of Los Angeles and began working on their first record, Gorilla Manor. The album was released in November 2009 in the UK and then in the U.S. in February 2010.

The band began generating some hype before the album’s release though. They played SXSW in 2009 which garnered attention from music critics. They received comparisons to well known indie bands, Arcade Fire, Fleet Foxes, and Vampire Weekend, making them a new notable act on the indie scene.

On January 29, 2013 the band released their second album, Hummingbird. The album was produced by guitarist Aaron Dessner of The National and featured a darker lyrical turn due to life events, such as the departure of Andy Hamm and the death of Kelcey Ayer’s mother, that had influenced the band’s writing process. The album also received generally positive reviews.

Last year the band released their third and most recent album, Sunlit Youth, in September. The first single for the album, “Past Lives”, was released a few months before the album drop. The album, like it’s predecessor, received similarly favorable reviews.

Local Natives is your standard indie rock band. There’s no other genre that their music fits into. I can see why they were initially compared to the likes of those other well-known indie bands. Out of the three I mentioned above, their music sounds most similar to a combination of Arcade Fire and Fleet Foxes. I think Vampire Weekend has more of an indie pop feel to their songs that isn’t heard as much with Local Natives. Another reassuring fact about Local Natives’ music is that the sound hasn’t changed much through three albums. Maybe the lyrical content has developed and changed, but you’re still getting that familiar Gorilla Manor sound on Sunlit Youth.

I first heard of Local Natives in the prime of my indie/hipster music transition phase in the spring of 2011. From then on, every so often I would add a new Local Natives song to my iTunes and playlist rotation. While on my first trip to California in 2013, I made it a point to go to Amoeba Music. Amoeba is the world’s largest independent record store. They have three locations in California, one in Berkeley (the original), one in San Francisco, and one in Hollywood, which is the one I went to. I, of course, wanted to get something at Amoeba, but traveling by plane made it difficult to purchase any vinyl so I opted for a CD. The CD I purchased was Hummingbird. Despite all this evidence, it never occurred to me that Local Natives should be a must-see for me at Coachella this year and a must among the list of bands I previewed. I didn’t even realize it after catching the end of their set at Lollapalooza last summer and realizing I knew every song I heard them play. I do now though and I won’t disregard them anymore. I plan on going to one of their shows next time they tour near me. They crushed it at Coachella and I don’t want to miss out anymore.

If you’re a big indie music follower and you don’t know of Local Natives, it’s time you do. They’re a great band to listen to if you’re just relaxing on quiet evening or if you’re driving on a road trip. It’s time to make these guys known or recognized whatever the case may be. Here’s a few songs you should check out.

  1. Airplanes
  2. Who Knows Who Cares
  3. Ceilings
  4. Heavy Feet
  5. Mt. Washington
  6. Past Lives
  7. Wide Eyes
  8. Dark Days
  9. We Come Back
  10. Sun Hands

Coachella Band Preview: Lady Gaga

If you’re reading this, I doubt you’re confused by the title of my blog because you probably know a thing or two about what happened regarding Coachella over the past week. In case you are confused though, let me explain.

As you know from the lineup announcement in the beginning of January, Lady Gaga was not on it. However, a month after the lineup dropped, Beyoncé made a public announcement that she was pregnant with twins. This started some speculation that she might not play Coachella. At the time of the announcement though, it seemed like she was fully committed to the annual festival. Then, her doctors intervened. Last week, shortly after I posted my last blog (because if it was before I would have mentioned it), AP (Associated Press) broke the news that Beyoncé would not play Coachella this year following the advice of her doctors to keep a less rigorous schedule. The announcement did state that Beyoncé will play Coachella next year in 2018, which in my opinion takes away from the anticipation of the lineup release somewhat. I guess since she was a major headliner and a bunch of the Beyhive probably bought tickets this year to see her, Coachella promoter, Goldenvoice, threw them a bone.

After the announcement was made last week, more speculation occurred over who would replace Queen Bey. Lady Gaga was one of the first acts I thought of as her replacement and this was without being influenced by rumors popping up all over the internet and social media. To me it seemed pretty logical, she’s a highly billed female pop performer, much like Beyoncé. She’s also about to embark on a world tour in support of her most recent album Joanne, which has been widely praised. It just made so much sense that she would replace Beyoncé. I saw some other names pop in the meantime though from Daft Punk to Rihanna. I also saw Lady Gaga’s name thrown around too, which made me feel like my guess wasn’t too far off. By Tuesday evening, it was confirmed. Lady Gaga would replace Beyoncé as Coachella’s Saturday night headliner and Gagachella was born.

Lady Gaga, whose real name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, grew up in Manhattan’s Upper East Side in an affluent Catholic family. Despite attending an all-girls Catholic school growing up, she felt like she never fit in to that kind of crowd. She was always involved in music and the arts as well. She started taking piano at age 4. She played open mic nights and acted in school musicals as a teenager. She was even granted early admission to NYU’s theater program, but dropped out during her sophomore year to pursue her music career.

Her stage name, Lady Gaga, was inspired by Queen’s song “Radio Ga Ga” and a T9 accidental text message. In the years before she released her first album, she played Lollapalooza along with Lady Starlight as “Lady Gaga and Lady Starlight”. The duo also performed on the New York underground scene, which was when Lady Gaga began to incorporate pop and glam rock into her electronic dance music style.

After finally securing a record deal with Interscope/Geffen, her debut album, The Fame, was released in 2008. The album included many successful singles and earned her a Grammy Award for Best/Dance Electronica Album. Her song “Poker Face” won the Grammy for Best Dance Recording as well. Gaga’s first tour was in support of The Pussycat Dolls in 2009, but shortly after she embarked on her own headlining world tour. In November of 2009, she released an 8 song EP entitled The Fame Monster, which included the hit single “Bad Romance” as well as a few other successful singles. The Fame Monster earned Lady Gaga 8 MTV Video Music Awards and a Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Album. She also embarked on another world tour appropriately named The Monster Ball Tour.

Lady Gaga released her second studio album Born This Way in May 2011. The album produced several successful singles, 3 Grammy nominations, and a resulting world tour similar to her other music. Around this time was when Gaga formed her relationship with Tony Bennett which paved the way for their eventual album together, Cheek to Cheek, which was released in 2014 and earned them a Grammy for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album. However, the joint album was not released before her third studio album Artpop. It came out in November of 2013. Artpop is the least successful of Lady Gaga’s albums thus far and was received with mixed reviews. Despite its lack of success, it still sold about 2.5 million copies worldwide (as of July 2014).

Lady Gaga released her latest album, Joanne, this past October. Following its release, she performed at three small scale venues to promote the album. This was known as the Dive Bar Tour. Shortly before Joanne‘s release, it was announced that Lady Gaga would be headlining the 2017 Super Bowl LI Halftime Show. The halftime show became the most viewed music performance in history. Following the show, Lady Gaga announced her latest world tour plans in support of Joanne which now includes a pre-stop at one of America’s most well-known music festivals.

When Beyoncé was announced as a headliner, I had no intention of writing a preview for her because I’m not a Beyoncé fan. Honestly, I’m not a Lady Gaga fan either so the reason I decided to write this might be a mystery so I’ll explain. I’m not a fan of mainstream pop music (Adele being the only exception). In fact I used to get annoyed over Lady Gaga’s music when it first came out in 2008. The truth is though despite not being into Lady Gaga’s music, she’s had so many hit singles that I do know a lot of her music. I don’t listen to the radio normally, but I would hear her songs regardless. I’d hear them in public locations, from friends, on television, and yeah I guess on the radio when I wasn’t in control of it.

There’s been random times in my life over the last 9 years that Lady Gaga’s music has been a part of too. My friends and I sang a self made-up parody of “Alejandro” at the beach one summer, “Bad Romance” played on a music-playing amusement park ride one time when all of our previous times on this ride had death metal songs we didn’t know or like (“Bad Romance” kind of saved us), and “Applause” became one of the theme songs of my first trip to California due to its overplay and my cousin being in control of the radio. There’s probably other moments I’m not thinking of too. Also I can’t forget that my mom is a huge fan of Lady Gaga and her music. She owns almost all, if not all, of Gaga’s albums. I have to admit, I even like Joanne. Because of all the exposure, I almost feel like a fan by association and no lie her Super Bowl performance had me crushing the end of my cardio work out. So no, I’m not a true Little Monster, but I wouldn’t mind seeing Gaga live if I had the opportunity.

As I said before, Lady Gaga plays Saturday night in replacement of Beyoncé. It’s her first time playing the festival and also the first time since 2007 that a female solo artist will be headlining. Being known for her crazy and outlandish costumes/outfits in her early performing days as well as becoming a major pop performer, I’m expecting her Coachella set to be epic and to have some intense production quality. No one will want to miss her performance on Saturday night, unless of course you’re a major fan of whoever is playing at the Sahara Tent. Here’s some songs to get you ready, although you might already know them:

  1. Bad Romance
  2. Just Dance
  3. Poker Face
  4. Born This Way
  5. Alejandro
  6. Perfect Illusion
  7. Applause
  8. Marry the Night
  9. Telephone
  10. A Million Reasons
  11. A-Yo
  12. John Wayne
  13. The Edge of Glory
  14. Paparazzi
  15. LoveGame