dance punk

American Dream: Album Review

Summer 2017 has almost reached its conclusion. There’s only a few weeks left, but after Labor Day, pumpkin spice lattes are all the rage, temps start decreasing, and sweaters and flannels cover the upper torsos of most. Summer isn’t officially over until September 22nd, but still we’re less than a month away.

That being said this summer was epic for both me and the rest of the music world. I worked all over the country, had amazing experiences, made new friends, and strengthened relationships with old friends. It was incredible. It was also incredible because a plethora of new albums were released this summer by so many of my favorite bands and artists. Before the end of summer though, there’s one more highly anticipated album that was just released. The album was a long time coming for NYC alternative dance band, LCD Soundsystem. So after 7 long years, an apparent break-up, a final show at Madison Square Garden and a film to tell its tale, a Christmas song, and a comeback no one ever thought was happening, American Dream is here.

American Dream is the 4th full length album from James Murphy and his posse. This album is more melodious than their previous works, yet it combines the great electronic/techno indie dance style that LCD Soundsystem is known for. If you’re looking for that classic LCD sound, look to the songs “tonite”, “call the police”, “emotional haircut”, and “other voices”. Songs like “change yr mind” and “how do you sleep?” combine a dance style with more melody, as they both start slow and build to a pace where you’re able to get into the groove.

LCD Soundsystem records have been known to include a slower song or something with more melody on more than one occasion. “New York I Love, But You’re Bringing Me Down” or “All I Want” are perfect examples of this. Each are on separate albums though. The latest from LCD Soundsystem incorporates 4 of these kind of tracks with “oh baby”, “i used to”, “american dream”, and “black screen”. “i used to” and “black screen” remind me of songs I’d hear from bands like Brand New or Circa Survive. They have an alternative rock/post-hardcore feel where all that’s missing is Murphy adding some screaming to his vocals. “oh baby” and “american dream” are filled with love, longing, and nostalgia lyrics reminiscent to the waltz style track “New York I Love You…”.

Normally I hate when bands change their sound, but in this case LCD Soundsystem hasn’t really changed much. They’re still playing the same style of music that made them famous in the mid to late 00’s. They’re just progressing. They got older even though they were never that young to begin with. They’re the same, but new. Anyway, to me, this record is one that no one ever thought they’d hear and LCD Soundsystem is back with a vengeance.

I urge you to check out this album. I first started listening to LCD Soundsystem in 2012 (yes after they broke up!) but fell in love with them all over again last summer after preparing for and seeing them live at Lollapalooza. They’re different than most bands I’m into and most bands you might listen to, but they combine an EDM style of music with an indie style. You just can’t help but want to dance yrself clean when you listen to them.

Almost every show on their upcoming tour is already sold out and they haven’t even begun to play shows yet. There’s no question that the rest of the shows will sell out in due time. So if you plan on seeing the revival of LCD Soundsystem on their touring circuit this time around, you either have to grab a ticket to one of the few remaining shows quickly, buy an overpriced resale ticket, or you’re S.O.L. Fortunately I have tickets to their upcoming tour and plenty of time to indulge in this new masterpiece of an album. Their American shows begin in mid-October so for those looking to see a live performance you have plenty of time as well as long as you start today. Check out American Dream as soon as you can!

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When I Say Shotgun, You Say Wedding

I’m always surprised when I hear about bands that I liked in high school still being relevant in the music world. I know most of those bands are still out there making music. Just because I don’t listen to their music or follow them anymore doesn’t mean they cease to exist. What really surprises me though is when those bands reach a level of success greater than the level I knew them at. For instance, take Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. Sure, I guess I can argue that the band is new, but Andrew McMahon is no stranger to music. He was the front man for indie punk band Something Corporate and then for Jack’s Mannequin. He even sang about his SoCo life (“been around the world in a punk rock band”) in the Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness hit “Cecilia and the Satellite”. Despite ventures with two different bands who were well-known in their respective scenes, he never bridged the mainstream gap until Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. Now another band from my high school years has my attention.

I first heard about this band, by the name of Panic! at the Disco when I was a junior in high school. I got their debut album A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, which was released in September 2005, around the time I got my driver’s license. Their debut was the soundtrack to my early driving days where I gained and maintained the independence a driver’s license offers. It played as I drove to pick up friends, grab some Burger King, or take drives on a long strip of road in a nearby town known as The Ave.The first song of theirs that caught my attention was “Time to Dance”. I downloaded a demo version of the song that was different from the album version and received some attention from friends who recognized the distinction. I listened to both versions anyway and loved the rest of the songs too.

Panic! at the Disco was founded in 2004 by childhood friends, Ryan Ross and Spencer Smith, while they were still in high school in a suburb of Las Vegas, Nevada. They recruited friend, Brent Wilson to join and Wilson encouraged his classmate, Brendon Urie to join the band as well. Initially the group started out as a blink-182 cover band, but then they recorded three original songs. They decided to send Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz a link to their Purevolume account just for the hell of it, but the tables turned in their favor. Wentz liked what he heard. He met the band and asked them to sign with his very own Decaydence Records (now known as DCD2), an imprint of Fueled By Ramen, which Fall Out Boy was signed with. They signed with Wentz before even playing a live show, which came a few month before their first album was released.

Their debut album had a slow rise to the top, but in a way Panic! at the Disco needed that. They needed to learn how to be a band. They all recently graduated high school (aside from Ross who dropped out of college to focus on music) and were still young kids. In March of 2006, the band announced a headlining tour and by August of that year the album was certified platinum and their single “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” won Video of the Year at the 2006 MTV Video Music Awards. Pretty amazing for a bunch of teenagers right? However the Panic! at the Disco who had that crazy rise to fame isn’t the same Panic! at the Disco that exists today.

Over the past 11 years the band has had plenty of turnover. Lead vocalist, Brendon Urie is the only founding member still in the band. There’s various reasons for that though. Creative differences was one of the reasons. I totally understand this because the band’s sound has changed drastically from its debut album.

Their first record has an electronic dance punk sound. Their second record Pretty Odd, released on March 21, 2008, sounds like something you’d hear from the Beatles. It was a drastic change in sound. It was one that I, as a huge fan of their first album, wasn’t happy about. I remember looking forward to their sophomore album, but while listening to it for the first time I was confused as to who I was actually listening to because it didn’t sound like them at all. It resulted in my disinterest in the band from then on.

The band released 3 more albums since Pretty. Odd.: Vices & Virtues (2011), Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die! (2013), and most recently Death of a Bachelor, which came out in January of 2016. Now Panic! at the Disco’s sound falls into the pop rock genre. I have to admit as a fan of early Panic! at the Disco, their most recent album sounds more like their debut than the second album did. The only consistent thing throughout their five albums is Urie’s signature vocals.

Now back to the first paragraph of this blog when I was saying how it surprises me when bands I used to listen to in high school reach a level of success greater than the one I knew them at. Yesterday I was looking at upcoming concerts on the Bandsintown app, my go-to app for upcoming concerts and music events. I was looking into Saint Motel’s future shows as an idea for a Christmas present for my mom who happens to be a Saint Motel fan. I saw they were playing a few shows next year nearby, but the shows were in arenas. For a band like Saint Motel, that’s not the norm. I figured they must be opening for someone so I did some research to see who they were opening for. Turns out they’re opening for Panic! at the Disco on their Death of a Bachelor Tour. I couldn’t believe it. Only a few of the shows are sold out (who knows if they’re true sell outs or not) as of right now, but it still floored me that this band is currently able to play arena sized venues especially since I haven’t heard of Panic! at the Disco making much noise since “I Write Sins Not Tragedies”. Actually, the last time Brendon Urie came into my life was over the past year at Coachella 2016 when he joined Halsey on stage as part of her set. Panic! at the Disco must be doing something right though, even if I haven’t noticed it.

If you’re interested in listening to this band, here are some of my favorite songs and a few other good ones by the band who got their name from The Smiths’ song “Panic”:

  1. Time to Dance
  2. The Only Difference Between Martydom and Suicide is Press Coverage
  3. I Write Sins Not Tragedies
  4. Lying is the Most Fun a Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off
  5. Victorious
  6. But It’s Better If You Do
  7. Nine in the Afternoon

Coachella Band Preview: LCD Soundsystem

Coachella is almost exactly 3 months away. Since the lineup release over a week ago, the days until the annual festival in the desert are decreasing. That only means one thing. It’s time to prep. Start planning your festival attire. Get out the sun tan lotion and listen to some tunes by the bands playing the event this year. As I said last week, even though I won’t be attending Coachella this year (unless there’s some spontaneous miracle), I plan on previewing the bands playing Coachella 2016 in the same way I did last year. The first band on my list is one of the headliners this year, LCD Soundsystem.

Formed in 2001 from New York City, LCD Soundsystem is the brainchild of singer-songwriter, record producer, and DJ, James Murphy. Murphy is also the co-founder of dance music record label DFA Records. Until the 2005 release of their self-titled debut album, LCD Soundsystem only released singles. Their debut album however received much acclaim including a Grammy nomination for Best Electronic/Dance Album. The single “Daft Punk is Playing at My House” received a Grammy nomination for Best Dance Recording in the same year. LCD Soundsystem released their second album, Sound of Silver, in 2007 and it too received a Grammy nomination for Best Electronic/Dance Album. Their third album, This Is Happening, came out in May 2010. It received top-ten status in the United States and was the group’s first album to do so. It was also listed as the number two album of 2010 by Pitchfork and the number 10 album of 2010 by Rolling Stone. Then in early 2011 the band announced on their website that they planned to call it quits, but not before one last farewell show to be played at Madison Square Garden in April. The final four hour long show took place on April 2, 2011 and was filmed as part of a live concert documentary Shut Up and Play the Hits, which was released the following year. Such was the end of LCD Soundsystem…or so we thought.

In late 2015 rumors began swirling that LCD Soundsystem would be reuniting in 2016 and playing some major music festivals. Then on Christmas Eve, a mere 3 weeks ago, the group released their first single in over 5 years “Christmas Will Break Your Heart”. A little over a week later, on January 4, 2016, it was announced the group would be headlining Coachella. The following day, via the group’s website, James Murphy posted this message to fans confirming the reunion of the much loved electronic/dance/punk group.

I was late to the LCD Soundsystem party, first hearing of the group after their “final” show in late 2011. It wasn’t even until over a year after the “final” show that I downloaded any of their music to my iTunes. The first song I heard by the group was “Dance Yrself Clean” and it’s still one of my favorite LCD Soundsystem songs. I eventually listened to more of their music and purchased their self-titled album on vinyl (it’s great on vinyl by the way). I do have to say though that if it wasn’t for my favorite acting/Hollywood couple and fellow music enthusiasts, Troian Bellisario and Patrick J. Adams, I wouldn’t have known this group at all. Thanks guys for the great recommendations!

As I mentioned, LCD Soundsystem is an electronic/dance/punk/alternative style music group. They were around before a lot of today’s EDM artists. Their style is a little different than the current EDM style though. Their music has more of an alternative/punk element. I feel like recent EDM is more pop. Also unlike current EDM artists, LCD Soundsystem’s music features an assortment of instruments and electronic devices, hence the whole “soundsystem” aspect. The group also features a variety of members who played the live shows as part of the group over the years. The most notable members include, Nancy Whang, Pat Mahoney, and Tyler Pope, but include at least 9 more individuals who have played for the band.  Murphy played the majority of the instruments himself while recording the albums.

If I were attending Coachella this year, the LCD Soundsystem set would be one of my most anticipated sets. They join the 2016 festival as a main headliner with Guns N’ Roses, who are also reuniting for Coachella, and Calvin Harris. Murphy and his pals play Saturday night. The LCD Soundsystem set should draw a huge crowd, especially with the large contingency of dance music fans who attend the festival. Not sure if I’ll be able to stay up to watch them perform, but I definitely have planned to try to find a video of their set afterwards. I’m a little jealous I won’t be at Coachella to see them live. Guess I’ll just have to catch an upcoming show somewhere else since the group is getting back together. To get you ready for Saturday night on the main stage though, play these hits:

  1. Dance Yrself Clean
  2. All My Friends
  3. Daft Punk is Playing at My House
  4. Drunk Girls
  5. Someone Great
  6. New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down
  7. Tribulations
  8. I Can Change
  9. Yeah
  10. North American Scum
  11. Tribulations