dream pop

I Gotta Be On My Own

Over the last year, there’s been several times within blog posts where I’ve mentioned having an epic concert night last November. I first wrote about it shortly after it happened when I wrote about Tegan & Sara. Then I wrote about it again while writing about ARIZONA. It’s almost been a year since I saw two concerts in one night so I figured it’s finally time to write about the other concert I attended on November 3rd besides Tegan & Sara, the one that ARIZONA was the opener for.

Before the Tegan & Sara concert last year, my friend and I decided to grab tickets for Hayley Kiyoko. Kiyoko grew up involved in the music and acting communities in Los Angeles, CA. Before even hearing of her music, I knew of her from watching the Disney Channel. She starred in a few episodes of Wizards of Waverly Place and the 2010 Disney Channel Original Movie Lemonade Mouth. She was also involved with Cartoon Network starring as Velma Dinkley in the 2009 TV film Scooby-Doo! The Mystery Begins and then reprising her role in the sequel Scooby-Doo! Curse of the Lake Monster. She has of course acted in other small parts on various television channels and networks as well, but the roles I just mentioned are what she is best known for.

Hayley Kiyoko (Alcroft) has always been about music though. She started drum lessons at the age of 6 and learned several other instruments over her lifetime such as guitar, bass, piano, and accordion. In 2007, she became part of the all-girl pop group The Stunners which was formed by former pop star Vitamin C. The Stunners lasted as a group until 2011. They broke up before a full album was ever released.

Kiyoko released her debut EP A Belle to Remember in March 2013. Her second EP This Side of Paradise was released a little less than two years later in February of 2015. She co-directed and directed two music videos from the EP for the songs “Girls Like Girls” and “Cliff’s Edge”, respectively. In August 2016, she released the upcoming single, “Gravel to Tempo”, from her latest EP Citrine as well as the music video for it. The EP itself was released just over a year ago on September 30, 2016. Since then she directed two more music videos for the songs “One Bad Night” and “Sleepover”, another new single. Today she debuts her latest single, “Feelings” on MTV’s TRL.

Most of Kiyoko’s following comes from the internet. Her video for “Girls Like Girls” currently has over 79 million views. Last spring she went on her first nationwide headlining tour, which was nearly sold out. Her music draws a lot of attention from the LGBT community because of its subjects. As an out gay woman, Kiyoko wanted to write music that girls and women like her could relate to.

Her music is part of the dreampop/synthpop genre. I’ve always thought her songs have a subtle edge along with a hypnotic flow to them as well. They almost have an R&B style sexual feel going on too.

Last year when my friend and I decided to see her we both knew a handful of her songs. The tickets were pretty cheap too and the show only had some overlap with Tegan & Sara (Hayley Kiyoko was on during the Tegan & Sara opener, but finished before the Canadian twin duo took the stage). Also both shows were in different parts of the same venue. It worked out well for us and made for an epic concert night, one that I’m not sure we’d be able to replicate. It was kind of special occurrence too since we decided to attend Hayley Kiyoko’s show on the day of. It was one I didn’t prepare for, which in some ways made it more exciting. Plus I was super stoked when I realized ARIZONA was the opener for Hayley Kiyoko. She played a short set list, but played all of the songs we both knew and a quality mix from her 3 EP’s. She even covered Hailee Steinfeld’s “Starving”. My friend and I were both glad we went. The venue was small. The setting was intimate. It made for a great opportunity to see her since we both expected her popularity to rise and it has already. We’re lucky we took advantage of the chance to see her.

If you’re into the kind of music she plays, I suggest you check her out. I also recommend that if there’s any artists or bands on the rise that you like that you should go see them live. See them in a small venue. See them in an intimate setting. See them like that because it’s special and you may never get another chance to. I’m glad we saw Hayley Kiyoko like that and I’m glad she gave us an epic concert night we never expected.

 

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Lust For Life: Album Review

It’s been a busy two weeks. I worked two festivals and I have another one coming up this weekend. As a result the blog has taken a back seat. Luckily I have a little time to review the second album that came out July 21st from one of my two favorite artists. I haven’t had much time to listen to it because I decided to listen to Foster the People’s (the other July 21st release) latest first. I saw them at Lollapalooza last weekend and I needed some prep time with their new material. Yesterday though, I began listening to Lust For Life, Lana Del Rey’s fourth full length album.

In late February, Lana released the first single from the album, “Love”, claiming that this album was for her fans and those who have supported her throughout the years. In the months following, Lana released two other singles from the album “Lust for Life” ft. The Weeknd and “Coachella – Woodstock on my Mind”. She also announced that the album would feature collaborations with A$AP Rocky, Stevie Nicks, Sean Lennon, and Playboy Carti.

Lana’s newest album offers music with a brighter feel than her sensual darkness heard in previous works. Her hypnotizing vocals are still a staple in Lust For Life though. The lyrics are what gives each song on the new record a more positive vibe. The music also gives a bit of a hip-hop/electronic feel.

As a fan of almost all of Lana Del Rey’s work, I think this album is a great comeback for the pop starlet. I fell in love with her because of Born to Die. I loved her even more after the Paradise EP. Ultraviolence was my go-to album for weeks after its debut, but then Honeymoon happened. I felt like I wasn’t into as many songs and I thought Lana was letting her music go downhill. So for me, Lust For Life is definitely a comeback with a sound that gives a nod to Born to Die as far as the hip-hop beats go.

Even though I’ve just started getting into this album because my listening binge began yesterday, I’m telling you it’s a good one. Is it at the level of Born to Die? I don’t think so, but it’s a damn good album. The amount of collaborations alone is a selling point. There are songs for everyone on it. My personal favorites are “In My Feelings”, “Coachella – Woodstock on my Mind”, and “Beautiful People, Beautiful Problems” ft. Stevie Nicks. It’s worth listening to. Even if you’re hesitant on buying it based on what I just said, listen to it on Spotify first. I’m sure it’ll convince you. Lana has come back with a vengeance and you don’t want to miss out!

Melodrama: Album Review

Last Friday Lorde released her highly anticipated second full length album, Melodrama. The announcement of the album came in March shortly after she released the album’s debut single “Green Light”. In the mean time she also released two other singles, “Liability” and “Perfect Places”.

So far the album has been received with high praise and it’s only been out for a week. I was away for a work trip last weekend so I first listened to the album last Thursday night/Friday morning on Spotify. I loved it. I knew I was gonna head out immediately once I got home to purchase it. I bought it Wednesday. It’s a fantastic album. It’s everything you could ever want from Lorde, especially as a follow-up to Pure Heroine. The songs are emotional, catchy, and have that edgy sound Lorde is so well known for.  It takes listeners on an emotional roller coaster from start to finish. It will have you dancing with songs like “Green Light” and “Supercut”, singing to “Perfect Places” and “Homemade Dynamite”, crying while listening to “Liability”, and loving everything else in between.

Lorde created the album with well-known producer/musician, Jack Antonoff. He has production credits on almost every song on the album. I’d be surprised if this album doesn’t earn the Lorde/Antonoff duo a few Grammy nods. I highly recommend purchasing it as soon as possible. Make it one of the soundtracks to your summer. It’s that good so stop reading, go listen, and fall in love with Melodrama.

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

 

Phantogram

Wanna hear something crazy? There have been a number of bands I’ve liked whose albums I don’t own, but I have two albums by a band whose albums I normally wouldn’t go out of my way to purchase. Reason: Black Friday. Over the last 3-4 years or so, I’ve shopped for music on Black Friday because CDs are often reduced in price. Once I got Of Monsters & Men’s My Head is An Animal for $6. Then a year later I purchased 6 CDs for $7 each. It’s one of the best days to get CDs assuming they have what you want or have what you’re interested in.

This year the CDs I wanted were $8 a piece so I purchased three…or so I thought. Apparently instead of a CD, I purchased one of the albums on vinyl for $8 that included a free MP3 download of it. Can you say winning?! I mean that was mistakenly epic. It’s rare to get a new LP for under $10. Hell it’s rare to get one for under $15. I was stoked (in case you were wondering what it was, Cleopatra by The Lumineers). Then I realized something from my purchases. One of the CDs I purchased just didn’t feel like something I would buy if I didn’t have that $8 deal. Not only that, but I purchased an earlier album from the same band 2 years ago on a Black Friday deal. Crazy. I guess I like Phantogram more than I thought.

Phantogram is comprised of Greenwich, New York duo Josh Carter and Sarah Barthel. They formed the band in 2007 originally under the name Charlie Everywhere. They opted for a name change once they signed a record deal in 2009 claiming that they liked Phantogram better. It also suited their band more since it means a two dimensional optical illusion that appears as three dimensions (2 band members = 2 dimensions creating a third (music) which is something bigger than themselves…you get the picture). They released their debut self-titled EP a few months after signing their record deal. They followed it up with another EP later that year. Their first album, Eyelid Movies, was released on February 9, 2010 receiving favorable reviews from many sources. Their second album, Voices, was released in early 2014. They released two EP’s between their first and second albums.

They spent their time between albums touring in the U.S. and in Europe. They also played several major music festivals in addition to their touring schedule including Coachella in 2011 and Bonnaroo and Governor’s Ball in 2012 (They haven’t played Coachella since so could be a lock for Coachella 2017). Following the release of Voices the band continued to tour and play festivals throughout 2014 including Firefly, Lollapalooza, Osheaga, and Austin City Limits. They recently released their third album coincidentally (or not coincidentally at all) called Three on October 7, 2016. They’re currently touring the U.S. in support of their newest album.

In terms of music style, Phantogram has been compared to the likes of Purity Ring, Sleigh Bells, The Naked & Famous, Washed Out, STRFKR, Tennis, and Local Natives. Their music falls under the indie electronica, electro rock, dream pop genres. To give you my best description, it’s like taking an electronic trip. The vocals are soft and flowy, but not enough to leave you too far gone. Phantogram’s tunes have been featured in a variety of outlets too from television to film to video games all of different themes.

I discovered Phantogram in September 2014. It was probably a random place or playlist that I heard their song “Celebrating Nothing”. I downloaded it though and listened to it along with other recently added songs. It was a good song, but never stood out from the rest. Regardless of that, I bought the album on Black Friday because $7 for Voices was a good deal. I probably thought the album was worth a listen too. I remember listening to each album I bought that year for about a week because it was/is tough to listen to 6 albums at once. Again this year I downloaded one song off Phantogram’s newest album a few months prior and decided to buy their album for cheap on Black Friday.

When I started this blog I had yet to listen to the album which came in the mail the other day, but I stopped to take a break while writing this. I also ate lunch and ran a few errands. While I was running errands I put the new album in my car’s CD player. It’s good. To me it’s similar to the second album because their music doesn’t sound drastically different. However, I’m not sure I paid attention to the second album enough to compare it. Voices was a background album for me meaning it’s the type of album that sounds good as background music on a drive, while hanging out with friends, etc. With that type of album though, no song stands out enough to set it apart from the rest. So far Three feels the same way. I haven’t listened to it enough yet to be one hundred percent sure. I’ve actually only listened to about half the album. Maybe in a few days I can do an edit and get back to you on that.

If you’re sensing  theme here about Phantogram you’re probably right. In my opinion, they’re good. That’s it. I’m probably downplaying them, but to me that’s all they are. They’re a little above average, but nothing spectacular. Most of the time I hype up the bands I write about. I can’t with these guys so here’s my honest opinion: They’re good, just good, but I still think they’re worth a listen. Some of you may like them more than others and some of you may really really like them. Some of you may listen to them once and decide you probably won’t listen to them again. Maybe some of you will even agree they’re good background music and buy their albums for cheap next Black Friday (if possible) like me. Here’s a couple of the songs I like by them (even if the list is small because like I said nothing stands out to me):

  1. Celebrating Nothing
  2. Cruel World
  3. Howling at the Moon
  4. Don’t Move
  5. You Don’t Get Me High Anymore

 

Coachella Band Preview: M83

Another week less until Coachella 2016 means another week less to listen to your favorite bands performing in the desert this April. I have plenty of favorites playing the festival this spring, but one I wanted to preview is French/American band M83. They’ve been out of the picture for a few years since their last album came out 5 years ago. With multiple festival appearances and a new album slated for release this year, 2016 looks to be a big year for the band.

M83 was originally a duo formed in 2001 by Anthony Gonzalez and Nicolas Fromageau. The band’s debut self-titled album was released in the spring of 2001. It didn’t receive much acknowledgment outside of Europe. It wasn’t until the band released their second album Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts that their name reached the shores of North America. However, the album was released in Europe in spring 2003, but did not get popular in North America until the following summer. After M83 toured to promote their second album, Fromageau left the band and Gonzalez went on to record the following two albums, Before the Dawn Heals Us (2005) and Digital Shades Vol. 1 (2007), by himself.

M83’s fifth album, Saturdays = Youth, was released in 2008 and was the band’s first album that contained a typical song structure and form. It was at this point that Gonzalez began to receive consistent help from others in the recording process. One person in particular was vocalist and keyboardist, Morgan Kibby. The band then went on to support acts like Kings of Leon, The Killers, and Depeche Mode in 2008 and 2009. In 2009 Gonzalez made a permanent move to Los Angeles, which, in a way, revamped the band. By 2011 Gonzalez began writing songs for the band’s sixth album, which he stated would be a double album. In July 2011 the first single from the new album “Midnight City” was released. It was M83’s breakthrough hit. The album, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, was released on October 18, 2011. It became the band’s most successful album to date, debuting at number 15 on Billboard’s 200 and receiving honors from Pitchfork on their list of Top 50 Albums of 2011 . It also received a Grammy nomination in 2013 for Best Alternative Music Album.

Since Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, M83 has not released an album. However, it was announced via Twitter in mid-December 2015 that the band recently completed a new album. It’s safe to say we can expect a new release sometime this year. In the meantime though, the group re-released some of their older albums in late 2015.

M83 got their name from the galaxy Messier 83, nicknamed M83. Their sound perfectly reflects their name too. Their synthpop, ambient style music has a super trippy, outer space feel to it. When you listen to their music and close your eyes, you can literally imagine yourself floating through the universe. Their early music is especially like that since, as I mentioned, most of their songs didn’t have much form or structure until their fifth album.

I first heard of M83 around late 2011-early 2012. Midnight City was of course the first song I downloaded by the group. I then proceeded to download a few other songs in the following months. M83 was a tough band for me to get into, since their music was pretty different from what I was listening to at the time. However, I really took a liking to the song “Steve McQueen” off Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. It became my go-to for M83 songs.

This won’t be M83’s first time at Coachella. They last played in 2012 in the wake of their success from their most recent album. They play Friday this year. I’m sure they’ll play many old favorites and a few new songs as well. It’s bound to be a good set whether they’re one of your faves, whether you missed seeing them in 2011-2012, whether you got into them after that time, or whether you’re just hearing about them now. To get you ready for their set though, I recommend these jams:

  1. Midnight City
  2. We Own the Sky
  3. Steve McQueen
  4. Wait
  5. Splendor
  6. Kim & Jessie
  7. Reunion
  8. Intro
  9. Outro
  10. Skin of the Night