Elastic Heart

Music Saved 2016

2016 can be defined as being a shit ass year for Americans (maybe for other countries too but I can only go by U.S. standards). There were a few good moments, like the Cubs winning the World Series for the first time in 108 years or the Pittsburgh Penguins winning their 4th Stanley Cup (It was good for me as a Pens fan), but for the most part many agree that 2016 sucked. We lost some truly great artists, story tellers, athletes, and human beings and it hasn’t stopped even in the days before the new year. As I sat down to write this, I found out that Hollywood legend Carrie Fisher passed away and then as I sat down to finish it two days later Carrie’s just as famous mother, Debbie Reynolds (her most substantial role, in my opinion, was Agatha Cromwell in the DCOM Halloweentown), had passed as well. Crazy. More importantly we lost progress, decency, and democracy from a shocking presidential election outcome. 2016 took so much from us and most of us are glad it’s almost over.

Last week I watched a YouTube video about the good in 2016 (because like I said there were a few good moments) and a statement was made that I agreed with wholeheartedly: “Music saved 2016.” It did, but for me especially. This year I embarked on an adventure into the music industry by working concerts, shows, and festivals all over the country. I learned new things, met amazing new people from all over the country, stepped outside my comfort zone, and had some incredible experiences especially over the summer. I’m entirely grateful for every single one and for the company that gave me a chance. This year I attended more live music events than ever. I saw some incredible bands and artists perform. I learned new music and fell in love all over again with bands I’ve listened to before. Music was everything to me this year. Because of that I wanted to share with you my favorite/most listened to music of 2016. Some of it might not have come out this year but I might have discovered it for the first time this year or rediscovered it, if you will. I’ll be including songs, artists, or albums as part of the list but each has a relevant meaning to my year of music.

1. “Holdin’ On” by Flume. This song was the song of the year for me. I discovered it shortly before I volunteered at the Sweetlife Festival in May, but the full impact of the song occurred the day of the festival. As you may already know from the post I did back in April, Flume is an electronic artist. This song is a hit from his first album which came out in 2012. He also released a new album this year, Skin, which had a few huge hits, like “Never Be Like You” ft. Kai and “Say It” ft. Tove Lo, earning Flume 2017 Grammy nominations. For me though, it was “Holdin’ On” that stood out the most. I feel like the song has more energy than his other stuff. Part of the song has this slowed down warp type of sound that leads into the refrain with a POW! At Sweetlife, my friend and I went to Flume’s set with no expectations. “Holdin’ On” stole the show that was marred by technical difficulties causing us to leave early (we were planning on leaving early anyway to not miss another set). After we left though, it was the song that played in my head the rest of the day. That day turned out to be one of, if not, the best day(s) of my whole year. The faulty set aided in our decision to buy tickets to see Flume perform 3 months later, which was also pretty sick but didn’t have the same impact as Sweetlife weekend and the first time I heard “Holdin’ On”.

2. LCD Soundsystem. 2016 saw the return of a band we thought was gone after 2011. Electronic dance-punk band LCD Soundsystem got back together in 2016 and played festivals all summer long. I was stoked by the news last year and jealous of everyone attending Coachella 2016 who would see them headline. After working at the Firefly Music Festival in mid-June, I rediscovered LCD Soundsystem because of the great people I worked with on the Dover Downs Speedway and Spotify Premium. We listened to LCD several times throughout the weekend and talked about the band, which earned my re-interest in the group who hails from NYC. Following Firefly, I started listening to LCD again. Then the universe came together and I was lucky enough to get a spot working at Lollapalooza in July, thus earning me the privilege of being able to see LCD Soundsystem perform on the final night of the Chicago festival. It was something else. I danced myself clean for the entirety of the set.

3. Sia. Sia’s been around for years, but she soared to the top of music charts with her 2014 album 1000 Forms of Fear. In the beginning of 2016, I fell in love with the 1000 Forms of Fear song “Elastic Heart”, only to hear the newly released single, “Cheap Thrills”, off Sia’s newest record This Is Acting a few weeks later. I loved “Cheap Thrills” even more than “Elastic Heart” and it became part of my nightly workout playlist. I even introduced the song to my then 4 year old cousin Hudson when he came to visit me in early March. He loved the song too. So much so that he corrected me for singing the wrong lyrics during a visit in May. “Cheap Thrills” progressively became a hit of 2016 and Sia’s newest album was a hit too (not as much as 1000 Forms of Fear, but still a good album nonetheless). She also played several music festivals including Coachella and Panorama (Coachella East) and toured the U.S. for the first time since 2011. Singing Sia songs with Hudson, “Cheap Thrills” in particular and now “The Greatest”, which was a newly released single in the fall and a track on the deluxe edition of This Is Acting, was a huge part of my year. Hudson and I live 3 hours apart but still managed to see each other at least once a month, so there was plenty of singing (we crush long distance relationship/friendship standards). I doubt we’re the only ones who were singing Sia a lot this year though. She slayed 2016.

4. “The Sound” by the 1975. Before 2016, I liked the 1975. I knew a few of their songs. Three to be exact. I liked each one. Then I heard “The Sound” and I forgot all my previous thoughts on the band. That song was it for me. The 1975 released a new record this year called I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It. “The Sound” was released as a single before the record. I thought at that time if “The Sound” is any indication, then the new record will be stellar. It turned out to be pretty good. “Somebody Else” is great. “She’s American” and “Love Me” aren’t too bad either. Some may argue I Like It When You Sleep… is not as good as the debut self-titled. I might argue that too, but “The Sound” is in a league of its own. That song made me want to see The 1975 live and I did. Twice (at Sweetlife and Lollapalooza). Both times The 1975 put on a great set, but I bet you can take a guess what my favorite song played was.

5. “Seeing Stars” by BØRNS. “Seeing Stars” became an instant favorite song of mine after listening to it a few times. It’s a happy, good feeling type of song. It was exactly what I needed in the spring after going through some disappointing and shocking moments. It was my positive jam for a while. I even played it a few times driving to Sweetlife. Then two weeks later my friend and I purchased last minute tickets to see BØRNS perform at the Electric Factory. It was a great decision and a fun show even though there were a few off moments that night like a 30 minute wait at Taco Bell and a speeding ticket. I loved hearing my song of the spring live regardless.

6. “Gold Rays” by Vinyl Pinups. In early 2016, this song was MY. JAM. The only downfall was that I liked it in the dead of winter and it’s the perfect spring/summer song. I did listen to it on my workout playlist for several months though well into the spring. However in the summer, I was listening to other things and I didn’t play it as much as I would have liked. It’s one of my favorite songs of the year by far. It’s also a great feel-good song by a smaller-name band.

7. “T-Shirt Weather” by Circa Waves. Like “Gold Rays”, this was another perfect summer song that I fell in love with during the winter. It made me long for warm days in late January, early February 2016. I constantly imagined listening to this song while driving in the summer on a road trip with friends. Then like “Gold Rays” it was rarely played during the summer months. It’s another favorite of the year for sure.

8. Tegan and Sara. I’ve liked Tegan and Sara since college. I rediscovered them again in 2014 when I purchased Heartthrob. If it wasn’t for bonds over women’s soccer, I probably wouldn’t have fell into their web of smooth, catchy rock tunes again this fall, but I’m so thankful it happened anyway. I went to see Tegan and Sara live in early November with a friend, her roommate, and her roommate’s girlfriend. It was another last minute decision that ended up being even better than BØRNS. It was a night where everything felt right. I was exactly where I was supposed to be and I wished it would never end. It was so much fun. We even saw two shows at the same venue. How epic right?! Tegan and Sara were great live and almost everyone there could sing along to every song. It was because of that night that I gained a new appreciation for the song “The Con”. I listened to it with a greater affinity afterwards. Because of how insanely amazing that night was, Tegan and Sara are high on my list for the year, but they deserve it regardless. They’re incredible talent that has been around for over 17 years.

9. Adele. Adele ended my 2015 with a bang. Her new album 25 was released in November of last year. Right before the new year I scored tickets to her sold out World Tour for a show in early September. That show became a huge anticipation of 2016. I loved bringing it up any time Adele came up. Adele came up often too. She had a few singles that came out in 2016 and her album earned her several Grammy nominations for the 2017 awards show. As for the concert I saw in September, it was well worth the almost 9 month wait. It was incredible seeing her perform live. She’s got a killer voice and sang for 2 hours straight with no openers. There was some stand-up comedy in between songs of course. She’s hilarious if you didn’t already know. It was an epic 2016 music event and one I won’t soon forget.

10. Wild World, Bastille. In September 2016, Bastille released his sophomore album Wild World. After hearing 2-3 songs off the new album (one during the summer months and the others post album release), I knew I needed the band’s newest compilation of music. I don’t even regret buying it for $4-5 more than what I would have paid if I waited to get it on Black Friday. I couldn’t wait. It’s actually that good. So good that it’s my favorite new album of 2016. Bad Blood put Bastille’s name into the music world, but Wild World is just as good. I actually believe it’s underrated considering it hasn’t received as much hype as their debut album. “Send Them Off” is currently (still!) one of my favorite songs to listen to. “Good Grief” is amazing. “Warmth” is a solid jam too. I can’t say enough good things about Wild World. It’s my album of the year for sure.

11. Hayley Kiyoko. Remember when I said I saw two shows in one night in early November? Yes, one of them was Tegan and Sara. The other was Hayley Kiyoko. I mentioned it in my Tegan and Sara blog post but didn’t talk about it further. I found out about Hayley Kiyoko while doing some reading online last winter. The referenced song in the reading fit the story so well.  I obviously listened to it when I saw there was a song reference. I liked the song itself too. Throughout the year Hayley Kiyoko songs just kept wandering into my life here and there. I liked and downloaded every single one I listened to. The music is traditional pop but the themes are a little different. I’ll have to do a full blog post on Hayley some day and explain it further, but you know what I mean if you’ve heard her stuff. The fact that she’s not a mainstream artist despite the traditional pop sound makes her more appealing to me as well.

12. ARIZONA. I first heard ARIZONA last winter. It was a song called “Where I Want to Be”. It popped up on a twitter account I follow. I loved the song and it was a perfect fit for my workout playlist (I workout a lot if you couldn’t tell by how many times I’ve mentioned my workout playlist). Several times throughout the year I checked ARIZONA’s Spotify page for new music because of how much I liked “Where I Want to Be”. That lead to liking one or two more ARIZONA. Then the night I saw Tegan and Sara and Hayley Kiyoko in one night I was in for a surprise. My friend and I walked into the Hayley Kiyoko show shortly before it started. We got some drinks and the first band came on. While the band played their first song, I said to my friend that I liked the music but wasn’t a fan of the song’s melody. It reminded me of some electronic artists that I listened to. Then the second song started. I knew what song they were playing. I asked my friend who the opener was as I tried to remember what band played that song. Then it hit me. ARIZONA! I looked it up to double check. I was right and instantly stoked. I didn’t pay attention to who Hayley’s opener was, but it ended up being a band I liked. That moment was another reason for how epic that evening was.

13. Arctic Monkeys. It’s a shame I never heard of the Arctic Monkeys until 2013. It’s also I a shame that I didn’t appreciate them enough until 2016. I totally fell in love with them this year and began listening to more of their music. Hence writing a blog post about them just for the sake of writing about them. I’m also dying to see them live. So hey guys if you see this, please put out another record and tour again soon! Thanks! Cheers!

14. “Collide” by EVVY. This was another song of last winter. I really got into it during my trip to Baltimore/DC at the end of January/beginning of February. I took that trip because I worked at a Muse concert at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. It was the first music event I ever worked. I didn’t know what to expect for the show or for the rest of the year as far as my life choices were going. The song was calming and positive at the time. During my drive to my cousin’s apartment the night before the concert, to work the show the next day, and back to my cousin’s apartment after the concert, I listened to the song. A multitude of thoughts and feelings went through me during those drives. I was nervous, yet confident and then relieved, yet overjoyed. I reflected on my whole experience while listening to the song on the way home and knew that my choice to go after music was the right one.

15. “Capsize” by FRENSHIP. “Capsize” is another song I added to my workout playlist and my iPod in general after I heard it on my favorite soccer player’s monthly playlists. A large handful of my workout songs are electronic and this one was no exception. It also became the song that reminds me of the first multi-day festival I worked because I played it a lot at the time (it was Firefly, in case you were wondering). In fact, I introduced the song to a friend I made during the festival who is a huge electronic fan. She didn’t know the song at the time, but it apparently blew up afterwards. It ended up being a song I played throughout the summer months while driving, relaxing, and of course working out.

16. “Whole Heart” by Gryffin. The first time I heard this song was after a trip I took to see my favorite NWSL team in their first home playoff match. The team won the match and earned a spot in the Championship game. The week after the win, the club posted a “Thank You” video to the fans and this song played in the background along with highlights and video clips from the season. It made me amped for the final even though the song is a much slower electronic song than the norm. Then in another depressing 2016 moment for fans of the team I followed for 4 years (myself included), the opposing team scored a game tying goal in the final minute of stoppage time during the championship match. They opposing team went on to win in penalty kicks. I was heartbroken for the team. I hadn’t been as heartbroken over a sporting event since 2011. I didn’t even care as much when the USWNT got knocked out in the Olympic quarterfinal almost two months earlier (another bummer 2016 moment and I was working a festival at the time). It was a devastating blow. Listening to “Whole Heart” after the loss made me feel a tremendous amount of sadness because the song describes giving your whole heart to something, which the team did and came up short. I felt similar listening to this song after the 2016 Presidential Election especially with the hate that ensued post-results. With time, the song no longer feels as sad as it did in those moments and it still reminds me of the positive thoughts I had when I first heard it.

17. “home” by morgxn. Addicting. That’s the word that first comes to mind to describe this song. I heard it on Spotify in November and it’s been one of my favorites to listen to ever since. It’ll probably be one of my faves going into 2017 as well.

18. Sigala. At the same time I added “Capsize” to my music rotation, I added the song “Sweet Lovin'” by Sigala as well. It’s another song that I listened to on my way to Firefly. Sigala, in general, became part of a joke between me and a friend I met during the festival because she couldn’t pronounce the artist’s name correctly (it’s pronounced Sig-AH-lah not Sig-ah-LAH (stress on the second syllable) in case you were wondering). Sigala was the only artist she wanted to see perform during the festival since our schedules didn’t really allow for more than one performance each. She was able to attend Sigala’s set and I happened to catch “Sweet Lovin'” live too during the only time we both spent in the festival (I chose to see Florence and the Machine who played before Sigala though. Well worth it.). I would have just put the song “Sweet Lovin'” by Sigala on here, but that wasn’t the only Sigala song I got into this year. “Give Me Your Love” was another jam from the fall. It was the only Sigala song I heard since “Sweet Lovin'” that had the same kind of energy.

19. “Fever” by Roosevelt. I heard this song on the “Discover Weekly” Playlist on Spotify in mid-September. I liked it immediately upon hearing it. It reminded me of a nickname of a soccer player I like and got me pumped to attend that NWSL Playoff game that I mentioned before. It was my go-to song for several weeks in September and October.

20. “Starving” by Hailee Steinfeld ft. Zedd. I’m embarrassed this song is on my list, but it was a 2016 fave so I had to include it. It’s definitely been my biggest guilty pleasure song of the year even though I’ve only known it for the past few months. I can also do a mean cover of it on guitar. The Zedd version is by far better than the original. It adds electronic flare and more energy to an otherwise soft yet peppy love song.

21. “This Girl (Kungs vs. Cookin’ on 3 Burners) by Kungs & Cookin’ on 3 Burners. Last but not least, “This Girl”. My cousin played this song for me in late September on my trip to the soccer match. I stopped to visit Hudson for a day first. At dinner that day, my cousin played me this song. It was so familiar to me, but I couldn’t figure out where I heard it. It took me 20-30 minutes before I realized I heard it on an instagram video and that it was the song stuck in my head a few weeks prior. It’s such an interesting song, but yet so so good. When I returned home from the trip, I immediately added the song to my workout playlist and it has been a mainstay ever since.

Bonus Music: “Hand Clap” by Fitz and the Tantrums, Mac DeMarco, “I Am A Nightmare” by Brand New, “Better Off” by Haim, “Dancing on Glass” by St. Lucia, “Roses” by The Chainsmokers ft. ROZES, “Cake By the Ocean” by DNCE (Yep, guilty pleasure #2)

So you can see from this list, 2016 wasn’t too bad if you just look at it from a music perspective. Yes I know we lost Bowie, Prince, and Leonard Cohen, but just check out all the other amazing music we did have, whether it’s on this list or not. Music is the good thing from 2016. It’s usually a good thing most years. It saved 2016, but let’s be real music saves everything.

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Coachella Band Preview: Sia

As I say almost every time I post a Coachella Band Preview, the days keep dwindling until the epic festival in the desert. At this point, less than 2 months remain until Coachella Weekend 1. This week I’m actually not previewing any band though. I’m previewing a singer who’s been active since the mid-90’s, but has only received great acclaim in the last 2 years. I’m not sure if you’d be able to recognize her if you saw her out on the streets somewhere due to her somewhat recent decision to not show her face when she performs. You may however know her from her over-sized platinum blonde wigs that cover most of her face. If that rings a bell, then yes it’s Sia and she’ll be performing at Coachella this year for the first time (sort of, but I’ll explain later).

Australian singer-songwriter, Sia Furler, known to the world as Sia, began her singing career shortly after she graduated high school in 1994 as a singer for acid jazz band, Crisp. By 1997 the band broke up and Sia released her debut solo album, OnlySee, but the album didn’t receive much success. Sia then moved to London where she performed as a background singer for the band Jamiroquai and lead vocalist for the band Zero 7. During the time she fronted Zero 7, she released her second and third solo albums entitled Hearing is Difficult (2001) and Colour the Small One (2004), respectively. The single “Breathe Me” off Colour the Small One received commercial success throughout several countries in Europe and even gained Sia some attention in America as the track was featured in the final episode of the HBO series Six Feet Under. By 2005, Sia decided to make the move to America in an effort to further her music career.

Between 2007 and 2010, Sia released three more albums. The first was a live album in 2007, Lady Croissant, which featured songs performed at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City in April 2006 while she was on tour and one studio track, “Pictures”. The following year she released her fourth studio album, Some People Have REAL Problems and in 2010 released her fifth album, We Are Born. Both albums had a few successful singles that were charted in a few European countries and Australia. We Are Born even won the artist two ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Association) Awards in 2010. After touring in North America, Europe, and Australia to promote We Are Born, Sia decided to retire from her career as a recording artist and focus on becoming a pop songwriter. It was at that point that the unexpected happened.

Sia wrote a song for recording artist Alicia Keys. However, the song was sent to French DJ and EDM artist David Guetta. David Guetta ended up using the song with Sia’s original demo vocals without her approval and the song, called “Titanium”, became a worldwide mainstream success. Despite the popularity of the song, Sia wasn’t pleased since she had recently retired and wanted to focus on songwriting. She did co-write songs from 2011-2013 for many artists like Beyonce, Flo Rida, and Rihanna. In a similar situation to the one with David Guetta, Flo Rida used Sia’s vocals on the song “Wild Ones”.

In 2013, Sia came out of retirement, so to speak, and released the single “Elastic Heart” featuring The Weeknd and Diplo as a song on The Hunger Games: Catching Fire soundtrack. In July 2014, she released her sixth album, 1000 Forms of Fear, which she intended to be the last album she needed to release in order to release her from her record deal, but the album became her most successful to date. It debuted in the top spot on the Billboard Top 200 and sold 52,000 copies in the first week. It reached the top ten on numerous European charts and number 1 in Australia. Along with “Elastic Heart”, which she released as a solo version on the album and as a single, the track “Chandelier” received high praise worldwide. Sia even received four Grammy nominations in 2015 for “Chandelier”, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Pop Solo Performance, and Best Music Video. After the Grammys last year, Sia announced she had completed a follow up album to 1000 Forms of Fear because of her success.

Sia’s seventh album This Is Acting was released January 29, 2016. Her first single from the album, “Alive”, which she co-wrote with Adele, debuted prior to the album release in September 2015. In the following months leading up to the album debut, she also released several other singles, “Bird Set Free”, “One Million Bullets”, “Cheap Thrills”, “Reaper”, and “Unstoppable”. I’m not sure if her latest album will achieve the same success as her prior release, but with the quality of the newest album, it may come close.

Sia’s music can be considered pop, indie pop, and electropop, but her vocals incorporate elements of hip-hop, funk, and soul. I feel like her most recent work (1000 Forms of Fear and This Is Acting) exhibits more power in her vocals than in past records as well, especially in the songs “Alive”, “Chandelier”, “Unstoppable”, and “Eye of the Needle”. If you listen to We Are Born the last album before her “retirement”, it has a much more indie pop vibe. Some People Have REAL Problems is more pop with elements of soul included and Colour the Small One is very pop as well. Healing is Difficult has a hip-hop style and almost reminds me of 90’s hip-hop/R&B girl group, TLC. It’s evident that throughout the years of her career Sia’s style has fluctuated, but it seems that she’s finally found her niche with her power pop vocals and pop/indie pop sound.

I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t heard of Sia before she was featured on “Titanium” and released her latest two albums. I definitely heard of her throughout the 00’s, but never listened to her music because it didn’t fit with what I was listening to at the time and also because she wasn’t a “big deal” musically. Even within the last two years, I didn’t listen to her music. It’s only been during the last few weeks or so that I really started getting to know this talented artist. I added the song “Elastic Heart” to my Spotify playlist of recent music finds after seeing it on my favorite soccer player’s monthly music playlist and liking the song after listening to it a few times. It was recent single “Cheap Thrills”, which again was featured on that player’s monthly playlist, that hooked me on Sia though. I just purchased her latest album on Friday and have been listening to it since. It’s good. She’s good. I may just have to purchased 1000 Forms of Fear as well, except, I definitely want it on vinyl.

As I mentioned before, it will sort of be Sia’s first time performing at Coachella this spring. She appeared during David Guetta’s set in 2012 to perform “Titanium”, but has not ever done a solo set at the annual event. Sia’s Coachella appearance will actually be her first live set in five years, so it should attract a huge audience. Not to mention in the last five years Sia’s popularity has sky rocketed. Sia plays Sunday at Coachella. If I had to make a guess, even though set times won’t be released for weeks, I’ll say she probably plays the main stage before Calvin Harris closes out the weekend. You’re most likely not gonna want to miss her performance, so to get you ready:

  1. Chandelier
  2. Elastic Heart
  3. Cheap Thrills
  4. Alive
  5. Breathe Me
  6. Big Girls Cry
  7. Unstoppable
  8. Clap Your Hands
  9. Bird Set Free
  10. Fire Meets Gasoline
  11. Eye of the Needle