electro-pop

A R I Z O N A the band, not the state

It’s been two weeks since I last posted, but to be fair I had a show to work and I was sidelined with a sprained ankle (a “sprankle” if you will). I was also out of ideas for new topics. I want to be excited about everything I write here so I didn’t want to just pick something and give you a lackluster effort. The end of last week finally gave me a topic though. I saw that a band I’ve been following for the last year or so released their debut album on May 19th.

A R I Z O N A is an alternative electro-pop band from Glen Rock, New Jersey (no, not Arizona). The band is comprised of members Zach Hannah (vocals), Nathan Esquite (guitar), and David Labuguen (keyboard). The trio all attended college in Boston and initially went their separate ways before reuniting in their home state to form A R I Z O N A. The band’s name stems from a hat Dave was wearing during a random Facetime call with his bandmates.

A R I Z O N A started releasing music on streaming platforms in 2015. They’ve periodically released singles from then on. Their major breakthrough came when German electronic DJ Robin Schulz released a remix of their song “I Was Wrong” last summer. Originally the group thought of releasing an EP first, but then they realized they had enough songs to put out a full length album. Their debut album, Gallery, was released a few days ago. It contains all the music they’ve released so far plus a few new jams. The group is also playing the festival circuit this summer and embarking on their first headlining tour.

Back in November, on the night I saw Tegan and Sara, my friend and I bought tickets to the Hayley Kiyoko show that was happening in another room at the same venue. A R I Z O N A was the opener that night. I didn’t even realize they were the opener until I recognized the second song they played. It was a spontaneously awesome moment of the evening. I first started listening to them the previous winter when I heard the song “Where I Wanna Be” off a twitter recommendation and since that time I followed up with the group any time they released new music.

A R I Z O N A’s music style combines indie/alternative music with electronic music. When I first heard them I was slowly getting into electronic music. I liked an occasional song here and there (Let’s be honest, I still do). “Where I Wanna Be” was one of those songs. During the time I listened to that song frequently, I figured A R I Z O N A was probably the name of some DJ. I don’t think I even fully realized that the group was a band until I saw them perform live. It was good to know that a band like A R I Z O N A existed because most of the time electronic music to me was DJ’s. A R I Z O N A is a band. They have a lead singer (Zach). They have a guitarist (Nate), but they also have someone who plays the keyboard/synth elements of their songs (Dave) that gives their music its electronic feel.

I highly recommend checking these guys out if you’re into indie music, electronic music, or both. Even if you’re not, check this band out anyway because they have a pop element to their music as well. As I mentioned before, you can also catch them this summer. They’re playing a few big festivals (Gov Ball, Firefly, and Lollapalooza) and of course they’re touring all over too. Here’s a few songs that will make you fall for this band as much as I have:

  1. Where I Wanna Be
  2. I Was Wrong
  3. Electric Touch
  4. Cross My Mind
  5. Oceans Away

 

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Coachella Band Preview: Years & Years, Halsey, Cold War Kids, & The 1975

Coachella Weekend 1 is 23 days away, which means 3 more weeks! I only have 3 weeks left and so many more bands to preview. That’s why this week I’m combining 4 bands into one preview since I covered them each in depth on the blog before. They are Years & Years, Halsey, Cold War Kids, & The 1975. You’ll notice links on the names of each band to their respective blog posts for a little more background information, but for now I’m just going to give a simple breakdown/recap on each.

Years & Years is a band I started listening to near the end of summer. They’re kind of on that EDM spectrum, but can also be considered pop, indie pop, or synth pop. Since I wrote about them in the summer, the group has toured the U.S. and booked several music festivals along with Coachella this summer. They’ll also be supporting fellow Coachella act Ellie Goulding on tour this spring. As a somewhat newer band (their first full length album was just released last year), it’ll be their first time playing the Coachella festival. They play Friday.

I also started listening to Halsey around the same time I started listening to Years & Years. Halsey is a pop/electropop/indie pop singer. As I mentioned in my prior blog post on the artist, she has a comparable sound to Lorde but lyrically is comparable to Lana Del Rey. Since writing about Halsey, she released her debut album, Badlands, and like Years & Years also toured performing in venues throughout the U.S. She will perform for her first time in the Indio desert this year as well. Her set is on Saturday.

Both Cold War Kids and The 1975 are no strangers to Coachella. The 1975 played Coachella for the first time in 2014 and are making their big return this year following the release of their sophomore album, I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It. Since writing about the indie pop/indie rock band from the UK in early December 2015, they released their new album at the end of February. It debuted at the number one spot on both the UK Albums Chart and the Billboard 200 in the U.S. They play Sunday and I anticipate them drawing a decent sized crowd, especially now that they’re playing more of a headlining role compared to their last Coachella appearance. Cold War Kids on the other hand will be playing Coachella for the third time. They first played the festival in 2008, but haven’t performed there since 2011. There was actually some speculation that they might have been on last year’s lineup, but as you know that didn’t happen. Since I wrote about these alternative rock/indie rock music vets in the fall, they haven’t been up to much besides touring. However the band announced last week via instagram that lead guitarist Dann Gallucci was parting ways with the group and will be replaced by David Quon. I’m sure he’ll be in the mix when the group takes the stage on Sunday.

As you already know, I like all these acts and I recommend seeing each one’s performance at Coachella. With Sunday’s strong lineup of acts, it might be tougher to make the Cold War Kids set or The 1975 set due to conflicts, but there’s less likely to be conflicting issues with seeing Halsey and Years & Years. To make sure you’re ready to see each band/artist’s performance though, here are my top three favorite songs by each (you can check my original blog posts on these 4 for more recommendations):

Years & Years

  1. Border
  2. King
  3. Shine

Halsey

  1. New Americana
  2. Drive
  3. Hold Me Down

Cold War Kids

  1. Miracle Mile
  2. First
  3. Hang Me Up To Dry

The 1975 (** but really check out their whole second album too!**)

  1. The Sound
  2. Girls
  3. Chocolate

2016 Coachella Valley Arts and Music Festival Lineup Release

A yearly ritual right after the New Year begins for music fans is the release of the Coachella Valley Arts and Music Festival lineup. Last year I paid more attention to it than ever because, as you all know, I attended the festival last April. Again, I can’t adequately express how great of an experience Coachella is, and this is from someone who didn’t even camp out. My soul felt totally at home while listening to live music and soaking up the sun and chill vibes in the desert for 3 days last year. It’s something you have to experience to understand. Since I previewed the bands at the festival last year in the hype leading up to the main event, and the response went well, I plan on doing the same thing this year even though it might not have the same meaning for me (Yeah, I’m not attending Coachella 2016 and I’m a little bummed about it). Before looking in depth at each band, I have to give an overview of all the acts. Since the lineup was released around 9:45 p.m. ET last evening, I can finally talk about them. First up, the headliners.

The Headliners: LCD Soundsystem, Guns N’ Roses, Calvin Harris

In the days leading up to the lineup release, I actually found out that LCD Soundsystem and Guns N’ Roses would be headlining. Safe to say I anticipated a great lineup this year and I was a little jealous (mostly because of LCD Soundsystem). 80’s rock band, Guns N’ Roses, are reuniting for the first time in 20 years for this upcoming Coachella performance. They’re the old school rock band performer this year, similar to AC/DC at last year’s event. The Saturday night set should be an epic rock n’ roll event for all who attend. Another band reuniting for Coachella 2016 is LCD Soundsystem. The band, who announced their split in 2011 and played their “final show ever” at Madison Square Garden that same year, is getting back together to play Coachella for the third time. They headline on Friday night. Lastly, Scottish DJ, EDM artist, and current boyfriend of Taylor Swift, Calvin Harris is set to close out the festival on Sunday evening. As a Coachella veteran and this year’s headlining EDM act, the Calvin Harris set should be the biggest of the festival. His set in 2014 was the second largest ever in festival history. As I learned last year, EDM is a huge deal at Coachella (I mean that Kaskade set though) so you can count on Calvin Harris’s as being one for the ages.

The Other Highly Billed Performers (aka the next two lines on each day of the poster): Ellie Goulding, Sufjan Stevens, Jack Ü, M83, Underworld, The Kills, Foals, Ice Cube, Disclosure, Zedd, A$AP Rocky, CHVRCHES, Halsey, James Bay, Sia, Major Lazer, Flume, Beach House, The 1975, Rancid, Miike Snow, Of Monsters and Men, G-Eazy, Purity Ring, Rae Sremmurd, Volbeat, 2manysdjs, Lord Huron, St. Germain, Savages, Grimes, Courtney Barnett, Run the Jewels, The Arcs, RL Grime, Gary Clark Jr., Silversun Pickups, Lush, ZHU, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Matt and Kim, Chris Stapleton, Cold War Kids, Death Grips, The Chainsmokers.

Like always, the Coachella lineup consists of a variety of music styles. There’s plenty of pop, rock, indie, alternative, and electronic in this year’s group of top acts along with a mix of a few other genres as well. Ice Cube, A$AP Rocky, Death Grips, and G-Eazy make up the rap contingency, especially without a main Rap/R&B headliner this year. James Bay, Sia, Halsey, and Ellie Goulding make up the pop acts. Sufjan Stevens and Lord Huron hold the crown for indie performers this year. Then there’s indie/rock/alternative bands like CHVRCHES, Grimes, Foals, M83, The 1975, The Kills, Of Monsters & Men, Silversun Pickups, Purity Ring, Beach House, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Matt and Kim and Cold War Kids and the ever popular electronic/dance/house music with Jack Ü, Disclosure, Zedd, Miike Snow, ZHU,  RL Grime, Major Lazer, The Chainsmokers. There’s even some old school punk in the mix with Rancid.

If I was attending this year, I’d definitely want to hit up the Matt and Kim set the most. I’ve wanted to see them play for the last couple years and I passed up on the opportunity last summer. I’d also love to see CHVRCHES, M83, The 1975, Of Monsters & Men, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Cold War Kids, Halsey, Sufjan Stevens, and Major Lazer. Since I wanted to see the 1975 and Cold War Kids within the last few months, it would be cool to finally see these guys in the desert. I hyped Halsey a few months ago as being one of the hottest new up and coming performers so her set is bound to be a great one. CHVRCHES is a band I recently got more into and really enjoy, especially their latest album. I feel like M83, Of Monsters & Men, Sufjan Stevens, and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros have been quiet for a while and I’ve liked all three groups for a few years now so they’ll be worth a listen. Then there’s electronic band, Major Lazer, who recently became more well-known with their song “Lean On”. If there was time I’d also love to check out Sia, Ellie Goulding, Beach House, James Bay, The Chainsmokers, Silversun Pickups, Rancid, Grimes, and Foals. I think Sia’s performance is going to be as huge as the three main headliners. It’ll be worth it to check out her set. Rancid is such a legendary punk band too that it would be hard to pass up an opportunity to see them. The other artists I mentioned would be fun to check out as well even though I may not be as familiar with their music as the acts I first listed. In all, this group definitely makes a great selection of top-billed talent worth seeing this year.

The Rest: The Last Shadow Puppets, Joey Bada$$, DJ Mustard, BØRNS, Christine and the Queens, Snakehips, Robert DeLong, Bob Moses, Ibeyi, Marco Carola, Parov Stelar, Black Coffee, Years & Years, Nicole Moudaber & Skin, Lido, HEALTH, Mavis Staples, Sasha, Goldroom, Carla Morrison, Nic Fanciulli, The Front Bottoms, Skepta, Sam Feldt, Lemaitre, Louis the Child, Frances, George FitzGerald, DJ EZ, Gallant, HÆLOS, Låpsley, Miami Horror, SG Lewis, Sheer Mag, Mbongwana Star, Nina Las Vegas, Nora En Pure, Masha, Deerhunter, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Rhye, Bat for Lashes, The Damned, Vince Staples, Tchami, Nina Kraviz, Snails, RÜFÜS DU SOL, Lost Frequencies, Chronixx, Vanic, Justin Martin, AlunaGeorge, Mano Le Tough, Shamir, DJ Koze, BADBADNOTGOOD, Moon Taxi, SZA, Ex Hex, Mr. Carmack, SOPHIE, Protoje, Alvvays, Zella Day, Dubfire, Matthew Dear, DMA’s, Matoma, Algiers, GoGo Penguins, The Black Madonna, Cloves, Strangers You Know, Amine Edge & DANCE, Phases, The Dead Ships, Maceo Plex, Baauer, KSHMR, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, Adam Beyer & Ida Engberg, Wolf Alice, Pete Yorn, Hudson Mohawke, Kamasi Washington, Claptone, TOKiMONSTA, Melody’s Echo Chamber, Autolux, John Digweed, Thomas Jack, Anderson .Paak, Nosaj Thing, Deafheaven, Epik High, Tensnake, Alessia Cara, Crystal Fighters, The Vandals, Joywave, PRAYERS, Young Fathers, The Heavy, Tei Shi, Meg Myers, Soul Clap, Cassy, De Lux, Girlpool, Fur Coat, AC Slater

Out of the rest of the acts performing this year, only a few stand out to me. This might be bad news for me as a self-proclaimed music expert since I’ve only heard of a few of these bands. Guess I need to step up my game and learn about these bands. The few that do stand out though are BØRNS, Years & Years, Matoma, and Joywave. Over the summer I wrote about Years & Years and the release of their debut album. After selling out their fall tour, they’ll be supporting Ellie Goulding on her upcoming tour this spring, which I guess, from the looks of it, also includes a stop in the Coachella Valley for both in April. I’ve listened to BØRNS and Joywave a few times on Spotify and I’ve always enjoyed what I heard.

Lastly, I need to mention Matoma strictly for my jam of last spring, “Old Thing Back (Matoma remix)”. In fact, I used to listen to this song on repeat in my lead up to leaving for Coachella. Pretty sure I even played it for my cousin during our 2-3 hour drive to Palm Desert the day we arrived in So Cal. It sets the mood for some good vibes despite the explicit lyrics. Of course, the song was originally released as a song on The Notorious B.I.G.’s Greatest Hits Compilation in 2007. It was one of two songs unreleased previously. In late 2014-early 2015 the song regained popularity when it was released as a remix by Norwegian DJ Matoma. It’s kind of ironic that I’m writing this small bit about “Old Thing Back” today since a few days ago the song popped in my head when I realized I hadn’t listened to it in a while. Now I’m sitting here listening to it again on repeat. Matoma, you’re playing a year too late for me, but I’m sure festival-goers will be dancing their hearts out to the “Old Thing Back” remix in April.

After last year, I thought the lineup would make me super jealous that I wasn’t attending this year. It always seems like there’s a strong lineup every other year according to my tastes. 2014 was unreal in my mind and after 2015’s decent lineup, I thought 2016 would blow me away, especially after I heard LCD Soundsystem was reuniting to headline. To be honest though, it didn’t. I find it comparable to last year in a lot of regards. That means next year might be incredible. I should probably start saving up now since I vowed that the next time I go, I’m getting VIP tickets. I guess we’ll see what happens, but 2016 will no doubt be memorable for all attending despite opinions, whether good or bad, on the lineup. It was for me anyway.

I Was A King Under Your Control

Before I get started, let me just say, I’m not a fan of EDM. I know I’ve said this before. Just making you aware that the next band I’m about to talk about goes way beyond my comfort zone so to speak. I’ve been digging them recently though. It all started the other day when one of the people I follow on instagram posted a picture with the caption as lyrics to a song. Of course, my naturally curious music loving self needed to check out what the song was and who sang it. Thankfully someone posted a comment with the band name. The band was Years & Years.

Comprised of vocalist/keyboardist Olly Alexander, bassist Mikey Goldsworthy, and synth player Emre Türkmen, Years & Years hails from London, England (yep another solid British band). They were formed in 2010 and debuted their first single in 2012, “I Wish I Knew”. Since then, the group released several singles, the most successful being “King” in January of this past year. It reached number one on the UK Singles Chart in March. They released their debut album, Communion, a little over a month ago on June 22nd.

Despite being around for a few years, these guys are just now breaking onto the scene. The genre that comes to mind to describe this band is electropop. Their songs are full of synth and have that upbeat pop feel. You might even consider it house music. Their sound also has this early 90’s feel to it and reminds me of something I’d hear on the radio during my yearly trips to Williamsburg, VA in my early childhood. They’re on that EDM spectrum for sure, but not so far as to say they’re like Deadmau5, Skrillex, Kaskade or David Guetta. These guys aren’t DJs. They’re just an electronica band.

The first Years & Years song I listened to was “King”. It was their most played on Spotify. I went with that to get a feel for them. I was immediately turned off from what I heard. Electronic music isn’t my style. I didn’t vibe it. However, a few hours later as I began my workout routine and turned on my workout playlist, I started thinking about “King”. It was kind of stuck in my head, so I went for it. I added it to my playlist. It’s definitely a great workout song. Since it’s been on the playlist for the past week, I’ve heard it plenty of times. I love it now. I’ve also given their other songs a chance and surprisingly, I like them. It might just be a phase, but for the moment, I’m gonna roll with it. I recommend giving these guys a listen, especially since they’re relatively new and I have a feeling this won’t be the last you hear of them. In case you were wondering, they’re touring across the U.S. very soon with dates from the middle to the end of September. It may even be worth seeing them live. If you’re like me and you don’t really enjoy their music style, I still say give them a shot. You might be surprised at yourself, just like I was. So here’s what you need to listen to:

  1. King (so so catchy)
  2. Desire
  3. Shine
  4. Border (this was actually the song that was quoted on that insta post, which I eventually figured out after going through a bunch of their songs)
  5. Gold
  6. Ties
  7. I Want to Love

Coachella Band Preview: St. Lucia

Oh man. Do you know what day it is today? It’s officially one month until Coachella 2015 kicks off. I’ve been trying to preview one band per week that’s playing this year and that I listen to/am interested in seeing at the festival. So with four weeks remaining, time is short. This week I’ll be writing about a band playing Coachella for the second consecutive year, which is a rarity for many artists.

Jean-Philip Grobler, known to the music world as St. Lucia is relatively new to the indie music scene. He released his debut album When The Night, which was years in the making, in September 2013. Grobler, born in South Africa, started out involved in music from a young age as part of a world touring boys’ choir. He began making his own music during his preteen years. After studying music in Liverpool for three years, he moved to Brooklyn and worked for a company as a jingle writer prior to being signed by Neon Gold Records. The record company re-released his independently released self-titled mini-album in March 2012.

St. Lucia’s music uses both electronic and non-electronic instruments to create almost an experimental pop type sound. It has also been described as 80’s synth-pop. I first heard of this electro-pop artist about a year ago after I purchased tickets to attend the Sweetlife Festival in Columbia, Maryland. They were on the short list of artists to play the one day event in early May so I checked them out while I was prepping for that. I liked what I heard but wasn’t extremely stoked on St. Lucia initially. After I downloaded three songs, it took listening to my Sweetlife playlist (of songs by bands performing at the festival) on repeat to discover that I really did dig the few St. Lucia songs I had. Unfortunately due to my desire to maintain my spot for Lana Del Rey at the main stage, I wasn’t able to see St. Lucia who played on the other stage. I’m also pretty sure the set time overlapped another band I wanted to see.

Within the last year I decided to purchase When The Night on vinyl, which ended up being another Christmas gift record (along with the latest Alt-J album if you’ve been following my blog). Then when the Coachella lineup was released in early January and I saw St. Lucia was part of it, I knew I had a second chance to see this artist. To be honest, I ended up being pretty bummed after Sweetlife that I didn’t see him.

This year St. Lucia plays Sunday’s date at Coachella. Both this year and last year, Grobler’s act isn’t/wasn’t listed as a minor headliner like some of the bands I already previewed, but who knows how long that will last. Maybe the next time St. Lucia plays Coachella that will change. It’s best to check them out now when you have the chance though because I doubt he’ll play for a third consecutive time next year. I know I’m going to. I’m sure with the upbeat synth-pop tracks it’ll definitely be a fun set.

Song recommendations:

1. Closer Than This

2. All Eyes On You

3. Elevate

4. Before The Dive

5. Wait for Love

6. The Way You Remember Me