electronica

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

 

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Flume

This weekend I’m volunteering at the Sweetlife Music Festival in Columbia, MD, which is right outside of the Baltimore/Washington, D.C. area. The festival is sponsored by the organic health food chain sweetgreen and focuses on both music and food under the belief of combining passion with purpose. I attended the festival 2 years ago when Foster the People and Lana Del Rey headlined. It was a blast despite the constant rain drizzle for most of the day and the monsoon that happened as Foster the People played “Coming of Age”. As a perk of volunteering, I get to attend the festival for free when I’m not working my shift. In my opinion, the lineup isn’t as good as it was in 2014. At the time I applied to volunteer, I only listened to two of the artists on a normal basis. That changed a few weeks ago. After listening to some Spotify playlists, I discovered a new tune by an Australian DJ who also happened to play Coachella this year. So yes, I probably could’ve done a Coachella Band Preview on this guy. I discovered him around the time the festival was happening though, so it was too late by then. Luckily he’s playing Sweetlife this weekend. Hopefully I’ll be able to catch his set because he seems to be all the rage this summer.

Flume, aka Harley Edward Streten, out of Sydney, Australia, first came onto the electronic scene in 2011 after he won a music competition managed by Australian record company, Future Classic. Upon winning, he signed a record deal and released his debut self-titled album on November 9, 2012 in Australia. The album reached the number one spot on the ARIA (Australia Recording Industry Association) Albums Chart. The American release of the album happened in February of 2013. That same year he headlined his first tour in Australia and played SXSW (South by Southwest) in Austin, Texas. He was named one of Fuse TV’s 30 “Must-See Acts” at the annual Texas music and film festival. 2013 also brought the DJ 4 wins at the ARIA Music Awards in the categories of Best Male Artist, Breakthrough Artist – Release, Best Dance Release, and Producer of the Year. In 2014, Flume toured internationally which included some stops on the festival circuit at Coachella and Lollapalooza. This year, after playing Coachella for the second time, Flume has the release of his sophomore album planned for May 27th. He also recently announced a World Tour which kicks off in New Zealand in July. The tour consists of stops in North America, Europe, and Australia. Tickets for the North American leg went on sale today and many dates already seemed to be sold out. It’s a hot ticket this summer for sure.

As an electronic music producer, Flume’s music fits the EDM spectrum. It’s primarily electronica, but it does have a hip hop influence. There’s tons of focus on beats in his songs. It also has this relaxed, chill feel to it so that despite the beats his tracks are much more toned down than upbeat dance/club/house music.

Like I said, I only started listening to a few of his songs a couple weeks ago, which was too late for a preview for Coachella. Apparently though, his Coachella set was incredible. If the ticket sales for this upcoming tour are any indication, he’s a must see artist right now. Hopefully my shift doesn’t overlap with his set so I can catch what might be one of the best sets of the festival. Crossing my fingers right now. If you feel like checking him out, here are a few songs you should listen to:

  1. Sleepless
  2. Holdin’ On
  3. Say It (feat. Tove Lo)
  4. Never Be Like You (feat. Kai)
  5. Drop the Game
  6. Insane
  7. This Song Is Not About A Girl

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