festival season

Coachella Band Preview: Sir Sly

I don’t know about you, but winter is really getting to me. I’m sick of the snow, the ice, and the freezing cold. April needs to get here stat. Thankfully we’ve reached the 2 month Coachella countdown this week. That means it’s time to crank up the jams on another band playing the festival this year, Sir Sly.

Los Angeles based indie pop band Sir Sly formed in 2012. At one point no one knew anything about them when they reached number one on Hype Machine, a website music database that ranks the latest and greatest tunes from music blogs. They came out of nowhere with their debut single, “Ghost.” Shortly after, they revealed themselves. The group is comprised of Landon Jacobs, Jason Suwito, and Hayden Coplen. Their first album, You Haunt Me, was released in September 2014. A few songs from the album were featured in video games and ads, giving their music some exposure.

After the release and touring from their debut ceased, life happened for guitarist and vocalist, Landon Jacobs. He went through a divorce and his mother passed away from brain cancer. It inspired Sir Sly’s second album, Don’t You Worry, Honey, which was released on June 30, 2017. The music on the album doesn’t sound devastating though. The album is about being able to experience joy through pain. The lyrics focus on some serious stuff while the fun-sounding music makes it bearable. One of the most successful songs from the album, “High”, was featured on the soundtrack to Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why.

Sir Sly is described as an indie pop/rock band, but their music also has influence from other genres like electronic and psychedelic music. They kind of sound like Tame Impala meets Local Natives meets The Neighbourhood. Their music isn’t extremely upbeat, but very vibe-y and super chill.

I first heard of Sir Sly over the summer. My friend got into them and told me about the group because she liked their name. She thought it was a pun on the word “seriously”. The group actually came up with the name because it sounded cool and they didn’t want to take themselves too seriously. Kind of ironic eh? I listened to whatever song she sent me at the time and thought they sounded pretty good. I then realized that they were on the 13 Reasons Why soundtrack, which I had watched in June. I definitely liked the song “High.” Since then I feel like I’ve seen this band pop up more and more. They were booked for a summer concert around where I live that never ended up happening and their music constantly appears on Spotify playlists. Since my introduction to them, I’ve been slowly getting into their music because of this. Every once in a while I’ll get into a new Sir Sly song, but not several songs at once. It’s a slow process. Sometimes listening to music happens that way, but before you know it you realize you know almost all of a band or artist’s songs.

Sir Sly plays on Saturday at Coachella. They’re not billed very highly so I’d expect them to play in the early to late afternoon hours. They’re definitely a group to check out if you’re at the festival then and don’t have any one else you need to see. I would most certainly check them out if I was going and available, even though at this point I know about 3 or 4 of their songs. It’s bands like Sir Sly that will be the ones that impress you the most at Coachella though. You go in only knowing a song or two and come out wanting to listen to more. Here’s a couple songs just to give you a taste of this band:

  1. High
  2. Astronaut
  3. &Run
  4. Ghost
  5. Gold
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Coachella 2018 Lineup Release

Not 48 hours into the new year and the Coachella 2018 lineup drops. Last night at 4:15 PT Coachella released their lineup on social media and as always people have opinions, me included. Since last year I expected the 2018 lineup to be the best since 2014. If you know me, you know that I believe 2014 had the best lineup to date and every year after has  been incomparable. 2018 had so much potential. There were so many bands who released new music in 2017 that did not play the festival plus a handful of other greats expected to release new music this year. But when rumors spread just before Christmas about the headliners, I knew this year wasn’t going to meet my expectations.

Going into 2018 everyone knew Beyoncé was supposed to headline. She was supposed to headline last year but dropped out shortly after the announcement of her twin pregnancy paving the way for Lady Gaga to take her spot. The biggest question was who would accompany her on top of the poster. On December 20th, Consequence of Sound reported that Eminem and The Weeknd were slated to join Beyoncé as the 2018 headliners, much to my dismay. Here’s why. The Weeknd headlined Coachella in 2015. Was he supposed to be a headliner? No. However he played in the headliner spot. Jack White, the headliner for that night, took an early spot for whatever the case may be leaving The Weeknd to close out the night.

In my opinion Eminem is a pretty cool choice for a headliner. He fits that formerly popular/still popular angle. He’s a rapper and for the past few years Coachella has plugged that genre (or R&B) into one of their headlining spots. Plus he just released a new album. Here’s the issue: Beyoncé already filled that genre spot this year. I mean come on! The entire headlining lineup is rap/R&B. This is the first time in the history of the festival that a rock band isn’t headlining. Disappointing.

In fact, looking at the lineup, rap/hip-hop/R&B has taken over the festival this year. I think Louis Tomlinson’s (of One Direction fame) reaction on Twitter summarizes my feelings exactly. He stated, “Just seen the Coachella lineup …. Where the fuck are all the bands!? It’s a festival!?” Yes Louis, you’re right. Where are all the bands?! All I see are rappers, R&B singers, or electronic DJ’s. As I went through the lineup last night making a list of who I would see for my annual Coachella preview, there were names lacking for each day and more “possible” acts to see than definites. For Friday, I only listed 4 acts. Four. It’s a headshaker, for sure, given that this year had some high expectations. Anyway, let’s get down to this lineup analysis.

The Headliners: The Weeknd, Beyoncé, Eminem

I already summarized my thoughts on all these acts above. So re-read that.

The Other Highly Billed Performers: SZA, Kygo, Jamiroquai, St. Vincent, the War on Drugs, Vince Staples, Haim, Tyler the Creator, David Byrne, alt-J, Post Malone, Fleet Foxes, Odesza, Portugal. The Man, Migos, A Perfect Circle, Cardi B, Miguel, Soulwax, Jean-Michel Jarre, Daniel Caesar, Kali Uchis, Los Ángeles Azueles, Deorro, Chromeo, Chic feat. Nile Rodgers, BØRNS, Louis the Child, Angel Olsen, Jungle, blackbear, MØ, King Krule, Illenium, Kamasi Washington, French Montana, 6lack, Vance Joy, Russ, LANY

As always, there’s a few names in this group that I’m pretty excited about. If I were attending this year, I’d definitely be hitting up Kygo, St. Vincent, Haim, alt-J, Fleet Foxes, Odesza, Portugal. The Man, BØRNS, Illenium, and LANY. There’s a few that I’d definitely check out here too if there were no overlaps like David Byrne, Post Malone, Chromeo, Jungle, MØ, and Vance Joy. I’m mostly excited about Haim and alt-J. Even though I’ve seen both live before, they’re fantastic and two of my favorite bands. Odesza is an incredible electronic act and I can attest from seeing them live last month. I’ve seen BØRNS live before as well and it was so enjoyable. After working St. Vincent in November and listening to her VIP Q&A, I’ve gained a new respect for Annie Clark and her music. I was able to stay for half of her show but would love to see her again. The others I’ve never seen live.

As I said in my 2017 music recap blog post, I would be reviewing Portugal. The Man soon. It might now be even sooner than I thought. I’ve been stoked on their latest album since buying it on vinyl in NYC and I’d love to see them live especially since knowing about them since college. Since getting into electronic music, I’ve always been partial to tropical house, making Kygo an artist I would love to check out. I also got into Illenium’s latest album for a short time two months ago making him another electronic act I’d want to see. I’ve listened to LANY a few times over the past few years so they’re a group I’d love to see too. If you’re looking for the most indie band at Coachella this year, I’d have to say that would be Fleet Foxes. I’ve liked them for a while now and would definitely want to see them live.

As for the others that I’d like to check out, I’ve seen Jungle and Vance Joy before. Both played in 2015 when I attended and I made it to both sets. I even saw Vance Joy at Panorama last summer. They’re always a solid set. I was super hyped about Jungle in 2015, but this time around they’re not a definite for me. They’ve got new music out, which I plan on checking out soon They just didn’t make a huge impact on me last time. I’ve casually listened to Chromeo and MØ so I would casually see them. Post Malone is burning up right now. I’m not into rap, but Post Malone has a song that is more indie than rap that I enjoy. I think I’m solely interested in seeing this dude play live because of the hype surrounding him right now. David Byrne is the most intriguing to me. Honestly I had no idea who he was until I did a little research. After I found out, it felt like I failed at music so excuse me for that one. As the lead singer and guitarist of the Talking Heads, I would love to hear his set. He’s got a solo career going, but you know he’ll be playing some Talking Heads covers. Who knows maybe there’s a reunion in store?! I mean who doesn’t like the Talking Heads?!

The Rest: Maceo Plex, Alan Walker, the Neighbourhood, Alison Wonderland, Kelela, REZZ, Bleachers, Black Coffee, SuperDuperKyle, Justin Martin, Belly, TroyBoi, Dreams, Perfume Genius, PVRIS, Moses Sumney, LÉON, Greta Van Fleet, Tank and the Bangas, Cash Cash, Whethan, Skip Marley, Elohim, Detroit Love (Carl Craig, Kyle Hall, Moodymann), Benjamin Clementine, Carpenter Brat, the Blaze, Knox Fortune, MHD, Slow Magic, Avalon Emerson, Fazerdaze, Moon Boots, HITO, Helado Negro, the Buttertones, the Regrettes, Boogarins, the Marias, Señor Kino, Tash Sultana, BROCKHAMPTON, Marian Hill, Alina Baraz, First Aid Kit, Snakehips, Highly Suspect, Wizkid, Jorja Smith, Alvvays, the Black Madonna, Tom Misch, Django Django, X Japan, Benjamin Booker, Flatbush Zombies, Ekali, Yaeji, Party Favor, Big Thief, Jason Bentley, Oh Sees, Sigrid, Busy P, the Bronx, AC Slater, Sudan Archives, Jackmaster, Otoboke Beaver, Chloe x Halle, Sir Sly, Hundred Waters, Pachanga Boys, Bedouin, Cherry Glazerr, Mild High Club, Priests, Ron Gallo, Declan McKenna, Bane’s World, KITTENS, the Drums, Aminé, Jessie Ware, Jamie Jones, Kamaiyah, San Holo, FIDLAR, DeJ Loaf, Petit Biscuit, Ibeyi, LP, Motor City Drum Ensemble, Princess Nokia, AURORA, Noname, Jacob Banks, Chris Liebing, Jidenna Hayley Kiyoko, Barclay Crenshaw, LION BABE, Giraffage, Talaboman, THEY., Cuco, Joseph Capriati, Hannah Wants, Nothing But Thieves, John Maus, Kölsch, Japanese Breakfast, MAGIC GIANT, Omar-S, Michael Mayer, Westside Gunn + Conway, Buscabulla, Peggy Gou, Snail Mail, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, B Boys, the Delirians

My favorite name that showed up on the Coachella lineup this year is in this group, Hayley Kiyoko. As you know, I saw her last year in what I consider to be one of the most epic nights in music for me, seeing 2 shows in one night. One of those was Hayley Kiyoko and she played in a small venue in Philadelphia. I was beyond excited to see her name on the poster and so stoked that she’s playing Coachella this year in time with releasing her debut album. Another band that’s on my must see list is in this group too, The Neighbourhood. I’ve been digging The Neighbourhood since 2013 and I’ve never seen them live. They’re a must-see for sure. There’s a few on this list that I’d want to catch if I had time too. Bleachers, Tash Sultana, Sir Sly, Declan McKenna, and Marian Hill are the big ones among that bunch.

As a whole I feel like this is the smallest group of bands I’ve been interested in since starting my Coachella previews in 2015. I had such high hopes for this year’s festival and it all came crashing down last night. Some names I would have liked to see on this year’s lineup include Arctic Monkeys (as a headliner or part of that second line of acts), Vampire Weekend, MGMT, Foster the People, Lana Del Rey, Cold War Kids, Halsey, Phoenix, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, ARIZONA, the 1975, Sigala, Cigarettes After Sex, Passion Pit, The Kooks, AWOLNATION, and either The Killers, Arcade Fire, or Kings of Leon as a headliner (most likely The Killers though). There’s probably more bands as well, but those are a few off the top of my head.

I started doing a bit of research on this year’s lineup compared to my favored 2014 lineup. I plan on editing this post later today or tomorrow with my findings. Until then, you should start listening to some bands on this lineup. There’s plenty I know nothing about and a few that I do. Maybe you’re stoked on this lineup. Maybe you’re not. The fact is that Coachella is in 3 months and the prep officially began yesterday. One thing is certain though, regardless of who is on the lineup and the amount of complaining done, people are still gonna go to Coachella. It’s the festival to be at. It’s Coachella. You’re bound to have a great time because although I strongly believe music festivals should be about the music, Coachella is more than music. It’s art. It’s atmosphere. It’s good food. It’s being with people you care about and have a good time with. It’s hot days and cool nights. It’s palm trees, and mountains, and desert. It’s fashion. It’s celebrities. It’s social media. It’s sponsors. It’s ferris wheels and hip merch. Mostly it’s the best kind of positivity and vibes you’ll ever experience. So Coachella 2018, I’m ready for you! Here’s to hoping I can be part of the magic again.

(EDIT: I spent the last hour or more doing some research and the numbers I came up with are unreal. I analyzed the 2014 Coachella lineup vs. the 2018 Coachella lineup. I looked at the first 3 lines of each poster plus the headliners and I grouped performers in 4 categories, Rap/R&B, Electronic, Pop, Rock/Indie. In 2014, out of the 165 acts, there were 71 featured on the first 3 lines of the poster including the headliners. Out of those 71, 14% were Rap/R&B, 28% were Electronic, 6% were Pop, and 37% were Rock/Indie. In 2018, out of 165 acts, there are 69 featured on the first 3 lines of the poster including the headliners. Out of those 69, 33% are Rap/R&B, 25% are Electronic, 9% are Pop, and 33% are Rock/Indie. Compared to 2014, the number of Rap/R&B acts have more than doubled. Is Rap/R&B back on the rise and I didn’t know about it? If you asked me, I would tell you no. So what’s the deal this year? What’s even more shocking is that I also compared the number of Bands to Artists for each year. I defined “Band” as a group or single performer with a backing band that plays classic instruments (guitar, drums, bass, keyboards, etc. as opposed to electronic equipment). Artists included rappers, R&B singers, electronic DJ’s, and pop singers. In 2014, out of 71 acts, 55% were Bands and 45% were Artists. In 2018, out of 69 acts, 30% are Bands and 68% are artists. To me those numbers, are staggering. Louis Tomlinson noticed it and he’s right. The bands have decreased this year in favor of the artists. So seriously Coachella, WHERE ARE THE BANDS?! And why are you straying from what made you amazing in the first place? #Coachella2018thefestivalthatcouldhavebeen)

Local Natives

It’s crazy to think, but it’s been almost a month since my last blog post and yet it honestly doesn’t feel like it was that long ago. I guess that’s what happens when you spend the fastest two weeks in the Coachella Valley working at your favorite and one of the most well-known music festivals in the world.

So yeah, I did it. I worked Coachella. It was amazing, special, wild, epic, unreal, and all sorts of other positive adjectives that you can think of. It was mostly indescribable though. I knew what to expect, but at the same time I didn’t at all. I can say though that experiencing Coachella in an entirely different way made me appreciate it so much more because it’s a first class, well-run music festival. I’m not gonna go into deep detail about my trip here. I will say that out of the bands I previewed I was able to see Kungs, Grouplove, Lorde, and Lady Gaga. If you wanna know more about my experience though, just ask.

Another thing I will mention is that I had a realization while at the festival during Saturday of Weekend 1. I definitely should have previewed Local Natives in the build-up to Coachella 2017. I was able to catch part of their set that Saturday before my shift started and I knew about 4 of the 5 songs I heard. I didn’t realize how many Local Natives songs I knew, but apparently I know a lot. I know enough that I feel like I need to go to one of their shows sometime. So I figured it was better late than never to write about them, so here goes…

Local Natives is an indie rock band from Los Angeles, CA. Members Kelcey Ayer, Ryan Hahn, and Taylor Rice all met while in high school together in neighboring Orange County, but it was after graduating college from UCLA that the group really started to focus on music. Along with Matt Frazier and former member Andy Hamm (replaced by Nik Ewing in 2012), the group moved into a house together in the Silver Lake section of Los Angeles and began working on their first record, Gorilla Manor. The album was released in November 2009 in the UK and then in the U.S. in February 2010.

The band began generating some hype before the album’s release though. They played SXSW in 2009 which garnered attention from music critics. They received comparisons to well known indie bands, Arcade Fire, Fleet Foxes, and Vampire Weekend, making them a new notable act on the indie scene.

On January 29, 2013 the band released their second album, Hummingbird. The album was produced by guitarist Aaron Dessner of The National and featured a darker lyrical turn due to life events, such as the departure of Andy Hamm and the death of Kelcey Ayer’s mother, that had influenced the band’s writing process. The album also received generally positive reviews.

Last year the band released their third and most recent album, Sunlit Youth, in September. The first single for the album, “Past Lives”, was released a few months before the album drop. The album, like it’s predecessor, received similarly favorable reviews.

Local Natives is your standard indie rock band. There’s no other genre that their music fits into. I can see why they were initially compared to the likes of those other well-known indie bands. Out of the three I mentioned above, their music sounds most similar to a combination of Arcade Fire and Fleet Foxes. I think Vampire Weekend has more of an indie pop feel to their songs that isn’t heard as much with Local Natives. Another reassuring fact about Local Natives’ music is that the sound hasn’t changed much through three albums. Maybe the lyrical content has developed and changed, but you’re still getting that familiar Gorilla Manor sound on Sunlit Youth.

I first heard of Local Natives in the prime of my indie/hipster music transition phase in the spring of 2011. From then on, every so often I would add a new Local Natives song to my iTunes and playlist rotation. While on my first trip to California in 2013, I made it a point to go to Amoeba Music. Amoeba is the world’s largest independent record store. They have three locations in California, one in Berkeley (the original), one in San Francisco, and one in Hollywood, which is the one I went to. I, of course, wanted to get something at Amoeba, but traveling by plane made it difficult to purchase any vinyl so I opted for a CD. The CD I purchased was Hummingbird. Despite all this evidence, it never occurred to me that Local Natives should be a must-see for me at Coachella this year and a must among the list of bands I previewed. I didn’t even realize it after catching the end of their set at Lollapalooza last summer and realizing I knew every song I heard them play. I do now though and I won’t disregard them anymore. I plan on going to one of their shows next time they tour near me. They crushed it at Coachella and I don’t want to miss out anymore.

If you’re a big indie music follower and you don’t know of Local Natives, it’s time you do. They’re a great band to listen to if you’re just relaxing on quiet evening or if you’re driving on a road trip. It’s time to make these guys known or recognized whatever the case may be. Here’s a few songs you should check out.

  1. Airplanes
  2. Who Knows Who Cares
  3. Ceilings
  4. Heavy Feet
  5. Mt. Washington
  6. Past Lives
  7. Wide Eyes
  8. Dark Days
  9. We Come Back
  10. Sun Hands

Coachella Band Preview: Oh Wonder

Coachella begins in 2 weeks! I hope you’ve been doing some serious music listening. If you haven’t, I’m disappointed in you. Even if you’re one of those people who doesn’t like to listen to the music before they attend the show, I’m still disappointed in you because, I mean, come on. How can you not prep even just a little?! This is one of the biggest music festivals out there. For those of you who have been prepping, here’s another band you should be listening to.

Oh Wonder is a band who began creating music together in September 2014. The band is from London and comprised of keyboardist/vocalist Josephine Vander Gucht and guitarist/vocalist Anthony West. Oh Wonder’s claim to fame comes from the release of their DIY debut album. Beginning in September 2014, the alt-pop duo began releasing one song per month via SoundCloud for one year. The year culminated in the release of their debut album which also included two unreleased songs.

The band’s song release process attracted the attention of music fans, blogs, and record labels. They eventually signed with Republic Records. Upon the release of their self-titled debut album in September 2015, the band scheduled shows in London, Paris, New York, and Los Angeles, all of which were sold out. The band has toured internationally since that time and also played a handful of North American music festivals last summer. They made stops at Bonnaroo, Firefly, WayHome (Canada), Lollapalooza, and Live Out (Mexico).

Their music is an alternative/indie pop style, but softer and more mellow than other music I would classify as indie pop. Vander Gucht and West also harmonize magnificently on every track. Their vocals create such soothing melodies that are often times catchy as well. Once you get one of their songs in your head, it’s difficult to get it out.

I heard of Oh Wonder from a music recommendation tumblr post last fall. I checked them out a few days after and decided to download one of their songs. It seemed like after listening to them for the first time, more of their music would pop up on random Spotify playlists I would listen to. I also routinely listened to the song I downloaded. It only took a few times of listening before I would sing-a-long with the music. Their music isn’t the kind of indie pop you’d want to hear to get you hyped up for something. It’s the kind that you’d put on during a sunny afternoon drive or road trip.

That being said, don’t expect a fun, upbeat indie pop style set from them at Coachella. They’re not Grouplove or Matt & Kim. Their music is more relaxed and their set will be too. They play Friday and my guess is that their set will be earlier in the day. They’re a perfect band to see at the festival because I doubt their set time will overlap with other must-see acts. Here’s a few songs you should listen to before their Coachella performance:

  1. Drive
  2. Technicolor Beat
  3. Lose It
  4. All We Do
  5. Without You
  6. Livewire

(But truly, if you just check out their debut self-titled album, you should be fine.)