glastonbury

Coachella Band Preview: Empire of the Sun

The first weekend of Coachella is 3 weeks away. Yes three weeks is what separates us from the hot sunny Indio Desert, the greens of the Empire Polo Fields swarming with festival-goers, palm trees swaying to the cool breeze and rad tunes, epic sunsets over the mountains, and the sweet sounds of music from incredible artists entering our ears. I only have a few band previews left before the annual festival begins and time is of the essence so I better get to it.

Empire of the Sun is an electronic/alternative rock band from Sydney, Australia. The band formed in 2007 as a collaboration between Luke Steele and Nick Littlemore. Both had worked together on music for each other’s bands before forming Empire of the Sun. Those bands each performed different styles of music. Steele brought the alternative rock genre to their new band and Littlemore brought the electronic dance music. Their first album, Walking on a Dream, was released in 2008 with the first single of the same name debuting about a month before the album’s release. Both the single and album were charted in the top ten of the ARIA charts. Although their only intention was to create a studio album, they decided to do live performances in response to the album’s success. However the live shows did not include Littlemore, who decided to opt out of touring early on. By the end of 2009, the band received 7 ARIA Awards for the album including Album of the Year.

2010 was the year the band embarked on the festival circuit playing Glastonbury and Lollapalooza for the first time and by the end of the year Littlemore and Steele discussed creating a new album for the band. Production on the album began in 2011 and Littlemore stated he would go out and tour in support of this one. 2011 also involved a North American tour for the band, which included a stop at Coachella.

The duo released their second album, Ice on the Dune, in June 2013. The new album brought more touring throughout 2013 and into 2014. The band made their second stop at Coachella in 2014 and headlined the Sahara Tent. Their music was also featured in the film Dumb and Dumber To, which came out in late 2014.

The band continued to tour into 2015 while simultaneously working on their third album. Their third and latest album was just released this past October. 2016 also marked the first time that the band broke on to the Billboard charts. It was their 2008 hit “Walking on a Dream” that earned the band the number 3 spot on the Alternative Music charts after it was used in a U.S. Honda commercial in early 2016.

Their music, as I said, is a combination of alternative rock and electronic music. It can’t be described much better than that, although some may say the band fits genres like synthpop or glam rock. I feel like their sound has stayed consistent over the course of three albums so if you love the song “Walking on a Dream” or only know music from that album, you’re bound to dig some of their more recent stuff.

I discovered Empire of the Sun in 2011. There’s no significant story of how so I’m guessing it was through a recommendation from Youtube or Pandora because I listened to similar music on either channel. Of course the first song I heard was “Walking on a Dream”. Throughout the past few years I’ve heard their other stuff here and there and I’ve liked it. I’ve also heard the song “Walking on a Dream” multiple times in various circumstances throughout the same time period. It’s no surprise it’s their biggest hit. I never got into them as a band though. Nor have I been dying to see them live, but I’ll tell you why I would definitely check them out at Coachella.

Music festivals give you an opportunity to see bands live who you might like but not like enough to buy a ticket for a touring show making Coachella the perfect time for someone like me to check them out. Empire of the Sun does some pretty cool live performances too. The performances are as much of a visual art as they are a musical art. They wear elaborate costumes, have dancers or other performers, and display mesmerizing visuals often seen as part of electronic shows. They play Friday at Coachella. They’ve already headlined the Sahara Tent at the festival once before so that might happen again. As long as their set doesn’t overlap with some other great performers, it’ll definitely be a spectacle worth seeing. Here’s a few songs to know if you go:

  1. Walking on a Dream
  2. Alive
  3. High and Low
  4. We Are the People
  5. Standing on the Shore
  6. DNA
  7. Two Vines
  8. Concert Pitch
  9. To Her Door
  10. Friends

 

There’s This Tune I Found That Makes Me Think of You Somehow When I Play It on Repeat

I wanted to wait until this band released a new album before I blogged about them, but I changed my mind. I’ve been missing them recently. I’ve also been listening to their music, although only their most recent stuff. To me, this is a signal that I shouldn’t wait. So here’s what I can tell you about Arctic Monkeys and what their future holds.

Formed in 2002, English rock band Arctic Monkeys consists of members Alex Turner (lead vocals, guitar), Matt Helders (drums, vocals), Jamie Cook (guitar), and Nick O’Malley (bass, backing vocals). O’Malley replaced Andy Nicholson shortly after the group’s debut album was released. They were named by Cook who always wanted to be in a band called Arctic Monkeys. The band got their start by playing shows in their hometown of Sheffield and distributed their music for free. Hype by word of mouth generated for the band because of this. They drew a larger than normal crowd for a band playing the Carling Stage at the Reading and Leeds Festival in 2005. The Carling Stage which is now called the Festival Republic Stage is normally reserved for lesser known bands or breakthrough acts.

They were signed by Domino records the same year.They released their first singles, “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” and “When the Sun Goes Down”, under Domino in 2005 and their first album, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, in January 2006. Their debut became the fastest selling debut album in UK Chart history. It sold 363,735 copies in the first week. The album eventually went on to win a Mercury Prize, awarded to the Best Album from the UK and Ireland. The band released the EP Who the Fuck Are Arctic Monkeys? a few months later in April, but the explicit language on the record resulted in less airplay.

Arctic Monkeys released their second album Favourite Worst Nightmare in April 2007. Like their debut, their sophomore album peaked at No. 1 on the UK Albums Chart. It won them Best British Band and Best British Album at the 2008 Brit Awards. They spent the year extensively touring, including a stop to headline Glastonbury Festival.

The band took a short break in 2008. Lead singer, Alex Turner focused on his side project The Last Shadow Puppets. It wasn’t until 2009 that the band followed up their first two successful albums with Humbug, released in August 2009. Like the first two, Humbug also peaked at the No. 1 position on the UK Albums Chart. Prior to the third album’s release, Arctic Monkeys embarked on a world tour that included a headlining date at Reading and Leeds Festival and finished in April 2010.

The following four years brought more success to Arctic Monkeys with 2 more albums, Suck It and See and AM, both, like their predecessors, debuting at No. 1. Touring, festival appearances, and even a performance at the Opening Ceremonies for the 2012 London Olympic Games came in the wake of their fourth and fifth albums. Their fifth album debuting at No. 1 on the UK Albums Chart put their name in the history books as the first indie band in the UK to hit No. 1 with their first 5 albums during the first week of release. AM even earned them a third Mercury Award nomination (Favourite Worst Nightmare was the second), a BRIT Award for Best British Album, and a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Performance for their single “Do I Wanna Know?”.

Since 2014, Arctic Monkeys have been on hiatus. Again Alex Turner shifted his focus to The Last Shadow Puppets and releasing their second album. Matt Helders joined in on Iggy Pop’s recent album, Post Pop Depression, and has been touring with the legendary rocker since. The question going forward for me and all the other Arctic Monkeys fans is: When will they release their sixth album?

According to an article published in July on NME.com which tried to predict the release of the sixth album as well as the future album’s sound, the world might be blessed with a new record by mid to late 2017 as long as the band gets in the studio by late 2016-early 2017. For now, it seems like we’ll be waiting at least another year or maybe longer. Glad I decided to blog about them now. I’m not sure I would have lasted that long.

Throughout the years, Arctic Monkeys sound has changed and matured. The change of their sound almost reminds me of the change in my music interests throughout the same time period from 2006 to 2013. The songs on their first two albums are faster and edgy almost in a punk rock sense (totally my scene and a high school junior and senior). The first album especially blends indie music and punk rock well. Then in certain songs (like “505”) on the second album and more so on the third album their sound transitions to something smoother. Turner doesn’t spit out the song lyrics as quickly. Their third album also has this unique eerie and mysterious sound. To me it’s the perfect album to listen to during the Halloween season. Finally, the last two albums are much smoother and reflect the indie rock scene of the last 5 years (again very similar to my music tastes in the last 5 years).

The first song I heard by Arctic Monkeys was “Fluorescent Adolescent” in 2011. According to my record of when I added songs to my iTunes account, I downloaded the song right between the point where I added Foster the People’s Torches and Adele’s 21 (a good moment in time for sure). I don’t remember if anyone recommended the song or if I found it on my own, but nonetheless, it was the first. Then came “Do I Wanna Know?” two years later. I listened to the band more after AM. That record spurred my interest in Arctic Monkeys. I received the album on vinyl for Christmas in 2014, so I basically started being interested in them at the point they decided to take a break. Then recently I’ve been listening to them all over again. It makes me miss them. It also makes me want new Arctic Monkeys music. So I guess, like the more dedicated Arctic Monkeys fans who have followed them since their inception, I’ll have to wait. In the meantime, I’m going to listen to their old stuff I missed because my music interests were elsewhere. Here’s some of my favorite Arctic Monkeys songs though, in case you’ve overlooked them altogether:

  1. Snap Out of It
  2. Do I Wanna Know?
  3. 505
  4. Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?
  5. R U Mine?
  6. Arabella
  7. I Wanna Be Yours

 

On A Friday

The alternative/indie rock scene of the 80’s and 90’s brought some incredible bands to the music world. Groups like The Smiths, The Cure, Nirvana, R.E.M., The Pixies, Weezer, Oasis, Pavement, Neutral Milk Hotel, Sonic Youth, and Depeche Mode ruled the scene. Their music still remains popular to this day. Another band on that list who I failed to mention just released their 9th album on May 8th (digital release only; physical release June 17th). Their music spans over the last three decades and surprise, surprise, like many other legendary bands, they’re from the U.K.

Radiohead was formed in 1985 while band members, Thom Yorke (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards, piano), Jonny Greenwood (guitar, keyboards, synth), Colin Greenwood (bass), Ed O’Brien (guitar, back-up vocals, percussion), and Philip Selway (drums, percussion, back-up vocals), attended Abingdon School in Abingdon, Oxfordshire together. At the time they decided to call their band On A Friday because they would get together to rehearse in the school’s music room on Fridays. The band stayed together while the boys attended University by rehearsing on weekends and holidays. It wasn’t until 1991 that they recorded their first demos and began playing shows. That same year the band signed a six album recording deal with EMI and changed their name per request of their label. The name Radiohead comes from The Talking Heads song “Radio Head”.

In 1992 Radiohead released their first EP, Drill. The EP did not have much chart success. Their first album Pablo Honey came out in February 1993 with the song “Creep” as the first single off the album. The song and album wasn’t received well. In fact, “Creep” was blacklisted by BBC Radio 1 for being “too depressing”. By early summer of that year though, “Creep” was receiving airplay internationally in Israel and on the west coast of the United States, which prompted the group to go overseas to play shows. Eventually the song reached the number 7 spot on the U.K. Singles Chart when it was re-released in September 1993 after its international success.

Radiohead’s second album The Bends was released in March of 1995. Prior to The Bends, they released an EP in late 1994 called My Iron Lung (it featured a song of the same name that was also on The Bends). Their second album finally gave them the success they were looking for in the U.K. Several singles from the album received chart success. However internationally their second album didn’t match up to the success of their first and particularly the single “Creep”. Nonetheless, the band was satisfied with the album’s reception and they toured the U.S. and Europe in support of R.E.M. following its release.

OK Computer, the band’s self-produced third album, was released in 1997. It’s arguably Radiohead’s best album to date and was compared to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon upon its release. The band received worldwide success with OK Computer including topping the U.K. albums chart, receiving a Grammy Award for Best Alternative Album, and a nomination for Album of the Year. Since its release the album has gone triple platinum in the U.K., double platinum in the U.S., and multiple certification in other international markets.

Following OK Computer, Radiohead released Kid A in October 2000. The album received mixed reviews yet still received a Grammy Award for Best Alternative Album and a nomination for Album of the Year much like its predecessor. Amnesiac was released a year and a half later in June 2001. The album topped U.K. music charts and reached the number two spot in the U.S. It also received a Grammy nomination and a Mercury Music Prize nomination.

Radiohead’s sixth album Hail to the Thief was released in June 2003. It debuted at number one on the U.K. music charts and reached the number three spot in the U.S. eventually going platinum and gold in each respective country. The album release also signaled the end for their contract with EMI. A month before the album release Radiohead embarked on a world tour which included a stop to headline the Glastonbury Festival. They finished by headlining Coachella. Radiohead played Glastonbury many times before their headlining performance in 2003, including their first time as a headliner in 1997 after the release of OK Computer, but 2004 marked the group’s first Coachella appearance (they made their return to Indio as a headliner in 2012).

Since 2003 Radiohead has released three more albums, In Rainbows, The King of Limbs, and most recently A Moon Shaped Pool. In Rainbows and The King of Limbs each received similar praises and awards as other Radiohead albums which included award nominations (and win for In Rainbows; 2009 Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album) and high chart rankings. With Radiohead’s release of consistent musical masterpieces, A Moon Shaped Pool will probably follow suit to the many albums that came before it.

Radiohead’s music falls in the alternative rock/indie rock genres. Over the last 24 years, they’ve combined a bunch of other musical styles into their records such as electronic, jazz, and hip hop. However, even with influences from other music genres and their development over the years, their sound primarily suits the alternative/indie rock scene.

Radiohead is a legendary band for any person interested in alternative or indie rock. The first time I listened to any Radiohead songs pre-dated my indie/hipster days. I knew of the band, but never listened to any of their music until one of my high school friends suggested we cover “Creep” while we were together playing music on our spring break. Then in 2011 once I hit my hipster era I began listening to more of their music. Even then though, my Radiohead music collection was limited. It still is despite receiving Pablo Honey on vinyl from a friend for Christmas one year (you think that would have made me want to get all their albums). However, I believe Radiohead is one of the best indie rock bands ever and Thom Yorke (primary song writer) is a genius. I feel like every time I’m introduced to a new Radiohead song I end up liking it. I’d love to see them live some day. I hear they’re amazing live, but they’re pretty amazing in general so that’s not hard to believe. They’ve come a long way since those Fridays in the music room. If you’ve never listened to Radiohead and are now curious about this incredible rock band, please check out these songs:

  1. High And Dry
  2. Just
  3. 15 Step
  4. Thinking About You
  5. Creep
  6. Karma Police
  7. Talk Show Host
  8. No Surprises
  9. Fake Plastic Trees
  10. Burn the Witch
  11. Nude
  12. There, There
  13. Everything In Its Right Place
  14. Paranoid Android
  15. Pyramid Song

MGMT

Last weekend I went to visit my friend who lives outside of Baltimore, MD. The weekend trip initially was supposed to serve the purpose of attending a volunteer orientation for the Sweetlife Festival, which I’ll be attending and volunteering at next weekend, but the orientation got moved. I decided to make the trip anyway and have a fun weekend with my friend by hanging out and taking a day trip to Washington, D.C. on Saturday. This blog post isn’t a journal by any means so I don’t plan on telling you about all the things I did which included deciding whether Baked & Wired or Georgetown Cupcakes had the best DC Cupcakes or attending my little cousin’s tee ball game. What is really important is that I made an epic discovery on Friday night after our dinner in the city in Fells Point.

After being in Fells Point on two other occasions to go to bars, I found out they have a pretty well known record store in the area. I passed by the store before, but I didn’t have time to look inside. During this trip to Fells, I made it a point to go to the record store called The Sound Garden. The store was much better than expected on so many different levels. One of the best discoveries of the night was the cheapness of their vinyl. The selection was pretty solid too. It featured a great blend of new and used records. Most vinyl were $20 and under making it difficult to pass up the opportunity to purchase an album. I looked through much of the new vinyl and decided to purchase an album by a band whose music I’ve liked since 2008, MGMT.

MGMT was formed by Andrew VanWyngarden and Benjamin Goldwasser in 2002 while the two were freshman at Middletown, CT college, Wesleyan University. They originally called themselves The Management and released a demo called Climbing to New Lows under this name. Then, the group changed their name to MGMT (the abbreviation for Management) since The Management was in use by another band. To settle the confusion in case you were wondering, the band’s name is pronounced M-G-M-T though.

After graduating in 2005, MGMT toured in support of their Time to Pretend EP opening for Of Montreal. The EP was released on August 30, 2005. In 2006, they signed to Columbia Records and began recording their debut album. The album, Oracular Spectacular, was released digitally in October 2007 and physically on January 22, 2008. Since its release, the album has sold over 1 million copies worldwide. Rolling Stone named it to their 2012 list of the Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time coming in at 494. The album has also gone Silver, Gold, and Platinum in many countries, including Gold in the U.S., Platinum in the U.K. and 2x Platinum in Ireland. The album even earned the band a Grammy nomination in 2010 for Best New Artist and the single “Kids” earned them a nomination for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.

The band’s second album Congratulations was released on April 13, 2010. Their third and most recent album, MGMT, was released three years later in September 2013. In the midst of their three albums the band toured and played many major festivals worldwide including performances at, Coachella, Firefly, Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, and Glastonbury. They’ve opened for acts such as Radiohead, Beck, and Paul McCartney, performed on a number of television shows, and even headlined a show at the legendary Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, CO. Word on the street is that the band will be making a come back at some point this year after taking a break in 2015. Whether their return will be with more performances or a new album is yet to be known.

MGMT plays an indie psychedelic pop rock style of music. You could actually combine each of those styles any way you like and it would describe MGMT’s music. Their use of synth is apparent in most of their songs as is that trippy feeling associated with psychedelic style music.

I first heard MGMT sometime during the summer of 2008. Keep in mind, at this time my favorite music genres were pop-punk, punk, alternative, and alternative rock. I hadn’t transformed to an indie hipster yet. Their song “Time to Pretend” was used during the intro of a movie I really enjoyed during that time, 21. Despite my music interests at that time, I really enjoyed the song. I didn’t download it until a few months later though. About 2 years after hearing MGMT for the first time, my friends and I tried to do a cover of the song “Kids” so I downloaded that song as well. I then heard the song “Electric Feel”  somewhere along the way and the Erol Alkan remix of “Congratulations” which was featured the video game, MLB The Show 11. The group also collaborated with Kid Cudi on his song “Pursuit of Happiness”, which I used to listen to around the spring of 2011. On Friday night, I realized that I never actually listened to Oracular Spectacular despite knowing a handful of songs from it. I figured it was probably a great album to own on vinyl, especially with the great price, so I bought it. I figured correct. The album is stellar. MGMT is stellar. I’m disappointed I passed on seeing them 4 years ago when they played a show at a festival near me. Then again, I’d probably appreciate seeing them more now than I would have then. If they do tour again soon, I’ll have to get to a show. You might want to do the same. In case you do, here are some song recommendations:

  1. Time to Pretend
  2. Kids
  3. Electric Feel
  4. Congratulations (check out the regular version and the Erol Alkan remix)
  5. Weekend Wars
  6. The Youth
  7. Pieces of What
  8. Indie Rokkers

 

Coachella Band Preview: Of Monsters and Men

In exactly one month, it will be the final day of the first weekend of Coachella 2016. That means less than a month until the festival begins! There’s only a few more weeks and band previews left. I hope you’ve been prepping by listening to the incredible acts performing this year or by shopping for the perfect festival attire. If you’ve been doing just that or even if you haven’t, this week’s preview band is one I would definitely be seeing if I was attending this year. I’ve liked this band for a little over 4 years, but have yet to see them live. I know if I was going to be at Coachella they’d be in my top 5 bands to see solely for that reason.

Formed in 2010, Of Monsters and Men hails from Iceland. The indie group is composed of members Nanna Byrndis-Hilmarsdóttir (vocals, gutiar), Ragnar “Raggi”Pórhallsson (guitar, vocals), Brynjar Leifsson (guitar), Arnar Rósenkranz Hilmarsson (drums), and Kristján Páll Kristjánsson (bass). After competing in a battle of the bands competition in Iceland, Of Monsters and Men started touring across their home country. Before the release of their debut album My Head Is an Animal in September 2011, Philadelphia’s alternative/indie radio station 104.5 started playing their single “Little Talks” which grew the band’s popularity in the U.S. Due to the nationwide success and the debut album only being released in Iceland, the band signed with Universal so they could release their album in America. Before that though, Of Monsters and Men dropped an EP, Into the Woods, in December of 2011 which contained 4 songs from their debut. The band released their debut in the States the following April.

In 2012 and 2013 the band toured worldwide playing countless shows and music festivals including Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, Glastonbury, and Coachella (yep 2016 will be their second appearance). They also contributed songs to a few movies and TV series. In 2014 they began recording their sophomore album, Beneath the Skin, which was released in June of 2015. The band toured through the rest of 2015 promoting the new album.

Their music style is strictly indie. I guess you could say indie pop or indie rock. The songs have a great balance of male and female vocals because of Nanna and Raggi. They harmonize well together. It creates a uniqueness only heard in a handful of other indie groups with a male and female vocalist.

I first heard Of Monsters and Men around the time of their EP release in 2011 and the first song I heard actually wasn’t “Little Talks”. It was the song “Lakehouse”. Unlike many bands and songs, I don’t think the song was a recommendation either. I most likely found it while searching for new music. I had it on my iTunes by the end of November 2011. The next Of Monsters and Men song I heard wasn’t “Little Talks” either. It was the song “King and Lionheart” in April 2012, the same month their debut album came out in the U.S. When I downloaded that song, I remember thinking, “Hmm I think I have another song by Of Monsters and Men downloaded too.” Sure enough, I did. By the end of the following month, I finally heard “Little Talks” and despite not hearing the most popular song first, it slowly took over my life for a little while. My friend’s husband and I started getting together every Wednesday beginning in June 2012 to play guitar (Yes I play guitar if you didn’t already know. And drums. And ukulele.). It was during our guitar sessions that we decided to work on playing “Little Talks”. Playing the song came together quickly, but we did play it a lot. It was one of our signature songs along with “Lonely Boy” by The Black Keys and “Dammit” by Blink-182. Eventually, on Black Friday 2012, I picked up a copy of My Head Is an Animal for a few bucks and I considered it one of the best buys of the day. It’s a great record. So yes, Of Monsters and Men and I have a history together, but like I said, I’ve never seen them live. I do enjoy all of the songs I’ve ever heard by them though. I’m sure as long as you’re down with indie pop/indie rock music, you should too.

As you know from reading this, Coachella 2016 won’t be the band’s first trip to the desert. They last played three years ago, but since released a brand new album featuring the hit “Crystals”. If you don’t have a chance to see a band you think is good while they tour in support of an amazing debut album, I think it’s great to be able to see them after they release a second album. Even with the second album, its still at the point that they’ll play plenty of songs you know and love from the first one, along with the best songs from the second one. You end up with a killer combo of music. Of Monsters and Men is at that point now which is another good reason to see them at Coachella this year besides the fact that they’re a great band. They play on the first day of the festival, Friday. Many of the other bands and artists I previewed so far are scheduled to play Saturday or Sunday making Of Monsters and Men a solid option for Friday. Here’s a few songs you should know by this Icelandic indie band:

  1. Little Talks
  2. Crystals
  3. King and Lionheart
  4. Mountain Sound
  5. I of the Storm
  6.  Dirty Paws
  7. Empire
  8. Love Love Love
  9. Lakehouse
  10. Slow and Steady