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Coachella Band Preview: St. Vincent

February is finally almost over. It seems like winter tends to drag on because life moves slower. It does for me at least. There are less shows, barely any festivals, and the snow sucks. Thankfully, Coachella and the rest of festival season is inching closer and closer. This week to prep for the Coachella Valley’s finest I’m previewing an artist who goes by the name of St. Vincent.

Anne “Annie” Erin Clark, better known to the world as St. Vincent, began her music career as a member of the choral rock band the Polyphonic Spree, after attending the Berklee College of Music for 3 years. Before starting her own group in 2006, she was a member of Sufjan Stevens touring band too. During her childhood, Clark began playing guitar at the age of 12 and was a roadie for her aunt and uncle, jazz duo Tuck & Patti. She got her stage name of St. Vincent from a lyric in Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds’ song “There She Goes, My Beautiful World”.

In 2007, St. Vincent released her debut album Marry Me. After extensive touring for the album over that year, Clark began her second album in 2008. The album, Actor, was then released on May 5, 2009. It was more well received than her debut as it peaked at 90 on the Billboard 200 Chart as well as 9 on the Independent Albums Chart and 5 on the Tastemaker Albums Chart.

Strange Mercy, St. Vincent’s third album, was released on September 13, 2011 receiving tons of critical acclaim and peaking at 19 on the Billboard 200. Clark toured worldwide through 2012 then it was back to the studio to work on her next album. In 2012 she also released a collaborative album with with former Talking Heads lead guitarist and vocalist and fellow Coachella 2018 performer David Byrne.

Her fourth album, St. Vincent, was released in February of 2014. A few months prior she announced a world tour in 2014 and released two singles in anticipation of the self-titled album. Again the album was well received and ranked highly in multiple publications. The album earned her a Grammy nomination for Best Alternative Music Album which she subsequently won. Her touring for the album continued into 2015.

Her most recent album to date, Masseduction, was released on October 13, 2017. It was Clark’s first album to peak in the top 10 of Billboard’s 200 Chart upon release. It reached the 10 spot. It also sold close to 30,000 copies in the first week of its release with 25,000 of those being traditional album sales.

St. Vincent has a very unique music style. You may classify it as indie rock, but the sound often uses complex arrangements and an array of instruments. Sometimes it sounds pretty wild and almost like music in the background of a horror movie. It’s music in a true artistic form and complemented by lyrics that often diverge into madness. Clark’s voice is that of a former choir girl and adds beauty to the mixture of sound.

I first heard of St. Vincent while reading one of the Pretty Little Liars novels. In the book, it mentioned one of the girls on a drive listening to St. Vincent’s “Actor Out of Work” and singing it at the top of her lungs. I decided to listen to the song after reading that part of the book since I had never listened to St. Vincent before then. I really liked it and decided to download it. Since then I had only downloaded “Digital Witness” after hearing it in 2014. I never really got into Clark’s music as a whole, but for some reason, I began listening to the singles released for her most recent album “New York” and “Los Ageless” over the summer. At the end of November, I worked one of her shows on her “Fear the Future” Tour. I was also able to listen in on some of her VIP  Q & A and stay for most of the show after I finished work. I always appreciate a Q & A because I feel like you get to learn a bit about band or artist. This was no exception. I developed an appreciation for St. Vincent and Annie Clark. Not to mention, I had recently purchased Masseduction. The show was overcrowded though. I couldn’t see much from where I was standing and I ended up leaving a little over halfway through to make it home. I did enjoy it though and would love to see her again if I had the opportunity.

Coachella would be the perfect opportunity if I was attending this year. She would definitely be on my must-see list for Friday. She’s listed as a highly billed act this year so I would expect a late afternoon-evening set. If you’ve never seen her or listened to her music before, it’s pretty artistic. I think that element alone can make people curious to hear her and/or see her live. She also has plenty of visuals during her performance that add to the artistic nature of her music. To get you prepped for her third Coachella performance here’s a few staples you should check out:

  1. Digital Witness
  2. Cruel
  3. New York
  4. Masseduction
  5. Actor Out of Work
  6. Marry Me
  7. Cheerleader
  8. Birth in Reverse
  9. Los Ageless
  10. Surgeon

 

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Gravity Can’t Hold Us Down

This Friday I’m attending my second ever electronic show. I probably wouldn’t be going to this show if it wasn’t for my friend’s love of electronic music and Odesza (the group we’re seeing) and the little vacation we’re going on. Nevertheless, it’s happening and because of it, I got into the electronic group.

Odesza is comprised of electronic music duo Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight. Mills and Knight met while they were both students at Western Washington University and began making music together as Odesza during their senior year. The band name was made out of an alternate spelling of Mills’ uncle’s ship that sunk.

Odesza’s self-released first album Summer’s Gone was released on September 5, 2012, two months before they played their first show. Their first EP My Friends Never Die was released a year later. In the fall of 2013, the group opened for Pretty Lights and then embarked on their first headlining tour the following year. It was a quick start for Odesza who gained popularity through streaming sites like Soundcloud and Spotify and by word of mouth.

In September 2014, Odesza released their second full length album In Return and played a sold out headlining tour that fall in support of it. The group also began playing music festivals as well beginning with Sasquatch! Music Festival in Gorge, Washington in 2013. They have since gone on to play Coachella, SXSW, Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, Firefly, Governor’s Ball, and several others.

This past September Odesza released their third full length album A Moment Apart and announced a world tour in support which began on September 14th in Auckland, New Zealand, after a preview of the new live show in May at the legendary Red Rocks Amphitheater. The tour has since made their way into the United States and the album was recently nominated for a Grammy for Best Dance/Electronic Album. The track “A Line of Sight” feat. Wynne and Maisonair was also nominated for a Grammy for Best Dance Recording. The group was previously nominated in 2015 for Best Remixed Recording, Nonclassical for “Say My Name (RAC remix)”.

As electronic artists, Odesza fits in the sub genres of electropop, indietronica, chillwave, and future bass. Their style is sort of like a blend between electronic music, indie music, and pop music filled with synth lines and subtle rises and falls of energy and bass. Their new album has a several collaborations which account for the vocals on their tracks. Their songs create this dreamy, nostalgic type of feeling regardless of whether the tracks have vocals or not though.

I first heard of Odesza in late 2015 when a family member who I hadn’t talked to in years asked if I liked them after I told him I was attending an alt-J concert in the coming month. I told him that I didn’t and he told me how awesome they were. Then we started talking about something else and I never even checked them out. To be fair, at the time I was dealing with a lot of other things so I just kind of forgot about it. I first listened to Odesza in late September-early October of this year, shortly after the new album release. I liked the song “Higher Ground” and added it to my workout/new music playlist on Spotify. It was only about 2 weeks later that my friends and I had planned a trip to New York City and bought tickets to see them in Brooklyn.

Since purchasing tickets, I’ve listened to Odesza a lot more. We received a free copy of the new album with our tickets so when that came in the mail I put the CD in my car for a while. I also recently purchased their sophomore album too and have been binge listening to it.  It’s safe to say that I definitely became a fan. I’m beyond stoked for Friday night. I can’t wait to see what kind of energy they’ll bring by playing in a large scale venue like the Barclays Center, but I’m sure it’ll be epic. I’m also just stoked to see this band play with my friend and to witness her fully in her element as an electronic music fan.

I highly recommend checking out Odesza, but especially this new album. There’s a reason it was nominated for a Grammy. Even after listening to In Return several times, there’s just something special to A Moment Apart that Odesza’s been working towards since their inception. You’re bound to find at least one song you like. It’s that good and it’ll only be a matter of time before Odesza hooks you for real.

 

 

Coachella Band Preview: Lady Gaga

If you’re reading this, I doubt you’re confused by the title of my blog because you probably know a thing or two about what happened regarding Coachella over the past week. In case you are confused though, let me explain.

As you know from the lineup announcement in the beginning of January, Lady Gaga was not on it. However, a month after the lineup dropped, Beyoncé made a public announcement that she was pregnant with twins. This started some speculation that she might not play Coachella. At the time of the announcement though, it seemed like she was fully committed to the annual festival. Then, her doctors intervened. Last week, shortly after I posted my last blog (because if it was before I would have mentioned it), AP (Associated Press) broke the news that Beyoncé would not play Coachella this year following the advice of her doctors to keep a less rigorous schedule. The announcement did state that Beyoncé will play Coachella next year in 2018, which in my opinion takes away from the anticipation of the lineup release somewhat. I guess since she was a major headliner and a bunch of the Beyhive probably bought tickets this year to see her, Coachella promoter, Goldenvoice, threw them a bone.

After the announcement was made last week, more speculation occurred over who would replace Queen Bey. Lady Gaga was one of the first acts I thought of as her replacement and this was without being influenced by rumors popping up all over the internet and social media. To me it seemed pretty logical, she’s a highly billed female pop performer, much like Beyoncé. She’s also about to embark on a world tour in support of her most recent album Joanne, which has been widely praised. It just made so much sense that she would replace Beyoncé. I saw some other names pop in the meantime though from Daft Punk to Rihanna. I also saw Lady Gaga’s name thrown around too, which made me feel like my guess wasn’t too far off. By Tuesday evening, it was confirmed. Lady Gaga would replace Beyoncé as Coachella’s Saturday night headliner and Gagachella was born.

Lady Gaga, whose real name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, grew up in Manhattan’s Upper East Side in an affluent Catholic family. Despite attending an all-girls Catholic school growing up, she felt like she never fit in to that kind of crowd. She was always involved in music and the arts as well. She started taking piano at age 4. She played open mic nights and acted in school musicals as a teenager. She was even granted early admission to NYU’s theater program, but dropped out during her sophomore year to pursue her music career.

Her stage name, Lady Gaga, was inspired by Queen’s song “Radio Ga Ga” and a T9 accidental text message. In the years before she released her first album, she played Lollapalooza along with Lady Starlight as “Lady Gaga and Lady Starlight”. The duo also performed on the New York underground scene, which was when Lady Gaga began to incorporate pop and glam rock into her electronic dance music style.

After finally securing a record deal with Interscope/Geffen, her debut album, The Fame, was released in 2008. The album included many successful singles and earned her a Grammy Award for Best/Dance Electronica Album. Her song “Poker Face” won the Grammy for Best Dance Recording as well. Gaga’s first tour was in support of The Pussycat Dolls in 2009, but shortly after she embarked on her own headlining world tour. In November of 2009, she released an 8 song EP entitled The Fame Monster, which included the hit single “Bad Romance” as well as a few other successful singles. The Fame Monster earned Lady Gaga 8 MTV Video Music Awards and a Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Album. She also embarked on another world tour appropriately named The Monster Ball Tour.

Lady Gaga released her second studio album Born This Way in May 2011. The album produced several successful singles, 3 Grammy nominations, and a resulting world tour similar to her other music. Around this time was when Gaga formed her relationship with Tony Bennett which paved the way for their eventual album together, Cheek to Cheek, which was released in 2014 and earned them a Grammy for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album. However, the joint album was not released before her third studio album Artpop. It came out in November of 2013. Artpop is the least successful of Lady Gaga’s albums thus far and was received with mixed reviews. Despite its lack of success, it still sold about 2.5 million copies worldwide (as of July 2014).

Lady Gaga released her latest album, Joanne, this past October. Following its release, she performed at three small scale venues to promote the album. This was known as the Dive Bar Tour. Shortly before Joanne‘s release, it was announced that Lady Gaga would be headlining the 2017 Super Bowl LI Halftime Show. The halftime show became the most viewed music performance in history. Following the show, Lady Gaga announced her latest world tour plans in support of Joanne which now includes a pre-stop at one of America’s most well-known music festivals.

When Beyoncé was announced as a headliner, I had no intention of writing a preview for her because I’m not a Beyoncé fan. Honestly, I’m not a Lady Gaga fan either so the reason I decided to write this might be a mystery so I’ll explain. I’m not a fan of mainstream pop music (Adele being the only exception). In fact I used to get annoyed over Lady Gaga’s music when it first came out in 2008. The truth is though despite not being into Lady Gaga’s music, she’s had so many hit singles that I do know a lot of her music. I don’t listen to the radio normally, but I would hear her songs regardless. I’d hear them in public locations, from friends, on television, and yeah I guess on the radio when I wasn’t in control of it.

There’s been random times in my life over the last 9 years that Lady Gaga’s music has been a part of too. My friends and I sang a self made-up parody of “Alejandro” at the beach one summer, “Bad Romance” played on a music-playing amusement park ride one time when all of our previous times on this ride had death metal songs we didn’t know or like (“Bad Romance” kind of saved us), and “Applause” became one of the theme songs of my first trip to California due to its overplay and my cousin being in control of the radio. There’s probably other moments I’m not thinking of too. Also I can’t forget that my mom is a huge fan of Lady Gaga and her music. She owns almost all, if not all, of Gaga’s albums. I have to admit, I even like Joanne. Because of all the exposure, I almost feel like a fan by association and no lie her Super Bowl performance had me crushing the end of my cardio work out. So no, I’m not a true Little Monster, but I wouldn’t mind seeing Gaga live if I had the opportunity.

As I said before, Lady Gaga plays Saturday night in replacement of Beyoncé. It’s her first time playing the festival and also the first time since 2007 that a female solo artist will be headlining. Being known for her crazy and outlandish costumes/outfits in her early performing days as well as becoming a major pop performer, I’m expecting her Coachella set to be epic and to have some intense production quality. No one will want to miss her performance on Saturday night, unless of course you’re a major fan of whoever is playing at the Sahara Tent. Here’s some songs to get you ready, although you might already know them:

  1. Bad Romance
  2. Just Dance
  3. Poker Face
  4. Born This Way
  5. Alejandro
  6. Perfect Illusion
  7. Applause
  8. Marry the Night
  9. Telephone
  10. A Million Reasons
  11. A-Yo
  12. John Wayne
  13. The Edge of Glory
  14. Paparazzi
  15. LoveGame

 

Coachella Band Preview: LCD Soundsystem

Coachella is almost exactly 3 months away. Since the lineup release over a week ago, the days until the annual festival in the desert are decreasing. That only means one thing. It’s time to prep. Start planning your festival attire. Get out the sun tan lotion and listen to some tunes by the bands playing the event this year. As I said last week, even though I won’t be attending Coachella this year (unless there’s some spontaneous miracle), I plan on previewing the bands playing Coachella 2016 in the same way I did last year. The first band on my list is one of the headliners this year, LCD Soundsystem.

Formed in 2001 from New York City, LCD Soundsystem is the brainchild of singer-songwriter, record producer, and DJ, James Murphy. Murphy is also the co-founder of dance music record label DFA Records. Until the 2005 release of their self-titled debut album, LCD Soundsystem only released singles. Their debut album however received much acclaim including a Grammy nomination for Best Electronic/Dance Album. The single “Daft Punk is Playing at My House” received a Grammy nomination for Best Dance Recording in the same year. LCD Soundsystem released their second album, Sound of Silver, in 2007 and it too received a Grammy nomination for Best Electronic/Dance Album. Their third album, This Is Happening, came out in May 2010. It received top-ten status in the United States and was the group’s first album to do so. It was also listed as the number two album of 2010 by Pitchfork and the number 10 album of 2010 by Rolling Stone. Then in early 2011 the band announced on their website that they planned to call it quits, but not before one last farewell show to be played at Madison Square Garden in April. The final four hour long show took place on April 2, 2011 and was filmed as part of a live concert documentary Shut Up and Play the Hits, which was released the following year. Such was the end of LCD Soundsystem…or so we thought.

In late 2015 rumors began swirling that LCD Soundsystem would be reuniting in 2016 and playing some major music festivals. Then on Christmas Eve, a mere 3 weeks ago, the group released their first single in over 5 years “Christmas Will Break Your Heart”. A little over a week later, on January 4, 2016, it was announced the group would be headlining Coachella. The following day, via the group’s website, James Murphy posted this message to fans confirming the reunion of the much loved electronic/dance/punk group.

I was late to the LCD Soundsystem party, first hearing of the group after their “final” show in late 2011. It wasn’t even until over a year after the “final” show that I downloaded any of their music to my iTunes. The first song I heard by the group was “Dance Yrself Clean” and it’s still one of my favorite LCD Soundsystem songs. I eventually listened to more of their music and purchased their self-titled album on vinyl (it’s great on vinyl by the way). I do have to say though that if it wasn’t for my favorite acting/Hollywood couple and fellow music enthusiasts, Troian Bellisario and Patrick J. Adams, I wouldn’t have known this group at all. Thanks guys for the great recommendations!

As I mentioned, LCD Soundsystem is an electronic/dance/punk/alternative style music group. They were around before a lot of today’s EDM artists. Their style is a little different than the current EDM style though. Their music has more of an alternative/punk element. I feel like recent EDM is more pop. Also unlike current EDM artists, LCD Soundsystem’s music features an assortment of instruments and electronic devices, hence the whole “soundsystem” aspect. The group also features a variety of members who played the live shows as part of the group over the years. The most notable members include, Nancy Whang, Pat Mahoney, and Tyler Pope, but include at least 9 more individuals who have played for the band.  Murphy played the majority of the instruments himself while recording the albums.

If I were attending Coachella this year, the LCD Soundsystem set would be one of my most anticipated sets. They join the 2016 festival as a main headliner with Guns N’ Roses, who are also reuniting for Coachella, and Calvin Harris. Murphy and his pals play Saturday night. The LCD Soundsystem set should draw a huge crowd, especially with the large contingency of dance music fans who attend the festival. Not sure if I’ll be able to stay up to watch them perform, but I definitely have planned to try to find a video of their set afterwards. I’m a little jealous I won’t be at Coachella to see them live. Guess I’ll just have to catch an upcoming show somewhere else since the group is getting back together. To get you ready for Saturday night on the main stage though, play these hits:

  1. Dance Yrself Clean
  2. All My Friends
  3. Daft Punk is Playing at My House
  4. Drunk Girls
  5. Someone Great
  6. New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down
  7. Tribulations
  8. I Can Change
  9. Yeah
  10. North American Scum
  11. Tribulations

The Biggest Night in Music…or Something Like That

If you watched the Grammy Awards last night, I’m sure the one question running through your mind is “Was there anything Sam Smith didn’t win?” The answer is surprisingly “Yes!” no matter how you look at it. Sure you can say he didn’t win a Grammy for every category, but he wasn’t nominated for every category. However, he also did not win in every category he was nominated for (Pharrell won with “Happy” for Best Pop Performance), although it sure seemed like he did.

Anyway, I originally had planned to do a Grammy Awards recap today but then right before the show started last night I realized I really didn’t care to watch it. Prior to this I saw three of the categories I cared about were already awarded. Best Rock Performance went to Jack White for “Lazaretto”, Best Rock Song went to Paramore for “Ain’t It Fun” and Best Alternative Album went to St. Vincent for her self-titled album (see you at Coachella Jack and Annie!). After that I only cared if The Black Keys won Best Rock Album or if Haim won Best New Artist. Neither did. So there wasn’t much else for me to see. The performances weren’t my cup of tea nor were the other categories. I might have been mildly interested to see if Taylor Swift won anything for “Shake It Off”. That song may be a guilty pleasure of mine but I will not confirm or deny that (she didn’t win at all). Still, that was something I could wait to find out later without watching the show.

So I barely watched the Grammys. Instead it got me thinking, “Why do people watch the Grammys? Why are they so special? Heck, why do people watch any award shows and what makes some more important or better than others?” So I did some research and decided to answer those questions here.

First “Why do people watch the Grammys?” and “Why are they so special?” Well to give an answer to both of these questions at once (sorta) is because the Grammys are the oldest and most prestigious awards in music. The show started in the late 50’s and has continued until this point. So that’s why they’re special and I think part of why people watch. Another reason I think people watch is because they want to see if their favorite artists receive a major achievement. I’m sure some people watch to see the performances and drama that occurs with a live award show. There’s probably people that watch just so they can feel included to talk about the show the next day at work or school. Then there’s the people who watch for the fashion. There’s probably other reasons too, but I think those are some of the big ones.

I guess the same can be said for why people watch any awards shows. They care about what the show celebrates whether it’s music, tv, movies, etc., or they care about fashion and pop culture, or they just watch it for pure entertainment. What makes some award shows better than others? Well I think like I said before is how old they are and how prestigious they are deemed by society.

That’s the thing though. The Grammy Awards (probably other award shows too) were criticized plenty of times for just being some big spectacle that celebrates the music industry, caters to people for entertainment, and is less about the actual music than they want you to believe. Like many things in our culture, award shows get blown out of proportion. It’s society that makes us believe that awards are important and certain awards are more important than others. That goes for anything. I guess it’s the case that people need to feel validated sometimes and awards help with that. But I think it’s important for those receiving awards to feel validated no matter what, like the people who make music purely to make music by expressing themselves and creating a beautiful compilation of sound. There’s validation in just being able to make music. One of my favorite Grammy moments of all time happened when Justin Vernon of Bon Iver won two Grammys in 2012 for Bon Iver, Bon Iver and Best New Artist (he wasn’t new at the time but we’ll let that slide). Through his acceptance speech he basically indicated that the awards meant so little compared to the music which was so much more important. I’ve always respected musicians like that who put the music first. It is what’s most important. Awards are just an added bonus.

So I think it’s important for those of us that actually care about what the awards are for to remember what is really important about them. Hell, even if you care about the fashion or the water cooler discussion the next day it’s important to know the real reason for having an award show. Music, television, movies, etc. are all forms of art. They’re beautiful creations of tremendous amounts of work that have been shared with us. That is what is so incredible about them. That is what is most important.