Halsey

hopeless fountain kingdom: Album Review

As you know, all-new albums from some of my favorite artists will be dropping throughout the summer. The album releases began over the weekend. I’m going to try to review as many of them as I can, especially because I’ll be busy traveling and it will at least give me a few planned topics to write about.

On Friday, along with alt-J’s Relaxer, Halsey released her sophomore album hopeless fountain kingdom. Although it’s currently #1 on iTunes, it’s a disappointment for me. I’ve always liked Halsey’s darkness and edge that she brought to her music. Her new album seems generic. She tried to bring in this artsy, creative aspect to it by having it reflect a Romeo & Juliet type of scenario, but instead I feel like she’s trying too hard. I previously compared her styles and sound to a mix of Lana Del Rey and Lorde. Although this album brings in some of that Lana Del Rey creativeness, she’s strayed from the Lorde-ish type of sound and Lana-ish lyrical content heard on Badlands. If there are any songs that I enjoy/appreciate from this new album, it’s “Bad at Love” and “Eyes Closed”. “Eyes Closed” was released as a single a few weeks ago and I liked it initially. There’s really nothing more to it than that for me. Upon listening to the album though, “Bad at Love” was the song that stood out to me in sound and lyrics. It’s catchy, but the lyrics also give representation to Halsey’s bi-sexuality, which she’s been open about in the past. Sure the lyrics aren’t genius. They’re kind of just average pop lyrics. It’s definitely no “New Americana”, but I like the fact that the song reflects Halsey as an LGBT artist, which is something you don’t always get in music.

The new album also features a few collaborations. Quavo from the hip-hop group Migos, Lauren Jauregui from girl band Fifth Harmony, and Norwegian DJ Cashmere Cat all make appearances on hopeless fountain kingdom.

Overall though, I think this is one album I’m going to bypass on purchasing. It was a disappointment for me after such quality work with Badlands. I feel like Halsey is just falling into the main stream pop, where she had potential to be more than that. I’m going to just blame “Closer” and The Chainsmokers for this one. Hopefully her follow-up delivers in a big way. For those of you who really like this album, I’m sorry I don’t agree with you. I was hoping for this album to be just as good as Halsey’s debut. Unfortunately that’s not always the case and I’ll just hope for something better next time.

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2017….The Best Year of Music?

Coming back from two weeks in So Cal has been a bummer to say the least. With Coachella, sunshine, warmth, palm trees, new friends, old friends, etc., I’ve been in a withdrawal. It’s also tough to come up with weekly blog topics because I feel like I gave it my all for the past 3 months writing about Coachella bands. However, there’s one thing that’s helped with all of the sad feelings recently. It’s the constant stream of new music flooding in from a bunch of my favorite bands and artists. Over the last 2 weeks, I’ve lost count of how many of my faves have released new tunes. I had a realization this past week that 2017 is shaping up to be the best year for music, or at least new music so I figured I’d write about it and give you a little preview of what’s to come.

Obviously there’s a ton of bands and artists releasing new music this year, way more than I plan to write about. The acts I’m mentioning are some of my favorites. Some I’ve written about in the past already. Actually that’s a lie. I’ve written about almost all of them before. The first is someone who I haven’t talked about for a while, but she’s one of my all-time favorites of the past 6 years, Lana Del Rey.

Lana Del Rey released a new single in February called “Love”. Upon its release, she said her upcoming new music was inspired by her fans and the people who supported her throughout the years. “Love” was the first of the new releases to give back to them. Until February, Lana hadn’t released new music since 2015’s Honeymoon. Then while I was at Coachella she released another new single, “Lust for Life” featuring The Weeknd. She also confirmed a few weeks before the single’s release that her new album would also be entitled Lust for Life. Although no release date has been confirmed for the new album (EDIT: The new album will be out July 21st.), there’s rumors that it will feature a few other collaborations with the likes of Stevie Nicks and Sean Lennon, son of John Lennon.

Another artist with new music out this year is Lorde. I, of course, wrote about her as a Coachella preview, but it was before she put out her new material. Along with Lana Del Rey, Lorde was one of the first to put out music this year. In early March she dropped her single “Green Light”. Then a little over a week after that she performed another new single when she appeared on SNL, “Liability”. I loved “Green Light” the first time I heard it. It’s the kind of song that makes you want to get up and dance. It’s the Pure Heroine follow up hit that I was looking for from Lorde. It got me so hyped for her new album Melodrama, which I thought may come out before Coachella, but isn’t going to be released until June 16th. “Liability” is the complete opposite. The song is so raw and emotional. It’s not something I’ve ever heard from Lorde. It sounds more like something Adele would sing. I denounced the song immediately after I heard it, but then I heard it again live at Coachella. It was incredible. Not just the song, but the entire moment surrounding the festival and the two weeks I spent in California.

She performed Sunday night and I was only able to see her performance on Weekend 2, the final night of what was the most incredible festival-working experience I’ve had thus far. Lorde spoke to the crowd of probably close to 100,000 people as if she were in a tiny dive bar and explained how much the song meant to her. Then she went on to sing her newest piece of music with everyone who cared to join her amongst the beautiful night scene at Coachella with the cool breeze blowing and lit up palm trees swaying as the ferris wheel glowed in the background. I took in the moment with two new friends I met while working the festival focusing on Lorde, the entire setting, and my one friend almost in tears because the song affected her that much. It was epic enough to force me to give “Liability” a second chance and I haven’t stopped listening to it since.

Then I came back from California and within days there was new music from my favorite band, Foster the People. I’ve liked Foster the People for 6 years now. They were one of the first bands that I liked when I started getting into the indie rock scene (See here for the story). They haven’t released new music since 2014 and I’ve been craving something new from them for the last 2 years. On April 27th, the indie rock trio released III, a three song EP with songs from their upcoming album. I listened immediately and have been listening to the songs non-stop ever since, “Doing It For the Money” in particular. I feel like the new music combines that old Torches sound with the newer Supermodel sound to create this in-between to both albums giving fans the best of both worlds. For me, it’s almost impossible to top Torches. I still keep the album in my car and pop it into my CD player on occasion. It’s one of my favorite records of the modern era, but this new album (at least indicated by the EP) has shades of Torches that gets me hyped for its release. As of today, the title and release date have yet to be announced, but I read that it should be out in June or July (EDIT: Foster the People’s new album, Sacred Hearts Club, will be July 21st).

On the same day that the world was blessed with three new Foster the People songs, Haim announced their upcoming sophomore album Something To Tell You and released a preview of the track “Right Now”. They also announced they would release a single from their upcoming album on May 3rd. Last summer when I saw Haim play at Lollapalooza they played a few of their new songs. I don’t remember what songs they played, but I do remember liking each one I heard. Each new song still maintained their signature sound. It got me excited for their new record and I’ve been anticipating it ever since. The album comes out July 7th, but until then we have the song “Want You Back” (the May 3rd single) to hold us over and any other new songs the sisters Haim decide to drop along the way.

alt-J is another band with a new album out this year. I really got into alt-J after seeing them perform at Coachella in 2015. My friends and I then saw them while they toured a few months later. Both shows were fantastic. alt-J released the first single, “3WW”, from their new record in the beginning of March. Then a few weeks later they released “In Cold Blood”. alt-J has always had this unique style of indie music and it’s again evident in their new music so far. Their new record Relaxer comes out on June 2nd.

If you thought five new records were enough, you haven’t been paying attention to music news because there’s a few more to be excited for. One of those is a record that doesn’t have a title or release date yet, but I expect it to be out later than the rest. I’m guessing it could be out any time between late summer and winter (EDIT: The new album, American Dream, comes out September 1st.), but I’m so grateful for the two new songs that were just released this past Friday at midnight in anticipation of it. After announcing their reunion last winter and headlining festivals throughout 2016, LCD Soundsystem finally released new music! They played several shows at the opening of the new venue, Brooklyn Steel, in New York City last month and debuted both songs there. The songs “call the police” and “american dream” were also just performed by the band on SNL over the weekend. I haven’t had much of a chance to binge listen to the songs yet, but I can’t wait to listen on my road trips I have coming up this month. Both songs are different and yet so good. At this point, I think I’d feel that way about anything LCD Soundsystem puts out.

So those are all my favorites that have new albums coming out soon, but there’s also a few other good music acts that I like with new tunes on the way too. Halsey just released two singles over the last month from her new album Hopeless Fountain Kingdom due out in June. So far from the new releases, her album seems like it’ll be less dark than Badlands. Phoenix will be releasing their sixth album and first since 2013, Ti Amo, on June 9th. They just dropped the first single from the new record, “J-Boy”, on April 27th. Finally a band I recently previewed before Coachella, Oh Wonder, will be releasing their second album, Ultralife, on June 16th. Over my two weeks spent in Indio, my love for and desire to see Oh Wonder grew a little more (I couldn’t see them at Coachella). Now I’m definitely stoked for their follow-up to 2015’s debut self-titled masterpiece.

Along with all that’s to come this summer, several great bands that I like have already released new music this year. The xx just released I See You on January 13th. I missed them at Coachella, but I’ll be seeing them live next week! Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness released Zombies on Broadway on February 10th and his new record has some great jams that give off a brand new electronic feel not usually heard in Andrew McMahon music. Lastly and most recently, Cold War Kids just dropped their newest album L.A. Divine on April 7th.

In total that’s 12 new albums from bands I like, about half of those being my favorites. I’ve said recently that all I need is for Florence and the Machine to release a new album this year to really put that final piece in the puzzle. Even without them this year is shaping up to be one of if not the best in music! I’m stoked so you guys better get stoked too because there’s so much to listen to!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Years & Years

  1. Border
  2. King
  3. Shine

Halsey

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

Cold War Kids

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

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

  1. The Sound
  2. Girls
  3. Chocolate

2016 Coachella Valley Arts and Music Festival Lineup Release

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We Are the New Americana

One of the best things someone can do (in my mind) is recommend music. I don’t care if it’s a personal recommendation (the person recommends to you specifically), a recommendation through social media, a website, blog, etc., or even if it’s not a direct recommendation at all, meaning someone just talks or posts about a band/song/lyrics. I love it. I love it because I love music (if you haven’t already figured that out). I love finding new music or bands to listen to and it’s so refreshing when someone else can offer you new music by word of mouth (or word of the web). What’s even better, when someone recommends music, is if they recommend artists or songs that fit your music style. Lately, I’ve found out a few new things to listen to this way. Most recently, it was the singer, Halsey.

Halsey, a.k.a. Ashley Frangipane, who hails from the New Jersey/New York region has been working her way into the indie pop scene in the past year. Halsey is an anagram of her real name Ashley and it’s also a street in Brooklyn where she hung out growing up. She started her career playing acoustic shows to afford rent. When she recorded her song “Ghost” about a year ago, it was almost an overnight success. Shortly after, she had meetings with five major record labels. She signed with Astralwerks.

The last year has been nothing short of amazing for the 20 year old recording artist. She released an EP, Room 93, in October 2014, while on tour opening for The Kooks. She was the most talked about artist at SXSW. She headlined The American Youth Tour along with Young Rising Sons this past spring and in a little less than 2 weeks her debut album, Badlands, will be released (August 28th). To be honest, girl is killing it. There’s no doubt once her album comes out that she’ll get even more attention too.

Her sound can definitely be labeled pop, but could also fit the alternative, indie spectrum. Think along the lines of Lorde or Banks. Her lyrics are the catch though. They’re at times angsty and angry, but always raw and honest. She doesn’t really fit the mold of any of her sound comparisons in that regard. If you read the lyrics to the song “New Americana”, which is a single off Badlands, you might confuse it for a Lana Del Rey song. “New Americana” is almost the new “National Anthem”. Also like Lana, her passion for artistry through her music is beyond her years.

I first heard “New Americana” about a week and a half ago because someone I follow on Twitter tweeted out the lyrics (grateful for these people as you can tell from what I mentioned above). It was catchy so I added it to my workout Spotify playlist. I’ve listened to many times since. I’ve also listened to her other music. I love it as much as I love when people recommend music. She doesn’t have many songs out right now, but she’ll have a solid bunch of tunes once her album debuts. I can’t wait to hear it. I highly recommend checking her out asap before you feel like you’d just be hopping on the bandwagon. It might even be considered a slight bandwagon at this point, but who knows.

Song recommendations:

  1. New Americana
  2. Hold Me Down
  3. Ghost
  4. Hurricane (check out the Arty Remix if you’d rather a more upbeat track)
  5. Empty Gold
  6. Is There Somewhere
  7. The rest of Badlands once it’s released on August 28th