indie bands

A R I Z O N A the band, not the state

It’s been two weeks since I last posted, but to be fair I had a show to work and I was sidelined with a sprained ankle (a “sprankle” if you will). I was also out of ideas for new topics. I want to be excited about everything I write here so I didn’t want to just pick something and give you a lackluster effort. The end of last week finally gave me a topic though. I saw that a band I’ve been following for the last year or so released their debut album on May 19th.

A R I Z O N A is an alternative electro-pop band from Glen Rock, New Jersey (no, not Arizona). The band is comprised of members Zach Hannah (vocals), Nathan Esquite (guitar), and David Labuguen (keyboard). The trio all attended college in Boston and initially went their separate ways before reuniting in their home state to form A R I Z O N A. The band’s name stems from a hat Dave was wearing during a random Facetime call with his bandmates.

A R I Z O N A started releasing music on streaming platforms in 2015. They’ve periodically released singles from then on. Their major breakthrough came when German electronic DJ Robin Schulz released a remix of their song “I Was Wrong” last summer. Originally the group thought of releasing an EP first, but then they realized they had enough songs to put out a full length album. Their debut album, Gallery, was released a few days ago. It contains all the music they’ve released so far plus a few new jams. The group is also playing the festival circuit this summer and embarking on their first headlining tour.

Back in November, on the night I saw Tegan and Sara, my friend and I bought tickets to the Hayley Kiyoko show that was happening in another room at the same venue. A R I Z O N A was the opener that night. I didn’t even realize they were the opener until I recognized the second song they played. It was a spontaneously awesome moment of the evening. I first started listening to them the previous winter when I heard the song “Where I Wanna Be” off a twitter recommendation and since that time I followed up with the group any time they released new music.

A R I Z O N A’s music style combines indie/alternative music with electronic music. When I first heard them I was slowly getting into electronic music. I liked an occasional song here and there (Let’s be honest, I still do). “Where I Wanna Be” was one of those songs. During the time I listened to that song frequently, I figured A R I Z O N A was probably the name of some DJ. I don’t think I even fully realized that the group was a band until I saw them perform live. It was good to know that a band like A R I Z O N A existed because most of the time electronic music to me was DJ’s. A R I Z O N A is a band. They have a lead singer (Zach). They have a guitarist (Nate), but they also have someone who plays the keyboard/synth elements of their songs (Dave) that gives their music its electronic feel.

I highly recommend checking these guys out if you’re into indie music, electronic music, or both. Even if you’re not, check this band out anyway because they have a pop element to their music as well. As I mentioned before, you can also catch them this summer. They’re playing a few big festivals (Gov Ball, Firefly, and Lollapalooza) and of course they’re touring all over too. Here’s a few songs that will make you fall for this band as much as I have:

  1. Where I Wanna Be
  2. I Was Wrong
  3. Electric Touch
  4. Cross My Mind
  5. Oceans Away

 

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.)

 

Coachella Band Preview: Grouplove

We are 2 months and 1 week away from Coachella Weekend 1. That means it’s the perfect time to start dusting off those flower headbands. It’s also the perfect time to check out another band playing the festival this year, Grouplove. This band is no stranger to the Indio desert having played Coachella in 2012 and 2014. Their 3rd and latest album was released in September making 2017 the year they make their return to the Empire Polo Fields.

Out of every band I’ve written about, Grouplove has the best formation story of any I’ve learned so far. Usually I’ll tell you where a band comes from, but with Grouplove the members come from all over the map. They officially formed in Los Angeles in 2009, but met before that in Crete at an artist commune in the village of Avdou. Members Hannah Hooper (vocals, keyboards) and Christian Zucconi (vocals, guitar) met on the Lower East Side of Manhattan after Hooper heard Zucconi’s band perform. She fell for him and ended up inviting him to the artist residency in Crete where they met future band members Sean Gadd (bass), Andrew Wessen (guitar, vocals) and Ryan Rabin (drums). Rabin and Wessen were also friends who grew up in Los Angeles. Gadd hails from London, England. The band formed a year after that fateful trip to Crete when Gadd, Hooper, and Zucconi decided to venture out to LA to pay a visit to Rabin’s father’s recording studio (his dad is Trevor Rabin, former guitarist of English rock band Yes).

The band played their first show in LA in 2010 and shortly after toured with Florence and the Machine and The Joy Formidable. Grouplove released their first self-titled EP in early 2011. That same year they joined forces with Foster the People on a co-headlining tour and played several music festivals including Lollapalooza, Glastonbury, and Reading and Leeds. After their busy and travel filled spring and summer, they released their debut album, Never Trust A Happy Song, in September of 2011. Arguably the group’s two biggest singles, “Colours” and “Tongue Tied” were a part of the record. Following the release, Grouplove embarked on a fall North American headlining tour in support of the album. The touring and travel life continued into and through 2012 and included the group’s first stop at Coachella.

They released their sophomore album, Spreading Rumours, in September 2013 almost exactly 2 years after their debut, which brought on another album support tour. This time though Daniel Gleason became a temporary replacement for Sean Gadd, but by the following spring the replacement became permanent. In 2014 the band again played the festival circuit hitting Coachella, Bonnaroo, Firefly, and Lollapalooza.

This past September (clearly the month for Grouplove record releases) Grouplove released their third album, Big Mess, and toured in support of it from August through November. It’s only fitting that the band would play Coachella again after releasing their latest album since they played the festival after their first two releases.

Grouplove is your standard indie band. They play an indie rock/indie pop style of music. I’ve always felt like their songs have this summery sort of vibe. In my opinion their records are the perfect soundtrack to a pool party, laying out on the beach, or taking a road trip along the California coast line with friends. It’s that kind of indie rock.

I first heard of Grouplove in 2011. I feel like that was a prime year for indie rock for me. However though, I never got into Grouplove as a whole. I’ve liked a song here and there, particularly the song “Ways to Go”, but I don’t own any Grouplove albums or have more than a few of their singles on my iTunes. So why am I previewing them for Coachella? Well the reason is I think they’re a great live band. I’ve never seen them in person, but I watched part of their Coachella set in 2014. Their set seemed like so much fun to be at. It made me want to see them in person at a festival. Ideally that festival would be Coachella because their music kind of embodies the Coachella spirit.

Grouplove plays Coachella on Sunday. I recommend going to their set because like I said their music and style perfectly represents the essence of the festival. Their music is good too! I just never got into it like I did with other bands. That doesn’t mean I don’t like it though. If I were attending this year, I’d probably be listening to their music more. Maybe even enough that I might get into them just in time to see them at Coachella. Here’s what you should check out to prep for their set:

  1. Tongue Tied
  2. Ways To Go
  3. Colours
  4. Let Me In
  5. Welcome To Your Life
  6. Itchin’ On A Photograph
  7. Good Morning
  8. Shark Attack
  9. Naked Kids
  10. Do You Love Someone

 

Coachella 2017 Lineup Release

Beyoncé, can you handle this? I don’t think you can handle this!

Yes, it’s that time of year again: festival season lineup announcements and in particular…Coachella. The Coachella lineup just dropped yesterday around 1:30 p.m. and I’m stoked (as always)! I heard lineup rumors during the past few weeks and certain predictions had me feeling some kind of jealous. However, upon the announcement yesterday I feel like 2017 still won’t be topping the 2014 lineup (toughest lineup to top ever). 2017 is still pretty epic because the Queen Bey herself, Beyoncé, is headlining. That’s why I felt the need to quote her former group, Destiny’s Child, to start this post. It was fitting, don’t you think? Anyway, this will be a first for the pop superstar, whose sure to draw a massive crowd as the Saturday night headliner. I can’t put all the focus on Bey though since there’s two other headliners. So, without further ado, the Coachella 2017 lineup is as follows:

The Headliners: Radiohead, Beyoncé, Kendrick Lamar

Obviously the big story from this is Beyoncé as I already mentioned and again yes this will be her first solo performance at the festival. She made a surprise appearance in 2014 at her sister Solange’s set.

Radiohead is no stranger to the Indio desert. Thom Yorke & company headlined Coachella twice in 2004 and 2012. They’ve even played “Creep” once while headlining there, so it’s obviously a pretty special place (they rarely play “Creep”). After the release of their most recent album, A Moon Shaped Pool, last summer, it seems fitting that the group once again headlines a Coachella festival.

Lastly there’s rapper Kendrick Lamar. He played on the Main Stage in 2012 and came out as a guest during the Dre and Snoop set that year. Kendrick Lamar has been on the rise since 2010-2011. Last year he headlined Goldenvoice’s (same promoter as Coachella) Panorama Festival, also dubbed “East Coast Coachella”, in its first year of existence. He apparently crushed his set there and drew a crowd of epic proportions, which might give you an indication of how he’ll be closing out Coachella this year on Sunday night.

Usually Coachella headliners are primarily alternative, rock, or indie or some form of a combo of those genres. In recent years, there have been rap headliners such as Jay-Z (2010), Kanye West (2011), Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg (2012) or Drake (2015) and last year saw electronic artists take the headlining spot with Calvin Harris and, if you consider them to be indie eletronic-ish, LCD Soundsystem. This year is the first time a major pop/ pop-R&B artist is headlining the festival (Beyoncé). Each night sees a different genre of music as the headliner making Coachella even more appealing to the masses.

The Other Highly Billed Performers: the XX, Travis Scott, Father John Misty, Empire of the Sun, Dillon Francis, Bon Iver, Future, DJ Snake, Martin Garrix, ScHoolboy Q, Gucci Mane, Lorde, Justice, New Order, Porter Robinson & Madeon, Future Islands, Mac Miller, Steve Angello, Glass Animals, Phantogram, Mac DeMarco, Little Dragon, BANKS, the Head and the Heart, Two Door Cinema Club, Nicolas Jaar, Bastille, Tycho, Tory Lanez, Röyksopp, Hans Zimmer, DJ Khaled, Marshmello, Lil Uzi Vert, Galantis, Kehlani, Grouplove, Kaytranada

Out of the the other top acts coming to the festival this year, the ones who stick out most to me (a.k.a. the ones I would see) are the XX, Empire of the Sun, Bon Iver, Lorde, Phantogram, BANKS, and Bastille. That means in weeks to come be on the look out for Coachella Band Previews featuring these bands and artists. Bon Iver, Lorde, Phantogram, BANKS, and Bastille will each be making their second Coachella appearance, while the XX and Empire of the Sun will be performing for the third time. All of these acts have released an album over the past year with the exception of the XX, whose third album comes out next week, and Lorde. Lorde is expected to release a new album this spring so I’m excited to hear her new material.

Other notable acts (for me) from this list are Two Door Cinema Club, Glass Animals, Mac DeMarco, and Grouplove. I would check out these acts if it fit in my schedule for sure, especially Mac DeMarco, who I missed at sweetlife last year, and Grouplove, who is a fun indie pop band that fits the Coachella atmosphere perfectly.

There’s also plenty of top electronic artists who will set the Sahara Stage on fire. Look for Dillon Francis, DJ Snake, Martin Garrix, Justice, Porter Robinson & Madeon, Steve Angello, Nicolas Jaar, Tycho, Röyksopp, DJ Khaled, Marshmello (who is basically the new Deadmau5/Daft Punk with his visual persona), Galantis, and Kaytranada there or even on the main stage. There’s no doubt that Dillon Francis and Martin Garrix should be closing out their respective nights on at the Sahara Tent. It’s bound to be lit.

The most interesting artist of this bunch is German composer Hans Zimmer. This guy is a legendary film composer so to earn a spot at Coachella is out of the ordinary. I’m interested to see what his set will be like. Will there be an orchestra there that he directs? Will it be some sort of DJ set? Will everyone sit out on blankets drinking wine and eating cheese if it is an orchestral set? There’s endless questions for this one. Interesting doesn’t even begin to describe it for me.

Another note from this group is the amount of top rap/hip-hop artists. It actually feels like an overwhelming amount of rap artists at Coachella this year compared to the usual. It might be the year for rap there. Just by the look of the lineup, they’ve booked solid acts with Travis Scott, Future, Mac Miller, and Gucci Mane, and not to mention Kendrick as a headliner.

The Rest: Bonobo, Richie Hawtin, DJ Shadow, Loco Dice, Dixon, Capital Cities, Big Gigantic, Crystal Castles, SOHN, Jagwar Ma, Francis and the Lights, BROODS, Guided By Voices, Preservation Hall, Jazz Band, Sampha, BICEP, Raury, the Martinez Brothers, Oh Wonder, Stormzy, Zipper Club, Tennis, SNBRN, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, Kungs, Floorplan, Denzel Curry, the Lemon Twigs, Nora En Pure, Joseph, the Interrupters, Sam Gellaitry, Klangstof, Tacocat, Alison Swing, Local Natives, Majid Jordan, DREAMCAR, Four Tet, Róisín Murphy, Moderat, the Avalanches, Mura Masa, Nav, Solomun, Warpaint, Banks & Steelz, Hot Since 82, Classixx, Kaleo, Breakbot, GRYFFIN, Car Seat Headrest, Daphni, Brodinski, Mitski, Floating Points, Thundercat, SURVIVE, Arkells, the Atomics, Ben UFO, Bishop Briggs, Blossoms, Chicano Batman, Autograf, Moss Kena, Red Axes, Shura, Honey Dijon, Declan McKenna, Eli & Fur, Swet Shop Boys, Chris Cruse, Tale of Us, Toots and the Maytals, Devendra Banhart, Tove Lo, Jai Wolf, Jack Garratt, Sasha, Kiiara, Real Estate, the Belleville Three, Maya Jane Coles, What So Not, PNL, Lee Fields & the Espressions, NAO, GoldLink, Allah-Las, King Sunny Adé, Marcel Dettmann, SOFI TUKKER, Whitney, Patrick Topping, HONNE, Twin Peaks, Tourist, Preoccupations, Hinds, Ezra Furman, Pond, Hannah Wants, Anna Lunoe, Grace Mitchell, Los Blenders, Show Me the Body, Caveman, Jen Ferrer

A lot of these bands and artists are playing Coachella for the first time. Some of them are new to their respective music scenes and some may only get bigger from here. Take this year’s headliner Kendrick Lamar for instance. When he played in 2012, his name was listed on the last line of Friday’s acts. Not all of these bands may make it as a headliner, but you may see some of them in the coming years selling out shows and playing festivals as a top-act.

If I were attending, I would definitely want to see BROODS, Oh Wonder, Kungs, Local Natives, GRYFFIN, and Tove Lo. I missed Local Natives in favor of Halsey at Lollapalooza, but caught the tail end of their set. They’re a great indie alternative band who I’d love to see live, or at least all of their set live. BROODS is a brother-sister music duo who just came on to the music scene in the past few years. I’ve liked everything I’ve heard by them so far. If I had the chance, I would definitely listen to them more and see them at the festival if I had the chance. I’ve also just started to get into Oh Wonder and seeing their name on the Coachella lineup makes me want to listen to more of their stuff and check them out live. I doubt these guys will be climbing the festival lineups soon but they put out some great tunes.

I’m also not sure why Tove Lo isn’t listed higher on the festival lineup. I’m sure she’ll be playing on the Outdoor Stage or the Main Stage though because she’s already selling out smaller venues. Her appeal kind of reminds me of Ellie Goulding and I’m guessing in the coming years she’ll be making her way to the top just as Ellie’s done.

Out of the few electronic artists I like, GRYFFIN is one I would love to check out at Coachella. If you read my Music Saved 2016 post from last week, you’d know I had a GRYFFIN song on the list. He’s also got a song called “Heading Home” that I’m a fan of too. Another electronic artist that you should see/pay attention to is Kungs. This kid, because yeah he’s only 20 years old, came on to the electronic scene huge with his hit “This Girl” feat. Cookin’ on 3 Burners (another song listed on said Music saved 2016 blog post). I actually just listened to some of his other stuff about 2 days ago. I liked what I heard. He released his debut album on November 4th and I’m sure you’ll hear more from him in the future. Like I said pay attention to him and see him now if you have the chance.

Some other bands worth checking out are electronic duo HONNE, rock group Arkells, and indie band Twin Peaks. You may even want to check out solo artist Jack Garratt, who reminds me of combo between Bon Iver and the Weeknd, and indie/alternative rock artist Declan McKenna, who won Glastonbury Festival’s emerging talent competition in 2015.

To those of you scored tickets and are heading to Indio this spring, have the best time of your lives. Coachella is an incredible experience filled with music that spans across genres so there really is something for everyone to see. At this current moment, I’m not officially going to Coachella as a festival attendee, but there is a possibility that I could work there. I’m not getting my hopes up yet though because I could very well be spending this year watching from my computer again. As such, I’ll be previewing bands playing the festival this year as I’ve done the last two years and writing as if I were going like I did last year in 2016 (because I did go in 2015, which started all this preview hype to begin with). So stay tuned for all the previews because festival season is almost here!

Phantogram

Wanna hear something crazy? There have been a number of bands I’ve liked whose albums I don’t own, but I have two albums by a band whose albums I normally wouldn’t go out of my way to purchase. Reason: Black Friday. Over the last 3-4 years or so, I’ve shopped for music on Black Friday because CDs are often reduced in price. Once I got Of Monsters & Men’s My Head is An Animal for $6. Then a year later I purchased 6 CDs for $7 each. It’s one of the best days to get CDs assuming they have what you want or have what you’re interested in.

This year the CDs I wanted were $8 a piece so I purchased three…or so I thought. Apparently instead of a CD, I purchased one of the albums on vinyl for $8 that included a free MP3 download of it. Can you say winning?! I mean that was mistakenly epic. It’s rare to get a new LP for under $10. Hell it’s rare to get one for under $15. I was stoked (in case you were wondering what it was, Cleopatra by The Lumineers). Then I realized something from my purchases. One of the CDs I purchased just didn’t feel like something I would buy if I didn’t have that $8 deal. Not only that, but I purchased an earlier album from the same band 2 years ago on a Black Friday deal. Crazy. I guess I like Phantogram more than I thought.

Phantogram is comprised of Greenwich, New York duo Josh Carter and Sarah Barthel. They formed the band in 2007 originally under the name Charlie Everywhere. They opted for a name change once they signed a record deal in 2009 claiming that they liked Phantogram better. It also suited their band more since it means a two dimensional optical illusion that appears as three dimensions (2 band members = 2 dimensions creating a third (music) which is something bigger than themselves…you get the picture). They released their debut self-titled EP a few months after signing their record deal. They followed it up with another EP later that year. Their first album, Eyelid Movies, was released on February 9, 2010 receiving favorable reviews from many sources. Their second album, Voices, was released in early 2014. They released two EP’s between their first and second albums.

They spent their time between albums touring in the U.S. and in Europe. They also played several major music festivals in addition to their touring schedule including Coachella in 2011 and Bonnaroo and Governor’s Ball in 2012 (They haven’t played Coachella since so could be a lock for Coachella 2017). Following the release of Voices the band continued to tour and play festivals throughout 2014 including Firefly, Lollapalooza, Osheaga, and Austin City Limits. They recently released their third album coincidentally (or not coincidentally at all) called Three on October 7, 2016. They’re currently touring the U.S. in support of their newest album.

In terms of music style, Phantogram has been compared to the likes of Purity Ring, Sleigh Bells, The Naked & Famous, Washed Out, STRFKR, Tennis, and Local Natives. Their music falls under the indie electronica, electro rock, dream pop genres. To give you my best description, it’s like taking an electronic trip. The vocals are soft and flowy, but not enough to leave you too far gone. Phantogram’s tunes have been featured in a variety of outlets too from television to film to video games all of different themes.

I discovered Phantogram in September 2014. It was probably a random place or playlist that I heard their song “Celebrating Nothing”. I downloaded it though and listened to it along with other recently added songs. It was a good song, but never stood out from the rest. Regardless of that, I bought the album on Black Friday because $7 for Voices was a good deal. I probably thought the album was worth a listen too. I remember listening to each album I bought that year for about a week because it was/is tough to listen to 6 albums at once. Again this year I downloaded one song off Phantogram’s newest album a few months prior and decided to buy their album for cheap on Black Friday.

When I started this blog I had yet to listen to the album which came in the mail the other day, but I stopped to take a break while writing this. I also ate lunch and ran a few errands. While I was running errands I put the new album in my car’s CD player. It’s good. To me it’s similar to the second album because their music doesn’t sound drastically different. However, I’m not sure I paid attention to the second album enough to compare it. Voices was a background album for me meaning it’s the type of album that sounds good as background music on a drive, while hanging out with friends, etc. With that type of album though, no song stands out enough to set it apart from the rest. So far Three feels the same way. I haven’t listened to it enough yet to be one hundred percent sure. I’ve actually only listened to about half the album. Maybe in a few days I can do an edit and get back to you on that.

If you’re sensing  theme here about Phantogram you’re probably right. In my opinion, they’re good. That’s it. I’m probably downplaying them, but to me that’s all they are. They’re a little above average, but nothing spectacular. Most of the time I hype up the bands I write about. I can’t with these guys so here’s my honest opinion: They’re good, just good, but I still think they’re worth a listen. Some of you may like them more than others and some of you may really really like them. Some of you may listen to them once and decide you probably won’t listen to them again. Maybe some of you will even agree they’re good background music and buy their albums for cheap next Black Friday (if possible) like me. Here’s a couple of the songs I like by them (even if the list is small because like I said nothing stands out to me):

  1. Celebrating Nothing
  2. Cruel World
  3. Howling at the Moon
  4. Don’t Move
  5. You Don’t Get Me High Anymore

 

I Won’t Treat You Like You’re Typical

I’ve always liked alternative styles of music. I’ve listened to alternative rock, indie rock, indie pop, emo, screamo, pop punk, punk rock, ska, hardcore, and lately even some of that mainstream EDM stuff. After I graduated from college, my music interests started to shift a bit towards the indie music genre. I wrote about it once and refer to it as my second musical enlightenment. Since then, I’ve been into the indie rock/indie pop scene. However, there were times during high school and college where I’ve been interested in indie artists. I think my first interest in indie bands came from watching The OC. Bands like Death Cab For Cute, Band of Horses, Spoon, Rooney, and Nada Surf had musical influence on the show. Indie music was a huge part of the series due to Seth Cohen’s (one of the main characters) interest in the indie scene. After the OC went off the air in 2007, I had interests in indie bands here and there before my main indie phase took over in 2011. One of those bands was the indie pop/rock duo, Tegan and Sara.

Identical twin sisters, Tegan Rain Quin and Sara Keirsten Quin formed their band in the late 90’s while still in high school. The Canadian duo, who hail from Calgary, Alberta, recorded their first demos in high school and began touring shortly after graduation. They released their first album, Under Feet Like Ours, in 1999. Since then, the band has released 7 other records. Their latest and eighth album, Love You to Death, was released June 3, 2016. They’ve also toured numerous times worldwide on both headlining tours and in support of many well-known acts and have played countless music festivals. Their seventh album, Heartthrob, released in 2013 is their highest charting album to date (number 3 on Billboard’s Top 200) and sold 49,000 copies in its first week. The album earned them more attention in the music world as well as a growth in their dedicated fan base.

Tegan and Sara’s sound has progressed since their debut in 1999. They went from folk/alternative rock to indie rock to indie pop and now to more of a straight pop sound. Their ability to grow musically along with having a devout following has allowed them to continue to make music for 20 years, even though the sisters are only in their mid-30’s.

Tegan and Sara have used their platform beyond the music world too. As out lesbians, both are huge advocates for LGBT equality, thus gaining a large following from the LGBT community. They’ve also advocated in support of other causes but their strong involvement in LGBT rights is well known and has made them a favorite act of community members.

I first heard of Tegan and Sara through a friend who had lyrics from their song “Take Me Anywhere” on her MySpace profile. At the time, I always confused Tegan and Sara and fellow girl duo Meg & Dia. Eventually Tegan and Sara won my heart over once I became interested in their music during my sophomore and junior year of college. I don’t remember how, why, or exactly when my interest started, but I do remember listening to their music while driving to class during the winter. I can honestly say they’ve never been my favorite band. I’ve only been a casual listener since around 2009 while in college. In fact, I purchased my first Tegan and Sara album in 2014 on a Black Friday deal. A few months prior I got into the song “Closer”, a year after it was all over mainstream radio, so a $7 copy of Heartthrob was a great deal in my mind. I had the album on repeat during my Christmas trip to visit family and Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s Christmas Town. It was one of my favorite Black Friday CD purchases and was my go to album of the time.

A few weeks ago, my friend told me she had tickets for a Tegan and Sara show in the beginning of November. She planned on attending with her roommate and her roommate’s girlfriend. When she told me, I expressed interest in going and she said I should join them. I decided to go for it, purchasing my tickets a solid three weeks before the show. Last Thursday night was the night. I saw Tegan and Sara live for the first time (along with Hayley Kiyoko and ARIZONA, but that’s another show and another story). As a casual fan, I wasn’t as stoked for the show as I’ve been for others, but it surely exceeded my expectations. I had the best time. Tegan and Sara played a variety of songs from older albums along with ones from their newer releases. They also took the time to tell stories in between songs and advocate for the upcoming Presidential election. Even as Canadians they let us know they had our backs no matter the results. It was evident that the crowd was made up of plenty of longtime fans who knew the words to every song and created an energy difficult to replicate by singing a-long and dancing for the entirety of their set. There was something special about the atmosphere at the show that made it unlike other shows I’ve been to. Not to mention, I also attended with a great group of people who appreciate the twins’ music and music in general.

I feel like Tegan and Sara’s music can appeal to so many people because of how their music has grown and changed through the years. If you’ve never heard of them, please check them out soon. They’re good. If you have, you can totally vouch for me and if you ever have a chance to see them live in a smaller venue, go for it. It’s better than you know. Here’s some of my favorite Tegan and Sara songs, but there’s plenty to pick from with 8 albums so feel free to scan through all their tunes:

  1. Nineteen
  2. Walking With the Ghost
  3. The Con
  4. Closer
  5. Hell
  6. I Couldn’t Be Your Friend
  7. I Was A Fool
  8. Boyfriend
  9. Goodbye, Goodbye
  10. Stop Desire

Bastille

It was 2013. I was in California for the first time visiting my cousin and exploring the southern portion of the state. I can’t remember what day it was or if it was night time or the middle of the afternoon, but I sat in her downstairs bathroom catching up on social media. I saw a tweet from someone I followed that hyped up a band named Bastille. The tweet also mentioned several songs. I sat there checking each one out before I left the bathroom. I can’t say I was a fan of any of the songs. I had much more important things to focus on though, mainly being in California. That was the first time I heard of Bastille.

Months later I re-evaluated my opinions on the band. I got into the song Pompeii (like everyone else) and eventually Bad Blood. Pompeii was one of the songs I listened to in my cousin’s bathroom. The song Flaws was another, which I started liking later on too. Sometimes bands or artists have to grow on us. Sometimes we have to hear them in a different context to appreciate them. That’s what happened in this situation for me. Now a little over three years since I first heard Bastille, I fell in love with their sophomore album, Wild World.

Bastille is a British indie pop band formed primarily by lead vocalist Dan Smith, but includes members, Kyle Simmons (keyboard), Will Farquarson (guitar and bass), and Chris Wood (drums). The band was formed in 2010 as a solo project of Smith’s. The band name comes from the French holiday Bastille Day which is celebrated July 14th, Dan Smith’s birthday. The band independently released their debut single and self released their first EP before their debut, Bad Blood, came out under Virgin Records in March of 2013.

Their first album reached the number one position on the UK Albums Chart upon its release. Following the release, Bastille played SXSW and supported Muse on The 2nd Law Tour in May and June. They also played on the UK festival circuit in the summer 2013 including appearances at Glastonbury, Blissfields, and Reading and Leeds (all festivals they played in prior years as well). The band won a BRIT Award in February 2014 for Best Breakthrough Artist. In December 2014, the band released their third mixtape (the first two were released in 2012). The mixtape had all original content compared to the combination of original songs and covers on the first two.

After a somewhat quiet 2015, this past June Bastille announced their second album, Wild World, and released the first single from the album “Good Grief”. The album was released on September 9th. By the album’s second week, it topped the UK and Scottish album charts.

The success of their first album will be difficult to match, but if my opinion says anything, I thought it was excellent the first time I listened to it (Can you tell how much Bastille has grown on me?). It looks as if the band will be touring worldwide to promote their new album through the coming months. They’ll most likely be playing several dates on the festival circuit next year as well. Just by looking at their upcoming tour dates, there’s a pretty good indication that they’ll be a lock for Coachella 2017, their second Coachella.

They are undoubtedly an indie pop band, so much so that I initially questioned if they were indie at all. I think the initial reason why I wasn’t into them was because of how pop their music sounded. Maybe that’s also why I was into their newest album upon first listen. I feel like I’ve been listening to more poppy stuff lately. Too much poppy stuff if you ask me (Feel free to send me indie recommendations!). Anyway, I think their new album has many similarities to their first. Bastille has such a distinct sound that it’s difficult for me to pick out some major differences. I’m sure I could if I really studied both albums, but just take that as it is for now. If anything, there might be a hint more of an electronic influence in Wild World than in Bad Blood.

Surprisingly (or not surprisingly depending on your opinion), I’ve seen Bastille play before. They played the Sweetlife Festival in 2014, which I attended to see Lana Del Rey and Foster the People. I had lawn tickets (because it was all that was available at the time) and wanted to get a good spot for Lana and FTP so my friends and I hung out at the main stage all day. It resulted in missing Capital Cities and St. Lucia, but allowed me to see some great performances from Hozier, Bastille, and Fitz and the Tantrums. Bastille was actually my unintended favorite performance of the day. During the set Dan Smith, walked the entire length of the pavilion to the lawn area and back to the stage, which hyped up the crowd immensely. Pompeii, as their most successful song, also yielded a great crowd reaction.

If you’re into pop music, or indie pop, Bastille is a band you should check out. I also highly recommend seeing them live. I didn’t have any expectations for them at Sweetlife going in, but I thought they absolutely crushed their set. So if you do plan on checking them out or plan to see them live, these are a few songs you need to hear:

  1. Pompeii
  2. Bad Blood
  3. Flaws
  4. Overjoyed
  5. Good Grief
  6. Send Them Off!
  7. Things We Lost in the Fire
  8. Fake It
  9. No Scrubs (TLC Cover) (This cover is so so so so good!)
  10. Warmth

 

The Film Playlist: Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist

Sorry for the delay in blog posting. I don’t think I have avid readers so this is probably just an apology to myself. I had this post planned for the last week but I had trouble finding time to get it done. It required a little more effort than usual. I had to re-watch a film I haven’t seen in a while so I could properly add another film to The Film Playlist. It’s called Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Sounds like a solid fit for The Film Playlist right? Well I should warn you that looks can be deceiving if you weren’t already aware.

The 2008 film stars Michael Cera as Nick and Kat Dennings as Norah. The film was based on the novel of the same name by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. The adapted screenplay was written by Lorene Scafaria and directed by Peter Sollett.

The movie is less about music than its title indicates. Of course that’s not really a criteria for The Film Playlist, but in this case, a greater music focus might have saved the film. In the movie, Nick, a high school senior, was recently dumped by his girlfriend Tris (Alexis Dziena), a girl who he continually makes mix tapes for regardless of their standing. Norah, another senior who goes to school with Tris and whose father owns a prominent recording studio in New York, has a similar love for music like Nick. When Tris discards Nick’s failed mix tape attempts, Norah takes the tapes for herself because she claims Nick makes the best mix tapes. Norah has never met Nick though.

When word gets out that the elusive indie band Where’s Fluffy? will be playing a secret show in the city after hours that night, individually Nick, Norah, Tris, and their crews decide they need to find it and attend the show. Nick and his band The Jerk-Offs (an all gay band aside from Nick) have a gig to play in the city too, which initially Nick plans on skipping to revel in his own single life misery. The Where’s Fluffy? announcement changes his mind though.

At the show Nick sees Tris in the crowd with another guy, Gary, and is even more shaken up over his ex. Norah also attends with her best friend Caroline. After Caroline bails on Norah to try to pick up guys, Tris confronts Norah about her loner status. Norah fires back by telling her that she came with her boyfriend. She then pretends Nick is her boyfriend after finding him cute while he performed without knowing Nick is Tris’s ex Nick and kisses him in front of Tris igniting the first flame between Nick and herself. From there, the night turns into an epic adventure throughout New York City in a quest to find the Where’s Fluffy? show and locate a drunken Caroline while going through the ups and downs of teenage romance.

The film is more of a teen flick than any other film on the playlist so far. Bandslam could be considered the same but has a much deeper story than this movie and much more notable music. Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist has high school appeal and creates a dream reality for any indie/alternative music crazed teenager.

The music in the film is purely indie. Some of the featured indie bands are somewhat obscure too. I’ve heard of a handful of the bands, but many haven’t reached the top of the indie scene. Some more notable ones are Modest Mouse, Vampire Weekend, Band of Horses, The National, The Submarines, and Rogue Wave. The film references The Cure but none of their music is featured.

I saw this film in theaters when it was first released. I liked it at the time, but still expected it to be better than it was. After watching it again, I feel the same way even though the music in the film is what I’m into. The characters don’t have depth. It’s funny at times, but has nothing that separates it from true comedy films. The plot is creative yet unoriginal. I feel like it has more to offer musically and theatrically.

Despite my critiques, this film is on the playlist. It’s kind of like that bubble song that you’ll put on your mix if it fits the time limit, but you wouldn’t be sad if it had to be cut. It also might be one that you’d skip from time to time, unless you’re really into indie teen love stories. So see this movie if you’re into that kind of thing, if the summary interested you, or if you solely want to indulge in all films involving music, otherwise you’re not missing much.

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