indie pop music

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.

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, 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: Two Door Cinema Club

Coachella is next weekend. Coachella is next weekend. COACHELLA. IS. NEXT. WEEKEND. Thought I would ingrain it in your mind, but yeah Coachella begins next weekend. That means the band previews for 2017 are almost over. It’s the only bummer of this whole Coachella experience. I have one more preview left before the festival starts, but that’s it. There’s not much time. You might wanna binge listen to this next act.

Two Door Cinema Club was formed in 2007. The group who comes from two small towns in Northern Ireland is comprised of members Alex Trimble (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Sam Halliday (lead guitar, vocals), and Kevin Baird (bass, vocals, synth). Trimble and Halliday met while in grammar school and then the duo got to know Baird better when he started hanging out with their mutual friends. The band got their name when Halliday mispronounced the name of the local movie theater, Tudor Cinema.

Two Door Cinema Club’s first EP Four Words to Stand On was released in 2008 which garnered them attention. They released their debut album, Tourist History, 2 years later in February of 2010 (Republic of Ireland release) and toured the UK and Ireland in the spring of 2010 in support of its release. The band also played a bunch of European Festivals in 2010 including Reading and Leeds and opened for Phoenix during their 2010 U.S. Tour. Their debut album earned them two NME Award nominations.

The band continued to tour going into 2011 playing a co-headlining tour of the U.S. and Canada with Tokyo Police Club. 2011 brought stops at Glastonbury, Coachella, and Lollapalooza, as well as another stop at Reading and Leeds. They began work on their second album in 2011 and by the end of August 2012, Beacon was released.

In 2013, Two Door Cinema Club released their second EP Changing of the Seasons. They spent spent 2013 playing shows and festivals throughout Europe and North America. The group finally took a break from a steady 3 years of touring by 2014 and began to work on their third album. They began touring again in 2016 in support of the release of their third studio album, Gameshow, which came out in October. That tour has continued into 2017 and includes the stop in Indio.

Two Door Cinema Club is part of the indie rock genre. Some of their songs verge on indie pop as well. Their new album even has a funky, soulful feel, so you can say the band sort of spans across genres.

I first discovered Two Door Cinema Club in 2011 in the prime of my indie music phase. I bought their debut album that year. It was never a stand out album to me despite my love for their style of music. It was always just a solid indie rock soundtrack to my drives that fall. Since then, I haven’t really followed up much on Two Door Cinema Club. I did hear of them touring and making music though so I knew they were still around. I was just never as into them as I was with other bands.

So why am I previewing them for Coachella and telling you to see them? Because despite not being really, really into them, they’re a good band and festivals are the time to see as much music as possible especially if you’re somewhat familiar with a band. So I guess that’s the only condition. If you’re not into indie rock and you’ve never heard of Two Door Cinema Club, by all means, don’t feel obliged to see them perform. If you do like indie rock or you know a few songs by Two Door Cinema Club, you should check them out, assuming their set doesn’t overlap with another set on your must-see list. If you already love them and plan on seeing them, I have no doubt they’ll play a great set. I know I would probably see them at Coachella because I don’t think I’d actually buy tickets to just see Two Door Cinema Club on tour and that’s okay. That’s what makes festivals great. Maybe you’ll see them and they’ll be unexpectedly amazing causing you to want to see them on tour. It’s their 3rd time at Coachella too so they’re not new to experience. They play Saturday and at this point they’ll probably be on a little later in the day. Here’s what you need to know if you plan on seeing them:

  1. Are We Ready? (Wreck)
  2. Bad Decisions
  3. What You Know
  4. Sleep Alone
  5. Something Good Can Work
  6. I Can Talk
  7. Changing of the Seasons
  8. Next Year
  9. Undercover Martyn
  10. Sun
  11. Gameshow

 

 

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: BROODS

We are officially less than 2 months away from Weekend 1 of Coachella! The hype is increasing at this point and yesterday it increased for me too. I’m proud to say that I accepted a position to work at Coachella in its entirety (meaning both weekends)! I’m beyond stoked. However that being said, even though I’ll be out in the desert once again, I’m going to have some serious business to take care of. I have no idea if I’ll be able to see any music at all, but being in the Coachella atmosphere is a gift in and of itself. At least now you’ll know who I would be seeing if I get a chance out there. Anyway with this building anticipation, it’s time to ramp up that listening and preview another band playing the festival this year for their first time, BROODS.

BROODS is a brother-sister band duo who come from Nelson, New Zealand. Georgia Nott (lead vocals) and her brother Caleb (backing vocals, production, multi-instruments) grew up in a music-oriented family. They even performed in an ABBA tribute band growing up and were a part of an indie band while in college. Both ended up eventually dropping out of college to pursue BROODS. Their band name was suggested by their manager but has a relevant double meaning which they love. It relates to family but also deep upsetting thoughts that the siblings resolve through music. They formed the band in early 2013 and released their debut single “Bridges” by October of that year. The duo worked early on with music producer, Joel Little, who also worked with Lorde on her single “Royals”.

They released their debut self-titled EP in early January 2014 after signing a deal with Capitol Records/Polydor a month earlier and then toured the UK, North America, and Australia for the better part of 2014. Some of their tour gigs were in support of acts like Haim, Ellie Goulding, and Sam Smith. Their debut album, Evergreen, was released in August 2014. It debuted at No. 1 on the New Zealand Album Chart. In 2015 they returned to North America to tour making several stops on the festival circuit along the way. None of those included Coachella however, making this year their first Coachella appearance.

After the release of their debut album, they immediately began working on its successor. With a tour filled 2015 though, it wasn’t released until June of 2016. The album, Conscious, features collaborations with fellow 2017 Coachella performers Lorde (writing) and Tove Lo (singing) (surprise guest anyone?!). Both albums earned BROODS several New Zealand Music Awards. Since their debut on the music scene, the duo has racked up a total of 10 of the awards, along with 2 more nominations that didn’t result in wins. They were also nominated for the APRA Silver Scroll Award in 2014 but lost.

BROODS style of music is primarily indie pop with a mild electronic influence. Georgia Nott’s vocals are soft and hypnotizing to listen to. If I had to compare them to other artists, I would say their current sound is kind of like BANKS/Lorde/Tove Lo meets St. Lucia, but with a more BANKS/Lorde/Tove Lo sound than St. Lucia. It’s really just a few songs from their latest album that give off a St. Lucia style indie pop feel than their debut, especially the song “We Had Everything” (I mean come on…don’t you start hearing “Closer Than This” with that intro?).

I first heard of BROODS in late 2014 when a person I follow on twitter tweeted about how good the band was. I, of course, checked them out and loved their sound. I downloaded the songs “Bridges”, “Four Walls”, and “Mother & Father” and listened to them periodically. Over the last year I added two songs from their new album to my iTunes and again listened to them as they played on my “Most Recently Added” rotation.

I’ve never been a super fan of BROODS, only a casual listener, but I’ve always liked what I’ve listened to. If I have the opportunity to see BROODS live in a festival setting, I’ll definitely see them. As I said before, this is their first time playing Coachella. They play Friday. I’m not sure what kind of crowd they’ll attract in their first appearance at the festival, but I don’t think it will be overwhelming. So if you’re up to listen to some indie pop from the siblings Nott then check them out. You won’t be disappointed. Here’s a few songs to get you ready for their set:

  1. Bridges
  2. Heartlines
  3. Mother & Father
  4. Four Walls
  5. Free
  6. We Had Everything
  7. Freak of Nature (ft. Tove Lo)
  8. Never Gonna Change
  9. Couldn’t Believe
  10. Everytime

Bonus: Ease by Troye Sivan ft. BROODS

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 Band Preview: The xx

Hey guess what…Coachella Band Previews are back! It was only a matter of time since the lineup release last week. Coachella is a little over 3 months away so if you’re headed out to Indio, your prep needs to begin asap. Like yesterday asap. The timing of my first preview works out perfectly because this band’s third album, I See You, comes out tomorrow! They hail from the UK and they’re called The xx.

In 2005, while still in school, Oliver Sim and Romy Madley Croft formed the band. Guitarist Baria Qureshi joined once the band started performing and Jamie Smith joined the year after. The group released their debut album, xx, in 2009 under the British indie label Young Turks. It received praise from critics in both the UK and America. It made Rolling Stone’s list of Best Albums of 2009 finishing 9th. Songs from the album have been featured on countless television and film productions as well as for sporting event promotions. The band also headlined its own tour in promotion of the album and earned spots at several major North American music festivals in 2010, including Coachella, Sasquatch, Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits. In late 2009 though, band member Baria Qureshi left the band turning The xx into a trio.

In 2012 the band once again played the festival circuit in anticipation of their second album, Coexist, which was released on September 5, 2012. Coexist combines The xx’s signature sound and integrates it with a club music feel. Jamie Smith spoke before its release about the club influence on it. It’s definitely noticeable especially on songs like “Sunset” and “Swept Away”. The second album didn’t generate as much success as their debut, but was still highly anticipated.

As I said, their third album comes out tomorrow and once again the band will embark on a touring/festival circuit route for the year. They begin touring in Europe in February, head to South America for their Lollapalooza dates, and then it’s Southern California for Coachella followed by their North American tour with more festivals mixed in along the way. As for the album itself, I’ve only heard the singles that were released early, but I recently read a review from Pitchfork claiming that the album combines classic xx and the growth of each members’ talents. Obviously the challenge for any band or artist with a largely successful album is trying to replicate that success with still being able to grow as musicians and make and play the music that the band or artist wants to create. While there will never be another xx, it’s safe to say that this upcoming album sounds tremendous so far. It even caught my ear early for someone who has listened to The xx here and there throughout the last 5-6 years. Maybe it’s a long shot or maybe it’s not, but I’m predicting some good things for the new album and the band this year.

The xx plays an indie electronic style of music. It can even induce that hypnotic dream pop sound. The xx honestly combines the best of both of my worlds at this point. While searching for upbeat electronic songs to listen to while I work out, I’m constantly wondering if there are any DJ’s out there who have a more indie sound to combine with their electronic music. The xx answers that question for me. They combine guitar with digital/electronic beats and sounds. Though not necessarily the type of music I’d listen to while working out, their music is just what I’ve been looking for.

As I said, I’ve listened to The xx here and there throughout the last 5 years. I first heard them in 2011. I’m pretty sure I heard the song “Intro” while listening to the Foster the People channel on Pandora. Eventually I discovered the song “Islands” and casually enjoyed the song for the past few years. 2 months ago, before I heard about the new album, I added the song “Heart Skipped a Beat” to my newest music on iTunes. Right before I added that song, a friend of mine told me one of her top 5 favorite albums of all time was xx. I forget the other albums she said, but the mentioning of The xx interested me since I knew about them for years without really getting into them. Between the new album and the promotion from my friend of their debut, I’ve developed a recent interest in the group and I was excited to learn that they’re expected to play Coachella this year.

The xx plays Coachella on Friday and by Friday, I totally mean Friday night. There’s no doubt in my mind that they’ll either take the Main Stage before Radiohead or play a late set on the Outdoor Stage. In fact, The xx playing as the sun sets over the mountains of the Indio desert is probably the most ideal setting imaginable. No matter what setting they play in though, their set will undoubtedly be a great one and one I would surely be at. To prep for it, pick up a copy of I See You tomorrow or listen to some of these songs:

  1. Islands
  2. Intro
  3. Angels
  4. Heart Skipped A Beat
  5. Sunset
  6. Crystalised
  7. VCR

 

Trying to Find the In-Betweens

There’s many reasons I can give you about why music is special. It can make us feel a range of emotions, bring back memories, or create new ones. It can bring people together or tear them apart. It’s a powerful art form. Another reason why music is special is that it’s always there and that it keeps coming back. Some songs never get old, but bands and artists are constantly creating new ones. One cool thing about this is when you don’t hear about a band or an artist for a few years and suddenly they come out of the woodwork again with a new single and a new album on the way. Sometimes the album drops as quick as Beyonce’s self-titled, but many times fans have to wait a few weeks or months for the new record. I experienced this phenomenon recently with a band who I’ve liked since 2011. They’ve released two albums thus far and have a third set to debut in October. Their new single “Higher” came out on July 7th setting the stage for the latest album, Simple Forms. They’re called The Naked and Famous.

The Naked and Famous are an indie electronic band from Auckland, New Zealand. They formed in 2007 while band members Thom Powers (vocals, guitar), Alisa Xayalith (vocals, keyboard), and Aaron Short (vocals, keyboard) were in college and worked on two EPs together. In 2009 David Beadle (bass) and Jesse Wood (drums) joined the group. Their name comes from a line in the song “Tricky Kid” by English musician Tricky. The band released their debut album Passive Me, Aggressive You on September 6, 2010 under their own label. Their debut single from the album, “Young Blood”, which was released a few months prior, debuted on the New Zealand music charts at number one. It even peaked at the number 12 spot on the U.S. Top Alternative Albums Chart. The album earned them six nominations for the New Zealand Music Awards.

In 2012, after completing touring for their first album, The Naked and Famous relocated to Los Angeles, CA. They began working on their second album with the intention of creating an album that could be played live in its entirety without relying on backing tracks. The second album, In Rolling Waves, was released on September 16, 2013 with the first single “Hearts Like Ours” debuting on July 23, 2013. Since touring in support of their second album, the group has been silent for the last year and a half until the release of the single  “Higher” a few weeks ago. With a brand new album, Simple Forms, on the horizon, The Naked and Famous will be back in the music world once again.

Their music style is primarily indie electronic, but you could also say they’re indie rock, electronic rock, or even indie pop/synthpop. While their first album has a more electronic feel, their second is more rock. It shows the progression they made by creating an album that could be played entirely live. If “Higher” is any indication of what their third album will be like, it seems like they’ve transitioned their old sound with modern electronic music. The new single even has a hint of tropical house mixed in.

I first heard The Naked and Famous in the summer of 2011. “Young Blood” as well as two other songs off their first two EP’s “Serenade” and “Bells” were what I downloaded at the time. It was “Young Blood” that hooked me though. I bought the debut album in the coming weeks after downloading those songs and took a liking to several others on the record. Two years later as I booked my first trip to California in September I saw the band was playing a show in San Diego the night of the day of my arrival. At the time, it was over a year since I saw any live music performance (sad, I know) and I thought it would be cool to make a concert part of my first trip to the Golden State. I asked my cousin if she’d be up for it and she agreed to go with me.

My trip happened shortly after the release of the second album so I purchased it and listened to it non-stop before my departure. On the night of the show, I was running on about 3-4 hours of sleep and had been up for almost 24 hours straight due to my traveling earlier in the day. My cousin and I arrived at the House of Blues in San Diego right before The Naked and Famous came on (my cousin made a late dinner and had to clean up first). It was a great performance despite being interrupted twice for technical difficulties. By the end of the show I was so exhausted. I ended up being awake for about 25-26 hours that day between traveling and time zone switching. Seeing that show in California revived my love for the song “Young Blood”. After hearing the song live, my cousin decided she liked it and we played it a few times throughout my trip. That song and The Naked and Famous will always be a reminder of my first trip to California, which was incredible in so many other ways as well. I guess in that way The Naked and Famous demonstrates more than just one reason why music is special.

Here are some recommendations to get you ready for the new album due out October 14th:

  1. Young Blood
  2. Punching in a Dream
  3. All of This
  4. Serenade
  5. Bells
  6. Girls Like You
  7. Hearts Like Ours
  8. Rolling Waves
  9. No Way
  10. I Kill Giants
  11. Higher (The New Single!!)

 

MGMT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Coachella Band Preview: BØRNS

I’m not sure if you knew or not but, COACHELLA BEGINS ON FRIDAY! For those of you camping, it begins Thursday night, but the festival officially begins on Friday. Since Friday is only a mere 3 days from now, this will be the final band preview for Coachella 2016 (I do have an extra special Coachella post for tomorrow planned though). Over the past 3 months, I’ve previewed all of my favorite acts performing this year and now it’s getting down to the wire. There was a handful of bands to choose from that I wanted to write about for this final preview so I figured I’d choose one whose music style is more so my cup of tea, meaning not another EDM artist.

Garrett Borns, better known to the world as BØRNS, is a indie pop/alternative rock artist from Grand Haven, Michigan. His debut single, “10,000 Emerald Pools”, was released a little more than a year ago on November 10, 2014. His EP Candy was also released the same day. After the EP release, BØRNS played multiple TV appearances and festivals to promote his EP. He joined the likes of MisterWives last spring and Charli XCX and Bleachers last summer on tour. BØRNS debut album, Dopamine, was released on October 16, 2015. The album peaked at the 24th spot on the Billboard Top 200 in the U.S.

BØRNS plays an indie pop/alternative rock style of music. His music also has elements of synth and can be considered synthpop. There’s even a hippie-like sound to a few of his songs too. His high pitched vocals are smooth. At times they even remind me of Justin Timberlake’s sound, except better because his music has a much more indie sound.

I first heard of BØRNS over the summer at some point. I’m not exactly sure if I heard him first on the local alternative radio station or on my friends Spotify playlist. The song “Electric Love” was the first song I heard though. Since the summer, I’ve heard the song many more times as well as several other BØRNS songs that I like just as much and have recently been getting into.

BØRNS 2016 Coachella appearance will be his first. He did play other major festivals like Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits last year, but Coachella goes beyond other festivals in my opinion. He’ll be kicking off the festival with a Friday set. As I’m writing this post, I’m listening to BØRNS and I can picture hearing this song while a cool breeze blows and the palm trees and bohemian hipsters are swaying. It should be a great set to attend to start off the weekend. With the limited amount of time, here’s some songs you need to have on repeat over the next three days:

  1. 10,000 Emerald Pools
  2. Electric Love
  3. American Money
  4. Seeing Stars
  5. Past Lives
  6. The Emotion
  7. Fool

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