indie rock music

The Return of Live Music and the Top Tunes of 2021

I came into this year believing it would be a transition. I knew it wouldn’t be the best year ever, but I truly believed we were going to transition back into some weird period of normalcy that wasn’t quite exactly normal yet. Sure enough after 15 long months, we did and live music came back into our lives. I went back to work. I saw my friends again, made new ones, and got closer to others, which is something I’m so grateful as someone who works in live events. Usually at the end of the year, I recap some of my favorite music, but this year, after talking to a friend of mine, I’ve decided to include something extra. This was the first year in a while that I didn’t have a stand out favorite song of the year. For me, this year was a comeback to music I know and love with a few new faves along the way. You’ll see what I mean. So let’s get to it, here are my 2021 favorites in music:

Torches X -Foster the People

I knew going into 2021 that Torches, one of my all time favorite albums by my favorite band Foster the People, would be turning 10. Last fall, I was hoping they would play a drive-in show in May in honor of the 10th anniversary. Needless to say I never expected I would get to see them play a 10th anniversary show in LA in November nor did I expect a deluxe edition of the album with some of my favorite early Foster the People songs. That’s what I got though and I’m more stoked about it than you know. Plus after years of hoping and wishing, “Broken Jaw” is now on Spotify. It can’t get any better than that.

30 -Adele

After 6 years, Adele finally put out new music in 2021. As I wrote recently, 30 hasn’t been my favorite Adele album, but it was still something I anticipated for quite a while. It deserves recognition for that, especially after the endless amount of Twitter teases over the past 2 years. It’s still one of my favorite albums of 2021 and has several great tracks that I love. I’m stoked Adele is finally back.

Decco

Decco was a huge discovery for me this past spring. I spent a good amount of time listening to their songs after finding them because of a Kygo song on my Release Radar Spotify playlist. I’m actually surprised their song “I Didn’t Know” wasn’t my most listened to song of 2021 because I surely spent a lot of time listening to that track this past spring and summer. I’m hoping there are more solid Decco songs released in the future and maybe even a festival set or two. They’re great and I’m glad I found them.

“Chapstick” -COIN

I added this song to my work out playlist in mid-October after returning home from ACL and it’s been a song that I haven’t been able to get enough of since. I’ve been listening to COIN here and there for the last few years, but this song just hits different for me. It’s got such a great edgy, rock feel. I’ve kept it on repeat for the past 2 months and I’ll likely be keeping it that way into the new year.

“Dissolve” -Absofacto

My friend Hailey told me about this song during Lollapalooza because Absofacto played the festival. She said the song was a big hit, but I hadn’t heard it. She played it for me and I was hooked. I added it to my summer work out playlist and much like “Chapstick” it was a song I kept playing on repeat. In fact, I even extended the listening period by putting it on my fall work out playlist too. It’s been a song I’ve loved since the summer and one of my favorites of 2021.

“Low Rider” -War

This 1975 classic has been the official/unofficial song of the year for me. What started as a joke over the radio at Peach just carried on for the rest of the year. I kept hearing this song at random times after that and it’s always a jam. I even bought the single on vinyl 2 weeks ago. Glad this song made a comeback this year for me and the festie pals because it’s truly the best.

Loving in Stereo -Jungle

Jungle’s Loving in Stereo was another one of my favorite albums of the year. It has such a complete track-listing with so many songs I enjoy. I had it playing in my car for months too. I’ve been listening to Jungle since their debut album was released in 2014 and caught them at Coachella in 2015 and Lollapalooza in 2018. This is definitely my favorite album of theirs so far and I’m disappointed I didn’t see them on their tour this fall in support of it. I’m hoping for some festival appearances next year that I’ll be able to catch because this album made me love Jungle even more.

“Sweet Talk” -Fitz Leland

In early 2021, I discovered this jam by independent artist Fitz Leland. It was one of my favorites to listen to last winter, especially during my weekly adventures on the slopes. It was always such a vibe hearing it while on the lift or while lifting (you know it was on the work out playlist too!). This one definitely helped carry me through a winter I tried to make the best of. It’s such a mood.

So I know I usually do a top 10 followed by some runners up, but this year wasn’t about music I listened to. It was about music I saw. Being sidelined for 15 months from shows and work made me want to see music as much as I could as soon as I was able to. I also appreciated seeing live music much more. After thinking about it and looking back on my calendar, I’ve seen 39 full and partial sets this year since June, when I saw my first concert since Dermot Kennedy back in February 2020. So instead of just songs, albums, or artists, here’s something extra that I’ve never done yet. Here are my favorite sets from concerts and festivals (in the order in which I saw them) once live music came back this year:

The Suicide Machines & Less Than Jake

This was my first concert in 15 months. I saw both bands play AC Beer Fest on the first weekend of June at a time when everything was starting to transition into a normal-ish time again. AC Beer Fest was an outdoor festival that we tailgated on a beautiful Saturday. I can’t even express what it felt like in that moment to be together with my friends at a ska punk show again. Tears were had. Songs were sung. We skanked and I got beer accidentally dumped on me on the way out to the parking lot. It was the best day with my pals.

Carrie Underwood at Country Jam

Country Jam was my first big gig/festival that I worked since Mexico in the winter of 2020. I also got to work a role that I wanted to try to get involved in on my next festival season, credentials. The last night of the festival Carrie Underwood headlined. I’m not a country fan but of course I know Carrie Underwood, even if it’s only like 2-3 songs. So I anticipated her set all weekend. After a successful week on the Jam Ranch, I watched her Saturday night set with my co-worker friends. Again, it was an incredible feeling to be back to work and back at a music festival and that realization set in while taking in Carrie Underwood. The set culminated in “Before He Cheats.” We went so hard that we probably could have taken a Louisville slugger to both head lights in that moment that truly felt like live music was back.

Miley Cyrus at Lollapalooza

Lollapalooza has always been one of my favorite festivals. Unlike other festivals, I didn’t get to work Lolla in 2019 so it made the return to Lollapalooza this year even more special for me. I actually felt an excitement coming into work the first show day that I hadn’t felt at all yet despite working 2 festivals at that point. It was a different feeling that comes with working my favorite festivals though so that’s probably why. Miley Cyrus headlined the first day of Lollapalooza this year and I figured once I closed up my ticket help I would catch the end of her set. I met up with a girl on my team who I had met 2 days prior and that I clicked with instantly along with my VIP one-off turned festival worker homie Finnerty. Two of our other friends popped out of the VIP area that we were standing next to when Miley went into “7 Things.” We all went so hard. I kind of forgot the song existed until that moment. After that, she just kept playing all the hits. I couldn’t believe how many Miley songs I actually knew. She killed it too. I loved watching everyone get emotional during “The Climb.” The production during “Can’t Be Tamed” was fantastic. Then she closed with “Party in the USA” a half hour after her set was supposed to end which felt like a true party with people being together, dancing, and singing in the heart of downtown Chicago at the first major music festival since the panny d began. It was a special moment, granted some news about new variants and such changed everything the next day. That first night was a true celebration though and I was grateful to take it in from the crowd.

Green Day at Hella Mega

When the Hella Mega Tour was announced in 2019, I knew I wanted to work it. I even got to the point this year thinking I might attend if I didn’t get the chance to work. Fortunately though, I was able to work two dates on the tour and it was the coolest VIP event I worked all year. It was a no stress, low energy type of work day that ended as soon as the headliner, Green Day, took the stage. Green Day is such an iconic band and anyone who has ever listened to alternative/punk music has listened to Green Day. The first date I worked was in Hershey in August. I was entranced when I walked in the venue and I saw Bille Joe Armstrong strumming hard to “Holiday.” Green Day played all their hits on the tour from “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” to “Basket Case” to “21 Guns.” It was all around awesome. They were so entertaining to see live and that was my first time ever seeing them. I, of course, popped in the venue for one or two Fall Out Boy songs earlier and heard their entire set along with Weezer and the Interrupters’ from the VIP check-in spot too. We were set up right near the stage. It was a great day overall and I felt so lucky to have experienced it.

Lizzo at Firefly

Firefly was a rough week and half for me due to some personal feelings and such, but being able to actually be at the festival is always a rarity these days and one I cherished about my time in the Woodlands. After the Lizzo hype of 2019, I was so stoked to see her Sunday night set in one of her first performances back since early 2020. I got to see it from the VIP area with several of my friends who were working in VIP that weekend. It was a nonstop hour and a half dance party filled with endless joy that felt “good as hell!”

Glass Animals

After Firefly ended, I had 2 days before flying out to Austin for ACL. I was home for a total of 26 hours because the night before flying out I saw Glass Animals with my friend Amanda. We bought the tickets when the tour was announced back in May cause I anticipated being able to make the Tuesday night date. I made it happen and it was another night of nonstop dancing. Before I got into Glass Animals, I saw bits and pieces of their July 2017 Panorama set. That following fall I started listening to Glass Animals and felt bummed when I missed the call on them earlier that year. Dreamland was one of my favorite albums of 2020. I spent so much time at home listening to them last year that finally getting to see them perform in late September after all that time felt so satisfying. We had such a good time that we’re even thinking about seeing them again next year at Red Rocks because we don’t wanna talk we just wanna dance to Glass Animals again and again.

Dermot Kennedy at ACL

I made my return to ACL this year after working my first one ever in 2019. It was always a festival that I wanted to work but couldn’t figure out an in for. I was asked at Lolla if I wanted to do it again and I immediately said yes to spending two weeks in Austin. ACL brought a ton of great times and reunions with my ticketing fam and Austin friends, but none was more special than my reunion with my friend Danny, who I lovingly refer to as the Danimal. It had been just over 2 years since we last saw each other and after taking a full time role with a major event company he came to the 2nd weekend of ACL for fun. Thanks to my amazing team I was able to take some time to see all of Dermot Kennedy’s set with Danny. Danny was with me at Coachella 2019 when I first discovered Dermot. I caught Dermot’s set at Lolla, but seeing his ACL set with my favorite festival buddy was more special. We sang along to everything and danced harder than one would expect at a Dermot Kennedy set to the point that we created a mini mosh pit with two strangers during “Giants.” It was one of the most fun live music moments I experienced all year.

Foster the People (Torches X Show)

I already dedicated a whole blog to this show, so please check it out for all the detail. Just to reiterate though, I can’t believe I got to experience this show. It still feels surreal. Favorite band, favorite album, in one of my favorite places. Surreal.

LCD Soundsystem

When I wrote my end of 2020 music recap, I wrote about hoping to hear from LCD Soundsystem again in 2021. Well they came back. They announced a 20 show residency in NYC in November and December in early October and I spent one morning before heading to site at ACL struggling to get tickets. I managed to secure tickets to one of the early December shows with plans to see them again with my friends at their final date of the residency. The residency got cut short due to the unrelenting panny d, but I was still able to go to the show I purchased tickets for in the beginning of December. It became a whole weekend of shows with my friend Hailey who flew in to hang with me and to see James, Nancy, Pat and the rest of the crew. We spent some time hanging in NYC too. LCD Soundsystem always gets me hyped since I never thought I would get to see them after getting into them in 2012 post-break up. This time was no different as I planned to dance myself clean for the third time. We heard, in my opinion, one of the best set lists of the residency too. I danced myself clean with all my friends as daft punk played at my house and New York, which I love brought me down. It was so good that I could do it on repeat.

Streetlight Manifesto

The day after LCD Soundsystem Hailey and I made our way to Philly to attend mine and my friends’ annual Christmas celebration at Streetlight Manifesto. Usually it happens in central Jersey with just me and my two friends Ashley and Noah, but this year with an announced Philly date, we decided to do it there with a bunch of other pals. I convinced Hailey to come even though she wasn’t into Streetlight with the promise that she would get to experience this incredible tradition we started in 2018. Despite not playing “Point/Counterpoint” into “Keasbey Nights” back into “Point/Counterpoint,” we had the best time singing along with our arms around each other to the uptempo ska songs we loved listening to in high school after a year not being able to see Streetlight. It was another one of my favorite concert moments of the year.

Runners-Up:

All Time Low

Thanks to my friend Emily and her homie at the Bottom Lounge in Chicago I was able to attend All Time Low’s Lollapalooza aftershow during Lolla week (the show was Wednesday before the festival started). After Hailey hooked it up with providing a place to stay, we both started talking about attending a show the night before Day 1 of the festival. We both had an interest in All Time Low and it just happened to work out that Emily had connections at the venue when I told her we wanted to attend. The only problem was I worked onsite until 7 PM the day of the show which was when it started. There was an opener though so I figured ATL wouldn’t hit the stage til 8:30 or show and we would be fine. We were not, in fact, fine. All Time Low came on at 8 and we got to the venue around 8:40 by the time I left work, moved my stuff to the place we were staying, quickly changed, and ubered there. We saw the last 4-5 songs though. They were all bangers and it was enjoyable for the brief time we were there. I got to hear “Dear Maria…” their most iconic song, which was really cool because I’ve known that song since high school and I had never seen All Time Low before that night. Overall, it was fun to take in a show with Hailey since we were getting to know each other and realized we had similar music tastes. It really kicked off my return to Lollapalooza too and I knew it would be a great week.

The Killers at Firefly

As I mentioned before, I was able to see a bunch of music at Firefly given my role and hours for the week. I was able to see everything I wanted to see on Friday and Sunday at the festival, which included Friday night’s headliner, The Killers. Both times I saw the Killers previously were with my mom, so this was the first time seeing them without her. I was sure to record her favorite song though and send it to her as I took in the set with some of my festie friends. It was another set of the weekend that included tons of dancing as I sang along to mostly every song. The Killers always put on a good show and this was no different even if they didn’t end with “Mr. Brightside.”

Nelly at Firefly

My inner middle school self was so excited to see Nelly at Firefly. That’s the great thing about festivals, being able to see music you wouldn’t normally buy a concert ticket to. I took advantage of the opportunity and it was such a fun set. Nelly was so big during my middle school and high school years that I knew almost every song he performed. There was a huge crowd for his set and almost everyone was singing/rapping along to hits like “Ride Wit Me”, “Hot in Herre”, “Air Force Ones”, and “Grillz.” As a former fan, it was definitely a highlight to be able to see Nelly this year.

Now that I did a double review for the year that brought live music back into our lives, what’s next? Well there’s still plenty of concerts and events that didn’t get to happen this year so next year the comeback is still on. I’m highly anticipating new Arctic Monkeys next year and a Foster the People tour that they mentioned at their Torches X show. I’m also still hoping for new music from LCD Soundsystem. At least they came back to play shows these past 2 months. I’m also excited for new alt-J and Bastille. Both have new albums dropping in February. I’m still hoping for more Florence and the Machine as I was last year, but it would also be great to add Tegan & Sara to that list too.

If all goes well, in a few days there should be a certain well-known festival that will be dropping a lineup. I have my fingers crossed that all goes accordingly with it this year since it’s been 3 years since the last one. I know so many others are hopeful as well. In any event, once that lineup drops there will be several blog posts coming straight from the marathon month I’ll be spending in Mexico, since those events are back as well. 2021 will definitely go down as a return to live music and I hope it all keeps going smoothly into the next year. Until then, don’t stop listening and buying tickets!

Raise Up to Your Ability

It’s rare that I write a specific post dedicated to a personal music experience outside of Coachella especially with the amount of music I see, but I recently had a worthy one. About two weeks ago I traveled to LA to see my favorite band, Foster the People. They played a 3 night run at the Wiltern. Aside from a gig in Mexico a few days prior, it was their first live performances since 2018 (understandably so given the live music shutdown for over a year). This stint wasn’t just regular shows though. It was a 10 year celebration of the release of their first album, Torches. The band played the entire album in order during their sets each night.

A year ago, when I stayed home most of the time and spent my days working out, looking forward to meals and the occasional visits with friends, and missing live music, I started thinking about the fact that Torches would be turning 10 in 2021. I thought to myself then that Foster the People would be the only band I would compromise my feelings about drive-in shows for (I thought they were dumb), if they played a 10 year Torches anniversary show in May (Torches came out in May 2011). I didn’t know what the status of regular shows would be at the time and I wasn’t trying to jump the gun either. Then in August, after almost 2 months of a close to normal return of live music, Foster the People announced their 3 night run of Torches anniversary shows in LA. I had no choice but to maintain that promise I made to myself last fall and go.

So on a chilly LA evening in late November, I ubered to the Wiltern from my hotel in Venice. I met friends in a line that wrapped around the block upon arrival. That was followed by another wait in an extensive merchandise line so I could buy the special poster for the anniversary shows. Thank god for drinks and my pals. We secured a spot relatively close to the stage, house right after I secured the commemorative poster.

Foster the People came on around 9 PM. I attended the Friday night show and for the first time in a very long time, I had not looked at the set lists from the previous two nights. Other than a spoiler of “Lamb’s Wool” I saw as I scrolled through Twitter two days before, I knew nothing about their sets. They opened with “Style”, a song released in 2019 on the Pick U UP EP and proceeded to play a mix of old songs and new songs, including one of their earliest songs “Chin Music For the Unsuspecting Hero”, before that all too familiar drum and synth intro of “Helena Beat” began.

By this point, I had not stopped dancing or singing along to every song. Thankfully one of my friends went on a bathroom run and grabbed us some waters. After “Helena Beat”, I knew what was coming, Foster the People’s most famous song “Pumped Up Kicks.” The cheers were loud when that bass line started. It’s the song that everyone knows, but given all the controversy, I tried to take it in as much as possible because I wasn’t sure if it would be the last time I hear it live. It felt amazing knowing I had one last time hearing the hit song live though in case they don’t play it anymore.

“Call It What You Want” and “Don’t Stop (Color on the Walls)” were next. I didn’t chug my water until after “Houdini”, which featured an appearance of blow up Torches album art creatures that flailed along as we rose up to our ability. When Mark and the boys (without Mark Pontius for the first time since his departure from the group in mid-October) finished “Warrant,” the applause and cheers lasted for at least a minute. I couldn’t even believe I had just heard one of my all time favorite albums played live front to back. It was a special feeling. I was sweaty and so ready for more.

The band played five more songs after that. It was another mix of new and old with live debuts of “Cadillac” and “Walk With a Big Stick” amongst “Ruby”, the cult favorite “Broken Jaw”, and Sacred Hearts Club hit “Sit Next to Me”, which featured the Sacred Hearts Club tour neon light dropping into the background. After a brief departure from the stage, Foster the People returned to encore with 3 more songs, “Under the Moon”, “Lotus Eater” sans cover of “Blitzkrieg Bop” by the Ramones that they played during their last tour, and finally ended the night with Supermodel jam “Pseudologia Fantastica.”

When the house lights returned, it was 11 PM. Foster the People played a 2 hour long set, longer than any other night during their brief run at the Wiltern. It was the second time I heard them play that long. The other was the last time I had seen them, September 18th, 2017 at the Fillmore in Philly. That was the best concert I’ve ever been to. They played countless hits from every album released until that point. I was up against the bar watching every movement and action on stage. I even caught the set list. This was just as special in a different way.

It was an incredible night that reminded me about the importance of live music. Last year I spent so much time wondering when I would get to go to another show. I felt frustrated in losing so much of what I loved. My only consolation was to tell myself that we would be back soon enough. Although I didn’t know it at the time, this concert was one of the reasons I got through last year. It was my favorite band, playing my favorite album in one of my favorite places (California) and I felt beyond grateful to experience it.

if i could make it go quiet: Album Review

Since discovering girl in red last fall, I’ve joined the fans anticipating her debut album and finally it’s here. if i could make it go quiet, the debut album from girl in red, was released on Friday. The album was released through indie label AWAL and produced by girl in red herself, Marie Ulven, along with Matias Tellez and includes some production credit from Finneas O’Connell (aka Finneas, the brother of Billie Eilish). Throughout the past year girl in red released a few tracks in anticipation of the album including, “midnight love” and “Rue” last year, followed by “Serotonin” in March 2021 and “You Stupid Bitch” two weeks ago.

The album, as promised, features what we know and love about girl in red with a more mature feel. So yes, it’s indie pop/rock music about girls and love, but also with a jam about mental health and lacking serotonin. The quality of the record definitely feels more developed from girl in red’s earlier work too. This is the kind of album that could be the soundtrack to a solo drive in your car while on a road trip. I could also envision listening to this album while laying alone in a wide open field.

My early front-runners for favorite songs on the album are “Body And Mind”, “Serotonin”, which is an absolute banger, “You Stupid Bitch”, and “I’ll Call You Mine”. One thing I’ve always got from girl in red is that she doesn’t hold back in her writing. She says what she wants and it’s evident in so many of her tracks on the debut record. Listen to “Serotonin”, “Did You Come?”, and “hornylovesickness” if you want to see what I mean. I think this attribute to her music is what makes girl in red so great in her own way.

So far I feel like this year has had a slow start, both in general and musically, but even though we’re 5 months in, there’s still time. There’s plenty of potential for good things to happen and great new music to be released. girl in red’s debut album is one sign of that optimistic view for this year as it’s a solid indie album from front to back. Ironically, it boosted my serotonin and I hope it does the same for you as well.

Fruit Bangers

It’s not a secret that I make a new work out playlist every couple months. I’ve been doing this on Spotify since 2015-2016. My song selection is very simple. Sometimes one of my favorite artists releases new music and other times I’ll go through new music on my Release Radar or Discovery Weekly playlists and add songs that I like after my first listen and I feel are upbeat enough to work out to. Regardless, most times I’m not listening to a song repeatedly before I add it to my playlist. I’m usually going from new music or at least music that is new to me. This can cause me to occasionally find a song that I really really like after I keep hearing it day after day, which is exactly what happened two weeks ago.

While working out and listening to my first work out playlist of this year, I realized I really liked this one song I kept hearing. Until I realized what it was, I would constantly check to see the name of the song and the artist when it played. The song was called “Nectarines” by MELVV featuring Royal & The Serpent. Then it hit me. It’s only been a few months since I found another song I like about citrus fruit! Before “Nectarines” it was “Tangerine” by Glass Animals. In the summer, I found another guilty pleasure in listening to “Watermelon Sugar” by Harry Styles. That’s a ton of fruit music in a short period of time!

I decided to start doing some research. Although it’s not super common, there are plenty of songs written that have food titles. Most of the songs aren’t really about food though. They’re usually metaphors for one thing or another, but even so, there are a solid amount of songs with food titles out there. “Chocolate” by the 1975, “Banana Pancakes” by Jack Johnson, “Cherry Pie” by Warrant, and “Flaming Hot Cheetos” by Clairo are just a few of the food songs I thought of. I’m sure you know a few others. As I researched, I realized that there was also plenty of drink songs. There might be even more than there are for food. Some that I found and thought of are “Soco Amaretto Lime” by Brand New, “Beer” by Reel Big Fish, “Cola” and one of my personal faves “Diet Mountain Dew” by Lana Del Rey, “Poprocks and Coke” by Green Day which is kind of a food and drink song, “Strawberry Wine” by The Chicks, and then some of the most notable ones like “Gin and Juice” by Snoop Dog, “Tequila” by The Champs, and “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” by Rupert Holmes (I counted it because it is in the parentheses and I mean come on!). I’m sure you could think of more as well, especially if you like country music (booze songs for days!).

When I started doing research on food songs, I was specifically searching for fruit songs though. I mean after two citrus bangers within months of each other, there had to be more right? Of course! I mentioned “Watermelon Sugar” earlier, which wasn’t Harry Styles’ first fruit song. “Kiwi” was on his debut album. “Peaches” by The Presidents of the United States of America was a hit too. “Raspberry” is a deep-cut by Grouplove. Besides drink songs, Lana Del Rey also has her own fruit track called “Cherry” and then Bay Ledges, whose song “Safe” was one of my top songs of 2018, has a song called “Mango”. There are other fruit songs out there too. It was just surprising to me that there have been so many that I’ve liked in a short period of time.

For now, instead of trying to find more fruit bangers, I’m just gonna keep jamming (fruit joke…get it?) to “Nectarines” and maybe soon enough there will be another fruit song I love. So here’s to all the fruit songs, the food songs, the drink songs, and even the songs that mention all of the above which is way more than I want to research. That shit would be bananas…B-A-N-A-N-A-S.

2020 Sucked But Here’s Some Music That Didn’t

In 2016, which everyone claimed was a terrible year, I started a personal music recap for the year as a way to find something good to talk about. I kept it up because 2017 was an absolutely amazing year for music and then just kept going with it. 2016 was nothing compared to this year though. To be honest I had a pretty good 2016, but like most people, I didn’t have a great 2020. I’m usually a pretty positive person and try to look for good things when bad shit happens, but this time around there wasn’t a lot of good. Barely any actually. The bad far outweighed it. Where I found my hopefulness though is that someday it will get better. If I made it through high school and my emo years, I knew I’d be able to get through this emo year. Thankfully, even in the absence of live music and the career path I started for myself in 2016, artists still released albums. Some albums were delayed, but eventually got released. Some albums were even unplanned such as Taylor Swift’s folklore and evermore. Music discovery was one thing that wasn’t cancelled this year and for that I am grateful. So here you go, my top music faves from 2020:

“Heat Waves”, Dreamland -Glass Animals

I usually only pick a song, album, or artist to focus on for each of these, but this one was tough to distinguish. In 2020, there are no rules though. Glass animals released their latest album Dreamland back in August but a month earlier dropped the song “Heat Waves”. I fell absolutely in love with song immediately. I knew a few days after I first listened to it that it was the song of the year for me. I couldn’t stop listening to it for weeks even after the album was released. It was my most played on Spotify as well. The album was also my favorite of the year. It featured other great bangers like “Tangerine” and “Your Love (Déjà Vu)” and several other great ones as well. The album was an ode to childhood in the 90’s, but still captured the smooth yet trippy, groove style of indie music that Glass Animals is so well known for. I feel like it’s highly underrated and most definitely my favorite album of 2020.

Women in Music Part III -HAIM

Before Dreamland was released, if you asked me, I would have told you that Women in Music Part III or WIMPIII for short was going to be my favorite album of the year. I knew earlier on from the single releases in the spring that the Haim sisters were about to release a hit of an album. I’m not the only one that took notice either. The album was recently nominated for album of the year by the Grammys and their song “The Steps” was nominated for Best Rock Performance, a category dominated by women this year. I bought the album in July and was able to secure a signed album poster! I still have yet to hang it up, but I have plans to make it happen soon. Much like Dreamland, this album is top to bottom filled with great songs. My favorite is “Don’t Wanna”, but that’s followed by “I’ve Been Down”, “Gasoline”, “I Know Alone”, and “The Steps”. I could honestly go on with the songs too. Like I said, top to bottom, it’s fire. HAIM’s third full-length is really something special and my other top fave from this past year.

Daft Punk

Daft Punk has been around since the 90’s. I’ve known about them since the Random Access Memories era, but I didn’t quite realize that I knew them way longer than that until I watched the Coachella Documentary this past spring. There was such a focus on Daft Punk’s iconic 2006 set that I began really going through their discography. I wrote a blog post about them and how even without a physical Coachella this year, Coachella still helped me discover some new artists. They were one of my top artists of the year. I even bought Discovery on vinyl back in April. The song “One More Time” was in my top 5 most played songs of the year and I’m now one of those people who want them to headline Coachella. I’m definitely late to the game on this robotic electronic duo, but it’s better late than never.

Notes on a Conditional Form -The 1975

The 1975 dropped their latest album in the spring with plenty of track releases in the lead up to the full album that began in 2019. It was an album I highly anticipated during the spring lockdown. In fact during those weeks, I was living for new music Fridays. I claimed back in my blog post review of the album that it might be one of their best works yet. However, I’m not sure if anything will able to top their debut self-titled, but I definitely believe Notes On A Conditional Form is one of the best of the year. I spent weeks listening to the full album. I love “If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)” and “Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America” which features Phoebe Bridgers, who had a big year herself. “People”, “Frail State of Mind”, “Me & You Together Song”, and “Tonight (I Wish I Was Your Boy)” are all great too. This album came at the perfect time and I’m incredibly grateful for it and all the new music that helped me through this crazy year.

“POWER” -Kanye West

“POWER” by Kanye West is not a new song. It actually came out 10 years ago. I never even knew it back then. It first came into my life with the Power Rangers reboot movie in 2017. Then last year during Sunday Service at Coachella it also popped back in. Then yet again this past spring in the Coachella Doc it also made an appearance. It was this time though that I finally got hooked. It was another staple song of my spring time work out playlist and even a go-to I would listen to at other random moments. The intro and subsequent background music for the song which was taken from the song “Afromerica” by Continent Number 6 is just so damn catchy too. It was another better late than never situation, but it worked out fine. There were plenty of songs that got me through the spring but this one is definitely a stand out.

“New Daze” -Bay Ledges

In the summer Bay Ledges released a 6 song EP titled New Daze. The EP included a song of the same name that I really connected with. It’s my favorite new song of theirs since I heard “Safe” in 2018. The song exemplifies their chill indie vibe sound, but has that same uplifting feel that “Safe” also contains. The lyrics themselves do too. It gives such a hopeful perspective for this trash year and I really love the song for that reason as well.

“Giants” -Dermot Kennedy

Dermot Kennedy was huge for me in 2019. His show was actually the last concert I was able to attend before the music industry shut down on March 12th. After such a big year with his first album in October, I wouldn’t have expected any new releases in 2020, but in June he dropped the new track “Giants”. It’s another powerful upbeat track similar to “Power Over Me” and “Outnumbered”. He recently released a “Complete Edition” version of his debut album which contains “Giants” among other collabs, a cover, another new song, and alternate versions of old songs. “Giants” was just the new track I needed for my summer work out playlist to even further my love for Dermot Kennedy. I even enjoyed the Sam Feldt remix of the track and got a double dose of the track by including that version in my fall work out playlist. It’s quite a banger and one of my favorites of the year.

“Bodies” -The Knocks ft. MUNA

Obviously the spring and summer were filled with plenty of new tunes and discoveries of old for me this year, but I found this gem by The Knocks featuring MUNA in the fall. The song was recommended to me by Spotify after my playlist finished one night and I thought it was great. After I added the song, I couldn’t get enough of it when it played during my nightly work outs. “Bodies” was released in the summer, but it didn’t come into my life until early November. For almost the last two months, I’ve been obsessed with this song. It’s a late comer to this list of my favorites for 2020, but it deserves to be here. It’s a keeper.

“Believer” -LUDVIC, Mathoma

Spring was such a time of music discovery for me thanks to the Coachella Documentary and my weekends of “Couchella”. In that time I also discovered the song “Believer” by LUDVIC and Mathoma thanks to checking out my friends’ Spotify playlists. I love being a creep on Spotify but it’s truly a great way to discover new music and find out what your friends are listening to. Although this jam wasn’t directly because of Coachella, it came to me around that time and joined my spring playlist in the midst of some great tunes. This was one song I couldn’t get enough of though. I would frequently replay it or listen to it when I wasn’t working out thus earning this trop house style track a spot on this list of my faves from 2020.

Golden Hour -Kygo

After seeing Kygo perform at Coachella in 2018, I became a huge fan. I’ve always been partial towards the trop house style of electronic music, but that 2018 performance really set in my affinity for the Norwegian DJ. Golden Hour was another album I was anticipating in the spring with new track releases every few weeks. Kygo’s third album dropped at the end of May and I already had some favorites from the new record. “Freedom”, “Lose Somebody”, and “Higher Love” caught on quick for me. I also love “Like It Is”, “I’ll Wait”, and “How Would I Know.”

Kygo decided to do a virtual live stream festival from his home in Norway to promote the new album and support LiveNation’s Crew Nation Fund among several other relief funds. As we know, streaming shows became a thing this year. I think they’re trash. They will never compare with going to a concert or festival, but in the mean time, they’re something to watch. I watched two streams in the spring and this was one of them. The thing that kept me around was the beauty of Norway. Kygo’s set was shot partially with a drone that exhibited the entire landscape of his community. People were out on the lake watching his set from boats. It was so cool. Who would have thought this music which usually sets the vibe at in the desert of southern California so perfectly would create an insane vibe in a different setting like Bergen, Norway. It was great and it gave me another chance to hear this solid new record.

Honorable Mentions:

The New Abnormal -The Strokes (the first Strokes album since 2013, full of indie rock goodness)

girl in red (the indie version of Hayley “Lesbian Jesus” Kiyoko)

“Good” -TWIN XL (indie pop summer jam)

“Palm Springs” -Luna Shadows (pure Palm Springs vibe and I bet you can’t get it out of your head)

“Anywhere” -Dillon Francis ft. Will Heard (Thanks to a re-watch of his 2019 Coachella set it became a spring fave of mine)

I typically end these posts filled with excitement knowing I’ll be anticipating the Coachella lineup to drop within days, but this time around that excitement for my favorite festival is non-existant. Instead, I’ll be looking for another postponement to the Indio festival that was only a month away before corona dragged it and the rest of live music down. The good thing is that there’s finally a light on at the end of this tunnel. The vaccines are probably the hottest records to drop this year with a few more slated for early 2021. We’re all hoping that these creations will help get us back to the things (concerts and festivals) and people we love the most at some point next year. So I’m definitely urging you to give them a chance, because the faster you do the faster we can move forward away from this crazy upside down world we’ve been living in since March.

Besides hopefully a fresh start for the live music and events industry, 2021 should be filled with some highly anticipated new music. In May 2019, Adele hinted at a new record that was to come out in 2020. I’m not sure if this year put a damper on production, but it has yet to be released. A brief stint on SNL in October gave us some hope for new music but Adele quickly squashed those hopes in her opening monologue and shifted gears towards 2021. So as the saying goes, “rumor has it” that we’ll have some new Adele music next year after over 5 years since 25.

Lorde has also hinted at the release of new music. It will be 4 years ago in June that Lorde released her Grammy nominated sophomore album Melodrama. So this third full-length will be a highly anticipated record in 2021.

As I mentioned girl in red in my honorable mentions, her debut album should be dropping next year as well. The first single from it, “Rue”, was released in late August and I’m sure there will be more songs coming in anticipation of the release. After the big year girl in red had, thanks in large part to Tik Tok, I’m sure this debut will help grow her fan base even more.

Lana Del Rey, who just never stops making music, has an album due out for 2021 as well with Chemtrails over the Country Club. We should be seeing new music from Bleachers, St. Vincent, Spoon, Weezer, and Greta Van Fleet in the new year too.

Although it has been over 3 years now that my favorite band, Foster the People, released an album, they released an EP called In the Darkest of Nights, Let the Birds Sing on December 11th. They’ve dropped plenty of new music since their last record Sacred Hearts Club (2017) too. Hopefully touring returns at some point next year and I’ll have the chance to see Mark and the boys again soon. I miss them. I actually said the same thing at the end of last year too, but now I miss them even more.

It’s also been awhile since LCD Soundsystem has put out music so I hope to hear from them next year as well as Florence & The Machine whose last album came out in 2018. As for the next few months though, instead of going to Mexico and anticipating Coachella, I’ll be trying to ski as much as I can and keep my eyes and ears peeled for a return to the work I love so much. If all goes well, the new roaring 20’s might be in full swing by the fall. Stay tuned for that.

Although music was partially shut out this year, at least we have the technology to release, find, and hear new songs, EPs, and albums. I’m not going to try to tell you that music saved this year like it did in 2016. This year could never be saved and that’s okay. The good news is that we made it so here’s to shutting the door on a wild, lameass year and opening the next door for a better one. Onward and upwards!

girl in red

It seems like monthly posts have become my thing this year so I couldn’t let November end without something new to talk about. Back in September, I discovered a new artist that I really like. Thanks to watching Tik Tok compilations on Youtube, I heard her song “i wanna be your girlfriend” endless amounts of times and it got stuck in my head. I looked up the song and learned it was by an artist called girl in red. I heard of girl in red a few months beforehand and finally had that “OH! Okay, so that’s who that is!” moment.

girl in red, also known as Marie Ulven Ringheim, is a Norwegian indie pop singer-songwriter who releases her music straight from the comfort of her bedroom. While growing up, her grandfather gave her a guitar on Christmas. She credits him with getting her into music because of it. Her stage name, girl in red, came from describing herself while in a crowd to a friend via text message. She began releasing music to Soundcloud under the name in 2016. Her debut single was “i wanna be your girlfriend”.

girl in red released her first EP, Chapter 1, in 2018. It also included her new singles “summer depression” and “girls”. She began touring in 2018 as well, opening for Clairo during her Dublin and Paris shows. Then she opened for Conan Gray in early 2019 which was her first North American tour. She released her second EP, Chapter 2, in 2019. In late 2019, Ulven went on her first headlining tour which included dates in Europe and America. Her debut album World in Red was slated for an October 2020 arrival, but is still yet to be released. The first single from the album, “rue”, was released in late August.

When I first listened to girl in red, I called her the indie version of Hayley Kiyoko and I still stand by it. Ulven is openly gay and the subject matter of her music is representative of that much like Kiyoko’s. girl in red’s music is just way more indie/indie pop. It has also been described as bedroom pop.

Since discovering girl in red, I’ve been listening to her music here and there, even adding a song or two to my always go-to work out playlist. I really got into the song “bad idea!” and her cover of Maggie Rogers’ “Say It” during the past month and a half. I’m anticipating the release of girl in red’s debut album as I’m sure most of her fans are. It’ll be here before we know it too. Once touring resumes, I’m sure we’ll see girl in red out on the road especially with the fame she’s gained over the last year. She recently dropped the Christmas single “two queens in a king sized bed”. So this holiday season, check out that new single and while you’re at it check out all that girl in red has to offer. If you’re an indie fan, it won’t disappoint.

Shore: Album Review

There’s something about fall that makes me want to listen to indie music. Maybe it’s the way that nature boasts its most colorful season in the Northeast. Maybe it’s the cool crisp air that’s much welcomed after a hot summer. Maybe it’s the flannel, beanies, sweaters, and boots that bring out the hipster in all of us. Maybe it’s simply all those long drives across the state in mid-October I used to take while listening to Matt Pond PA, The Smiths, Good Old War, Bon Iver and other indie acts. It’s probably a combo of all these things, but for the last 10 years or so fall has felt like indie music season, which is why when Fleet Foxes released their most recent full length Shore on the fall solstice, I knew I had to give it a listen. What surprised me is just how into it I was.

I’ve always been a casual fan of Fleet Foxes. Despite their indie folk style that fits my ideal fall tunes, I usually associate them with winter. Cue “White Winter Hymnal”. Shore is the perfect end of summer fall album to change my mind though. In fact I’m ready to listen to it on a long drive while admiring some foliage.

Shore is Fleet Foxes fourth full length album. It was recorded over the last year including in the midst of the pandemic. Actually, the frontman Robin Pecknold recorded the album himself without the other members of the band. So yes, it does feature other collaborators. I don’t think their sound has changed much throughout their four albums, but who knows, maybe I’m just bad at distinguishing indie folk music. Still, I feel the same vibes from Shore as I do from Helplessness Blues and their debut self-titled. If anything this album feels more bright. “Can I Believe You” is an early front runner for my favorite song on the album so far. It has an uplifting feel to it and is also pretty catchy. Plenty of other songs fit that mood as well though creating that brightness you get from this album.

It’s really unfortunate that tours and festivals have ceased for the time being because this album deserves a tour in its support. I’m sure we’ll get there though. While touring in support of their last album, Crack-Up, they played Coachella in 2018 and I wrote this about them. I did get to see part of their set that year and it was the perfect night time indie Coachella set. Can’t wait til I can say the same again. In the mean time, take in the beauty of fall if you live in an area where it can be appreciated while wearing your beanie and checkered flannel and give this album a listen. Tell me it’s not perfect for the setting.

Women in Music Pt. III: Album Review

I’ve been patiently waiting for Haim’s third album, Women in Music Pt. III to drop. Some of the bright spots of this year have been the release of new music so I’ve been looking forward to this brand new album by one of my favorite bands. The album was slated for release on April 24th, but due to the current world wide crisis was pushed back for a late summer release. Then it was bumped up to a June 26th release date. June 26th was Friday, which means the album is finally out!

Haim has been releasing new music for almost a year now with “Summer Girl” dropping at the end of last July. Several other singles have also dropped in the lead up to the album release. Before live music ceased in March, Haim was in the midst of a Deli tour that honored their Jewish roots. The band was playing small shows at famous delis in a few locations around the country in honor of their first show ever being at Canter’s Deli in L.A. in 2000. The band played two of those scheduled dates before the country began to shut down. In honor of the album’s release though, the band did a live stream on Friday from Canter’s.

The biggest difference between Women in Music Pt. III and Haim’s first two albums is that this one hits deeper. The song topics get personal and more sad than their earlier works. Many songs on the album sound like the total opposite of that though. I’ve heard them described as “sad bangers”. A few tracks also add hints of jazz and Caribbean/tropical vibes to Haim’s west coast style pop/soft rock. Overall the album offers versatility in sound and lyrics compared to Days Are Gone and Something to Tell You. It’s got the Haim we’ve always loved (my favorite song “Don’t Wanna”) plus the Haim that is growing and pushing their style more (“Los Angeles”).

When live music is finally a thing again, expect plenty of tour dates and festival dates from these three sisters. I would even expect them to join the lineup for Taylor Swift’s festival next summer. Until then, bask in the greatness of this new music we were given in the strangest of times. It’s a great soundtrack for the summer and one you should take in before you can see them perform again. For me, new music is one of the only things that has felt the way it’s supposed to feel and I owe Haim and whoever else is releasing new music this year for this piece of comfort in a very uncomfortable year.

Notes On A Conditional Form: Album Review

In a time where there’s not much in the immediate future to look forward to, we thankfully still have music. New albums and songs are still being released. Some releases may have been delayed, but they’re still happening this year. For an industry that’s been crushed by this world wide crisis, it offers a glimmer of hope and an abundance of jams.

Today, The 1975 dropped their highly anticipated fourth album, Notes On A Conditional Form. The album release was twice delayed already this year, but every few weeks a new single from the album was released in the lead up to this weekend’s official release. To me, this feels like The 1975’s most ambitious album to date. Stylistically, it crosses genres, yet still maintains the indie/synth pop sound well associated with The 1975.

An inkling of this genre breach happened when the band dropped one of the new album’s first songs, “People.” The track sounds more like a punk rock/hardcore anthem than anything you’ve ever heard from The 1975 in the past. I remember being pleasantly surprised with the vibe of the new song as someone who grew up listening to punk and hardcore music, but I still questioned where the band was going with it. As more songs were released, I was assured that their new album would be full of stylistic surprises.

In early April, The 1975 released the song “Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America,” which features indie folk rock artist, Phoebe Bridgers, who was supposed to join the band on their 2020 tour until it was inevitably postponed. The song is a testament to Bridgers’ folk rock style. The only thing that gives it away is Matty Healy’s vocals, but even Healy’s sound succumbs to the song style. “Playing on My Mind” also has that indie folk feel.

“Roadkill,” which wasn’t released prior to the full album, sounds like it could’ve come off a Sam Hunt record. It’s got an unmistakable country twang. Despite the country vibe, it still feels like a 1975 indie pop song. I kind of love it. There’s also a few interlude tracks on the record that bridge into another genre as well. These songs take the standard synth pop sound of the band into a more electronic sound. “Shiny Collarbone” and about halfway through “Having No Head” are those dance tracks.

The album is full of songs that sound like what you would expect from The 1975 too. There’s several bangers like “Me & You Together Song”, “If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)”, and “Frail State of Mind” and smooth rock ballads like “Guys”, “The Birthday Party”, “Don’t Worry”, and “Nothing Revealed/Everything Denied.” It’s honestly such a great mix of music.

Like I said, this album feels different than what we’re used to from The 1975, but it blends genres remarkably well and still gives us the sound that we’re looking for. It may have taken me an album to actually get into The 1975 (I really got into them after “The Sound” from I like it when you sleep…), but I’ve been a fan ever since. I’ve always really been into their hits. “The Sound” (obviously), “Sex”, “Heart Out”, “Chocolate”, and “It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)” are a few of my favorites. This new album feels different in a good way though and even the songs I don’t typically fall for, I love. I think if you’re an indie music fan or a music fan in general, you can find something on this record that you’ll like. It’s got something for everyone. But really, you might just love it all, it’s that good. So give it a shot. If you don’t find it appealing, my solution is that maybe you would like it better if you took off your clothes. (Of course, that one is my favorite!)

Sad Philly Boy Music/Coachella Band Preview?

It’s been a while since I last blogged. It almost feels like I actually did go to Coachella since this is what usually happens. I write Coachella blogs until I leave for Coachella then stop until I return from being out in the desert for a few weeks. At this point I should have no excuse for not writing. I’m home. The problem was I couldn’t figure out what to write about. There’s a few upcoming albums I plan to review, but until then I haven’t really discovered anything new I like, until Saturday.

I’ve been talking to my friend Kelsey for most of quarantine. We’re quarantine buddies for sure and we’ve agreed that it feels a lot like being in high school since we’re both with our families. Kick in the nostalgia. We often talk about bands we grew up listening to like Brand New and Taking Back Sunday. We were both emo/punk/alternative kids. Lately though, quarantine has brought in some deep cut local bands and musicians that were a part of our teen scenes. I started talking about Title Fight and how my friends and I watched them play small venues in our area as they grew bigger in their scene. She sent me a picture of her and her prom date Alex and then told me how he’s now in a band that sells out large venues. That’s when I first heard of (Sandy) Alex G.

According to Kelsey, (Sandy) Alex G, aka her high school friend Alex Giannascoli, really started when he was in high school. He was in a pop punk band called The Skin Cells with several of their other friends. Kelsey even sent me one of their songs Saturday night. It was great. She said Alex was super dedicated to music and would record his own stuff in his room, put it on CD, and personally decorate the CD. She said it felt like he did this at least once a month. He was good too. She always thought he would be famous one day and she wasn’t lying. He’s now an indie recording artist.

He began self-releasing music on Bandcamp between 2010-2012. His music spread by word of mouth and music blogs and eventually lead to his signing with Orchid Tapes who he released his debut album DSU under in 2014. At that time he was just Alex G. In 2015 he signed with Domino Recording Company and began releasing records under that label. He released three albums with Domino in 2015, Rules, Trick, and Beach Music.

In 2017, Alex G announced that he would be changing his name from Alex G to (Sandy) Alex G shortly before the release of his album Rocket. The album ranked on many indie publications’ lists as being in the Top 50 of the year. In September, Alex released his latest album House of Sugar, which again received similar accolades

(Sandy) Alex G is a typical indie artist. His music also bridges into that post-punk/pop-punk/alternative scene that bands like Turnover and Tigers Jaw are a part of. He’s also from suburban Philly. Based on his style, he probably attracts a large following of “sad Philly boy” fans, which is a term I’ve heard referring to the new indie scene of young urban outfitter wearing 20-somethings that originated in Philly. Regardless of what your style is, if you’re an indie music fan, you’d dig what (Sandy) Alex G has been putting out.

Normally, at this point of the year Coachella would already have passed and we would be looking forward to next year. Unfortunately at this point, 2020 hasn’t happened and no one’s really sure if it will. That being said who knows what happens to the 2020 lineup? If it happens this year, will the same artists be playing? If it doesn’t, do they play next year? I’m sure Goldenvoice has already started booking a 2021 lineup that looks much different than this year, but I bet if Coachella 2020 doesn’t happen in the fall there may be some smaller acts booked for the following spring. The reason I’m even talking about this is because (Sandy) Alex G was supposed to be on the lineup this year! He was slated to play Sunday. Even though everything is very TBD right now, I’m hoping he still plays in October and if not, I’m hoping he’s on the 2021 lineup. I’d love to see him out on the polo fields and I now have plenty of time to listen to his music. So big shoutout to Kelsey for the introduction and big shoutout to Alex for putting out this great music since high school.