james bay

Top Tunes of 2018

Each of the last two years I’ve written posts about how much music has shaped the year. In 2016 there was a lot of shit that went down and music was the bright spot. Last year was one of my favorite years in music in a while so 2018 had a lot to live up to. So as the year comes to a close, the results are in. It was in no way comparable to last year, but thats okay! Because music was still important as it always is.

2018 as a whole will never be comparable to last year. I felt too much in 2018 and in the process I lost a lot of perspective. I had to dig myself out of personal holes so many times. A lot of which I hadn’t felt in years. In a way I’m still trying to overcome some personal struggles but one thing I learned this year is that it could be worse. So I try to remind myself of that. Despite losing perspective at times, I was able to gain it back through meeting new incredible people, through traveling all over the country, through new experiences, and most importantly through music.

I worked harder and put in more miles than I ever had in the past this year all because of a goal that started last January. My friend and I planned a trip to London. I went on that trip last week and it was definitely a trip I won’t soon forget. As much as all the work made it worth it. It was the journey of the year that made it special and so many songs and bands that got me through this weird rollercoaster of a year. So without further delay, here are some of my faves from 2018:

“NUMB” by Hayden James

According to Spotify, this is my top song of the year. Spotify isn’t lying either. It’s now my second most played song on my iTunes. I fell in love with this song during EDC Las Vegas, a festival which ultimately changed the course of the year for me. This song related to my life in all the ways at times, so I kept turning to it. Plus it’s a big fucking mood! I saw Hayden James perform at Electric Forest this year and was able to catch this song during his sets both weekends and during his Weekend 2 DJ set. The bass was so overpowering, but I loved it nonetheless. Now, 7 months later and I’m still choosing to listen to this song. It will forever be associated with this year and all the ups and downs that came with it.

“Safe” by Bay Ledges

This song was released in 2017 but I first heard this song in the spring of 2018 and I became hooked on it. It was a song that I would constantly choose to play whenever I was scrolling through my iTunes in the car or on Spotify. We also kept hearing it on our drives from Joshua Tree to Indio during Coachella this past year. It always puts me in a good mood and creates such a vibe. I was lucky enough to see Bay Ledges play last month and to hear this song live. Even if the song was released in 2017, it still got me through 2018.

Kygo

Kygo was my top Spotify artist this year. It makes sense. After seeing Kygo play at Coachella, one of my favorite sets of the festival, I got really into listening to his music. I eventually created a Kygo Spotify playlist that I’ll occasionally use to work out to. I’ve always been into the tropical house style of electronic music so it was a matter of time before I dove head first into Kygo and all of his tunes that I’ve already been listening to over the past 3 years. I kind of credit the song “Stargzing”, but overall I love almost all of Kygo’s tracks and seeing him live was incredibly fun. This was the year that made it happen for me and the Norwegian DJ.

“Curious” by Hayley Kiyoko

2018 can be defined by the hashtag 20GAYTEEN and that’s all in part to Hayley Kiyoko. She released her first full length album this year and exploded in the music scene. She performed at Coachella, sold out her tour, opened for Panic! At the Disco, performed with Taylor Swift, and won a VMA! It’s been an epic year for Lesbian Jesus. This song was released early in 2018 as a single to promote Hayley’s debut album. It’s been one of my faves ever since. I snuck away during work at Coachella to catch a glimpse of her set Weekend 2, but missed a large portion of it. It wasn’t until I worked a Panic! At the Disco show that I got to see the entirety of her opening set and felt all the proud mom feelings. I saw Hayley play a small venue show in Philly in late 2016 and it’s been pleasure being a fan and seeing her grow so much since then. This year was the icing on the cake for that. So to answer the question, in case you were curious, it is serious that she’s only going up from here.

Arctic Monkeys

2018 was a comeback year for Arctic Monkeys. They released their first album since 2013’s AM, toured worldwide, and played numerous dates on the festival circuit. It was my goal this year to see them play and I did while working their show at Forest Hills Stadium back in July. Although their new album wasn’t the comeback I hoped for, 2018 revitalized my interest in Arctic Monkeys and caused me to listen to their music even more than I did in the past. I found a love in old songs like “Suck It And See” and “I Bet That You Look Good On the Dance Floor”. I also eventually started to enjoy their latest release. It seems like the Monkeys will be riding the 2018 wave into 2019 as well so hopefully they coast back to the states soon.

“Saturday Sun” by Vance Joy

Vance Joy released his sophomore album this year back in February. “Saturday Sun” was a single from that album that was the theme of my Coachella 2018 experience. On our 1 hour drives to and from work every day from Joshua Tree, we listened to Alt Nation on Sirius XM. “Saturday Sun” was in the rotation at the time at it seemed like we heard it ever time we got in Denise’s car. It became our Coachella song. The whole experience culminated on Sunday of Weekend 2 when Vance Joy asked to sit at our table in catering and ate lunch with us. This song will always remind me this year and drives through California with my Day One since Day One Weekend One, Denise.

“Wanderlust” by James Bay

There’s no special story behind this song compared to the others I have on here. It’s just one that I kept going back to once I had it on my iTunes and Spotify playlists. I got into it right before I left for Electric Forest in June and it’s been a staple ever since. It gave me a new opinion on James Bay, whose music I thought was always slower and created romance type vibes. This song was an indie pop/rock dream that I never knew I needed from James Bay this year.

Florence and the Machine

It took me a while to get into the new Florence and the Machine album, but I did just in time to see her live at the Barclays Center in October. Again just like the Arctic Monkeys, High As Hope, the 2018 follow-up to 2015’s How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, was a bit of a disappointment to me initially. In general, it seemed like after a big 2017 of brilliant albums, 2018’s hype wasn’t cutting it for me. New music from 2018 just took a little while to get used to. Once I did I fell for songs like “Hunger” and “Patricia”. Florence reminded me this year when I needed it most that “it’s a wonderful thing to love” and I’m grateful for that.

“Body” by Loud Luxury

“Body” came to me around the same time as “NUMB” at EDC Las Vegas so it makes total sense that it would always play after “NUMB” on my iTunes rotation. I first heard the song on the way to site at EDC via Josh Hurlbert’s music. My friend Erin and I were jamming to it. I didn’t know the name of the song after that, but I needed to find out. So after some detective work, Josh figured out the song I was referring to and told me what it was called on load-out day. It’s been as much of a favorite as “NUMB” since EDC and a great work out track as well. I can’t say I’ve listened to Loud Luxury beyond “Body”, but it’s been a big hit of 2018 all around so I’m sure there will be more great tracks to come from the electronic artists.

Bishop Briggs

Bishop Briggs ended 2017 for me and moved right in 2018. Her debut album came out in May and she was high on my list to see live until I saw her perform at Electric Forest. I will say my interest in Bishop Briggs kind of faded after seeing her perform live, but for the first half of this year I was focused on her debut album and possibly seeing her in the summer. She didn’t disappoint at Forest either. Her performance was full of energy and power that had everyone feeling as bad ass as her by the end of the set. It was a highlight of the festival that seemed to be one of my lowest points of the year. Thankfully, I survived the Forest and went on to have some great festival experiences beyond that.

Runner-Ups

Years & Years

“Happy Man” by Jungle

“Happier” by Marshmello, ft. Bastille

Dashboard Confessional

“Whippin'” by Kiiara

So that’s it! 10 songs and artists that were big for me in 2018 (plus a few runner-ups!). There was another band that I easily could have put on the list but I decided to hold off because 2019 will surely be a big year for them. That band is Vampire Weekend. Their comeback started in 2018 with a few festival appearances, including a special one that I was witness to at Lollapalooza, but they’ve yet to release their much anticipated fourth full length album. There were rumors it would come out in 2018, but that hasn’t happened. So I expect 2019 will be the year for them. They’re already slated to play Firefly in June and I’m sure more dates and festivals are in the works as well. I can’t wait. They’re who I’m most excited about heading in to this new year.

As with any year, there will be plenty of new music and new discoveries for me. I didn’t plan on this year being better than 2017 and it wasn’t honestly as far as music goes. Professionally though, 2018 was my best year yet. When I set out to follow my music industry dreams in 2015 (technically 2016 but it started in 2015), my goal was always to be better, learn more, and grow every year. I’ve done that so far, especially this year. I have no plans to stop any time soon either. I’ve started to reach some goals I’ve had, but I have so much more to do and accomplish. I’m so lucky I get to do what I love. I’m grateful for everyone that’s helped and supported me, everyone I’ve met, and all the experiences I’ve had. I owe it all to music. So hopefully next year is even better because I plan on trying to make it that way and I’m sure I’ll have plenty of new tunes to help me through it all. Be back next week for the Coachella 2019 lineup release!

“All of life is energy vibrating at different frequencies. It has been said, the universe is a uni-verse, one song or vibration that plays throughout existence and gives us life. When we get in tune with that tone, we are in harmony with life. Music is a way we can tap into that power. That is why we feel music with our whole being. It moves us, stimulates our imagination, opens emotions, and can pass language and cultural barriers. It lives on a primal level, one that we can all connect with.”

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2016 Coachella Valley Arts and Music Festival Lineup Release

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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