justin vernon

Coachella Band Preview: Phantogram, BANKS, Bon Iver, & Bastille

Thank goodness that Coachella is only a month away because this week’s east coast Snowmageddon is bringing me down. If the snow is keeping you inside or if you’re inside regardless for whatever the case may be, it’s the perfect time to listen to some bands to prep for Indio’s annual music festival. This week’s blog might be kind of basic, but it’s still necessary because I would want to see all of these artists perform their 2017 Coachella sets. I’ve given an in depth review of all these artists before so my previews for these guys will be more condensed. I’ll be sure to give links to my previous posts on each and catch you up on what they’ve done since I wrote about them last though. They are Phantogram, BANKS, Bon Iver, & Bastille.

I just wrote about Phantogram back in December. The biggest news about the band since you last heard about them is that they’re playing a bunch of festivals this summer after releasing their third studio album in October 2016. They make their return to the desert for the first time since 2011. That being said I expect they’ll have decent numbers at their Coachella set. They play Friday. As for music prep, click the link above to my previous Phantogram post. The band hasn’t released any new music since so it’s senseless to post it again. Just check out my blog from a few months ago.

When I first started this blog in 2014, BANKS was one of the first music artists I wrote about. So as you might have guessed, there’s a lot more to tell you about BANKS since my last post. My last post is actually pretty small (give me a break I was just getting the hang of this thing) and I only recommended 3 songs…what?! Let’s catch you up and give you a few more songs. After releasing her debut album to critical acclaim in September 2014 (and yes I eventually purchased it), BANKS again toured in support The Weeknd on his 2015 fall tour. She released her sophomore album, The Altar, this past September to more positive reviews. I previously compared her to Lorde. I understand where I was going with that description, but I think a better description of her sound is alternative R&B. It has a darker feel yet a soulful vibe. Since hearing about her in 2014, I’ve wanted to see her live. I actually thought she’d play Coachella in 2015 when I attended until I realized she played the previous year. She hasn’t been back since making this year her second appearance. She plays Friday as well. If you’re looking for a super chill, hip, alternative, electronic, R&B type of set, BANKS is who you need to see. Here’s a few more of her songs you should listen to along with “Goddess”, “Beggin’ For Thread”, and the “In Your Eyes” cover:

  1. Lovesick
  2. Fuck With Myself
  3. Gemini Feed
  4. Drowning
  5. You Should Know Where I’m Coming From
  6. Someone New
  7. Warm Water
  8. Waiting Game
  9. Brain
  10. Trainwreck
  11. Mind Games

Bon Iver is another artist I wrote about a while ago. Since then Bon Iver released a new album, 22, A Million this past September. It was the first album for the band since 2011. The album takes on a much more experimental sound than their previous material. Pitchfork likened it to Radiohead’s Kid A in their review of the album, which I think is a solid comparison. Bon Iver went on hiatus for a while in 2012 and reunited for the first time in the summer of 2015 to play the Eaux Claires Music Festival. Early last year they toured in Asia and since the release of the new album, the group, fronted by creator Justin Vernon, is back to playing live shows. They have a few festivals lined up for this summer including a stop at their second Coachella (third for Justin Vernon since he was a guest during Kanye’s 2011 set). They play Saturday. I’ve never seen Bon Iver live. I would love to. The timing is always off and Bon Iver is one of those bands for me that I’d want someone to go with except I don’t think any of my friends like Bon Iver that much. Seeing this band at a festival would be the perfect opportunity for me and for you if you’ve liked Bon Iver for a while (like me) or if even if you haven’t. So here’s a few songs to add to your Coachella playlist along with the list of songs I mention on previous blog post (linked above):

  1. 33 “GOD”
  2. 666 ʇ
  3. 29 #Strafford APTS
  4. 8 (circle)
  5. 22 (OVER S∞∞N)

If you couldn’t already tell from my post a few months ago, Bastille is one band who I’d definitely love to see live again, especially after their latest album. Since my post, there’s not much news to add other than the fact that they’re playing their second Coachella this year, which I believe I predicted in my blog post. They’ve also got a few other upcoming overseas festivals including Reading and Leeds. Bastille plays Saturday at Coachella. I would anticipate high popularity for their set. It’s also one that would be on my must-see list, if I’m able to catch it. As was with Phantogram, there’s been no new music from Bastille since my blog post in October, so refer to that for tunes to prep for the festival.

There you have it. Somewhat brief follow-ups for four bands/artists playing Coachella this year that I previously wrote about. I know I already suggested your attendance at each one of their sets, but honestly every Coachella act I write about is one that I’d want you to see at the festival. It kinda goes without saying. It’s seriously time to rev up those preparations though because we’re heading towards the final stretch. Coachella 2017 will be here before you know it.

 

Advertisements

Good Winter

In the beginning of 2007, I was a senior in high school. I listened to primarily punk/alternative rock music with the occasional ska and hardcore mixed in. I had just started a band with my three friends so we could play together in our school’s senior talent show. I went to shows, hung out with my band, and felt completely in my element. At the time, I had no idea my music taste would change again four years later (no pun intended) as it abruptly did when I was a high school freshman. I had no idea what album was in the process of being created and how it would come into my life when I was in an entirely different place.

In the winter of 2007, Justin Vernon (who I mentioned in my Grammy’s post) decided to spend 3 months in his father’s Wisconsin cabin after a rough time in his life (band break-up, relationship ending, battling mono). His intention was to recuperate from those circumstances, but what happened was the creation of an incredible work of musical art. He wrote and recorded songs completely by himself. He named his project “Bon Iver” which was his own variation of the French expression “bon hiver” meaning “good winter”.

Bon Iver’s first album was released in limited capacity in late spring 2007 (500 copies). The album entitled For Emma, Forever Ago contained the original recordings Vernon did while in seclusion in the cabin. The CD release show took place at the House of Rock in Eau Claire, Wisconsin (now home to Eaux Claires Music Festival which Vernon created). After the release show, the album received some attention from blog sites and indie publication site, Pitchfork, which lead to an eventual signing with indie label Jagjaguwar. The album was re-released in February 2008 under the new label, and went on to have much success, especially the song “Skinny Love”.

In 2009, Bon Iver released the EP Blood Bank featuring three new songs, “Beach Baby”, “Babys”, and “Woods”, and previously recorded song “Blood Bank” which didn’t make the cut on the first album. Bon Iver’s sophomore self-titled album was released on June 17, 2011. The album slightly differed in its sound compared to the first which featured a more intimate approach that really focused on Vernon’s vocals and guitar playing. The sound in For Emma, Forever Ago was so beautifully simplistic. The self-titled album kept the same mellow Bon Iver feel, but featured a more advanced sound quality. Obviously it wasn’t recorded in the same type of environment as the first. It used more instrumentals and had less of a focus on the vocals and guitar. Nonetheless it was still a beautiful compilation of music. In fact, the following year the album received a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album and Bon Iver received the Grammy for Best New Artist (which always struck me as amusing considering he was not at all “new” at the time).

I had not even heard of Bon Iver until after the release of the second album. Like I said before, I was in a totally different place musically when the first album was released. When the second came out, I had just started to get into the indie scene. It was still a few months later when I first heard “Skinny Love”. I really can’t remember how or when I first heard the song. It might have been a recommendation from a friend or it might have been on a Pandora station, which I frequently used to find new music at the time. Either way, it was in September of 2011 that I first heard it. I immediately took to the song. It was much softer than other things I listened to at that time. I would tend to listen to it when I was feeling upset. I was upset often then too. I went through a difficult transitional period around that time where I began questioning a lot of things regarding my future and aspirations. To say music is what I turned to is an understatement. Music always helps me, no matter what I’m feeling, and it helped then too. “Skinny Love” was just a part of that. Within the next few months I purchased both For Emma, Forever Ago and Bon Iver. I also became a big fan of the song “Holocene”. I’ve always felt that Bon Iver’s music is the perfect soundtrack for fall and winter. It’s possible because that’s when I first listened to it. It’s also possible because it has a peaceful, mellow sound that mixes well with the cold air and lifeless conditions the seasons bring. You can be the judge if you listen to my song recommendations.

Anyway, Bon Iver went on hiatus in 2012 and has not released any new music since. Recently though, Vernon confirmed that the hiatus has come to an end as the group intends to play the inaugural Eaux Claires Music Festival in July. New material should follow. Until then we just have to wait to see what’s in-store for Justin Vernon and his band.

1. Skinny Love

2. Holocene

3. Blood Bank

4. I Can’t Make You Love Me (Bonnie Raitt cover) (so much better than the original)

5. Flume

6. Blindsided

7. Towers

8. Creature Fear

9. Hazelton

10. Perth

The Biggest Night in Music…or Something Like That

If you watched the Grammy Awards last night, I’m sure the one question running through your mind is “Was there anything Sam Smith didn’t win?” The answer is surprisingly “Yes!” no matter how you look at it. Sure you can say he didn’t win a Grammy for every category, but he wasn’t nominated for every category. However, he also did not win in every category he was nominated for (Pharrell won with “Happy” for Best Pop Performance), although it sure seemed like he did.

Anyway, I originally had planned to do a Grammy Awards recap today but then right before the show started last night I realized I really didn’t care to watch it. Prior to this I saw three of the categories I cared about were already awarded. Best Rock Performance went to Jack White for “Lazaretto”, Best Rock Song went to Paramore for “Ain’t It Fun” and Best Alternative Album went to St. Vincent for her self-titled album (see you at Coachella Jack and Annie!). After that I only cared if The Black Keys won Best Rock Album or if Haim won Best New Artist. Neither did. So there wasn’t much else for me to see. The performances weren’t my cup of tea nor were the other categories. I might have been mildly interested to see if Taylor Swift won anything for “Shake It Off”. That song may be a guilty pleasure of mine but I will not confirm or deny that (she didn’t win at all). Still, that was something I could wait to find out later without watching the show.

So I barely watched the Grammys. Instead it got me thinking, “Why do people watch the Grammys? Why are they so special? Heck, why do people watch any award shows and what makes some more important or better than others?” So I did some research and decided to answer those questions here.

First “Why do people watch the Grammys?” and “Why are they so special?” Well to give an answer to both of these questions at once (sorta) is because the Grammys are the oldest and most prestigious awards in music. The show started in the late 50’s and has continued until this point. So that’s why they’re special and I think part of why people watch. Another reason I think people watch is because they want to see if their favorite artists receive a major achievement. I’m sure some people watch to see the performances and drama that occurs with a live award show. There’s probably people that watch just so they can feel included to talk about the show the next day at work or school. Then there’s the people who watch for the fashion. There’s probably other reasons too, but I think those are some of the big ones.

I guess the same can be said for why people watch any awards shows. They care about what the show celebrates whether it’s music, tv, movies, etc., or they care about fashion and pop culture, or they just watch it for pure entertainment. What makes some award shows better than others? Well I think like I said before is how old they are and how prestigious they are deemed by society.

That’s the thing though. The Grammy Awards (probably other award shows too) were criticized plenty of times for just being some big spectacle that celebrates the music industry, caters to people for entertainment, and is less about the actual music than they want you to believe. Like many things in our culture, award shows get blown out of proportion. It’s society that makes us believe that awards are important and certain awards are more important than others. That goes for anything. I guess it’s the case that people need to feel validated sometimes and awards help with that. But I think it’s important for those receiving awards to feel validated no matter what, like the people who make music purely to make music by expressing themselves and creating a beautiful compilation of sound. There’s validation in just being able to make music. One of my favorite Grammy moments of all time happened when Justin Vernon of Bon Iver won two Grammys in 2012 for Bon Iver, Bon Iver and Best New Artist (he wasn’t new at the time but we’ll let that slide). Through his acceptance speech he basically indicated that the awards meant so little compared to the music which was so much more important. I’ve always respected musicians like that who put the music first. It is what’s most important. Awards are just an added bonus.

So I think it’s important for those of us that actually care about what the awards are for to remember what is really important about them. Hell, even if you care about the fashion or the water cooler discussion the next day it’s important to know the real reason for having an award show. Music, television, movies, etc. are all forms of art. They’re beautiful creations of tremendous amounts of work that have been shared with us. That is what is so incredible about them. That is what is most important.