lady gaga

Local Natives

It’s crazy to think, but it’s been almost a month since my last blog post and yet it honestly doesn’t feel like it was that long ago. I guess that’s what happens when you spend the fastest two weeks in the Coachella Valley working at your favorite and one of the most well-known music festivals in the world.

So yeah, I did it. I worked Coachella. It was amazing, special, wild, epic, unreal, and all sorts of other positive adjectives that you can think of. It was mostly indescribable though. I knew what to expect, but at the same time I didn’t at all. I can say though that experiencing Coachella in an entirely different way made me appreciate it so much more because it’s a first class, well-run music festival. I’m not gonna go into deep detail about my trip here. I will say that out of the bands I previewed I was able to see Kungs, Grouplove, Lorde, and Lady Gaga. If you wanna know more about my experience though, just ask.

Another thing I will mention is that I had a realization while at the festival during Saturday of Weekend 1. I definitely should have previewed Local Natives in the build-up to Coachella 2017. I was able to catch part of their set that Saturday before my shift started and I knew about 4 of the 5 songs I heard. I didn’t realize how many Local Natives songs I knew, but apparently I know a lot. I know enough that I feel like I need to go to one of their shows sometime. So I figured it was better late than never to write about them, so here goes…

Local Natives is an indie rock band from Los Angeles, CA. Members Kelcey Ayer, Ryan Hahn, and Taylor Rice all met while in high school together in neighboring Orange County, but it was after graduating college from UCLA that the group really started to focus on music. Along with Matt Frazier and former member Andy Hamm (replaced by Nik Ewing in 2012), the group moved into a house together in the Silver Lake section of Los Angeles and began working on their first record, Gorilla Manor. The album was released in November 2009 in the UK and then in the U.S. in February 2010.

The band began generating some hype before the album’s release though. They played SXSW in 2009 which garnered attention from music critics. They received comparisons to well known indie bands, Arcade Fire, Fleet Foxes, and Vampire Weekend, making them a new notable act on the indie scene.

On January 29, 2013 the band released their second album, Hummingbird. The album was produced by guitarist Aaron Dessner of The National and featured a darker lyrical turn due to life events, such as the departure of Andy Hamm and the death of Kelcey Ayer’s mother, that had influenced the band’s writing process. The album also received generally positive reviews.

Last year the band released their third and most recent album, Sunlit Youth, in September. The first single for the album, “Past Lives”, was released a few months before the album drop. The album, like it’s predecessor, received similarly favorable reviews.

Local Natives is your standard indie rock band. There’s no other genre that their music fits into. I can see why they were initially compared to the likes of those other well-known indie bands. Out of the three I mentioned above, their music sounds most similar to a combination of Arcade Fire and Fleet Foxes. I think Vampire Weekend has more of an indie pop feel to their songs that isn’t heard as much with Local Natives. Another reassuring fact about Local Natives’ music is that the sound hasn’t changed much through three albums. Maybe the lyrical content has developed and changed, but you’re still getting that familiar Gorilla Manor sound on Sunlit Youth.

I first heard of Local Natives in the prime of my indie/hipster music transition phase in the spring of 2011. From then on, every so often I would add a new Local Natives song to my iTunes and playlist rotation. While on my first trip to California in 2013, I made it a point to go to Amoeba Music. Amoeba is the world’s largest independent record store. They have three locations in California, one in Berkeley (the original), one in San Francisco, and one in Hollywood, which is the one I went to. I, of course, wanted to get something at Amoeba, but traveling by plane made it difficult to purchase any vinyl so I opted for a CD. The CD I purchased was Hummingbird. Despite all this evidence, it never occurred to me that Local Natives should be a must-see for me at Coachella this year and a must among the list of bands I previewed. I didn’t even realize it after catching the end of their set at Lollapalooza last summer and realizing I knew every song I heard them play. I do now though and I won’t disregard them anymore. I plan on going to one of their shows next time they tour near me. They crushed it at Coachella and I don’t want to miss out anymore.

If you’re a big indie music follower and you don’t know of Local Natives, it’s time you do. They’re a great band to listen to if you’re just relaxing on quiet evening or if you’re driving on a road trip. It’s time to make these guys known or recognized whatever the case may be. Here’s a few songs you should check out.

  1. Airplanes
  2. Who Knows Who Cares
  3. Ceilings
  4. Heavy Feet
  5. Mt. Washington
  6. Past Lives
  7. Wide Eyes
  8. Dark Days
  9. We Come Back
  10. Sun Hands

Coachella Band Preview: Lady Gaga

If you’re reading this, I doubt you’re confused by the title of my blog because you probably know a thing or two about what happened regarding Coachella over the past week. In case you are confused though, let me explain.

As you know from the lineup announcement in the beginning of January, Lady Gaga was not on it. However, a month after the lineup dropped, Beyoncé made a public announcement that she was pregnant with twins. This started some speculation that she might not play Coachella. At the time of the announcement though, it seemed like she was fully committed to the annual festival. Then, her doctors intervened. Last week, shortly after I posted my last blog (because if it was before I would have mentioned it), AP (Associated Press) broke the news that Beyoncé would not play Coachella this year following the advice of her doctors to keep a less rigorous schedule. The announcement did state that Beyoncé will play Coachella next year in 2018, which in my opinion takes away from the anticipation of the lineup release somewhat. I guess since she was a major headliner and a bunch of the Beyhive probably bought tickets this year to see her, Coachella promoter, Goldenvoice, threw them a bone.

After the announcement was made last week, more speculation occurred over who would replace Queen Bey. Lady Gaga was one of the first acts I thought of as her replacement and this was without being influenced by rumors popping up all over the internet and social media. To me it seemed pretty logical, she’s a highly billed female pop performer, much like Beyoncé. She’s also about to embark on a world tour in support of her most recent album Joanne, which has been widely praised. It just made so much sense that she would replace Beyoncé. I saw some other names pop in the meantime though from Daft Punk to Rihanna. I also saw Lady Gaga’s name thrown around too, which made me feel like my guess wasn’t too far off. By Tuesday evening, it was confirmed. Lady Gaga would replace Beyoncé as Coachella’s Saturday night headliner and Gagachella was born.

Lady Gaga, whose real name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, grew up in Manhattan’s Upper East Side in an affluent Catholic family. Despite attending an all-girls Catholic school growing up, she felt like she never fit in to that kind of crowd. She was always involved in music and the arts as well. She started taking piano at age 4. She played open mic nights and acted in school musicals as a teenager. She was even granted early admission to NYU’s theater program, but dropped out during her sophomore year to pursue her music career.

Her stage name, Lady Gaga, was inspired by Queen’s song “Radio Ga Ga” and a T9 accidental text message. In the years before she released her first album, she played Lollapalooza along with Lady Starlight as “Lady Gaga and Lady Starlight”. The duo also performed on the New York underground scene, which was when Lady Gaga began to incorporate pop and glam rock into her electronic dance music style.

After finally securing a record deal with Interscope/Geffen, her debut album, The Fame, was released in 2008. The album included many successful singles and earned her a Grammy Award for Best/Dance Electronica Album. Her song “Poker Face” won the Grammy for Best Dance Recording as well. Gaga’s first tour was in support of The Pussycat Dolls in 2009, but shortly after she embarked on her own headlining world tour. In November of 2009, she released an 8 song EP entitled The Fame Monster, which included the hit single “Bad Romance” as well as a few other successful singles. The Fame Monster earned Lady Gaga 8 MTV Video Music Awards and a Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Album. She also embarked on another world tour appropriately named The Monster Ball Tour.

Lady Gaga released her second studio album Born This Way in May 2011. The album produced several successful singles, 3 Grammy nominations, and a resulting world tour similar to her other music. Around this time was when Gaga formed her relationship with Tony Bennett which paved the way for their eventual album together, Cheek to Cheek, which was released in 2014 and earned them a Grammy for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album. However, the joint album was not released before her third studio album Artpop. It came out in November of 2013. Artpop is the least successful of Lady Gaga’s albums thus far and was received with mixed reviews. Despite its lack of success, it still sold about 2.5 million copies worldwide (as of July 2014).

Lady Gaga released her latest album, Joanne, this past October. Following its release, she performed at three small scale venues to promote the album. This was known as the Dive Bar Tour. Shortly before Joanne‘s release, it was announced that Lady Gaga would be headlining the 2017 Super Bowl LI Halftime Show. The halftime show became the most viewed music performance in history. Following the show, Lady Gaga announced her latest world tour plans in support of Joanne which now includes a pre-stop at one of America’s most well-known music festivals.

When Beyoncé was announced as a headliner, I had no intention of writing a preview for her because I’m not a Beyoncé fan. Honestly, I’m not a Lady Gaga fan either so the reason I decided to write this might be a mystery so I’ll explain. I’m not a fan of mainstream pop music (Adele being the only exception). In fact I used to get annoyed over Lady Gaga’s music when it first came out in 2008. The truth is though despite not being into Lady Gaga’s music, she’s had so many hit singles that I do know a lot of her music. I don’t listen to the radio normally, but I would hear her songs regardless. I’d hear them in public locations, from friends, on television, and yeah I guess on the radio when I wasn’t in control of it.

There’s been random times in my life over the last 9 years that Lady Gaga’s music has been a part of too. My friends and I sang a self made-up parody of “Alejandro” at the beach one summer, “Bad Romance” played on a music-playing amusement park ride one time when all of our previous times on this ride had death metal songs we didn’t know or like (“Bad Romance” kind of saved us), and “Applause” became one of the theme songs of my first trip to California due to its overplay and my cousin being in control of the radio. There’s probably other moments I’m not thinking of too. Also I can’t forget that my mom is a huge fan of Lady Gaga and her music. She owns almost all, if not all, of Gaga’s albums. I have to admit, I even like Joanne. Because of all the exposure, I almost feel like a fan by association and no lie her Super Bowl performance had me crushing the end of my cardio work out. So no, I’m not a true Little Monster, but I wouldn’t mind seeing Gaga live if I had the opportunity.

As I said before, Lady Gaga plays Saturday night in replacement of Beyoncé. It’s her first time playing the festival and also the first time since 2007 that a female solo artist will be headlining. Being known for her crazy and outlandish costumes/outfits in her early performing days as well as becoming a major pop performer, I’m expecting her Coachella set to be epic and to have some intense production quality. No one will want to miss her performance on Saturday night, unless of course you’re a major fan of whoever is playing at the Sahara Tent. Here’s some songs to get you ready, although you might already know them:

  1. Bad Romance
  2. Just Dance
  3. Poker Face
  4. Born This Way
  5. Alejandro
  6. Perfect Illusion
  7. Applause
  8. Marry the Night
  9. Telephone
  10. A Million Reasons
  11. A-Yo
  12. John Wayne
  13. The Edge of Glory
  14. Paparazzi
  15. LoveGame

 

Why Are There No New Christmas Songs?

Christmas time is unique in that it’s the only time of year with designated songs describing the season. I mean I guess you can make a case for Halloween songs, but when it comes to Christmas songs, they can’t really compete. Christmas music is played way more frequently. The thing about Christmas music though is that every year radio stations, stores, malls, and other entities play the same songs on repeat. Unlike music in general, you don’t often hear new songs when it comes to Christmas ones. But why?

It’s not that new songs aren’t being created. Every year there’s probably several new Christmas songs, but apparently it’s difficult to make one popular to the masses. More often you’ll hear modern artists covering traditional Christmas music rather than creating new songs. In fact, the most recent successful Christmas song came out 22 years ago. It was Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You”. Most of you know the song too. It’s now a holiday staple. You can make an argument for others though. *NSYNC’s “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays” came out in 1998. Then there’s Britney Spears’s “My Only Wish” which was released in 1995.You might hear the *NSYNC song throughout the holidays, but it’s rare to hear the Britney one. Mariah still beats them both.

There’s been a couple of artists who have tried to put out a modern Christmas song in more recent years like Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Ariana Grande, and Meghan Trainor. I bet you didn’t know that unless you’re a huge fan of a particular artist because none of their songs were that successful. I honestly don’t know what their holiday songs are called or how they go. Do you? That’s enough proof to show their lack of success.

I had a few Christmas songs that I listened to during high school and college that were original songs. Those songs weren’t by bands or artists you’d hear on mainstream radio though. A lot of the songs had sad themes too, which aren’t people’s favorite thing to listen to around the holidays (take “Christmas Shoes” for example). One of my favorites was “Forget December” by Something Corporate. The songs was released in 2003 as part of the album A Santa Cause: It’s a Punk Rock Christmas, an album that was released to benefit The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation in which punk bands created original holiday songs or recorded covers of Christmas classics. The first volume was released in 2003 and a second was released in 2006 to benefit a different charity (Cure Autism Now). A decent portion of those songs were on my Christmas playlist over the years.

Now whether it’s lack of Christmas spirit, a desire for something new, or a combo of both reasons, I don’t listen to Christmas music if I don’t have to (because when you go shopping near the holidays you’re bound to hear it). I haven’t for the last 4-5 years. I haven’t been excited to hear it either, even my old favorite songs. I think the reason for that is because I don’t listen to the same bands that I listened to in high school and college. In general Christmas and its music isn’t as exciting anymore, but especially since modern Christmas music really isn’t a thing. We’re mostly still listening to music that came out decades ago.

Last year, LCD Soundsystem released an original Christmas song, “Christmas Will Break Your Heart”. I listened to it, but I wished it was more upbeat like the songs “Dance Yrself Clean” or “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House”. It sounded more like “New York I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down” and I just wasn’t feeling it at the time (I do like the song “New York I Love You….” though). I listened to it again last month and I liked it a little better probably due to my renewed love of LCD. That’s the only band I can think of that I like that released an original Christmas song in the past few years.

If more indie pop/rock bands released some Christmas songs, I might actually find a renewed taste for Christmas music. It would also be pretty sweet if an electronic artist did one too. I can imagine that would create an energetic Christmas vibe. I doubt any of those songs would make it to mainstream listeners though (not that I’d be complaining) so take that as you will.

Maybe one of the closest things to a Christmas song I’ve enjoyed in the last 4-5 years was a combination of a classic Christmas song and a modern day hit that debuted on the TV show The Real O’Neals last Tuesday. They performed O Holy Night and mashed it with Sia’s “The Greatest”. It was the coolest Christmas related musical piece I’ve heard in a while. It blended an old religious holiday ballad and a newly released non-Christmas single perfectly. It got me so hyped last week when they cut into the carol and started singing Sia. I’ve been promoting it ever since and I wish they recorded a full version.

Something like that gives me hope that maybe soon enough we’ll have more modern Christmas songs so we can stop listening to Burl Ives, Bing Crosby, or even Mariah Carey. I know many people may not want to, but I’ve never been part of the majority. Here’s a few newer-ish original Christmas songs to listen to if you’re looking for something more modern:

  1. Forget December -Something Corporate (2003)
  2. Yule Shoot Your Eye Out -Fall Out Boy (2003)
  3. I Won’t Be Home For Christmas -Blink-182 (2003)
  4. This Time of Year -The Mighty Mighty Bosstones (2003)
  5. Icicles -Punchline (2003)
  6. City Trucks -Paper Route (2006)
  7. My Christmas List -Simple Plan (2001)
  8. Right Where You Want Me To Be -A Day to Remember (2010)
  9. Christmas Will Break Your Heart -LCD Soundsystem (2015)
  10. Not Giving In -Rediscover (2006)
  11. The Christmas Song -Owl City (2008)
  12. Christmas Gifts -Foxes (2009)
  13. Merry Christmas, Kiss My Ass -All Time Low (2011)
  14. The Lights and Buzz -Jack’s Mannequin (2005)
  15. Merry Frickin’ Christmas -Frickin’ A (2004)

Also here is the O Holy Night/Sia Mashup from The Real O’Neals.

The 87th Annual Little Golden Man Figurine Awards

Two weeks ago was the biggest night in music, but last night was the biggest night in movies. Obviously I got into the whole thought of award shows in my Grammy’s post. While researching for that post I found out the Academy Awards (a.k.a. the Oscar’s) are the most prestigious, most watched, and oldest awards given out in entertainment. If you’ve been following my blog since the beginning, you’ll know that I saw and wrote posts about 3 movies that were nominated for several Academy Awards (Boyhood, Whiplash, and Birdman). Each of those took home Oscars last night. Boyhood’s Patricia Arquette won Best Supporting Actress. Whiplash won 3 awards for Best Supporting Actor (J.K. Simmons), Sound Mixing, and Film Editing (all well deserved). Birdman shared the top honor with most wins last night (with The Grand Budapest Hotel) with 4 awards including Cinematography (called it), Best Original Screenplay, Director (Alejandro González Iñárritu), and the coveted Best Picture.

In other big award moments of the night, Eddie Redmayne took home the Oscar for Best Actor for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, and Julianne Moore won Best Actress for her role as a linguistics professor diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s in Still Alice. But like the Grammy’s, the Oscar’s are more than just an awards presentation. They’re a show, and there were some pretty notable moments to take from the show aspect. In my opinion, there was nothing quite as good as taking an epic selfie or delivering pizza to the audience, but still this year delivered in its own way.

John Legend and Common’s performance of “Glory” from the film Selma was incredibly moving. Lady Gaga slayed her performance which was an ode to Julie Andrews and the Sound of Music that was celebrating its 50th anniversary. Then there was host Neil Patrick Harris in his underwear. He pulled off the Birdman skit for sure. However to me, I think there were two other pretty fantastic and inspiring moments that happened.

The first was when Patricia Arquette was delivering her acceptance speech after receiving her award for Best Supporting Actress. Rather than just describing it, you can watch it here. What she said was so important for all women, but what was even more awesome was the way her message touched Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez. Both responded in such a way that indicated their support of what she said. The second was when Graham Moore received his Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Imitation Game. His acceptance speech can be seen here. His message to “stay weird, stay different” definitely reached so many that watched. Those words were incredibly important for self-acceptance no matter who you are.

It seems more often than not, a lot of Oscar acceptance speeches touch on cultural issues in a way that speak to so many affected by these issues. The recipients seem so humbled by the tremendous honor and dedicate their achievement to those that have influenced them in some way shape or form. I mean I guess that’s typically how it goes with most awards, but I think with an Oscar it’s like the grand prize so the winners are much more grateful than with other award shows. Not that other awards don’t matter, but with the Oscar’s there’s a little something extra.

So with all the awards presented and the cast and creators of Birdman on stage accepting the award for Best Picture, the 87th Annual Little Golden Man Figurine (Academy) Awards (and awards season in general) came to a close. Another year of great films in 2015 is ahead before the next Oscar’s presentation. Until then the winners can enjoy their achievements. However I think everyone at the Oscar’s is truly a winner, because they all had some part in incredible film making. But let’s be honest, you really came out on top last night if you left with a Lego Oscar.