Lollapalooza

Coachella Band Preview: Kygo

Another week down means another week less to prep for Coachella 2018, but it also means it’s time for another band preview. I feel like I need to re-name this blog series. When I started it in 2015, I was mostly into bands. Since then, my taste in electronic music has grown. Also as you know, this year’s Coachella lineup has way less bands than in prior years. For now, just know that my band previews encompass singers and artists too, which includes this week’s preview as well.

Kygo aka Kyrre Gørvell-Dahll is a Norwegian DJ, producer, and musician. He started taking piano lessons as a child and continued until he was a teenager when he began to produce his own music using a keyboard and recording software. He was also halfway through a college degree in business and finance by the time he decided to pursue music full-time.

Kygo’s break-through hit came in 2014 when he released the single “Firestone” ft. Conrad Sewell. In the same year he was contacted by Avicii and Chris Martin of Coldplay to remix the Coldplay song “Midnight”. He then supported Avicii on tour.

In 2015 his music was featured in a trailer for the Ultra Music Festival, a well-known electronic festival that takes place in Miami, FL, as well as being a featured headliner for Lollapalooza. He also released 4 more singles that year which paved the way for his debut studio album to be released in 2016. His debut was released on May 16, 2016 entitled Cloud Nine. The album featured collaborations with several artists including John Legend, Angus & Julia Stone, Foxes, James Vincent McMorrow, Maty Noyes, and more. Kygo also played at the closing ceremonies of the 2016 Summer Olympics.

In 2017 Kygo released two singles that lead up to an EP and his second full length studio album. The EP, Stargazing, included both singles “It Ain’t Me” ft. Selena Gomez and “First Time” ft. Ellie Goulding. Kygo’s second album Kids In Love was just released in November.

Kygo’s tropical house style originated from him trying to imitate his hero, Swedish DJ/producer Avicii. He eventually found his own sound by slowing it down into a dreamy, light synth type sound. He was really one of the first DJ’s to popularize the style which originates from deep house, a subgenre of house music.

I feel like I started listening to Kygo just because of my interest in his style of electronic music. Although he’s known as one of the originators, I discovered the style through listening to Matoma and Sam Feldt first. I’m not even sure when I first listened to Kygo. It was obviously sometime over the last 2-3 years and it was definitely the song “Stay” that I was into. I can’t even say I’m into that many Kygo songs. I was hooked on “First Time” last summer though. I honestly just think his Coachella performance will be fun because I like his style of music so I would totally want to catch his set if I was attending.

Kygo plays on Friday at Coachella. In my opinion Friday has the weakest lineup, but Kygo is one of the bright spots. He’ll probably close out the Sahara tent Friday night or he might even take to the Outdoor Stage as the last slot, which may overlap The Weeknd. Either way, there’s no question he’ll be a late night set. If you plan on catching him, I recommend getting there with plenty of time. No matter where he’s playing it’s sure to be packed. He’ll be setting the vibe for the rest of the weekend that night. To me, there’s something about tropical house being played in the SoCal desert amongst the palms that sets the mood. Here’s a few songs that will get you ready for that moment Friday night:

1. Stay (ft. Maty Noyes)

2. Stole the Show (ft. Parson James)

3. It Ain’t Me (ft. Selena Gomez)

4. First Time (ft. Ellie Goulding)

5. Kids in Love (ft. The Night Game)

6. Stranger Things (ft. One Republic)

7. Stargazing (ft. Justin Jesso)

8. This Town (ft. Sasha Sloan)

9. Firestone (ft. Conrad Sewell)

10. Raging (ft. Kodaline)

 

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Coachella Band Preview: Portugal. The Man

It’s been over a week since Coachella released their 2018 lineup. Tickets went on sale last Friday and sold out in just over 3 1/2 hours. Preparations have officially begun. So if you’re headed to the desert this April, I hope you’ve been listening to one of Coachella’s Spotify playlists or curating your own. I’ve checked out Coachella’s (which are so good by the way!) and already found 1 or 2 new bands to listen to. They might even get previewed leading up to the festival.

First thing’s first though, it’s time to get into the first band preview of the year. I bought this group’s latest album while in NYC a few weeks ago. I decided to buy it at random too, only knowing two songs from the album. It was a great decision and understandably so as it’s already been nominated for a Grammy. Although this blog post is a few weeks overdue, let me tell you a little something about Portugal. The Man.

Portugal. The Man has been around for quite a while before their latest album, Woodstock, and hit single “Feel It Still” invaded music charts over the last year. Hailing from Wasilla, Alaska, they formed in 2004 as a side project band of lead singer John Gourley and bassist Zach Carothers. The band has gone through several lineup changes but Gourley and Carothers have been the true mainstays. Currently they’re joined by Kyle O’Quin on keyboards/synth, Jason Sechrist on drums, and Eric Howk on guitar. I would try to explain their band name, but it’s a bit complicated so I’ll let this 2009 interview description by John Gourley do it, “It’s hard to explain, but it made perfect sense at the time. Over the 5 years that we’ve had the band name it’s just kind of gotten lost, but the idea was that we wanted to back somebody up. I guess in choosing Portugal, it was just kind of a random choice. We really wanted a country to be the name of our person because a country is a group of people. The man just states that Portugal is a person. So really Portugal is the band’s name and the man is just stating that he is the man.” They released demos in the summer of 2004 and embarked on a U.S. tour that fall. They released their debut album Waiter: “You Vultures!” on January 24, 2006.

In June 2007, they released their sophomore album Church Mouth and toured for the following year both in the U.S. and Europe in support of it. In 2008, the band released yet another record, Censored Colors, their third full length album. 2009 brought the band festival spots at Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza as well as a fourth album, The Satanic Satanist, and  The Majestic Majesty, an acoustic album of The Satanic Satanist. The band released another new album, American Ghetto, in 2010 marking the band’s fifth album in five years. 2010 also marked Portugal. The Man’s first Coachella appearance. Following suit of the previous years, their sixth album came out in July of 2011 after the band signed with record label, Atlantic Records in April 2010 (they had previously been a part of Fearless Records as well as a partnership with Equal Vision Records). The album, In the Mountain in the Cloud, brought the band another two years of touring and two more stops at Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza.

In 2012, Portugal. The Man did not release a new album, but in 2013, they did. They released their seventh full length album, Evil Friends. The album featured backing vocals by Danielle and Este Haim of fellow Coachella 2018 act, Haim. They announced an eighth album in 2016, but said album “failed to complete” and was scrapped after 3 years of work. After the lead single “Feel It Still” was released in March, the band dropped, Woodstock on June 16, 2017. With the success of “Feel It Still”, which has topped music charts nationwide, Woodstock has become the band’s most successful album to date after 13 years and seven previous albums.

Portugal. The Man plays an alternative rock style of music with a somewhat psychedelic/jam band flavor as well. At times their music even sounds a bit experimental. Their sound has definitely progressed and changed throughout the years and through each album. Gourley’s vocals have been a defining factor in their sound though.

I found out about Portugal. The Man while working as a radio DJ during college on my school’s radio station. Our station specialized in alternative, rap, and metal, and I had a weekly alternative radio show in which I would play a mix of my own songs combined with the music on our system. One of the songs I used to play during my show was the Portugal. The Man song “People Say”. I remember when the alternative director and her boyfriend introduced me to the band one time while we were in the studio together.  There may have been one or two other Portugal. The Man songs available on our rotation but I routinely played and enjoyed “People Say”.

I partially kept up with Portugal. The Man after I graduated and ended my radio show. I was into and downloaded the songs “Purple, Yellow, Red, and Blue” and “Modern Jesus” after Evil Friends came out. However, I was never fully into Portugal. The Man. The first time I heard “Feel It Still” was this past summer in August (I know I was so late) on a fellow Coachella coworker’s Snapchat story. I was into it immediately upon first listen. I didn’t know whose song it was either and I thought it might be by the band Electric Guest. The song sounded similar to their song “This Head I Hold”. All I knew was I was hooked no matter what. I was surprised to find out it was Portugal. The Man because it just didn’t fit the sound I was used to from them. It was and still is an absolute banger though.

Like I’ve said in my last two blogs, as well as earlier in this one, I purchased Woodstock a few weeks ago just because of my interest in “Feel It Still” and “Live in the Moment” (another great track from that record). I don’t own any other Portugal. The Man records either, despite knowing about them and having a slight interest in their music for several years now. Within the first few days of owning the record, I had it spinning on repeat. It’s great. I even put it on my list of favorite albums from 2017 after owning it for only two weeks prior to writing that blog.

Portugal. The Man plays Sunday night this year at Coachella. My guess is they play the main stage prior to Eminem. This is Portugal. The Man’s third Coachella. They played in 2010, as I mentioned, and 2013. If I was attending this year, I’d definitely have them on my must see list. My only concern is that they have such a large discography that I’m not sure what they’d play or what I’d know. Hence listening prep is key here. I wouldn’t spend hours listening to all 8 albums they’ve released. I would just get a few of their older hits and focus on the last 2-3 albums. Their most recent stuff is what’s given them the spotlight anyway, making it the obvious choice for set list selection. At least at this point you have plenty of time regardless. 3 months is so far, yet so so close that you can taste that sunshine and those good vibes.

Edit: I’m sorry everyone! Totally messed this up and forgot to put song recommendations to listen to so here they are (better late than never!):

1. Feel It Still

2. Live in the Moment

3. Purple, Yellow, Red and Blue

4. People Say

5. Modern Jesus

6. So Young

7. Noise Pollution

8. Rich Friends

9. Easy Tiger

10. So American

American Dream: Album Review

Summer 2017 has almost reached its conclusion. There’s only a few weeks left, but after Labor Day, pumpkin spice lattes are all the rage, temps start decreasing, and sweaters and flannels cover the upper torsos of most. Summer isn’t officially over until September 22nd, but still we’re less than a month away.

That being said this summer was epic for both me and the rest of the music world. I worked all over the country, had amazing experiences, made new friends, and strengthened relationships with old friends. It was incredible. It was also incredible because a plethora of new albums were released this summer by so many of my favorite bands and artists. Before the end of summer though, there’s one more highly anticipated album that was just released. The album was a long time coming for NYC alternative dance band, LCD Soundsystem. So after 7 long years, an apparent break-up, a final show at Madison Square Garden and a film to tell its tale, a Christmas song, and a comeback no one ever thought was happening, American Dream is here.

American Dream is the 4th full length album from James Murphy and his posse. This album is more melodious than their previous works, yet it combines the great electronic/techno indie dance style that LCD Soundsystem is known for. If you’re looking for that classic LCD sound, look to the songs “tonite”, “call the police”, “emotional haircut”, and “other voices”. Songs like “change yr mind” and “how do you sleep?” combine a dance style with more melody, as they both start slow and build to a pace where you’re able to get into the groove.

LCD Soundsystem records have been known to include a slower song or something with more melody on more than one occasion. “New York I Love, But You’re Bringing Me Down” or “All I Want” are perfect examples of this. Each are on separate albums though. The latest from LCD Soundsystem incorporates 4 of these kind of tracks with “oh baby”, “i used to”, “american dream”, and “black screen”. “i used to” and “black screen” remind me of songs I’d hear from bands like Brand New or Circa Survive. They have an alternative rock/post-hardcore feel where all that’s missing is Murphy adding some screaming to his vocals. “oh baby” and “american dream” are filled with love, longing, and nostalgia lyrics reminiscent to the waltz style track “New York I Love You…”.

Normally I hate when bands change their sound, but in this case LCD Soundsystem hasn’t really changed much. They’re still playing the same style of music that made them famous in the mid to late 00’s. They’re just progressing. They got older even though they were never that young to begin with. They’re the same, but new. Anyway, to me, this record is one that no one ever thought they’d hear and LCD Soundsystem is back with a vengeance.

I urge you to check out this album. I first started listening to LCD Soundsystem in 2012 (yes after they broke up!) but fell in love with them all over again last summer after preparing for and seeing them live at Lollapalooza. They’re different than most bands I’m into and most bands you might listen to, but they combine an EDM style of music with an indie style. You just can’t help but want to dance yrself clean when you listen to them.

Almost every show on their upcoming tour is already sold out and they haven’t even begun to play shows yet. There’s no question that the rest of the shows will sell out in due time. So if you plan on seeing the revival of LCD Soundsystem on their touring circuit this time around, you either have to grab a ticket to one of the few remaining shows quickly, buy an overpriced resale ticket, or you’re S.O.L. Fortunately I have tickets to their upcoming tour and plenty of time to indulge in this new masterpiece of an album. Their American shows begin in mid-October so for those looking to see a live performance you have plenty of time as well as long as you start today. Check out American Dream as soon as you can!

I Got Soul But I’m Not A Solider

As stoked as I was about all of my favorites releasing new music this year, there’s so many other great bands and artists releasing new music too. One of them is kind of an old favorite for me, but because of finally getting the chance to see them at Lollapalooza, they’ve become a new favorite as well.

The Killers, a rock band from, Las Vegas, Nevada first formed in 2001. After getting fired from his first band, Brandon Flowers (lead vocals, keyboards, bass) began searching for like-minded musicians to join his musical pursuit. He recruited Dave Keuning (guitar, backing vocals) to work with him after seeing an ad the musician posted in a Las Vegas newspaper. The two bonded immediately and began writing together. They recorded a demo later that year, which included the first song the pair wrote together, (and The Killers’ biggest hit) “Mr. Brightside”.

By 2002, after a few lineup changes, The Killers became solidified with the additions of Ronnie Vannucci Jr. (drums) and Mark Stoermer (bass, guitar, backing vocals). They put together their first album, Hot Fuss, in the band room at UNLV (where Vannucci was studying classical percussion) coming up with future hits like “Somebody Told Me” and “Smile Like You Mean It”. By playing small venues in the Las Vegas area, they eventually caught the attention of a few A&R reps, which lead to signing with the British label Lizard King in 2003.

The deal with Lizard King gave The Killers, whose name was derived from a logo on a bass drum of the band in the music video for New Order’s song “Crystal”, some airplay with the song “Mr. Brightside”. They were eventually noticed by American labels and signed with Island Def Jam.

The group released their debut album, Hot Fuss, in June of 2004. The album was received well worldwide going 7x Platinum in the UK and Ireland, triple Platinum in the United States, Australia, and Canada, Platinum in New Zealand, and Gold in Argentina, Belgium, Germany, and France. The Killers and their debut album received 4 Grammy nominations including Best Rock Album.

After completing the touring for Hot Fuss, The Killers began working on their second album, Sam’s Town, which was released in October 2006. The lead single, “When You Were Young”, earned the group two more Grammy nominations and the album was again well received worldwide going 5x Platinum in the UK, 4x Platinum in Ireland, 2x Platinum in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, Platinum in the United States, and Gold in Argentina, Belgium, Germany, and Russia. By 2007, The Killers began playing in large scale venues and headlined Glastonbury for the first time.

Their third album Day & Age was released two years later in October of 2008. The lead single “Human” became a worldwide hit despite a confusing lyric in its refrain (“are we dancer?”). For the third time, the band had a worldwide successful album and headlined Lollapalooza and Coachella for the first time in 2009. By 2010 though, the band decided to take a short hiatus after 6 years of going nonstop.

The group reconvened in 2011 and began touring again while working on their fourth studio album. They headlined the inaugural Firefly Music Festival in June 2012 in support of their upcoming album. They released Battle Born in September 2012. The tour for Battle Born was their most widespread, which included visits to China and Russia. The tour included their biggest show to date at the 90,000 capacity Wembley Stadium.

In 2013, the band released a greatest hits compilation, Direct Hits, which became a ten year anniversary marker of their existence. The album also featured two new songs, “Shot at the Night” and “Just Another Girl”.

In just a few short weeks, the band will be releasing their fifth album, Wonderful Wonderful. They headlined Lollapalooza three weeks ago and even played a secret set at Glastonbury in promotion of their upcoming fifth album. The first single from the new album, “The Man”, was released in late June.

It’s always a surprise to me knowing that The Killers are from Las Vegas even though I’ve known this for a while now. Every time it comes up, it’s an “Oh….yeah!” moment for me. Due to their success in the UK, they’ve seemed like a British rock band. They’re just the best non-British British rock band there is I guess. Their music style is mostly alternative and indie rock and Flowers vocals sound somewhat signature to their sound. Their style of sound gives that British rock band impression too, even though they’re from the biggest city in Nevada.

I first heard of The Killers some time around the winter of 2004 to early spring of 2005. I don’t remember the exact time and any evidence I had of listening to them around that time doesn’t exist anymore. I do know that by the spring of 2005 “Mr. Brightside” became a staple track to listen to on my way to hockey games and while I first learned how to drive. My mom also fell in love with the song since she was with me in the car when I listened to it so much. I even purchased Hot Fuss at some point and became familiar with a few songs on that record, mainly “Somebody Told Me” and “Smile Like You Mean It”. The band also appeared on one of my favorite TV shows at the time, The OC. Through the years I occasionally listened to other songs by the band, such as “When You Were Young”, which was a Guitar Hero 3 hit and “All These Things That I’ve Done” and “Spaceman”, which I actually listened to most frequently in the past 4-6 years post-college.

It wasn’t until I realized I would get to see The Killers at Lollapalooza that I began listening to them more than I ever had before. It was basically a re-discovery of a band I’ve known for over 12 years. I even learned a few “new” old hits as well. I was definitely well prepared to see them at Lolla and as a result, I thoroughly enjoyed their set. The coolest part was having my mom there, since she purchased a 1-day ticket to see them along with Foster the People and Tegan & Sara among others, and hearing them close with “Mr. Brightside”, a song we used to listen to together many years ago. There were also several other songs I enjoyed hearing live too. Seeing them perform was a long time coming, but now I know I would actually purchase tickets to see them again. They were fantastic.

I’m sure you’ve heard of The Killers at some point in the last two decades, but I suggest you re-discover them, especially if you’re like me and only listened to them in their early days. They’ve already released a few singles from their new album and have announced a world tour in support of it. They’ll be touring in the U.S. in January after playing a few U.S. festivals this fall. I promise it’ll be worth your while to see them, check them out, or just listen to their new album. If you’re already a fan, I’m sure you’re stoked so I don’t have to persuade you much. Whether you last listened to them in “February of last year”, 12 years ago, or yesterday, The Killers are still one of the best non-British British rock bands and they’re sticking around for the time being.

 

Lust For Life: Album Review

It’s been a busy two weeks. I worked two festivals and I have another one coming up this weekend. As a result the blog has taken a back seat. Luckily I have a little time to review the second album that came out July 21st from one of my two favorite artists. I haven’t had much time to listen to it because I decided to listen to Foster the People’s (the other July 21st release) latest first. I saw them at Lollapalooza last weekend and I needed some prep time with their new material. Yesterday though, I began listening to Lust For Life, Lana Del Rey’s fourth full length album.

In late February, Lana released the first single from the album, “Love”, claiming that this album was for her fans and those who have supported her throughout the years. In the months following, Lana released two other singles from the album “Lust for Life” ft. The Weeknd and “Coachella – Woodstock on my Mind”. She also announced that the album would feature collaborations with A$AP Rocky, Stevie Nicks, Sean Lennon, and Playboy Carti.

Lana’s newest album offers music with a brighter feel than her sensual darkness heard in previous works. Her hypnotizing vocals are still a staple in Lust For Life though. The lyrics are what gives each song on the new record a more positive vibe. The music also gives a bit of a hip-hop/electronic feel.

As a fan of almost all of Lana Del Rey’s work, I think this album is a great comeback for the pop starlet. I fell in love with her because of Born to Die. I loved her even more after the Paradise EP. Ultraviolence was my go-to album for weeks after its debut, but then Honeymoon happened. I felt like I wasn’t into as many songs and I thought Lana was letting her music go downhill. So for me, Lust For Life is definitely a comeback with a sound that gives a nod to Born to Die as far as the hip-hop beats go.

Even though I’ve just started getting into this album because my listening binge began yesterday, I’m telling you it’s a good one. Is it at the level of Born to Die? I don’t think so, but it’s a damn good album. The amount of collaborations alone is a selling point. There are songs for everyone on it. My personal favorites are “In My Feelings”, “Coachella – Woodstock on my Mind”, and “Beautiful People, Beautiful Problems” ft. Stevie Nicks. It’s worth listening to. Even if you’re hesitant on buying it based on what I just said, listen to it on Spotify first. I’m sure it’ll convince you. Lana has come back with a vengeance and you don’t want to miss out!

Sacred Hearts Club: Album Review

July 21st was a big day. I worked Check-In for travel packages for a Phish show and two of my favorite music artists released their new albums. I didn’t have much of a chance to listen to both because of work, but I got on it this morning. I figured I’d start with a review of Foster the People’s latest work Sacred Hearts Club because I’ll be seeing them in two weeks when I head to Chicago for my second Lollapalooza. At this point, binging on their new album is necessary.

Stylistically, their new album has a much different feel than their last two. There are songs that have the classic Foster the People sound like “Doing It For the Money” and “SHC”, which were both released in April as part of their 3 song EP entitled III and others that add elements from other styles of music. “III” sounds like a deep house track. If it wasn’t for Mark Foster’s signature vocals, I’d think I was listening to a Flume song. There’s more electronic influence in songs like “Loyal Like Sid & Nancy” and “Harden” too. Foster the People has always used synth in their music but these songs just sound more electronic. Maybe it’s me and how my listening style has developed, but I’d argue regardless. I even feel like there’s a jazz influence in some of their songs, particularly in “Static Space Lover”.

As I said before, I believe this album sounds different to me, but Foster the People has been blending genres since their first record. There’s dance, punk, and hip-hop blended into their previous albums. There’s just something about this one that stands out though. The band wanted this record to be a uniting voice amongst a world filled with negativity too. I think it has the potential to be just that as many songs express camaraderie lyrically. I believe listeners will be able to relate and use this music to rise above the hate in the world.

If you asked me who my top 5 favorite bands are at this point in my life, the first band I’d name would be Foster the People. Torches is still one of my favorite albums of all time. So for me, buying this album was a no-brainer. I would have even bought it blindly. Therefore, it might be hard to believe my opinion is unbiased when I say that I think this album would appeal to more than just Foster the People fans because of the development of their music style. I promise it’s worth checking out though so do yourself a favor and pick-up a copy.

A R I Z O N A the band, not the state

It’s been two weeks since I last posted, but to be fair I had a show to work and I was sidelined with a sprained ankle (a “sprankle” if you will). I was also out of ideas for new topics. I want to be excited about everything I write here so I didn’t want to just pick something and give you a lackluster effort. The end of last week finally gave me a topic though. I saw that a band I’ve been following for the last year or so released their debut album on May 19th.

A R I Z O N A is an alternative electro-pop band from Glen Rock, New Jersey (no, not Arizona). The band is comprised of members Zach Hannah (vocals), Nathan Esquite (guitar), and David Labuguen (keyboard). The trio all attended college in Boston and initially went their separate ways before reuniting in their home state to form A R I Z O N A. The band’s name stems from a hat Dave was wearing during a random Facetime call with his bandmates.

A R I Z O N A started releasing music on streaming platforms in 2015. They’ve periodically released singles from then on. Their major breakthrough came when German electronic DJ Robin Schulz released a remix of their song “I Was Wrong” last summer. Originally the group thought of releasing an EP first, but then they realized they had enough songs to put out a full length album. Their debut album, Gallery, was released a few days ago. It contains all the music they’ve released so far plus a few new jams. The group is also playing the festival circuit this summer and embarking on their first headlining tour.

Back in November, on the night I saw Tegan and Sara, my friend and I bought tickets to the Hayley Kiyoko show that was happening in another room at the same venue. A R I Z O N A was the opener that night. I didn’t even realize they were the opener until I recognized the second song they played. It was a spontaneously awesome moment of the evening. I first started listening to them the previous winter when I heard the song “Where I Wanna Be” off a twitter recommendation and since that time I followed up with the group any time they released new music.

A R I Z O N A’s music style combines indie/alternative music with electronic music. When I first heard them I was slowly getting into electronic music. I liked an occasional song here and there (Let’s be honest, I still do). “Where I Wanna Be” was one of those songs. During the time I listened to that song frequently, I figured A R I Z O N A was probably the name of some DJ. I don’t think I even fully realized that the group was a band until I saw them perform live. It was good to know that a band like A R I Z O N A existed because most of the time electronic music to me was DJ’s. A R I Z O N A is a band. They have a lead singer (Zach). They have a guitarist (Nate), but they also have someone who plays the keyboard/synth elements of their songs (Dave) that gives their music its electronic feel.

I highly recommend checking these guys out if you’re into indie music, electronic music, or both. Even if you’re not, check this band out anyway because they have a pop element to their music as well. As I mentioned before, you can also catch them this summer. They’re playing a few big festivals (Gov Ball, Firefly, and Lollapalooza) and of course they’re touring all over too. Here’s a few songs that will make you fall for this band as much as I have:

  1. Where I Wanna Be
  2. I Was Wrong
  3. Electric Touch
  4. Cross My Mind
  5. Oceans Away

 

Coachella Band Preview: Empire of the Sun

The first weekend of Coachella is 3 weeks away. Yes three weeks is what separates us from the hot sunny Indio Desert, the greens of the Empire Polo Fields swarming with festival-goers, palm trees swaying to the cool breeze and rad tunes, epic sunsets over the mountains, and the sweet sounds of music from incredible artists entering our ears. I only have a few band previews left before the annual festival begins and time is of the essence so I better get to it.

Empire of the Sun is an electronic/alternative rock band from Sydney, Australia. The band formed in 2007 as a collaboration between Luke Steele and Nick Littlemore. Both had worked together on music for each other’s bands before forming Empire of the Sun. Those bands each performed different styles of music. Steele brought the alternative rock genre to their new band and Littlemore brought the electronic dance music. Their first album, Walking on a Dream, was released in 2008 with the first single of the same name debuting about a month before the album’s release. Both the single and album were charted in the top ten of the ARIA charts. Although their only intention was to create a studio album, they decided to do live performances in response to the album’s success. However the live shows did not include Littlemore, who decided to opt out of touring early on. By the end of 2009, the band received 7 ARIA Awards for the album including Album of the Year.

2010 was the year the band embarked on the festival circuit playing Glastonbury and Lollapalooza for the first time and by the end of the year Littlemore and Steele discussed creating a new album for the band. Production on the album began in 2011 and Littlemore stated he would go out and tour in support of this one. 2011 also involved a North American tour for the band, which included a stop at Coachella.

The duo released their second album, Ice on the Dune, in June 2013. The new album brought more touring throughout 2013 and into 2014. The band made their second stop at Coachella in 2014 and headlined the Sahara Tent. Their music was also featured in the film Dumb and Dumber To, which came out in late 2014.

The band continued to tour into 2015 while simultaneously working on their third album. Their third and latest album was just released this past October. 2016 also marked the first time that the band broke on to the Billboard charts. It was their 2008 hit “Walking on a Dream” that earned the band the number 3 spot on the Alternative Music charts after it was used in a U.S. Honda commercial in early 2016.

Their music, as I said, is a combination of alternative rock and electronic music. It can’t be described much better than that, although some may say the band fits genres like synthpop or glam rock. I feel like their sound has stayed consistent over the course of three albums so if you love the song “Walking on a Dream” or only know music from that album, you’re bound to dig some of their more recent stuff.

I discovered Empire of the Sun in 2011. There’s no significant story of how so I’m guessing it was through a recommendation from Youtube or Pandora because I listened to similar music on either channel. Of course the first song I heard was “Walking on a Dream”. Throughout the past few years I’ve heard their other stuff here and there and I’ve liked it. I’ve also heard the song “Walking on a Dream” multiple times in various circumstances throughout the same time period. It’s no surprise it’s their biggest hit. I never got into them as a band though. Nor have I been dying to see them live, but I’ll tell you why I would definitely check them out at Coachella.

Music festivals give you an opportunity to see bands live who you might like but not like enough to buy a ticket for a touring show making Coachella the perfect time for someone like me to check them out. Empire of the Sun does some pretty cool live performances too. The performances are as much of a visual art as they are a musical art. They wear elaborate costumes, have dancers or other performers, and display mesmerizing visuals often seen as part of electronic shows. They play Friday at Coachella. They’ve already headlined the Sahara Tent at the festival once before so that might happen again. As long as their set doesn’t overlap with some other great performers, it’ll definitely be a spectacle worth seeing. Here’s a few songs to know if you go:

  1. Walking on a Dream
  2. Alive
  3. High and Low
  4. We Are the People
  5. Standing on the Shore
  6. DNA
  7. Two Vines
  8. Concert Pitch
  9. To Her Door
  10. Friends

 

Music Saved 2016

2016 can be defined as being a shit ass year for Americans (maybe for other countries too but I can only go by U.S. standards). There were a few good moments, like the Cubs winning the World Series for the first time in 108 years or the Pittsburgh Penguins winning their 4th Stanley Cup (It was good for me as a Pens fan), but for the most part many agree that 2016 sucked. We lost some truly great artists, story tellers, athletes, and human beings and it hasn’t stopped even in the days before the new year. As I sat down to write this, I found out that Hollywood legend Carrie Fisher passed away and then as I sat down to finish it two days later Carrie’s just as famous mother, Debbie Reynolds (her most substantial role, in my opinion, was Agatha Cromwell in the DCOM Halloweentown), had passed as well. Crazy. More importantly we lost progress, decency, and democracy from a shocking presidential election outcome. 2016 took so much from us and most of us are glad it’s almost over.

Last week I watched a YouTube video about the good in 2016 (because like I said there were a few good moments) and a statement was made that I agreed with wholeheartedly: “Music saved 2016.” It did, but for me especially. This year I embarked on an adventure into the music industry by working concerts, shows, and festivals all over the country. I learned new things, met amazing new people from all over the country, stepped outside my comfort zone, and had some incredible experiences especially over the summer. I’m entirely grateful for every single one and for the company that gave me a chance. This year I attended more live music events than ever. I saw some incredible bands and artists perform. I learned new music and fell in love all over again with bands I’ve listened to before. Music was everything to me this year. Because of that I wanted to share with you my favorite/most listened to music of 2016. Some of it might not have come out this year but I might have discovered it for the first time this year or rediscovered it, if you will. I’ll be including songs, artists, or albums as part of the list but each has a relevant meaning to my year of music.

1. “Holdin’ On” by Flume. This song was the song of the year for me. I discovered it shortly before I volunteered at the Sweetlife Festival in May, but the full impact of the song occurred the day of the festival. As you may already know from the post I did back in April, Flume is an electronic artist. This song is a hit from his first album which came out in 2012. He also released a new album this year, Skin, which had a few huge hits, like “Never Be Like You” ft. Kai and “Say It” ft. Tove Lo, earning Flume 2017 Grammy nominations. For me though, it was “Holdin’ On” that stood out the most. I feel like the song has more energy than his other stuff. Part of the song has this slowed down warp type of sound that leads into the refrain with a POW! At Sweetlife, my friend and I went to Flume’s set with no expectations. “Holdin’ On” stole the show that was marred by technical difficulties causing us to leave early (we were planning on leaving early anyway to not miss another set). After we left though, it was the song that played in my head the rest of the day. That day turned out to be one of, if not, the best day(s) of my whole year. The faulty set aided in our decision to buy tickets to see Flume perform 3 months later, which was also pretty sick but didn’t have the same impact as Sweetlife weekend and the first time I heard “Holdin’ On”.

2. LCD Soundsystem. 2016 saw the return of a band we thought was gone after 2011. Electronic dance-punk band LCD Soundsystem got back together in 2016 and played festivals all summer long. I was stoked by the news last year and jealous of everyone attending Coachella 2016 who would see them headline. After working at the Firefly Music Festival in mid-June, I rediscovered LCD Soundsystem because of the great people I worked with on the Dover Downs Speedway and Spotify Premium. We listened to LCD several times throughout the weekend and talked about the band, which earned my re-interest in the group who hails from NYC. Following Firefly, I started listening to LCD again. Then the universe came together and I was lucky enough to get a spot working at Lollapalooza in July, thus earning me the privilege of being able to see LCD Soundsystem perform on the final night of the Chicago festival. It was something else. I danced myself clean for the entirety of the set.

3. Sia. Sia’s been around for years, but she soared to the top of music charts with her 2014 album 1000 Forms of Fear. In the beginning of 2016, I fell in love with the 1000 Forms of Fear song “Elastic Heart”, only to hear the newly released single, “Cheap Thrills”, off Sia’s newest record This Is Acting a few weeks later. I loved “Cheap Thrills” even more than “Elastic Heart” and it became part of my nightly workout playlist. I even introduced the song to my then 4 year old cousin Hudson when he came to visit me in early March. He loved the song too. So much so that he corrected me for singing the wrong lyrics during a visit in May. “Cheap Thrills” progressively became a hit of 2016 and Sia’s newest album was a hit too (not as much as 1000 Forms of Fear, but still a good album nonetheless). She also played several music festivals including Coachella and Panorama (Coachella East) and toured the U.S. for the first time since 2011. Singing Sia songs with Hudson, “Cheap Thrills” in particular and now “The Greatest”, which was a newly released single in the fall and a track on the deluxe edition of This Is Acting, was a huge part of my year. Hudson and I live 3 hours apart but still managed to see each other at least once a month, so there was plenty of singing (we crush long distance relationship/friendship standards). I doubt we’re the only ones who were singing Sia a lot this year though. She slayed 2016.

4. “The Sound” by the 1975. Before 2016, I liked the 1975. I knew a few of their songs. Three to be exact. I liked each one. Then I heard “The Sound” and I forgot all my previous thoughts on the band. That song was it for me. The 1975 released a new record this year called I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It. “The Sound” was released as a single before the record. I thought at that time if “The Sound” is any indication, then the new record will be stellar. It turned out to be pretty good. “Somebody Else” is great. “She’s American” and “Love Me” aren’t too bad either. Some may argue I Like It When You Sleep… is not as good as the debut self-titled. I might argue that too, but “The Sound” is in a league of its own. That song made me want to see The 1975 live and I did. Twice (at Sweetlife and Lollapalooza). Both times The 1975 put on a great set, but I bet you can take a guess what my favorite song played was.

5. “Seeing Stars” by BØRNS. “Seeing Stars” became an instant favorite song of mine after listening to it a few times. It’s a happy, good feeling type of song. It was exactly what I needed in the spring after going through some disappointing and shocking moments. It was my positive jam for a while. I even played it a few times driving to Sweetlife. Then two weeks later my friend and I purchased last minute tickets to see BØRNS perform at the Electric Factory. It was a great decision and a fun show even though there were a few off moments that night like a 30 minute wait at Taco Bell and a speeding ticket. I loved hearing my song of the spring live regardless.

6. “Gold Rays” by Vinyl Pinups. In early 2016, this song was MY. JAM. The only downfall was that I liked it in the dead of winter and it’s the perfect spring/summer song. I did listen to it on my workout playlist for several months though well into the spring. However in the summer, I was listening to other things and I didn’t play it as much as I would have liked. It’s one of my favorite songs of the year by far. It’s also a great feel-good song by a smaller-name band.

7. “T-Shirt Weather” by Circa Waves. Like “Gold Rays”, this was another perfect summer song that I fell in love with during the winter. It made me long for warm days in late January, early February 2016. I constantly imagined listening to this song while driving in the summer on a road trip with friends. Then like “Gold Rays” it was rarely played during the summer months. It’s another favorite of the year for sure.

8. Tegan and Sara. I’ve liked Tegan and Sara since college. I rediscovered them again in 2014 when I purchased Heartthrob. If it wasn’t for bonds over women’s soccer, I probably wouldn’t have fell into their web of smooth, catchy rock tunes again this fall, but I’m so thankful it happened anyway. I went to see Tegan and Sara live in early November with a friend, her roommate, and her roommate’s girlfriend. It was another last minute decision that ended up being even better than BØRNS. It was a night where everything felt right. I was exactly where I was supposed to be and I wished it would never end. It was so much fun. We even saw two shows at the same venue. How epic right?! Tegan and Sara were great live and almost everyone there could sing along to every song. It was because of that night that I gained a new appreciation for the song “The Con”. I listened to it with a greater affinity afterwards. Because of how insanely amazing that night was, Tegan and Sara are high on my list for the year, but they deserve it regardless. They’re incredible talent that has been around for over 17 years.

9. Adele. Adele ended my 2015 with a bang. Her new album 25 was released in November of last year. Right before the new year I scored tickets to her sold out World Tour for a show in early September. That show became a huge anticipation of 2016. I loved bringing it up any time Adele came up. Adele came up often too. She had a few singles that came out in 2016 and her album earned her several Grammy nominations for the 2017 awards show. As for the concert I saw in September, it was well worth the almost 9 month wait. It was incredible seeing her perform live. She’s got a killer voice and sang for 2 hours straight with no openers. There was some stand-up comedy in between songs of course. She’s hilarious if you didn’t already know. It was an epic 2016 music event and one I won’t soon forget.

10. Wild World, Bastille. In September 2016, Bastille released his sophomore album Wild World. After hearing 2-3 songs off the new album (one during the summer months and the others post album release), I knew I needed the band’s newest compilation of music. I don’t even regret buying it for $4-5 more than what I would have paid if I waited to get it on Black Friday. I couldn’t wait. It’s actually that good. So good that it’s my favorite new album of 2016. Bad Blood put Bastille’s name into the music world, but Wild World is just as good. I actually believe it’s underrated considering it hasn’t received as much hype as their debut album. “Send Them Off” is currently (still!) one of my favorite songs to listen to. “Good Grief” is amazing. “Warmth” is a solid jam too. I can’t say enough good things about Wild World. It’s my album of the year for sure.

11. Hayley Kiyoko. Remember when I said I saw two shows in one night in early November? Yes, one of them was Tegan and Sara. The other was Hayley Kiyoko. I mentioned it in my Tegan and Sara blog post but didn’t talk about it further. I found out about Hayley Kiyoko while doing some reading online last winter. The referenced song in the reading fit the story so well.  I obviously listened to it when I saw there was a song reference. I liked the song itself too. Throughout the year Hayley Kiyoko songs just kept wandering into my life here and there. I liked and downloaded every single one I listened to. The music is traditional pop but the themes are a little different. I’ll have to do a full blog post on Hayley some day and explain it further, but you know what I mean if you’ve heard her stuff. The fact that she’s not a mainstream artist despite the traditional pop sound makes her more appealing to me as well.

12. ARIZONA. I first heard ARIZONA last winter. It was a song called “Where I Want to Be”. It popped up on a twitter account I follow. I loved the song and it was a perfect fit for my workout playlist (I workout a lot if you couldn’t tell by how many times I’ve mentioned my workout playlist). Several times throughout the year I checked ARIZONA’s Spotify page for new music because of how much I liked “Where I Want to Be”. That lead to liking one or two more ARIZONA. Then the night I saw Tegan and Sara and Hayley Kiyoko in one night I was in for a surprise. My friend and I walked into the Hayley Kiyoko show shortly before it started. We got some drinks and the first band came on. While the band played their first song, I said to my friend that I liked the music but wasn’t a fan of the song’s melody. It reminded me of some electronic artists that I listened to. Then the second song started. I knew what song they were playing. I asked my friend who the opener was as I tried to remember what band played that song. Then it hit me. ARIZONA! I looked it up to double check. I was right and instantly stoked. I didn’t pay attention to who Hayley’s opener was, but it ended up being a band I liked. That moment was another reason for how epic that evening was.

13. Arctic Monkeys. It’s a shame I never heard of the Arctic Monkeys until 2013. It’s also I a shame that I didn’t appreciate them enough until 2016. I totally fell in love with them this year and began listening to more of their music. Hence writing a blog post about them just for the sake of writing about them. I’m also dying to see them live. So hey guys if you see this, please put out another record and tour again soon! Thanks! Cheers!

14. “Collide” by EVVY. This was another song of last winter. I really got into it during my trip to Baltimore/DC at the end of January/beginning of February. I took that trip because I worked at a Muse concert at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. It was the first music event I ever worked. I didn’t know what to expect for the show or for the rest of the year as far as my life choices were going. The song was calming and positive at the time. During my drive to my cousin’s apartment the night before the concert, to work the show the next day, and back to my cousin’s apartment after the concert, I listened to the song. A multitude of thoughts and feelings went through me during those drives. I was nervous, yet confident and then relieved, yet overjoyed. I reflected on my whole experience while listening to the song on the way home and knew that my choice to go after music was the right one.

15. “Capsize” by FRENSHIP. “Capsize” is another song I added to my workout playlist and my iPod in general after I heard it on my favorite soccer player’s monthly playlists. A large handful of my workout songs are electronic and this one was no exception. It also became the song that reminds me of the first multi-day festival I worked because I played it a lot at the time (it was Firefly, in case you were wondering). In fact, I introduced the song to a friend I made during the festival who is a huge electronic fan. She didn’t know the song at the time, but it apparently blew up afterwards. It ended up being a song I played throughout the summer months while driving, relaxing, and of course working out.

16. “Whole Heart” by Gryffin. The first time I heard this song was after a trip I took to see my favorite NWSL team in their first home playoff match. The team won the match and earned a spot in the Championship game. The week after the win, the club posted a “Thank You” video to the fans and this song played in the background along with highlights and video clips from the season. It made me amped for the final even though the song is a much slower electronic song than the norm. Then in another depressing 2016 moment for fans of the team I followed for 4 years (myself included), the opposing team scored a game tying goal in the final minute of stoppage time during the championship match. They opposing team went on to win in penalty kicks. I was heartbroken for the team. I hadn’t been as heartbroken over a sporting event since 2011. I didn’t even care as much when the USWNT got knocked out in the Olympic quarterfinal almost two months earlier (another bummer 2016 moment and I was working a festival at the time). It was a devastating blow. Listening to “Whole Heart” after the loss made me feel a tremendous amount of sadness because the song describes giving your whole heart to something, which the team did and came up short. I felt similar listening to this song after the 2016 Presidential Election especially with the hate that ensued post-results. With time, the song no longer feels as sad as it did in those moments and it still reminds me of the positive thoughts I had when I first heard it.

17. “home” by morgxn. Addicting. That’s the word that first comes to mind to describe this song. I heard it on Spotify in November and it’s been one of my favorites to listen to ever since. It’ll probably be one of my faves going into 2017 as well.

18. Sigala. At the same time I added “Capsize” to my music rotation, I added the song “Sweet Lovin'” by Sigala as well. It’s another song that I listened to on my way to Firefly. Sigala, in general, became part of a joke between me and a friend I met during the festival because she couldn’t pronounce the artist’s name correctly (it’s pronounced Sig-AH-lah not Sig-ah-LAH (stress on the second syllable) in case you were wondering). Sigala was the only artist she wanted to see perform during the festival since our schedules didn’t really allow for more than one performance each. She was able to attend Sigala’s set and I happened to catch “Sweet Lovin'” live too during the only time we both spent in the festival (I chose to see Florence and the Machine who played before Sigala though. Well worth it.). I would have just put the song “Sweet Lovin'” by Sigala on here, but that wasn’t the only Sigala song I got into this year. “Give Me Your Love” was another jam from the fall. It was the only Sigala song I heard since “Sweet Lovin'” that had the same kind of energy.

19. “Fever” by Roosevelt. I heard this song on the “Discover Weekly” Playlist on Spotify in mid-September. I liked it immediately upon hearing it. It reminded me of a nickname of a soccer player I like and got me pumped to attend that NWSL Playoff game that I mentioned before. It was my go-to song for several weeks in September and October.

20. “Starving” by Hailee Steinfeld ft. Zedd. I’m embarrassed this song is on my list, but it was a 2016 fave so I had to include it. It’s definitely been my biggest guilty pleasure song of the year even though I’ve only known it for the past few months. I can also do a mean cover of it on guitar. The Zedd version is by far better than the original. It adds electronic flare and more energy to an otherwise soft yet peppy love song.

21. “This Girl (Kungs vs. Cookin’ on 3 Burners) by Kungs & Cookin’ on 3 Burners. Last but not least, “This Girl”. My cousin played this song for me in late September on my trip to the soccer match. I stopped to visit Hudson for a day first. At dinner that day, my cousin played me this song. It was so familiar to me, but I couldn’t figure out where I heard it. It took me 20-30 minutes before I realized I heard it on an instagram video and that it was the song stuck in my head a few weeks prior. It’s such an interesting song, but yet so so good. When I returned home from the trip, I immediately added the song to my workout playlist and it has been a mainstay ever since.

Bonus Music: “Hand Clap” by Fitz and the Tantrums, Mac DeMarco, “I Am A Nightmare” by Brand New, “Better Off” by Haim, “Dancing on Glass” by St. Lucia, “Roses” by The Chainsmokers ft. ROZES, “Cake By the Ocean” by DNCE (Yep, guilty pleasure #2)

So you can see from this list, 2016 wasn’t too bad if you just look at it from a music perspective. Yes I know we lost Bowie, Prince, and Leonard Cohen, but just check out all the other amazing music we did have, whether it’s on this list or not. Music is the good thing from 2016. It’s usually a good thing most years. It saved 2016, but let’s be real music saves everything.

25 Years of Lollapalooza

For the last two years since this blog’s inception, Coachella has been a primary subject from January through April. It started because I attended Coachella last year and I had an overwhelming excitement for my trip to Indio that I wanted to preview all of my favorite bands who were playing the festival. I decided to preview bands again this year because of the solid response to last year’s posts. Coachella has become this blog’s sole music festival focus. It’s also one of the most popular and well-known festivals in the world, but especially in the U.S. The United States has plenty of other big, well-known festivals as well. One of those festivals is coming up this weekend and is celebrating its 25th year. It’s called Lollapalooza and its home base is at Grant Park in Chicago, IL. I’m lucky enough to be working at the festival this weekend and I’m excited to also be able to experience all that Lolla has to offer.

The first Lollapalooza happened in 1991. It began as a touring festival created by Perry Farrell who came up with it as a farewell tour of sorts for his band, Jane’s Addiction. The festival grew in the 90’s as an alternative rock, grunge festival, which were two popular music genres during that decade.The festival toured from 1991-1997 but ceased to exist in 1998 as the tour failed to find a headliner. The decline of alternative rock is also credited for the festival’s cancellation that year.

In 2003, Jane’s Addiction got back together. Farrell decided to revive the tour. It planned to go through 30 cities in July and August that year, but ultimately had to cancel some dates due to poor ticket sales. The tour again was planned for 2004 but low ticket sales due to high ticket prices caused its cancellation. In 2005, Farrell teamed with Capital Sports & Entertainment (now known as C3 Presents) to produce the festival. It was that year that Lollapalooza became a destination festival in Grant Park. Lollapalooza 2005 spanned over two days and featured 70 acts on 5 different stages which generated a crowd of 65,000+. After returning to much success in 2006, Chicago Park District and Capital Sports & Entertainment signed a 5 year deal that would keep Lollapalooza in Chicago through 2011. After the 2008 festival, the parties again agreed on another deal that would keep the festival in Chicago through 2018. This year’s festival will be the first time that the event spans over 4 days. The 4th day was added in celebration of the festival’s 25th anniversary this year.

Since 2011, the festival has expanded beyond Grant Park to countries in South America. Lollapalooza festivals started up in Chile, Brazil, and Argentina in recent years. Last year the festival even made its way to Europe with an appearance in Berlin, Germany. Many up and coming artists have graced a stage at Lollapalooza before their popularity increased such as The Black Keys, Passion Pit, Manchester Orchestra, Haim, Foals, Frank Ocean, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Fun., Tame Impala, and MGMT. As one of the most well known festivals in America in recent years, along with Coachella, Bonnaroo, and Austin City Limits, Lollapalooza has consistently attracted solid lineups and high-billed performers. This year’s headliners include Lana Del Rey, Radiohead, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and LCD Soundsystem. While not the most incredible set of headliners Grant Park has ever seen (but to each their own of course!), this year’s performances will surely be memorable since each headliner knows how to put on an incredible show.

When it comes to my history with the festival, it actually goes further back than Coachella. Lollapalooza was one of the first music festivals I had ever heard of. During the 2nd semester of my freshman year of college in a Music 101 class, one of my friends mentioned the festival. He was also the first to introduce me to the band Vampire Weekend, who played the festival a year earlier. I remember him saying that he would love to attend Lollapalooza that following summer. Up until then, all I knew of festivals were the Vans Warped Tour and the now non-existent, Bamboozle, so later that day I looked up Lollapalooza to find out who was playing and what kind of festival it was. At that time in my life, I didn’t know many of the bands playing. Now I can look back at the 2008 lineup and shake my head over what I didn’t know in the spring of 2008.

Since my love for indie/alternative music grew in 2011, I’ve always considered Lollapalooza as a prominent music festival in the United States, making the opportunity to be a part of this year’s festival that much greater. The festival weekend begins in 2 days and I head to Chicago in less than 24 hours. I can’t wait to experience this festival and see what Chicago has to offer. Hopefully this 25th anniversary will be legendary!