Lollapalooza

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!

Flume

This weekend I’m volunteering at the Sweetlife Music Festival in Columbia, MD, which is right outside of the Baltimore/Washington, D.C. area. The festival is sponsored by the organic health food chain sweetgreen and focuses on both music and food under the belief of combining passion with purpose. I attended the festival 2 years ago when Foster the People and Lana Del Rey headlined. It was a blast despite the constant rain drizzle for most of the day and the monsoon that happened as Foster the People played “Coming of Age”. As a perk of volunteering, I get to attend the festival for free when I’m not working my shift. In my opinion, the lineup isn’t as good as it was in 2014. At the time I applied to volunteer, I only listened to two of the artists on a normal basis. That changed a few weeks ago. After listening to some Spotify playlists, I discovered a new tune by an Australian DJ who also happened to play Coachella this year. So yes, I probably could’ve done a Coachella Band Preview on this guy. I discovered him around the time the festival was happening though, so it was too late by then. Luckily he’s playing Sweetlife this weekend. Hopefully I’ll be able to catch his set because he seems to be all the rage this summer.

Flume, aka Harley Edward Streten, out of Sydney, Australia, first came onto the electronic scene in 2011 after he won a music competition managed by Australian record company, Future Classic. Upon winning, he signed a record deal and released his debut self-titled album on November 9, 2012 in Australia. The album reached the number one spot on the ARIA (Australia Recording Industry Association) Albums Chart. The American release of the album happened in February of 2013. That same year he headlined his first tour in Australia and played SXSW (South by Southwest) in Austin, Texas. He was named one of Fuse TV’s 30 “Must-See Acts” at the annual Texas music and film festival. 2013 also brought the DJ 4 wins at the ARIA Music Awards in the categories of Best Male Artist, Breakthrough Artist – Release, Best Dance Release, and Producer of the Year. In 2014, Flume toured internationally which included some stops on the festival circuit at Coachella and Lollapalooza. This year, after playing Coachella for the second time, Flume has the release of his sophomore album planned for May 27th. He also recently announced a World Tour which kicks off in New Zealand in July. The tour consists of stops in North America, Europe, and Australia. Tickets for the North American leg went on sale today and many dates already seemed to be sold out. It’s a hot ticket this summer for sure.

As an electronic music producer, Flume’s music fits the EDM spectrum. It’s primarily electronica, but it does have a hip hop influence. There’s tons of focus on beats in his songs. It also has this relaxed, chill feel to it so that despite the beats his tracks are much more toned down than upbeat dance/club/house music.

Like I said, I only started listening to a few of his songs a couple weeks ago, which was too late for a preview for Coachella. Apparently though, his Coachella set was incredible. If the ticket sales for this upcoming tour are any indication, he’s a must see artist right now. Hopefully my shift doesn’t overlap with his set so I can catch what might be one of the best sets of the festival. Crossing my fingers right now. If you feel like checking him out, here are a few songs you should listen to:

  1. Sleepless
  2. Holdin’ On
  3. Say It (feat. Tove Lo)
  4. Never Be Like You (feat. Kai)
  5. Drop the Game
  6. Insane
  7. This Song Is Not About A Girl

MGMT

Last weekend I went to visit my friend who lives outside of Baltimore, MD. The weekend trip initially was supposed to serve the purpose of attending a volunteer orientation for the Sweetlife Festival, which I’ll be attending and volunteering at next weekend, but the orientation got moved. I decided to make the trip anyway and have a fun weekend with my friend by hanging out and taking a day trip to Washington, D.C. on Saturday. This blog post isn’t a journal by any means so I don’t plan on telling you about all the things I did which included deciding whether Baked & Wired or Georgetown Cupcakes had the best DC Cupcakes or attending my little cousin’s tee ball game. What is really important is that I made an epic discovery on Friday night after our dinner in the city in Fells Point.

After being in Fells Point on two other occasions to go to bars, I found out they have a pretty well known record store in the area. I passed by the store before, but I didn’t have time to look inside. During this trip to Fells, I made it a point to go to the record store called The Sound Garden. The store was much better than expected on so many different levels. One of the best discoveries of the night was the cheapness of their vinyl. The selection was pretty solid too. It featured a great blend of new and used records. Most vinyl were $20 and under making it difficult to pass up the opportunity to purchase an album. I looked through much of the new vinyl and decided to purchase an album by a band whose music I’ve liked since 2008, MGMT.

MGMT was formed by Andrew VanWyngarden and Benjamin Goldwasser in 2002 while the two were freshman at Middletown, CT college, Wesleyan University. They originally called themselves The Management and released a demo called Climbing to New Lows under this name. Then, the group changed their name to MGMT (the abbreviation for Management) since The Management was in use by another band. To settle the confusion in case you were wondering, the band’s name is pronounced M-G-M-T though.

After graduating in 2005, MGMT toured in support of their Time to Pretend EP opening for Of Montreal. The EP was released on August 30, 2005. In 2006, they signed to Columbia Records and began recording their debut album. The album, Oracular Spectacular, was released digitally in October 2007 and physically on January 22, 2008. Since its release, the album has sold over 1 million copies worldwide. Rolling Stone named it to their 2012 list of the Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time coming in at 494. The album has also gone Silver, Gold, and Platinum in many countries, including Gold in the U.S., Platinum in the U.K. and 2x Platinum in Ireland. The album even earned the band a Grammy nomination in 2010 for Best New Artist and the single “Kids” earned them a nomination for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.

The band’s second album Congratulations was released on April 13, 2010. Their third and most recent album, MGMT, was released three years later in September 2013. In the midst of their three albums the band toured and played many major festivals worldwide including performances at, Coachella, Firefly, Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, and Glastonbury. They’ve opened for acts such as Radiohead, Beck, and Paul McCartney, performed on a number of television shows, and even headlined a show at the legendary Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, CO. Word on the street is that the band will be making a come back at some point this year after taking a break in 2015. Whether their return will be with more performances or a new album is yet to be known.

MGMT plays an indie psychedelic pop rock style of music. You could actually combine each of those styles any way you like and it would describe MGMT’s music. Their use of synth is apparent in most of their songs as is that trippy feeling associated with psychedelic style music.

I first heard MGMT sometime during the summer of 2008. Keep in mind, at this time my favorite music genres were pop-punk, punk, alternative, and alternative rock. I hadn’t transformed to an indie hipster yet. Their song “Time to Pretend” was used during the intro of a movie I really enjoyed during that time, 21. Despite my music interests at that time, I really enjoyed the song. I didn’t download it until a few months later though. About 2 years after hearing MGMT for the first time, my friends and I tried to do a cover of the song “Kids” so I downloaded that song as well. I then heard the song “Electric Feel”  somewhere along the way and the Erol Alkan remix of “Congratulations” which was featured the video game, MLB The Show 11. The group also collaborated with Kid Cudi on his song “Pursuit of Happiness”, which I used to listen to around the spring of 2011. On Friday night, I realized that I never actually listened to Oracular Spectacular despite knowing a handful of songs from it. I figured it was probably a great album to own on vinyl, especially with the great price, so I bought it. I figured correct. The album is stellar. MGMT is stellar. I’m disappointed I passed on seeing them 4 years ago when they played a show at a festival near me. Then again, I’d probably appreciate seeing them more now than I would have then. If they do tour again soon, I’ll have to get to a show. You might want to do the same. In case you do, here are some song recommendations:

  1. Time to Pretend
  2. Kids
  3. Electric Feel
  4. Congratulations (check out the regular version and the Erol Alkan remix)
  5. Weekend Wars
  6. The Youth
  7. Pieces of What
  8. Indie Rokkers

 

Coachella Band Preview: Of Monsters and Men

In exactly one month, it will be the final day of the first weekend of Coachella 2016. That means less than a month until the festival begins! There’s only a few more weeks and band previews left. I hope you’ve been prepping by listening to the incredible acts performing this year or by shopping for the perfect festival attire. If you’ve been doing just that or even if you haven’t, this week’s preview band is one I would definitely be seeing if I was attending this year. I’ve liked this band for a little over 4 years, but have yet to see them live. I know if I was going to be at Coachella they’d be in my top 5 bands to see solely for that reason.

Formed in 2010, Of Monsters and Men hails from Iceland. The indie group is composed of members Nanna Byrndis-Hilmarsdóttir (vocals, gutiar), Ragnar “Raggi”Pórhallsson (guitar, vocals), Brynjar Leifsson (guitar), Arnar Rósenkranz Hilmarsson (drums), and Kristján Páll Kristjánsson (bass). After competing in a battle of the bands competition in Iceland, Of Monsters and Men started touring across their home country. Before the release of their debut album My Head Is an Animal in September 2011, Philadelphia’s alternative/indie radio station 104.5 started playing their single “Little Talks” which grew the band’s popularity in the U.S. Due to the nationwide success and the debut album only being released in Iceland, the band signed with Universal so they could release their album in America. Before that though, Of Monsters and Men dropped an EP, Into the Woods, in December of 2011 which contained 4 songs from their debut. The band released their debut in the States the following April.

In 2012 and 2013 the band toured worldwide playing countless shows and music festivals including Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, Glastonbury, and Coachella (yep 2016 will be their second appearance). They also contributed songs to a few movies and TV series. In 2014 they began recording their sophomore album, Beneath the Skin, which was released in June of 2015. The band toured through the rest of 2015 promoting the new album.

Their music style is strictly indie. I guess you could say indie pop or indie rock. The songs have a great balance of male and female vocals because of Nanna and Raggi. They harmonize well together. It creates a uniqueness only heard in a handful of other indie groups with a male and female vocalist.

I first heard Of Monsters and Men around the time of their EP release in 2011 and the first song I heard actually wasn’t “Little Talks”. It was the song “Lakehouse”. Unlike many bands and songs, I don’t think the song was a recommendation either. I most likely found it while searching for new music. I had it on my iTunes by the end of November 2011. The next Of Monsters and Men song I heard wasn’t “Little Talks” either. It was the song “King and Lionheart” in April 2012, the same month their debut album came out in the U.S. When I downloaded that song, I remember thinking, “Hmm I think I have another song by Of Monsters and Men downloaded too.” Sure enough, I did. By the end of the following month, I finally heard “Little Talks” and despite not hearing the most popular song first, it slowly took over my life for a little while. My friend’s husband and I started getting together every Wednesday beginning in June 2012 to play guitar (Yes I play guitar if you didn’t already know. And drums. And ukulele.). It was during our guitar sessions that we decided to work on playing “Little Talks”. Playing the song came together quickly, but we did play it a lot. It was one of our signature songs along with “Lonely Boy” by The Black Keys and “Dammit” by Blink-182. Eventually, on Black Friday 2012, I picked up a copy of My Head Is an Animal for a few bucks and I considered it one of the best buys of the day. It’s a great record. So yes, Of Monsters and Men and I have a history together, but like I said, I’ve never seen them live. I do enjoy all of the songs I’ve ever heard by them though. I’m sure as long as you’re down with indie pop/indie rock music, you should too.

As you know from reading this, Coachella 2016 won’t be the band’s first trip to the desert. They last played three years ago, but since released a brand new album featuring the hit “Crystals”. If you don’t have a chance to see a band you think is good while they tour in support of an amazing debut album, I think it’s great to be able to see them after they release a second album. Even with the second album, its still at the point that they’ll play plenty of songs you know and love from the first one, along with the best songs from the second one. You end up with a killer combo of music. Of Monsters and Men is at that point now which is another good reason to see them at Coachella this year besides the fact that they’re a great band. They play on the first day of the festival, Friday. Many of the other bands and artists I previewed so far are scheduled to play Saturday or Sunday making Of Monsters and Men a solid option for Friday. Here’s a few songs you should know by this Icelandic indie band:

  1. Little Talks
  2. Crystals
  3. King and Lionheart
  4. Mountain Sound
  5. I of the Storm
  6.  Dirty Paws
  7. Empire
  8. Love Love Love
  9. Lakehouse
  10. Slow and Steady

 

Coachella Band Preview: Matt and Kim

Coachella 2016 is almost 2 months away. I personally can’t believe it’s close to a year since I went out to Indio for my first Coachella experience. It always feels like my trips to California didn’t happen that long ago because I think about them all the time. Truth be told though, it’s 2 months from my 1 year Coachella anniversary. As you know, I’m quite bummed I won’t be returning for 2016, but nonetheless I wish good things for everyone making the journey to Coachella Valley this spring. I also suggest you see the band I’m previewing this week during your weekend. I’ve liked this band for almost 5 years, yet I’ve never seen them live. They’re such a fun duo and among the top of my must-see-live list.

Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino met while attending college at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. After they graduated, the duo formed their two member band appropriately called Matt and Kim (not Kim and Matt because Matt and Kim looks better graphically) in 2004. By 2006, they released their self-titled first album in October, Matt & Kim. Their debut album lead to some appearances at a few high profile music festivals like Coney Island’s Siren Music Festival (2001-2010) and Lollapalooza. On January 20, 2009, the group released their second album, Grand, which they recorded in Matt’s childhood bedroom at his parents house in Vermont. The album featured their most popular song to date, “Daylight”, which was featured in a commercial, a movie, TV shows, and video games. The following year the group released the album Sidewalks and played several headlining tours post-release. Lightning, Matt and Kim’s fourth album, was released on October 2, 2012. The group once again toured and played several festivals in support of the album. “Let’s Go”, one of the singles off of Lightning, even reached the number 20 spot on Billboard’s Alternative songs chart. After a three year break from releasing new tunes, Matt and Kim finished their fifth album, New Glow, and released it less than a year ago on April 7, 2015.

In case you were wondering, Matt and Kim are, in fact, a couple. They’ve been together since college and are the definition of relationship goals. However the fact that they have a band together as a couple isn’t reflected in their music. Their songs aren’t about love. They’re enjoyable, simple, and upbeat songs with basic, easy, and relatable themes. Their music is definitely indie pop, but at times their songs draw from hip-hop influences. Their live shows reflect their style as well. They’re high energy, loud, and fun or so I’ve heard. Basically it’s a Matt and Kim live show is like a giant music party.

I was introduced to Matt and Kim almost 5 years ago by a friend who suggested I listen to “Daylight” and “Yea, Yeah”. Although I liked both, “Yea, Yeah” stood out as one of my favorites during the time period where I made the transition to indie music fan/hipster. I even fell in love with the music video for the song which showed Matt and Kim playing the song on their instruments while having a bunch of random food thrown at them. It was a mere two months later that I bought my first Matt and Kim album. The album I purchased, Sidewalks, turned out to be just what I needed in regards to current life events. In particular it was the song “Good For Great” off that album that resonated with me and a huge choice that I made in the coming months. That song might be one of my favorites of all time because of how I related to it. Throughout the last few years, Matt and Kim’s music has come into my life at various times. They’ve provided me with positive and upbeat tunes and I’m forever grateful.

Hopefully someday I’ll get to fully immerse myself in the Matt and Kim live show party. Until then, those of you attending Coachella need to do me a solid and see their set. They play Sunday during the festival. If I was going, they would be near the top of my list of sets to see, for sure. How could you not want to see them though? They pretty much embody the positive spirit of the festival. Since I know you’ll want to make me jealous by attending their show, here’s a few songs you should know (droppin’ rhymes like Biggie…say what?!):

  1. Daylight
  2. Yea, Yeah (I included the link to the music video I love so much for this as well)
  3. Good For Great
  4. Let’s Go
  5. It’s Alright
  6. Can You Blame Me
  7. Get It
  8. World Is Ending
  9. Cameras
  10. Lessons Learned