music festivals

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

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Coachella 2018 Lineup Release

Not 48 hours into the new year and the Coachella 2018 lineup drops. Last night at 4:15 PT Coachella released their lineup on social media and as always people have opinions, me included. Since last year I expected the 2018 lineup to be the best since 2014. If you know me, you know that I believe 2014 had the best lineup to date and every year after has  been incomparable. 2018 had so much potential. There were so many bands who released new music in 2017 that did not play the festival plus a handful of other greats expected to release new music this year. But when rumors spread just before Christmas about the headliners, I knew this year wasn’t going to meet my expectations.

Going into 2018 everyone knew Beyoncé was supposed to headline. She was supposed to headline last year but dropped out shortly after the announcement of her twin pregnancy paving the way for Lady Gaga to take her spot. The biggest question was who would accompany her on top of the poster. On December 20th, Consequence of Sound reported that Eminem and The Weeknd were slated to join Beyoncé as the 2018 headliners, much to my dismay. Here’s why. The Weeknd headlined Coachella in 2015. Was he supposed to be a headliner? No. However he played in the headliner spot. Jack White, the headliner for that night, took an early spot for whatever the case may be leaving The Weeknd to close out the night.

In my opinion Eminem is a pretty cool choice for a headliner. He fits that formerly popular/still popular angle. He’s a rapper and for the past few years Coachella has plugged that genre (or R&B) into one of their headlining spots. Plus he just released a new album. Here’s the issue: Beyoncé already filled that genre spot this year. I mean come on! The entire headlining lineup is rap/R&B. This is the first time in the history of the festival that a rock band isn’t headlining. Disappointing.

In fact, looking at the lineup, rap/hip-hop/R&B has taken over the festival this year. I think Louis Tomlinson’s (of One Direction fame) reaction on Twitter summarizes my feelings exactly. He stated, “Just seen the Coachella lineup …. Where the fuck are all the bands!? It’s a festival!?” Yes Louis, you’re right. Where are all the bands?! All I see are rappers, R&B singers, or electronic DJ’s. As I went through the lineup last night making a list of who I would see for my annual Coachella preview, there were names lacking for each day and more “possible” acts to see than definites. For Friday, I only listed 4 acts. Four. It’s a headshaker, for sure, given that this year had some high expectations. Anyway, let’s get down to this lineup analysis.

The Headliners: The Weeknd, Beyoncé, Eminem

I already summarized my thoughts on all these acts above. So re-read that.

The Other Highly Billed Performers: SZA, Kygo, Jamiroquai, St. Vincent, the War on Drugs, Vince Staples, Haim, Tyler the Creator, David Byrne, alt-J, Post Malone, Fleet Foxes, Odesza, Portugal. The Man, Migos, A Perfect Circle, Cardi B, Miguel, Soulwax, Jean-Michel Jarre, Daniel Caesar, Kali Uchis, Los Ángeles Azueles, Deorro, Chromeo, Chic feat. Nile Rodgers, BØRNS, Louis the Child, Angel Olsen, Jungle, blackbear, MØ, King Krule, Illenium, Kamasi Washington, French Montana, 6lack, Vance Joy, Russ, LANY

As always, there’s a few names in this group that I’m pretty excited about. If I were attending this year, I’d definitely be hitting up Kygo, St. Vincent, Haim, alt-J, Fleet Foxes, Odesza, Portugal. The Man, BØRNS, Illenium, and LANY. There’s a few that I’d definitely check out here too if there were no overlaps like David Byrne, Post Malone, Chromeo, Jungle, MØ, and Vance Joy. I’m mostly excited about Haim and alt-J. Even though I’ve seen both live before, they’re fantastic and two of my favorite bands. Odesza is an incredible electronic act and I can attest from seeing them live last month. I’ve seen BØRNS live before as well and it was so enjoyable. After working St. Vincent in November and listening to her VIP Q&A, I’ve gained a new respect for Annie Clark and her music. I was able to stay for half of her show but would love to see her again. The others I’ve never seen live.

As I said in my 2017 music recap blog post, I would be reviewing Portugal. The Man soon. It might now be even sooner than I thought. I’ve been stoked on their latest album since buying it on vinyl in NYC and I’d love to see them live especially since knowing about them since college. Since getting into electronic music, I’ve always been partial to tropical house, making Kygo an artist I would love to check out. I also got into Illenium’s latest album for a short time two months ago making him another electronic act I’d want to see. I’ve listened to LANY a few times over the past few years so they’re a group I’d love to see too. If you’re looking for the most indie band at Coachella this year, I’d have to say that would be Fleet Foxes. I’ve liked them for a while now and would definitely want to see them live.

As for the others that I’d like to check out, I’ve seen Jungle and Vance Joy before. Both played in 2015 when I attended and I made it to both sets. I even saw Vance Joy at Panorama last summer. They’re always a solid set. I was super hyped about Jungle in 2015, but this time around they’re not a definite for me. They’ve got new music out, which I plan on checking out soon They just didn’t make a huge impact on me last time. I’ve casually listened to Chromeo and MØ so I would casually see them. Post Malone is burning up right now. I’m not into rap, but Post Malone has a song that is more indie than rap that I enjoy. I think I’m solely interested in seeing this dude play live because of the hype surrounding him right now. David Byrne is the most intriguing to me. Honestly I had no idea who he was until I did a little research. After I found out, it felt like I failed at music so excuse me for that one. As the lead singer and guitarist of the Talking Heads, I would love to hear his set. He’s got a solo career going, but you know he’ll be playing some Talking Heads covers. Who knows maybe there’s a reunion in store?! I mean who doesn’t like the Talking Heads?!

The Rest: Maceo Plex, Alan Walker, the Neighbourhood, Alison Wonderland, Kelela, REZZ, Bleachers, Black Coffee, SuperDuperKyle, Justin Martin, Belly, TroyBoi, Dreams, Perfume Genius, PVRIS, Moses Sumney, LÉON, Greta Van Fleet, Tank and the Bangas, Cash Cash, Whethan, Skip Marley, Elohim, Detroit Love (Carl Craig, Kyle Hall, Moodymann), Benjamin Clementine, Carpenter Brat, the Blaze, Knox Fortune, MHD, Slow Magic, Avalon Emerson, Fazerdaze, Moon Boots, HITO, Helado Negro, the Buttertones, the Regrettes, Boogarins, the Marias, Señor Kino, Tash Sultana, BROCKHAMPTON, Marian Hill, Alina Baraz, First Aid Kit, Snakehips, Highly Suspect, Wizkid, Jorja Smith, Alvvays, the Black Madonna, Tom Misch, Django Django, X Japan, Benjamin Booker, Flatbush Zombies, Ekali, Yaeji, Party Favor, Big Thief, Jason Bentley, Oh Sees, Sigrid, Busy P, the Bronx, AC Slater, Sudan Archives, Jackmaster, Otoboke Beaver, Chloe x Halle, Sir Sly, Hundred Waters, Pachanga Boys, Bedouin, Cherry Glazerr, Mild High Club, Priests, Ron Gallo, Declan McKenna, Bane’s World, KITTENS, the Drums, Aminé, Jessie Ware, Jamie Jones, Kamaiyah, San Holo, FIDLAR, DeJ Loaf, Petit Biscuit, Ibeyi, LP, Motor City Drum Ensemble, Princess Nokia, AURORA, Noname, Jacob Banks, Chris Liebing, Jidenna Hayley Kiyoko, Barclay Crenshaw, LION BABE, Giraffage, Talaboman, THEY., Cuco, Joseph Capriati, Hannah Wants, Nothing But Thieves, John Maus, Kölsch, Japanese Breakfast, MAGIC GIANT, Omar-S, Michael Mayer, Westside Gunn + Conway, Buscabulla, Peggy Gou, Snail Mail, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, B Boys, the Delirians

My favorite name that showed up on the Coachella lineup this year is in this group, Hayley Kiyoko. As you know, I saw her last year in what I consider to be one of the most epic nights in music for me, seeing 2 shows in one night. One of those was Hayley Kiyoko and she played in a small venue in Philadelphia. I was beyond excited to see her name on the poster and so stoked that she’s playing Coachella this year in time with releasing her debut album. Another band that’s on my must see list is in this group too, The Neighbourhood. I’ve been digging The Neighbourhood since 2013 and I’ve never seen them live. They’re a must-see for sure. There’s a few on this list that I’d want to catch if I had time too. Bleachers, Tash Sultana, Sir Sly, Declan McKenna, and Marian Hill are the big ones among that bunch.

As a whole I feel like this is the smallest group of bands I’ve been interested in since starting my Coachella previews in 2015. I had such high hopes for this year’s festival and it all came crashing down last night. Some names I would have liked to see on this year’s lineup include Arctic Monkeys (as a headliner or part of that second line of acts), Vampire Weekend, MGMT, Foster the People, Lana Del Rey, Cold War Kids, Halsey, Phoenix, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, ARIZONA, the 1975, Sigala, Cigarettes After Sex, Passion Pit, The Kooks, AWOLNATION, and either The Killers, Arcade Fire, or Kings of Leon as a headliner (most likely The Killers though). There’s probably more bands as well, but those are a few off the top of my head.

I started doing a bit of research on this year’s lineup compared to my favored 2014 lineup. I plan on editing this post later today or tomorrow with my findings. Until then, you should start listening to some bands on this lineup. There’s plenty I know nothing about and a few that I do. Maybe you’re stoked on this lineup. Maybe you’re not. The fact is that Coachella is in 3 months and the prep officially began yesterday. One thing is certain though, regardless of who is on the lineup and the amount of complaining done, people are still gonna go to Coachella. It’s the festival to be at. It’s Coachella. You’re bound to have a great time because although I strongly believe music festivals should be about the music, Coachella is more than music. It’s art. It’s atmosphere. It’s good food. It’s being with people you care about and have a good time with. It’s hot days and cool nights. It’s palm trees, and mountains, and desert. It’s fashion. It’s celebrities. It’s social media. It’s sponsors. It’s ferris wheels and hip merch. Mostly it’s the best kind of positivity and vibes you’ll ever experience. So Coachella 2018, I’m ready for you! Here’s to hoping I can be part of the magic again.

(EDIT: I spent the last hour or more doing some research and the numbers I came up with are unreal. I analyzed the 2014 Coachella lineup vs. the 2018 Coachella lineup. I looked at the first 3 lines of each poster plus the headliners and I grouped performers in 4 categories, Rap/R&B, Electronic, Pop, Rock/Indie. In 2014, out of the 165 acts, there were 71 featured on the first 3 lines of the poster including the headliners. Out of those 71, 14% were Rap/R&B, 28% were Electronic, 6% were Pop, and 37% were Rock/Indie. In 2018, out of 165 acts, there are 69 featured on the first 3 lines of the poster including the headliners. Out of those 69, 33% are Rap/R&B, 25% are Electronic, 9% are Pop, and 33% are Rock/Indie. Compared to 2014, the number of Rap/R&B acts have more than doubled. Is Rap/R&B back on the rise and I didn’t know about it? If you asked me, I would tell you no. So what’s the deal this year? What’s even more shocking is that I also compared the number of Bands to Artists for each year. I defined “Band” as a group or single performer with a backing band that plays classic instruments (guitar, drums, bass, keyboards, etc. as opposed to electronic equipment). Artists included rappers, R&B singers, electronic DJ’s, and pop singers. In 2014, out of 71 acts, 55% were Bands and 45% were Artists. In 2018, out of 69 acts, 30% are Bands and 68% are artists. To me those numbers, are staggering. Louis Tomlinson noticed it and he’s right. The bands have decreased this year in favor of the artists. So seriously Coachella, WHERE ARE THE BANDS?! And why are you straying from what made you amazing in the first place? #Coachella2018thefestivalthatcouldhavebeen)

Music is Sacred

I honestly don’t know or remember what I wanted to write about this week. All I’ve been able to think about since waking up Monday morning is what happened in Las Vegas Sunday night.

There are tragedies that happen every day. Some are uncontrollable like natural disasters. Some could be prevented if the proper procedures and legislation are in place.

Since last November, I’ve been deeply upset about the state of our nation. I never cared as much, but leading up to the 2016 Presidential Election, my support for a certain democratic candidate was stronger than ever. I actually began to follow some politics. So naturally, when favored candidate (and of course my favorite candidate), Hilary Clinton, lost the election to become the first female President of the U.S., I was crushed. The only good that came out of it was that I became more in tune with political issues.

Flash forward to January. Upon the day of the Women’s March on Washington and the previous day of the Presidential inauguration, I was still ready to fight for my beliefs going forward. Then somewhere along the way I lost my thunder. I got busy. I went to Southern California for two weeks to work at the festival I fell in love with 2 1/2 years ago. Work started to pick up and more opportunities arose. I made new friends. Got closer to others. I worked at concerts, festivals, and a comic con in different cities all over the country all while enjoying one of my lifelong passions, music. I had the time of my life. Then Labor Day came as it does every year. Work began to slow down. I wasn’t traveling as much. Plans for work changed due to uncontrollable circumstances as well. Nevertheless I began to reflect on what an incredible year it’s been, but at the same time I still felt bummed that festival season was coming to a close. I tried to combat those sad feelings though. In the past few weeks I booked new work opportunities, enjoyed some amazing live music experiences as a fan, and planned to attend a few others in the coming months. Then, I woke up Monday morning to news that shattered me.

22,000+ people affected. Several hundred people injured. Over 50 people killed. But it was where it happened that made the biggest difference to me. It happened at a music festival, a type of event where happiness and being carefree is the norm, a type of event that people come together to have a good time and experience the magic of live music, a type of event that I frequent regularly, a type of event that I one day aspire to be in charge of planning.

Music is everything to me. I love it. I’ve loved it since way back. I even wrote a blog about it this past year. It’s important to many others too. It has an ultimate power to cause a range of emotions and feelings. There’s even something more special about hearing the music you listen to being played right in front of your eyes by the musicians and artists who created it. I’ve always felt that. I always found shows, concerts, and festivals to be special places because of that. To have someone destroy those incredible moments that happen at a concert or festival is devastating and infuriating to me. I know it’s happened elsewhere in the past. Paris. Manchester. I definitely was upset about both of those situations too, but this one is different.

It’s different because it happened in the country that I live in and in a city that I’ve visited where I now know someone who lives there. It’s also different because I watched snapchats from the festival throughout the weekend because a friend of mine was working there for the week. That friend of mine was working at the festival Sunday night and had to experience what happened. That friend of mine will have to live with that memory for the rest of their life along with so many other friends of my friends. Not only is it my friends and my friends’ friends, it’s 22,000+ people, who attended, played at, or worked at a music festival, that have to live with it. That’s why it’s different and that’s what hurts the most.

It could have been me working. It could have been more of my friends. And the fact of the matter is that it still could be any of us because in this country our laws indicate that it’s okay for this to happen again and again. But the thing is….it’s really NOT okay. It’s not okay for it to be legal for someone to own weapons that could cause mass casualty or to buy enhancements that would make other weapons capable of the same. It’s not okay for someone to be able to walk into a gun show or go on the internet and purchase a gun without any difficulty. It’s not okay for someone who has a disregard for human life to hurt or kill as many people as possible with a gun because there are poor excuses for human beings in charge of creating legislation, who refuse to do it, that allow this to happen.

I know it’s been a few months since I had a fire in my heart ready to fight the establishment, but it’s back with a vengeance. This was a wake up call for me to get as fired up as I was in January since I was too focused on my work all summer. It’s just unfortunate that it took hurting my office, my work family (because that’s what we are in the music industry), and the music lovers I try to bring joy to on a daily basis for the fire to burn brighter again.

I’m sorry for being a little off topic on my blog this week, but I needed to get it off my chest. It’s been on my mind constantly. If you read this blog and are a music fan, I urge you to find a way to get involved in trying to create change in legislation that lowers the chance for these disasters to happen at concerts and festivals. Whether it be as simple as calling your representatives and demanding change, donating to causes that support gun control, attending a peaceful protest or gathering, or simply joining an organization like Everytown.org that are trying to fight the lack of gun legislation in America. It’s easy to become complacent but we need to keep going and keep fighting to make the places we love as safe and enjoyable as possible because live music events are special and music is scared.

 

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

 

Local Natives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coachella Band Preview: Tove Lo

This is it. The final blog post before the big first weekend. I make my journey out there in two days and I can’t wait to be among that festival atmosphere. Hopefully I get a chance to see one or two of these amazing bands or artists I’ve previewed, but I keep my expectations low to avoid disappointment just in case. The final artist I decided to preview is a Swedish singer/songwriter known as Tove Lo.

Tove Lo, whose real name is Ebba Tove Elsa Nilsson, first came on to the music scene in 2014. Her career journey started way before that though. While growing up she went to music school and even became friends with Caroline Hjelt, who went on to form Icona Pop. By the end of her teenage years she formed the rock band Tremblebee. After the band broke up she decided to go after a songwriting career and earned a publishing deal with Warner/Chappell Music in 2011. Through that she often wrote and recorded her own compositions which lead to her eventual record deal.

Her stage name comes from a nickname she had growing up. Tove is part of her real name and Lo is the Swedish word for Lynx, which was her favorite animal growing up. Tove Lo’s first performances were in London and at SXSW in 2014 right around the time she released her first EP Truth Serum. The EP contained one of her most popular hits, “Habits”, which she released independently even before the EP came out. The track was re-titled “Habits (Stay High)” for Truth Serum and earned her breakout success as one of the hottest new artists of 2014. Her debut album Queen of the Clouds was released on September 24, 2014. It had much success making the top 20 on album charts in the U.S., the U.K., and Sweden. In Sweden the album is certified platinum. Towards the end of 2014, Tove Lo joined the third leg of Katy Perry’s Prismatic World Tour as the opening artist.

By early 2015 though, the breakout artist needed to take a little time away from singing as she had to have surgery on her vocal chords to remove cysts that had developed. Near the end of the year she was back at it touring across North America in support of the re-packaged edition of Queen of the Clouds which was released in October of 2015. The year rewarded Tove Lo with two Grammi Awards (Swedish version of the Grammys) and a Grammy nomination for her writing credit on Ellie Goulding’s song “Love Me Like You Do”.

In 2016 the Swedish singer announced she would be releasing her second album later in the year. She toured as the opening act for Maroon 5 to promote the upcoming release. She released the first single from her new album Lady Wood in early August called “Cool Girl”. The album was released on October 28, 2016. Tove Lo recently went on a solo tour in support of Lady Wood and has plans to join Coldplay’s upcoming tour as an opening act this summer.

Along with her own success, Tove Lo has also been involved in many successful collaborations with artists such as Nick Jonas, Coldplay, and Flume, as well as earning songwriting credits for many well known artists such as Ellie Goulding, Hillary Duff, Victoria Justice, Lea Michele, and Icona Pop. One of her most successful collaborations came in 2015 when she sang on Swedish DJ Alesso’s track “Heroes (We Could Be)”. The single had high chart success in Sweden, the U.K., and the U.S.

Tove Lo’s music style is an alternative style of pop music. It might be considered synthpop or electropop. It definitely has an electronic influence and is a bit darker than your standard pop music as well. A lot of her songs have this sexual type of feel and sound. I’m not saying that’s the intention with her music either. Her style is just perfect baby making music.

I don’t remember when I first heard of Tove Lo. I know I knew her song “Habits (Stay High)” before anything else. I didn’t really like the song though, which is probably because I would only ever hear it on mainstream pop radio. Even though I’m not a huge fan of listening to that type of radio, I have a guilty pleasure song or two that gets overplayed. “Habits” was not one of those. “Talking Body” was though. I first heard “Talking Body” on a Spotify playlist and I really liked the song. It was even part of my work out playlist for a while. I never really got hooked on any of her other songs though, but I think at that point I appreciated her as more of an alternative pop artist.

So for the second week in a row why am I previewing this artist that I’ve never gotten into? In fact compared to Two Door Cinema Club, I don’t even own any of Tove Lo’s records. Well it’s pretty simple. Tove Lo plays Sunday at Coachella and I’ve only previewed two other Sunday acts, Lorde and Grouplove. If I had the whole festival to just hang out and see music, there would only be 2 performances that I’d really wanna see on Sunday which frees up a ton of the day. My familiarity with Tove Lo would make me want to check her set out. I think she’ll put on a great set and I definitely suggest you check her out if you have time on Sunday. Here’s a few songs you might want to know first:

  1. Habits (Stay High)
  2. Talking Body
  3. Cool Girl
  4. True Disaster
  5. Influence
  6. Moments
  7. Not On Drugs
  8. Got Love
  9. Heroes (We Could Be) (w/ Alesso)
  10. Say It (w/ Flume)

 

 

Coachella Band Preview: Two Door Cinema Club

Coachella is next weekend. Coachella is next weekend. COACHELLA. IS. NEXT. WEEKEND. Thought I would ingrain it in your mind, but yeah Coachella begins next weekend. That means the band previews for 2017 are almost over. It’s the only bummer of this whole Coachella experience. I have one more preview left before the festival starts, but that’s it. There’s not much time. You might wanna binge listen to this next act.

Two Door Cinema Club was formed in 2007. The group who comes from two small towns in Northern Ireland is comprised of members Alex Trimble (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Sam Halliday (lead guitar, vocals), and Kevin Baird (bass, vocals, synth). Trimble and Halliday met while in grammar school and then the duo got to know Baird better when he started hanging out with their mutual friends. The band got their name when Halliday mispronounced the name of the local movie theater, Tudor Cinema.

Two Door Cinema Club’s first EP Four Words to Stand On was released in 2008 which garnered them attention. They released their debut album, Tourist History, 2 years later in February of 2010 (Republic of Ireland release) and toured the UK and Ireland in the spring of 2010 in support of its release. The band also played a bunch of European Festivals in 2010 including Reading and Leeds and opened for Phoenix during their 2010 U.S. Tour. Their debut album earned them two NME Award nominations.

The band continued to tour going into 2011 playing a co-headlining tour of the U.S. and Canada with Tokyo Police Club. 2011 brought stops at Glastonbury, Coachella, and Lollapalooza, as well as another stop at Reading and Leeds. They began work on their second album in 2011 and by the end of August 2012, Beacon was released.

In 2013, Two Door Cinema Club released their second EP Changing of the Seasons. They spent spent 2013 playing shows and festivals throughout Europe and North America. The group finally took a break from a steady 3 years of touring by 2014 and began to work on their third album. They began touring again in 2016 in support of the release of their third studio album, Gameshow, which came out in October. That tour has continued into 2017 and includes the stop in Indio.

Two Door Cinema Club is part of the indie rock genre. Some of their songs verge on indie pop as well. Their new album even has a funky, soulful feel, so you can say the band sort of spans across genres.

I first discovered Two Door Cinema Club in 2011 in the prime of my indie music phase. I bought their debut album that year. It was never a stand out album to me despite my love for their style of music. It was always just a solid indie rock soundtrack to my drives that fall. Since then, I haven’t really followed up much on Two Door Cinema Club. I did hear of them touring and making music though so I knew they were still around. I was just never as into them as I was with other bands.

So why am I previewing them for Coachella and telling you to see them? Because despite not being really, really into them, they’re a good band and festivals are the time to see as much music as possible especially if you’re somewhat familiar with a band. So I guess that’s the only condition. If you’re not into indie rock and you’ve never heard of Two Door Cinema Club, by all means, don’t feel obliged to see them perform. If you do like indie rock or you know a few songs by Two Door Cinema Club, you should check them out, assuming their set doesn’t overlap with another set on your must-see list. If you already love them and plan on seeing them, I have no doubt they’ll play a great set. I know I would probably see them at Coachella because I don’t think I’d actually buy tickets to just see Two Door Cinema Club on tour and that’s okay. That’s what makes festivals great. Maybe you’ll see them and they’ll be unexpectedly amazing causing you to want to see them on tour. It’s their 3rd time at Coachella too so they’re not new to experience. They play Saturday and at this point they’ll probably be on a little later in the day. Here’s what you need to know if you plan on seeing them:

  1. Are We Ready? (Wreck)
  2. Bad Decisions
  3. What You Know
  4. Sleep Alone
  5. Something Good Can Work
  6. I Can Talk
  7. Changing of the Seasons
  8. Next Year
  9. Undercover Martyn
  10. Sun
  11. Gameshow

 

 

Coachella Band Preview: Oh Wonder

Coachella begins in 2 weeks! I hope you’ve been doing some serious music listening. If you haven’t, I’m disappointed in you. Even if you’re one of those people who doesn’t like to listen to the music before they attend the show, I’m still disappointed in you because, I mean, come on. How can you not prep even just a little?! This is one of the biggest music festivals out there. For those of you who have been prepping, here’s another band you should be listening to.

Oh Wonder is a band who began creating music together in September 2014. The band is from London and comprised of keyboardist/vocalist Josephine Vander Gucht and guitarist/vocalist Anthony West. Oh Wonder’s claim to fame comes from the release of their DIY debut album. Beginning in September 2014, the alt-pop duo began releasing one song per month via SoundCloud for one year. The year culminated in the release of their debut album which also included two unreleased songs.

The band’s song release process attracted the attention of music fans, blogs, and record labels. They eventually signed with Republic Records. Upon the release of their self-titled debut album in September 2015, the band scheduled shows in London, Paris, New York, and Los Angeles, all of which were sold out. The band has toured internationally since that time and also played a handful of North American music festivals last summer. They made stops at Bonnaroo, Firefly, WayHome (Canada), Lollapalooza, and Live Out (Mexico).

Their music is an alternative/indie pop style, but softer and more mellow than other music I would classify as indie pop. Vander Gucht and West also harmonize magnificently on every track. Their vocals create such soothing melodies that are often times catchy as well. Once you get one of their songs in your head, it’s difficult to get it out.

I heard of Oh Wonder from a music recommendation tumblr post last fall. I checked them out a few days after and decided to download one of their songs. It seemed like after listening to them for the first time, more of their music would pop up on random Spotify playlists I would listen to. I also routinely listened to the song I downloaded. It only took a few times of listening before I would sing-a-long with the music. Their music isn’t the kind of indie pop you’d want to hear to get you hyped up for something. It’s the kind that you’d put on during a sunny afternoon drive or road trip.

That being said, don’t expect a fun, upbeat indie pop style set from them at Coachella. They’re not Grouplove or Matt & Kim. Their music is more relaxed and their set will be too. They play Friday and my guess is that their set will be earlier in the day. They’re a perfect band to see at the festival because I doubt their set time will overlap with other must-see acts. Here’s a few songs you should listen to before their Coachella performance:

  1. Drive
  2. Technicolor Beat
  3. Lose It
  4. All We Do
  5. Without You
  6. Livewire

(But truly, if you just check out their debut self-titled album, you should be fine.)

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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