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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.

 

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Coachella Band Preview: The xx

Hey guess what…Coachella Band Previews are back! It was only a matter of time since the lineup release last week. Coachella is a little over 3 months away so if you’re headed out to Indio, your prep needs to begin asap. Like yesterday asap. The timing of my first preview works out perfectly because this band’s third album, I See You, comes out tomorrow! They hail from the UK and they’re called The xx.

In 2005, while still in school, Oliver Sim and Romy Madley Croft formed the band. Guitarist Baria Qureshi joined once the band started performing and Jamie Smith joined the year after. The group released their debut album, xx, in 2009 under the British indie label Young Turks. It received praise from critics in both the UK and America. It made Rolling Stone’s list of Best Albums of 2009 finishing 9th. Songs from the album have been featured on countless television and film productions as well as for sporting event promotions. The band also headlined its own tour in promotion of the album and earned spots at several major North American music festivals in 2010, including Coachella, Sasquatch, Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits. In late 2009 though, band member Baria Qureshi left the band turning The xx into a trio.

In 2012 the band once again played the festival circuit in anticipation of their second album, Coexist, which was released on September 5, 2012. Coexist combines The xx’s signature sound and integrates it with a club music feel. Jamie Smith spoke before its release about the club influence on it. It’s definitely noticeable especially on songs like “Sunset” and “Swept Away”. The second album didn’t generate as much success as their debut, but was still highly anticipated.

As I said, their third album comes out tomorrow and once again the band will embark on a touring/festival circuit route for the year. They begin touring in Europe in February, head to South America for their Lollapalooza dates, and then it’s Southern California for Coachella followed by their North American tour with more festivals mixed in along the way. As for the album itself, I’ve only heard the singles that were released early, but I recently read a review from Pitchfork claiming that the album combines classic xx and the growth of each members’ talents. Obviously the challenge for any band or artist with a largely successful album is trying to replicate that success with still being able to grow as musicians and make and play the music that the band or artist wants to create. While there will never be another xx, it’s safe to say that this upcoming album sounds tremendous so far. It even caught my ear early for someone who has listened to The xx here and there throughout the last 5-6 years. Maybe it’s a long shot or maybe it’s not, but I’m predicting some good things for the new album and the band this year.

The xx plays an indie electronic style of music. It can even induce that hypnotic dream pop sound. The xx honestly combines the best of both of my worlds at this point. While searching for upbeat electronic songs to listen to while I work out, I’m constantly wondering if there are any DJ’s out there who have a more indie sound to combine with their electronic music. The xx answers that question for me. They combine guitar with digital/electronic beats and sounds. Though not necessarily the type of music I’d listen to while working out, their music is just what I’ve been looking for.

As I said, I’ve listened to The xx here and there throughout the last 5 years. I first heard them in 2011. I’m pretty sure I heard the song “Intro” while listening to the Foster the People channel on Pandora. Eventually I discovered the song “Islands” and casually enjoyed the song for the past few years. 2 months ago, before I heard about the new album, I added the song “Heart Skipped a Beat” to my newest music on iTunes. Right before I added that song, a friend of mine told me one of her top 5 favorite albums of all time was xx. I forget the other albums she said, but the mentioning of The xx interested me since I knew about them for years without really getting into them. Between the new album and the promotion from my friend of their debut, I’ve developed a recent interest in the group and I was excited to learn that they’re expected to play Coachella this year.

The xx plays Coachella on Friday and by Friday, I totally mean Friday night. There’s no doubt in my mind that they’ll either take the Main Stage before Radiohead or play a late set on the Outdoor Stage. In fact, The xx playing as the sun sets over the mountains of the Indio desert is probably the most ideal setting imaginable. No matter what setting they play in though, their set will undoubtedly be a great one and one I would surely be at. To prep for it, pick up a copy of I See You tomorrow or listen to some of these songs:

  1. Islands
  2. Intro
  3. Angels
  4. Heart Skipped A Beat
  5. Sunset
  6. Crystalised
  7. VCR

 

Coachella Band Preview: M83

Another week less until Coachella 2016 means another week less to listen to your favorite bands performing in the desert this April. I have plenty of favorites playing the festival this spring, but one I wanted to preview is French/American band M83. They’ve been out of the picture for a few years since their last album came out 5 years ago. With multiple festival appearances and a new album slated for release this year, 2016 looks to be a big year for the band.

M83 was originally a duo formed in 2001 by Anthony Gonzalez and Nicolas Fromageau. The band’s debut self-titled album was released in the spring of 2001. It didn’t receive much acknowledgment outside of Europe. It wasn’t until the band released their second album Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts that their name reached the shores of North America. However, the album was released in Europe in spring 2003, but did not get popular in North America until the following summer. After M83 toured to promote their second album, Fromageau left the band and Gonzalez went on to record the following two albums, Before the Dawn Heals Us (2005) and Digital Shades Vol. 1 (2007), by himself.

M83’s fifth album, Saturdays = Youth, was released in 2008 and was the band’s first album that contained a typical song structure and form. It was at this point that Gonzalez began to receive consistent help from others in the recording process. One person in particular was vocalist and keyboardist, Morgan Kibby. The band then went on to support acts like Kings of Leon, The Killers, and Depeche Mode in 2008 and 2009. In 2009 Gonzalez made a permanent move to Los Angeles, which, in a way, revamped the band. By 2011 Gonzalez began writing songs for the band’s sixth album, which he stated would be a double album. In July 2011 the first single from the new album “Midnight City” was released. It was M83’s breakthrough hit. The album, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, was released on October 18, 2011. It became the band’s most successful album to date, debuting at number 15 on Billboard’s 200 and receiving honors from Pitchfork on their list of Top 50 Albums of 2011 . It also received a Grammy nomination in 2013 for Best Alternative Music Album.

Since Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, M83 has not released an album. However, it was announced via Twitter in mid-December 2015 that the band recently completed a new album. It’s safe to say we can expect a new release sometime this year. In the meantime though, the group re-released some of their older albums in late 2015.

M83 got their name from the galaxy Messier 83, nicknamed M83. Their sound perfectly reflects their name too. Their synthpop, ambient style music has a super trippy, outer space feel to it. When you listen to their music and close your eyes, you can literally imagine yourself floating through the universe. Their early music is especially like that since, as I mentioned, most of their songs didn’t have much form or structure until their fifth album.

I first heard of M83 around late 2011-early 2012. Midnight City was of course the first song I downloaded by the group. I then proceeded to download a few other songs in the following months. M83 was a tough band for me to get into, since their music was pretty different from what I was listening to at the time. However, I really took a liking to the song “Steve McQueen” off Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. It became my go-to for M83 songs.

This won’t be M83’s first time at Coachella. They last played in 2012 in the wake of their success from their most recent album. They play Friday this year. I’m sure they’ll play many old favorites and a few new songs as well. It’s bound to be a good set whether they’re one of your faves, whether you missed seeing them in 2011-2012, whether you got into them after that time, or whether you’re just hearing about them now. To get you ready for their set though, I recommend these jams:

  1. Midnight City
  2. We Own the Sky
  3. Steve McQueen
  4. Wait
  5. Splendor
  6. Kim & Jessie
  7. Reunion
  8. Intro
  9. Outro
  10. Skin of the Night

Coachella Band Preview: LCD Soundsystem

Coachella is almost exactly 3 months away. Since the lineup release over a week ago, the days until the annual festival in the desert are decreasing. That only means one thing. It’s time to prep. Start planning your festival attire. Get out the sun tan lotion and listen to some tunes by the bands playing the event this year. As I said last week, even though I won’t be attending Coachella this year (unless there’s some spontaneous miracle), I plan on previewing the bands playing Coachella 2016 in the same way I did last year. The first band on my list is one of the headliners this year, LCD Soundsystem.

Formed in 2001 from New York City, LCD Soundsystem is the brainchild of singer-songwriter, record producer, and DJ, James Murphy. Murphy is also the co-founder of dance music record label DFA Records. Until the 2005 release of their self-titled debut album, LCD Soundsystem only released singles. Their debut album however received much acclaim including a Grammy nomination for Best Electronic/Dance Album. The single “Daft Punk is Playing at My House” received a Grammy nomination for Best Dance Recording in the same year. LCD Soundsystem released their second album, Sound of Silver, in 2007 and it too received a Grammy nomination for Best Electronic/Dance Album. Their third album, This Is Happening, came out in May 2010. It received top-ten status in the United States and was the group’s first album to do so. It was also listed as the number two album of 2010 by Pitchfork and the number 10 album of 2010 by Rolling Stone. Then in early 2011 the band announced on their website that they planned to call it quits, but not before one last farewell show to be played at Madison Square Garden in April. The final four hour long show took place on April 2, 2011 and was filmed as part of a live concert documentary Shut Up and Play the Hits, which was released the following year. Such was the end of LCD Soundsystem…or so we thought.

In late 2015 rumors began swirling that LCD Soundsystem would be reuniting in 2016 and playing some major music festivals. Then on Christmas Eve, a mere 3 weeks ago, the group released their first single in over 5 years “Christmas Will Break Your Heart”. A little over a week later, on January 4, 2016, it was announced the group would be headlining Coachella. The following day, via the group’s website, James Murphy posted this message to fans confirming the reunion of the much loved electronic/dance/punk group.

I was late to the LCD Soundsystem party, first hearing of the group after their “final” show in late 2011. It wasn’t even until over a year after the “final” show that I downloaded any of their music to my iTunes. The first song I heard by the group was “Dance Yrself Clean” and it’s still one of my favorite LCD Soundsystem songs. I eventually listened to more of their music and purchased their self-titled album on vinyl (it’s great on vinyl by the way). I do have to say though that if it wasn’t for my favorite acting/Hollywood couple and fellow music enthusiasts, Troian Bellisario and Patrick J. Adams, I wouldn’t have known this group at all. Thanks guys for the great recommendations!

As I mentioned, LCD Soundsystem is an electronic/dance/punk/alternative style music group. They were around before a lot of today’s EDM artists. Their style is a little different than the current EDM style though. Their music has more of an alternative/punk element. I feel like recent EDM is more pop. Also unlike current EDM artists, LCD Soundsystem’s music features an assortment of instruments and electronic devices, hence the whole “soundsystem” aspect. The group also features a variety of members who played the live shows as part of the group over the years. The most notable members include, Nancy Whang, Pat Mahoney, and Tyler Pope, but include at least 9 more individuals who have played for the band.  Murphy played the majority of the instruments himself while recording the albums.

If I were attending Coachella this year, the LCD Soundsystem set would be one of my most anticipated sets. They join the 2016 festival as a main headliner with Guns N’ Roses, who are also reuniting for Coachella, and Calvin Harris. Murphy and his pals play Saturday night. The LCD Soundsystem set should draw a huge crowd, especially with the large contingency of dance music fans who attend the festival. Not sure if I’ll be able to stay up to watch them perform, but I definitely have planned to try to find a video of their set afterwards. I’m a little jealous I won’t be at Coachella to see them live. Guess I’ll just have to catch an upcoming show somewhere else since the group is getting back together. To get you ready for Saturday night on the main stage though, play these hits:

  1. Dance Yrself Clean
  2. All My Friends
  3. Daft Punk is Playing at My House
  4. Drunk Girls
  5. Someone Great
  6. New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down
  7. Tribulations
  8. I Can Change
  9. Yeah
  10. North American Scum
  11. Tribulations

Good Winter

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Skinny Love

2. Holocene

3. Blood Bank

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

5. Flume

6. Blindsided

7. Towers

8. Creature Fear

9. Hazelton

10. Perth