pop

Hey I’m Just Like You: Album Review

A few weeks ago Tegan and Sara released their ninth studio album. The Canadian duo has been making music since the early 2000’s, but this album is a bit more special than the others they released prior. The album coincides with the debut of their memoir High School. The book is about their musical beginnings, growing up, and attending high school in the 90’s. While working on the book, the twins found a bunch of cassettes with early recordings of songs they wrote during that time and decided to re-work and re-record the songs. From there, Hey I’m Just Like You was born.

The new album pays homage to their rock and punk rock roots while still incorporating the pop sound they’ve grown into over the years. The best example of this is the track “I’ll Be Back Someday”, which was one of the first songs from the album that Tegan and Sara released. The song has a very clear and distinct punk influence. The lyrics reference themes of their adolescence like drug use, relationships, friendship, love, and self-reflection. Hey I’m Just Like You is also the first Tegan and Sara album recorded by an all female team.

Tegan and Sara are currently on tour in support of the album and book. Many of the tour dates are sold out. Fortunately, I’ll be attending one of their shows next week. I already picked up a copy of the book before I left to work Austin City Limits. Then I bought the album while visiting Waterloo Records on one of my off days in Austin. It’s safe to say I’ve been prepping for the last 2 1/2 weeks, but I love a good Tegan and Sara show. I highly recommend the album if you’re a Tegan and Sara fan. This one is definitely unique and yet at the same time I think you’ll be satisfied because you’re still getting what we all know and love from Tegan and Sara.

Norman Fucking Rockwell!: Album Review

On Labor Day Weekend, Lana Del Rey released her sixth full length album Norman Fucking Rockwell! The new album brings more of that haunting pop sound that Lana is so famous for. Lana collaborated with famed producer and Bleachers front man Jack Antonoff on the record. Leading up to the release, she released several singles contained on the new record including a cover of Sublime’s “Doin’ Time”.

I’ve been a fan of Lana Del Rey since the Born to Die days. In my opinion, her first three albums had a similar sound and feel. But since Honeymoon, her fourth album, her sound has chilled out even more, which is saying something for Lana Del Rey. Norman Fucking Rockwell! brings back some of what I’ve been missing from Lana Del Rey music for the past few years, yet still ties in that melodic, haunting and peaceful sound that has been a primary element of her last two records.

I will say lyrically Lana’s later records have more meaning and depth compared to her earlier works. However, there is something pretty awesome about the line “My pussy tastes like Pepsi cola…” This new record brings in plenty of summer and west coast vibes with songs like “California”, “Doin’ Time”, “Fuck It I Love You” and the nearly 10 minute long track “Venice Bitch”. A lot of Lana Del Rey’s music has a similar carefree Bohemian style quality with themes involving love, sex, partying, America, and the west coast. I feel like her music is something I should be against yet, I fucking love it.

If you’re into Lana Del Rey, you’ve clearly already checked out this album. Otherwise, you probably don’t need to listen to this one. It’s nothing extraordinary unless you’re already a Lana fan. Although, if you’re a west coast fan, you may find a few gems in the track listing. If you’re a Lana Del Rey fan who hasn’t listened to this one yet, you should definitely listen to Norman Fucking Rockwell! asap.

You’ve Got That Power Over Me

Back at Coachella this year during Weekend 1, I was walking out of the Mojave Tent after listening to Lizzo absolutely crush her set, when I was intrigued by the music I heard coming from the Gobi Tent right next door. I took a slow walk by the stage and really liked what I heard. It sounded like a mixture of pop, folk, and rock music. I looked to see who was on the stage and found out it was an artist by the name of Dermot Kennedy.

During Weekend 2, I went to his set with a friend after again hearing Lizzo perform some of her set. Although I was feeling kind of tired that afternoon and decided to sit on the side listening for a bit, I enjoyed listening to Dermot perform and told myself I was going to start listening to him after Coachella. Sure enough I followed through.

Dermot Joseph Kennedy is an Irish singer/songwriter/musician who hails from Rathcoole, Ireland, which is about 30 minutes from Dublin. He began playing guitar at age 10 and started songwriting by the age of 14, but did not start focusing on music until his late teen years. He played open mic nights, competed in talent competitions, and began busking on the streets of Ireland to get noticed. However, the use of a streaming platform is where his breakthrough came from.

He developed a following through Spotify and self-released music on the platform for the last couple of years. He released his self-titled debut album on January 4th and was signed to major label Interscope Records shortly after. His sophomore album Without Fear is set to be released in late September. Kennedy spent the last two years touring in Europe, Australia, and the U.S. He even played several major U.S. festivals including Bonnaroo in 2017, Lollapalooza, SXSW, and Austin City Limits in 2018, and Coachella in 2019. He will again be embarking on tour this fall in the U.S., Canada, and Europe in support of his newest album.

Kennedy’s style is just as I described it – a mixture of pop, folk, and rock music. He even incorporates a bit of hip-hop on a few of his tracks. His sound at times reminds me of a darker, more Irish version of Ed Sheeran. Yes, you can definitely hear the Irish accent in his music too. It’s actually pretty sick!

As I mentioned I first heard of Dermot Kennedy while attending Coachella this year. That’s why it’s always worth it to walk around and check out some sets by artists you might not know anything about at any music festival. You might just find something that you really like. I always feel like Coachella brings me to listen to different artists or gets me into artists I only knew a little bit about before. It was no different this year with the introduction of Dermot Kennedy. I highly recommend checking him out since he’s still very much on the rise. I may even try to see one of his shows during his tour this fall. He’s super talented and his tunes are pretty good as well. Here’s a few you might want to check out:

  1. Power Over Me
  2. Outnumbered
  3. After Rain
  4. A Closeness
  5. Glory

Coachella 2019 Recap

I never got a chance to post about the set times. As soon as I arrived in Indio, I got down to business and before we all knew it Weekend 1 began. I haven’t posted a Coachella recap since I attended because I really didn’t get much free time working the festival the last two years. This year that changed a bit. I took a new position about 2 weeks before I flew to California and the rest is history.

I worked a lot during the days leading up to the festival. I also worked Thursday and Friday, Day 1, but by Saturday I was free to have fun and prepped at my leisure for the following week. I worked offsite at the Renaissance Hotel in Indian Wells doing check-in for the campground I work at. On Thursday we were open from 12 p.m. until 2 a.m. and Friday from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m., which changed to 8 p.m. during Weekend 2 because of the road closures happening around 9. We also opened for an extra 6 hours on Saturday morning-early afternoon of Weekend 1 because more people than expected did not check in. However our check-in manager released me around 7 p.m. Friday night of Weekend 1 so I went to the festival and was able to see every Friday night act I wanted to see.

The 1975 set was my favorite of the festival. It was crazy because I walked into Coachella and went straight to the Main Stage for the set. I didn’t stop to take Coachella in like I normally do when I get in the festival for the first time. There was barely time to look at the art or anything else. It was worth it though for the set I was about to see. Matt Healy brought it, from cool visuals to a moving platform onstage that Healy walked and danced on. I also stood next to two members of the band All Time Low, which made for an added bonus to the set. I danced my face off and had the best time. As soon as the 1975 ended we went straight to Outdoor for the end of RÜFÜS DU SOL. I tried not to prioritize RÜFÜS because I’ll be seeing them in August, but I was happy to catch some of their set. They killed it as usual. Once they ended, it was back to Main Stage for Janelle Monaé. She was a lot of fun and brought tons of female fire power to the Main Stage. She even brought out Lizzo during her set.

Throughout the two weeks I was able to see all of if not part of almost every artist I wrote about. I saw Turnover, Bob Moses, part of Maggie Rogers, part of Gryffin, part of Tame Impala, Mansionair, Lizzo, Zedd, and Ariana Grande Weekend 1. Maggie Rogers played at the Gobi tent which was way too small for the masses that she brought to her set. That was the only reason I went to Gryffin instead during Weekend 1 since their sets overlapped. I stayed for her entire set Weekend 2 since it was slightly less crowded. During Weekend 2 I saw ARIZONA, all of Maggie Rogers, Weezer, part of Billie Eilish, part of Lizzo, Dermot Kennedy, most of Zedd, CHVRCHES, and NGHTMRE. I also attended Kanye’s Sunday Service, which was a once in a lifetime experience. I skipped Mac DeMarco overall. I feel like I really attended Coachella this year, but worked at the same time. Dermot Kennedy was really the surprise set for me this year. He was incredible and made me a fan. His style is very Bon Iver-esque, but Irish. CHVRCHES was also an incredible set. It was definitely my second favorite, which worked out to be the second to the last Coachella set I saw Weekend 2. My favorite set, The 1975, was the first set I saw Weekend 1. I definitely started and ended Coachella strong.

Once Saturday hit, I had time to take in the art, which payed homage to art of the past 20 years, and enjoyed plenty of ice cream in the festival as well. The astronaut from 2014 came back with a new design, as well as the hippos from 2015. The Spectra tower will be there for a few more years and was also back. The event also had several more pieces for Coachella fans to take in. The antarctic dome became one of my favorite attractions on the final day since it featured a RÜFÜS DU SOL theme this year. I went inside 3 times. I was also inside the festival for the ideal sunset hours and fully immersed myself in the Coachella vibe.

I love Coachella so much as you all know, and I’ve loved working it and attending it. This year held a special place in my heart though. I met new people, got closer with people I knew before, and got to hang out with so many of my friends over the 3 weeks I spent in the desert (Stagecoach included as Week 3). I felt a happiness that made me appreciate music, my life, my job, and the people I’m surrounded with. I don’t really have the appropriate words to describe it. It was beyond words for me this year, and I hope next year can compete.

Thanks again Coachella for all the big moods, good vibes, and sick times. There’s no place I’d rather be.

Coachella Band Preview: Billie Eilish

Guess what…Coachella 2019 begins next weekend!!! The three month wait is almost over! With that being said, there’s been a few changes since my last blog post. It was just announced this week that Kanye West will be performing his Sunday Service on Easter Sunday during Weekend 2! This is big news. Since Kanye and Justin Timberlake dropped off the bill as Coachella headliners, the hype for this year diminished some. Adding Yeezy to Weekend 2 was the perfect addition Goldenvoice needed to generate more excitement for a weekend that didn’t sell as well in certain aspects. The other change/news that happened is that I’m no longer going to have the same position at the festival that I committed to and have worked for the last 2 years. It’s definitely me stepping outside my comfort zone a bit, but I accepted on certain conditions, with some of the biggest being that I had great access and some free time to enjoy my favorite festival! I’m not sure I’ll be able to be at the event on Friday so I might be skipping the 1975, RÜFÜS DU SOL, and Janelle Monaé, which is a huge bummer, but I’m hoping for the best regardless.

With all of that news and my departure date now being a day early, this will be the last blog post for a little while until I return from my stay in Indio. If I have a second next week, I may make a post about set times and which sets to hit, but no guarantees. So for now let’s get into the last artist I’m previewing this year, Coachella newcomer, Billie Eilish.

Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell, from Los Angeles, California, had an interest in music from a young age. She joined the Los Angeles Childrens’ Chorus at the age of 8 and started writing and singing her own music by the age of 11. She also comes from a family of actors and musicians. In 2015, at age 13 she recorded the song “Ocean Eyes”, which was written by her brother Finneas for his band. The same song was released as Billie’s debut single on SoundCloud the following year. She also released the single “Six Feet Under” in 2016. At the end of the year “Ocean Eyes” was released worldwide through Darkroom and Interscope Records.

In January 2017, Billie released an EP of “Ocean Eyes” remixes. Her third single “Bellyache” was released in February. She released several more singles in 2017 leading up to the release of her debut EP Don’t Smile at Me. One of the singles she released in 2017 was included on the soundtrack for Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why.

Billie embarked on tour in 2018 and continued to release singles. She contributed to the soundtrack for the second season of 13 Reasons Why with the song “Lovely” featuring Khalid. Just last weekend Billie Eilish released her debut album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?. The debut album features a few already released singles, but a ton of new music.

Billie Eilish’s music is a soft, dreamy type of pop music. It’s comparable to the sound of artists like Lana Del Rey and Alina Baraz. It’s super vibey. Eilish’s vocals are trance-like and you can tell her musical influence draws from plenty of different styles of music.

I first heard Billie’s song “Ocean Eyes” while in Sacramento for an event in 2017, but I didn’t realize it at the time. It was actually the Goldhouse remix of the song too. Once I figured out what the song we were listening to in that fateful Snapchat video from Sacramento was (“Ocean Eyes”), I decided to download it. Since being announced on the Coachella lineup and hearing about Billie Eilish from a lot of different sources, I decided to start listening to her a bit. She’s definitely going to be a highly anticipated set this year at Coachella.

She plays Saturday. In her first Coachella appearance she’s already highly billed as well. I think Saturday has a stacked lineup, but I’d expect to see Billie on the Main Stage or the Outdoor Stage. We only have a few more days until set times are released for Weekend 1, so at least you don’t have to wait that long to find out anymore anyway. You have one more week to listen to all the Coachella bands and songs so here’s a few more from Billie Eilish to add to that list:

  1. ocean eyes
  2. lovely
  3. when the party’s over
  4. bury a friend
  5. idontwannabeyouanymore
  6. bellyache
  7. you should me in a crown
  8. wish you were gay
  9. watch
  10. my boy

 

Since this is the last band preview of the year, Happy Coachella Guys! I hope your Coachella is filled with sunshine, great tunes, and all the good vibes!

Coachella Band Preview: Lizzo

I might be in Miami this week to work Ultra, but there’s no blog breaks during the Coachella countdown, especially when Weekend 1 is 2 weeks away! After I return from Miami, I have a full 5 days at home then I leave for what becomes my Coachella workcation. It’s about 3 1/2 weeks this year, but Coachella is worth it. I’ll also be working Stagecoach, hence the extra week away. We’ll see how that goes. Coachella is definitely what it’s all about. Enough about me though, I’m wasting valuable time that you could be listening to tunes. This week I’m previewing a Coachella artist full of female empowerment.

Melissa Jefferson, aka Lizzo, got involved with rap music in high school while growing up in Texas. As the years went on, she took it to the next level and joined two rap/R&B groups, Lizzo & the Larva Ink and The Chalice. She moved to Minnesota while in her 20’s which is when she started rapping as a career. She released her debut album on October 15, 2013. It received some local and national success earning her a spot opening for Har Mar Superstar. She was named the Twin Cities Best New Artist by Minneapolis-St. Paul alternative newspaper City Pages. She was also named to Time’s 2014 music artists to watch.

Her second album Big Grrrl Small World was released in December 2015. She eventually signed with Atlantic Records and released her first major label EP Coconut Oil in 2016. Through 2017 and 2018 Lizzo dropped a few more singles like “Water Me”, “Truth Hurts”, and “Fitness”. She also joined Haim and Florence and the Machine on tour in 2018 as an opener. Her third studio album and major label debut album Cuz I Love You will be released on April 19th, which is Friday of Weekend 2.

Lizzo has always been first and foremost a rap and R&B artist, but I feel like her latest album might sway towards a pop sound at times if her singles “Cuz I Love You” and “Juice”are any indication. I might be totally off, because the rap/R&B sound is there too. Her music also represents diversity with songs about positive body image, sexuality, and race.

I first found out about Lizzo last spring when I saw her open for Haim on their Sister Sister Sister Tour. She definitely made a statement as an opener. I wasn’t into her music when I saw her perform because rap music doesn’t usually appeal to me. Then I kept hearing about her from a lot of my friends, until finally I hopped on the Lizzo train this past winter after she was announced as a Coachella artist. “Good As Hell” became my “start the day” anthem for a while. In fact, it still is if I remember to ask Alexa to play it.

Lizzo plays Sunday at Coachella. Lizzo’s live performance claim to fame is her flute solos with the legendary Sasha Flute (you can look at the instagram page for more info on this flute naming). You can be sure there will be one or more flute solos at Coachella, especially during “Coconut Oil”. This year will be Lizzo’s first Coachella and she’s definitely gonna bring it. I can’t see her playing a main stage this year, but regardless of where she plays her fanbase has grown and it’s sure to be crowded. This is a set you’re not gonna want to miss. Here’s what you need to know to be ready for it:

  1. Good as Hell
  2. Juice
  3. Water Me
  4. Coconut Oil
  5. Cuz I Love You
  6. Fitness
  7. Truth Hurts
  8. Boys
  9. Phone
  10. Scuse Me

Coachella Band Preview: Maggie Rogers

We’re almost at the 1 month countdown until Coachella 2019 Weekend One. As per the usual, the hype for me is real! Over the last month or so, I periodically secured my travel plans to the point that I’m almost ready to go. I hope everyone else has done the same. Mostly I just hope you all have been focusing on the music. Today I’m previewing an artist I didn’t initially plan to write about when figuring out my previews. About a month ago, I watched this artist cover a Whitney Houston song on Youtube and I was shook.

Maggie Rogers, from Easton, Maryland, got involved in music from a young age. She played the harp, piano, and guitar while growing up in Easton. While in high school, she attended a Berklee College of Music summer program and won the program’s songwriting contest. She recorded her first album as a senior in high school at the ripe age of 18. She self-recorded her it, The Echo, in a broom closet. She released it in digital format back in 2012. Rogers released a second self-recorded digital album Blood Ballet in 2014 as a student at NYU. Her big “claim to fame” happened in 2016 though when she recorded the song “Alaska” for a master class with producer and artist Pharrell Williams. A video of Williams listening to the song went viral in June of 2016.

Rogers released her first EP Now That The Light Is Fading in February 2017. She began her touring career shortly before that and played the Jimmy Fallon Show in anticipation of her EP release. She also played several festivals in the summer of 2017 including stops at Firefly, Glastonbury, Lollapalooza, and Outside Lands. She continued touring and playing festivals into 2018 playing at Boston Calling, Governor’s Ball, Reading and Leeds. She also joined Mumford & Sons as the opening act on their Delta Tour in late 2018.

She recently released her debut studio album Heard It In a Past Life on January 18th, shortly after she was announced as part of the 2019 Coachella lineup. The album features her hit “Alaska” along with other singles “Light On”, “Fallingwater”, and “Give a Little”. I know it’s early but I’d expect Rogers to get a few Grammy nods in the coming year. She’s that good and her style is unique.

Speaking of that, Maggie Rogers style of music combines dance music, folk, R&B and pop. It’s more art pop than anything. She had a background in folk music, but got inspired by dance music during her college days. Her latest studio album definitely adds a more pop sound to her music though, yet it somehow still stays true to her musical roots. Her vocals aren’t overly powerful like you might hear from pop artists like Adele, Florence Welch, or Banks, but yet it’s still so beautiful. Her vocals are trance-like and dreamy similar to that of Lana Del Ray.

I first heard of Maggie Rogers when I saw that she was opening for Mumford & Sons. I worked one of their shows in December and they brought Maggie out to join them in their song “Awake My Soul”. From that performance I knew she had a killer sound but I didn’t really give her music a shot until hearing her cover Whitney Houston’s “I Want To Dance With Somebody”, which she truly made her own. I started listening to her the next day on Spotify and then purchased her studio debut on vinyl right before I left for my second trip to Mexico.

Maggie Rogers plays Saturday at Coachella on her first visit to the 20 year festival. For the second year in a row, Saturday’s lineup seems stacked. After selling out her headlining tour this spring, I’d expect her set to be late-day to evening on the Main or Outdoor Stage. Even as a Coachella debut artist, I expect her set to be packed. Regardless of the time or place, I’d get there early for a good spot. I need to listen to more Maggie Rogers just as much as you might at this point, so here’s what I’ve been listening to on repeat:

  1. Alaska
  2. On + Off
  3. Dog Years
  4. Light On
  5. Give A Little
  6. Fallingwater
  7. Overnight
  8. Burning
  9. The Knife
  10. Retrograde

(Honestly just listen to all of Heard It In a Past Life!)

Coachella Band Preview: Janelle Monáe

Another week in Mexico and another week wishing I was in Southern California instead. Don’t get me wrong I love being in a warm climate in the winter, I just wish there was less humidity here. California has that kind of weather and they have it year round. We’re a little under 2 months away from Coachella now. The clock keeps ticking. The weeks become less. The planning intensifies and the time to listen to this year’s performers decreases. This week I’m previewing a female powerhouse who will be playing her second Coachella.

Janelle Monáe Robinson better known to the world as just Janelle Monáe hails from Atlanta, Georgia. She was discovered in Atlanta when she was 18 by rapper, songwriter, and producer Big Boi of Outkast fame. Monáe was born and raised in Kansas City, Kansas though. Upon connecting with Big Boi, she was signed to Bad Boy records in 2006 after Big Boi’s friend and fellow artist and producer Sean Combs (Puff Daddy, P. Diddy, Diddy) decided to take a chance on her. She initially released her first EP prior to her signing with Bad Boy, but her debut was then re-released with a slightly different title Metropolis: The Chase Suite (Special Edition). The record included two bonus tracks as well. It was received so well that Monáe earned a Grammy nomination for Best Urban/Alternative Performance for her single “Many Moons”.

Janelle Monáe’s debut album The ArchAndroid was released on May 18, 2010. Since her initial idea with Metropolis was to create a concept album that was to be released in 4 parts, The ArchAndroid contains parts 2 and 3 from the concept. The album debuted at number 17 on the Billboard 200 and earned Monáe another Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary R&B Album.

She released her sophomore album The Electric Lady in September 2013. The album continued with the same sci-fi theme as its predecessors. The album debuted at number 5 on the Billboard Top 200. It was just prior to her album released that Monáe played at her first Coachella in 2013.

In 2015, Janelle Monáe created her own independent label Wondaland Arts Society (now known as Wondaland Records) in conjunction with Epic Records. Along with 4 other artists signed to her new label, the EP The Eephus was created. Monáe contributed to the EP with the song “Yoga”. She also collaborated with Nile Rodgers & Chic that year on the song “Pressure Off”. 2016 brought Monáe a new type of entertainment exposure when she appeared in Academy Award nominated films Moonlight and Hidden Figures. Prior to her film debuts, she voiced the character Dr. Monae in Rio 2.

Janelle Monáe released her third studio album Dirty Computer on April 27, 2018. It included the release of what was referred to as an “emotion picture”, which was a visual representation of the songs and story of the album. It debuted at number 6 on the Billboard Top 200 and has since received 2 Grammy nominations for Album of the Year and for Best Music Video for the song “Pynk”. Over the last year Janelle Monáe has toured and played the festival circuit in promotion of her latest release, which makes sense of her slated Coachella 2019 performance.

I would define her music as experimental. It’s experimental in the sense that it combines a variety of genres. It obviously infuses R&B, hip-hop, and pop, but also incorporates elements of soul, funk, and new wave. It’s musically advanced and brilliant, especially the concepts behind her music.

Honestly, I knew about Janelle Monáe as an actress before I knew about her as a music artist. Once I started seeing her name on festival lineups in 2018, I realized her talents went beyond film. I was introduced to her music this past fall, when a friend of mine told me to watch the Dirty Computer video. I did. I was impressed and I enjoyed several of the songs. There was also a lot of hype surrounding her from several of my co-worker friends who caught her performing at festivals or in concert last summer. Despite my exposure to her music, I can’t even say I’m a huge fan yet. I like her music, but I haven’t been listening to her constantly. I’ve just heard great things about her live performances, which is why I think her performance at Coachella this year is one that can’t be missed.

Janelle Monáe plays Friday. She’s billed as a top performer. To me, there’s no reason why she wouldn’t be playing the Main Stage right before Childish Gambino or overlapping his set and headlining the Outdoor Stage. Even though this will be her second Coachella performance as a solo artist, it’s not her second appearance. She joined Outkast on stage during their headlining set in 2014 and Grimes in 2016. I think she’s grown in popularity over the last year as well, which means her set will most likely be crowded. I’ll say it again…you don’t want to miss this set. Here’s a few songs you’ll probably hear during it:

  1. Make Me Feel
  2. Pynk
  3. Tightrope
  4. I Like That
  5. Django Jane
  6. Q.U.E.E.N.
  7. Yoga
  8. I Got the Juice
  9. Electric Lady
  10. Dirty Computer

Top Tunes of 2018

Each of the last two years I’ve written posts about how much music has shaped the year. In 2016 there was a lot of shit that went down and music was the bright spot. Last year was one of my favorite years in music in a while so 2018 had a lot to live up to. So as the year comes to a close, the results are in. It was in no way comparable to last year, but thats okay! Because music was still important as it always is.

2018 as a whole will never be comparable to last year. I felt too much in 2018 and in the process I lost a lot of perspective. I had to dig myself out of personal holes so many times. A lot of which I hadn’t felt in years. In a way I’m still trying to overcome some personal struggles but one thing I learned this year is that it could be worse. So I try to remind myself of that. Despite losing perspective at times, I was able to gain it back through meeting new incredible people, through traveling all over the country, through new experiences, and most importantly through music.

I worked harder and put in more miles than I ever had in the past this year all because of a goal that started last January. My friend and I planned a trip to London. I went on that trip last week and it was definitely a trip I won’t soon forget. As much as all the work made it worth it. It was the journey of the year that made it special and so many songs and bands that got me through this weird rollercoaster of a year. So without further delay, here are some of my faves from 2018:

“NUMB” by Hayden James

According to Spotify, this is my top song of the year. Spotify isn’t lying either. It’s now my second most played song on my iTunes. I fell in love with this song during EDC Las Vegas, a festival which ultimately changed the course of the year for me. This song related to my life in all the ways at times, so I kept turning to it. Plus it’s a big fucking mood! I saw Hayden James perform at Electric Forest this year and was able to catch this song during his sets both weekends and during his Weekend 2 DJ set. The bass was so overpowering, but I loved it nonetheless. Now, 7 months later and I’m still choosing to listen to this song. It will forever be associated with this year and all the ups and downs that came with it.

“Safe” by Bay Ledges

This song was released in 2017 but I first heard this song in the spring of 2018 and I became hooked on it. It was a song that I would constantly choose to play whenever I was scrolling through my iTunes in the car or on Spotify. We also kept hearing it on our drives from Joshua Tree to Indio during Coachella this past year. It always puts me in a good mood and creates such a vibe. I was lucky enough to see Bay Ledges play last month and to hear this song live. Even if the song was released in 2017, it still got me through 2018.

Kygo

Kygo was my top Spotify artist this year. It makes sense. After seeing Kygo play at Coachella, one of my favorite sets of the festival, I got really into listening to his music. I eventually created a Kygo Spotify playlist that I’ll occasionally use to work out to. I’ve always been into the tropical house style of electronic music so it was a matter of time before I dove head first into Kygo and all of his tunes that I’ve already been listening to over the past 3 years. I kind of credit the song “Stargzing”, but overall I love almost all of Kygo’s tracks and seeing him live was incredibly fun. This was the year that made it happen for me and the Norwegian DJ.

“Curious” by Hayley Kiyoko

2018 can be defined by the hashtag 20GAYTEEN and that’s all in part to Hayley Kiyoko. She released her first full length album this year and exploded in the music scene. She performed at Coachella, sold out her tour, opened for Panic! At the Disco, performed with Taylor Swift, and won a VMA! It’s been an epic year for Lesbian Jesus. This song was released early in 2018 as a single to promote Hayley’s debut album. It’s been one of my faves ever since. I snuck away during work at Coachella to catch a glimpse of her set Weekend 2, but missed a large portion of it. It wasn’t until I worked a Panic! At the Disco show that I got to see the entirety of her opening set and felt all the proud mom feelings. I saw Hayley play a small venue show in Philly in late 2016 and it’s been pleasure being a fan and seeing her grow so much since then. This year was the icing on the cake for that. So to answer the question, in case you were curious, it is serious that she’s only going up from here.

Arctic Monkeys

2018 was a comeback year for Arctic Monkeys. They released their first album since 2013’s AM, toured worldwide, and played numerous dates on the festival circuit. It was my goal this year to see them play and I did while working their show at Forest Hills Stadium back in July. Although their new album wasn’t the comeback I hoped for, 2018 revitalized my interest in Arctic Monkeys and caused me to listen to their music even more than I did in the past. I found a love in old songs like “Suck It And See” and “I Bet That You Look Good On the Dance Floor”. I also eventually started to enjoy their latest release. It seems like the Monkeys will be riding the 2018 wave into 2019 as well so hopefully they coast back to the states soon.

“Saturday Sun” by Vance Joy

Vance Joy released his sophomore album this year back in February. “Saturday Sun” was a single from that album that was the theme of my Coachella 2018 experience. On our 1 hour drives to and from work every day from Joshua Tree, we listened to Alt Nation on Sirius XM. “Saturday Sun” was in the rotation at the time at it seemed like we heard it ever time we got in Denise’s car. It became our Coachella song. The whole experience culminated on Sunday of Weekend 2 when Vance Joy asked to sit at our table in catering and ate lunch with us. This song will always remind me this year and drives through California with my Day One since Day One Weekend One, Denise.

“Wanderlust” by James Bay

There’s no special story behind this song compared to the others I have on here. It’s just one that I kept going back to once I had it on my iTunes and Spotify playlists. I got into it right before I left for Electric Forest in June and it’s been a staple ever since. It gave me a new opinion on James Bay, whose music I thought was always slower and created romance type vibes. This song was an indie pop/rock dream that I never knew I needed from James Bay this year.

Florence and the Machine

It took me a while to get into the new Florence and the Machine album, but I did just in time to see her live at the Barclays Center in October. Again just like the Arctic Monkeys, High As Hope, the 2018 follow-up to 2015’s How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, was a bit of a disappointment to me initially. In general, it seemed like after a big 2017 of brilliant albums, 2018’s hype wasn’t cutting it for me. New music from 2018 just took a little while to get used to. Once I did I fell for songs like “Hunger” and “Patricia”. Florence reminded me this year when I needed it most that “it’s a wonderful thing to love” and I’m grateful for that.

“Body” by Loud Luxury

“Body” came to me around the same time as “NUMB” at EDC Las Vegas so it makes total sense that it would always play after “NUMB” on my iTunes rotation. I first heard the song on the way to site at EDC via Josh Hurlbert’s music. My friend Erin and I were jamming to it. I didn’t know the name of the song after that, but I needed to find out. So after some detective work, Josh figured out the song I was referring to and told me what it was called on load-out day. It’s been as much of a favorite as “NUMB” since EDC and a great work out track as well. I can’t say I’ve listened to Loud Luxury beyond “Body”, but it’s been a big hit of 2018 all around so I’m sure there will be more great tracks to come from the electronic artists.

Bishop Briggs

Bishop Briggs ended 2017 for me and moved right in 2018. Her debut album came out in May and she was high on my list to see live until I saw her perform at Electric Forest. I will say my interest in Bishop Briggs kind of faded after seeing her perform live, but for the first half of this year I was focused on her debut album and possibly seeing her in the summer. She didn’t disappoint at Forest either. Her performance was full of energy and power that had everyone feeling as bad ass as her by the end of the set. It was a highlight of the festival that seemed to be one of my lowest points of the year. Thankfully, I survived the Forest and went on to have some great festival experiences beyond that.

Runner-Ups

Years & Years

“Happy Man” by Jungle

“Happier” by Marshmello, ft. Bastille

Dashboard Confessional

“Whippin'” by Kiiara

So that’s it! 10 songs and artists that were big for me in 2018 (plus a few runner-ups!). There was another band that I easily could have put on the list but I decided to hold off because 2019 will surely be a big year for them. That band is Vampire Weekend. Their comeback started in 2018 with a few festival appearances, including a special one that I was witness to at Lollapalooza, but they’ve yet to release their much anticipated fourth full length album. There were rumors it would come out in 2018, but that hasn’t happened. So I expect 2019 will be the year for them. They’re already slated to play Firefly in June and I’m sure more dates and festivals are in the works as well. I can’t wait. They’re who I’m most excited about heading in to this new year.

As with any year, there will be plenty of new music and new discoveries for me. I didn’t plan on this year being better than 2017 and it wasn’t honestly as far as music goes. Professionally though, 2018 was my best year yet. When I set out to follow my music industry dreams in 2015 (technically 2016 but it started in 2015), my goal was always to be better, learn more, and grow every year. I’ve done that so far, especially this year. I have no plans to stop any time soon either. I’ve started to reach some goals I’ve had, but I have so much more to do and accomplish. I’m so lucky I get to do what I love. I’m grateful for everyone that’s helped and supported me, everyone I’ve met, and all the experiences I’ve had. I owe it all to music. So hopefully next year is even better because I plan on trying to make it that way and I’m sure I’ll have plenty of new tunes to help me through it all. Be back next week for the Coachella 2019 lineup release!

“All of life is energy vibrating at different frequencies. It has been said, the universe is a uni-verse, one song or vibration that plays throughout existence and gives us life. When we get in tune with that tone, we are in harmony with life. Music is a way we can tap into that power. That is why we feel music with our whole being. It moves us, stimulates our imagination, opens emotions, and can pass language and cultural barriers. It lives on a primal level, one that we can all connect with.”

Palo Santo: Album Review

It’s been 3 years since Years & Years released their debut album Communion. They’re finally back today with their sophomore release Palo Santo. Often, upon listening to an album for the first time, I’m not sure what to say about it. A lot of times it’s because the album needs to grow on me. I just started listening to this new Years & Years album about a half hour ago and I’m already in love though. It’s a gem. I had a similar feeling when I listened to Lorde’s Melodrama for the first time. That album was nominated for a Grammy for album of the year last year so as you can tell, I already have great expectations for this new Years & Years release.

A lot of times the sound on a second record might diverge after creating a solid debut. Palo Santo isn’t that at all. It’s an electropop masterpiece. Olly Alexander’s hypnotizing vocals make each track stand out. The beginning of the album has songs that make you want to get up and dance, while the middle is filled with songs that really create a soulful, electronic vibe. Those tracks almost remind me of something Banks or Bishop Briggs would put out. They just have more of an electronic dance feel than you’d hear from both female powerhouses. Then the album picks up the energy again and finishes with a bang. Honestly, there’s not one song I haven’t liked. It’s that good.

Lyrically, LGBTQ themes come to the forefront. With Communion, those notions were subtle. Palo Santo is the opposite. It’s almost a “coming out” of sorts even though lead singer Alexander is already an out gay man. Between this album and Hayley Kiyoko’s Expectations the LGBTQ community has plenty of music representation this year and honestly both albums are killer without that being a focus. It’s just a plus.

I didn’t plan on leaving my home today, but I might make an exception to go pick up a copy of Palo Santo. It’s one of the best records I’ve heard all year next to Vance Joy’s Nation of Two. I highly recommend it to everyone. Go listen on Spotify or Apple Music! Download a copy! Buy a copy! Just check this shit out. Years & Years have officially made a strong comeback in 2018.