purity ring

Phantogram

Wanna hear something crazy? There have been a number of bands I’ve liked whose albums I don’t own, but I have two albums by a band whose albums I normally wouldn’t go out of my way to purchase. Reason: Black Friday. Over the last 3-4 years or so, I’ve shopped for music on Black Friday because CDs are often reduced in price. Once I got Of Monsters & Men’s My Head is An Animal for $6. Then a year later I purchased 6 CDs for $7 each. It’s one of the best days to get CDs assuming they have what you want or have what you’re interested in.

This year the CDs I wanted were $8 a piece so I purchased three…or so I thought. Apparently instead of a CD, I purchased one of the albums on vinyl for $8 that included a free MP3 download of it. Can you say winning?! I mean that was mistakenly epic. It’s rare to get a new LP for under $10. Hell it’s rare to get one for under $15. I was stoked (in case you were wondering what it was, Cleopatra by The Lumineers). Then I realized something from my purchases. One of the CDs I purchased just didn’t feel like something I would buy if I didn’t have that $8 deal. Not only that, but I purchased an earlier album from the same band 2 years ago on a Black Friday deal. Crazy. I guess I like Phantogram more than I thought.

Phantogram is comprised of Greenwich, New York duo Josh Carter and Sarah Barthel. They formed the band in 2007 originally under the name Charlie Everywhere. They opted for a name change once they signed a record deal in 2009 claiming that they liked Phantogram better. It also suited their band more since it means a two dimensional optical illusion that appears as three dimensions (2 band members = 2 dimensions creating a third (music) which is something bigger than themselves…you get the picture). They released their debut self-titled EP a few months after signing their record deal. They followed it up with another EP later that year. Their first album, Eyelid Movies, was released on February 9, 2010 receiving favorable reviews from many sources. Their second album, Voices, was released in early 2014. They released two EP’s between their first and second albums.

They spent their time between albums touring in the U.S. and in Europe. They also played several major music festivals in addition to their touring schedule including Coachella in 2011 and Bonnaroo and Governor’s Ball in 2012 (They haven’t played Coachella since so could be a lock for Coachella 2017). Following the release of Voices the band continued to tour and play festivals throughout 2014 including Firefly, Lollapalooza, Osheaga, and Austin City Limits. They recently released their third album coincidentally (or not coincidentally at all) called Three on October 7, 2016. They’re currently touring the U.S. in support of their newest album.

In terms of music style, Phantogram has been compared to the likes of Purity Ring, Sleigh Bells, The Naked & Famous, Washed Out, STRFKR, Tennis, and Local Natives. Their music falls under the indie electronica, electro rock, dream pop genres. To give you my best description, it’s like taking an electronic trip. The vocals are soft and flowy, but not enough to leave you too far gone. Phantogram’s tunes have been featured in a variety of outlets too from television to film to video games all of different themes.

I discovered Phantogram in September 2014. It was probably a random place or playlist that I heard their song “Celebrating Nothing”. I downloaded it though and listened to it along with other recently added songs. It was a good song, but never stood out from the rest. Regardless of that, I bought the album on Black Friday because $7 for Voices was a good deal. I probably thought the album was worth a listen too. I remember listening to each album I bought that year for about a week because it was/is tough to listen to 6 albums at once. Again this year I downloaded one song off Phantogram’s newest album a few months prior and decided to buy their album for cheap on Black Friday.

When I started this blog I had yet to listen to the album which came in the mail the other day, but I stopped to take a break while writing this. I also ate lunch and ran a few errands. While I was running errands I put the new album in my car’s CD player. It’s good. To me it’s similar to the second album because their music doesn’t sound drastically different. However, I’m not sure I paid attention to the second album enough to compare it. Voices was a background album for me meaning it’s the type of album that sounds good as background music on a drive, while hanging out with friends, etc. With that type of album though, no song stands out enough to set it apart from the rest. So far Three feels the same way. I haven’t listened to it enough yet to be one hundred percent sure. I’ve actually only listened to about half the album. Maybe in a few days I can do an edit and get back to you on that.

If you’re sensing  theme here about Phantogram you’re probably right. In my opinion, they’re good. That’s it. I’m probably downplaying them, but to me that’s all they are. They’re a little above average, but nothing spectacular. Most of the time I hype up the bands I write about. I can’t with these guys so here’s my honest opinion: They’re good, just good, but I still think they’re worth a listen. Some of you may like them more than others and some of you may really really like them. Some of you may listen to them once and decide you probably won’t listen to them again. Maybe some of you will even agree they’re good background music and buy their albums for cheap next Black Friday (if possible) like me. Here’s a couple of the songs I like by them (even if the list is small because like I said nothing stands out to me):

  1. Celebrating Nothing
  2. Cruel World
  3. Howling at the Moon
  4. Don’t Move
  5. You Don’t Get Me High Anymore

 

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2016 Coachella Valley Arts and Music Festival Lineup Release

A yearly ritual right after the New Year begins for music fans is the release of the Coachella Valley Arts and Music Festival lineup. Last year I paid more attention to it than ever because, as you all know, I attended the festival last April. Again, I can’t adequately express how great of an experience Coachella is, and this is from someone who didn’t even camp out. My soul felt totally at home while listening to live music and soaking up the sun and chill vibes in the desert for 3 days last year. It’s something you have to experience to understand. Since I previewed the bands at the festival last year in the hype leading up to the main event, and the response went well, I plan on doing the same thing this year even though it might not have the same meaning for me (Yeah, I’m not attending Coachella 2016 and I’m a little bummed about it). Before looking in depth at each band, I have to give an overview of all the acts. Since the lineup was released around 9:45 p.m. ET last evening, I can finally talk about them. First up, the headliners.

The Headliners: LCD Soundsystem, Guns N’ Roses, Calvin Harris

In the days leading up to the lineup release, I actually found out that LCD Soundsystem and Guns N’ Roses would be headlining. Safe to say I anticipated a great lineup this year and I was a little jealous (mostly because of LCD Soundsystem). 80’s rock band, Guns N’ Roses, are reuniting for the first time in 20 years for this upcoming Coachella performance. They’re the old school rock band performer this year, similar to AC/DC at last year’s event. The Saturday night set should be an epic rock n’ roll event for all who attend. Another band reuniting for Coachella 2016 is LCD Soundsystem. The band, who announced their split in 2011 and played their “final show ever” at Madison Square Garden that same year, is getting back together to play Coachella for the third time. They headline on Friday night. Lastly, Scottish DJ, EDM artist, and current boyfriend of Taylor Swift, Calvin Harris is set to close out the festival on Sunday evening. As a Coachella veteran and this year’s headlining EDM act, the Calvin Harris set should be the biggest of the festival. His set in 2014 was the second largest ever in festival history. As I learned last year, EDM is a huge deal at Coachella (I mean that Kaskade set though) so you can count on Calvin Harris’s as being one for the ages.

The Other Highly Billed Performers (aka the next two lines on each day of the poster): Ellie Goulding, Sufjan Stevens, Jack Ü, M83, Underworld, The Kills, Foals, Ice Cube, Disclosure, Zedd, A$AP Rocky, CHVRCHES, Halsey, James Bay, Sia, Major Lazer, Flume, Beach House, The 1975, Rancid, Miike Snow, Of Monsters and Men, G-Eazy, Purity Ring, Rae Sremmurd, Volbeat, 2manysdjs, Lord Huron, St. Germain, Savages, Grimes, Courtney Barnett, Run the Jewels, The Arcs, RL Grime, Gary Clark Jr., Silversun Pickups, Lush, ZHU, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Matt and Kim, Chris Stapleton, Cold War Kids, Death Grips, The Chainsmokers.

Like always, the Coachella lineup consists of a variety of music styles. There’s plenty of pop, rock, indie, alternative, and electronic in this year’s group of top acts along with a mix of a few other genres as well. Ice Cube, A$AP Rocky, Death Grips, and G-Eazy make up the rap contingency, especially without a main Rap/R&B headliner this year. James Bay, Sia, Halsey, and Ellie Goulding make up the pop acts. Sufjan Stevens and Lord Huron hold the crown for indie performers this year. Then there’s indie/rock/alternative bands like CHVRCHES, Grimes, Foals, M83, The 1975, The Kills, Of Monsters & Men, Silversun Pickups, Purity Ring, Beach House, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Matt and Kim and Cold War Kids and the ever popular electronic/dance/house music with Jack Ü, Disclosure, Zedd, Miike Snow, ZHU,  RL Grime, Major Lazer, The Chainsmokers. There’s even some old school punk in the mix with Rancid.

If I was attending this year, I’d definitely want to hit up the Matt and Kim set the most. I’ve wanted to see them play for the last couple years and I passed up on the opportunity last summer. I’d also love to see CHVRCHES, M83, The 1975, Of Monsters & Men, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Cold War Kids, Halsey, Sufjan Stevens, and Major Lazer. Since I wanted to see the 1975 and Cold War Kids within the last few months, it would be cool to finally see these guys in the desert. I hyped Halsey a few months ago as being one of the hottest new up and coming performers so her set is bound to be a great one. CHVRCHES is a band I recently got more into and really enjoy, especially their latest album. I feel like M83, Of Monsters & Men, Sufjan Stevens, and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros have been quiet for a while and I’ve liked all three groups for a few years now so they’ll be worth a listen. Then there’s electronic band, Major Lazer, who recently became more well-known with their song “Lean On”. If there was time I’d also love to check out Sia, Ellie Goulding, Beach House, James Bay, The Chainsmokers, Silversun Pickups, Rancid, Grimes, and Foals. I think Sia’s performance is going to be as huge as the three main headliners. It’ll be worth it to check out her set. Rancid is such a legendary punk band too that it would be hard to pass up an opportunity to see them. The other artists I mentioned would be fun to check out as well even though I may not be as familiar with their music as the acts I first listed. In all, this group definitely makes a great selection of top-billed talent worth seeing this year.

The Rest: The Last Shadow Puppets, Joey Bada$$, DJ Mustard, BØRNS, Christine and the Queens, Snakehips, Robert DeLong, Bob Moses, Ibeyi, Marco Carola, Parov Stelar, Black Coffee, Years & Years, Nicole Moudaber & Skin, Lido, HEALTH, Mavis Staples, Sasha, Goldroom, Carla Morrison, Nic Fanciulli, The Front Bottoms, Skepta, Sam Feldt, Lemaitre, Louis the Child, Frances, George FitzGerald, DJ EZ, Gallant, HÆLOS, Låpsley, Miami Horror, SG Lewis, Sheer Mag, Mbongwana Star, Nina Las Vegas, Nora En Pure, Masha, Deerhunter, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Rhye, Bat for Lashes, The Damned, Vince Staples, Tchami, Nina Kraviz, Snails, RÜFÜS DU SOL, Lost Frequencies, Chronixx, Vanic, Justin Martin, AlunaGeorge, Mano Le Tough, Shamir, DJ Koze, BADBADNOTGOOD, Moon Taxi, SZA, Ex Hex, Mr. Carmack, SOPHIE, Protoje, Alvvays, Zella Day, Dubfire, Matthew Dear, DMA’s, Matoma, Algiers, GoGo Penguins, The Black Madonna, Cloves, Strangers You Know, Amine Edge & DANCE, Phases, The Dead Ships, Maceo Plex, Baauer, KSHMR, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, Adam Beyer & Ida Engberg, Wolf Alice, Pete Yorn, Hudson Mohawke, Kamasi Washington, Claptone, TOKiMONSTA, Melody’s Echo Chamber, Autolux, John Digweed, Thomas Jack, Anderson .Paak, Nosaj Thing, Deafheaven, Epik High, Tensnake, Alessia Cara, Crystal Fighters, The Vandals, Joywave, PRAYERS, Young Fathers, The Heavy, Tei Shi, Meg Myers, Soul Clap, Cassy, De Lux, Girlpool, Fur Coat, AC Slater

Out of the rest of the acts performing this year, only a few stand out to me. This might be bad news for me as a self-proclaimed music expert since I’ve only heard of a few of these bands. Guess I need to step up my game and learn about these bands. The few that do stand out though are BØRNS, Years & Years, Matoma, and Joywave. Over the summer I wrote about Years & Years and the release of their debut album. After selling out their fall tour, they’ll be supporting Ellie Goulding on her upcoming tour this spring, which I guess, from the looks of it, also includes a stop in the Coachella Valley for both in April. I’ve listened to BØRNS and Joywave a few times on Spotify and I’ve always enjoyed what I heard.

Lastly, I need to mention Matoma strictly for my jam of last spring, “Old Thing Back (Matoma remix)”. In fact, I used to listen to this song on repeat in my lead up to leaving for Coachella. Pretty sure I even played it for my cousin during our 2-3 hour drive to Palm Desert the day we arrived in So Cal. It sets the mood for some good vibes despite the explicit lyrics. Of course, the song was originally released as a song on The Notorious B.I.G.’s Greatest Hits Compilation in 2007. It was one of two songs unreleased previously. In late 2014-early 2015 the song regained popularity when it was released as a remix by Norwegian DJ Matoma. It’s kind of ironic that I’m writing this small bit about “Old Thing Back” today since a few days ago the song popped in my head when I realized I hadn’t listened to it in a while. Now I’m sitting here listening to it again on repeat. Matoma, you’re playing a year too late for me, but I’m sure festival-goers will be dancing their hearts out to the “Old Thing Back” remix in April.

After last year, I thought the lineup would make me super jealous that I wasn’t attending this year. It always seems like there’s a strong lineup every other year according to my tastes. 2014 was unreal in my mind and after 2015’s decent lineup, I thought 2016 would blow me away, especially after I heard LCD Soundsystem was reuniting to headline. To be honest though, it didn’t. I find it comparable to last year in a lot of regards. That means next year might be incredible. I should probably start saving up now since I vowed that the next time I go, I’m getting VIP tickets. I guess we’ll see what happens, but 2016 will no doubt be memorable for all attending despite opinions, whether good or bad, on the lineup. It was for me anyway.