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Coachella Band Preview: Sia

As I say almost every time I post a Coachella Band Preview, the days keep dwindling until the epic festival in the desert. At this point, less than 2 months remain until Coachella Weekend 1. This week I’m actually not previewing any band though. I’m previewing a singer who’s been active since the mid-90’s, but has only received great acclaim in the last 2 years. I’m not sure if you’d be able to recognize her if you saw her out on the streets somewhere due to her somewhat recent decision to not show her face when she performs. You may however know her from her over-sized platinum blonde wigs that cover most of her face. If that rings a bell, then yes it’s Sia and she’ll be performing at Coachella this year for the first time (sort of, but I’ll explain later).

Australian singer-songwriter, Sia Furler, known to the world as Sia, began her singing career shortly after she graduated high school in 1994 as a singer for acid jazz band, Crisp. By 1997 the band broke up and Sia released her debut solo album, OnlySee, but the album didn’t receive much success. Sia then moved to London where she performed as a background singer for the band Jamiroquai and lead vocalist for the band Zero 7. During the time she fronted Zero 7, she released her second and third solo albums entitled Hearing is Difficult (2001) and Colour the Small One (2004), respectively. The single “Breathe Me” off Colour the Small One received commercial success throughout several countries in Europe and even gained Sia some attention in America as the track was featured in the final episode of the HBO series Six Feet Under. By 2005, Sia decided to make the move to America in an effort to further her music career.

Between 2007 and 2010, Sia released three more albums. The first was a live album in 2007, Lady Croissant, which featured songs performed at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City in April 2006 while she was on tour and one studio track, “Pictures”. The following year she released her fourth studio album, Some People Have REAL Problems and in 2010 released her fifth album, We Are Born. Both albums had a few successful singles that were charted in a few European countries and Australia. We Are Born even won the artist two ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Association) Awards in 2010. After touring in North America, Europe, and Australia to promote We Are Born, Sia decided to retire from her career as a recording artist and focus on becoming a pop songwriter. It was at that point that the unexpected happened.

Sia wrote a song for recording artist Alicia Keys. However, the song was sent to French DJ and EDM artist David Guetta. David Guetta ended up using the song with Sia’s original demo vocals without her approval and the song, called “Titanium”, became a worldwide mainstream success. Despite the popularity of the song, Sia wasn’t pleased since she had recently retired and wanted to focus on songwriting. She did co-write songs from 2011-2013 for many artists like Beyonce, Flo Rida, and Rihanna. In a similar situation to the one with David Guetta, Flo Rida used Sia’s vocals on the song “Wild Ones”.

In 2013, Sia came out of retirement, so to speak, and released the single “Elastic Heart” featuring The Weeknd and Diplo as a song on The Hunger Games: Catching Fire soundtrack. In July 2014, she released her sixth album, 1000 Forms of Fear, which she intended to be the last album she needed to release in order to release her from her record deal, but the album became her most successful to date. It debuted in the top spot on the Billboard Top 200 and sold 52,000 copies in the first week. It reached the top ten on numerous European charts and number 1 in Australia. Along with “Elastic Heart”, which she released as a solo version on the album and as a single, the track “Chandelier” received high praise worldwide. Sia even received four Grammy nominations in 2015 for “Chandelier”, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Pop Solo Performance, and Best Music Video. After the Grammys last year, Sia announced she had completed a follow up album to 1000 Forms of Fear because of her success.

Sia’s seventh album This Is Acting was released January 29, 2016. Her first single from the album, “Alive”, which she co-wrote with Adele, debuted prior to the album release in September 2015. In the following months leading up to the album debut, she also released several other singles, “Bird Set Free”, “One Million Bullets”, “Cheap Thrills”, “Reaper”, and “Unstoppable”. I’m not sure if her latest album will achieve the same success as her prior release, but with the quality of the newest album, it may come close.

Sia’s music can be considered pop, indie pop, and electropop, but her vocals incorporate elements of hip-hop, funk, and soul. I feel like her most recent work (1000 Forms of Fear and This Is Acting) exhibits more power in her vocals than in past records as well, especially in the songs “Alive”, “Chandelier”, “Unstoppable”, and “Eye of the Needle”. If you listen to We Are Born the last album before her “retirement”, it has a much more indie pop vibe. Some People Have REAL Problems is more pop with elements of soul included and Colour the Small One is very pop as well. Healing is Difficult has a hip-hop style and almost reminds me of 90’s hip-hop/R&B girl group, TLC. It’s evident that throughout the years of her career Sia’s style has fluctuated, but it seems that she’s finally found her niche with her power pop vocals and pop/indie pop sound.

I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t heard of Sia before she was featured on “Titanium” and released her latest two albums. I definitely heard of her throughout the 00’s, but never listened to her music because it didn’t fit with what I was listening to at the time and also because she wasn’t a “big deal” musically. Even within the last two years, I didn’t listen to her music. It’s only been during the last few weeks or so that I really started getting to know this talented artist. I added the song “Elastic Heart” to my Spotify playlist of recent music finds after seeing it on my favorite soccer player’s monthly music playlist and liking the song after listening to it a few times. It was recent single “Cheap Thrills”, which again was featured on that player’s monthly playlist, that hooked me on Sia though. I just purchased her latest album on Friday and have been listening to it since. It’s good. She’s good. I may just have to purchased 1000 Forms of Fear as well, except, I definitely want it on vinyl.

As I mentioned before, it will sort of be Sia’s first time performing at Coachella this spring. She appeared during David Guetta’s set in 2012 to perform “Titanium”, but has not ever done a solo set at the annual event. Sia’s Coachella appearance will actually be her first live set in five years, so it should attract a huge audience. Not to mention in the last five years Sia’s popularity has sky rocketed. Sia plays Sunday at Coachella. If I had to make a guess, even though set times won’t be released for weeks, I’ll say she probably plays the main stage before Calvin Harris closes out the weekend. You’re most likely not gonna want to miss her performance, so to get you ready:

  1. Chandelier
  2. Elastic Heart
  3. Cheap Thrills
  4. Alive
  5. Breathe Me
  6. Big Girls Cry
  7. Unstoppable
  8. Clap Your Hands
  9. Bird Set Free
  10. Fire Meets Gasoline
  11. Eye of the Needle

 

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19, 21, 25

No the title of this post does not refer to lottery numbers. Nor are they the “lucky numbers” I received on the back of a fortune cookie. If you’re in tune to the music world, no pun intended, you’ll know those numbers are more than just numbers. They’re the album titles of three records made by one of the most popular musical artists in recent time.

Almost five years ago, right before I became a hipster in style and music taste, I bought an album from the local record store. I don’t even remember what album it was. Along with the album though, I received a free compilation CD of newly released music. This wasn’t an unusual occurrence. From time to time, the store gave out these compilation CD’s when you made a music purchase. I would always listen to them to see if I was missing out on any new music. On this particular occasion, there were a few songs that caught my ears, but there was one that really stood out. It was a song called “Rolling in the Deep” by a singer named Adele.

Pop singer/songwriter, Adele Laurie Blue Adkins, from Tottenham, London, England grew up with a strong affinity for music. She attended the BRIT School for Performing Arts & Technology and graduated in 2006 (Jessie J. and Leona Lewis were among her classmates). The same year she was given her first recording contract from XL Recordings after a friend posted her demo on Myspace. By 2008, she released her debut album, 19. It went seven times platinum in the UK and double platinum in America. She received the Grammy Awards for Best New Artist and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance in 2009 for her work on it. Her second album, 21, was released on January 24, 2011. The following year she swept the Grammy’s winning a record-tying six awards including Album of the Year. 21 reached number 1 on the charts in more than 26 countries, has been certified 16 times platinum and is the fourth best selling album of all time in the UK, certified Diamond in the U.S., and has sold over 30 million copies world wide. It’s safe to say 21 surpassed the success of her debut record.

However, for the last four years, Adele has been on hiatus. The only music she released was the song “Skyfall” for the James Bond movie of the same name in 2012. She received a Grammy, an Academy Award, and a Golden Globe for the song. A few weeks ago, on October 23rd, Adele dropped the first single from her third studio album entitled “Hello”. In its debut week, the single sold over one million digital copies. The music video for “Hello” surpassed Taylor Swift’s video for “Bad Blood” by 7 million views on Vevo in the first 24 hours after its release. Finally, today, after almost 5 years, Adele released her new album, 25. If the success of “Hello” is any indication, this album is bound to go far in the music world.

To put it bluntly, Adele is a big fucking deal. The woman has the voice of an angel. Her music is incredibly full of soul and power. It’s been known to make entire civilizations weep. Between her singing, the music, and the lyrics, the whole message she sends with her songs can deeply touch the toughest of souls. It’s truly beautiful. She is one of the greatest singers of this generation.

When I first heard her single “Rolling in the Deep”, I had no idea who Adele was. I just liked her song. I even purchased 21 a few months later because of that sole reason (and I guess because I thought she was a good singer). At the time I was a senior in college on the verge of graduation and since high school, I was a self-proclaimed pop music hater. I guess Adele sort of changed that, but if you ask me I don’t think she creates and sings the same kind of pop music that singers like, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, or Lady Gaga do. It’s a different kind of pop music. It’s not something you really rock out to on the radio or dance to in a club, but more so music you sing along to at the top of your lungs on a long drive (or listen to in your bed with a tub of ice cream, box of chocolate, and tissues after a bad day), which is kind of how my love grew for Adele in the first place.

I purchased 21 right around the time of my college graduation. Three weeks after I graduated I went on vacation with my mother and our very close family friends. It took six hours to reach our destination and the whole trip I alternated between listening to 21 and Foster the People’s Torches. That’s when I truly fell in love with Adele. When we were about 15-20 minutes from our hotel, I blasted “Rolling in the Deep” and “Rumor Has It” on repeat partly because I loved those songs and partly because they were upbeat, it was around midnight, and I was trying not to fall asleep. For those reasons, 21 (and Torches) will always remind me of that trip.

As for 25, I picked up my copy earlier today. Like the rest of the world, I’ve been anticipating it for weeks. I’ve actually been listening to it on my boombox (cause yes I still buy CD’s) on repeat while I wrote this entire blog. I can’t say I have any complaints either. Much like Adele’s singing, the album is flawless. The message in 25 is much different than her previous works though. 19 and 21 were break-up albums, full of angsty, heart-breaking tunes. Just like a lot of us out there, Adele was once an emo kid and now she’s in her 20’s, she has child, and she’s done some maturing since her last album. 25 is about growing up. Being in the same generation as Adele, this album is so relate-able. When you’re in your 20’s, you’re caught between youth and adulthood, and that’s really the whole theme of the album. The songs are filled with nostalgia. “Hello” is a heartbreak apology. “When We Were Young”, “I Miss You”, and “Remedy” reminisce an old love. “Water Under the Bridge”, “Love in the Dark”, “All I Ask”, and “Sweetest Devotion” show maturity and understanding of what being in an adult relationship is about, and “Million Years Ago” is a reminder of youth. As much as I love all of Adele’s music, my favorites are the more upbeat songs. One of my favorites on the new album, “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)”, has this pop/folk feel to it, and I fell in love the first time I heard it. The same is true for “River Lea”. It’s an upbeat track full of memories. Target also released an exclusive version of the album containing three extra tracks, “Can’t Let Go”, “Lay Me Down”, and “Why Do You Love Me?”. Since I didn’t buy the album from Target, I’ve yet to hear these songs. Don’t worry though, I plan on hearing them and loving them soon enough.

In reference to the string of numbers for album titles, each title obviously reflects the singer’s age when she wrote the music. It’s a pretty clever way of categorizing your work, if you ask me. 19 launched Adele’s career and who knows if she will ever release an album as successful as 21. I’m sure 25 is on its way to put up a good fight and earn Adele a few more accolades in the process. If you don’t feel like missing out on this completely relate-able musical journey of Adele’s life, I would recommend listening to her music and buying/downloading a copy of 25. To get you started though, here are some other songs to check out:

  1. “Rolling in the Deep”
  2. “Rumor Has It”
  3. “Someone Like You”
  4. “Set Fire to Rain”
  5. “Chasing Pavements”
  6. “Hiding My Heart”
  7. “Hometown Glory”
  8. “Make You Feel My Love”

 

Coachella Band Preview: Alabama Shakes

Too hyped that Coachella is only 3 weeks away? Me too. I’ve been listening to music, planning what to pack, and figuring out some other things I need for my arrival in beautiful Southern California. It’s about to get so real. In the meantime though, I’ve decided to blog about a band from the south playing the festival this year for their first time, Alabama Shakes.

Alabama Shakes was formed in 2009 when lead singer/guitarist Brittany Howard and bassist Zac Cockrell began writing songs while still in high school together in Athens, Alabama. They recruited drummer Steve Johnson to join the group  prior to recording some of the tracks they had been working on. Later, guitarist Heath Fogg came on board and so began their life as Alabama Shakes. They were formerly just called The Shakes but added the “Alabama” to differentiate from other bands also known as The Shakes. Their first album Boys & Girls was released in April of 2012, but they started gaining attention prior to that due to the release of a four song EP in September 2011. The band received Grammy nominations for “Best New Artist” and “Best Rock Performance” the following year for their work on the debut album.

I first heard of Alabama Shakes in the spring of 2012 shortly after the release of Boys & Girls. I heard the single “Hold On” and really enjoyed it. Then I remember reading about the group/album thinking, “these guys are gonna be like Foster the People was last year. I need to get into them before everyone else finds out about how good they are. (I like to say I knew about bands “first”.)” So I went out and bought the album. I told all my friends to listen to them. I saw they were touring and selling out shows after a solid performance at SXSW (South by Southwest) that year. However, what I thought would happen didn’t really happen as I expected. Alabama Shakes did end up receiving those Grammy nominations that were predicted when I first heard about them, but I still think Foster the People blew up more.

The band plays a blues, soulful type of rock known as roots rock, which is a combination of folk, blues, and country rock. They could also be classified in the Americana genre. Now that I think about it, it makes total sense why I got into Alabama Shakes in spring 2012. It was also at that point that my interest in The Black Keys started to peak. I purchased El Camino probably a month before I got Boys & Girls. Although I wouldn’t classify their styles and sounds as being the same, both Alabama Shakes and The Black Keys have some similarity with the blues rock sound they produce. Alabama Shakes definitely has more soul and a country-ish feel to their music though. I guess I kind of progressed to Alabama Shakes after listening to The Black Keys.

Like some other bands/artists playing Coachella this year, Alabama Shakes also have a new album due out soon after the festival (the week after Weekend 2 to be exact). The sophomore album is called Sound & Color and the group has already released two singles from it, “Gimme All Your Love” and “Don’t Wanna Fight”, but I doubt those will be the only new tracks the band plays in Indio. This year Alabama Shakes joins Coachella for the first time in a minor headlining role. They play Friday on both weekends. There’s not that many bands I have on my must-see list for Friday, but Alabama Shakes is one of them. I remember wanting to see them in 2012, but not having anyone to go with (at that point I wasn’t too keen on going places by myself). So now I can finally fulfill those wishes.

Song recommendations:

1. Hold On

2.Don’t Wanna Fight

3. Hang Loose

4. Always Alright

5. You Ain’t Alone

6. Be Mine

7. I Found You