synthpop music

Coachella Band Preview: Tove Lo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Advertisements

Coachella Band Preview: Empire of the Sun

The first weekend of Coachella is 3 weeks away. Yes three weeks is what separates us from the hot sunny Indio Desert, the greens of the Empire Polo Fields swarming with festival-goers, palm trees swaying to the cool breeze and rad tunes, epic sunsets over the mountains, and the sweet sounds of music from incredible artists entering our ears. I only have a few band previews left before the annual festival begins and time is of the essence so I better get to it.

Empire of the Sun is an electronic/alternative rock band from Sydney, Australia. The band formed in 2007 as a collaboration between Luke Steele and Nick Littlemore. Both had worked together on music for each other’s bands before forming Empire of the Sun. Those bands each performed different styles of music. Steele brought the alternative rock genre to their new band and Littlemore brought the electronic dance music. Their first album, Walking on a Dream, was released in 2008 with the first single of the same name debuting about a month before the album’s release. Both the single and album were charted in the top ten of the ARIA charts. Although their only intention was to create a studio album, they decided to do live performances in response to the album’s success. However the live shows did not include Littlemore, who decided to opt out of touring early on. By the end of 2009, the band received 7 ARIA Awards for the album including Album of the Year.

2010 was the year the band embarked on the festival circuit playing Glastonbury and Lollapalooza for the first time and by the end of the year Littlemore and Steele discussed creating a new album for the band. Production on the album began in 2011 and Littlemore stated he would go out and tour in support of this one. 2011 also involved a North American tour for the band, which included a stop at Coachella.

The duo released their second album, Ice on the Dune, in June 2013. The new album brought more touring throughout 2013 and into 2014. The band made their second stop at Coachella in 2014 and headlined the Sahara Tent. Their music was also featured in the film Dumb and Dumber To, which came out in late 2014.

The band continued to tour into 2015 while simultaneously working on their third album. Their third and latest album was just released this past October. 2016 also marked the first time that the band broke on to the Billboard charts. It was their 2008 hit “Walking on a Dream” that earned the band the number 3 spot on the Alternative Music charts after it was used in a U.S. Honda commercial in early 2016.

Their music, as I said, is a combination of alternative rock and electronic music. It can’t be described much better than that, although some may say the band fits genres like synthpop or glam rock. I feel like their sound has stayed consistent over the course of three albums so if you love the song “Walking on a Dream” or only know music from that album, you’re bound to dig some of their more recent stuff.

I discovered Empire of the Sun in 2011. There’s no significant story of how so I’m guessing it was through a recommendation from Youtube or Pandora because I listened to similar music on either channel. Of course the first song I heard was “Walking on a Dream”. Throughout the past few years I’ve heard their other stuff here and there and I’ve liked it. I’ve also heard the song “Walking on a Dream” multiple times in various circumstances throughout the same time period. It’s no surprise it’s their biggest hit. I never got into them as a band though. Nor have I been dying to see them live, but I’ll tell you why I would definitely check them out at Coachella.

Music festivals give you an opportunity to see bands live who you might like but not like enough to buy a ticket for a touring show making Coachella the perfect time for someone like me to check them out. Empire of the Sun does some pretty cool live performances too. The performances are as much of a visual art as they are a musical art. They wear elaborate costumes, have dancers or other performers, and display mesmerizing visuals often seen as part of electronic shows. They play Friday at Coachella. They’ve already headlined the Sahara Tent at the festival once before so that might happen again. As long as their set doesn’t overlap with some other great performers, it’ll definitely be a spectacle worth seeing. Here’s a few songs to know if you go:

  1. Walking on a Dream
  2. Alive
  3. High and Low
  4. We Are the People
  5. Standing on the Shore
  6. DNA
  7. Two Vines
  8. Concert Pitch
  9. To Her Door
  10. Friends

 

Trying to Find the In-Betweens

There’s many reasons I can give you about why music is special. It can make us feel a range of emotions, bring back memories, or create new ones. It can bring people together or tear them apart. It’s a powerful art form. Another reason why music is special is that it’s always there and that it keeps coming back. Some songs never get old, but bands and artists are constantly creating new ones. One cool thing about this is when you don’t hear about a band or an artist for a few years and suddenly they come out of the woodwork again with a new single and a new album on the way. Sometimes the album drops as quick as Beyonce’s self-titled, but many times fans have to wait a few weeks or months for the new record. I experienced this phenomenon recently with a band who I’ve liked since 2011. They’ve released two albums thus far and have a third set to debut in October. Their new single “Higher” came out on July 7th setting the stage for the latest album, Simple Forms. They’re called The Naked and Famous.

The Naked and Famous are an indie electronic band from Auckland, New Zealand. They formed in 2007 while band members Thom Powers (vocals, guitar), Alisa Xayalith (vocals, keyboard), and Aaron Short (vocals, keyboard) were in college and worked on two EPs together. In 2009 David Beadle (bass) and Jesse Wood (drums) joined the group. Their name comes from a line in the song “Tricky Kid” by English musician Tricky. The band released their debut album Passive Me, Aggressive You on September 6, 2010 under their own label. Their debut single from the album, “Young Blood”, which was released a few months prior, debuted on the New Zealand music charts at number one. It even peaked at the number 12 spot on the U.S. Top Alternative Albums Chart. The album earned them six nominations for the New Zealand Music Awards.

In 2012, after completing touring for their first album, The Naked and Famous relocated to Los Angeles, CA. They began working on their second album with the intention of creating an album that could be played live in its entirety without relying on backing tracks. The second album, In Rolling Waves, was released on September 16, 2013 with the first single “Hearts Like Ours” debuting on July 23, 2013. Since touring in support of their second album, the group has been silent for the last year and a half until the release of the single  “Higher” a few weeks ago. With a brand new album, Simple Forms, on the horizon, The Naked and Famous will be back in the music world once again.

Their music style is primarily indie electronic, but you could also say they’re indie rock, electronic rock, or even indie pop/synthpop. While their first album has a more electronic feel, their second is more rock. It shows the progression they made by creating an album that could be played entirely live. If “Higher” is any indication of what their third album will be like, it seems like they’ve transitioned their old sound with modern electronic music. The new single even has a hint of tropical house mixed in.

I first heard The Naked and Famous in the summer of 2011. “Young Blood” as well as two other songs off their first two EP’s “Serenade” and “Bells” were what I downloaded at the time. It was “Young Blood” that hooked me though. I bought the debut album in the coming weeks after downloading those songs and took a liking to several others on the record. Two years later as I booked my first trip to California in September I saw the band was playing a show in San Diego the night of the day of my arrival. At the time, it was over a year since I saw any live music performance (sad, I know) and I thought it would be cool to make a concert part of my first trip to the Golden State. I asked my cousin if she’d be up for it and she agreed to go with me.

My trip happened shortly after the release of the second album so I purchased it and listened to it non-stop before my departure. On the night of the show, I was running on about 3-4 hours of sleep and had been up for almost 24 hours straight due to my traveling earlier in the day. My cousin and I arrived at the House of Blues in San Diego right before The Naked and Famous came on (my cousin made a late dinner and had to clean up first). It was a great performance despite being interrupted twice for technical difficulties. By the end of the show I was so exhausted. I ended up being awake for about 25-26 hours that day between traveling and time zone switching. Seeing that show in California revived my love for the song “Young Blood”. After hearing the song live, my cousin decided she liked it and we played it a few times throughout my trip. That song and The Naked and Famous will always be a reminder of my first trip to California, which was incredible in so many other ways as well. I guess in that way The Naked and Famous demonstrates more than just one reason why music is special.

Here are some recommendations to get you ready for the new album due out October 14th:

  1. Young Blood
  2. Punching in a Dream
  3. All of This
  4. Serenade
  5. Bells
  6. Girls Like You
  7. Hearts Like Ours
  8. Rolling Waves
  9. No Way
  10. I Kill Giants
  11. Higher (The New Single!!)

 

Coachella Band Preview: BØRNS

I’m not sure if you knew or not but, COACHELLA BEGINS ON FRIDAY! For those of you camping, it begins Thursday night, but the festival officially begins on Friday. Since Friday is only a mere 3 days from now, this will be the final band preview for Coachella 2016 (I do have an extra special Coachella post for tomorrow planned though). Over the past 3 months, I’ve previewed all of my favorite acts performing this year and now it’s getting down to the wire. There was a handful of bands to choose from that I wanted to write about for this final preview so I figured I’d choose one whose music style is more so my cup of tea, meaning not another EDM artist.

Garrett Borns, better known to the world as BØRNS, is a indie pop/alternative rock artist from Grand Haven, Michigan. His debut single, “10,000 Emerald Pools”, was released a little more than a year ago on November 10, 2014. His EP Candy was also released the same day. After the EP release, BØRNS played multiple TV appearances and festivals to promote his EP. He joined the likes of MisterWives last spring and Charli XCX and Bleachers last summer on tour. BØRNS debut album, Dopamine, was released on October 16, 2015. The album peaked at the 24th spot on the Billboard Top 200 in the U.S.

BØRNS plays an indie pop/alternative rock style of music. His music also has elements of synth and can be considered synthpop. There’s even a hippie-like sound to a few of his songs too. His high pitched vocals are smooth. At times they even remind me of Justin Timberlake’s sound, except better because his music has a much more indie sound.

I first heard of BØRNS over the summer at some point. I’m not exactly sure if I heard him first on the local alternative radio station or on my friends Spotify playlist. The song “Electric Love” was the first song I heard though. Since the summer, I’ve heard the song many more times as well as several other BØRNS songs that I like just as much and have recently been getting into.

BØRNS 2016 Coachella appearance will be his first. He did play other major festivals like Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits last year, but Coachella goes beyond other festivals in my opinion. He’ll be kicking off the festival with a Friday set. As I’m writing this post, I’m listening to BØRNS and I can picture hearing this song while a cool breeze blows and the palm trees and bohemian hipsters are swaying. It should be a great set to attend to start off the weekend. With the limited amount of time, here’s some songs you need to have on repeat over the next three days:

  1. 10,000 Emerald Pools
  2. Electric Love
  3. American Money
  4. Seeing Stars
  5. Past Lives
  6. The Emotion
  7. Fool

Coachella Band Preview: CHVRCHES

Coachella 2016 is a little over a month away! If you haven’t started your music prep already, your time is running down. If you have been listening to plenty of bands in preparation for this year’s festival, you may want to check this next one out.

CHVRCHES (pronounced “churches”), formed in 2011, is a Scottish indie electronic band. They decided to spell their name using a “v” instead of a “u” to avoid confusion with real churches on internet searches. The group, who hails from Glasgow, is made up of three members, Lauren Mayberry (vocals, synth, samplers), Iain Cook (synth, guitar, bass, vocals), and Martin Doherty (synth, samplers, vocals). The group began recording together in a basement studio in Glasgow. They released their first songs in 2012. “Lies” was available as an exclusive free download on a blog by label Neon Gold in May 2012, and “The Mother We Share” was released as their first single in November of the same year. They released their first EP, Recover EP, in March 2013. That spring they performed at SXSW and won the Grulke Prize for Developing Non-U.S. Act. Their debut album, The Bones of What You Believe, came out September 20, 2013. In early 2015 the group began working on their second album. Like the first album, they wrote, produced, and recorded it themselves in a basement owned by Cook. The album, Every Open Eye, was released on September 25, 2015.

As an electronic band, their music is filled with synth and samplers and can be considered synthpop, electronic, or indie electronic. Mayberry’s vocals often highlight each track as well. Their sound and vocals actually create the perfect blend of current indie music to electronic, which sets them apart from many other indie bands.

I first heard of the band in 2013. Usually I have a pretty good story about how I got into a band or where I first heard them, but with CHVRCHES, I don’t. I downloaded their song “Lungs” about a day or two after I returned from California in October 2013. I probably found and heard the song while searching for new music. Then this past year I think I heard a new song or two on Spotify. I added “Clearest Blue” to a workout playlist near the debut of their second album. After realizing that I liked a few CHVRCHES songs, I went out and bought Every Open Eye. Although this story is underwhelming, this band isn’t. Their music is good. They’re a good band and if I were attending Coachella, I’d want to see them. It’s as simple as that.

CHVRCHES play Saturday at Coachella. This will be the band’s second appearance in Indio. They last played in 2014. I definitely recommend checking them out. With only two albums out currently, I’m sure their set will feature a mix of favorites from both. Here’s a few songs from both albums to get you ready:

  1. Lungs
  2. The Mother We Share
  3. Recover
  4. Lies
  5. Clearest Blue
  6. Leave A Trace
  7. Never Ending Circles
  8. We Sink
  9. Gun
  10. Empty Threat

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