the xx

2017: The Best Year in Music Recap

Last year around New Year’s, I wrote about how music saved 2016. It was a pretty shitty year for the country and in the grand scheme of things. Although people would say 2017 might not have been the best for some similar reasons, I would have to argue. 2017 was a great year. Personally, I worked more events than last year, worked new festivals including my all-time favorite, Coachella, had the opportunity to work a few different roles, saw tons of incredible live music, made new friends, got closer to friends I already had, and figured out what my ultimate goal is. Overall yes there were several bad and upsetting events that happened especially in America. There were even a few hiccups in my own life. However, despite the bad, there were plenty of instances of hope. As for music, as much as I thought it was the best part of 2016, it doesn’t hold a candle to this past year.

So many artists released new albums this year. I mean I guess that’s pretty standard for every year but this year was special for me. It was all of my favorites (minus Florence and the Machine) putting out new albums. I also discovered so many more great bands thanks to the incredible people I met and grew closer to this year.

I could do a detailed recap of all the music I loved from this year, but I wrote about it so many times so I’ll give you all the links in a ranking of my favorite albums of 2017.

My 2017 Top 10 Favorite New Albums

10. Zombies on Broadway   -Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness

The follow-up to Andrew McMahon’s debut had a handful of hits. I never reviewed this album and I’m so sorry because it was a good one, making it #10 on my list.

9. Something to Tell You   -Haim

Although Something to Tell You wasn’t quite what Days Are Gone was for me, I was super stoked to hear some new music from the Haim sisters. The new album had a few great jams like “Little of Your Love” and “Want You Back” which helped it earn my #9 spot.

8. Lust For Life   -Lana Del Rey

As advertised, Lust for Life was an album for the fans. In my opinion it wasn’t Lana’s best nor her worst. “Coachella – Woodstock on My Mind” and “Beautiful People, Beautiful Problems” featuring Stevie Nicks were two of my favorites, but it wasn’t quite what I was hoping for by one of my favorite artists, putting Lana at #8.

7. Woodstock   -Portugal. The Man

I owe the love of this album to our self-planned Hipster Day in NYC when we went to Brooklyn, checked out cool street art, and spent time in a record store where I purchased the album on vinyl. Who would have thought 2017 would have re-introduced me to Portugal. The Man? After a banger like “Feel It Still” it, it happened though. I never reviewed this album or this band on my blog yet, but don’t worry it’s coming soon. My recent hype and appreciation for Portugal. The Man’s hit album helped it reach the #7 spot on my list.

6. American Dream   -LCD Soundsystem

American Dream was the highly anticipated comeback album from LCD Soundsystem. It might not be Sound of Silver, but it’s got plenty of great tracks that will be played at LCD’s show until they decide to break up for good this time.

5. A Moment Apart   -Odesza

Odesza was a new discovery for me this year. When this album was released, I had never listened to them so I wasn’t anticipating the release nor planning an album review (I linked my general blog post from a few weeks ago instead). It took a special trip that included an Odesza concert to force me to listen to the album, but it was definitely worth it as it comes in as my #5.

4. Ultralife   -Oh Wonder

2017 became the year that I really fell for Oh Wonder. I owe it to Coachella, Denise, and a shitty work schedule, yet I’m so grateful it worked out that way. Their new album picked up where their self-titled debut album left off and added a few new hits to their repertoire making Ultralife my #4 top album this year.

3. GALLERY   -A R I Z O N A

After discovering A R I Z O N A last year, listening to almost every new single they released, and loving each and every one, their debut album had to be high on my list. The album is basically a compilation of each single plus a few new tracks. I don’t even own the album, but I’ve spent a lot of time listening to their songs. Again, I linked up my general blog post from this year about the band.

2. Melodrama   -Lorde

If I wasn’t biased, this would hands down be the best album of the year. Every song on Melodrama is fantastic. The album was the kind of sophomore album bands and artists dream of, but not many can achieve. Lorde crushed it with this one giving her second full length my #2 spot.

1. Sacred Hearts Club   –Foster the People

Like I said, I’m biased on this. I’ve always said Foster the People was one of my favorite bands, but this album made me fall in love with them all over again. It’s not quite Torches, but it’s close. “Sit Next To Me” became my favorite song of the year. Seeing them live twice and up close was everything I needed. They’re always my #1.

Honorable Mentions: I See You -the xx, Relaxer -alt-J, Wonderful Wonderful -The Killers, Everything Now -Arcade Fire, L.A. Divine -Cold War Kids, Masseduction -St. Vincent

So there you have it My Top 10 Favorite Albums of 2017…the Best Year in Music, at least in my opinion. 2018 has a lot to live up to. There’s sure to be plenty of good music this year, but it’ll be hard to beat all the new stuff from my favorites. Still we have a few to look forward to. I heard some rumors about upcoming albums from Arctic Monkeys, Vampire Weekend, and MGMT. Hayley Kiyoko will be releasing her debut album this spring and the 1975 is supposed to drop their third full length album. Chrvches and Bastille are also on radar for some new albums. As you can see there’s still good things to come. Plus the Coachella lineup drops this week and you know what that means. So thanks 2017 for being so special. 2018…”just come over here and sit next to me” because I’m ready for you and all the music you have to offer.

Coachella Band Preview: The xx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Coachella 2017 Lineup Release

Beyoncé, can you handle this? I don’t think you can handle this!

Yes, it’s that time of year again: festival season lineup announcements and in particular…Coachella. The Coachella lineup just dropped yesterday around 1:30 p.m. and I’m stoked (as always)! I heard lineup rumors during the past few weeks and certain predictions had me feeling some kind of jealous. However, upon the announcement yesterday I feel like 2017 still won’t be topping the 2014 lineup (toughest lineup to top ever). 2017 is still pretty epic because the Queen Bey herself, Beyoncé, is headlining. That’s why I felt the need to quote her former group, Destiny’s Child, to start this post. It was fitting, don’t you think? Anyway, this will be a first for the pop superstar, whose sure to draw a massive crowd as the Saturday night headliner. I can’t put all the focus on Bey though since there’s two other headliners. So, without further ado, the Coachella 2017 lineup is as follows:

The Headliners: Radiohead, Beyoncé, Kendrick Lamar

Obviously the big story from this is Beyoncé as I already mentioned and again yes this will be her first solo performance at the festival. She made a surprise appearance in 2014 at her sister Solange’s set.

Radiohead is no stranger to the Indio desert. Thom Yorke & company headlined Coachella twice in 2004 and 2012. They’ve even played “Creep” once while headlining there, so it’s obviously a pretty special place (they rarely play “Creep”). After the release of their most recent album, A Moon Shaped Pool, last summer, it seems fitting that the group once again headlines a Coachella festival.

Lastly there’s rapper Kendrick Lamar. He played on the Main Stage in 2012 and came out as a guest during the Dre and Snoop set that year. Kendrick Lamar has been on the rise since 2010-2011. Last year he headlined Goldenvoice’s (same promoter as Coachella) Panorama Festival, also dubbed “East Coast Coachella”, in its first year of existence. He apparently crushed his set there and drew a crowd of epic proportions, which might give you an indication of how he’ll be closing out Coachella this year on Sunday night.

Usually Coachella headliners are primarily alternative, rock, or indie or some form of a combo of those genres. In recent years, there have been rap headliners such as Jay-Z (2010), Kanye West (2011), Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg (2012) or Drake (2015) and last year saw electronic artists take the headlining spot with Calvin Harris and, if you consider them to be indie eletronic-ish, LCD Soundsystem. This year is the first time a major pop/ pop-R&B artist is headlining the festival (Beyoncé). Each night sees a different genre of music as the headliner making Coachella even more appealing to the masses.

The Other Highly Billed Performers: the XX, Travis Scott, Father John Misty, Empire of the Sun, Dillon Francis, Bon Iver, Future, DJ Snake, Martin Garrix, ScHoolboy Q, Gucci Mane, Lorde, Justice, New Order, Porter Robinson & Madeon, Future Islands, Mac Miller, Steve Angello, Glass Animals, Phantogram, Mac DeMarco, Little Dragon, BANKS, the Head and the Heart, Two Door Cinema Club, Nicolas Jaar, Bastille, Tycho, Tory Lanez, Röyksopp, Hans Zimmer, DJ Khaled, Marshmello, Lil Uzi Vert, Galantis, Kehlani, Grouplove, Kaytranada

Out of the the other top acts coming to the festival this year, the ones who stick out most to me (a.k.a. the ones I would see) are the XX, Empire of the Sun, Bon Iver, Lorde, Phantogram, BANKS, and Bastille. That means in weeks to come be on the look out for Coachella Band Previews featuring these bands and artists. Bon Iver, Lorde, Phantogram, BANKS, and Bastille will each be making their second Coachella appearance, while the XX and Empire of the Sun will be performing for the third time. All of these acts have released an album over the past year with the exception of the XX, whose third album comes out next week, and Lorde. Lorde is expected to release a new album this spring so I’m excited to hear her new material.

Other notable acts (for me) from this list are Two Door Cinema Club, Glass Animals, Mac DeMarco, and Grouplove. I would check out these acts if it fit in my schedule for sure, especially Mac DeMarco, who I missed at sweetlife last year, and Grouplove, who is a fun indie pop band that fits the Coachella atmosphere perfectly.

There’s also plenty of top electronic artists who will set the Sahara Stage on fire. Look for Dillon Francis, DJ Snake, Martin Garrix, Justice, Porter Robinson & Madeon, Steve Angello, Nicolas Jaar, Tycho, Röyksopp, DJ Khaled, Marshmello (who is basically the new Deadmau5/Daft Punk with his visual persona), Galantis, and Kaytranada there or even on the main stage. There’s no doubt that Dillon Francis and Martin Garrix should be closing out their respective nights on at the Sahara Tent. It’s bound to be lit.

The most interesting artist of this bunch is German composer Hans Zimmer. This guy is a legendary film composer so to earn a spot at Coachella is out of the ordinary. I’m interested to see what his set will be like. Will there be an orchestra there that he directs? Will it be some sort of DJ set? Will everyone sit out on blankets drinking wine and eating cheese if it is an orchestral set? There’s endless questions for this one. Interesting doesn’t even begin to describe it for me.

Another note from this group is the amount of top rap/hip-hop artists. It actually feels like an overwhelming amount of rap artists at Coachella this year compared to the usual. It might be the year for rap there. Just by the look of the lineup, they’ve booked solid acts with Travis Scott, Future, Mac Miller, and Gucci Mane, and not to mention Kendrick as a headliner.

The Rest: Bonobo, Richie Hawtin, DJ Shadow, Loco Dice, Dixon, Capital Cities, Big Gigantic, Crystal Castles, SOHN, Jagwar Ma, Francis and the Lights, BROODS, Guided By Voices, Preservation Hall, Jazz Band, Sampha, BICEP, Raury, the Martinez Brothers, Oh Wonder, Stormzy, Zipper Club, Tennis, SNBRN, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, Kungs, Floorplan, Denzel Curry, the Lemon Twigs, Nora En Pure, Joseph, the Interrupters, Sam Gellaitry, Klangstof, Tacocat, Alison Swing, Local Natives, Majid Jordan, DREAMCAR, Four Tet, Róisín Murphy, Moderat, the Avalanches, Mura Masa, Nav, Solomun, Warpaint, Banks & Steelz, Hot Since 82, Classixx, Kaleo, Breakbot, GRYFFIN, Car Seat Headrest, Daphni, Brodinski, Mitski, Floating Points, Thundercat, SURVIVE, Arkells, the Atomics, Ben UFO, Bishop Briggs, Blossoms, Chicano Batman, Autograf, Moss Kena, Red Axes, Shura, Honey Dijon, Declan McKenna, Eli & Fur, Swet Shop Boys, Chris Cruse, Tale of Us, Toots and the Maytals, Devendra Banhart, Tove Lo, Jai Wolf, Jack Garratt, Sasha, Kiiara, Real Estate, the Belleville Three, Maya Jane Coles, What So Not, PNL, Lee Fields & the Espressions, NAO, GoldLink, Allah-Las, King Sunny Adé, Marcel Dettmann, SOFI TUKKER, Whitney, Patrick Topping, HONNE, Twin Peaks, Tourist, Preoccupations, Hinds, Ezra Furman, Pond, Hannah Wants, Anna Lunoe, Grace Mitchell, Los Blenders, Show Me the Body, Caveman, Jen Ferrer

A lot of these bands and artists are playing Coachella for the first time. Some of them are new to their respective music scenes and some may only get bigger from here. Take this year’s headliner Kendrick Lamar for instance. When he played in 2012, his name was listed on the last line of Friday’s acts. Not all of these bands may make it as a headliner, but you may see some of them in the coming years selling out shows and playing festivals as a top-act.

If I were attending, I would definitely want to see BROODS, Oh Wonder, Kungs, Local Natives, GRYFFIN, and Tove Lo. I missed Local Natives in favor of Halsey at Lollapalooza, but caught the tail end of their set. They’re a great indie alternative band who I’d love to see live, or at least all of their set live. BROODS is a brother-sister music duo who just came on to the music scene in the past few years. I’ve liked everything I’ve heard by them so far. If I had the chance, I would definitely listen to them more and see them at the festival if I had the chance. I’ve also just started to get into Oh Wonder and seeing their name on the Coachella lineup makes me want to listen to more of their stuff and check them out live. I doubt these guys will be climbing the festival lineups soon but they put out some great tunes.

I’m also not sure why Tove Lo isn’t listed higher on the festival lineup. I’m sure she’ll be playing on the Outdoor Stage or the Main Stage though because she’s already selling out smaller venues. Her appeal kind of reminds me of Ellie Goulding and I’m guessing in the coming years she’ll be making her way to the top just as Ellie’s done.

Out of the few electronic artists I like, GRYFFIN is one I would love to check out at Coachella. If you read my Music Saved 2016 post from last week, you’d know I had a GRYFFIN song on the list. He’s also got a song called “Heading Home” that I’m a fan of too. Another electronic artist that you should see/pay attention to is Kungs. This kid, because yeah he’s only 20 years old, came on to the electronic scene huge with his hit “This Girl” feat. Cookin’ on 3 Burners (another song listed on said Music saved 2016 blog post). I actually just listened to some of his other stuff about 2 days ago. I liked what I heard. He released his debut album on November 4th and I’m sure you’ll hear more from him in the future. Like I said pay attention to him and see him now if you have the chance.

Some other bands worth checking out are electronic duo HONNE, rock group Arkells, and indie band Twin Peaks. You may even want to check out solo artist Jack Garratt, who reminds me of combo between Bon Iver and the Weeknd, and indie/alternative rock artist Declan McKenna, who won Glastonbury Festival’s emerging talent competition in 2015.

To those of you scored tickets and are heading to Indio this spring, have the best time of your lives. Coachella is an incredible experience filled with music that spans across genres so there really is something for everyone to see. At this current moment, I’m not officially going to Coachella as a festival attendee, but there is a possibility that I could work there. I’m not getting my hopes up yet though because I could very well be spending this year watching from my computer again. As such, I’ll be previewing bands playing the festival this year as I’ve done the last two years and writing as if I were going like I did last year in 2016 (because I did go in 2015, which started all this preview hype to begin with). So stay tuned for all the previews because festival season is almost here!

Hold Tight You’re Slowly Coming Back to Life

Back in 2011 when my music tastes veered towards the indie/indie rock/hipster scene, I continually looked for new music and had no problem finding it. I discovered plenty of bands/artists for the first time like Foster the People, Matt & Kim, Peter, Bjorn & John, The Naked and Famous, Young the Giant, Bon Iver, The Kooks, etc. (the list could go on because I shortened it while typing this). While searching for music during this time, I came across an artist that really intrigued me, but that I also, in a way, overlooked. She sang this incredible cover of Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love”, as well as other indie songs, which I listened to several times over a month to two month period. The coolest part was that she was only 15! I never downloaded any of her songs though and with time I found other music to listen to. Over the past few years I would see her name pop up here and there, but I didn’t pay much attention until about two weeks ago. I heard a new single of hers while listening to a playlist on Spotify and fell in love all over again.

Jasmine Lucilla Elizabeth Jennifer van den Bogaerde, more commonly known to the music world as Birdy, is a 19 year old British singer/songwriter who hails from Lymington, Hampshire in the UK. She began her music career at the age of 7 when she started taking piano lessons. By age 8, she was writing her own music. In 2008 at age 12, she won the talent competition Open Mic UK where she competed against 10,000 others. In January 2011, she released her first single, which was the “Skinny Love” cover. It was her break-out single as the song became a hit on the UK Singles Chart reaching the 17th spot and was the third biggest selling rock single in the UK in 2011. She also released her debut self-titled album in November 2011 which was a compilation of various covers and one original song. The album was a huge success in Europe and Australia.

In 2012 she released an EP of live songs which included her original song “Just A Game” from The Hunger Games soundtrack. The same year she also contributed to the soundtrack of the film Brave with Mumford & Sons, which earned her a Grammy nomination in 2013. Her second full length album Fire Within was released in September 2013. She also contributed 3 songs to The Fault in Our Stars soundtrack which came out in 2014. Most recently, she released the singles “Keeping Your Head Up” and “Beautiful Lies” from her third album, Beautiful Lies,which is slated for a March 25th release date.

Birdy’s music is in the indie pop/indie rock genre. In fact her debut album features mostly indie covers. Along with the Bon Iver cover hit, she covers Phoenix’s “1901”, Fleet Foxes’ “White Winter Hymnal”, The Postal Service’s “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight”, The Naked and Famous’s “Young Blood”, The xx’s “Shelter”, and Cherry Ghost’s “People Help the People” among other songs. Following her debut, her music hasn’t changed much. Of course she’s releasing original music now, but the indie vibe to her tracks still exists. Her voice has a young feel to it as well. It hasn’t changed much through the years either despite getting her braces off which created a distinct sound on the Bon Iver cover.

Although Birdy’s success has mainly been overseas, I have a feeling she may get a bigger following in the U.S. soon for two reasons. First, her two singles from Beautiful Lies are off the hook, especially “Keeping Your Head Up”. That’s the song I heard that made me fall in love again and catch up with what Birdy’s been up to over the past few years. Second, Birdy’s getting older. She’s done shows in America before and toured playing small venues as a guest for Christina Perri, but she predominantly does shows in Europe. Her scheduled dates so far in support of her new album are in Europe. However, she’ll be 20 in May and I have a feeling at some point she’ll want to spread her wings across the pond. Her new album might just give her some leverage to do that too. While we’re waiting to see what else Birdy has to offer with this upcoming third album, here’s some songs you should hear by this talented young artist:

  1. “Skinny Love”
  2. “1901”
  3. “Wings”
  4. “People Help the People”
  5. “Tee Shirt”
  6. “Not About Angels”
  7. “Keeping Your Head Up”
  8. “Beautiful Lies”