UK bands

Coachella Band Preview: Oh Wonder

Coachella begins in 2 weeks! I hope you’ve been doing some serious music listening. If you haven’t, I’m disappointed in you. Even if you’re one of those people who doesn’t like to listen to the music before they attend the show, I’m still disappointed in you because, I mean, come on. How can you not prep even just a little?! This is one of the biggest music festivals out there. For those of you who have been prepping, here’s another band you should be listening to.

Oh Wonder is a band who began creating music together in September 2014. The band is from London and comprised of keyboardist/vocalist Josephine Vander Gucht and guitarist/vocalist Anthony West. Oh Wonder’s claim to fame comes from the release of their DIY debut album. Beginning in September 2014, the alt-pop duo began releasing one song per month via SoundCloud for one year. The year culminated in the release of their debut album which also included two unreleased songs.

The band’s song release process attracted the attention of music fans, blogs, and record labels. They eventually signed with Republic Records. Upon the release of their self-titled debut album in September 2015, the band scheduled shows in London, Paris, New York, and Los Angeles, all of which were sold out. The band has toured internationally since that time and also played a handful of North American music festivals last summer. They made stops at Bonnaroo, Firefly, WayHome (Canada), Lollapalooza, and Live Out (Mexico).

Their music is an alternative/indie pop style, but softer and more mellow than other music I would classify as indie pop. Vander Gucht and West also harmonize magnificently on every track. Their vocals create such soothing melodies that are often times catchy as well. Once you get one of their songs in your head, it’s difficult to get it out.

I heard of Oh Wonder from a music recommendation tumblr post last fall. I checked them out a few days after and decided to download one of their songs. It seemed like after listening to them for the first time, more of their music would pop up on random Spotify playlists I would listen to. I also routinely listened to the song I downloaded. It only took a few times of listening before I would sing-a-long with the music. Their music isn’t the kind of indie pop you’d want to hear to get you hyped up for something. It’s the kind that you’d put on during a sunny afternoon drive or road trip.

That being said, don’t expect a fun, upbeat indie pop style set from them at Coachella. They’re not Grouplove or Matt & Kim. Their music is more relaxed and their set will be too. They play Friday and my guess is that their set will be earlier in the day. They’re a perfect band to see at the festival because I doubt their set time will overlap with other must-see acts. Here’s a few songs you should listen to before their Coachella performance:

  1. Drive
  2. Technicolor Beat
  3. Lose It
  4. All We Do
  5. Without You
  6. Livewire

(But truly, if you just check out their debut self-titled album, you should be fine.)

 

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

 

There’s This Tune I Found That Makes Me Think of You Somehow When I Play It on Repeat

I wanted to wait until this band released a new album before I blogged about them, but I changed my mind. I’ve been missing them recently. I’ve also been listening to their music, although only their most recent stuff. To me, this is a signal that I shouldn’t wait. So here’s what I can tell you about Arctic Monkeys and what their future holds.

Formed in 2002, English rock band Arctic Monkeys consists of members Alex Turner (lead vocals, guitar), Matt Helders (drums, vocals), Jamie Cook (guitar), and Nick O’Malley (bass, backing vocals). O’Malley replaced Andy Nicholson shortly after the group’s debut album was released. They were named by Cook who always wanted to be in a band called Arctic Monkeys. The band got their start by playing shows in their hometown of Sheffield and distributed their music for free. Hype by word of mouth generated for the band because of this. They drew a larger than normal crowd for a band playing the Carling Stage at the Reading and Leeds Festival in 2005. The Carling Stage which is now called the Festival Republic Stage is normally reserved for lesser known bands or breakthrough acts.

They were signed by Domino records the same year.They released their first singles, “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” and “When the Sun Goes Down”, under Domino in 2005 and their first album, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, in January 2006. Their debut became the fastest selling debut album in UK Chart history. It sold 363,735 copies in the first week. The album eventually went on to win a Mercury Prize, awarded to the Best Album from the UK and Ireland. The band released the EP Who the Fuck Are Arctic Monkeys? a few months later in April, but the explicit language on the record resulted in less airplay.

Arctic Monkeys released their second album Favourite Worst Nightmare in April 2007. Like their debut, their sophomore album peaked at No. 1 on the UK Albums Chart. It won them Best British Band and Best British Album at the 2008 Brit Awards. They spent the year extensively touring, including a stop to headline Glastonbury Festival.

The band took a short break in 2008. Lead singer, Alex Turner focused on his side project The Last Shadow Puppets. It wasn’t until 2009 that the band followed up their first two successful albums with Humbug, released in August 2009. Like the first two, Humbug also peaked at the No. 1 position on the UK Albums Chart. Prior to the third album’s release, Arctic Monkeys embarked on a world tour that included a headlining date at Reading and Leeds Festival and finished in April 2010.

The following four years brought more success to Arctic Monkeys with 2 more albums, Suck It and See and AM, both, like their predecessors, debuting at No. 1. Touring, festival appearances, and even a performance at the Opening Ceremonies for the 2012 London Olympic Games came in the wake of their fourth and fifth albums. Their fifth album debuting at No. 1 on the UK Albums Chart put their name in the history books as the first indie band in the UK to hit No. 1 with their first 5 albums during the first week of release. AM even earned them a third Mercury Award nomination (Favourite Worst Nightmare was the second), a BRIT Award for Best British Album, and a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Performance for their single “Do I Wanna Know?”.

Since 2014, Arctic Monkeys have been on hiatus. Again Alex Turner shifted his focus to The Last Shadow Puppets and releasing their second album. Matt Helders joined in on Iggy Pop’s recent album, Post Pop Depression, and has been touring with the legendary rocker since. The question going forward for me and all the other Arctic Monkeys fans is: When will they release their sixth album?

According to an article published in July on NME.com which tried to predict the release of the sixth album as well as the future album’s sound, the world might be blessed with a new record by mid to late 2017 as long as the band gets in the studio by late 2016-early 2017. For now, it seems like we’ll be waiting at least another year or maybe longer. Glad I decided to blog about them now. I’m not sure I would have lasted that long.

Throughout the years, Arctic Monkeys sound has changed and matured. The change of their sound almost reminds me of the change in my music interests throughout the same time period from 2006 to 2013. The songs on their first two albums are faster and edgy almost in a punk rock sense (totally my scene and a high school junior and senior). The first album especially blends indie music and punk rock well. Then in certain songs (like “505”) on the second album and more so on the third album their sound transitions to something smoother. Turner doesn’t spit out the song lyrics as quickly. Their third album also has this unique eerie and mysterious sound. To me it’s the perfect album to listen to during the Halloween season. Finally, the last two albums are much smoother and reflect the indie rock scene of the last 5 years (again very similar to my music tastes in the last 5 years).

The first song I heard by Arctic Monkeys was “Fluorescent Adolescent” in 2011. According to my record of when I added songs to my iTunes account, I downloaded the song right between the point where I added Foster the People’s Torches and Adele’s 21 (a good moment in time for sure). I don’t remember if anyone recommended the song or if I found it on my own, but nonetheless, it was the first. Then came “Do I Wanna Know?” two years later. I listened to the band more after AM. That record spurred my interest in Arctic Monkeys. I received the album on vinyl for Christmas in 2014, so I basically started being interested in them at the point they decided to take a break. Then recently I’ve been listening to them all over again. It makes me miss them. It also makes me want new Arctic Monkeys music. So I guess, like the more dedicated Arctic Monkeys fans who have followed them since their inception, I’ll have to wait. In the meantime, I’m going to listen to their old stuff I missed because my music interests were elsewhere. Here’s some of my favorite Arctic Monkeys songs though, in case you’ve overlooked them altogether:

  1. Snap Out of It
  2. Do I Wanna Know?
  3. 505
  4. Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?
  5. R U Mine?
  6. Arabella
  7. I Wanna Be Yours

 

T-Shirt Weather

I had every intention of writing a new Coachella Band Preview for today, but I discovered a new band last night that I needed to share first. It’s almost like a “Breaking News” moment. I may have mentioned this before, but every week Spotify puts out a new Discover Weekly Playlist (duh…Discover Weekly!). I subscribed to the playlist a while ago and found a bunch of new tunes because of it. Yesterday, as I was listening to the new playlist, I saw a song that caught my eye. The title was “T-Shirt Weather”, which made me chuckle a bit considering my deep love for the song “Sweater Weather” by The Neighbourhood (my blog post from the fall so you can see how deep my love runs). I said to myself “What is this? The new “Sweater Weather”?.” I was eager to check it out. Lo and behold, it’s a great song. It’s so great that I have now officially deemed it the new “Sweater Weather”. The song style is much different than the 2013 hit by The Neighbourhood though and it’s by a relatively new band called Circa Waves.

Circa Waves is a British indie rock band formed in 2013. The group hails from Liverpool and consists of vocalist and guitarist, Kieran Shudall, bassist, Sam Rourke, drummer, Colin Jones, and guitarist, Joe Falconer. Shudall and Rourke actually met at a music festival in 2013 and it resulted in the formation of the band. The band’s first single “Good For Me/Get Away” was released in December 2013. Their first EP, Young Chasers EP, was released in June the following year. They played festivals throughout Europe and toured through 2014. Young Chasers, their debut album (Yep, same name as the EP), was released in March 2015. The release happened around their performance at SXSW and a U.S. tour in the fall of 2015 followed. They played U.S. dates with Foals and Ms Mr as well as with The 1975 in the UK.

My first impression of the band was that they are a perfect example of indie rock. In fact the band could be a great transition for someone who likes punk rock or pop-punk and wants to get into indie music. While researching these guys, I read that they’ve been compared to The Strokes. In my opinion, that comparison is spot on. Their music style is much like American indie rockers, The Strokes. They also remind me of The Kooks at times as well. So if you’re a fan of either of those two bands, I guarantee you’ll love these guys.

This year the group has already booked dates at Governor’s Ball and Firefly. If you plan on attending either of those two festivals, I suggest you check out Circa Waves. Their music is both upbeat and fun, which will make for a great set in the the summer sun (hopefully it’s sun at least!). You’ll probably hear a few of these songs:

  1. T-Shirt Weather
  2. Stuck In My Teeth
  3. Best Years
  4. Good For Me/Get Away
  5. Fossils

The 1975

It’s astounding how many great bands/singers/music artists are from the UK. It often seems like most of the bands I blog about are from there. Even many legendary groups throughout history, like The Beatles, The Who, Queen, The Rolling Stones, and Led Zeppelin, are British. So therefore, it wouldn’t surprise you that the band I’m writing about this week also hails from the UK.

The 1975 formed in Manchester, England in 2002 when members Matt Healy, Ross MacDonald, Adam Hann, and George Daniel started playing cover shows together in local clubs as teenagers. It wasn’t until August 2012 when the group released their first EP, Facedown. The band got national radio attention with their single “The City” from the EP as well as with the song “Sex” which came from their second EP of the same title (Sex) a few months later (November 2012). In March 2013, the band released their third EP, Music for Cars. “Chocolate”, a single off the EP, reached the 19th spot on the UK singles chart. The same year the band began touring to build hype for their debut album. They joined The Neighbourhood on their 2013 U.S. tour, opened for Muse and The Rolling Stones, and played at the Reading and Leeds Festivals.

Their debut self-titled album came out on September 2, 2013. The 1975 spent the rest of 2013 and 2014 touring to promote the album and selling out many shows throughout Europe, North America, New Zealand, and Australia. The band plans to release their second album, I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It, in February 2016. Today, they announced a North American Tour in support of the new album from April to May 2016 in select cities across the United States and Canada. Their first single off the album, “Love Me”, was released in October.

The band’s music fits into the alternative/indie pop/rock genre. At times I even feel like their sound has some 80’s pop/rock style influence, especially when I heard “Love Me” for the first time. Then there’s other times where I get this R&B feel from their music. Honestly, they no doubt fit right in with The Neighbourhood on tour in 2013. It was baby-making music for the ages. Overall though, the band has their own unique indie pop/rock sound.

I was slightly late to the party when I discovered The 1975 in April 2014. I’m not even sure how I first heard of them, but I know I listened to them for a few months before I realized their song “Chocolate” had airplay on the local alternative radio station. In a much cooler world, where I would be able to attend any live music events that I want, regardless of price, location, availability, etc., I would be attending their show either in New York City tomorrow or in Philadelphia on Saturday. I probably would have already seen them live too, if I didn’t already have plans when they played at a nearby venue at this time last year. Although I potentially would have seen them live this weekend if either show wasn’t already sold out (or if I didn’t have to pay over $100 for tickets that were originally $40), I figured why not write about this band anyway. The 1975’s success over the last few years has only escalated and it continues to grow as well.  They’re bound to enter British music history like so many before them. If you’ve never heard of these guys, you may want to check out these song recommendations or if you’re headed to an upcoming show, unlike me, you may want to re-listen to some of these song recommendations to hype you up (or if you just want some hype for the new album):

  1. Sex
  2. Chocolate
  3. Love Me
  4. The City
  5. Girls
  6. Robbers
  7. Heart Out
  8. Settle Down

Triangles are my favorite shape: alt-J Concert Review

On Friday, I was able to attend a show on alt-J’s Fall 2015 North American Tour. I saw alt-J for the first time at Coachella this past year. I wrote about them leading up to the yearly event in the southern California desert so I won’t re-hash about the group or how they got their name from a Mac keyboard command. Instead, I’ll just let you know that my second time seeing them was just as good, if not better than the first.

After seeing them at Coachella (it was one of my top 3 favorite sets) and seeing how cheap tickets were for their date in Philadelphia last Friday, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see them again. I bought tickets for myself and my two favorite kids as a gift for their graduation this past June. However, about a month and a half before the show, my friend informed me that the date of the show coincided with the Pope’s visit to the Philly with 2 million people expected to be on hand for the event. How awesome, right? Now on top of dealing with traffic and people in a normally busy city on a Friday we also had to handle extra of both because of the Papal visit. Surprisingly though, it wasn’t as big of an issue as I initially expected, and we had a phenomenal day in the city leading up to the show.

The show was at Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing. The venue’s location is right on the Delaware River. As we were walking to the pier, it reminded me of being at the beach to see a concert. The fact that sand surrounded the platform which housed an area for the general admission crowd to stand added to that effect. Add in that it was a cool, breezy September day/night and I felt like I was on a beach on the west coast rather than in a city on the east coast. It was ideal for me. We didn’t have any food at the venue as our stomachs were full from the Shake Shack burgers and fries we had earlier that evening, but I did make a purchase of a Blackberry Lemonade flavored Mike’s Hard. It was way too expensive at $15, but for alcohol at shows/concerts, that’s the price you pay.

San Fermin opened for the boys from Leeds, UK. They’re an American pop band with classical roots formed by Ellis Ludwig-Leone, a Yale University graduate who studied composition during his time there. Having released their sophomore album this past April, the eight piece ensemble played songs like “Parasites”, “Sonsick”, and “Jackrabbit” to get the crowd going before the headliners took the stage. I found their music catchy. They seemed like a band I would listen to on occasion but not fall entirely in love with. By the end of the set, I was just itching for alt-J to play.

alt-J opened with the “Intro” from their latest album, This Is All Yours, (how appropriate) and went straight into “Every Other Freckle” much to the delight of concert attendees. As a headliner on their own tour versus an act at an acclaimed music festival, their set was predictably longer. It featured songs from both full length albums like “Something Good”, “Dissolve Me”, “Matilda”, “Tessellate”, and “Fitzpleasure” from their 2012 debut An Awesome Wave and “Left Hand Free”, “The Gospel of John Hurt”, “Nara”, and “Leaving Nara” from This Is All Yours. They even played the bonus track Bill Withers cover “Lovely Day”. Perhaps one of the coolest transitions in their set was when they performed “Bloodflood” followed by “Bloodflood Pt. 2”. There weren’t many breaks between songs to chat with the crowd, which I liked. To be honest, I do like when bands talk in between songs, but I can also appreciate what alt-J did Friday night. There’s more time for music and there’s nothing wrong with that. The lighting and screens with digital imagery used in their set really captured the essence of their songs as well. This might be overlooked at a show when you’re focused on hearing your favorite songs, but it shouldn’t be. It gave their great performance a little something extra.

After “ending” their set with “Fitzpleasure”, which we all knew wasn’t really the end, the band came back out to perform a four song encore that started with “Hunger on the Pine”, followed by “Warm Foothills” and “Taro”, and closed with “Breezeblocks”. It was a perfect encore. The show left fans feeling fulfilled including me and my friends. It reaffirmed my choice to see them again and was great day/night all around. If you’re a fan, they’re worth seeing live, but even if triangles aren’t your favorite shape, they’re still worth it.

(Since this is the end of my post and I usually recommend some songs, but I’ve written about alt-J before and included song recommendations, I’ll just say to listen to any of the songs mentioned in this post and link you to my alt-J Coachella Band Preview for more info.)

Coachella Band Preview: Alt-J

With 43 days left until Weekend One of Coachella 2015, music prep time continues to run out. That’s why today I’m previewing another band playing a bigger role in this year’s festival compared to the last time they played in 2013.

Formed in 2007, English indie rock band Alt-J has exploded on the indie music scene within the last two and a half years since the release of their first album An Awesome Wave in 2012. Their name comes from their symbol ∆ (the delta sign) which can be typed on a Mac by pressing alt-j (I actually did it to type the symbol in this sentence…so cool). Members Joe Newman, Thom Green, Gus Unger-Hamilton and former member Gwil Sainsbury (replaced by Cameron Knight this past year) created the band while studying at Leeds University. They eventually signed a record deal in late 2011 and released An Awesome Wave that following spring (although it wasn’t released in America until September 2012).

I first heard of Alt-J one Saturday morning in October 2012 right before heading out of the house. One of my favorite actresses, Troian Bellisario (star of TV’s Pretty Little Liars), had posted about the song “Breezeblocks” to some form of social media. I listened to it and downloaded it right after while I was waiting for my mom to be ready to go to where ever we were going that morning. I remember being in the process of downloading it when my mom said she was ready to leave. A day later I downloaded the song “Something Good”. Since that time I would hear an Alt-J song here or there and download it. It wasn’t until this past September when Alt-J released their Grammy nominated second album This is All Yours that I decided I needed to get the album on vinyl (ended up getting it for Christmas).

Although I knew about Alt-J for a little over 2 years I never went through a major phase when I listened to them constantly. I feel like they’re the kind of band you put on when you’re just relaxing in your room. Their sound is basically indie music with electronics that create this (at times) Arabian-like style especially in songs like “Fitzpleasure” and “Taro”. It could partially be Newman’s vocals that create that effect as well. Its definitely something to listen to. The hit off their latest album “Left Hand Free” has more of an indie rock feel, but still has that same unique Alt-J sound that is evident in all their music.

This year at Coachella they’re playing the Saturday date on Weekend One and Weekend Two in more of a headlining role. With their rise in the indie scene and the amount of sold-out shows they’ve played, it’s only natural to see them on the main stage this time around. It should be one of the highlights of the weekend for sure. With not much prep time left, it’s time to start checking these guys out.

Song recommendations:

1. “Breezeblocks”

2. “Left Hand Free”

3. “Fitzpleasure”

4. “Something Good”

5. “Warm Foothills”

6. “Tessellate”

7. “Every Other Freckle”

8. “Pusher”

9. “Hunger on the Pine” (As a side note, this song features Miley Cyrus…so let that sink in.)

10. “Taro”