years & years

Top Tunes of 2018

Each of the last two years I’ve written posts about how much music has shaped the year. In 2016 there was a lot of shit that went down and music was the bright spot. Last year was one of my favorite years in music in a while so 2018 had a lot to live up to. So as the year comes to a close, the results are in. It was in no way comparable to last year, but thats okay! Because music was still important as it always is.

2018 as a whole will never be comparable to last year. I felt too much in 2018 and in the process I lost a lot of perspective. I had to dig myself out of personal holes so many times. A lot of which I hadn’t felt in years. In a way I’m still trying to overcome some personal struggles but one thing I learned this year is that it could be worse. So I try to remind myself of that. Despite losing perspective at times, I was able to gain it back through meeting new incredible people, through traveling all over the country, through new experiences, and most importantly through music.

I worked harder and put in more miles than I ever had in the past this year all because of a goal that started last January. My friend and I planned a trip to London. I went on that trip last week and it was definitely a trip I won’t soon forget. As much as all the work made it worth it. It was the journey of the year that made it special and so many songs and bands that got me through this weird rollercoaster of a year. So without further delay, here are some of my faves from 2018:

“NUMB” by Hayden James

According to Spotify, this is my top song of the year. Spotify isn’t lying either. It’s now my second most played song on my iTunes. I fell in love with this song during EDC Las Vegas, a festival which ultimately changed the course of the year for me. This song related to my life in all the ways at times, so I kept turning to it. Plus it’s a big fucking mood! I saw Hayden James perform at Electric Forest this year and was able to catch this song during his sets both weekends and during his Weekend 2 DJ set. The bass was so overpowering, but I loved it nonetheless. Now, 7 months later and I’m still choosing to listen to this song. It will forever be associated with this year and all the ups and downs that came with it.

“Safe” by Bay Ledges

This song was released in 2017 but I first heard this song in the spring of 2018 and I became hooked on it. It was a song that I would constantly choose to play whenever I was scrolling through my iTunes in the car or on Spotify. We also kept hearing it on our drives from Joshua Tree to Indio during Coachella this past year. It always puts me in a good mood and creates such a vibe. I was lucky enough to see Bay Ledges play last month and to hear this song live. Even if the song was released in 2017, it still got me through 2018.

Kygo

Kygo was my top Spotify artist this year. It makes sense. After seeing Kygo play at Coachella, one of my favorite sets of the festival, I got really into listening to his music. I eventually created a Kygo Spotify playlist that I’ll occasionally use to work out to. I’ve always been into the tropical house style of electronic music so it was a matter of time before I dove head first into Kygo and all of his tunes that I’ve already been listening to over the past 3 years. I kind of credit the song “Stargzing”, but overall I love almost all of Kygo’s tracks and seeing him live was incredibly fun. This was the year that made it happen for me and the Norwegian DJ.

“Curious” by Hayley Kiyoko

2018 can be defined by the hashtag 20GAYTEEN and that’s all in part to Hayley Kiyoko. She released her first full length album this year and exploded in the music scene. She performed at Coachella, sold out her tour, opened for Panic! At the Disco, performed with Taylor Swift, and won a VMA! It’s been an epic year for Lesbian Jesus. This song was released early in 2018 as a single to promote Hayley’s debut album. It’s been one of my faves ever since. I snuck away during work at Coachella to catch a glimpse of her set Weekend 2, but missed a large portion of it. It wasn’t until I worked a Panic! At the Disco show that I got to see the entirety of her opening set and felt all the proud mom feelings. I saw Hayley play a small venue show in Philly in late 2016 and it’s been pleasure being a fan and seeing her grow so much since then. This year was the icing on the cake for that. So to answer the question, in case you were curious, it is serious that she’s only going up from here.

Arctic Monkeys

2018 was a comeback year for Arctic Monkeys. They released their first album since 2013’s AM, toured worldwide, and played numerous dates on the festival circuit. It was my goal this year to see them play and I did while working their show at Forest Hills Stadium back in July. Although their new album wasn’t the comeback I hoped for, 2018 revitalized my interest in Arctic Monkeys and caused me to listen to their music even more than I did in the past. I found a love in old songs like “Suck It And See” and “I Bet That You Look Good On the Dance Floor”. I also eventually started to enjoy their latest release. It seems like the Monkeys will be riding the 2018 wave into 2019 as well so hopefully they coast back to the states soon.

“Saturday Sun” by Vance Joy

Vance Joy released his sophomore album this year back in February. “Saturday Sun” was a single from that album that was the theme of my Coachella 2018 experience. On our 1 hour drives to and from work every day from Joshua Tree, we listened to Alt Nation on Sirius XM. “Saturday Sun” was in the rotation at the time at it seemed like we heard it ever time we got in Denise’s car. It became our Coachella song. The whole experience culminated on Sunday of Weekend 2 when Vance Joy asked to sit at our table in catering and ate lunch with us. This song will always remind me this year and drives through California with my Day One since Day One Weekend One, Denise.

“Wanderlust” by James Bay

There’s no special story behind this song compared to the others I have on here. It’s just one that I kept going back to once I had it on my iTunes and Spotify playlists. I got into it right before I left for Electric Forest in June and it’s been a staple ever since. It gave me a new opinion on James Bay, whose music I thought was always slower and created romance type vibes. This song was an indie pop/rock dream that I never knew I needed from James Bay this year.

Florence and the Machine

It took me a while to get into the new Florence and the Machine album, but I did just in time to see her live at the Barclays Center in October. Again just like the Arctic Monkeys, High As Hope, the 2018 follow-up to 2015’s How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, was a bit of a disappointment to me initially. In general, it seemed like after a big 2017 of brilliant albums, 2018’s hype wasn’t cutting it for me. New music from 2018 just took a little while to get used to. Once I did I fell for songs like “Hunger” and “Patricia”. Florence reminded me this year when I needed it most that “it’s a wonderful thing to love” and I’m grateful for that.

“Body” by Loud Luxury

“Body” came to me around the same time as “NUMB” at EDC Las Vegas so it makes total sense that it would always play after “NUMB” on my iTunes rotation. I first heard the song on the way to site at EDC via Josh Hurlbert’s music. My friend Erin and I were jamming to it. I didn’t know the name of the song after that, but I needed to find out. So after some detective work, Josh figured out the song I was referring to and told me what it was called on load-out day. It’s been as much of a favorite as “NUMB” since EDC and a great work out track as well. I can’t say I’ve listened to Loud Luxury beyond “Body”, but it’s been a big hit of 2018 all around so I’m sure there will be more great tracks to come from the electronic artists.

Bishop Briggs

Bishop Briggs ended 2017 for me and moved right in 2018. Her debut album came out in May and she was high on my list to see live until I saw her perform at Electric Forest. I will say my interest in Bishop Briggs kind of faded after seeing her perform live, but for the first half of this year I was focused on her debut album and possibly seeing her in the summer. She didn’t disappoint at Forest either. Her performance was full of energy and power that had everyone feeling as bad ass as her by the end of the set. It was a highlight of the festival that seemed to be one of my lowest points of the year. Thankfully, I survived the Forest and went on to have some great festival experiences beyond that.

Runner-Ups

Years & Years

“Happy Man” by Jungle

“Happier” by Marshmello, ft. Bastille

Dashboard Confessional

“Whippin'” by Kiiara

So that’s it! 10 songs and artists that were big for me in 2018 (plus a few runner-ups!). There was another band that I easily could have put on the list but I decided to hold off because 2019 will surely be a big year for them. That band is Vampire Weekend. Their comeback started in 2018 with a few festival appearances, including a special one that I was witness to at Lollapalooza, but they’ve yet to release their much anticipated fourth full length album. There were rumors it would come out in 2018, but that hasn’t happened. So I expect 2019 will be the year for them. They’re already slated to play Firefly in June and I’m sure more dates and festivals are in the works as well. I can’t wait. They’re who I’m most excited about heading in to this new year.

As with any year, there will be plenty of new music and new discoveries for me. I didn’t plan on this year being better than 2017 and it wasn’t honestly as far as music goes. Professionally though, 2018 was my best year yet. When I set out to follow my music industry dreams in 2015 (technically 2016 but it started in 2015), my goal was always to be better, learn more, and grow every year. I’ve done that so far, especially this year. I have no plans to stop any time soon either. I’ve started to reach some goals I’ve had, but I have so much more to do and accomplish. I’m so lucky I get to do what I love. I’m grateful for everyone that’s helped and supported me, everyone I’ve met, and all the experiences I’ve had. I owe it all to music. So hopefully next year is even better because I plan on trying to make it that way and I’m sure I’ll have plenty of new tunes to help me through it all. Be back next week for the Coachella 2019 lineup release!

“All of life is energy vibrating at different frequencies. It has been said, the universe is a uni-verse, one song or vibration that plays throughout existence and gives us life. When we get in tune with that tone, we are in harmony with life. Music is a way we can tap into that power. That is why we feel music with our whole being. It moves us, stimulates our imagination, opens emotions, and can pass language and cultural barriers. It lives on a primal level, one that we can all connect with.”

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The Film Playlist: We Are Your Friends

It’s been a while since I wrote about a film for The Film Playlist series I created two years ago. I meant to add this one sooner too. I saw it almost a year ago. I won’t give you a ton of excuses as to why I didn’t write about this sooner but needless to say, it’s better late than never.

We Are Your Friends was released in late summer 2015. Then it made it’s way to DVD by later that year. It stars Zac Efron, Emily Ratajkowski, Shiloh Fernandez, Alex Shaffer, Jonny Weston, and Wes Bentley. It was directed by Max Joseph of MTV’s Catfish. Joseph and Meaghan Oppenheimer also wrote the screenplay that was based off the story by Richard Silverman.

We Are Your Friends is a drama that focuses on the electronic music scene and is set in Los Angeles. Efron plays DJ Cole Carter, who is looking for his big break in the electronic music industry. While playing a gig as an opener at a small club, Cole meets James Reed (Bentley), a once big-name DJ who’s headlining the show. Reed and Cole connect over music and Reed invites him to a party. After a night of drinking and drugs, Cole wakes up the next morning to find himself at Reed’s house where his girlfriend and personal assistant, Sophie (Ratajkowski), also lives. From there Cole’s career begins to blossom with the help of Reed.

Out of all the films I’ve seen that involve music, this is one of the only films that really explores electronic music and the type of rave scene involved with it. From the LA setting to the partying and drug usage, this film really shows the culture that surrounds EDM. It even shows the characters attending EDC Las Vegas, which is the most largely attended music festival in a one weekend period in the United States. All it’s missing is some hard core PLUR action. The film itself received average reviews and rightfully so. It’s no Academy Award winning film by any means. The thing that makes it stand out though is that it explores a type of music that has become huge in today’s world.

As for the soundtrack, it is fantastic…that is if you like to dance and are into electronic music. It includes the song by Justice and Simian that the film was named after “We Are Your Friends” as well as songs and remixes by Hayden James, Kygo, AlunaGeorge, Deorro, Gryffin, Years & Years, and Tchami amongst others. Many of the songs on the soundtrack are featured in the film.

If you’re a fan of electronic music or a fan of music in general, this film is definitely one you want to check out at some point. The film might not be the greatest as far as movies go, but its focus is what makes it unique and worthy of your time. There’s no question We Are Your Friends is a great addition to The Playlist though.

Palo Santo: Album Review

It’s been 3 years since Years & Years released their debut album Communion. They’re finally back today with their sophomore release Palo Santo. Often, upon listening to an album for the first time, I’m not sure what to say about it. A lot of times it’s because the album needs to grow on me. I just started listening to this new Years & Years album about a half hour ago and I’m already in love though. It’s a gem. I had a similar feeling when I listened to Lorde’s Melodrama for the first time. That album was nominated for a Grammy for album of the year last year so as you can tell, I already have great expectations for this new Years & Years release.

A lot of times the sound on a second record might diverge after creating a solid debut. Palo Santo isn’t that at all. It’s an electropop masterpiece. Olly Alexander’s hypnotizing vocals make each track stand out. The beginning of the album has songs that make you want to get up and dance, while the middle is filled with songs that really create a soulful, electronic vibe. Those tracks almost remind me of something Banks or Bishop Briggs would put out. They just have more of an electronic dance feel than you’d hear from both female powerhouses. Then the album picks up the energy again and finishes with a bang. Honestly, there’s not one song I haven’t liked. It’s that good.

Lyrically, LGBTQ themes come to the forefront. With Communion, those notions were subtle. Palo Santo is the opposite. It’s almost a “coming out” of sorts even though lead singer Alexander is already an out gay man. Between this album and Hayley Kiyoko’s Expectations the LGBTQ community has plenty of music representation this year and honestly both albums are killer without that being a focus. It’s just a plus.

I didn’t plan on leaving my home today, but I might make an exception to go pick up a copy of Palo Santo. It’s one of the best records I’ve heard all year next to Vance Joy’s Nation of Two. I highly recommend it to everyone. Go listen on Spotify or Apple Music! Download a copy! Buy a copy! Just check this shit out. Years & Years have officially made a strong comeback in 2018.

The Film Playlist: We Are Your Friends

While at my cousin’s house over the weekend, we watched another movie that easily makes The Film Playlist. It’s been a while since I wrote about a movie for this series so let me explain. The Film Playlist is a blog series I started about movies that are about music. It’s been about a year since I added anything to it, but as soon as we started watching We Are Your Friends this past weekend, I knew I had to write about it this week.

The 2015 drama stars Zac Efron, Wes Bentley, Emily Ratajkowski, Shiloh Fernandez, Alex Shaffer, and Jonny Weston. It was written by Max Joseph and Meaghan Oppenheimer based off a story by Richard Silverman. Joseph also directed the film which marked his directorial debut. The movie is about an electronic music DJ named Cole Carter (Efron) who is trying to work his way up in the music industry. It’s also partly a coming of age story because Cole and his friends are young adults trying to figure out their lives in the midst of partying at night clubs, selling drugs, and being part of the electronic music scene. While booked to play a gig at a club one night, Cole meets the headliner, who was once a hot commodity in the electronic music world, James Reed (Bentley). Reed in a way becomes a mentor for Cole once he realizes his talent and helps Cole to understand how to create music that doesn’t sound like every other electronic song.

As soon as we started watching this film Friday night, I knew I would love it. The plot is average though. It’s nothing out of the ordinary or exceptional. I strictly loved it for the fact that it was about music and electronic music in particular. I’ve never seen another film that surrounds the electronic music scene. It was cool to see scenes about creating electronic music and also scenes featuring EDC Vegas, which is an electronic music festival done by one of the leading electronic festival promoters Insomniac Events. The soundtrack for the film was excellent. Its feature track “We Are Your Friends” by Justice featuring Simian is where the film got its title from. It also features songs by Years and Years with Gryffin, AlunaGeorge with Tchami, Seinabo Sey with Kygo and Deorro ft. Erin McCarley.

If you’re expecting an award winning film, that’s not what We Are Your Friends is. It’s really just a fictional coming of age film that surrounds the electronic music industry. If you’re at all into electronic music, I suggest you check it out. It’s a film you don’t have to think much about and can purely enjoy, especially if you have a love for music, especially electronic music.

Coachella Band Preview: Years & Years, Halsey, Cold War Kids, & The 1975

Coachella Weekend 1 is 23 days away, which means 3 more weeks! I only have 3 weeks left and so many more bands to preview. That’s why this week I’m combining 4 bands into one preview since I covered them each in depth on the blog before. They are Years & Years, Halsey, Cold War Kids, & The 1975. You’ll notice links on the names of each band to their respective blog posts for a little more background information, but for now I’m just going to give a simple breakdown/recap on each.

Years & Years is a band I started listening to near the end of summer. They’re kind of on that EDM spectrum, but can also be considered pop, indie pop, or synth pop. Since I wrote about them in the summer, the group has toured the U.S. and booked several music festivals along with Coachella this summer. They’ll also be supporting fellow Coachella act Ellie Goulding on tour this spring. As a somewhat newer band (their first full length album was just released last year), it’ll be their first time playing the Coachella festival. They play Friday.

I also started listening to Halsey around the same time I started listening to Years & Years. Halsey is a pop/electropop/indie pop singer. As I mentioned in my prior blog post on the artist, she has a comparable sound to Lorde but lyrically is comparable to Lana Del Rey. Since writing about Halsey, she released her debut album, Badlands, and like Years & Years also toured performing in venues throughout the U.S. She will perform for her first time in the Indio desert this year as well. Her set is on Saturday.

Both Cold War Kids and The 1975 are no strangers to Coachella. The 1975 played Coachella for the first time in 2014 and are making their big return this year following the release of their sophomore album, I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It. Since writing about the indie pop/indie rock band from the UK in early December 2015, they released their new album at the end of February. It debuted at the number one spot on both the UK Albums Chart and the Billboard 200 in the U.S. They play Sunday and I anticipate them drawing a decent sized crowd, especially now that they’re playing more of a headlining role compared to their last Coachella appearance. Cold War Kids on the other hand will be playing Coachella for the third time. They first played the festival in 2008, but haven’t performed there since 2011. There was actually some speculation that they might have been on last year’s lineup, but as you know that didn’t happen. Since I wrote about these alternative rock/indie rock music vets in the fall, they haven’t been up to much besides touring. However the band announced last week via instagram that lead guitarist Dann Gallucci was parting ways with the group and will be replaced by David Quon. I’m sure he’ll be in the mix when the group takes the stage on Sunday.

As you already know, I like all these acts and I recommend seeing each one’s performance at Coachella. With Sunday’s strong lineup of acts, it might be tougher to make the Cold War Kids set or The 1975 set due to conflicts, but there’s less likely to be conflicting issues with seeing Halsey and Years & Years. To make sure you’re ready to see each band/artist’s performance though, here are my top three favorite songs by each (you can check my original blog posts on these 4 for more recommendations):

Years & Years

  1. Border
  2. King
  3. Shine

Halsey

  1. New Americana
  2. Drive
  3. Hold Me Down

Cold War Kids

  1. Miracle Mile
  2. First
  3. Hang Me Up To Dry

The 1975 (** but really check out their whole second album too!**)

  1. The Sound
  2. Girls
  3. Chocolate