Spring 2017 Repeat One(s)

Spring is in full effect here in the beautiful Mojave Desert. I am already thinking about summer, but am not really ready for those super hot days and slightly less hot nights. I am, however, excited for a summer of music. By last count starting in April-August there are 11 shows on the docket. I am sure more will be added. As I am currently procrastinating doing homework, I will be more brief. The following songs have been on heavy rotation for me this Spring. Good news is that I’ll get to see some of them soon.

First up is “Can We Hang On?” by The Cold War Kids. Their song “First” from the previous record is one of my all-time favorite songs, and this one is very powerful and gives me some of those same feelings.

Until I finish my allegedly epic (in my head) post on protest music, the next Repeat One from Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit may have to suffice. The first single is called “Hope The High Road” and it is a protest rock and roll song if I’ve ever heard one. Isbell is not ashamed of his politics and his disdain for ignorance. His former bandmates Drive-by-Truckers had  one of the best albums of 2016 that also happened to be filled with social commentary, so its no surprise that he is more overt with this newest song.

“There can’t be more of them than us”, while I am not a praying man, Jason, by god, I hope you are right.

Next is my second favorite set of hometown boys, Imagine Dragons, with “Believer”. I’ll just leave this freaking incredible video to speak on its own. Plus Dolph Lundgren. If this song is any indication for what is next for one of Vegas’ favorite sons and his crew, I can’t wait.

One day my cubicle neighbor and friend asked if I had heard of LP. I had heard the name, but had not really ever given her a listen. That was an error on my fault. I’ve since remedied that, and have been listening almost obsessively. My favorite song is “Strange”.

Last year the band MUNA opened up for Grouplove and my life was forever changed. Since that time they’ve released their first full-length album and have been touring on their own. This version of their song “I Know a Place” is so hauntingly simple and beautiful.

And finally, the one not new song on the list comes from Bhi Bhiman and features Rhiannon Giddens (solo artist and of the Carolina Chocolate Drops). The song “Up In Arms” could also be placed in the aforementioned Protest Songs post, but we can enjoy it hear. This song gives me chills normally, this version even more so.

Music with the Feels

It shall be no surprise to anyone that I enjoy music with feeling. I am sure there are no examples of me writing about music with feeling on Sandy Beats. Never. You can not tell me any different. I would never say that. I hesitate to call that “fake news”. But I digress. This is not a political blog, per se, but it is about music which is most definitely political. However, instead of boring the reader with my post about protest music (which is being written), I will instead focus on some sweet new music that is full of feeling.

First up, one of my favorite feelers, Strand of Oaks (aka Tim Showalter) released Hard Love just this week. You may remember him as being featured in my last post that included the word “feels” called “The Feels”.  The first single from the new record is “Radio Kids” and you can find the new album out now. I very much feel the nostalgia in this song. I was most definitely a radio kid with my dozens of cassette tapes full of songs off the radio. That was the biggest reason I got into broadcasting in college.

Tim has been interviewed quite a bit for this release, including a Morning Edition on NPR and this amazing article in Stereogum.

I am not a consistent fan of Ryan Adams, I will admit it. But I do go back to his music from time to time as the mood strikes. Well, the mood definitely struck as songs from his newest record Prisoner were released. In his first album post-divorce, many were waiting to see what kind of Ryan Adams would show himself. I personally believe we got the best kind of Ryan Adams on this heartbreakingly powerful album. After a few listens, this is most definitely in the running for a 2017 favorite. There are so many good songs to chose from, but “Do You Still Love Me?” is a great example of what the record offers, and the video was partially filmed at Red Rocks outside of Denver, my hometown.

Finally I am going with some pure cheesy feels. I do love my fair share of pop music, but I don’t listen to much of it. However, there are some exceptions, one of the biggest is Mexican-American siblings Jesse y Joy. There most recent Spanish language release, Un Besito Más was one of my favorite releases of 2015. This year they released their first Spanglish self-titled album. While this song is not on that record, the video is new, and I quite like it.

 

The only question now is when I will post again with the word “feels” in the title.

2016 in Music

It has been a while here on Sandy Beats….life has a way of getting you distracted with other things. However, music has been a constant for me, and 2016 has been filled with some great albums. Music is most definitely an art, but like paintings, photographs or sculptures I am drawn to those things that can be enjoyed many times over a long period of time and that speak to me on an emotional, spiritual or intellectual level. While I enjoyed some of the top albums that you will find on critic’s lists, I found so many of them as something that was great in that moment, but did not carry on its greatness after the moment had passed. With that in mind, I am not a music critic, I crafted this list based on what I listened to the most and what I remember the most from the year.

  1. Frightened Rabbit – Painting of a Panic Attack
    The desperation in the lyrics and the expansiveness of the sound on this record caught me on first listen. I’ve enjoyed previous efforts from Frightened Rabbit, but this record has spoken to me all year. Seeing the band live at LouFest and meeting three of the members at City Museum(!!) later that day was a live music highlight this year.
  2. The Strumbellas – Hope 
    This one is no surprise as this was my most listened to artist of 2016 (according to Spotify). I first heard the band in 2015, and then realized I had found them just in time for their 2016 release. This record is so full of introspective lyrics and catchy hooks I just could not stop listening. Their performance at Life is Beautiful is one of my top 2 festival performances this year.
  3. The Lumineers – Cleopatra 
    There are times when it seems that albums are made for you at specific times of your life. I feel this way about Cleopatra. Songs about life, loss and love never get old, but this trio has a way of communicating them on such an emotional level. They provided my favorite festival performance of the year. Looking at those who were around me, it was nice to know I was not the only who who shed a tear or two at the show.
  4. A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here … Thank You For Your Service 
    This is the newest record on the list, and may have been higher up had it come out earlier. As I tell pretty much anyone who will listen, this is the hip-hop that America needs right now. Amidst the overproduced and under-talented pool that is mainstream hip-hop, ATCQ comes back and seems as fresh as they day the first busted out onto the scene. The songs on this record cover a variety of relevant topics including racism, classism and the President-Elect Trumplethinskin. The first live show of my life featured Phife Dawg (RIP) and to this day I’ve not seen a better MC in person.
  5. John Paul White – Beulah 
    I loved the Civil Wars, probably to the point of obsession. When they split up, I was heartbroken. What they did with their two records spoke to me on a such an  emotional level, I did not know if I would hear that from music again. Well, John Paul White proved me wrong. While I will always miss the Civil Wars, I am so very pleased that JPW released a record that is as raw and honest as the Civil Wars but also very different.
  6. Catfish & The Bottlemen – The Ride 
    I have a renewed faith in modern day britrock after learning about Catfish and Bottlemen a few years ago. These songs are super catchy and have a maturity not seen in the previous album.
  7. The Head & The Heart – Signs of Life 
    This was my most anticipated release of 2016. The Head and The Heart are consistently one of my most listened to bands, and I’d say they are one of my favorite bands. This is very different from their previous two records, but growth and change are good, and I think this album clearly illustrates that.
  8. Young the Giant – Home of The Strange 
    I’ll be honest to say that I’ve been more of a fan of YtG live than I have their studio releases. That all changed with Home of The Strange. Amerika is one of my most favorite songs of the year, and is particularly relevant noting the political changes to the United States. While I won’t say that YtG has not been amazing, I think this record really shows a maturity and sense of strength in whom the group is as a unit.
  9. Grouplove – Big Mess 
    If this record was not on the list, I am pretty sure my Sandy Beats collaborator, BEGT, would end me. Regardless of that, this is my favorite of the Grouplove records, and the songs live with me long after I listen to them. This was also one of my top concerts of the year. Grouplove brings so much passion and energy into their performances. It would be difficult not to like them.
  10. Travis – Everything at Once 
    I dare say that I’ve been a fan of Travis for almost 20 years. I greatly anticipated the release of this album, and enjoy that they are the Travis of my youth (and their own youth) while also growing as a band. This record spawned one of my favorite Travis songs, “Idlewild”.

Honorable Mentions:
Paper Lights – Great Escapes 
Kishi Bashi – Sonderlust 
David Bowie – Blackstar
The Avett Brothers – True Sadness 
Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide to Earth 
Drive-By-Truckers – American Band 
Mogwai – Atomic 

In no particular order, here are a few of my favorite songs of the year (not previously featured) on Sandy Beats.

A Tribe Called Quest – “We the People”

 

The XX – “On Hold”

 

Travis – “Idlewild”

 

Young the Giant – “Amerika”

 

Judah & The Lion – “Take it All Back 2.0”

 

The Broods – “Heartlines”

 

MUNA – “Loudspeaker

 

Moby & The Pacific Void Choir – “Are You Lost in The World Like Me”

New Music & A Bonus Video

After @Begt telling me about The Naked and Famous a few years ago, they quickly became one of my favorite bands. After excitedly spotting them on the Life Is Beautiful line-up I knew they would be releasing new music soon. Finally it has happened. The first single, “Higher” off of their upcoming release Simple Forms was came out today. The album will be released in October.

This song will be a Repeat One for sure.

 

While not new music, The Lumineers just released a video for “Cleopatra”. With such an incredible song with really powerful lyrics, I was really excited for the video. I was not disappointed.

 

 

Sweet New Tunes

These last few months have already presented us with great new music and the promise of some amazing records coming out in the late summer and fall.

One of my current favorite songs is from Seattle’s The Head and The Heart . “All We Ever Knew” is the first single from the forthcoming Signs of Light. I am hoping to be able to see them in the fall as they have a couple near-ish dates.

 

Another new jam is from The Avett Brothers. “Ain’t No Man” is the first single off of their next album True Sadness. I absolutely adore this video. I already have tickets to their show here in Las Vegas in September. There is no way I would miss this show.

I really enjoy that both The Head and The Heart and The Avett Brothers have adapted their sound a bit from each of their previous records.

On a different note, I generally prefer the more upbeat songs from Nahko & Medicine for the People, but when I heard “Directions” at their show in February it quickly became one of my favorite songs from the group. At the time I didn’t realize it was off of their now just released record HOKA. I really appreciate the meaning in calling for guidance from The Great Spirit and ancestors. At their last show in Vegas, this was the song they started off with.

 

This next song has been out for a few months,  but the record it is on was just released. The song “No Good” from Kaleo is a single from their first full length record A/B. On first listen, Kaleo sounds like a American southern rock band. You can just hear Nashville or Memphis in the way their guitars sound. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. These young lads all met in school in Iceland. I had the pleasure of seeing them last year at Life Is Beautiful, and I thought they were American until the lead singer spoke.

Extreme Festival Preview

This may be the furthest in advance I’ve written a post about a festival preview. This one is different though. I am going to take the three festivals I know I am going to, and selecting a band or two from each and featuring new music (or RepeatOne’s) that they have.

Chronologically, the first festival is one that is brand new. Goosenecks Music Festival is a two day festival outside of Capitol Reef National Park. It will be my first camping festival and includes a lot of regional bands, but will be headlined by Canadian Electro-Pop band Purity Ring and SandyBeats.com favorite Young the Giant. Two of my favorite bands will be there. The appropriately named National Parks and The Colourist.

The first Goosenecks band is new to me, so I am going to feature a song that is currently my Repeat One of the week. Like many of the bands at this festival, VanLadyLove is a Utah based “folk-ish” band. The song “Neverland” is my jam.

Foreign Figures is another Utah based band who just released their first full-length LP Paradigm. The title track from that record is catchy as all get out, and they have a sound familiar to readers of SandyBeats.

 

Up next is LouFest and this will be @Begt and my 4th year at the festival. There are some great names on the lineup including country and bluegrass crossover Chris Stapleton, Greensky Bluegrass who I saw earlier this year, and one of my personal favorites St. Lucia (I am a St. Lucian). One of the bands I am most looking forward to seeing is Scottish Indie group Frightened Rabbit. They’ve been on the lineup for a lot of other festivals and I was hoping they’d hit LouFest or Life Is Beautiful. Their newest record Painting of a Panic Attack may be one of my favorite records of the year so far. The song that sticks out to me is “Get Out”.

 

Finally on the list is Life Is Beautiful. The local Las Vegas festival is back for year 4. There have been a lot of changes in the festival since last year, including the founder leaving the management team. However, the good news is it seems like the people booking bands finally discovered Folk-Pop. Which for me makes this lineup one of (if not) the strongest in the LiB history, and one of the best of festival season. With groups like Mumford & Sons, The Lumineers, The Strumbellas and The Naked and Famous (I know, not folk, but I LOVE THEM).

One of my Repeat One’s for this lineup is from Seattle based indie pop band Hey Marseilles. Their self-titled newest record contains the song that I just cannot get enough of, “Eyes on You”. The video is a bit of a trip.

 

That is just a bit of what is in store this summer. There will be more previews, so hopefully this is just the tip of the iceberg on that front.

David Ramirez: An Introduction

While I’ve been listening to him for a couple years now, this week I’ve really been getting acquainted with the work of Texas bred singer/songwriter David Ramirez over the last couple of weeks.  As I’ve been reading more about him, it is clear that the reasons I enjoy him are pretty widely shared by his fan base. He writes and sings about real life. Plain and simple. Each and every one of us who has lived any part of life can relate intimately to his lyrics. I’ve found many comments online about his work, but the one I keep going back to is an article published last week by Vivian Nunez, “I want the love that’s found in ‘Bad Days’  . While this specific article goes a bit deeper into the love that Ramirez discusses in “The Bad Days” it clearly illustrates the connection that a listener has to his music.

When I was thinking about writing this post, it became really difficult to choose just a few songs to feature. It changed about every day or so as I was thinking of this. So I am go with those that I am feeling today.

As referenced above, “The Bad Days”, is a song about real life love. This isn’t a fairytale love that exists in pop songs and movies:

“There are gonna be days when the love is so thin

The days are a game that we just can’t win

There are gonna be days you might want to be free

There are gonna be days that you hate me

But hold on strong

Don’t let go

We’ll carry on I know we can find a way

Cause you’re still my girl in the bad days”

These words hit me every single time I listen to this song. This is the real love. I’ve been fortunate to see this type of love in both my parents and grandparents. It’s not easy. But the good days outweigh the bad days.  I think this is why Ramirez speaks to me. He sings songs about real life.

In a similar vein, “Shoeboxes” describes finding items from a past love. There is no doubt in my mind that Ramirez has experienced this situation in order to have written these types of lyrics:  

“So I suppose you’ll be in every song I sing

If not written in my words, you’ll be hidden in these strings

Cuz how could I ever forget my first love

My first woman, first truth, first child from above

But why do I hang onto your pictures

Why have I not just thrown out that dress

Cuz it kills me to see you, but it kills me not to

It kills me to remember, oh and it kills me to forget”

I am sure there are hundreds of thousands of people who can relate to  this, but listening to this song it is like he wrote it just for me as it speaks directly to experiences I’ve also had. Ramirez writes songs that are not just his…they are also the songs of the listener.

The song “An Introduction” has the same autobiographical stance, but is different both topically and musically from the previous two songs. In this song, Ramirez is found having a spiritual crisis, which is something I would believe most of us can relate to.

“My biggest fear in the world

Is introducing myself in the grave

After all my years living free

I don’t have much to say

Oh the longer I live the more I know I’m gonna die

And the more questions I have the less I want to try

Time was winning so many times I stopped keeping score

Tell me where to find the Lord”

I’ve never been one to listen to to music and not listen to the lyrics. So perhaps that is where my mind has been it over the last couple weeks that Ramirez has been on constant rotation.