My City, My Heart

 

I have lived in Las Vegas for more than a decade. I was not born here, but I fell in love with this place shortly after I moved here. This is my home. I choose to live here, and I am not sure I will ever leave. The last few days have been such a surreal experience that is tough to put into words. I want to have words for it, but I just cannot get there…yet. I know I’ve been sharing some sad songs, and while the sentiment I want to share now may seem sad, its more of a love for my home. When I say Home Means Nevada, I mean it. This post is an ode to my home.

“Home Means Nevada” as performed by The Killers

 

“Viva Las Vegas” as performed by The Killers

“Vegas Lights” by Panic! At The Disco

“A Shot at The Night” by The Killers

 

“Its Time” (and more) by Imagine Dragons

“I don’t ever want to let you down, I don’t ever want to leave this town, cuz after all the city never sleeps at night”

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I Hear You Like Sad Songs…

Ok, maybe you do not, but I do. As mentioned in a recent post, I’ve been listening to a lot of melancholy or “sad” music lately. Its not quite dark or emo, but its not “happy”. The exceptions have been for those bands who I’ve seen over the last few weeks.

There has been some amazing sad music come out in the last few months. One of the albums I was most looking forward to is the first release from Phoebe Bridgers, a singer-songwriter based in LA. I first heard her through a Spotify list. The song that hooked me, “Georgia” is haunting, simple and beautiful. After the release of her first album Stranger in the Alps I was able to experience more of the emotion that filled her songs. The song that first struck me (and still continues to) is “Funeral”. I quite appreciate this very understated live performance.

I’ve listened to Seattle based singer-songwriter Noah Gundersen on and off for the last few years. I first heard him as a recommendation from Spotify based upon my listening to his friend and fellow emotional singer David Ramirez. While not from his most recent release, White Noise, “First Defeat” has been a constant the last few weeks. It is another raw and heartbreaking song.

We are going to go way back with this last song. As a teenager I loved Radiohead. I loved all things BritRock. Other than electronic music and gangster rap, I was not a fan of the American drivel (my how the times have changed). Radiohead had a lot of sad songs early on and one of my favorites was “Fake Plastic Trees” from The Bends which in my opinion is the 2nd best Radiohead album. Second only to Ok Computer which defined much of my late teen years. Here is “Fake Plastic Trees”:

“I can’t promise you anything”

September is always a busy month with both LouFest & Life Is Beautiful taking place. This year there were a few bands who were at both of these festivals (as typical). One of the bands who has stuck with me since I started listening to them before LouFest is LA based Mondo Cozmo. The band is the brainchild of Josh Ostrander who is not new to the music life having been in two previously signed bands. While touring, Mondo Cozmo includes a live band including former Imagine Dragons drummer Andrew Tolman. Prior to LouFest as I was listening to the bands who would be playing, I was struck by the honest lyrics and powerful songs. Hearing and seeing the songs performed at both Life Is Beautiful and LouFest exceeded expectations. After having watched a couple of the music videos that accompany the songs, I am even more enamored with Mondo Cozmo. I am excited to see them again in November for the Emerge Music + Impact conference.

My favorite song prior to LouFest is “Hold on To Me”. It can be found on the recently released Plastic Soul. This video is beautiful, and it hits close to home for me. I needed this song and this video.

“Shine” is raw and Josh Ostrander has an almost Bob Dylan quality in his voice during this song. I believe I heard the term “hippie jesus” used in reference to this song at Life Is Beautiful.

My favorite lyric from “Shine” is “My friends are so alone, it breaks my heart. My friends don’t understand we all are lost”. Pure poetry.

“Plastic Soul” is a song I will find myself humming and thinking about all day long. When I first heard it, I had swore I had heard it before. Maybe I had, but one thing is clear, the song sticks with me.

Mondo Cozmo is currently touring, and it seems like they will not be stopping any time soon. If you get the chance, check them out!

“You Can Count on Me to F*ck Up Everything”

If you have ever read a post by me on this fine blog, you will know I like folk music and I like sad music. What happens when you combine the best of both worlds? You get bands like England’s Bear’s Den. A dear friend of mine first told me about this trio due to our shared love of all things melancholy.

There have been 3 songs that I cannot get out of my head, so I keep them playing frequently.

The first song, “Auld Wives” is off their most recent release Red Earth & Pouring Rain. 

 

The first song I listened to from Bear’s Den was “Agape” from their first full length release Islands. This one is a little bit more folky, which is definitely what got me hooked. The word “agape” is a Greek/Christian word for love. The song may be about a person, but I like to think it is about the concept of love, especially with lyrics like this:

“So tell me how long, love, before you go, And leave me here on my own, I know that I don’t wanna know, Who I am without you”.

Finally, the third song from Bear’s Den that keeps sticking my head is “Elysium” which is also from Islands. The video has also taken on a life slightly independent of the band. You can read about the creation of the video here.

I quite like how this band uses their videos to make their songs something different. And we all know how I feel about music videos.

Songs of Summer

I know the summer just technically started, but here are a few songs I think will help define my summer. While it is true that my recent Repeat One post highlights some of the songs that say Summer of 2017 for me, but there are more (always more).

First up is Margo Price who is bringing us back to the country music of Patsy Cline (with a bit more sass and a lot of weed). I am late to the game with Price who has been a Nashville staple for a while. Her Midwest Farmer’s Daughter is an instant classic.

Here is “Hurtin’ on the Bottle”:

 

If you could pick a new song that is the other side of the spectrum from Margo Price, that song would probably be the first single off of Arcade Fire’s forthcoming release. “Everything Now” is a disco jam made for summer. The video, like all of their videos, is a work of art and to me is reminiscent of one of my favorite podcasts, Welcome to Night Vale. 

 

Let us mess with genres some more, okay? I was not a fan of Dispatch until LouFest 2013 when @begutierrez introduced me to State Radio and Dispatch. Now I cannot get enough of Dispatch, State Radio or Chadwick Stoke’s solo stuff. Their newest record America, Location 12 has been a pleasant summer surprise for me. My favorite song off the record is a great road trip song, “Painted Yellow Lines”. This version was filmed at the Paste studio.

 

Finally, and on a slightly more somber note, Nahko & Medicine for The People has been one of my favorite live bands since seeing them at Life is Beautiful a few years ago. I had the pleasure of seeing them earlier this summer with a few more mainstream reggae acts. Nahko, always the activist, put on an incredible show. The live version of “Love Letters to God” from the most recent release Hoka both destroyed and inspired me. This incredibly emotional video captures that feeling.

Late Nights & Music Videos

Music videos are one of my most favorite things. No, I am not just talking about videos from my youth that changed the way I “saw” music. I still see “Black Hole Sun” from Soundgarden or “Today” from Smashing Pumpkins when I dream at night and the KLF videos still live with me everyday the strangeness that they exuded. I know this may be shocking, but artists and bands still make music videos. I know they are not played on MTV anymore, but there is still a market. And its not just Americans (rather it is probably mostly not Americans) who watch these videos. Now some of them are straightforward and boring. But others are works of art. Maybe because they are no longer being shown on MTV and VH1, artists (and directors) can be free to experiment with their story telling. The quality of some of these by relatively unknown bands is exceptional because we all have high tech cameras and editing software. However, the fancy equipment is not the only thing great about these videos. The emotions that a video can evoke, the changed meaning of a song, these and other visuals can completely make or break a song (in my opinion).  I often watch videos late into the night when I am already open to feeling and sometimes I come across a video that just blows me away.

Earlier this week I was listening to new music from some of the bands that have releases in the next few months. I had previously been familiar with Atlanta based Manchester Orchestra partially through a friend and through their relationship with Frightened Rabbit. They have been around for a while and have a pretty deep catalog. Their style is not easily defined ranging from harder indie rock to straight folk. If the first single, “The Alien”, off their upcoming record A Black Mile to the Surface is any indication, this album may be a bit more folky. When I first heard “The Alien” I liked the song and it really got me excited for the new record. When I watched the video for “The Alien”, I was blown away. It struck me as very different, very beautiful and it added an entire new layer to the song (see it below).

Summertime Repeat Ones

With the official start to summer last week, and Spotify releasing personalized Summer playlists, I have been reminded to share some of the music that I’ve been obsessing over the last few weeks. This summer will bring a bit of travel and excitement into my life, which is fantastic, and as usual, I am sure the music will keep me grounded and help me enjoy the fun (and challenging) times ahead.

My newest musical obsession is Ásgeir, an Icelandic singer-songwriter. Now, I love Icelandic music, probably more than anyone who is not Icelandic. I was shocked I had not heard (or maybe paid attention is a better phrase) to the genius of this man. Earlier this month he released his 2nd full length record Afterglow. On his first record he sang in Icelandic (and later released an English version). I could listen to Icelandic being sung all day, but I am so happy I get to understand the lyrics in English. Some of them are from the poetry of his father.

The song I am listening to the most is the the title track from Afterglow. I will be honest, it is not everyday you hear and song and know that this song will be with you forever. I listen to a lot of music, and love a lot of songs, but as soon as I heard this song, I knew I had heard a song that will be a life-time favorite. For met it is in the same league as Oasis’ “Don’t Look Back in Anger” and The Killers’ “Read My Mind”…the real deal. Here is a pretty spectacular live version (along with another great song “Stardust”).

I first heard The Collection because of my Spotify discover list (aka my weekly present). They have many of the elements of the bands that I am currently listening to, so after I heard the first song, I had to dig deeper. They currently have two full-length records and an EP. The lead singer and lyricist, David Wimbish also has a new solo record. His lyrics are very introspective and full of emotion. The song that I keep coming back to is “Some Days I don’t Want to Sing” from Ars Moriendi.  With lyrics like this, how can I stay away:

Is this the end? Are we in?
Do I watch all my friends just take dives off of cliffs ‘cause their heads are full of questions we can’t know now, unless we go?
And the weight of the world does not rest on your shoulders
No, it strains and it bends on the same arms that hope sends
So don’t carry it now! Lower it down!
When faith dies and hope flies, then love must prevail or else this all means nothing

Up next is The Brevet out of Irvine, CA. I first heard this band when they were on the lineup for the never to happen Goosenecks Music Festival. I really liked their music from day one. Last week I was able to see them as they opened up for Sister Hazel. Here is “Moving Mountains”.

Up next and no stranger to Sandy Beats is the newest song from The National Parks, “Places”. I cannot get enough of this band, and I am super excited for their upcoming new record. I do hope they hit up Las Vegas this summer. I’ve seen them twice, and that is not anywhere near enough.

The final song for the day is “Long and Happy Life” from the forthcoming new album from Delta Rae. This is one of my favorite live bands (who also sing one of my top favorite songs – on the same list as mentioned above), and one of the more outspoken “Americana/country-ish bands” out there. With their Fleetwood Mac style songs, and high energy it is difficult not to like them. This new song is a bit more “country” than much of their previous work, but they were recently signed by a country label and have been doing a bunch of radio station gigs. I am looking forward to seeing them in August.