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”

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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.

LouFest: The Favorites

LouFest 2015 will include many old favorite acts as well as bands that I’ve either wanted to see live but have not, or, are bands that have come into my life due to LouFest. In the first of my LouFest series, these are the groups that I’ve seen before, but am SUPER excited to see again.

3) Young The Giant – I’ve been fortunate to see YTG twice as they headlined a show with St. Lucia and opened for Imagine Dragons. From those two performances, I’ve learned that they are a band with incredibly high energy, and Sameer, the lead singer, has one of the best live voices I think I’ve ever heard. I know they are going to have a very great set.

Here is “Crystallized”

2) The Avett Brothers –  I was so excited to read that they would be headliner at LouFest. Despite the negative comments about the festival lineup (which I thought where completely uncalled for – see: The Case for LouFest) I couldn’t have been happier. I had the pleasure of seeing these guys for 2 of the 3 shows they did last August here in Las Vegas. They may be the best live band I’ve ever seen. The two shows I saw where very different from each other and only had a few songs that were performed at both of those shows.

Here is “Open Ended Life”

1) This should be no surprise to the readers of Sandy Beats, but act that I’ve seen before that I am most looking forward to is Brandon Flowers. His album, The Desired Effect was my first favorite record of 2015, and may take the top spot at the end of this year. I was fortunate enough to see him with 250 of my fellow fans at the epic show at the now gone Bunkhouse. He is a hell of a performer, and I know I’ll be in for a treat again. And I know that he will sing my second favorite song of all time, “Read My Mind” (Killers “cover”).

Here is “Magdalena” my favorite cut from his first solo effort.

(I just get goosebumps when I watch his performances… he loves what he does so much).

Stay tuned for the next LouFest preview.

The Feels

Music is my outlet. It has been that way for a while. There are emotions that are much better felt with music accompanying them. I had thought about titling this post “Melancholy and the Infinite Sadness” but lets be real, I am nowhere near emo enough to use a Smashing Pumpkins title for this post. I mean, I love the Pumpkins as much as the next guy who was in high school in the 1990’s, but I am a grown ass man now, so I won’t use such titles.

However, I don’t want to let you believe that there isn’t some “emo” in the post…but I’ll let the music speak for itself.

In listening to artists for the upcoming LouFest 2015 I found myself gravitating to Strand of Oaks. His music is a bit more “rock-ish” than I often listen to…but his lyrics drew me in. His lyrics on his newest record HEAL are very introspective and relate back to his personal struggles over the past few years that this amazing article from Spin outline. After spending some time with Strand of Oaks and the record HEAL, this went from a “I’ll see SOO if the timing works out at LouFest” to “Unless he’s up against Brandon Flowers I am seeing this man perform”.

I love the entire record HEAL, so it is hard to figure out what song to play, but “Shut In” wins.

I greatly slowed down my show going over the last few months. I needed to take more time for life. I had a list of shows I was considering, and knew that I wouldn’t make some. However, there was one show I couldn’t miss. After years (literally) of @begt raving about the John Butler Trio, I had to go see this band when they came through Las Vegas. I don’t know if they had ever performed here, so I didn’t want to miss out. The crowd was spectacular. Each time I go to a show that caters to a more hippy crowd, I am surprised to see the people come out of the wood work in Las Vegas. I am sure many came in for the show, but it is always good to see these people are around. I loved the entire show, each song was great and John Butler is one of the best guitar players I’ve ever seen. There was one song in particular which took me to another world. I think @begt texted me during the show saying that this song can change your life. I will say that I’ve divided my concert going life into two parts. Before I heard “Ocean” performed live, and after.

Here is “Ocean” from the Live at Red Rocks DVD (seeing him and Red Rocks would be amazing).

I am not sure how I stumbled upon AURORA, a Norwegian singer. Her songs are all very haunting as her voice is very ethereal. Her songs also tell a heck of a story. Here is “Awakening” from Running with The Wolves”. 

My favorite album of 2015 (so far) is Of Monsters and Men’s Beneath the Skin. It is my opinion that this record is leaps and bounds better than their first (which I also quite enjoyed). The lyrics have matured significantly and the music has become a bit more complex (while still maintaining the OMAM sound). I enjoy each song from the record, but my favorite is “Hunger”. They lyrics are devastatingly real.

Here is “Hunger”:

There is enough of the feelings for one post. Stay tuned for LouFest previews coming soon.

Waka 2015 through my iphone

I only had my phone and my film camera this year at Wakarusa, and it made it all more enjoyable. Here are the best phone photos.

Remember I told you several artists walked by the Love Hope Strength table and I totally got photos with all? The only one I missed was Chance The Rapper… he walked and I missed him.

Wakarusa 2015

Welcome to Wakarusa
Wakarusa is home to me. It’s the first music festival I ever attended and I’ve been attending every year since. Apart from that, it only takes me a bit over an hour to get there, yet it completely removes me from my world.

Waka has been getting better year after year, not counting 2012, the year better known as Mudarusa. That was the year I spent less than 24 hours on site, the only set I enjoyed was Of Monsters And Men, Grouplove disappeared from the lineup a week before the festival. Anyway, this year was better than last. Everything looked better, prettier, more colorful. Even the water stations were actual water bottle filling stations (thanks, Klean Kanteen!) instead of regular (and kinda questionable looking) faucets from previous years.

This year I went back to volunteer with Love Hope Strength. I was able to catch a lot of the music I wanted to and got to meet several artists that happened to walk by the LHS table. I got no shame on showing the fanatic side of me.
Moon Taxi
I didn’t catch any new bands (we were short handed in volunteers), so I only caught my faves and a couple of new bands. The first show I caught was Moon Taxi. Those guys were so great. The sun was still pretty high, so it was hot as balls, but there was still a big crowd (specially for the first day of the fest, which is usually the slower day). That night I also got to see Kopecky (previously known as Kopecky Family Band) and texted @docmurda about it. The reply I got said “You know you’ve seen a lot of shows when you can’t remember seeing Kopecky at Loufest 2014.” I blame the name change!

I didn’t catch any daytime sets on Friday. My first one of the day was Chance The Rapper at 8:30pm. He drew a huge crowd and he kept us entertained. I was really impressed by him. I wasn’t very familiar with his music, but he turned me into a fan. After his set, I walked around with a friend and ended up at STS9 after a couple of other shows that didn’t catch our attention. STS9 was a bit enjoyable. I was super tired, so I went back to camp right after. My camp was super close to the main stage, so I could hear all the music very loud and clear. So I can tell you, STS9 and Big Gigantic are good sleeping music for me. That was not the case Saturday night, when I had to suffer through Major Lazer, who had the late set at the main stage. That isn’t music. If anything it sounds like someone is killing chickens. It was awful.

Saturday, up to Major Lazer, was a great music day. I pretty much wanted to catch every set at the main stage and some at smaller stages, but I was only able to catch Young The Giant, The Roots, and Ben Harper and The Innocent Criminals. It was still hot and humid when Young The Giant started their set, but it was so great. Those guys were full of energy and most of us in the crowd danced and jumped and sang along through the whole set. I was right up from for all three sets (no shame, remember). I was completely blown away by The Roots. Those guys were amazing. AMAZING. I really have nothing else to say about that, except that everyone needs this experience. Did I mention it was amazing? So by the time Ben Harper and The Innocent Criminals came, I was already in a great place emotionally. They took me higher. I have all of Ben Harpers albums and the ones with The Innocent Criminals (Lifeline and Burn To Shine) are my favorites. Last time I saw Ben Harper, it was at Waka 2011 when he played with Relentless7. I really enjoyed that show as well, but this one was at a different level. I think it fell more personal to me.

I ended up my Wakarusa with Nahko and Medicine For The People set on Sunday. I had a lot of fun at every set I attended… I even cried a little with Ben Harper. But Nahko and Medicine For The People was the set that is going to stay with me forever. It’s what I listened to the rest of the week at work and home. I still cannot get enough. The golden lyrics are just… and the music… and… I just can’t explain. It’s like being in love.

I also learned something important. If I could have a super power, it would be something that would make tall people that stand in front of me (5’2″) at concerts disappear.

I hope you enjoy this photos. I took a roll of film (yes, film) with me and had it cross processed. I am super happy with them. I used one of my lensbaby lenses to take them.