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”:

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“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!

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.

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.

I can’t get this song out of my heart

Every now and then a song comes to me and makes me melt into a galaxy of fun.*

I ran into “Heart Stray” by The Fame Riot this morning and it was an instant match. I started oooooo-ing and singing along the catchy chorus as soon as I got the lyrics down.**

But then, you guys, I checked out the video. THE VIDEO IS SO GOOD. What is that fashion? 90s? A little bit of 80s? Portland Hipstery?***

These guys look like they enjoy the heck out of life. Can ya’ll adopt me? I will travel with you and take all your photos and will make all your album covers and t-shirt designs. Seriously, take me with you!

I hope all of you, wonderful Sandy Beats readers, enjoy this sweet, sweet song as much as me.

PS. In their about section on their website, it says “The Fame Riot is not a band; it’s a religion. The two brothers are at the forefront of a shift in musical style and culture, drawing influence from the last 4 decades of rock, pop, electronica, disco, and everything in-between.”****

*I haven’t written in this blog in so long, of course I had to start with a sentence like that!
**I am one of those people that is not good with lyrics, titles, and names, so this took me at least two listens before I felt confident enough to sing along.
***I should also confess here that I am not very well versed in fashion either.
****SWOON!

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”