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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It is the end of the world (aka 2014) as we know it…and I feel fine.

It has been too long, and we are sorry. There has been a long absence from us. But 2015 is upon us, and that means more new music and more shows.

2014 has ended out with a bang. I think I’ve seen the last two shows of my 2014 (who knows, that may change). With great joy I witnessed the homecoming of one of Sandy Beats’ favorite bands, Imagine Dragons, as well as a new locally bred favorite Brumby. I also enjoyed the sweet sounds of one of my Life is Beautiful favorites Priory and revisited my teenage years with Bush.

It is not quite yet time for the best of 2014 from @begt and I, but that will come in January, I can assure you.

In the meantime…

My “classic” Repeat One of the moment is “Calamity Song” by indie folk leaders The Decemberists.

My “new” Repeat One of the moment (which should be no surprise) is “Shut Up and Dance” by WALK THE MOON (who will be gracing Las Vegas in May!!)

And while they didn’t play the song when I saw them this week…it is only fitting to honor Imagine Dragons with “Look How Far We’ve Come”. If the time comes that I leave Las Vegas, this band will signify my time here. I cannot help but get goosebumps any time I hear their music.

Another band I saw recently who has held a top spot on my playlist as of recent is We Were Promised Jetpacks. This Scottish band rocks my world each and everyday with “Quiet Little Voices”

As mentioned, Las Vegas bred Brumby is new discovery to me. “High Waters” has been on my playlist for the last week.

I’ll leave you with my three biggest Life is Beautiful surprises. First up is St. Paul and the Broken Bones with “Call Me”. If this doesn’t get something stirring inside of you, I think you should call your doctor.

Nahko and Medicine for the People brought me back to my roots with with “Manifesto II”.

And finally, Catfish and the Bottlemen with “Cocoon”.

Life is Beautiful Preview – Day 2

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Here I sit, Tuesday night and already thinking ahead to Saturday at Life is Beautiful. I am not going to lie. I am least excited for Saturday. That is not to say, I am not going to have fun. There are some AMAZING acts performing on Saturday, and this is my hometown festival…there is no other option than having the best time I can manage. If there is a day that I wander onto a performance that I love…Saturday is the day.

So, there are a few acts that are not to miss on Saturday. In order of awesomeness, they are:

1) Fitz & the Tantrums – as far as live shows go. There are few bands that can even compare. The energy of this LA based group blows most bands away. It does not matter if you aren’t familiar with their songs (which, lets be real, means you haven’t been paying attention), you will dance. If you don’t at least nod your head, you have no soul (I am just kidding).

If you don’t tap your foot or nod your head while listening to “Moneygrabber” please do not tell me.

2) The Roots – Philly bred hip-hop hybrid The Roots are a staple of American pop music. They’ve been relevant longer than many festival goers have been alive. I was first exposed to them in the 90’s as a hip-hop alternative to the prevalent “gansta rap” and they are now best known as the house band on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Regardless of how they are known, they are a headline worthy act, and I wouldn’t miss seeing them live.

3) OutKast – I’ll be honest, when I saw OutKast with @begt at LouFest 2014 I actually said to myself “how can Outkast fill up a 2 hour set”. Those are words I lived to regret. I’ve never been a really intentional fan of Outkast, except maybe during the Dungeon Family record era. Their LouFest show was incredible. Each song better than the last, and the show itself was visually stunning. I know the choice is between Outkast and The Flaming Lips…two very visually dramatic performances, but Outkast will win this round for me. I can also assure you that you know more Outkast songs than you think you do.

For example, “Whole World”…you’ll be singing along in no time.

Other bands of note that I am hoping to catch on Saturday include: Welsh rockers Catfish and the Bottlemen (best name ever?); NYC Based post-punk outfit Bear Hands; @Begt’s recommendation J. Roddy Walston and the Business; and English Indie rockers Alt-J.

I’ll leave you with Catfish and the Bottlemen with “Fallout” which is a freaking awesome video that I probably like more because of my recent trip to the UK.