Spring Heavy Rotation

There have been so many new albums released over past few months that have captured my ears. Mixed in with bands that are old favorites are a couple new discoveries and new found appreciation for bands I did not give much time too in the past.

The National is a band that I should like because they are often quiet and sad. I do like some of their songs, and very much appreciate their influences on bands like Frightened Rabbit. Their newest record I Am Easy To Find is filled with such great melancholy that I really have no choice but to embrace it. My favorite song off the album is “Light Years”.

Speaking of Frightened Rabbit, through an online group of Frabbits I found out about an up & coming Scottish band called Wrest. Wrest can easily fit in a set with Frightened Rabbit, The Twilight Sad and We Were Promised Jetpacks. They recently released their debut album Coward of Us All. I love each song on the record, but my favorite is most definitely “Human”. I really hope for big things from this band. Their insightful (and melancholy) lyrics really hit the spot.

Sandy Beats favorites Of Monsters and Men will be coming out with a new album later this year, and will also be performing at Life Is Beautiful (!!!). From the sound of their first single “Alligator” off the upcoming record Fever Dream that they may be a bit less folky… that is definitely okay with me. I am excited to see them live again and to hear more new music.

My most anticipated album for the first half of 2019 was definitely Living Mirage from The Head and the Heart. The album does not disappoint. I like it just as much as their sophomore release Let’s be Still. Each new THaTH record has a new favorite song…this time it was “See You Through My Eyes”…I cannot wait to hear this song live. The first single off the record is “Missed Connection” and is another incredible song.

Another album that I was anxiously awaiting during the first half of 2019, Bear’s Den’s So That You Might Hear Me brought another hefty dose of English melancholy and introspection into my world. I am pretty sure its the album I’ve listened to the most this year (with Wrest and THaTH coming in tied for second). I love each song on this record, but have two favorites: “Crow” and “Hiding Bottles”. The video for “Crow” gets me every time.

The last song is not new, but the version most definitely is. While the band Penny & Sparrow does have new music coming out this year (Finch), this song is a John Denver original. “Annie’s Song” will always remind me of parents. Apparently my uncle performed this at their wedding (I have heard a couple different stories regarding this)…but whether or not this song was at their wedding, it is their song to me. I love the John Denver version and it will always be my favorite, but this version is just so perfect as well.

There is no better way to end a post than with this beautiful song.

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January is Coming in HOT!

It is still January and we have been blessed with a ton of great new music! With the increased tension across the United States (and world), I’ll start off with a couple very political songs from folks not known for their politics.

The first is “This Land” from Gary Clark Jr. Clark is known for his incredible guitar playing and his swagger, not his politics. The song and the video discuss Clark’s experiences in Trump’s America. The video is one of the most powerful I’ve ever seen. It is directed by 25 year old Savanah Leaf. I get chills every time I listen to the song or watch the video.

 

Las Vegas’ own The Killers are also a band not known for their politics. Singer Brandon Flowers has dabbled in his support for local candidates or issues, but those statements have been few and far between. With their newest track “Land of the Free” they take on issues like immigration and gun control. It is also the most “Springsteen-esque” I’ve heard them. The video for this song was directed by Spike Lee.

2019 has already been a banner year for one of my favorite types of music, melancholic. One band who embodies this is the appropriately named Twilight Sad. They hail from Scotland and were very close with the lead singer of Frightened Rabbit. Their newest record IT WON/T BE LIKE THIS ALL THE TIME, finds a return to the synth heavy 80’s sound that I first loved them for. I am hoping to see them on this current tour. They put on one of the most emotional shows I have ever seen. Here is “VTr”:

The Queen and King of American Sad (Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst) dropped a surprise album earlier this week under the moniker Better Oblivion Community Center. They have created something truly beautiful and melancholy. I’ve listened to little else this week. Hopefully they’ll make a stop in Las Vegas if they tour. Here is “Didn’t know what I was in for”.

Anti-Folk hero Sharon Van Etten has bulldozed into 2019 with her loudest and most synth-heavy record Remind Me Tomorrow. After having a few acting roles (including in my fave The OA) and a baby, Van Etten is back with her first release in four years. The songs are much more nostalgic and hopeful than some of her previous work. I adore the new record despite it taking me a little time to get used to loud. Here is the very appropriately titled, “Comeback Kid”:

My favorite young Brit Rockers Catfish and The Bottlemen are back with the first new single “Longshot” off of their forthcoming The Balance. If you get a chance to see them, do. They will absolutely melt your face.

I look forward to even more amazing music this year…both The Head & The Heart and Grouplove should be coming out with new albums, so that alone will make this year perfect for music.

Tiny Changes

I am working on a “Best of 2018” post, but odds are that won’t be posted for a little while. As I was thinking about the songs that defined 2018 for me, two songs in specific came to mind. As mentioned in the post “Woke Up Hurting” in May the lead singer of Frightened Rabbit, Scott Hutchison killed himself. I had already been listening to FRabbits a lot in 2018, but starting in May that went into overdrive. I’ve listened and re-listened to each of their albums many times, but The Midnight Organ Fight has become a favorite. This was the record that launched the band which had started out as a solo project for Hutchison. In 2018 they had begun touring on the 10th anniversary of the album. I had listened to this album before, but it really did not hit home until this year.

The two songs from the record which I have listened to almost once a day (at least) are “Modern Leper” and “Heads Roll Off”. Each of these songs has powerful lyrics (as typical with Hutchison’s writing). They performed them both earlier this year as a part of the MOF tour, and these two are taken from their AV Club Sessions.

A line from “Heads Roll Off” has become the rallying point for fans of FRabbits since Hutchison’s death. It has been heartwarming to hear about the impact Hutchinson has had on other singers and regular folks. Singers continue to honor his legacy, and fans have donated thousands of dollars to mental health organizations in the months since Hutchison passed. Like many of those regular fans, the line also sticks with me and will definitely be a motto for 2019 and beyond.

“While I am alive I’ll make tiny changes to Earth”

Woke Up Hurting

I’ve been thinking about this post since May 11th. A few days prior to that date Scottish Band Frightened Rabbit lead singer Scott Hutchison was reported missing. Hutchison suffered from mental illness. He never shied away from talking about it in his songs or in interviews. Late May 10th/ early May 11th his body was found having been washed ashore after he committed suicide. Just two days ago, celebrity chef and commentary Anthony Bourdain died as a result of suicide. As a society we talk about suicide in hushed tones. Mental health is a conversation best left for the confines of private spaces. This needs to stop. We have to talk about mental health. We have to let people know it is okay to get help. We would not stop someone from going to the doctor if they had broken a bone, we must be willing to talk about professional help for mental struggles as well.

Hutchison’s death hit me hard. He was 36. He was just a couple years younger than I am. He was a successful musician for all intents and purposes. He headed two successful bands, Frightened Rabbit and Mastersystem. He also had a strong solo career with Owl John. Yet he still fought his inner demons constantly. I am not a mental health professional, but I have experience with anxiety and depression. I know they are not easy to kick. They do not just go away. We need to remember this for our friends and our loved ones. We need to check in on each other.

I have not been a long time fan of Frightened Rabbit. I only started listening a few years ago, and only through a friend who had recommended their label-mate and fellow Scots We Were Promised Jet Packs. But, their songs and the words of Hutchison resonated with me immediately. With the release of Painting of a Panic Attack I became a devoted fan. Never before had I heard an album with such raw emotion, heartbreak and hope. I listened to that record more than any other during that year (and in the time since). I was fortunate enough to see them at LouFest 2016, and even more fortunate to meet 3/5 of the band at City Museum later that night (3/5th did not include Scott or his brother Grant sadly). I did get to tell the rest of the band how much Painting meant to me.

The specter of Scott Hutchison will be with me for a long time. His words will live with me and will continue to comfort me and thousands of others long after his death. I am thankful he shared his genius with the world. I hope that others can learn from him and find hope in his words.

I could share many Frabbits songs, but I will stick with a few that have impacted me. First up is “Woke Up Hurting” from Painting of a Panic Attack. Even prior to Hutchison’s death I listened to this entire record at least once a week.

Up next is “The Woodpile” from Pedestrian Verse. 

Hutchison had a close relationship with many bands, including Manchester Orchestra. Andy Hull and Hutchison wrote a beautiful song together called “The Architect”.

After the passing of Hutchison, many of his friends and fellow musicians played his songs in tribute. These can be difficult to watch as the emotions run high, but they are beautiful nonetheless. My new favorite Frabbits song is “Modern Leper”, particularly due to the tribute from English singer Frank Turner.

Fellow Scots The Twilight Sad have been closely tied with Frabbits for years. Scott and Twilight Sad’s lead singer James have written more than a few songs together. Recently The Twilight Sad has been playing “Keep Yourself Warm” at their shows. The emotion shown in this video is completely heartbreaking.

Life is hard. Be more kind to your fellow humans. Be more kind to yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

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”

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.