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.

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 Case for LouFest

These days it seems like there is a music festival in every city during the summer. Each week it seems like there is a new one popping up. To the non-music professional, this seems like a tough environment to be in if you are either a small music festival, or a festival in a smaller non-coastal market. Now I don’t know what goes into a planning a festival. I don’t know about booking acts, and I don’t know the process for picking the best acts for any given festival. I do love music. All kinds of music. And I also love LouFest. LouFest was my first major music festival. For that reason it will have a special place in my heart. But I also love LouFest for the friendly environment it creates, and I love it because St. Louis is such a great place to visit. Since my first LouFest, Begt and I make it a point to go back every year. We don’t live near each other, and sometimes don’t get to see each other very often. But we have Sandy Beats and LouFest.

This year, I was very excited for LouFest. I bought the super early bird ticket, and anxiously awaited the lineup. Begt and I made predictions, and assumptions. When the lineup hit, I was thrilled. But I felt like I was alone. Reading St. Louis newspaper articles, the comments on LouFest’s instagram and comments in the LouFest subreddit illustrated to me that people were not happy.  The comments varied from the disgruntled, to the downright angry. I didn’t (and don’t) understand the anger. I mean, I wish that LouFest featured the reunion of Oasis (unlikely that reunion will happen) or included a performance from Tupac’s hologram…but I realized that LouFest isn’t going to cater to just my taste. They are going to cater to a wide variety of tastes that will result in ticket sales and happy guests. I am fortunate that I live in a city that gets more than our fair share of shows. I am fortunate that I get to see more shows that most people can dream about, but I understand that there is a lot of competition out there for music festivals and different markets. St. Louis cannot complete in terms of sales to places like LA, Chicago, DC or Seattle. But, they can still host a heck of a festival that beats some of those other cities when it comes to the friendliness of attendees, the cleanliness of the park, or the green-ness of festival facilities. I choose to go to LouFest for the things I cannot get in Las Vegas or other nearby cities. The quality of the festival is the draw. I am spoiled because there is also incredible music.

This year’s lineup rivals the two previous years I attended. There are some great well-known acts, some under the radar wonders and up & comers. I personally am beyond excited to see The Avett Brothers again. I caught them in two back to back shows last year and they proved to be one of the best live bands I’ve seen. Readers of this blog know how much I love Brandon Flowers. Heck, I am paying less to see The Avett Brothers, Brandon Flowers and two full days of music than I did just to see The Avett Brothers once. I am super excited to see a band I’ve been following for a while that doesn’t seem to make it out west very often, Delta Rae. And I am looking forward to experiencing bands I didn’t even know about before the LouFest lineup like Pokey LaFarge, Knox Hamilton and The Suffers. LouFest is the place where I discovered some of my favorite bands like The Mowgli’s, Wild Cub and Vintage Trouble.

I know that this year will be different…as every year has been and will be. But I can tell you I am ready to hop on that plane and head to St. Louis for LouFest 2015. I will enjoy every minute, and in the end I won’t be upset that Liam and Noel didn’t get back together in front of my eyes under the lush trees of Forest Park.

Here is the first of many previews of LouFest 2015.

Here is “Live and Die” from The Avett Brothers.

Here is “Can’t Deny My Love” from Brandon Flowers

Delta Rae with “Morning Comes”

Here is Pokey LaFarge with “Something in the Water”

Knox Hamilton (featuring the Clinton Presidential Library and Mr. Ray Zerback) with “Work It Out”

And finally, The Suffers with “Gwan”

LouFest is going to kick some major ass.