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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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.

April Music Round Up

April has a been a complete and utter whirlwind of a month. Now with 3 days into May, I can finally look back at April with a grin on my face and knowledge that rarely have I experienced time periods with such amazing live music.

The first show was Young the Giant with St. Lucia at the Cosmopolitan Resort’s Blvd Pool. You already know how much I love that venue.

I was a bit nervous that St. Lucia’s sound would not work outside. Let me tell you how wrong I was. St. Lucia put on the second best show I’ve seen at the Blvd Pool (only Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros were better). It was obvious most of the crowd was there for YTG, but the energy level of St. Lucia was incredible. It is very clear that Mr. St. Lucia himself and front man of the touring band, Jean-Philip, loves what he does. He had a huge smile on his face during the entire show. I cannot wait to see them live again.

IMG_0264Young the Giant was also fantastic.

I am now more of a fan of St. Lucia than I was before the show. Enjoy my favorite track “This is the Way You Remember Me” (this is not from the show I saw)  

Show two was the one I thought would be the highlight of April (I’ll get to that later). On the bill was White Lies, The 1975 and The Naked and Famous. If you’ve read this blog, you know how I feel about TNAF. This was my first show at the brand new Brooklyn Bowl Las Vegas. After having seen 6 shows at the BBLV this past month. I can tell you that I’ve never felt this way about a venue before. This venue knows my needs and desires. The Brooklyn Bowl completes me. I had a feeling that TNAF would be an “inside” band. This show was far and away better than their show at the Cosmopolitan pool in October. I was very impressed with White Lies. I didn’t like their album so much, but when they preformed these songs live, I felt like I was present for the heyday of the Cure. Their sound is very strong, clear and Cure like (which is not a bad thing in my book). My favorite song of the evening, (no shocker here) was “Girls Like You” from The Naked and Famous. 

Show number three was also at the Brooklyn Bowl…This time it was Robert Randolph and the Family Band. I’ve been a fan of RRTFB since the early 2000’s, but never lived anywhere he would tour…until now. He played super late shows (4:00am) and afternoon shows (1:00pm). I saw him on Easter at 1:00pm and it was as close to god as I may get. The man plays the sacred steel like no other, and despite the small crowd (of mostly Phil Lesh fans from the night shows) Robert Randolph and his band (many of them actual family members) had huge smiles on their faces during the very jam heavy set.

photo 2 (8)Show number four was one I was hoping to see but wasn’t sure. I like “dad rock” and despite what others may think O.A.R. fits into this category. Now, don’t get me wrong, they are a great band with a great number of excellent songs, but they tend to skew a bit to the late 30’s early 40’s demographic…aka…young dads. I went to the show with a group of people I never met before, and had a blast. I saw the band on the their 3rd night of a 3 show weekend at the Brooklyn Bowl. As a band with a very deep catalog, I know that each show was different. For the final show, the band had a full horn section which was not present in the previous two shows. I was an OAR fan before the show, but as with many bands…now that I’ve seen them live, I am hooked. I would love to see them again.

After seeing them live, their song “Shattered” is now one of my songs of the season. 

During the weekends the Brooklyn Bowl usually has two shows a night. The early show (8:00pm-ish) and the late show (12:00 am). The weekend of O.A.R. the band Gogol Bordello was playing the late show. @begt had recommended that I see this band. Obviously I love live music…but 12:00am? Really? I mean, they would have to be really good to keep my attention. Well, dear reader, I can assure you that Gogol Bordello puts on one of the most amazing live shows I have ever seen. You read that right…they put on one of the most amazing high energy shows I have ever seen. The proof is the in pudding. When they announced two more shows this past weekend (not in April, but its okay) I made sure that I saw them again. This “gypsy punk” band knows how to rock. If you see one show from a band you are not familiar with this year…go see Gogol Bordello. Seriously, go see them. Both nights were incredible. The first night was more “mellow” but that is only because the second night I saw them I experienced being in a mosh pit for the first time in my life. I also had beer, wine, sweat and god knows what else spilled on me. It was worth it every minute. Enjoy “Wanderlust King” 

Not to be outdone by April, May has started off with a bang. Two shows in the 3 days. The first was the 1970’s hard rock band Wishbone Ash performing their classic Argus  in its entirety. I was not familiar with this band, but did recognize their music. It is obvious by looking at the lead singer/co-lead guitarist Andy Powell that drugs may not have been as big of a priority for him as with his contemporaries. It was clear why Andy Powell is one of the most important guitarists in rock history (Traffic Magazine). And then of course, I saw Gogol Bordello again.

Next week May kicks into high gear with Hunter Hunted, NONONO and Twenty One Pilots…but that show deserves its own post.

 

 

April Music Extravaganza!

@Begt has been encouraging me to write about the April full of music I am about to have. Lets be real, I wish I was wealthy because there are SO many good acts coming  to Las Vegas in the next month. Though if I spend all my money this month, I will not be able to attend things like LouFest, so I need to keep my priorities in order!

I’ll start with who I am going to see, and then talk a bit about those I will not see, or I most likely will not see.

My April of music starts next Friday with one of my favorite new bands, opening up for a band that I just started getting into. This concert is at the Cosmopolitan Pool on the same night that indie favorite Lana Del Ray is playing the newly renovated Chelsea at the Cosmopolitan. Now, I like Lana Del Ray, but I would not miss this show at the pool.

The openers for the evening is the great St. Lucia. I am pretty pumped to see them. I’ve watched a couple live videos and the band seems to know what they are doing. My only concern is that when I saw another synthpop group at the BLVD Pool, The Naked and Famous, their sound just didn’t work outside. Regardless, I am excited to be taken back to the synthpop glory days of the 1980’s.

Here is “September” from their 2013 release When the Night. 

The headlining act of the night is Young the Giant. These guys hail from due west and the city of Irvine, CA. I really enjoy their indie style and catchy lyrics. I think this show has the potential for being the best I’ve seen at the pool save Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes.

Here is “Mind Over Matter” from their 2014 release of the same name.

Up next is a show I’ve been waiting for since I first saw The Naked and Famous in October before Life is Beautiful. This time they are playing the brand new Brooklyn Bowl at the Linq with The 1975.

Here is “I Kill Giants” from their newest release In Rolling Waves. (I find this video only slightly disturbing).

I’ve not listened much to The 1975, but I enjoy their 80’s vibe. Here is “Settle Down” from their self-titled release.

The other show that I am not going to miss is Robert Randolph and the Family Band. They just wrapped up their first of two weekends and Brooklyn Bowl today, and will be coming back later this month. I’ve been a fan for a few years, and never thought they’d come to Vegas. I am glad I have been proving wrong. Ask yourself, “do I want to see the greatest steel guitar player who has ever lived play live?”. There is only one answer to that question.

Here is “Amped Up” from Lickety Split. 

So on to the bands I probably won’t see, but maybe I will:

(this is why April is so freaking outstanding)

Grouplove (sorry B, YtG and St. Lucia win out)

Empire of the Sun (miracles happen, so maybe I will be able to go)

Haim (I wouldn’t see them unless it was free anyway)

Foster the People (sorry B, this one is also hella expensive)

Gogol Bordello (this is looking more like a yes that I will see them)

Lorde

O.A.R. (would be awesome but these tickets are not wallet friendly)

The Infamous Stringdusters  (the price is right, but its a Sunday night)

Let us not forget that May will bring at least one show I will be seeing, Twenty One Pilots, and hopefully Childish Gambino (tickets are actually reasonable).

The summer will have more in store as the Cosmopolitan has the summer series “Set your life to Music” kicking off at the end of May and only a few bands are on the lineup.