What’s On My Playlist?

This summer has been a fantastic era for new music and new artists. Here are some of the songs that I’ve had on repeat this past June.

“Die Young” by Sylvan Esso

“Die Young” is a perfect combination of bittersweet lyrics and bubbly, bass-infused indie-pop beats that’ll make you want to hop in the car and leave everything behind. Plus, their new album What Now has similar hits like “Radio” and “Kick Jump Twist” that utilizes creative computer-esque beats and intriguing lyrics.

“Loving Someone” by The 1975

While their latest album came out in 2016, I can’t seem to stop listening to “Loving Someone” and pretty much every other song from The 1975. They have a beautiful talent of mixing aesthetic value and music together in a way that transports you to another place when you listen to them. For me “Loving Someone” is a song that uses poetic lyrics and dreamy synths to create a visual image every time you listen to it.

“Sober” by Lorde

As a long time fan of Lorde’s music, I was both hesitant and excited to listen to her new album, Melodrama. While I didn’t fall in love with her first hit from the album, “Green Light,” once I heard the opening to “Sober,” I was entranced. The song begins with eerie and desperate vocals that aptly sets the tone for the song. The subtle chorus and punching lyrics will definitely hit the heart of any angsty teen, like myself.

“Loudspeaker” by MUNA

I’ve already written an article on MUNA’s new album About U , here, but something about them has left a lasting impression. The lead singer, Katie Gavin, has such a unique voice, and all of their songs, like “Loudspeaker,” have an empowering, passionate, and truthful tone that goes straight to the heart. Plus, their style and aesthetic are to die for.

“Alone” by Halsey

While “Now or Never” is the staple hit from her new album Hopeless Fountain Kingdom, the song “Alone” has stuck out to me personally. The Pink Floyd-esque opening is an interesting instrumental lead into lyrics about a life of partying and fame, while still feeling completely lonely when the glamor fades. While I’m not sure if I can relate, I still feel like wistfully looking through a window with my heart shaped sunglasses on whenever I hear the song.

“Amsterdam” by Nothing But Thieves

Ever since I heard their first hit, “Trip Switch,” Nothing But Thieves has formed a special place in my heart. The song “Amsterdam” is a rock filled anthem that makes you wanna headbang in a circle, but the vocals and melody are catchy enough that you’ll be humming it long after the song is finished.

Summer Boy by “Lady Gaga”

Yes, this song was originally released in 2009, but it’s integral to any summer playlist, and as soon as you press play on this track, you’ll understand why. Lady Gaga’s iconic vocals and pop-powered electric guitar riffs make the song feel like pure candy to the ears. Plus, the light-hearted and whimsical lyrics make it a perfect summer jam.

Interview with Bad Suns

As a long time fan of the LA alt-rock band, Bad Suns, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to sit down and talk to them about their newest album Disappear Here. Along with that, I was also able to interview the band about their current tour, as well as ask a few questions about their previous album, Language & Perspective.

My first encounter with Bad Suns was in 2014 when I ran into their music online. I quickly fell in love with their songs, and after a couple months I received their Language & Perspective vinyl as a birthday gift. Their catchy hooks and energetic songs make them the perfect band to sit down and jam out to, but they also don’t shy away from music that focuses on more serious issues and contain a lot more lyrical depth.

I met up with the band at The Complex on February 28th; the winter weather was still lingering as fans huddled up in a line outside of the venue. I met up with the band inside where I was able to meet all of the members. I was first introduced to Christo Bowman (Lead vocals and guitar), then Gavin Bennett (Bass), Ray Libby (Guitar), and Miles Morris (Drums).

After we all sat down, I asked the group about their newest album, Disappear Here, and how  their sound has changed and evolved from their first album, Language & Perspective.

“We felt in a lot of ways that Language & Perspective feels like the first couple of dates with a person; you present yourself the best that you can, showing the best sides of yourself, but with Disappear Here it’s kind of a bit more like falling in love…There’s more vulnerability there and it goes a bit deeper, but at the same time it’s still the same person,” Christo explained.

While Language & Perspective is still one of my favorite albums, it’s easy to tell that Disappear Here feels more confident and structured while still maintaining their original sound.

I then asked the band about the album title itself, Disappear Here, and how the name came about.

Christo explained, “We were in the studio and I was reading the book Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis, which is one of my favorites, and there’s a billboard that appears in the narrative a few times that says ‘Disappear Here.’ I remember we were thinking of album titles…and it kind of encapsulated everything we wanted it to. It’s like instructions too, to an extent, it’s like sit down, put your headphones on, and disappear here.”  

For myself, music has always felt like an escape, but with the track list for Disappear Here it’s very easy to follow the album’s directions; just sit back and get lost in the music.

Lastly, I talked to Bad Suns about their most recent tour. Coincidentally, Salt Lake City was their first show on the list, so I asked them about what they all looked forward to the most when performing live on their tours.

“I was talking to my uncle just the other day about this. It’s a really cool real life manifestation of your hard work. It manifests itself into people physically spending their time to go buy a ticket or drive to the show; it’s really encouraging.” Ray explained.

Christo chimed in, “Yeah it feels like the reward aspect of what we do…It’s one thing when we put a record out, and it’s great to see that people are listening to it…but you don’t really get the full picture until you come to a show and you see a room full of people singing along to the entire record and you go ‘Oh wow, this is real, these people are actually spending time with our music,’ and that’s just an incredible feeling.”

It was definitely really nice to see how humbled the band was to be playing live, and as a fan, I was definitely humbled to be able to sit and interview them.

If you’ve never listened to Bad Suns before, make sure to check out the song below. Sadly, they’ve already passed through Utah, but if you’d like to see them in the future during the rest of their tour, be sure to check out their tour dates for this Summer!

 

MUNA – About U

When people ask me what albums I’ve been listening to recently, MUNA, an all-girl band from California, is definitely at the top of the list. Their style is extremely unique, and with songs that include lyrical depth as well as catchy pop beats, they’re a band you’ll say “I knew them before they were cool” when they climb up the pop and alt charts.

Surprisingly, I first discovered MUNA’s music through my mother. I was lying in bed when she sent me a text saying she bought two tickets to MUNA’s concert at Kilby Court on February 13th. However, being the ornery college student that I am, I brushed them off thinking they just wouldn’t be my style. But after their concert, I realized how wrong my judgements actually were.

MUNA entered the stage with members Katie Gavin (Lead vocals/Production), Josette Maskin (Lead Guitar), and Naomi McPherson (Rhythm Guitar/Synth/Production). Even though the stage was small, they definitely put on quite the show. Their microphone stands were adorned with white flowers and Gavin’s audience rapport made the show feel very intimate and organic; an experience that’s sometimes hard to find in a live performance.

As soon as the concert ended, I went to iTunes and downloaded their CD “About U.” Though their song “I Know A Place” is the main single from the album, my personal favorites are “Promise,” “Crying On The Bathroom Floor,” and “End of Desire.” But no matter the song, there’s always a catchy element to their music that leaves you tapping your foot and humming along. Plus, Katie Gavin’s vocals have a certain unique tinge, similar to Dolores O’Riordan from The Cranberries, that pulls you in and leaves you wanting more.

One of my favorite things about MUNA, however, is how they combine the sound of an indie-pop band with an aesthetic that’s dark, eerie, and unexpected. Their album cover is mostly black featuring images of roses and chains; a somewhat 90’s goth look for a band that’s so pop. But I think this is why I like MUNA. They juxtapose their pop sound with lyrics that are darker and deeper than what’s typical of the pop genre.

Along with their unique image, MUNA identifies as a “queer girl band.” None of the band members identify as straight, and they all made a conscious effort to exclude any gender specific pronouns in their songs. They also challenge current political issues, such as adding the lyrics “He’s not my leader, even if he is my President,” to their live versions of “I Know A Place.” While some of MUNA’s songs may cover touchy subjects, their overall message is that of acceptance and being confident with yourself even if that means not adhering to social norms.

MUNA is still a relatively new band, but I have a feeling that won’t last for long. Their sound, image, and message combine into something that’s a breath of fresh air for the current pop scene. And with appearances on both Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon’s Late Night Shows, I can only imagine we’ll be seeing more of them in the future.

 

Interview with Sunsleeper

Following the release of their new EP, Stay the Same, I had the pleasure of sitting down with local emo/rock band, Sunsleeper, to discuss their music, background, and plans for the future.

I met up with Sunsleeper at Kilby Court for their December 17th show. After the band finished up with their soundcheck, we all headed into the green room where I was introduced to the members of the band: Jeff (Guitar and Vocals), Scott (Drums), Eli (Bass), and Thys (Guitar and Backup Vocals).

We started off the conversation by discussing the history of the band and how Sunsleeper formed into what it is today. Jeff began by explaining that before Sunsleeper, all of the members were in various bands around Salt Lake and met up with one another through mutual friends. Strangely enough, before the band had even formed, Scott and Jeff had ended up standing next to each other at a concert without any knowledge that one day they’d be in a band together.

Before the interview, however, I was able to listen to a little bit of their soundcheck and noticed them playing a song from the band, Brand New, an emo/rock band from New York. I then asked the band what some of their musical influences were.

“100% Brand New… Brand New is my biggest influence, [they’re] the reason I started playing music in the first place…,” Jeff explained.

While Sunsleeper is heavily influenced by Brand New, they create a sound that’s unique to them; something that’s genuine and personal. The song “Maple Drive,” especially, is an emotional amalgamation of soft and clean melodies with a gritty chorus and heartfelt lyricism. While listening to their EP, I might’ve shed a tear or two, but I think an album is truly special when it can elicit that much emotion in its listeners.

Apart from their sound, something that truly stood out to me was their album art. The image is a simple flower on top of a light blue background, but the photo is so striking and elegant, and perfectly encompasses the feel of the band. Because album art is such an iconic part of a band’s image, I asked them about their process in choosing the photo. Jeff talked about how one of his close friends Ryan ended up being the photographer for their main album photo:

“He [Ryan] was my best friend growing up… and I randomly went to his company page… and I looked at his header photo…and was like ‘that’s it’…I remember sending it in a group text [to the other band members] and everyone was just like ‘that’s the record cover’… And it’s especially special to me that it was Ryan who took it because he’s basically my brother.”

Lastly, I asked the band if they had any plans for future releases.

“We’re working on some stuff; tentatively want to record sometime next year [2017]. It’s really up in the air, but yeah we probably have 4 or 5 skeletons of songs,” Jeff mentioned.

Thys added: “We are trying to stay as busy as we can, we’ve gotten a lot of traction lately and want to be really action-oriented, so hopefully we can get some music out sooner than later.”

While new music is still in the works, it’s obvious that Sunsleeper is definitely a band to keep an eye out for in the future. If you haven’t heard any of Sunsleeper’s music, take a listen the song “Maple Drive” below and definitely check them out on their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr!

 

 

Ricky Eat Acid Interview

I sat down with Maryland musician/producer, Sam Ray, from Ricky Eat Acid to talk about his new album, performing live, and what life’s like on the road.

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If you’re new to Sam’s music, like I was, it’s hard to label his sound as one thing or another. However, his most recent album, Talk To You Soon, can be best described as experimental, soothing, and complex trance music. Typically, trance isn’t my favorite genre, but there’s something special about Ricky Eat Acid songs. Each track makes you feel something different. With mainly instrumental music, it’s easy to fall into patterns where songs begin to sound similar, but Sam creates music that’s unique yet familiar at the same time.

I met up with Sam downtown at Kilby Court on November 11th. Everything was bustling as the crew was setting up for the show later that night. Because Kilby Court is such a small venue, the vibe is very personal and organic. String lights lit up the main courtyard and graffiti from past performers covered the walls.

As Sam exited the green room, we greeted each other and walked towards the merch table. He comfortably pulled his knees to his chest as I set up for the interview. I first asked him about his newest album, Talk To You Soon. While listening to it I noticed that all of the songs sounded very different yet cohesive at the same time. I asked him if he had a certain concept in mind while writing the album. He talked about how he wanted the album to be a progression, saying that:

“The idea for that [the album] was always that it was based on this thought of there being somebody who meets and gets obsessed with this glowing ball of light and it eventually eats the person and turns into a predator and devours it.” 

This explains how the album evolves from the bright and relaxing opening track, “‘Hey’,” to the more dark and sinister song, “As We Speak (feat. Wreck & Reference).” I then proceeded to ask him about his ongoing tour, and how it’s different performing live music:

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“Anything you perform in your whole life is reliant on a crowd…Anytime I’ve ever played Ricky Eat Acid sets… I’ve noticed that it’s almost reliant on that [artist/crowd dynamic]… There was one night on this tour at a college show, two girls walked up on the stage and asked me to play “Gold Digger” over and over because they thought I was just DJ’ing… I’m just like ‘I can’t do that, like I don’t even have wi-fi. I couldn’t even if I wanted to,’ and they got so mad at me. I tried to be very nice about it but they told me I’d never be welcome back at the college… So it’s always unexpected.”

Lastly, I asked him about the pros and cons of being on tour. He mentioned that the biggest con was feeling exhausted and how he ended up with pneumonia and the flu by the end of one tour. However on the pro side, he talked about being on tour with his wife, Kitty, and being able to travel:

“Performing is very cool, but everything that comes with it, whether it’s seeing places or going anywhere I’d ever wanted to go…and meeting tons of people you never would otherwise is really cool, and it never stops being cool. Even when someone who has never heard of me comes up and is like ‘That was cool,’ is the best part of it I think.” 

As we wrapped up, Sam and I shook hands as he headed backstage to get ready for the show. I sticked around after the interview to watch the rest of the concert. While the interview overall was fairly short, Sam was very humble and it was a pleasure to talk and get to know more about him and his music

 

 

 

 

Frank Iero And The Patience – Parachutes

Following the breakup of My Chemical Romance, ex-guitarist Frank Iero expressed little desire to continue on with music. However, almost three and a half years later, Frank has come out with two solo albums, multiple side projects, and various tours around the world.

804aa3dd0191ef1c266c8d68cb296a12On October 28th, Frank announced the release of his sophomore album, Parachutes, under the moniker “Frank Iero and the Patience.” While the band’s first album, Stomachaches (2014), received positive reviews, Parachutes has a certain confidence and honesty that Stomachaches lacked. The band also decided to work with producer Ross Robinson (known for working with Korn and Slipknot) who pushed the band to a new level musically.

“He does this thing called mental surgery, and that involves sitting down for a very long period of time and discussing and analyzing the songs and what we’re trying to sing and what we’re trying to get across in the songs. I learned so much about myself and the things I was writing that, oh man, I’ve never been more emotional and exhausted but inspired at the same time in my entire life.” Says Frank in an interview discussing what it was like to work with Robinson.

After listening to Parachutes, it’s clear that the extra work paid off. The songs sound polished and professional, yet still contain an introspective and raw element that’s integral to any punk album. As a long time fan of Iero’s music, Parachutes is definitely one of his most singular works to date.

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In a note on his website, Iero writes, “Parachutes are life saving devices…Some of us plummet at an incredible rate and it’s over in a flash, but some of us get saved and are able to enjoy the view for a little while….This album is one of my parachutes,” in reference to the meaning behind the album’s title.

For Frank, music is both a form of creative expression as well as a sort of catharsis. In the song “Dear Percocet, I Don’t Think We Should See Each Other Anymore,” he expresses a strong desire to be more conscious and not let his life slip away to narcotics. The combination of Frank’s desperate vocals and heavy guitar rhythms makes the song all the more powerful and heart-wrenching. However, the album takes on a more hopeful and positive tone in songs like “Oceans” and “Remedy.” Frank writes “‘Oceans’ is a song about accepting love even though you are unsure if you actually deserve it.” 

The album as a whole may not be the most uplifting, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be. What makes it so special is the vulnerability of the songs and the emotion put into them. Parachutes is definitely a journey from start to finish, and it’s impossible to not feel moved in some way by the end of it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Die Antwoord – Mount Ninji and Da Nice Time Kid

The first time listening to a song by the South African rap-rave group, Die Antwoord, I was appalled, shocked, and even offended. Apparently I wasn’t the only one considering the mostly negative reviews of Die Antwoord’s fourth studio album Mount Ninji and Da Nice Time Kid. However, while it’s easy to dismiss the group for their crude and audacious persona’s, there’s much more to Die Antwoord than meets the eye.

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The group’s aesthetic stems from the South African counter-culture movement called “zef” which roughly translates to “common” in English. For Die Antwoord, the style is most often characterized by bold colors, gaudy outfits, and flashy jewelry. However, in an interview, Yo-landi Visser says “Zef’s kind of like you don’t give a f*ck and you have your own flavor and you’re on your own mission”; a mentality that’s ingrained in all of Die Antwoord’s work, especially in their newest album Mount Ninji and Da Nice Time Kid. 

The opening track “We Have Candy” is a surreal and theatrical invitation to the rest of the album. A combination of comedic dialogue and soaring operatics leaves the listener confused yet wanting more; a description that can be applied to most songs from Die Antwoord. “We Have Candy” was the group’s original name for the album because of it’s random and playful tracks, but the name was soon changed to Mount Ninji and Da Nice Time Kid once the group added more dark and vulnerable songs to the album.

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The song “Banana Brain” is a perfect example of the more random and playful songs Die Antwoord began writing the album with. The track begins with Yo-landi’s high-pitched and eerie vocals which then lead into a roller coaster of pulsing beats and EDM rhythms. The music video for “Banana Brain” depicts a crazy house party with fast cars, psychedelics, and neon lights; a setting most appropriate for the song’s wild/rave attitude.

Even though Die Antwoord’s music shouldn’t be taken too seriously, some of the songs take it too far to the point where they become immature and no longer amusing. The songs “Wings on my Penis” and “U Like Boobies?” are just as cringe-worthy as they sound. The songs feature an unknown six year old named Lil Tommy Terror rapping about exactly what the song’s names suggest. Along with being inappropriate in nature, the songs also lack musical substance and make me question why they were considered official tracks on the album in the first place.

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While most of the songs from Mount Ninji contain a similar sentiment, it’s clear that the group tried to balance the album out with more vulnerable and stripped down songs like “Alien,” “Darkling,” and “I Don’t Care.” The songs discuss what it’s like to be considered an outsider and not caring what others think. Even though the message of these tracks are more heartfelt and genuine, their stripped down nature makes the songs dull and repetitive.

Mount Ninji and Da Nice Time Kid may not be the most musically substantial album out there, but it’s certainly exciting and different. It also contains bizarre guest appearances like “Rats Rule” featuring Jack Black and “Gucci Coochie” featuring Dita Von Teese. Overall, the album’s avant-garde character and catchy rave beats definitely makes it an album worth listening to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yellowcard – Yellowcard

As their 10th and final studio release, Yellowcard’s self-titled album is powerful and new yet still reminiscent of their original pop punk sound.

In June, the band announced that they would be breaking up after the last show on their world tour on December 18. While the news was disheartening to their loyal fan-base, the band stated in a note:  “We realized that this was the right time to step away and preserve the legacy and integrity of the band. It is with you, the fans in mind, that this decision was made.”

With many successful bands, deciding an appropriate time to retire is difficult, but after months of deliberation Yellowcard finally concluded that their era would soon be coming to a close.

“We went into this record knowing it would be the last” said the band. However, even with the end in sight, Yellowcard made sure to produce an album filled with invigorating rock hits like “Got Yours” and “What Appears.”

The opening track, “Rest in Peace,” begins with a rhythmic guitar intro and catchy violin riff that’s intrinsic to Yellowcard’s signature sound. With lyrics like “If this was the last time that we would ever speak, Could we forgive somehow, Could we let it rest in peace,” Resolution and Forgiveness are made apparent as strong themes throughout the song. Even though “Rest in Peace” is the opening track to Yellowcard’s final album, it doesn’t feel like it. The song is uplifting and hopeful in the sense that there’s peace to letting things go.

One of the other main hits from the album, “The Hurt is Gone,” succinctly wraps up some of the important ideas from the album. It discusses the inevitable changes a person goes through, and the hope within that change.

As a band that started in 1997, the members have grown significantly over time, and relay their own personal changes through their music. “The Hurt Is Gone” is so special because everyone at some point in their life can relate to the ideas of the song. Along with an important message, the song includes a melodic guitar introduction and a striking chorus with the lyrics “Change comes for you, even if you’re hiding out. So wake to this truth and maybe you’ll believe me now.”

The final song “Field & Fences” is the most singular track from the album because it’s so poignant and ends the album in such a beautiful way. The 7 minute song includes soft guitar melodies and layered harmonies that sound almost hymn-like. The chorus ties everything back to the beginning track, “Rest in Peace”, with the lyrics “Tennessee, when I finally lay down to sleep, then I’ll rest in your ground.”

While Yellowcard is comparatively more somber than the band’s previous releases, it’s a perfect mix of new music with their old sound.

Even though the band will retire after their December show, they will be playing in Salt Lake City as part of their Final World Tour at The Complex  on October 28th.