HATARI was BY FAR my favorite, unexpected discovery of Iceland Airwaves 2017. Their name, which translates to “hater” in Icelandic, suits the venomous vibe of their “experimental bondage dark ambient darkwave goth punk synth” (check out their Bandcamp). Formed back in 2015, this transfixing trio — Klemens Hannigan (vocals), Matthías Tryggvi Haraldson (vocals), and Einar Stéfansson (drums, also the drummer for the amazing band Vok!) — have already earned themselves Reykjavik’s Grapvine‘s “Best Live Band” pick of 2016 and 2017 (check out their comical interview). Their BDSM garb and bizarre masks (worn mainly by Einar) perfectly compliment the cult-like atmosphere that they create with their dark, enigmatic electronicbeats and their eccentric, bizarre behavior (crawling on the bar, swinging around poles, and screaming like the devil). What’s most compelling about Hatari is their discerning dichotomies: devilish, primal screams delivered with a stolid, poker face… disturbing, suicide lyrics shouted to happy techno beats… fearful, yet amused. They exude a mystery and allure that is truly magnetic, and I had such a hard time pulling myself away. Mad props to Hatari for helping the crowd unleash our inner demons and making us “haters” against all the rampant hypocrisy that exists in this world. AND, I later learned that Bjork was one of the unexpected crowd members that Matthías locked eyes when he swung down from the pole that show. ONLY IN ICELAND. ❤️ Can’t WAIT to see them again at Airwaves this year!
“I’m in love I’m in love I’m in love can’t you tell?”… I’M IN LOVE with this song ‘Moon pitcher‘ that Hogni wrote for his fiance in his debut album, Two Trains, released Oct 2017 by Erased Tapes record label. Hogni quotes: “I feel I tried my best to create an honest and passionate piece of musical work and I hope you will find the time and space to enjoy it as well as finding that connection. As a musician you aspire to create that other world, that sense of hypnosis.” I def entered that other world, “CAN’T YOU TELL.” 🙂 ❤
Hogni was one of my top new discoveries at Secret Solstice 2017, and I could not wait to see him again at Iceland Airwaves 6 months later. His deep vocals and ethereal, experimental electronic arrangements simply SLAY, and I was so happy to hear the new gems from Two Trains, an album that he describes in the following words:
“The music on Two Trains is a blue-print of a period in my life where I collided with my own self, and at that point I felt the indifference between the personal and the universal, the absolute consciousness of life’s unconsciousness. Perhaps it’s a feeling that cannot be conveyed, like watercolours that just seem to wash off into the sea. But also a flashing mirage that you can enjoy before you arrive at your last destination.”
Hogni also alludes to this album as a personal expression of the tugging dichotomies he faces while living with bipolar disorder: “I’m bipolar. I got very sick and it has affected my life drastically. This album bears witness to it… (In) the last few years, the swings have decreased in size. When I was the most ill a few years ago, I felt terrible, even if you couldn’t see it. There was just so much going on, lots of fun, and even excitement about going to the psych ward for the first time. Like I was going down a new path for myself. But I haven’t seen it as exciting since then.”
Maybe this phenomena is what he was describing in his song (video below) where he sings: “Wonderful dreams that were uncomfortable scenes out of nowhere… Wonderful scenes that were uncomfortable schemes out of nowhere.”
Previously known as frontman of the well-known indie rock band Hjaltalin and former member of ambient-techno group GusGus), Hogni proves that “Two Trains”, “change and metamorphosis” are his preferred method of transportation in this journey we call life. His “I can do whatever I dream” (lyrics in one of the videos below) is infectious and his tenacity for movement and exploration are an inspiration to us all: “My life is untethered, in many ways,” Högni says. “I try to focus on making good music and seeking inspiration, chasing experiences, travelling and finding adventures.
Aside from fronting two touring bands, Hogni has made time to score numerous theatre pieces, most notably The Heart of Robin Hood (dir. Gísli Gardarsson), staged by The Royal Shakespeare Company in 2011 and Angels of the Universe (dir. Thorleifur Örn Arnarsson), the Icelandic National Theatre’s 2013 adaptation of a well-known and loved novel and film of the same title.mHe has also written music for film and television, including a well-received score for short film Víkingar (dir. Magali Magistry, 2013) which won the Golden Rail award and was nominated for the Discovery award, both at the Cannes Film Festival. There really is no telling where his “Two Trains” will take us next. I don’t know about you , but I am surely ALL ABOARD. ❤
Hórmónar (Whoremoans) definitely roused plenty of hormones at Iceland Airwaves this year, and it is no surprise that their fan base is multiplying rapidly. They were one of my top new discoveries at Secret Solstice 2017, and their liberating (shirts off at the ed), sexually-charged punk rock performance had both men and women in a tizzy. It therefore was no surprise to later find out that these 5 friends (Brynhildur Karlsdóttir-Vocals, Urður Bergsdóttir-Bass/Vocals, Katrín Guðbjartsdóttir-Guitar, Hjalti Torfason-Saxophone, Örn Gauti Jóhannsson-Drums) won the 2016 Icelandic Music Experiment. Brynhildur’s vocals were unpredictable, edgy, and hot, and plenty of men shouted “are you offering?!” in response to her asking the audience, “Are you HORNY?!!” In a previous interview with the Rekyavik Grapevine, Brynhildur said: “Our songs are like a female orgasm; there’s no one big explosion, but many high points.” Their smoking hot, super-seductive, “drive-you-wild” energy sparked some serious attention at Iceland Airwaves this year, earning them the “Peoples’ Choice Award” at the Grapevine Music Awards. I am so glad I was able to see them up close without getting burned. 😛 Can’t wait to see my three favorite songs (videos below) from their album ‘Nananana Búbú” once more at Iceland Airwaves 2018. ❤
I remember nearly suffering a mild stroke the first time I saw Iceland’s own We Made God at Iceland Airwaves Music Festival back in 2014. At one point the lead guitarist Arnór Jónasson jumped off stage and started swinging his guitar back and forth in front of my friend Jensyn Lynn Hallett and I as he furiously strummed the strings, smirking a bit as we began squealing with joy. It was as if We Made God (Arnór – Guitar, Biggi – Drums, Maggi – Vox/ Guitar, Stúni – Bass) were all about making violent, cathartic, adrenaline-ridden performances and that spin you into another orbit. I’m just glad this epic encore didn’t spin me face-first into the table of guys below me! We Made God’s brain-bending live performances of math/progressive rock have been recognized by both domestic and foreign media, and their devout fans orbiting around the world can’t wait for the release of their third album next year. As of late 2018, Arnór decided to leave We Made God to focus more time on his role as lead guitarist in VAR (love their sound, see videos below) as well as supporting Maggi’s solo project, Mighty Bear. With his talent, creativity, and breadth of experience, I’m pretty stoked to see what new direction Arnór is pointing his compass. 🙂 Be sure to check out We Made God, VAR, and Mighty Bear at this year’s Airwaves 2018!
It was so awesome to have run into the talented brother duo (Markús and Birkir Bjarnason) front-men of Omotrackat Songhoy Blues(at Reykjavík art museum) only a few hours after catching their last set of Airwaves at the bookstore on Laugavegi. They’ve got such an infectious indie/pop/electro sound that kinda remind me of a funkier version of two Bombay Bicycle Club and Two Door Cinema Club. It’s pretty rare to see synths and brass (trombone, trumpet, saxophone) battling for the spotlight! The trumpet and sax were nailing their harmony parts! I loved all of the tracks in the set, especially the 4 below that I got on video: Hippo Trip (new), Imaginary Mountains, Old Habits, and Blind Spots. I especially love ‘Blind Spots,’ and assume that the lyrics were inspired by their experience of growing up as two Icelandic toddlers in remote village in Ethiopia called “Omo Rate” (which inspired the band name), witnessing disparities between people of different ethnicity and social class:
“People treated differently, due to their ethnicity.. Who can tell wrong from right, and sit back watch people fight… Why is life equalized, some people just can’t see… Life can’t be overpriced… Everyone has blind spots except for me.”
Not able to speak the local dialect of Daasanach or easily blend in, Markús and Birkir relied on each other for friendship, fun and musical entertainment and started creating music together as early as 5 and 3 years old. Now, in their early twenties, the band has put down some strong roots into the Icelandic music scene and recently placed third in Músiktilraunir, Iceland’s annual “Battle of the Bands” for young and emerging talent who are hoping to take their careers to the next level. “We tried to enter two years ago, but we only had two songs,” says lead singer and guitarist Markús. “We had been a band for maybe ten days. Now we have more music, and we feel more comfortable, so we just thought: let’s try this.” I’m so glad they did. Their bronze finish not only earned them a spot at Iceland Airwaves, but also a supporting slot with the contest’s winners, Between Mountains. Can’t wait to see them again at Airwaves this year!
Arstíðir – Daníel Auðunsson (Guitar, vocals), Gunnar Már Jakobsson (Guitar, baritone guitar, vocals), Karl James Pestka (violin, viola, electronics, vocals), and Ragnar Ólafsson (piano, baritone guitar, vocals) are well-established in the Icelandic music community, having had two #1 hits in 2008 that put them on the map. After the release of their debut album in 2009, Árstíðir released a second album that was produced/mastered by the super talented Ólafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm. The band has already toured 30 countries and it set to tour again once they release their third album (on the way!). With influence of Beck, Paul McCartney, Philip Glass, Neil Young, Takashi Tateishi, Árstíðir finds a home in everyone. I love the violin in the last video that I captured (see below). Feels like it should be in a chase scene in a movie! Make sure to check out their new album ‘Nivalas‘ release just this year!
Be sure to snag of taste of this TASTY TRIO — Ríkharður Sigurjónsson (drums), Björn Heimir Önundarson (bass/trumpet), Kjartan (Cori) Kolbeinsson (guitar) — Captain Syrup any chance you CAN GET. I swear to the heavens you will NOT be disappointed. The electrifying, high-octane SONIC ADVENTURE of this impressive instrumental 3 piece will have you bouncing off the walls in no time. Described by an Icelandic newspaper as “Öfgafunk” (translates in English to “Severe Funk”), Captain Syrup tastes like maddening mix of math rock fused with fast, freaky funk and detonating drum & bass. My head nearly exploded into fireworks when watching Cori slap Björn’s bass while Björn blasted into the trumpet. They absolutely SLAYED their set and were hands down one of my top discoveries at Iceland Airwaves last year! When it comes to Captain Syrup, grabbing a taste with surely MELT YOUR FACE. 😛 ❤
What a treat it was to catch this impressive YOUNG duo — Katla Vigdís Vernharðsdóttir (16 years old) and and Ásrós Helga Guðmundsdóttir (14 years old) — at Iceland Airwaves 2017, just 6 months after they won Músíktilraunir, the annual Icelandic “Battle of the Bands.” They call themselves “Between Mountains” because they are both from different fjords (in Westfjords region of Iceland), with a giant mountain between them. Not only do they harmonize beautifully together on vocals (even with mountains in between!), but they incorporate keyboard, xylophone, and accordion into their songs with a capacity that demonstrates proficiency way beyond their years. I’m so glad I got to meet both of them (picture below) after Rythmatik’s last Airwaves show at the Hard Rock Cafe last year. Lucky for us Katla is the sister of Hrafnkell Hugi Vernharðsson (voal/guitar for Rythmatik), and it was much easier to say hello since I already knew him. What a crazy small beautiful world it is, ESPECIALLY in Iceland. Don’t miss Between Mountains at Iceland Airwaves 2018! ❤
Rythmatik is a four-piece Icelandic indie rock band consisting of Hrafnkell Hugi Vernharðsson (vocals/guitar), Pétur Óli Þorvaldsson (bass), Valgeir Skorri Vernharðsson (drums), and Árni Freyr (lead guitar). I first discovered Rythmatik when my Solstice/ Airwaves pal Jose Ramos introduced me to Hrafnkell and Petur during Kiriyama family‘s set at Secret Solstice 2017, quickly mentioning that their band won Iceland’s national “Battle of the Bands” (Sigurvegarar Músíktilrauna) back in 2015. I was immediately eager to check out their sound, especially after learning about their influence: The Smiths, Death Cab For Cutie, Manchester Orchestra, and Two Door Cinema Club. Well, the time finally came to see them at Iceland Airwaves Music Festival 5 months later, and man were they AWESOME. I thoroughly enjoyed watching Hrafnkell whip his hair back and forth as he shredded guitar right above the crowd (always sporting his trademark favorite sweater from his Grandmother). I also enjoyed watching Petur and Árni’s bass and guitar jousting andValgeir‘s hypnotic percussion (he does play back up drums for Sigur rós after all!). Rythmatik’s fun, fast post-rockish guitar riffs will keep you feverishly entertained from start to finish, and you’ll find yourself ticking to a continuous rhythm almost as if you had a “rythma”-tik. 😛 Some of my favorite tracks from their collection are Sleepyhead, LinchPin, Bleed Like a Poet, Death of the Party, and Tiny Knots, and am really enjoying the debut LP they released July 2018. Be sure to check it out! ❤
If you haven’t yet seen the volatile, voracious VOCAL VIXEN that is Lauren Ruth Ward, you best MAKE IT HAPPEN. Many of my favorite LA bands had described her as “truly something else” and a “MUST SEE,” and only NOW (after seeing her last night for the first time at The Chapel) do I understand why she deserves to be up on that pedestal. With the (1) bluesy rasp and feverish headbanging of Janis Joplin, (2) sultry, seductive sounds of Sia, (3) heavy howls and fairy-like movement of Florence Welch (of Florence and the Machine), and (4) lyrical cadence of Courtney Barnett, Lauren is the EPITOME of a TRUE ENTERTAINER. Her killer combination of good looks, memorizing vocals, and “come-hither” demeanor will stop you DEAD IN YOUR TRACKS, and you’ll find yourself swooning more than once throughout the set. She uses her impressive vocal control to deliver salacious, racy lines in songs like ‘Make Love to Myself‘ and ‘Blue Collar Sex Kitten‘ with crackling/panting/heaving undertones (as if on the brink of climax) and a gritty vibrato that provokes the sexual appetite in us all, especially the cougars who shouted out to Lauren with pride: “Mom’s are out TONIGHT!” I’m so glad this provocative powerhouse decided to crawl onto the speaker RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME and allow to to capture some bewitching footage (def not camera shy) of her holding us under her spell. She even offered to shake my hand (along with others in the front row) which I found really endearing, and waved attentively at everyone in the crowd who was starring up at her in awe.
One of my favorite moments was when Lauren kicked off ‘Blue Collar Sex Kitten‘ howling “Thought you found Jesus in me while I lied there Fa-Fa-Fa-FAKING” and then later shouts (while looking in the direction of the drummer) “You should let me cut your hair to make you look a little BETTER!” (which is very fitting considering that she is a professional hair stylist). She also opens up about her sexuality: “I’m a dyke, dated guys, ain’t a crime, won’t apologize for my tribe.” Another favorite moment was her delivery of these two lines in ‘Well, Hell,’ the title track of her debut album: “Love is not loving” mama, that’s what Bowie said” and “Think I’m aggressive? I’m just obsessive. Maybe I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” LOVE LOVE LOVE. Her lyric cadence in this one reminds me of Courtney Barnett, which is ALWAYS A GOOD THING. ‘Staff Only,’ ‘Sheet Stains,’ and ‘Sideways‘ are my other favorites, along her her BRAND NEW siiiiiiiick song, ‘Valhalla‘ that has a super catchy chorus and a killer ending: “How did she do it, how did she do it, how did she do it? They all will ASK.” Yaaas. Can’t wait for this bad boy to be released! She also sang a song called ‘Scorpio Season‘ (not on her EP) which made me grin ear-to-ear as I thought to myself “OF Of COURSE Lauren is a SCORPIO… The most passionate and sexual of all the signs.” I can definitely can SPOT MY OWN. 😛
A true knack for audience allure, Lauren Ruth Ward is building an intense fan base with her 60’s Rock n’ Role revival and this attention is only going to spread like wildfire over the next year. She makes it known in her title track (‘Well, Hell‘) that she is grateful for being heard (“I didn’t mean to make your head spin, I have a lot to say. I have a lot to say. I have a lot to say. Thank you for listening to what we have to say“), but WE are grateful for her voice, and her message. She is a MUST SEE, and I urge you to see her whenever she comes through your town. Just look for the gorgeous “Flower Child” in rainbow vintage pants and a rad, rainbow fringe. ❤
Not only was I stoked to have met Lauren after the show (pic above) and to have learned that she was also a fellow East Coaster who moved out here about 3 years ago, but I was EVEN MORE STOKED to later learn that Lauren’s sister (Sarah) went to University of Maryland with my good friend Tony Awojoodu and is married to one of his close friends, Sasha. CRAZY SMALL WORLD!
Videos from the show:
“You’ve got a sign on your heart that says “Staff Only”. A Band-Aid life, you’re just staying high and lonely. Go on and treat me bad. Go on and treat yourself bad.” HELL YAAAAAAS. Such a fucking siiiick track. I love when she laugh “HA HA HA!” right after belting “The devil on your shoulders got a chip on his shoulder – ain’t that funny?”
“Got me a job and planned real good. But all the planning didn’t go as it should. I was distracted by the people walking faster than me. I’m going sideways. I’m going sideways.”
“Buddy, I don’t need you I can make love to myself. If you think I’m lonesome then you’re lying to yourself… I am not your honey. I don’t need nobody for nothing. I’ve got myself for loving. I’ve got myself for loving. I am not your honey and I don’t need nobody for nothing, no. I’ve got myself for loving and I don’t need nobody.” ❤
Lauren’s siiiiiiiiick new song, ‘Valhalla.’ I love the enigmatic ending: “How did she do it, how did she do it, how did she do it? They all will ASK.” Yaaas. Can’t wait for this bad boy to be released!
“You were appointed the master of control. It won’t give you self control, you’re only getting older.”
“Thought you found Jesus in me while I lied there faking… Contemplation, admiration, salivation, masturbation : four – step Friday night. I’m a dyke, dated guys, ain’t a crime, won’t apologize for my tribe.” WOW.
Of COURSE Lauren is a SCORPIO! The most passionate and sexual of all the signs… Glad to also be one. xx
“Love is not loving” mama, that’s what Bowie said… Think I’m aggressive? I’m just obsessive. Maybe I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” OMG I LOVE THIS. Her lyric cadence in this one reminds me of Courtney Barnett, which is ALWAYS A GOOD THING.
FRESH NEW PLAYLIST (Spotify link below) inspired by awesome bands I saw in Austin at SXSW 2018 (Kid Queen, Magic Bronson, Caught a Ghost, The Lagoons, The Wild Now, Dawg Yawp, Marty O’Reilly & the Old Soul Orchestra, Black Pistol Fire, Dr. Joe, Abhi the Nomad) and others I saw in San Francisco/Los Angeles/San Diego (The War on Drugs, EasyFriend, Ramonda Hammer, SLUGS, Rival Cavves, Little Monarch, Penguin Prison, The Oh Hellos, Holy Wars, Ibeyi, Overcoats, Mt. Joy, The Drums, Alvvays, Planet Booty, Escort, Sal’s Greenhouse, Wild Child, Stelth Ulvang, Frenship, Yoke Lore, George Ezra, Noah Kahan, HAIM, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Zach Winters, Horse Feathers, and Dead Horses). Playlist also includes new releases from (Geographer, Meg Myers, Leon Bridges, Ryley Walker, Trevor Powers (of Youth Lagoon), DonCat, The Colour Coast, Bishop Briggs, Charlotte Cardin, Courtney Barnett, Harrison Storm, GIVERS, the French Cassettes, Black Pistol Fire, Florence + the Machine, Matt and Kim, Derek Ted, Christof Van der Ven (of Bear’s Den), Brenda Carsey, Youth in a Roman Field (of San Fermin), Goodnight Texas, Vancouver Sleep Clinic, Lord Huron, Betty Who, Wye Oak, Two Door Cinema Club, Wildling, Johnnyswim, Riley Geare (formerly of Unknown Mortal Orchestra),Milo Greene and Mastersystem, the newest project of Scott Hutchinson (Frightened Rabbit,Owl John), an irreplaceable LEGEND that we painstakingly lost to suicide on May 10. See below for my brief ‘Tribute to Scott’. A more in-depth one is in the works.
I chose kid QUEEN’s ‘Rebound’ for this playlist’s title track because I was INSTANTLY HOOKED to this song the first time I heard it at kid QUEEN‘s set at SXSW (videos on my Facebook music page), and I especially LOVE growling along to the part, “I don’t gotta alot of work to define my wealth, but I’m poor motherfucker with a wide array of shit to sell.” RAWR. “Call me crazy call me the rebound-er, I’ve been watching this city and I’m confounded.” YAAAAS. ❤ kid QUEENwas my FAVORITE new discovery of SXSW 2018, and I was so happy to find that they are based in backyard of SF, It was also cool to learn that their frontwoman, Shannon Harney, was formerly of Be Calm Honcho and played shows back at UC Davis at the same time I was there. This SEXY SASSAFRASS has sultry pipes that will STUN YOU at first hit and stop you DEAD in your tracks. I knew all the tracks after just one set and was already singing along the second time around. That’s at sign of a SUPER SOLID band. Every track was a hit and I can’t wait for more releases.
Tribute to Scott:
My heart is broken and is going to take some time to mend. Scott Hutchinson (Frightened Rabbit, Owl John, Mastersystem) was one of the most naturally-gifted songwriters of our generation with powerful, palpable lyrics that will stand the test of time. Fearless and transparent about his struggle with depression, he would often shroud his dark thoughts (“With my head in my hands I resolve to die alone”) with comedic charisma (one of the funniest dudes on the planet) and hopeful resilience (“oh how she plunges a knife into my suicide”). Songs POURED out of him, bursting open emotional floodgates that fed streams our of consciousness and clarity. Everyone knew his lyrics by heart, belting them out from their core in a catharsis that can only be realized firsthand. He had given away enumerable gifts (music, poetry, art, humor) to the world, and his generosity and loyalty to fans was like nothing else I had ever seen. Even after my tenth show, he still remembered the first time we met at The Belfast Empire. He always made time to meet and greet fans, even after sold out shows. If only he knew how much light he radiated into everyone around him. But, the stark reality is that the “brightest lights cast the darkest shadows,” and it FUCKING SUCKS. His immense, intense imagination was both a blessing and a curse, and it’s devastating that he couldn’t dampen the demons.Scott, I am so grateful for you and your music, and the constant it’s been in my life when nothing else could. “When my blood stops, Someone else’s will nod… And while I’m alive, I’ll make tiny changes to earth.” Our ❤ will always bleed for you and the infinite “tiny changes” you made to earth.
What’s even more painful and ironic and that Scott recorded with the Fruit Tree Foundation, a Scottish supergroup of founded by Idlewild’s Rod Jones and the Delgados’ Emma Pollock to “raise awareness of mental health and challenge perceptions of mental health problems by creating great art.” Here’s a song he recorded with James Graham (another favorite frontman) of The Twilight Sad:
Scott helped others fight the same battle he could no longer fight in himself. Heavy heart.
Depression is an alarmingly dangerous devil and we must arm ourselves against it. We must learn from this tragedy and develop a stronger strategies for suicide awareness and prevention. My heart hurts so much to think about Scott’s family and band mates and all of the people around the globe who loved him. It’s just so incomprehensible. He gave so much for others but couldn’t give to himself. I have been listening to Mastersystem‘s ‘Dance Music‘ album on repeat (it’s SOOOOO GOOD) and there are harbingers of suicide in at least half of the songs, especially ‘A Waste of Daylight‘ and ‘Bird is Bored of Flying‘ (and I don’t it’s a coincidence that this put this as the very last track on the album):
‘Proper home‘: “I used to want to fly but now I don’t… And if the curtain drops tomorrow, I would not mind”
‘Peaks and Troughs‘: “It’s all peaks and troughs on the way to the grave”
‘A Waste of Daylight‘: “The world is far too big, and I’m too tired to conquer it… I missed the summer, but didn’t care… there will always be another if I make it to next year… I’m not sure what happening, but I’m trying to find an answer… At some point I’m just gonna give the fuck up.”
‘Bird is Bored of Flying‘: “Do you wonder why a bird is born a flying… Here comes the ground again.. my concrete safety net… as I leave the sky for the earth, I shed, shed my feathers and my small net worth. i want less, I want less, I want less… I’ve seen all that I can see, become what I don’t want to be, bird is bored, bird is bored, bored of flying…”
Scott insinuated a drowning suicide (especially) in many of his songs, and it’s so sad that he finally followed through on his vision:
‘Floating in the Forth‘:
“And fully clothed, I float away
(I’ll float away)
Down the Forth, into the sea
I’ll steer myself
Through drunken waves
These manic gulls
Scream it’s okay
Take your life
Give it a shake
All your loose change
I think I’ll save suicide for another year.”
‘Swim until you can’t see land’:
“And if I hadn’t come now to the coast to disappear … The sea has seen my like before, though it’s my first and perhaps last time Let’s call me a baptist, call this a drowning of the past She is there on the shoreline throwing stones at my back …. All I have is a body adrift in water, salt and sky.”
“With my head in my hands, I resolved to die alone Now I’ve finally found a good reason to grow old…
‘A Good Reason to Grow Old‘:
“I was ready to drown in the afterlife, Not anymore…That I’ve finally found a good reason to grow old”
“Nothing’s worse than realizing who you’ve hurt I didn’t bend and now we eat the consequence … Over the edge I can’t stop myself Off the ledge throwing punches Over the edge I can’t steer myself All over again, I don’t want this…”
Oh what we all would have given for Scott to throw a few more punches before stepping off that ledge. He had SO MANY PEOPLE who loved him more than he will ever know. In honor of mental health awareness week, please PLEASE stay vigilant about those who are hurting and in need someone to talk to. You are never alone. Let’s try and get in involved with organization like Sounds of Saving, which is dedicated to raising awareness about depression and healing through music. The do so by creating videos of artists in their chosen setting playing the music which saved their life. Spread the ❤
The Oh Hello’s surely HAD US AT HELLO last night at their headline show in San Francisco back in March. This high-octane, Texas-bred folk-rock octet delivered an explosive, high-energy performance that SHOOK The Fillmore like a level five earthquake. Their energy was BEYOND INFECTIOUS, and watching ALL 8 members go APE SHIT on their instruments just had you instantly flailing your arms and stomping your feet to join the madness. I remember from first seeing The Oh Hellos back in 2015 at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass and being BLOWN AWAY by extra-expressive fiddle, banjo, and bass players who were jumping around stage like pogo sticks while still managing to shred their strings in mid-air. This band first stole my heart back in 2010 when I came across ‘Hello My Old Heart,’ a song that would pretty much revived my pulse an had me staying calm during very, VERY trying times: “Nothing lasts forever Some things aren’t meant to be But you’ll never find the answer Until you set your old heart free.” Other songs like The Truth is a Cave, Eat You Alive, I Was Wrong, I Have Made Mistakes, Trees, Constellations, Grow, and On the Mountain Tall, Eurus, and Hieroglyphs, have also hammered on my heartstrings and instilled timeless messages that I continue to revisit (especially this one): “The sun, it does not cause us, The sun, it does not cause us to grow… It is the rain that will strengthen, The rain that will strengthen your soul. It will make you whole.” I was so happy they played this song (‘I Have Made Mistakes’) last night, cause Tyler and Maggie Heaths’ brother-sister harmonies absolutely SLAY, and you will be lathered in chills by the end. I would have LOVED if they played ‘Hello My Old Heart,’ but their set was chock full of string-saturated songs (YES) from their new EP, Eurus (a nice EP follow up to ‘Notos‘ released just last year), and this band would not have had time unless they played for 3 hours straight (an actually request by someone in the audience to which Tyler facetiously said would “lead to their demise”). Playing for 3 hours at their pace and their intensity would definitely require serious endurance, but I have no doubt they will get there someday. Even the bango player/percussionist had enough energy at the end to leap onto a high-rise speaker and bang on his drum from 6 feet in the air. EPIC ENCORE. You had me at hello, and you had me at goodbye. COME BACK SOON! ❤
‘Climbing Trees‘ is one of my FAVORITES from this incredible folk rock ensemble. Coincidentally enough, yesterday (the first time I saw this song played live) was the birthday of my good friend Hillary who ALSO loves this song and loved CLIMBING TREES and other things (mountain, walls, etc.) Wish she could have been here with me!
LOVE THIS ONE. This timeless track (‘I Have Made Mistakes‘) will forever hammer on my heartstrings with lyrics that bring light even in the darkest of times. “I have made mistakes, I continue to make them. The promises I’ve made, I continue to break them. And all the doubts I’ve faced, I continue to face them. But nothing is a waste if you learn from it… And the sun, it does not cause us to grow It is the rain that will strengthen your soul (OMG YAAAS)… And it will make you whole.” TRUTH BE TOLD. ❤
I love the honestly and life wake-up-call element to this one. SO FREAKING GOOD: “I’ve seen the true face of the things you call life The voice of the siren that holds your desires But death, she is cunning, and clever as hell And she’ll eat you alive … Oh, she’ll EAT YOU ALIVE.” YAAAAAAS>
The lyrics to this ‘This Will End’ just absolutely SLAY. Wow. So heart-wrenchingly beautiful:
“Heartache, I’ve heard, is part of life ❤ And I have broken more and more … But I can hope how this will end With every line a comedy That we could learn to love without demand (if only it were so easy) But unreserved honesty”
ABSOLUTELY ECSTATIC to CATCH THE MAGIC once again after catching it last year at SXSW (see review here). Magic Bronson was my FAVORITE NEW DISCOVERY OF SXSW 2017 and were the only band (aside from Caught a Ghost) that I saw twice. The magic behind Magic Bronson lies in their ability to unleash the rebellious, primal, theatrical beast that lives inside us all. It only takes a few minutes of watching Michael Nicastro beat his chest, smack his face, stomp the stage, and pierce his lungs (roaring with chest out, arms up), for you join in this disturbed, erratic behavior and feed your inner beast. I’ve been to THOUSANDS of shows, and Mike still remains to be one of the most ENTERTAINING FRONT MEN I’ve ever seen. Again and again he delivers a performance comparable to Heather Leger as the Joker in Dark Night, and is even known to BREAK A FEW STAGES with his mighty “I am Mountain,” aggressive stomping. I don’t think many bands can say they’ve buckled the first stage they set foot (Maggie Mae’s) on as part of their SXSW showcase. HAHA. When Magic Bronson makes an appearance, they LEAVE A MARK. The combination of Mike’s joker performance and captivating vocal delivery and Matt Lieberman‘s killer bass translates into an infectious dance experience of pop, rock, hip-hop, and electronic that I find difficult to compare to any other band (and I’ve seen thousands). I cannot WAIT until the next SXSW to see them again, and I hope they will spread their magic up the west coast very soon! After all, LA is not too far from SF. No excuses! 😛
(see below for full videos of the entire set)
‘Night Owl‘ is one of my Magic Bronson FAVORITES and I’m waiting with baited breath for them to finally release it. I love the intro line (“Say something, say it real quick, I’ll throw it at the wall and see if it sticks… I’m erratic, I need a fix, I’m brushing off the dirt of my fresh white kicks”), and I can’t help laugh/shout (simultaneously) when Mike puts his hands over his head and widens his eyes (impersonating an owl) as he devilishly shouts, “I can’t take MY EYES off of you… I’m just trying to to GET A RISE out of you.” Oh YES. A RISE has certainly been had. ❤
“I can feel your energy, running your your hands, makes the hair on the back of my neck just stand.. oh yeah, i Like to act tough, when I’m in your arms it’ll always be enough… ELECTRIFY!!” Yaaaaaaaas. I was highly entertained by the stomping around and shaking out of the hand for ‘Electrify.’ I also was dying at the part when Mike said “It was making me feel… LIKE A MAN” (dramatic impersonation). So much primal male emotion in this one.
“Good enough just doesn’t make it, kid you gotta take it into your own hands, OH MY GOD, it’s making sense, with all this time we’re sitting on the fences.” YAAAAAAAS. Freaking STALK THIS ONE: ‘Fences.’ I absolutely love roaring along to the chorus (not giving a shit about how loud I am) and joining in the rebellious rally of doing what you want and OWNING IT. I also love when Mike shouts “We finally made it” and follows with a villainous “HA HA” laugh like he Joker. Right after this song, Mike says, “so that one’s about you guys being so nice to each other all this time. We really appreciate that. We fucking LOVE that,” and then asked us all to hug the person next to us. We fucking love YOU!
“These are the days We get stuck in our ways Solving mysteries.. And these are the nights That we stay inside Making history (history, yeah, yeah)… Yea, what about that All the things that make you nervous Crooked cops and guilty verdicts Fires, floods, parking permits!” YAAAAAS! Another super catchy track (‘Nervous‘) that makes you want to go APE SHIT and scream at the top of your lungs. Makes me NERVOUS for the other people around met. SO FREAKING GOOD.
I like to think of this one (‘Knock it Off‘) as the anthem for rebels: “Go up to the bar and make some small talk, raise our glasses up high until we can’t walk, best friends fist fighting in the parking lot, cowboys dressed as cops telling us to ‘Knock it Off'” after which Mike and Matt point fingers at each other (mimicking cops) and then unexpectedly belt out “BUT WE WOOOOOON’T.” Yaaaaas. Raging like a rebel has never been so fun.
Parking tickets in SF are more than 65 bucks! Try 76…. I’m pretty sure we can all relate to driving chaos in LA, and I’m pretty sure we’ve all responded in the same way: “What the FUUUUUUUCK.” ‘Drive‘ is the newest addition to their set.
If this song (‘Wake Up‘) doesn’t wake you up, I don’t know WHAT will. There’s a reason they save this one for the anchor, cause it’s definitely going to anchor you as a Magic Bronson fan for life. The buildup and impeccable timing of Mike’s explosive “WAKE UP” outburst are definitely going to have your carotids bulging from you neck (at least I know mine were).
“I am a man I am a mountain I’ve lost track But hey who’s counting?
Hey Scott Fitz Gerald You got nothing on me And hey Bob Dylan I’ll give you something to read (siiiiiick line)
So we sit around Playing truth or dare And for once the truth is all I want to hear You’ll dig through my records It’s all I really want And when you do I know you’ll pick my favorite song… and it goes..” (CHEEKY!)
Meeting the 6’6″ “Mountain” that is Michael Nicastro! One of the most entertaining front men to watch!
That time you meet one of the most talented folk/Americana artists out there (Langhorne Slim) after his show at the Swedish American Hall (as part of NoisePop festival) and nerd out with him about (1) effects of music on the brain (why music holds such strong memory), (2) playing music to old people (he loved playing to his Grandpa Sid and I encouraged him to play at nursing homes), (3) our perception of time (why time seems longer when we are in unfamiliar environments like when we are kids and everything is new), and (4) Langhorne (the town where he grew up but the one that I always remember my soccer team never being able to beat!). Never did I think I would have such a heart-to-heart with someone whose music had my heart when I first I heard it. Langhorne Slim is a true wordsmith whose way with words makes you feel so warm and welcome in his company, as if he was a long-lost friend that you have known for years. I couldn’t stop smiling when he was spouting off his deluge of stories (he’s certainly got plenty!) and providing context for how his various songs came to be (some in a dream). Aside from being one of the kindest, funniest, most humble human beings I know, he is one of the most AUTHENTIC, and you will never doubt that every word, whisper, belt, chuckle, howl coming out of his mouth is HIS OWN. He is not like the rest — just like Kurt Cobain (“I’m not like them / But I can pretend”) whose birthday he honored on Monday — but he does not pretend. You can certainly count on Slim NOT being slim with his self, his FULL SELF. ❤
Some of my favorite songs that he played tonight: Changes (“I’m going through changes, rattlin’ cages, I’m going through changes now”), Song For Sid (“Tell me where do all the good ones go, when they’re gone”), Back to the Wild, Coffee Cup, Again tonight and Be Set Free. It was also awesome to hear him cover Leonard Cohen‘s Tonight Will Be Fine” and Jackie DeShannon’s What the World Needs Now. Just also wish he played The Way We Move!
FRESH NEW PLAYLIST (Spotify link and track listing below) inspired by recent shows in January and February (many of of which were part of SF’s NoisePop Festival) – Josh Jacobson, Typhoon, Mimicking Birds, Emily Afton, Future Feats, Wild Child, Andrew St. James, Wildling, Crooked Colours, Dagmar, Ha Ha Tonka, Belle Game, Geographer, DonCat, Langhorne Slim, The Album Leaf, Vakoum, Field Medic, Waxahatchee, White Knuckles, Banzai Cliff, King Krule, Derek Ted (of Owl Paws), Lucy Rose, Charlie Cunningham, tUnE-yArDs, X-Ambassadors, Tall Heights, Black Pistol Fire, Billy Rafoul, ZZ Ward, The Wedding Present – and new releases fromFrenship, Chvrches (including a track featuring Matt Berninger of The National), Jose Gonzalez, and Tallest Man in Earth (along with new tour dates!)
I chose Frenship’s ‘Love Somebody’ as the title track because, despite the song being so damn catchy (I couldn’t listen just once), I really liked the overarching message: “Get out and LOVE SOMEBODY, and GET LOST on the way.” You never know what hard times someone may be going through or how much they could use a simple smile or “Hello” from a stranger. Get out of your own head and look up at the beauty in your surroundings, savor all the amazing people around you and the lil’ miracles that might sweep you off your feet. I’ve recently encounter many young lives being snatched up way too early (including the super-talented, massively-loved LA-music photographer, Emery Beckerwho met last year at SXSW), and it absolutely crushes me. No matter what your circumstances and what miserable mood you may be in, strive to be kind. Remember that everyone’s days are numbered and that only WE have the power to make sure those numbers count – every hour, every min, ever second. The fleetingness of life will always remain one of our greatest mysteries, and we should never take anything for granted. Hug harder, smile wider, lend more hands. You never know what impact the tiniest act of kindness may have, or whose lives they may be saving. I hope this playlist will encourage you to open your heart to “love somebody” and to “make tiny changes to earth” (now quoting Frightened Rabbit). And as my friend Paige Parsons (met seeing The Twilight Sad (Official)) says so beautifully, music is the best medium to do so because “music cuts through out cynicism and breaks down the barriers that we erect between ourselves and the rest of the world.” Check out her talk on this:
Help me amplify this message by sharing my playlist with friends and posting about it on social media. AND, if you are an artist featured on this playlist, reposting this playlist will increase the odds of Google not filtering this out on the web and improving your visibility (from what I’ve been told by SEO experts), so please care to share! 😀
(In order to access the playlist, you have to press the 3 vertical dots in the upper right hand corner and select download. You can then cancel the download immediately and still have access to the playlist. If you are still having uses, let me know and I can send you a link to download the tracks!
Same Mistakes- FUTURE FEATS
LOVE Somebody- Frenship
Get Out- CHVRCHES
Plymouth- Crooked Colours
In the Morning!- Andrew St James
I Want Nothing- The Belle Game
Try to Be Someone- DonCat
Conversation- Owl Paws
Lost- Emily Afton
Suck- The Wedding Present
Gorgeous- X Ambassadors
Home- White Knuckles
Sparks Fly- Waxahatchee
Don’t Ask Why- Black Pistol Fire
Minimum- Charlie Cunningham
Laura- Andrew St James
Flow- Crooked Colours
backyard sorrow- derek ted
Biscuit Town- King Krule
Little Lies- Wildling
Expectations- Wild Child
What Do You Want- Dagmar
Sorry Bout Tomorrow!- Andrew St James
Millennial Malaise- Andrew St James
Severing the Knot- Emily Afton
Come Back To You- Crooked Colours
The Way We Move
Bloodlines- Mimicking Birds
Anyone Can Make A Mistake- The Wedding Present
Too Young To Die- Banzai Cliff
Bully- Black Pistol Fire
poison poetry- derek ted
Silver Screen- DonCat
Bully- Black Pistol Fire
Koyo- Josh Jacobson
Coast to Coast- tUnE-yArDs
Changes- Langhorne Slim
My Enemy (feat. Matt Berninger)- CHVRCHES
Think it Over- Wild Child
An Opening- Charlie Cunningham
Hipster Shakes- Black Pistol Fire
Tethered- Josh Jacobson
I Love to Dance- Langhorn Slim
Danielle- Banzai Cliff
I Hope You Get It- Crooked Colours
An Ocean- The Tallest Man on Earth
Back & Forth- Wild Child
Better Off- White Knuckles
What Did Your Last Servant Die Of- The Wedding Present
Lucy Rosejokingly said, “never bring an opener on tour who is better than you.” She was of course referring to Charlie Cunningham, the super-talented British singer/songwriter who was definitely more of a “show stopper” than “show starter” and who had you stopped in your tracks with HIS stunning tracks. Apart from his exquisite guitar work and super-soothing vocals, his incredibly pensive, poetic, introspective lyrics will seep into your soul and etch some long-lasting “Lines” (coincidentally the title of his debut album). His music reminds me a bit of Nick Mulvey and Jose Gonzalez, which is funny cause apparently Jose Gonzalez is one of the main musicians that Charlie’s record label curator (Magus) works with. Keen hunch! I l also hear a bit of Spanish guitar influence, which makes sense considering that Charlie traveled to Spain to create the music he wanted to play, free from the prerequisite of “having to read music” first. Charlie also learned to play piano before he learned guitar (at age 14), and I hope he brings both with him on his next US tour… which BETTER BE a HEADLINE one. His 45 min opening set at Swedish American Hall was way too short for satiation, and there was a unanimous request from the entire audience for him to keep playing after his last song, ‘Minimum‘ (video below), my FAVORITE (aside from ‘An Opening‘) and one that really hits home:
“How do I walk this earth? So much work at first, it goes How should I walk this earth? So much worse the further, the further you go
Go, take off a load Letting your wings unfold And keeping everything down to a minimum Everything a bit though Tell’em what you know but all that you know, though The truth be told you need it more than you thought But you’re managing, that’s how you evened out, out
Keep on walking that line, the fine line Between a wrong and a right You get yours, I’m gonna get mine Is that what you signed for? They’re feeding you lines To keep you on their side It works every time
What you got to live for Now you got the whole of the world at your feet And how much more can you pass yourself round?
What you got to live for now You got the whole of the world at your feet But you’re still shaking? You need to make up some ground
Go, take off a load Letting your wings unfold And keeping everything down to a minimum Everything a bit though Tell’em what you know but all that you know, though The truth be told you need it more than you thought But you’re managing, that’s how you evened out, out” ❤
Mad props to Lucy for bringing him on tour with her! It was also nice that she invited him up on stage to help sing a few of her songs. I was so bummed when I missed seeing him open for Low Roarat The Chapel last year cause of being away for a work trip. This was certainly a super sweet an unexpected treat!<3 🙂
Meeting Kevin McKeown, the WILD FRONTMAN of Black Pistol Fire!
“Why settle for a spark when you can have the whole damn fire”… BLACK PISTOL FIRE. Ain’t that the truth! There is no reason set settle for a mediocre “rock band” band you can have the HIGH-OCTANE rock duo that I like to call a “younger version of The Black Keys but with more energy, power, and FIRE.” Both Kevin McKeown (Guitar, vocals) and Eric Owen (Drums) are SERIOUS SPITFIRES that will have your ENTIRE BODY AFLAME within seconds of them hitting the stage. I nearly spontaneously combusted when getting to see him perform ‘Speak of the Devil‘ (my favorite track which I got a full video of) from the photo pit and watching him SHRED GUITAR so hard you thought he might puncture skin. Eric (shirtless, hands wrapped), was equally as intense, pounding on his drums as if he is beating away demons. My heart was racing the entire set, especially when Kevin started karate-kicking his legs up in the air and jumping off anything that didn’t move (although I’m sure that is subject to change). He would also stomp in place mid-shred as if marking his territory like in flamenco, with his feet moving so fast you can hardly catch them!. Kevin also blazed a trail through the crowd as he dove face first to crowd surf while STILL SHREDDING guitar. I’m not sure why the name of their album (released May 2016) is ‘Don’t Wake The Riot,’ cause they certainly wake every riot that I have in me, especially with songs like ‘Bully’ (“I like it when you play too rough…”) and I cannot WAIT to see FEEL THIS FIRE again, hopefully next week at SXSW while sporting my badass Black Pistol Fire t-shirt (pic above). 🙂 WARING: You better see them before they blow up and only play huge venues. They have already been clocking it at #1 on the Canada Rock Billboard Chart for the past week! ❤
Having waited over SEVEN YEARS to see Typhoon live, this night at The Independent seemed all a bit surreal. What pacified me in the interim was catching the mindblowingly-talented mult-instrumentalist and visionary behind this 9-person indie/folk rock, Kyle Morton, live in concert at The Swedish American Hall back in Jan 2016. Although this was only second night on tour in support of first solo album, ‘What Will Destroy You,’ Kyle received a standing ovation from his SF crowd. New tracks like ‘Sickness Until Death,’ ‘Water Torture,’ and ‘Survivalist Fantasy,’ found new homes in our hearts, despite old gems like ‘Claws, Part II,’ ‘Common Sentiments,’ ‘Honest Truth,’ and ‘Morton’s Folk,’ having been rooted there for years. (see below for videos) It was Kyle’s emotional rendition of ‘My Little Darling Knows My Nature‘ that hammered on my heart-strings the most, especially after raising his hand to show his wedding ring, saying he “did all right” (for his little darling is now his wife):
“Now my little darlin I’ll sing you a love song One you can hang your hat on every night I will be your witness if you be mine I will be your witness if you be mine I will be your witness if you be my wife.”
The allure of Typhoon lies in their pensive, visual narratives and its capricious, temperamental nature (just as the tropical storm would suggest). The songs that truly TAKE US BY STORM (Artificial Light, Young Fathers, CRP/ Claws Part 2, The Lake, Summer House, Hunger and Thirst, Common Sentiments) are those that sweep us off our feet with ease and move us on a suspense-ridden journey laced with sharp twists and turns. In fact, I thought ‘CRP/ Claws Part 2‘ was 2 songs when I first heard it, for there was a distinct, abrupt change in the rhythm and instrumental arrangement halfway through. The same goes for ‘Common sentiments.’ I adore the juxtaposition of Kyle’s harder guitar and deeper voice with Shannon’s softer strings (violin) and higher-pitched vocals.
We all had been waiting nearly 5 years for Typhoon to return with a new album, for their last one (‘White Lighter‘) was released back in 2013. This newest album, ‘Offerings‘ (the fourth in their collection) stood out to me as the most ominous and most mysterious, for many of the lyrics (and associated voice recordings) have you furrowing your eyebrow (especially mine!) and questioning the intent. ‘Offerings‘ opens with a thought-provoking prologue (“Listen — of all the things that you are about to lose, this will be the most painful“) before launching into a song (‘Wake‘) about about a man “preoccupied with memory, losing memory, and trying to recapture memory.” Kyle mentioned wanting to explore “the dual theme of (1) what it means to be a person stripped of all memory and (2) what happens to a world that loses all sense of history (read: modern America).” YAAAAS. ‘Wake‘ was certainly the perfect wake-up call for the album, and the startling, unexpected uproar of violins and guitar shredding together (2:30 min) immediately following this plea was absolutely PERFECT: “But if there’s nothing, if there’s nothing Then what’s that song that keeps hounding me? …. this is not your loss, this is your offering”. I love how it’s then followed by Kyle shouting “Asa nisi masa” as if an SOS cry for help.
‘Wake‘, ‘Rorchscah‘ and ‘Empiracist,’ are my three favorite songs on the album, and just happen to be back-to-back. Other favorites include ‘Remembering‘ and ‘Unusual‘.
‘Rorchscah‘ highlights Kyle’s concern of people losing all sense of history, describing the navigation of our world solely via tv, computers, and Iphones (“Eyes on the screen, We have all the information now, but what does it mean?”), which, despite “all our (technological) progress,” leaves us wondering “what happened to the life we lost, that got lost in the living?” (I love the call-and-response between Kyle and Shannon’s vocals). “All this fiction make me nervous,” Kyle mutters, as if to call out those who have so easily forgotten our history, the “sacrificial violence” (bloodshed, bombs), and who “edit” the “film in their brain.” TRUTH BE TOLD.
‘Empiricist‘ also has some intriguing lyrics, my favorite being “But you can’t help wonder, who is this person you celebrate?… It’s still your birthday, so blow out your past lives like they’re candles on the cake.” Wow. That certainly stings. Kyle dishes out even more cynicism in ‘Unusual:’ “This brave new world— It’s gonna take some getting used to… Yeah, it’s cruel and unusual, Can’t tell the punishment apart from the crime.” Nevertheless, my favorite lyrics from this album are in the song, ‘Remember,’ for it emphasizes urgency (“Just make your move before you have no move to make”) and constant curiosity (“How long can it take?”) HECK YES.
I think it’s safe to say that these Typhoon ‘Offerings‘ (in the form of their fourth album), offered more reflection, self introspection, and confusion than any before, all in all reminding me of a quote from Salvador Dali (who I thank my fellow music buddy Alex for mentioning): “What is important is to spread confusion, not to eliminate it.” AMEN. Can’t WAIT to see Typhoon again at Sasquatch Music festival at the end of May. 🙂
So glad to have discovered the soulful sounds of music producer and multi-instrumentalist, Josh Jacobson, =at Cafe du Nord last month as part of a free show won via Do The Bay. Having been raised in upstate New York (Ithaca) on a sturdy foundation of musical roots (his parents were musicians), Josh found a strong foothold in various genres ranging from classical and jazz to soul, R&B, and electronic. I was incredibly impressed by Josh’s ability to cultivate complex cinematic soundscapes just via his raw musical talent and loop pedal mastery (seriously – I told him to check out Tash Sultana who I figured he might also really respect). Within one song you could watch him jump from keys, to percussion, to guitar, to synthesizer, to vocals, and still wonder how he is able to weave it altogether into one cohesive musical masterpiece. Although some of his track have hints of Sohn, Allan Rayman, Vancouver Sleep Clinic, Imogen Heap and Jack Garret (turns out he’s friends with Kevin Garrett) they all had a unique Josh Jacobson JOSHUA TREE branding unlike any others. In fact, Josh created his own record label (Joshua Tree Records) just last year to pioneer “a new platform for music and art that celebrates individuality and a mindful approach to life.” He said it was in part inspired by Joshua Tree national park, which to him symbolized a place to wander with the eager eyes of a child and escape the captivity that sometimes accompanies adult life. That perspective reminded me of a recent quote I came across: “The things that’s totally different between children and adult, is that children have the ability to spontaneously use their imagination to forget what’s bothering them and be inspired by every lil’ thing that crosses their path.” ❤
Josh had himself tethered to the crowd from the beginning, and thus it could not be more fitting that he would play a song called ‘Tethered,’ a song that is “at its core a song about coming to terms with the fact that even the most meaningful connections can be temporary” and the we must “learn to live in a state of constant flux.” Ain’t that the truth.
‘Tethered,’ along with ‘Polaroids,’ ‘Fence,’ ‘I Need You,’ and ‘Return,’ (most of which he played that night) can all be found on his awesome debut EP, ‘First Light,’ which was released in Sept 2017 and motivated his first national headline tour in early 2018. My favorite tracks of the set were ‘Koyo‘ and ‘Oceans,’ the first of which (video below) Josh introduced as a track he wrote deep in the woods under complete solitude. The layers of stunning harp that he loops throughout just simply SLAY, and I almost feel as if I’m walking through a magical forest someone in the jungle. Perfect example of a MUSICAL ESCAPE. ‘Oceans‘ also exerted a strong grip, pulling us into its sweet, sparkling undertow of swirling keys just right before crashing into us like a wave at the (the vocal part that drops in at 4:50 is such a rush!). Last but not least, Josh won over our hearts even more with two gorgeous, bone-chilling covers of Little Dragon‘s ‘Twice’ (one of my favorites) and Amy Winehouse‘s ‘Valery.’ He definitely added his own personal stamp in ‘Twice‘ with stunning harp sounds layered in between his sultry, soulful vocals. I still getting chills watching this over again! Can’t wait for him to return! SUCH A KILLER SHOW ❤ 🙂
After a 4 year hiatus of being away from this stunning Seattle-based sextex (The Head and the Heart) while I was living abroad, it was time to get my HEAD and my HEART aligned with some new SIGNS OF LIGHT. This new album (released this month) has hammered on my heartstrings with such intensity that I almost feel like they were READING MY MIND when they wrote it. Kicking it off with ‘All We Ever Knew‘ had me instantly hooked: “I’m feeling low, feeling high, feeling down, why isn’t this enough?… It’s time to wake up from this” AND “if you think that you’re lost, you can follow the bridges you’ve crossed” — you can ‘Turn it Around,” for “There’s nobody blocking your way, taking you down.” TRUTH. Frontman Jonathan Russel (whose hand I shook at the end of their set!) reinforced this mindset with his positive comments on San Francisco, a “city where you can pretty much do anything.” It’s also a place where you can quickly escape into nature (like I did the next day frolicking in the Redwoods), BE STILL, and savor Jonathan’s wise words in ‘Your Mother’s Eyes‘: “My only regret’s taking so long, Finding these simple truths, So I could sing for you.” My heart was even fuller this evening with The Head and the Heart recruiting ONE OF MY FAVORITE ARTISTS OF ALL TIME, Tallest Man on Earth, as their opener. Review on him coming soon!
Although Axel Flovent hails from a tiny North Coast Icelandic town (Húsavík) with only about 2,000 people, he was able to make quite the dent in the global music scene, gathering >20 million Spotify hits on his debut album, Forest Fires (video below). Since then, he’s signed with Epic records, relocated to Amsterdam, and has toured around the world playing festivals like SXSW (going again this year!), Eurosonic, The Great Escape (a mini SXSW in Brighton that I went to both years I lived in London), and more. He also released a new EP (Quiet Eyes) this year and a new single called ‘City Dream‘ (my favorite, video below). It’s also cool to know that some of Axel’s Airwave’s shows showcased the super-talented drummer (Valgeir Skorri Vernharðsson) from some of my favorite Icelandic bands, Rythmatik andSigur Ros. The Iceland music scene is known for it’s tight-knit community, and we love it for that. I hope Axel can make his way over to California so he can “see the sun,” no matter what his City Dream. 😉
I remember leaving The Chapel(small venue in SF) in AWE when I first saw Judah & the Lion there over a year ago. To my PLEASANT SURPRISE, these Nashville natives were able to deliver their SUPERB STAGE PRESENCE and RELENTLESS ENERGY to a much larger venue, BottleRock Napamain ‘Jam Cellars’ stage. I was once again blown away by their unique fusion of folk and hip-hop (“Folk Hop n Roll”) and their hilarious, coordinated dance routines (even a booty dance!) to some of their songs. Flying banjos and mandolins, twirling accordions, broken drums sticks, are just a few of the flashbacks that I have, and I am still amazed by the passion and charisma of the frontman, Judah Akers, who was running all over stage and into/onto the crowd (yes, there was a crowd surf!). The best part is that you really DIDN’T NEED to know any of their songs prior, for I guarantee you’d find yourself picking up the lyrics and quickly chiming in on the chorus as if if was your LIFE ANTHEM. Highlights for me were ‘Kicking Da Leaves,’ ‘Hold On,’ ‘Going to Mars,’ ‘Better Man,’ a cover of The Killers ‘s ‘Mr. Brightside’ (HELL YES) and the EPIC ENCORE of ‘Take it all back,’ which is STILL A BLUR and pretty much felt like an EXORCISM of negative energy. I definitely left that set “thinking I could do anything I want,” which was the ONE and ONLY request that Judah asked of the audience. Still buzzing from that wildly creative, genre bending experience!
Meet Mani Orrason, a young Icelandic multi-instrumentalist whose first ever single, ‘Fed My Days‘ (see video below) made it to #1 on the Icelandic charts when he was only 16 years old. Following up on that success, Mani soon released a debut EP, Wake Me Up, whose title track is super catchy and will certainly wake you/me up. Since then, Mani has released a full album (Repeating Patterns, 2015) of folk/pop songs and plans to release another in 2017. He must of fallen in love with his Spain (or someone from there, haha) during his all years of touring Europe, because now this Icelandic expat lives in Alicante. Maybe this second album will have even more spice. Maybe it will feed all of our days, AND all of our nights… 😉
With Magnús Benedikt Sigurðsson on vocal, Árni Guðjónsson on keys, and Helgi Kristjánsson on drums, One Week Wonder has began cultivating a unique blend of warm, melancholy “dream-pop” that draw inspiration from David Bowie, Pink Floyd, Air, and TheFlaming Lips.(I wonder if they saw them headline Airwaves in 2014). It was such a treat to hear thier stunning, stripped-down versions of Angel Eyes, Korea, and Mars (my favorite). I can’t wait for the release of their debut album. “Even the gods will know my own name.” ❤
GDJYB(Gai Dan Jane Yuk Bang) were one of the top new discoveries for me at Iceland Airwaves this year. Calling themselves a “Math-folk girl band from Hong Kong and plays song in Honglish,” this badass quintet (Soni Cheng – guitarist, Heihei Ng – Drummer, Soft Liu – Vocalist, Wing Chan – Bassist). My eyes were bugging out the entire set and bugged out EVEN MORE when I learned that they will be playing at San Francisco’sNoise Popfestival at the end of February! Can’t wait to see them again! Be sure to check out GDJYB’s debut EP (what I bought right after the set) and their first full album (11 songs) ‘23:59 Before Tomorrow,’ released in early 2017 in both Hong Kong and Taiwan. I true treat! 🙂
“If there’s a band capable of striking a successful balance between tranquility and tumult, calm and tension, it’s GDJYB, Hong Kong’s best-kept secret. Featured on the art-pop quartet’s debut album, 23:59 Before Tomorrow, the intriguingly titled “That Day I Went to His Funeral” presents a clean, smooth, and resolutely warm façade, one capable of disarming the most hardened set of ears. Beneath its alluring surface, however, the band can be heard churning out energetically swirling tangles of guitar, bass, drums, and even multi-part harmonies that in their delicate complexity fall somewhere between the Marine Girls’ jazzy post-punk and Warpaint’s dreamy tribal pop.” –KEXP
Broken Social Scene at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco (Oct 2, 2011)
It had been a solid six years since I last saw Broken Social Scene at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival in San Francisco back in Oct 2011 (pictured above), and I could not have been more ecstatic to see them at the Fox Theater in honor of their recent album, ‘Hug of Thunder’ (released on July 7, 2017). ‘Hug of Thunder‘ is certainly one to HUG LIKE HELL, for it happens to be Broken Social Scene’s newest album since ‘Forgiveness Rock Record‘ (released in May 2010), and represents their revival from a 7 year hiatus. And man.. WHAT A REVIVAL is has BEEN. This 12-piece Canadian indie rock played a stellar 2-hour performance spanning their entire collection (set-list above), including a large number of songs from the new album: Halfway Home, Protest Song (personal favorite), Stay Happy, and Skyline. I nearly lost it when they played ‘World Sick,’ one of my absolute FAVORITE TRACKS (love the intro guitar ditty!): “I get world sick every time I take a stand… Well, I get world sick, my love is for my man.” I feel this song is especially relevant to the political turmoil in the Unites States and all of the unfortunate tragedies happening in the world today, and it as no surprise that Brendan Canning (guitar, vocals) also vocalized this relevance. It kind of reminds me of despair that is eminent in their new track, ‘Mouth Guards Of The Apocalypse‘: “I don’t wanna be scared, Or addicted to the dream… This fight is a ghost, Whose suicide was unseen.” Just got the chills.
After treating us to a special rendition of ‘Anthem for a Seventeen-year Old Girl‘ (video below) with the lovely ladies of Belle Game (their opener), Broken Social Scene played BOTH ‘Cause = Time‘ AND ‘Lover’s Spit.’ After polling the audience and seeing a unanimous request for both, Brendan made sure no one would be let down. He then got CARRIED AWAY (literally) after climbing into the crowd for ‘Lover Spit‘ and sing most of the song while surfing in a sea of fans.
AND, as if the music wasn’t cathartic enough, Brendan later initiated a group therapy session with the following request:
“You gotta take everything you got hear tonight. You gotta take all of the anxiety, all of the depression, all of the regret, all of the expectations that didn’t happen. You gotta take all of the people who aren’t here, all the people you wish were here, you gotta take all the joy, all the love, everything that you feel, and we’re gonna scream, and we’re gonna let it all go together. We’re gonna do some therapy – we’re gonna do it, together. We’re gonna let it out, and even if it’s just this moment and the momentary junkie society that we live in. This moment can be ours, and no one can take this away from us.” LOVE THIS
He then asked us to “Take this night and put it in your back pocket for (days that don’t work for you)” right before TAKING US HOME with the EPIC ENCORE of ‘It’s All Gonna Break.’ Such an INCREDIBLE NIGHT OF MUSIC. I sure hope we don’t need to wait another 7 years for Broken Social Scene to come back ONTO THE SCENE. 😛 ❤
Mammut is by far one of my FAVORITE ICELANDIC BANDS and have been ever since I first discovered them at the Great Escape music festival in Brighton back in 2013. I am somewhat OBSESSED with their newest album, Kinder Versions, especially after getting hooked on ‘Kinder Version‘ (“I’m bringing all my stories back, erasing all the kinder versions of my past”) ❤ ❤ ❤ , ‘The Moon Will Never Turn On Me‘ (“I want to make this right but I don’t feel right, Cause sometimes life tries to eat us up… but then I take a look around and see how dust turns into gold and I embrace this world, embrace the world, embrace the world and I love it all”), and ‘Pray for Air‘ (“Taste the dirt of the water… you know you’ll never be pure.”) *Note: Air in water unfortunately would mean less blue ice when that water freezes!* Not only did National radio and television RÚV chose Kinder Version as the best album of 2017, but it was The Line of Best Fit selected it at #18 for 2017. Mammut was also awarded performers of the year (Krókurinn 2017, Menningarverðlaun Rásar) and selected to be on KEXP‘s top 10 list of the YEAR. They definitely had a REMARKABLE 2017! Can’t wait to post my review on them! I got some epic videos of their first set of Airwaves in Reykjavik, especially during ‘Kinder Version‘ when Kata pointed to me about a 1 min in and asked “Have you been excited?” with a gaze that stared into the depths of MY SOUL. If I wasn’t excited before, I certainly was after.:)
City of the Sun was one of my TOP FIVE PICKS OF 2017, and their EXPLOSIVE, GENRE-BENDING sound (post-rock blended with and flamenco guitar and unique percussion) will SWEEP YOU TO THE SKY. It’s only a matter of time before these guys shine their vibrant tunes ‘To the Sun and All the Cites In Between‘ (name of debut album).
(In order to access the playlist, you have to press the 3 vertical dots in the upper right hand corner and select download. You can then cancel the download immediately and still have access to the playlist. If you are still having uses, let me know and I can send you a link to download the tracks!)
So Low- Geographer
Love Yourself- The Boxer Rebellion
Chateau- Angus & Julia Stone
Moon / Sun- Trevor Hall
Kinder Version- Mammut
Before The Hurting Lands.- Jaws Of Love.
I Don’t Believe In Us- Overcoats
Mountain To Move- Nick Mulvey
Make It Out Alive- Angus & Julia Stone
Chemistry- Kiriyama Family
Second Sun- City of the Sun
Right & Wrong- Caught a Ghost
Trying Not to Love You- Caroline Smith
Pray For Air- Mammut
Speak Of The Devil- Black Pistol Fire
Snow- Angus & Julia Stone
The Wires- Ben Sollee
Remembering- Nick Mulvey
Wander- Trevor Hall
Kai’s Song- Overcoats
Firefly- City of the Sun
Blind Spots- Omotrack
The Moon Will Never Turn On Me- Mammut
21st Century Heartbeat- Luke Sital-Singh
Magazine- Caroline Smith
Transform Your Game (We Remain)- Nick Mulvey
Light Years Away- Kiriyama Family
Fed All My Days- Mani Orrason
Baudelaire- Angus & Julia Stone
Torches- The Oh Hellos
Dark Night- Amber Coffman
Wake The Riot- Black Pistol Fire
Love Me Like I’m Gone.- Jaws Of Love.
I Can’t Quit- The Vaccines
Bloodstyle- Caroline Smith
Ekki Sleppa- Hórmónar
Sahara- Songhoy Blues
Time- City of the Sun
Overalls (Live)- Emily Scott Robinson
Imaginary Mountains- Omotrack
We Tried Love- Mammut
Mechanical Advantage- Ben Sollee
Hawaiian License Plates.- Jaws Of Love.
On the Mountain Tall- The Oh Hellos
Apart- Kiriyama Family
City Dream- Axel Flovent
Heart Attack- Tune-Yards
Nothing Stays The Same- Luke Sital-Singh
Up There- Trevor Hall
In Your Hands- Nick Mulvey
All To Myself- Amber Coffman (of Dirty Projectors)
Come Along- Cosmo Sheldrake
Where It Goes- 雞蛋蒸肉餅 GDJYB (Gai Dan Jane Yuk Bang)
SO STOKED to have met the TREMENDOUSLY TALENTED TRIO (John Pita, Avi Snow, Zach Para) that is City of the Sun after their MIND-NUMBING SHOW at the Cornerstone Brewery in Berkeley. I may have been tired and jet-lagged from Iceland Airwaves music festival (for which I only just returned the day before), but that surely did NOT keep me from SEEING THE SUN, City of the Sun. This EXPLOSIVE, GENRE-BENDING band blends post-rock and flamenco style guitar with unique percussion (learned in Peru) to create soundscapes that SWEEP YOU TO THE SKY. I first discovered City of the Sun at BottleRock Napa back in May and remember my knees getting weak (yes, THAT GOOD) as I ran to the stage half-way into their first SONG. They reminded me a bit of both Explosions in the Sky and Rodrigo y Gabriela, two of my ALL TIME FAVORITE bands (but with very different styles). They also had a bit of a Vancouver Sleep Clinic vibe, which (oddly enough), they told me they met a few months back at a music festival in Vegas and considered Tim Bettinsons‘ vocals a great fit for their music. 🙂
Having honed their craft as buskers in NYC, their stage presence was pretty phenomenal for a band new to the festival circuit, and you could tell they were thirsty for a rowdy crowd. It’s pretty cool that they wrote a song (‘You and I… And New York‘) about the city that provided much of their influence and inspiration, as well as a platform to play to a world full of strangers. NYC pedestrians are def a tough crowd!
I smiled SO FREAKING WIDE when John Pita (lead guitar) stuck his head over the crowd and shouted “LET ME SEE ALL YOUR FUCKING EYES!” Haha. YAAAAAS. You better believe I took that command to heart and waved my big-eyed puppet face his way the entire set. Whelp, he must have liked the puppet participation, cause during the encore (‘Everything‘), he launched toward me at 2 min in and yelled “HEY!” as if to raise the roof of the joint! That song is EVERYTHING I could ever want and need! So FREAKING SICK; a true TIMELESS, UNIVERSAL TRACK that will have EVERYONE and EVERYTHING moving their bodies in ways they never knew how! It’s only a matter of time before these guys shine their vibrant tunes ‘To the Sun and All the Cites In Between.’ (name of their debut album).
Another standout track (but let’s get real they are all amazing) is ‘Explosions.’ (video below) If this song does not make you FEEL EXPLOSIONS all over, I am concerned for you. It’s seriously one of the most beautiful instrumental tracks I’ve heard in a long, long time. ‘Brothers‘ (video below) is another track that has my heart, for when is hits, I simply “feel no pain” (and I’m pretty sure Bob Marley would agree). It’s probably not a coincidence then that they kick off their album with this one. The build-up is so damn gorgeous. What a slayer.
Lucky for us they happened to perform two amazing covers: (1) Santana‘s ‘Jingo‘ and (2) The xx‘s ‘Intro.’ WHAT A TREAT to hear City of the Sun brand this XX masterpiece with heir own unique flamenco guitar/post-rock signature. SOOOOOO GOOOOOOOD.
They also treated us to a new song called ‘Firefly‘ (which def flew right into my heart and lit it up) as well as an unreleased song with no title (video below).
I will never forget John Pita’s last words to the crowd: “If you can here for a chill acoustic show, this ain’t it.” DAMN STRAIGHT. You came for something that words simply cannot describe. You just gotta show up and see for yourself. ❤
I had no idea that walking into the Independent early to check out the opener for Overcoats would have me walking out with a new favorite artist: Caroline Smith, a neo-soul, R&B singer with indie-folk roots who formerly released two albums with her band Caroline Smith & the Good Night Sleeps before putting out a solo debut album back in 2013 called ‘Half About Being a Woman.‘
What hooked me right away with Caroline, beside her stunning vocals, was her radical candor and sassy songwriting, eminent in the first new track she played (video below) which unfortunately I did not catch the name of:
“I will not pretend, I will not put on a smile, I will say I’m alright for you, when all I wanted was to be good, to do everything in truth… You bloody mother fucking asshole You bloody mother fucking asshole You bloody mother fucking asshole You bloody mother fucking asshole”
I thoroughly enjoyed this super-cathartic, super-sassy “ode to asshole” and could not stop smiling at the thought of this petite, innocent-looking lil’ lady shocking an ex-lover with her spunky, sassafras anthems. I couldn’t get enough of her spitfire lyrics and was super excited when she continued to breathe fire with a track called ‘Jefferson‘ (video below) — one that definitely puts fire under the ass!
“Chewing on some gum walking home and feeling dumb for giving into him another night God damn it’s the way he stays just far enough away to waste my time I coulda told you I was only setting up the deck against myself, again. If you gotta guy like mine then read the signs don’t lose your mind make the drive to Jefferson”
Such a sassy, witty, FEEL GOOD JAM that I could listen to OVER AND OVER. Sooooo good.
Caroline then treated us to a few new tracks (videos below), ‘Animal‘ (“You’re an animal, you’re an animal, you’re an animal I’m the CRIMINAL… cause I’m one too”) and ‘Bad habit‘ (“I gotta bad habit of living rich on minimum wage .. I gotta bad habit for loving you… is the worst one.. the worst one”), both of which I can’t wait to be released.
Right after, she delivered a two more well-known tracks (videos below) — ‘Trying Not to Love You‘ and ‘Half about Being a Woman‘ — both of which capture the innate, often conflicting desire to finding love in another without losing love in yourself: “I’m gonna go, walk out that door Cause being a woman, is half about being wrong but the other half led me to be singing this song.” Every one of Caroline’s tracks unlocks another truth about femininity and societal expectations placed on women, and the video for her song ‘Magazine,’ created by director/editor Dan Huiting (Bon Iver, The National, Local Natives, Andrew Bird) depicts this quite beautifully. She is all about female empowerment and encouraging women to embrace their bold, outspoken opinions/voice and to proud of their roots:
“Over the last year I began to embrace that being a strong, con