Ambulance LTD – Stay Where You Are

Still one of my all-time favorite songs. Stunningly gorgeous, the kind of track you just get lost in.

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The Obligatory “Amanda’s Top 14 Tracks of 2014” Playlist

It’s nearly the end of December, which means my inbox is starting to explode with lots of “so what were your favorite albums of the year?” messages from friends and colleagues. So far I’ve ignored all of these messages (sorry, pals!) because my mind completely goes blank when I’m asked that question. Why? Because my music ADD is at an all-time high, and I actually rarely listen to full albums.

This is mostly due to the fact that I’ve been the sole curator of Band of the Day app for the past couple of years, which requires listening to an obscene amount of music in order to effectively choose the best bands to feature. To put it into perspective, that’s over 1000 bands I’ve had to choose, which is drilled down from at least 5-10 times that amount of music listening! But hey, if “I have to listen to TOO much new music” is the worst part of the job, it’s not a bad one to be in 😉

Right, back to the matter at hand – my personal list of stand-out tracks released in 2014. I’m too indecisive to rank them, so I’ve taken the lazy way out by posting them in alphabetical order. Hope you discover some gems from this list, and I’d love to hear feedback on what your favorites were (the YouTube playlist up there has every track).

1. Benjamin Booker, “Violent Shiver” – This is a song that had me going, “Whoa. Who IS this guy?” the first time I heard it. Bluesy, gritty, with just a hint of punk.

2. Dillon Francis feat. DJ Snake, “Get Low” – Oh hey, you didn’t realize I also like mainstream music? It’s dirty, ridiculous, and any song that causes such a mass dance floor frenzy every single time is a-OK in my book.

3. Fink, “Looking Too Closely” – Gorgeous vocals, heartbreaking melody, utterly captivating.

4. Hamilton Leithauser, “Alexandra” – Dude from The Walkmen. He’s still got it!

5. Johnny Stimson, “So.Good.” – For a panty-dropping good time, call Johnny Stimson.

6. Kishi Bashi, “Philosphize It! Chemicalize With It!” – I wish I wasn’t scared of trying ‘shrooms. Because otherwise I’d eat a whole bunch, listen to this song, and run around a psychedelic forest wonderland.

7. Michael Jackson, “Love Never Felt So Good” – there’s a 1 in 7 chance that if your song title has the words ‘so’ and ‘good’ in it, it’ll make my playlist (see: number 5).

8. Milky Chance, “Stolen Dance” – I can’t read their band name without thinking of the scene in This Is England when Milky gets beaten up (“Wake up, Milky! Milky, wake up!” cries the little kid). But I digress. Again. Anyway, it’s a song that’s gotten a ton of airplay this year, but one that I’m always happy to hear and never skip over.

9. ODESZA, “Say My Name (feat. Zyra)” – ODESZA is the perfect intersection between glitchy electronic pop and indie pop, and Zyra’s vocals are hypnotic as she sings, “I wanna dance, I wanna dance, I wanna dance with you/So take a chance, take a chance”

10. Porter Robinson, “Sad Machine” – I still get chills from the opening melody of this song. Stunning!

11. Rich Aucoin, “Are You Experiencing?” – Hands down, one of my favorite live acts EVER (please watch the video to see what I mean!). And this song is pretty much the epitome of sonic serotonin: uplifting, makes you feel alive. ❤ ❤ ❤

12. Terror Pigeon, “Girl!” – Another one of those ‘makes you feel so alive’ tracks. Starts out a little slow, but then builds up into an explosion of awesomeness. I can only imagine how much fun they must be in concert, and I’m hoping to catch them in 2015!

13. White Arrows, “We Can’t Ever Die” – One time a dude hit on me by asking, “do you #YOLO?” I wanted to say, “No sir, because that’s not grammatically correct!” But I didn’t. And now I’m guessing by the title of this song that White Arrows also don’t YOLO. #TeamImmortality #FTW

14. Yellerkin, “Solar Laws” – Love at first listen. Seriously, how could you not fall in love with those melodies and vocals?

2014 Music Trend Report: Are males downplaying their love of female-fronted bands?

This was first posted for Band of the Day app on 9/30/14 over at: http://bit.ly/mvsfbands

It’s hard to believe we’re about to begin the tenth month of the year — that’s nearly 300 new bands we’ve featured just in this year alone! Fueled by one too many cups of coffee, and sheer curiosity/music geekery, we decided to take a look at the data of all of the bands we’ve featured in the app this year to see if we could determine any trends on what types of bands are defining the 2014 emerging music scene. We looked at three key data points from the app (number of song plays, number of social media shares, and number of buy button taps), to find the top ten bands in each category. Here are the results (click on the band names to listen to their music):

Most Song Plays

  1. The OK Social Club
  2. The Fratellis
  3. Quiet Company
  4. Drowners
  5. Megan Bonnell
  6. Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas
  7. Kayleigh Goldsworthy
  8. Deaf Havana
  9. Lily & Madeleine
  10. Sumie

Most Music Buys

  1. The OK Social Club
  2. Megan Bonnell
  3. Lily & Madeline
  4. Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas
  5. Kayleigh Goldsworthy
  6. The Fratellis
  7. Takenobu
  8. Quiet Company
  9. Western Lows
  10. Sumie

Most Social Media Shares

  1. The OK Social Club
  2. Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas
  3. Quiet Company
  4. Cherri Fosphate
  5. The Fratellis
  6. The Sounds
  7. Drowners
  8. XXANAXX
  9. Basecamp
  10. Chicks Who Love Guns

Breaking it down by category, we noticed a few trends that popped up. Just based on song plays alone, female singer-songwriters are dominating the results, followed closely behind by British guitar-heavy rock bands. The ladies are also dominating the Most Music Buys category, followed by rock and folk bands. We theorized that the results for Most Social Media Shares would also follow a similar pattern but, after looking at the data, we noticed that it was actually completely different. Rock bands are most likely to be shared publicly on user’s social media networks, followed by electronic and folk bands.

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So how can this variance possibly be explained? Digging one layer deeper, we know that 61% of our Band of the Day users are male, while 39% are female. Given this statistic, could this mean that, while the majority of users (both genders) spend more time listening to female singer-songwriters, males are less inclined to publicly share their love of female singer-songwriters, opting to publicly portray a more “masculine” taste in music with heavier guitar rock? While we can’t conclude definitively, and just have a small sampling of the 2014 emerging music landscape, the numbers seem to suggest that this might be the case. Have a different theory on why this might be? Feel free to share your insights by leaving a comment at facebook.com/bandoftheday or tweeting @bandoftheday. </endmusicgeekmode>.

Made it to band #1000 on Band of the Day app!

Note: this was first published in Band of the Day app on June 6, 2014

The Strokes

It’s hard to believe that today we’re featuring our 1000th Band of the Day. Instead of exposing you to an unknown band today, we’ve decided to mark this special occasion by taking it back to one of the bands responsible for sparking our own obsession with music discovery: The Strokes. Thirteen years ago, the five New Yorkers — Julian Casablancas (lead vocals), Nick Valensi (guitar, vocals), Albert Hammond, Jr. (guitar, vocals), Nikolai Fraiture (bass), and Fabrizio Moretti (drums) — released their debut album Is This It (2001). Almost immediately it received critical acclaim across mainstream and independent music publications, being cited as one of the greatest rock albums of the 2000s and selling millions of copies worldwide. Since then, the band has kept the momentum going with the release of four additional albums: Room On Fire (2003), First Impressions of Earth (2006), Angles (2011), and most recently 2013’s Comedown Machine.

But going back to the Is This It era, it was a time when smartphones and music discovery apps didn’t exist. Most of us discovered new bands the old-fashioned way: radio, television, music magazines, snarky record store clerks…or in my case, snooping through my older brother’s Winamp files on our family’s shared computer. Instead of finding some type of incriminating evidence against him, I double-clicked a song at random, and turned the speakers up. The song was “Hard To Explain” (from Is This It), and I remember this visceral, overwhelming sensation of feeling completely captivated by the music. It sounded nothing like the top 40 radio hits and MTV chart-toppers I normally listened to as a teenage girl coming of age in the early 2000s. Immediately I queued up the rest of the songs on the album, and listened on repeat until I was kicked off the computer.

Needless to say, it didn’t take long for The Strokes to oust ‘N Sync as my new favorite band — lead singer Julian Casablancas was now the top JC in my life (sorry JC Chasez). I bought every magazine with The Strokes on the cover, joined their online forum to meet like-minded fans, and went to all of their concerts when they came through town. One of the most important effects of this teenage devotion was that their music opened up an entirely different world of music to what I had always known. I learned about iconic bands who The Strokes cited as influences, like the Velvet Underground, Television, and New York Dolls; and their contemporaries, like The White Stripes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Libertines, and Interpol. Music discovery became an essential part of life, a part that I’m now honored to share with all of you on a daily basis.

So today, instead of exposing your ears to the next best unknown band, I hope you enjoy taking a journey through the musical history of The Strokes with our selection of featured songs from each of their five albums. – Amanda Van West (@amandabomb)

Playlist: Songs you should know to impress your hipster friends

You know those friends who always seem to one-up you on obscure bands, no matter how much time you spend trawling the blogs? Give ’em a taste of their own medicine by familiarizing yourself with some new music: Click here to open the Spotify playlist. 

 

The Vaccines – The Vaccines EP Review

When a band manages to sell out concerts before even releasing a full-length album, it’s hard not to pay attention.

With just a self-titled EP under their belts, London-based newcomers, The Vaccines, are making waves in the vast ocean of the indie music scene.

Their influences might be vintage—ranging from The Zombies, to The Jesus and Mary Chain, to The Ramones—but the hype surrounding them is completely 21st century. Bloggers and music journalists alike have turned to social networking to spread the word on the next great British band.

Although it’s easy to lump them in the same category with other lo-fi, dream pop bands—like Beach House, Best Coast, and The Drums—The Vaccines manage to rise above the pack with their catchy hooks and punchy lyrics.

On the surface, “Post Break-Up Sex”–the first track off of the EP –sounds like it could be a lost Buddy Holly B-side, with dulcet 50s pop melodies over a pleasantly jangly beat.

But lyrics like, ‘I can’t believe you’re feeling good from/Post break-up sex/That helps you forget your ex/What did you expect from post break-up sex?’ give the song an ironic contrast.

Packing in a lot of punch in less than a minute and a half, “Wreckin’ Ball (Ra Ra Ra)” is the stand-out track on the EP.

Even if The Ramones and The Beach Boys formed a supergroup, and then time warped onto the set of a beach party scene in a raging 1960s surf movie, they probably wouldn’t come up with a song as catchy as this.

Winding down the EP is the more mellow, psychedelic-influenced “Blow It Up.” With its chiming guitars, downtempo beat, and repetitive chorus of ‘Blow/Blow/Blow it up’, this song is the auditory equivalent of getting lost in a kaleidoscope, admiring all of the intricate bejewelled patterns.

Until The Vaccines release a full-length album, The Vaccines – EP is the perfect appetizer to keep your music player satiated.

RIP The White Stripes

I distinctly remember the first time I had ever heard The White Stripes. It was over 7 years ago, when I was 17 years old, and it was the summer before starting my senior year of high school.

At this point in my life, I wasn’t the music geek that I am today. I listened to whatever was on the radio, or whatever my friends listened to.

It was one of those hot and sticky summer days in Santa Clara, the kind that makes you feel like a Kirkland Signature ham, glistening with sweat instead of a sweet honey glaze. The kind where your ghetto air conditioning (aka spraying a cold water bottle into a fan) just doesn’t cut it. On those types of days, my mom and I would escape to the air conditioned confines of Valley Fair Mall.

I remember walking into Macy’s Men & Home, looking up at the television screen, and seeing this music video:

At the time, I had no idea who the band or what the song was. But I had to find out. It was so different from everything else that I listened to, but something about it resonated with me.

Later that evening, after probably Googling something like “what’s that lego video?”, I discovered that the band was called The White Stripes, and that the song was “Fell In Love With A Girl.”

A subsequent trip to Rasputin Records, and I was officially the proud owner of “White Blood Cells.” I don’t know how many times I listened to that album that summer, or since then, but it remains one of my all-time favorite albums.

Candy Cane Children

Come September, I had the chance to see The White Stripes at the Greek Theater in Berkeley. And it was only my second concert ever.

To this day, after going to hundreds of concerts, this is still one of the all-time best live performances that I have ever seen. The chemistry between Jack and Meg was electric, the songs sounded so raw and explosive, and the audience–a sea of red and white-clad people–was hanging onto every note.

I’ll never forget how The White Stripes helped set me on the path to a fantastic music scene, or how their music makes me feel.

Like many other ‘Candy Cane Children’ out there, I’m devastated to hear that they’ve split up.

But, as they say, the music lives on. Even though I’ll never see them live again, I know that I can pop in “De Stijl” or “Get Behind Me Satan” and relive those memories.

RIP, The White Stripes!