This weekend I returned from a 10 day trip to Hawai’i. I went mostly off the grid, solo, independent and ready to be resourceful. I got to know a handful of really interesting people and saw some beautiful sights. As inspiration for this post, I listened heavily (while driving more than 1,000 miles on the Big Island) to four albums released over the last few months. I picked these albums for a variety of reasons which I explain below and also because the artists are all slated to play at Coachella this year.
Here are my thoughts and favorite songs from my Hawai’i soundtrack:
Florence and the Machine, Ceremonials
What’s great about this album? It’s better than their first album, which was pretty damn good. What’s cool about this album? It was recorded in Abbey Road Studios.
I saw Florence and the Machine perform live at the Greek Theater in Berkeley last summer (the day after I finished the AIDS Lifecycle). She is an amazing, powerful singer and her band is a very talented group of musicians. I think all of that becomes quite obvious on this new album. There isn’t a song on the album I don’t like, and knowing how great they were live, I would love to see them on tour this summer. I highly recommend this album.
Here’s my favorite song, Spectrum, being performed live (in dramatic Florence fashion) on an episode of the X Factor.
Florence and the Machine will be playing in Davis, CA at the Mondavi Center on Wednesday, April 18.
Gotye, Making Mirrors
I first heard Gotye from my friend Lukasz. He is obsessed with KCRW which I haven’t had a chance to listen to much, but he insists features a lot of great up-and-coming music acts. He shared a Gotye song with me, Somebody That I Used To Know, back in November, which was long before the video garnered 55 million views on YouTube. It’s a great song if you haven’t heard it.
As for the rest of the album, it’s good and it definitely features what I deduced to be three different sounding sets of songs. I loved songs #1-5 and thought these defined his style best. These songs sound the most current, are a tiny bit alternative, and feature meaningful lyrics. The second set of songs have an upbeat vibe but more to the tune of Michael McDonald or Taylor Hicks. The final set of songs are a bit darker and more electronic.
My favorite song from the album is called Eyes Wide Open (#4), which I must have listened to 50 times during my trip. Here’s a really great movie he released on YouTube with the song.
Gotye will be performing at The Independent in SF on Thursday, April 12.
Girls, Father, Son, Holy Ghost
Yes I like Girls because they are a San Francisco group. And yes I have great respect for Girls because their lead singer speaks open and honestly about drug abuse. Their new album, which I chose based on a sky-high review from Pitchfork (they gave it a 9.3), is good, but made less of an impression on me than the other three albums. Music snobs would probably say I didn’t get it. Maybe not. I definitely think they’re original (albeit retro) but perhaps just not for me.
It’s not like they don’t have a rabid following. It’s already been highlighted on their Wikipedia page that they recently sold out Terminal 5 in New York City. (That’s a sign they’ve made it right?)
My favorite song is probably their second single from the album, Honey Bunny, because it’s light and fun, and because it takes me to the 1950s, when Buddy Holly might have been playing a concert in Santa Cruz.
Girls will be performing in Santa Cruz on March 1 at the Coconut Grove Ballroom.
The Black Keys, El Camino
I have to be honest, I’ve been pretty oblivious to The Black Keys. I picked this album because I knew nothing about it, yet it was on the top 10 most popular album list in iTunes before I left and because they’re headling Coachella, for crying out loud.
Boy have I been missing out. The Black Keys are a talented band and likely enjoy appeal from a wide variety of fans. I know plenty of friends with good music taste that have liked them for some time (but never pushed them on me apparently) and I know plenty of different people that would appreciate this album to. Like my dad, or my sister and her fiance, for example. (Congrats again Jaime!) It’s good music and it feels good to listen to it.
Stop Stop isn’t necessarily my favorite song from the album but it stands out most for me. I had it stuck in my head throughout several points on the trip and I think it gives a good sampling of the album’s overall sound.
The Black Keys will be performing big at Oracle Arena on May 5. I don’t doubt they will put on a great show leading the marquee on Friday night at Coachella.