Surprise! Coachella offers a big twist while revealing 2022 set times as Arcade Fire joins the party unexpectedly

Coachella 2022

Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival //
Empire Polo Club – Indio, CA
April 15th-17th & April 22nd-24th, 2022 //

Well, Coachellans … if you thought last week’s news that saw Swedish House Mafia and The Weeknd replace Ye (fka Kanye West) as Sunday’s headlining acts was the only change before you head out to the desert, think again.

The three-day, two-weekend music and arts festival has surprised us all in revealing set times for its 21st edition just a little more than 24 hours before it begins — the latest they have ever been released — and casually including Arcade Fire, which was not listed on the official lineup poster, at the Mojave Tent on Friday. If you’re hoping to catch what should be an epic performance from Win Butler, Régine Chassagne and company during “magic hour” and likely hear some new tunes off their upcoming sixth studio album WE that arrives in May, we would recommend getting there early before 6:45 p.m.

And while there are always hard decisions to make at Coachella, it only gets tougher with the Grammy-winning band added into the mix.

Don’t be shy, though … what’s your biggest conflict this year and who are you most excited for?


Coachella 2022 - Weekend 1 - Friday set times

Coachella 2022 - Weekend 1 - Saturday set times

Coachella 2022 - Weekend 1 - Sunday set times

UPDATE (April 16th): We’re only one day into Weekend 1, and there are already some shake-ups to the schedule starting with Madlib being unable to join Freddie Gibbs at the Gobi Stage due to personal reasons. Gibbs, nevertheless, will still perform solo at his scheduled start time of 9:35 p.m. Meanwhile over at the Sahara Tent a couple hours earlier, Tchami will now begin at 7:03 p.m. instead of 7:15 p.m. You can peep the latest set times for Saturday in the tweet above.


Coachella 2022 - Weekend 2 - Friday set times

Coachella 2022 - Weekend 2 - Saturday set times

Coachella 2022 - Weekend 2 - Sunday set times

Arcade Fire are most notably missing from the Weekend 2 set times, but that’s not the only change that stands out if you’re comparing them to Weekend 1. Besides some changes to the early-afternoon slots as well as slowthai moving up and The Marías moving back to compete with Grupo Firme for some odd reason, another notable adjustment is Run the Jewels moving to Friday at 8:10 p.m. in the Mojave Tent after taking the Coachella Stage on Sunday at 4:35 p.m. during Weekend 1.

And as we saw last weekend with Shaina Twain, Justin Bieber, Damon Albarn, Snoop Dogg, Post Malone, Diplo, Khalid, Tyga, Saweetie, Metro Boomin and more all making cameos, Coachella has become a breeding ground for live collaborations and special guests so we’ll see if Weekend 2 has more surprises in store for fans after a star-studded return to the polo fields.


Less than four hours before the gates officially open at the Empire Polo Club, Coachella has finally shared this year’s map and it looks a lot like what we saw in 2019. But one change to the map that sticks out is the relocation of the Yuma Tent, which has moved farther away from the main entrance (though only slightly) and closer to the 12 Peaks VIP section adjacent to the Coachella Stage. Also, there’s only one way to access the Sonora, Gobi and Mojave Tents now as compared to prior years when guests could walk directly from the Sahara Tent to any of them, and while that might create for less foot traffic in the area near The Do LaB Stage, it will be a longer walk than before.

Coachella has long been considered to be one of the world’s best-run music festivals (and rightfully so), yet with Goldenvoice running behind schedule this week on the release of set times and other pertinent information, we’ll see how smoothly things go after a three-year hiatus for the concert promoter.

Coachella 2022 - map

So whether you’ll be in Indio or watching the YouTube livestream on your couch, let’s hope there aren’t any other artists or bands canceling at the last minute.

Happy Coachella!

Outside Lands 2017: Lineup locks, likely acts & long shots

Outside Lands 2016

Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival //
Golden Gate Park – San Francisco
August 11th-13th, 2017 //

Now that Ranger Dave has dusted off his uniform and is once again prepping for duty, we can speculate who will be performing at Golden Gate Park this August for a very special 10th year of Outside Lands. As festival season draws near with Coachella less than two weeks away, it’s time for us to make some predictions regarding this year’s OSL lineup. So while you work on that summer tan, we’ve got all the deets on who you can expect to see in SF in a few months.

If you have a lead or opinion, drop us a comment below.

Outside Lands 2016

Lock It In

Metallica – Ranger Dave basically confirmed the news via Twitter with his “nothing else matters” tweet, which has since been deleted. No worries, we have a screenshot of it here.

Empire of the Sun – Ranger Dave made it fairly obvious with this tweet.

Maggie Rogers – Another Ranger Dave tweet provides the clue for this 22-year-old singer-songwriter, whose “Color Song” is buzzy AF.

Francis and the Lights – See Ranger Dave’s tweet, and their hit single “Friends” features close collaborator Bon Iver, too.

The Temper Trap and/or Shovels & Rope – See Ranger Dave’s tweet, which sounds like a reference to The Temper Trap song “Miracle” but could also be referring to Shovels & Rope’s 2016 LP Little Seeds (the South Carolina duo also have a big gap in its tour schedule between July and August).

Sofi Tukker – See Ranger Dave’s tweet. The New York duo’s 2016 EP Soft Animals is its first and only release so far.

Action Bronson – See Ranger Dave’s tweet. We’re calling it his “Fuck, That’s Delicious: Outside Lands Edition.”

Rag’n’Bone Man – See Ranger Dave’s tweet. The English singer-songwriter included “Lay My Body Down” as a bonus track on the deluxe edition of his debut studio album Human, which he released in February on Columbia Records.

Future Islands – See Ranger Dave’s tweet. “A Dream of You And Me” is the second single off the Baltimore band’s 2014 LP Singles.

Ice-T – See Ranger Dave’s tweet referencing his 1991 album O.G. Original Gangster. But could this instead signal the return of Body Count (Ice-T’s longstanding metal band)?

Outside Lands 2016 - Big Freedia

Seems Likely

Arcade Fire – Awake yee gentle Canadian giants! 2011 marks the last time we saw AF top the lineup, and with new material to showcase this year, we expect — but can’t guarantee — OSL to be their banner West Coast festival slot now that we know they’re not playing Coachella or FYF Fest in LA.

The Weeknd – Abel’s tour gap in August, coupled with headlining appearances at Bonnaroo (which often shares a headliner with OSL) and then Lollapalooza, seem to lead to the obvious for his debut at Another Planet Entertainment’s premier event.

alt-J – With no Bay Area dates scheduled and a show in LA at the Shrine Auditorium on August 9th, a return to OSL seems all the more likely for these gentlemen from Leeds.

Lorde – The 20-year-old New Zealand pop star is hitting a ton of festivals this year in support of her forthcoming album Melodrama, including Coachella, JazzFest, Governor’s Ball, FPSF, Bonnaroo, Glastonbury, Rock Werchter, OpenAir St. Gallen, Fuji Rock, Lollapalooza and last but not least, Osheaga (for now). OSL would definitely be the cherry on top for an impressive festival run in 2017, though.

Fleet Foxes – The Seattle indie-folk giant fronted by Robin Pecknold is back with its first LP in six years this June, and with some down time in August and no Bay Area show on the tour schedule yet, OSL looks like a strong possibility.

Justice – The French electro masters are hitting the festival circuit rather hard, and the recent debut of their live show has the buzz-o-meter reaching critical mass. Having them close things out on the Twin Peaks stage Saturday would be ideal for launching fans into the wild night.

Wiz Khalifa – The Pittsburgh emcee has a new album coming out in 2017 and no Bay Area date scheduled. He’s also playing Lollapalooza the weekend before, making OSL a definite possibility for his NorCal tour stop.

The Avett Brothers – The Avetts are in California the week of OSL to play San Diego on August 10th and LA on August 11th, and the only next stop that makes sense would be SF. There’s this, too.

Cage the Elephant – They’re conveniently skipping SF yet hitting Sacramento this month as the only Northern California stop on their current U.S. tour that includes slots at Lollapalooza and Osheaga already lined up. OSL seems like a logical choice considering the 2017 Grammy winners last played the fest in 2009.

Young the Giant – These guys haven’t played OSL since 2013 and have a week off before heading north to play Seattle on August 11th. Plus, there’s this.

Grouplove – The colorful LA outfit is making the festival rounds this summer and playing Lollapalooza the weekend before OSL. With roughly a three-week gap in their tour schedule, there’s a solid chance they’ll be performing in Golden Gate Park — and this tweet only helps matters honestly.

Vance Joy – The Australian singer-songwriter doesn’t have a lot of 2017 tour dates booked right now, but there is this.

Warpaint – The all-female rockers recently announced more tour dates concluding at Lollapalooza. With no Bay Area appearance scheduled, even around Coachella’s two weekends, there’s a strong likelihood for their inclusion on the bill. There’s also this.

Spoon – Britt Daniel and company are touring the U.S. this summer in support of their newest full length Hot Thoughts and have a 10-day gap in their schedule, with the weekend of August 11th-13th conveniently open and preceding shows in LA as well as Colorado. Plus, with no Bay Area date scheduled yet, it only makes sense that the Austin group would return to OSL after its last appearance in 2014.

Little Dragon – The Swedish electronic band is playing shows up and down California this month to go along with its performances at Coachella, but none are in SF shockingly enough. They also don’t have any tour dates scheduled in August yet. And there’s this.

Electric Guest – The LA-based band led by one-time Berkeley native Asa Taccone was a big highlight at Noise Pop this year, but according to one Reddit user, they’ll be back in SF this August and their schedule is wide open after early May.

Outside Lands 2016

Looking Plausible

Gorillaz – Could OSL really be Gorillaz’s first U.S. date in almost seven years? The Damon Albarn-led group recently announced that they’ll be performing at Festival d’été de Québec (Quebec City Summer Festival) in Quebec City on July 15th.

The Who – Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend still put on a killer show, and their residency in Las Vegas around OSL time has led to this rumor circulating as they’d truly hit the classic rock billing perfectly. Plus, we think this move would fit all too well.

Queens of the Stone Age – Josh Homme and his sidekicks are making their live return this summer, and it seems incredibly possible that they’ll be back in the Bay in August as one of the festival’s sub-headliners. After all, their set would lead into Metallica quite nicely, right?

Outside Lands 2016

Long Shot (but could happen)

Eric Clapton – While he likely has an exclusive contract with MSG for his bi-coastal shows (his LA dates at The Forum have been postponed until September due to illness), could he end his tour in Golden Gate Park?

Daft Punk – And, of course, your obligatory Daft Punk inclusion, especially after this year’s April Fools’ joke.

Outside Lands 2016

  • Albums you’ll want to hear in 2017

    2017 albumsWritten by Josh Herwitt //

    For as bad as 2016 might have been, there’s no question it yielded some excellent albums. So, what’s in store for 2017? It’s still early, but from what we know right now, there’s plenty of new music on the horizon — and a lot of it we can’t wait to get our hands on.

    Here are 10 upcoming albums (in chronological order by release date) that you’ll want to hear and could very well end up being on some “Best of 2017” lists in another 12 months.

    Bonobo – Migration

    Bonobo - Migration

    Release date: January 13th
    Record label: Ninja Tune

    British musician, producer and DJ Simon Green has organically built a loyal following among electronic music fans for almost two decades with a unique sound that combines downtempo electronica with trip-hop and world-music influences. Since 2013’s The North Borders, he has moved to Los Angeles and recorded his sixth LP Migration, which boasts a few notable guest appearances from Nick Murphy (fka Chet Faker), Rhye and Hundred Waters.

    The Flaming Lips – Oczy Mlody

    The Flaming Lips - Oczy Mlody

    Release date: January 13th
    Record label: Warner Bros.

    Wayne Coyne and his psychedelic sidekicks have been busy over the last few years, recording Beatles cover album With a Little Help From My Fwends in 2014 and releasing a collaborative LP with Miley Cyrus the following year. On their 15th studio effort, the difficult-to-pronounce Oczy Mlody that drops on Coyne’s birthday, the Lips return to the days of Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots and get a little help from their pop-star “fwend” on closing track “We a Famly”.

    SOHN – Rennen

    SOHN - Rennen

    Release date: January 13th
    Record label: 4AD

    London native Christopher Taylor has been known for working extensively with such artists as BANKS, Lana Del Rey and Rhye, but his transition in becoming a legitimate solo act was cemented with the release of his 2014 debut LP Tremors, which peaked at No. 31 on the UK charts. Now calling LA his home, he has spent the last three years constructing Rennen, his second record as SOHN that’s led by “Signal” and its frighteningly beautiful music video.

    The xx – I See You

    The xx - I See You

    Release date: January 13th
    Record label: Young Turks

    No impending album in the first quarter of 2017 may have as much hype around it as The xx’s I See You, their long-awaited follow-up to 2012’s Coexist. The build-up to its release in the last few months has seen the London trio perform on SNL, where they showcased lead single “On Hold” and debuted “I Dare You”, and play shows in Eastern Europe to go along with the news of guitarist/vocalist Romy Madley Croft’s recent engagement.

    Cloud Nothings – Life Without Sound

    Cloud Nothings - Life Without Sound

    Release date: January 27th
    Record label: Carpark Records

    Lo-fi noise rockers Cloud Nothings have come a long way since Dylan Baldi started recording songs in his parents’ basement. With their last two LPs — 2012’s Attack on Memory and 2014’s Here and Nowhere Else — garnering critical acclaim from the music media, the four-piece will release Life Without Sound, its fifth studio album and first with lead guitarist Chris Brown now officially a member of the band, later this month.

    Japandroids – Near to the Wild Heart of Life

    Japandroids - Near to the Wild Heart of Life

    Release date: January 27th
    Record label: ANTI-

    Known for their DIY approach and high-energy performances, Brian King and David Prowse are back after what some may have considered a brief hiatus since touring in support of their 2012 studio album Celebration Rock. This time, the Canadian garage-punk duo is signed to a new label, with its third LP Near to the Wild Heart of Life set to drop on ANTI- in a couple of weeks before embarking on a 20-date North American tour this winter.

    Elbow – Little Fictions

    Elbow - Little Fictions

    Release date: February 3rd
    Record label: Polydor

    2017 marks a big year for Elbow. The Mercury Prize winners have been going at it for 20 years, and to celebrate the occasion, frontman Guy Garvey and company are unveiling their seventh studio album Little Fictions, which features collaborations with The Hallé Orchestra and their choir after longtime drummer Richard Jupp announced in 2016 that he was leaving the group to pursue other creative projects, from expanding his drum school to various charity work.

    Sampha – Process

    Sampha - Process

    Release date: February 3rd
    Record label: Young Turks

    Sampha Sisay, who performs under his mononymous stage name, has built much of his reputation on working with high-profile artists like Drake, Kanye West and Solange. But almost seven years after unveiling his debut EP Sundanza, the South London electronic musician, singer-songwriter and producer is finally dropping his own full-length effort, highlighted by previously released singles “Timmy’s Prayer” and “Blood on Me”.

    Ryan Adams – Prisoner

    Ryan Adams - Prisoner

    Release date: February 17th
    Record label: PAX AM/Blue Note

    At the age of 42, Ryan Adams is as prolific as any musician out there right now, with Prisoner marking his 16th LP and the follow-up to his Taylor Swift cover album. And while he has been teasing the record for about six months, originally hinting at a possible November release, the alt-country songwriter gets ready for his next chapter, which he says was inspired by 80’s rock giants like Bruce Springsteen and AC/DC despite coping with a very public divorce at the time.

    The Shins – Headworms

    The Shins - Heartworms

    Release date: March 10
    Record label: Columbia

    By the time The Shins unleash their fifth LP this March, it will be nearly five years between album releases for the Portland-based outfit. Of course, it’s no secret that bandleader James Mercer keeps a tight schedule between The Shins and Broken Bells, but on Heartworms, the Albuquerque native made sure to include “So Now What”, the song he wrote for the “Wish I Was Here” soundtrack that he later said was “one of the best things” he has ever done.

    The following artists and bands are expected to release new albums in 2017 but have yet to confirm an official release date and/or an album title:

    Arcade Fire
    Broken Social Scene
    Bruce Springsteen
    Depeche Mode
    DJ Premier
    Grizzly Bear
    Jesu/Sun Kil Moon
    John Mayer
    Kanye West
    The Killers
    LCD Soundsystem
    Lupe Fiasco
    Major Lazer
    Modest Mouse
    My Morning Jacket
    The National
    The Offspring
    Sky Ferreira
    St. Vincent
    Troye Sivan
    Vampire Weekend
    Wyclef Jean
    Zack de la Rocha

    BØRNS doesn’t need Taylor Swift’s help to prove he’s one of music’s fastest-rising stars

    BØRNSBy Josh Herwitt //

    BØRNS with Porches //
    Santa Monica Pier – Santa Monica, CA
    July 14th, 2016 //

    When the Twilight Concert Series announced the artist lineup for its 32nd edition this spring, it was safe to say that KCRW had curated one of its best rosters to date. In the last few years, the NPR member station on the campus of Santa Monica College has undoubtedly upped its game, booking buzz-worthy acts from a wide variety of musical genres for 10 straight weeks starting in July. From reggae and soul to Latin and disco, live music at the Santa Monica Pier on Thursday nights has become a summer staple in Los Angeles.

    But in all my years attending the Twilight Concert Series’ shows, never have I seen the Santa Monica Pier like it was last Thursday when I arrived with more than an hour to spare before BØRNS’ headlining set. The concert viewing area, for one, was already at maximum capacity, forcing security and local law enforcement to block the main entrance and not allow anyone else in. The problem for me was, the only way to reach the media check-in tent to receive my credentials was through the same entry point into the concert. I won’t get into the details of how I had to obtain my credentials for the show, but let’s just say it was far from ideal and required plenty of patience. After all, they say patience is a virtue, right?

    On this night, that proverbial phrase seemingly rang true. It wasn’t just that BØRNS most likely amassed the largest attendance in the history of the Twilight Concert Series, but also the fact that it was easily one of the best shows I’ve ever witnessed at the Santa Monica Pier. One could certainly point to the opening of the Expo Line extension as a reason for the larger crowds so far this summer, which wasn’t all that noticeable during the series’ opening night with Mayer Hawthorne (read our review of the show here) just the week prior, but that would simply be underestimating the exponential rise of Garrett Borns’ eponymous project. Since he relocated to Los Angeles in 2013 and signed with Interscope Records, the Michigan native has gone from supporting modest indie bands like MisterWives to selling out shows as a headliner in a matter of a year.


    While much of BØRNS’ ascent can be attributed to the commercial success of his 2015 debut studio album Dopamine, which peaked at No. 24 on the U.S. Billboard 200, he can also thank Taylor Swift for getting the word out there fairly early. The pop superstar gave his first single “Electric Love” a ringing endorsement on her Instagram account well over a year ago, and 723,000 likes later, the 24-year-old has continued to grow his fan base with subsequent hits like “The Emotion” and “10,000 Emerald Pools”.

    At the Santa Monica Pier, BØRNS only performed the latter of those two songs while playing almost all of his 11-track LP from front to back. But it was the covers he doled out that really stole the show, winning the hearts of first-timers like myself and even more dedicated fans who knew what to expect from “Garrett the Great” as he once called himself. Starting with The Smith’s “Shoplifters of the World Unite” and taking things up a notch with Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets” minutes later, he did justice to both songs, hitting the high notes in the midst of Sir Elton’s chart-topping smash with relative ease. Yet, as part of a three-song encore that opened with Dopamine cut “Clouds”, it was the last two offerings of the night that proved to be just as thrilling to hear from a songwriter with plenty of promise.

    You’d be hard-pressed to find a more important indie-rock band over the past decade than Arcade Fire, and not many contemporary artists have been bold enough to cover their work (the most recent one that comes to mind is Father John Misty’s rendition of “The Suburbs”). BØRNS, nevertheless, wasn’t afraid to take on one of Win Butler and company’s earliest hits, pumping the crowd full of energy for the final hurrah during “Rebellion (Lies)”. Of course, just when I thought I couldn’t be any more surprised by what I had already heard from Mr. Borns, the long-haired, bare-chested Midwesterner dropped David Bowie’s “Heroes” on us and somehow managed to give LCD Soundsystem’s cover at Coachella a run for its money. With those kind of chops in your early 20’s, who needs T-Swift’s public approval anyway?

    Seeing Stars
    Dug My Heart
    Shoplifters of the World Unite (The Smiths cover)
    10,000 Emerald Pools
    Holy Ghost
    Bennie and the Jets (Elton John cover)
    Past Lives
    Overnight Sensation
    American Money
    Electric Love

    Rebellion (Arcade Fire cover)
    Heroes (David Bowie cover)

    Sarah Neufeld delivers a haunting, dramatic show at Swedish American Hall

    Sara NeufeldBy Diana Cordero //

    Sarah Neufeld with Eartheater //
    Swedish American Hall – San Francisco
    March 22nd, 2016 //

    Best known for her work as a touring member of Arcade Fire, Sarah Neufeld is a performer in her own right with three solo albums under her belt. The violin is the common denominator across all three, although you can see Neufeld start to feel more comfortable singing on her latest LP The Ridge, which was released in February.

    Neufeld’s live show last month at the Swedish American Hall was solid and well-rehearsed, only if ever jeopardized by the venue’s own sound problems, which caused feedback and noise at the beginning of her set. On drums and production was Stefan Schneider, an old collaborator and bandmate of Neufeld’s in the Montreal-based, instrumental six-piece Bell Orchestre. The duo delivered a haunting and dramatic performance, full of highs and lows driven by Neufeld’s frequent crescendos.

    Opening the show was Alexandra Drewchin, a multi-instrumentalist and vocalist based in Queens, N.Y., who performs under the pseudonym Eartheater when she’s not writing songs with drummer Greg Fox for their collaborative project Guardian Alien.

    Outside Lands announces 2015 night shows

    2015 Outside Lands late-night shows

    Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival //
    Golden Gate Park – San Francisco
    August 7th-9th, 2015 //

    The eighth annual Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival is less than one month away, and with the Bay Area’s crown jewel of music festivals approaching, the anticipation couldn’t be higher for this year’s stellar lineup of music, food, wine, beer, art and comedy.

    In addition to all the action taking place August 7th-9th at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, festivalgoers once again have the ability to keep the party going late into the night with a host of different shows throughout the City.

    Gracing the stage at some of SF’s favorite small to mid-size venues will be plenty of top talent, including The Notorious Wilco Brothers (a Wilco offshoot of sorts), Texas-based gospel/soul singer Leon Bridges, who has recently shot up the charts with his hit single “Coming Home”, Brooklyn indie-pop outfit The Drums, Toronto noise rockers METZ and Arcade Fire frontman Win Butler’s electronic side project DJ Windows 98.

    We’re speculating a few more night shows may drop a bit closer to August with some evening slots still unannounced for several local venues, so stay tuned here for more updates.

    Tickets for all the night shows go on sale at Noon this Friday, July 10th over at DoTheBay.

    Outside Lands 2015 late-night shows

    Here is the schedule for the upcoming night shows with links to purchase tickets:

    August 6th: Alvvays with GRMLN at California Academy of Sciences, 6 p.m., $12, 21+ // BUY TICKETS

    August 6th: Strand of Oaks at Brick & Mortar Music Hall, 8 p.m., $15/17, 18+ // BUY TICKETS

    *August 6th: The Notorious Wilco Brothers at The Independent, 8 p.m., $75, 21+ // BUY TICKETS

    August 6th: Popscene and Flood Magazine present DJ Windows 98 (aka Win Butler of Arcade Fire) at Rickshaw Stop, 9 p.m., All Ages // BUY TICKETS

    *August 7th: Leon Bridges with Langhorne Slim & the Law at The Independent, 10 p.m., $25, 21+ // BUY TICKETS

    August 7th: The Drums at Brick & Mortar Music Hall, 10 p.m., $20, 18+ // BUY TICKETS

    August 7th: METZ with Speedy Ortiz at Rickshaw Stop, 10 p.m., $20, All Ages // BUY TICKETS

    August 8th: RL Grime at The Independent, 10 p.m., $35, 21+ // BUY TICKETS

    August 8th: Twin Peaks with DMA’s, Day Wave at Brick & Mortar Music Hall, 10 p.m., $15/$18, 18+ // BUY TICKETS

    *Outside Lands night shows scheduled for August 6th and 7th at The Independent require a password strictly for festival ticket holders. Passwords will be sent via email to those who purchased passes online.

    Outside Lands 2015

    The 25 best live music acts of 2014


    It’s that palpable sense of excitement in the crowd, how musicians can seize the moment and make you feel something unexpected or enlightening. Being able to connect with music through a collective experience is breathtaking when it happens, especially when you can tell fellow fans (and sometimes the artists themselves) are affected similarly. Nothing beats a transformative show that takes you to another place — or one that just fucking rocks.

    Showbams covered many excellent bands, musicians and DJs throughout 2014 — the following 25 acts are our favorite live performers of the year.

    Showbams’ Top 50 Albums of 2014
    The Bam Team’s 5 Favorite Shows, Albums & Songs of 2014

    Listen to The Bam Team’s favorite songs of 2014:


    25. Sylvan Esso

    Singer Amelia Meath’s voice sparkles with the tone of Feist and the intonation of Regina Spektor, while Nick Sanborn’s live production hits the sweat spot of trending sound in 2014 — the wobbles and looping vocals are somehow familiar and fresh all at once. -Mike Frash, photo by James Nagel

    24.Fucked Up

    24. Fucked Up

    Now, it’s hard to not say that [Damian] Abraham is the show here. Not only because he is a musical madman who would rather be in the pit with his fans than on the stage with his longtime band, but also because frankly, the rest of the band seemed aloof at times. Sure, all but one help in the vocal department, but trying to compete for attention with Abraham would be a futile effort. The frontman, now shirtless (which is tradition), was cruising all over The Indy like a whirlwind. First, he was up in the seats on house right, and the next thing you know, he is having a full-blown mock-luchadore wrestling match with a fan in front of the stage. I kid you not. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Pedro Paredes


    23. Parquet Courts

    Andrew Savage and his newly-grown Sideshow Bob-esque afro couldn’t help but remark on the younger members of the crowd having the time of their life; “Sure like watching you boys move around out there,” he stated with a smirk. “Stoned and Starving” was oddly missing from the night’s set, possibly a product of not being awarded the headlining set on this night. Whatever, Parquet Courts don’t give a fuck. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Kory Thibeault


    22. Disclosure

    It was refreshing to witness intelligent dance music prospering, playing to an enthusiastic & packed Greek Theater Berkeley for the first ever “Wild Life”. Disclosure are revamping contemporary dance music by repurposing past elements into poppy, progressive packages, which is consequently influencing mainstream music in a meaningful way. -Mike Frash, photo by Sam Heller

    21.Blood Orange

    21. Blood Orange

    Dev Hynes and company gifted us with a performance abundant in groove and energy. The crowd intensity quickly translated from the stage onto the entire venue, with the London-native acting as the master of ceremony, surrounded by talent. Samantha Urbani’s (Friends singer and Hynes’ girlfriend) vocals on “It is What It Is” were beautiful and hypnotic, and put the audience in a soothing stage that was only broken when Dev Hynes decided to bring the house down with an explosive version of “Uncle Ace”. -Pedro Paredes, photo by Pedro Paredes


    20. Deerhoof

    The ever evolving musical dialect that Deerhoof have created for them, and them alone is a big takeaway. The four members share a vernacular on stage that only they speak. Greg Saunier’ musical training allow him to ebb and flow with the other members on stage; never playing over Satomi’s dainty vocals while allowing Dietrich to expand on his freakish chords. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Greg RaMar


    19. Rubblebucket

    It should be stated that Kalmia Traver is one of the best frontwoman in the business. She truly is the full package as she sings with a rigorous passion, dances joyously, plays baritone sax and wins the adoration of nearly every member of the audience. Her dedication is refreshing and infectious. The group’s sound has evolved to a more varied palette as comparisons to Arcade Fire could begin to fester in one’s mind. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Kory Thibeault

    18.Volcano Choir

    18. Volcano Choir

    It was the minimalist songs, complimented by reverent crowd silence and attention, that were the memorable highlights…attempts at discovering new sound spaces is an absolute success for Volcano Choir, making Bon Iver seem almost boring in retrospect. It’s understandable why Vernon said this might be his new band — Vernon’s claim to fame almost seems superfluous now. -Mike Frash, photo by Chaya Frash


    17. Connan Mockasin

    It’s about time that the US markets pay a little more attention to this dream-psych export that has made waves in a handful of international markets, and for good reason. Sure, the likes of Ariel Pink and Animal Collective are hailed as gods in the genre, but Connan has something a little more unique to offer us. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Pedro Paredes


    16. Sun Kil Moon

    Before launching into “I Watched the Film The Song Remains the Same”, something rather extraordinary happened. He looked at a young male fan in the front and asked why he had headphones on his head. Then Kozelek forcefully stated, “You look like a fucking douchebag”, filling the venue with tension and a bit of laughter. This happened right before playing a track about coming to terms with once bullying a kid on the playground in his youth. In the song he discusses the incident, “though I grinned, deep inside I was hurting.” It appears this whole incident was a creative, effective way to foreshadow and show his contradictory nature, as opposed to him being horribly passive aggressive. -Mike Frash, Photo Courtesy of Sun Kil Moon


    15. Sharon Van Etten

    Despite her songs being so often daunting and bleak in nature, Van Etten was able to break up the heaviness with the levity of her between song banter. One crowd member shouted to Van Etten that she should do standup comedy, to which Van Etten responded, “So you’re saying my music career is over,” to even more laughter…Songs from her new release are much fuller in comparison to earlier Van Etten offerings and the benefit was instantly felt when performed with her talented band. -Mark E. Ortega, photo by Pedro Paredes

    14.The National

    14. The National

    Grown to be more comfortable with themselves, poised and energetic with precise control, The National’s music is more accessible and impactful than ever before, and the group is pulling it off in front of the biggest audiences of their career. Slowly winning over fans for 15 years, The National have earned it. -Mike Frash, photo by James Nagel


    13. Flume

    In the past year, Flume’s set has become more sophisticated, led by a restrained approach that intermingles hip-hop, trap, R&B and rap. The drops are inverted in their intensity compared to traditional EDM, offering slight delays and unpredictable syncopation…his ability to curate a festival-sized mega party cannot be questioned at this point. Fortune favors the bold. -Mike Frash, photo by Josh Herwitt

    12.Ryan Adams

    12. Ryan Adams

    Ryan Adams impressed this year with sets laced full of cuts from his remarkable self-titled album, his 14th and newest. At his headlining show at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, Adams transitioned his endearing goof-spaz stage banter into an impromptu gem of a song revolving around a someone holding balloons in the back of the show taking place in Golden Gate Park. -Mike Frash, photo by Pedro Paredes


    11. OutKast

    OutKast was the reunion tour of the year, hitting a festival in nearly every region of the world. While Big Boi is the consistent, poised professional day after day, his partner André 3000 a bit of a wildcard, as we all witnessed as he turned his back on Coachella audience on opening night. But Dré’s rhymes were clean and on point as he sported a jumpsuit that told you how he really felt night to night. -Mike Frash, photo by Marc Fong


    10. Future Islands

    Sam Herring is in no rush, and he takes it slow while the bass line marks a steady beat. He wants the people not just to feel, but to listen as well, and he takes time to give some context before commencing a new song.It became clear that Herring is all about making a connection with the audience…his style seems to draw inspiration from multiple sources, and I can’t help but to be reminded of the insane intensity of Ian Curtis, the shamanic charisma of Jim Morrison, and the storytelling skills of Johnny Cash. -Pedro Paredes, photo by Pedro Paredes



    Simmering melodic-based atmosphere moved to dramatic slow-builds, and Nicolas Jaar would introduce a track along the way — all while creating tension. Then well-deserved bass drops revealed themselves in both sneaky and progressive ways, establishing a prolonged release in the form of the crowd losing their shit to four on the floor house beats and body-shaking bass…One of the most memorable transitions came deep into “Paper Trails” when the drop developed over four quick beats in a measure, from no bass to full on bass domination. It was a striking example of Jaar’s original, crafty abilities in the moment. -Mike Frash, Photo by James Nagel


    8. tUnE-yArDs

    Driven by percussion, vocals and ecstatic hyperactivity, tUnE-yArDs win with a lighthearted, quirky mentality that skewers conformity…this show had all the indications of an essential live performance; the music was thoroughly impacting, and the crowd was completely immersed and wide-eyed throughout, taking in tUnE-yArDs’ breathtaking sonic concoctions. -Mike Frash, photo by Pedro Paredes


    7. Mac Demarco

    DeMarco’s fans screamed in sheer delight as he transformed himself into some sort of pop-slacker, earning hoots and howls from a bevy of females in the crowd. His rise to King Weirdo status has been swift, and it’s been for good reason. His likeability, coupled with his unique playing style, is pretty damned infectious, after all. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Pedro Paredes

    6.Arcade Fire

    6. Arcade Fire

    Throughout the Reflektor tour, Arcade Fire premiered a new cover each night. For example, halfway through their epic Coachella set, the band broke into the opening notes of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass”, only to be joined by Debbie Harry of Blondie fame for this full rendition. Arcade Fire successfully cultivated a party atmosphere, adding to the high level of revelry already there. -Molly Kish, Photo courtesy of Arcade Fire.

    5. Run the Jewels

    Much like at a Phish or Die Antwoord audience, most everyone in the room at Run the Jewels was there in “full buy-in” mode, not worried about what someone might think of you by getting a bit too into the moment. Which, when you think about it, is pretty elusive for a rap act that is beloved by the indie blogosphere and its readers. Yet, there is a collective acceptance, a mentality that has bubbled up from impromptu social media memes, gifs and videos that are moving RTJ into mainstream mentality. -Mike Frash, photo by Alfonso Solis

    4. St. Vincent

    Captivating an audience has never been much of an issue for St. Vincent due to the incredible musical talent Annie Clark possesses. Her amazing skills as songwriter, lyricist and guitar-shredding icon are nearly unmatchable in contemporary pop. This tour however is incredibly unique, in that it finally showcases these undeniable aspects of Clark on a grand scale. From the production elements to various costume and instrument changes amidst an encapsulating set design, Clark has finally emerged as a true rock star. -Molly Kish, photo by Pedro Paredes


    3. The War on Drugs

    Adam Granduciel has arrived to the next level, as The War on Drugs have broken through the underground in a big way with their latest release entitled, Lost in a Dream. The subsequent, and long awaited, tour has been nothing short of fantastic as an expanded band has led to their most sonically pleasing tour to date. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Sterling Munksgard


    2. ATOMIC BOMB! The Music of William Onyeabor

    Luaka Bop founder and musical virtuoso David Byrne unearthed Onyeabor’s self-released eight album discography and organized a top secret live music project called “ATOMIC BOMB! The Music of William Onyeabor”, bringing it to life on stage at the Warfield Tuesday for the third time ever.

    With an all-star cast of incredible artists, the Atomic Bomb! band took the stage in a handful of lucky cities to provide a near-religious experience (mock-secular program included), reviving the spirit of Onyeabor’s body of work. Lending their various talents to the incredible performance, Alexis Taylor (Hot Chip), Kele Okereke (Bloc Party), Pat Mahoney (LCD Soundsystem), Joshua Redman, Money Mark, The Lijadu Sisters and Sinkane (the musical director) were accompanied by Byrne (along with a full horn section and backing band). -Molly Kish, photo by Marc Fong

    1.Jack White

    1. Jack White

    It’s been Jack White’s year on the live music circuit. His endless Bonnaroo headlining set this year is now a recognizable career milestone based on word of mouth alone. He severely twisted his ankle in SF and kept touring against the advice of his doctor. Jack seemed more focused and engaged than on prior tours, while also appearing authentic, positive, comfortable and likable. Labeled as grumpy, sad and controlling in the past, White embodied the ambassador of fun, and a sharp haircut seemingly signified the “new” Jack White further. The newest item of actual substance is that the man is in the prime of his career, playing truly epic shows, proving to be the biggest rock star in the world with grit night after night. Without question, Jack White is one of the best live artists of 2014 — and now with a humble, inclusive attitude, his stock should only rise further. -Mike Frash, photo by David James Swanson


    Coachella 2014: It’s officially festival season

    Coachella-Scene1Photos by Marc Fong // Written by Molly Kish, Pete Mauch & Kevin Quandt //

    Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival //
    Empire Polo Club – Indio, CA
    April 11th-13th, 2014 //

    Well, that time of year hath arrived in the form of sun burns, overpriced Heineken and jamming in as much music as you can into a three-day window. Coachella has grown to be so much more than simply just a “music and arts festival” now, for better or worse, but it always retains the feeling that something special is really happening on these grass fields. Some embrace it, and many loathe, but overall, time spent at the polo fields in Indio is always an enjoyable romp full of the freshest artists mixed with many old favorites in a colorful sea of eye candy. 2014’s first weekend featured its biggest demand to date as wristbands hovered near four figures and many were left roaming the suburban streets surrounding the site. Yet, this didn’t keep the masses down, and persistence paid off to those who were lucky enough to snag a last-minute pass.

    Goldenvoice has feverishly plugged away at creating an encompassing experience to the nearly 90,000 attendees who flock to the wind-swept stretch that is the Empire Polo Club, where it all started 15 years ago. Things have changed each and every year, and at this point, it’s a well-oiled machine needing little tinkering. This year featured more room in the Terrace area with the Do-Lab stage finding a new home off the main field, as well as an expanded Yuma Tent which kept dance enthusiasts complacent to rage in their own little nightclub. 2014 held many surprises that were laid out over the days before the event, culminating with a smorgasbord of guest appearances over the three-day span. Below, you will find some of our favorite sets as presented by the 2014 ‘Chella Bam Team.


    Goat // Outdoor Theatre // Friday 1:25-2:05PM

    This show was quite the eye opener for anyone who wasn’t familiar with the Swedish psychedelic outfit called GOAT, especially since this was the first set of the entire weekend for many in attendance. The whole band was masked and decked out in extravagant tribal attire that would fit perfectly into many a children’s nightmares. The band drew songs from their 2012 release titled World Music with the highlight being their single “Run To Your Mama” that had many in attendance gyrating their hips to the infectious groove. I couldn’t think of a better opening set to start the long and definitely weird weekend that is Coachella. -PM

    OutKast // Coachella Stage // Friday 11:30-1:00AM

    Friday night marked the reuniting of one of the most influential acts in rap, albeit for a crowd that maybe wasn’t ready or as generally excited enough for such a momentous occasion. Saving radio hits for the closing numbers, they pulled from a set list spanning their entire career, including “Aquemini”, “Skew It on a Barbeque” and an explosive version of “B.O.B. (Bombs Over Baghdad)” to start off the set. Several guests joined them throughout their performance, including Future debuting a new track, Sleepy Brown joining in for “So Fresh and So Clean”, and most impressively Janelle Monae gracing the stage for her collaborative performance of “Tightrope”. Each emcee featured segments revolving around their solo work — Big Boi smashed “Shutterbug” while 3 Stacks brought a little tenderness during “Prototype”. A weary crowd, half dominated by a pre-Stankonia generation of EDM enthusiasts, didn’t quite give the response that most would anticipate for the kick off to a massive summer festival tour, and some onstage could tell. However, die-hard fans were pleasantly surprised by the song choices and were bouncing along in camaraderie the entire set. -MK


    Temples // Mojave // Saturday 2:40-3:25PM

    The crowd gathered early inside the Mojave Tent to see one of the more buzzed about bands of the weekend, an English Psychedelic rock band simply called, Temples. Fresh off their debut release, Sun Structures, they delivered 45 minutes of psychedelic bliss, drawing tracks mostly off their new album with the exception of a b-side called “Ankh”, which was one of the many highlights of the set. The song is driven by the powerful bassline from Thomas Warmsley and the guitar slaying of James Bagshaw. The song had some serious legs that found the band soaring over the crowd in a psychedelic haze, a plateau they hopefully reach every show. The one-two punch of their singles “Keep in the Dark” and “Mesmerize” had the hot and sweaty crowd in an absolute frenzy. -PM

    Future Islands // Gobi // Saturday 7:05-7:55PM

    Hot off the release of their fourth studio album, Singles, not to mention their Late Night with David Letterman performance going viral, the Baltimore outfit took the Gobi tent by storm. Sam Herring and Future Islands are not your typical rock band; they are fronted by easily one of the most enigmatic lead singers in contemporary rock. Hurling himself across the floor, throwing wild fists and debuting some brand new gyrating dance moves throughout the set, Herring was feeding off the love from his festival fans and reciprocated in full throttle for the band’s Coachella debut. “Inch of Dust” appropriately opened the show as the palms swayed along in the background while being assaulted by airborne sand particles. Pulling from their entire discography the band catered their signature hard-edged new-wave rock to the festival environment. Herring spoke tenderly to the crowd, re-assuring the youth that things will be alright before falling into “Balance”. Speeding up each career spanning track, such as “Tin Man”, into dance floor face-melters, Herring’s signature growling vocals sparked cheers of enthusiasm from the afternoon crowd. -MK


    Pixies // Mojave // Saturday 8:50-9:40PM

    It had been almost exactly 10 years since the original Pixies reunited on the big stage in Indio, however this year we saw Black Francis and associates take to a smaller tent to pummel a decent sized crown with some good old rock and roll. The Pixies’ new release, Indie Cindy, was played before their set, which was somewhat odd, and they played relatively heavy off the release. Highlights of the set included a cover of Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Head On”, along with old favorite “Wave of Mutilation” and “Crackity Jones”. Frank was fired up as he scorned objects being oddly floated over the crowd, possibly miffed at the bleed of the Sahara, but then again, that’s why we love him. “Where Is My Mind?” received popular praise, as always, and featured new bassist Paz Lenchantin wailing as best she could. “Caribou” also showed that Paz can hang with the band, and that there may be a bright future in the coming years for the alt legends. -KQ


    Pharrell Williams //Outdoor Theatre // Saturday 10:35-11:35PM

    What turned out to be a tough night for Pharrell ended up being one of the most fun sets of the weekend as throngs of girls belted out “Hollaback Girl” while dudes lit up in honor of Snoop’s presence for “Drop It Like It’s Hot”. The last 2 years of Weekend 1 have been slightly marred by high winds turning into small dust storms, and this year, Saturday was both the blustery day and the big Pharrell show. Promises of guests were fulfilled by the likes of Nelly, Tyler, the Creator, Puff Daddy and Diplo among those listed above. “Lose Yourself to Dance” opener was a good sign as the sizable crowd loosened up to the adventure that lay ahead, but the prolific producer’s voice just couldn’t weather the storm, and the finale of “Get Lucky” and “Happy” was largely sang by the crowd as Williams shook his head in sheer disappointment. -KQ

    Nas // Outdoor Theatre // Sunday Midnight-1AM

    Hip-hop is alive and well in 2014 and Coachella wanted to reinforce this. If you are a hip-hop head, then this was the year to be at Coachella. With OutKast, Nas, Kid Cudi, Chance the Rapper, GZA’s impromptu set in the Heineken House, and all the special guest MCs throughout the weekend, rap fans had a grand ‘ol time this past weekend. It was known that Nas was set to perform his 20-year-old classic album, Illmatic, in its entirety from start to finish. However, that’s not all that “nasty Nas” had in store for the late crowd. After the fourth track of his legendary album, Nas invited his longtime nemesis Jay-Z to the stage for an unforgettable performance of Jigga’s “Dead Presidents”. If you remember, this is the song that started all the “beef” between the two New Yorkers when Nas declined to re-rap the chorus. All the hate was squashed as the two legendary MCs showed the crowd that it’s all “One Love”. Toward the end of the set, Nas invited hip-hop guru Puff Daddy up to the stage to perform their song “Hate Me Now”, which truly delighted the rap freaks in attendance. Nas was on Point! -PM


    Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue // Coachella Stage // Sunday 12:40-1:30PM

    Trombone Shorty is arguably the king of New Orleans right now, especially since he has taken the closing duty reigns from The Neville Brothers at JazzFest. So seeing Troy Andrews in the early heat on Sunday was kind of odd as I felt that he deserved a better slot, but that didn’t stop him from performing a fiery set of trombone-driven NOLA funk. The small but very enthusiastic crowd was hanging on every note as he effortlessly banged through his soon-to-be classic hits. “Fire and Brimstone” was a clear highlight of his raucous set as was his closer “Do to Me”, which had the crowd singing along to every word. Trombone Shorty is truly a national treasure, and you gotta tip your cap to Coachella for even having him on the bill. -PM

    Arcade Fire // Coachella Stage // Sunday 10:20-Midnight

    Closing out festivals isn’t anything too out of the ordinary for these veterans, especially after 2011’s massive display, so Win Butler and cohorts knew to bring all the stops. Touring in support of their critically acclaimed fourth studio album, Reflektor, the band had various options of surprise guests they could potentially have join them on stage as a grand finale to Weekend 1. Rumors of David Bowie or James Murphy had the crowd abuzz due to their direct involvement with the latest release. Halfway through the epic set of hits from both 2010’s The Suburbs and cuts off of the new album, the band broke into the opening notes of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass”, only to be joined by Debbie Harry of Blondie fame for this full rendition. Sticking around to provide back-up vocals and ribbon dance around the stage with Regine, Debbie joined in on Arcade’s quintessential “Sprawl II”. Confetti canons spewed out into the crowd during the climactic notes of “Here Comes the Night Time”, igniting the crowd for their closing number “Wake Up”. And with that, the first major music festival of the 2014 season was in the bag. -MK


    Guest sets were prevalent this year with additional highlights including:

    • Beyonce shook her “jelly” on stage with little sister Solange during her sunset performance on Saturday for song, “Losing You”.

    • A$AP Ferg brought out the whole A$AP Mob for multiple tracks before A$AP Rocky debuted a new track, featuring a diss on Been Trill clothing. Rocky also came out with Skrillex.

    • Chromeo’s set included a collaborative performance with Toro y Moi to perform the duet off of White Women called “Come Alive”.


    • Girl Talk pulled Busta Rhymes, Too $hort, Juicy J and E-40 into his remix set on Friday night (while the Bryan Ferry set played oddly on the screens flanking Greg Gillis).

    • Justin Bieber decided to put a funny taste in people’s mouths and backed up his buddy Chance The Rapper.

    • Mary J. Blige came on for a rousing rendition of her alternate vocal version of “F for You” with Disclosure Sunday evening. Sam Smith came out for “Latch”, as well. AlunaGeorge also lent a helping hand.


    • Up-and-comer Jene Aiko welcomed some big names in the form of Drake and Childish Gambino while Disclosure and Arcade Fire played against this stealthy guest set.

    • The legendary Motörhead brought out Slash for a healthy dose of guitar.

    • Classixx bounced back from a tough start to a set with help from Nancy Wang, Yacht, The Preatures and Sarah Chernoff from Superhumanoids.

    • Flosstradamus welcomed a bit of help from another big-named emcee in the form of Waka Flocka Flame.

    Outside Lands 2014: Lineup locks, likely acts & long shots

    OSL_Windmill-Scene-by-Tim-HampsonPhotos by Tim Hampson // Written by Mike Frash & Kevin Quandt //

    Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival //
    Golden Gate Park – San Francisco
    August 8th-10th, 2014 //

    As we inch towards springtime, leading to summer, and Coachella is within a month’s reach, some Bay Area music freaks (like us) begin to speculate about who is gonna be gracing those stages freckled throughout Golden Gate Park come August. Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival is set to return to SF on August 8th-10th.

    The greatest indicators are the group’s touring schedules — Osheaga Music Festival in Montreal and Pickathon in Oregon have announced their schedules the weekend prior to Outside Lands (with Lollapalooza to still be announced). Squamish Valley Music Festival in British Columbia is the same weekend as Outside Lands, but Vancouver is close enough for artists to double dip.

    Conversely, we can confirm some big acts that won’t be on the bill due to scheduling conflicts. But if this is even close to what the Outside Lands 2014 lineup looks like, the Bay Area should be in for a delicious, fog-enhanced treat.

    UPDATE 4/7: The lineup has been announced!


    Lock It In (we think)

    Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band: A new album on the way and a lack of dates out West makes him a solid candidate for top billing this year. Also, keep in mind that OSL has never repeated headliners, as well as the fact that Super Fly (Bonnaroo), who along with Another Planet Presents, handles the bulk of the booking.

    Arctic Monkeys: [CONFIRMED] These festival stalwarts announced an extensive tour with a noticeable gap in the western demographic which leads to speculation that they’ll return for a sub-headlining set. Confirmed for August 10th at Osheaga.

    Chromeo: [CONFIRMED] A Red Rocks date on August 5th is a good sign that these party starters are en route back to San Francisco for a possible Twin Peaks headlining spot. 

    Modest Mouse: Confirmed for Osheaga, and with no California dates on the calendar for the recently announced tour, Modest Mouse is starting to look like a lock.

    Cut Copy: [CONFIRMED] Cut Copy and Chromeo are on parallel tracks. Both will have played APE shows in the past year, and their tour buses are aligning toward the Bay in early August.

    CHVRCHES: [CONFIRMED] Confirmed for Osheaga, it just makes sense that one of the the biggest breakout acts of 2013 will triumphantly return to the Bay after playing the Independent, Mezzanine & Fox Theater Oakland over the past year.

    Flume: [CONFIRMED] It’s due time for this EDM heat-seeker to return to San Francisco, and what better place and time than Outside Lands. Flume’s popularity could land him Twin Peaks headlining duties.

    Tycho: [CONFIRMED] Having become the darlings of Another Planet, what better progressive act to grace the bill than Tycho. Sold out shows in the coming weeks lend to a strong demand.

    Foster the People: Performing at Squamish Valley Music Festival Friday lends a good possibility that Mark Foster and band will trek down to Golden Gate Park for a Sunday set. A slot at Osheaga Festival the weekend prior says they’ll be hitting many large events as they support their latest release Supermodel.

    Iron & Wine and Glen Hansard: These two artists are booked to play Hollywood Bowl on August 10th, leading most savvy music aficionados to make the leap that these acts will be present.

    Danny Brown: A lack of Bay Area dates coupled with spots on the ‘OSL crossover’ festival, Squamish, could mean we are in for a ‘Kush Koma’ with oddball, Danny Brown. 


    Likely To Appear

    Elton John: The announcement of Sir Elton playing Bonnaroo has fueled this rumor nicely, even if questions of availability swirl. The main issue would be surrounding a clause with Caesars where John has a residency. However, this Vegas run ends in April, so it looks possible.

    Green Day: These Bay Area legends have surprisingly never played Outside Lands, and it seems possible we’ll see them grace the main stage for a night with Billy Joe and company. 

    Coldplay: New music on the way, coupled with scheduled appearances at South by Southwest is a clear sign that Chris Martin and lads are gearing up to re-dominate the world with their anthemic rock. Also, never headlined OSL.

    Tiësto: [CONFIRMED] Ranger Dave likes to book some of the biggest names in the EDM world to ‘compete’ with headliners, attracting a slightly younger crowd to congregate at Twin Peaks on most evenings. Tiësto’s production would fit nicely into the bigness of past DJ spotlights.

    Frank Ocean: Frankie is mounting his come back after a relatively quiet past few years. His billing on Bonnaroo fuels the speculation that Super Fly booked him, and other acts, for more than just Roo.

    The Flaming Lips: [CONFIRMED] Wayne Coyne has had a busy past few months with a recent release and some serious Fall touring. Now, as summer looms, it appears the Lips will be omnipresent at summer festivals. Recent Another Planet shows coupled with Bonnaroo presence make these weirdo legends a likely booking.

    Lorde: Has any act ever gone to sub-headliner status this quickly? Based on her popularity and the way she’s altered the pop landscape, Lorde deserves it. She’s confirmed to play Osheaga and her April dates at Fox Theater sold out immediately.

    Chance the Rapper: No longer Chicago’s secret, Chancelor Bennett needs to get better acquainted with the Bay Area. There is a gap in his schedule, and the Acid Rapper is confirmed for Osheaga.

    HAIM: [CONFIRMED] For being California girls, sisters Este, Danielle and Alana could show a bit more love to the Bay Area (They’ve played in England over 20 times). Their first ever show in the Bay was at Treasure Island Music Festival last year, and their fauxchella Fillmore dates were tough tickets to snag as they sold out in seconds.

    Lykke Li: [CONFIRMED] Confirmed for Friday of Squamish, it’s very possible the breathtaking Swedish singer-songwriter could grace Outside Lands on Sunday.

    Foxygen: Even though there has been turmoil (broken legs, inner-band conflict), the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic should come play “San Francisco” in it’s namesake. The group is confirmed for Pickathon as well.

    Mikal Cronin: [CONFIRMED] The singer-songwriter has become quite the popular local musician and would be ideal for a showcase of SF rock. Booked for the Oregon Pickathon means he’ll be active around this time. 

    Valerie June: [CONFIRMED] The American singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist is playing Pickathon and other West Coast dates prior to Outside Lands. June’s sound will fit nicely into the festival’s curation net.


    It Could Happen

    Kanye West: [CONFIRMED] As it appears OutKast will not be the infamous first hip-hop headliner, we look to Kanye West as an outside possibility as the debut of rap taking center stage one summer evening. Inclusion on Bonnaroo’s docket makes a reasonably strong start to an argument for Yeezy.

    Eminem: Already a rumored headliner for Lollapalooza, Slim Shady has also booked a co-headlining date with Rihanna at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena the Thursday before Outside Lands while also confirmed for Squamish on Sunday the 10th. Starting to trend toward “likely”, should we be adding RiRi as a rumored headliner?

    Tool: Already playing two SF shows in March, would it be that much of a surprise to see Tool headlining one night? Certainly they are big enough to handle top billing duties.

    Pharrell Williams: A Ranger Dave’s “hat” tweet has led many to speculate the possibility of Williams’ presence on the festival grounds. Limited dates pepper his itinerary, so it’s anyone’s guess.

    The Avett Brothers: Having not played the event in over five years and select festival appearances over the summer, one could make the argument that Avett will return. Bonnaroo booking also helps this case.

    Kendrick Lamar: K-Dot’s touring schedule is open, but there are no obvious indicators an Outside Lands appearance will happen. But for a festival that’s usually short on hip hop & rap, it would be too fun to see the Outside Lands stage and surrounding area get crazy during “Backseat Freestyle”.

    Gogol Bordello: The Gypsy-punk freaks are confirmed to play Osheaga, and they played Outside Lands in 2010. A return seems possible.

    Jagwar Ma: [CONFIRMED] Being rather active in the festival realm in 2014, these party-starters can easily jump from Osheaga over to SF. A previous Another Planet-booked show at the Independent demonstrates there is communication present.

    Long Shots: Already booked elsewhere (don’t count on it)

    OutKast: Andre 3000 and Big Boi might be playing over 40 festivals this year, but Outside Lands won’t be one of them. OutKast is confirmed for Flow Festival in Finland the same weekend as Outside Lands.

    Arcade Fire: Win Butler and company are performing at Squamish Valley Music Festival, but they have a date set at Shoreline in July, and they headlined three years ago.

    Jack Johnson
    Queens of the Stone Age
    Robert Plant
    Neutral Milk Hotel
    Janelle Monae
    Mac Demarco


    Coachella 2014 lineup: Emerging artists, throwback acts & potential collaborations


    Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival //
    Empire Polo Club – Indio, CA
    April 11th-13th & April 18th-20th, 2016 //

    2014 is officially in full swing and the impending festival season is on the horizon, especially now that the Coachella lineup has been released. Goldenvoice has done it again with their unique mix of era, genre and relevance which seems to excite and disappoint the eager masses in equal fashion.

    The top of the lineup is decisively more pop-oriented than years past with Ellie Goulding, Pharrell Williams, Lorde, Foster the People, Zedd and Lana Del Rey receiving marquee billing. But beyond the headliners, Coachella 2014 offers essential throwback acts, emerging artists ready to blow up, a wide variety of dance options and a handful of collaboration opportunities.

    Let’s dig into this monster and extract some musical gold.


    The Headliners

    An OutKast reunion would have been more thrilling if the news hadn’t leaked over a month ago (though you can’t always believe the rumor mill), but this is a surprise nonetheless as Andre 3000 had shown little interest or optimism in interviews over the past half-decade. Either way Big Boi and Dre will bring their historically high-energy performance to a ton of new fans. “B.O.B.”, “Roses” and “Ms Jackson” are sure to be highlights of the set.

    Muse is one of the biggest bands in the world, this is a cold hard fact. They have plugged away at their 21st Century take on soaring arena-rock and eventually made their way to the top with bombastic live shows, catchy songs and generally doing their own thing. Will the band try to bring their massive UK arena stage to Indio? 

    Yes, Arcade Fire was another act that wasn’t a far reach based upon current tour route, but nevertheless they will close out the event with great grandeur. May be hard to top their big 2010 performance, but sparks are sure to shoot from the stage while playing the more upbeat Reflektor tracks. I am not holding my breath on an appearance by the Thin White Duke, but hope I’m wrong.

    The Throwbacks

    The Replacements took the stage for the first time in 22 years over the summer at various incarnations of Riot Fest. Well, now the West Coast gets a taste of Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson’s authoritative alternative rock, and this set is sure to be one of the bigger ‘reunion’ sets on the bill.

    Roxy Music may not be reuniting this year, but the insanely unique vocal stylings of Bryan Ferry are sure to excite fans that have been visiting the Empire Polo Club since it’s incarnation some 15 years ago. Is Goldenvoice starting to pander to the aging, original Coachella demographic?

    Pet Shop Boys aren’t only still relevant, but have been killing it on the road the past few years, so it’s no surprise that we see the duo of Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe billed high on Saturday. Their Kraftwerk-esque stage show will be a treat to multiple generations of fans, especially during booming hits like “West End Girls”. 

    Other acts that will appeal more to the Generation Xers will be the Toy Dolls, The Afghan Whigs, and Motörhead.

    Emerging Artists

    British psych rock group Temples only formed in mid 2012, but almost immediate support from the blogosphere and supporting Primal Scream, Kasabian, Beady Eye & Tame Impala on tour throughout 2013 only helped gain traction. And if you are a fan of Tame Impala, be sure to catch this hyper-buzzy act for their first West Coast show. Their stock should rise quickly as their debut LP Sun Structures releases February 10th.

    It has now become a tradition for at least one member of the Odd Future clan to be represented on the bill since their debut, and this year the title goes to producing duo Syd the Kid and Matt Martians as The Internet. Their take on trip-hop and electronic soul is a refreshing breath of air for the LA collective as Syd moves from behind the decks to feature her lovely vocals at the forefront. Sure to turn a few heads.

    Enigmatic trio Factory Floor bathe in drone and noise, ultimately outputting sound somewhere between minimalist techno and experimental house. Releasing their self-titled debut LP in 2013 through DFA, Factory Floor is relatively popular overseas, yet the dance outfit is on the bottom line of the poster for Sunday. The London-based act might offer a good reason to get to the polo fields early on day three.

    Laura Mvula may not be a name you are familiar with, but she has made waves the past year in her native UK as her debut album peaked nicely on the charts, and she received a solid slot at Glastonbury. Her straight-ahead take on soul jazz shows great promise both in the studio and on the larger stage as she bursts out of the jazz club into the spotlight. 

    Coming Out West

    The Knife will be bringing their dynamic, even head-scratching stage show to the desert for 2 weekends of artsy weirdness. Though, for all intents and purposes, we have no idea which show the Swedish duo will bring to us. One thing is for sure, it won’t be like anything you have experienced before.

    Apparently Jeff Mangum enjoyed his trip to Indio last year, because this year he is bringing the old band out. West Coast music fans have been waiting patiently for their taste of the reunited Neutral Milk Hotel, and it wasn’t a huge surprise that they’d be on the bill based upon tour schedule. Alas, hipsters young and old can rejoice in a stay at the hippest ‘hotel’ in the valley.

    Sweden’s mysterious band named GOAT will be finally reaching the shores of the Pacific with their characteristic take on ‘world music.’ These guys are truly thinking outside the box with a breathtaking approach to experimental rock, and their live performance follows suit. The band has been in some sort of formation for over the past 30 to 40 years with rotating members, but have only recently been viewed on the world stage. 

    Possible Collaborations

    Robin Thicke (Not Daft Punk) with Pharrell Williams on Saturday
    Pharrell Williams has pretty high billing this year, but in many ways he deserves it. He was featured on the two biggest pop hits of 2013, and if anyone is known for collaborating with a wide variety of artists, it’s the N.E.R.D. frontman. Fool us once (Phoenix last year), shame on you, fool us twice…just don’t count on Daft Punk and Niles Rodgers showing up to perform “Get Lucky” and “Lose Yourself to Dance”. Daft Punk’s confirmed appearance at the Grammy Awards in late January could change this outlook, but a Robin Thicke supported “Blurred Lines” seems more likely. It also wouldn’t be surprising to see special appearances from Snoop Dogg, Pusha T or maybe even Madonna.

    Blood Orange (Dev Hynes) with Solange on Saturday
    NYC’s own Blood Orange made a big push to finish out 2013 and he was nicely rewarded with a set that is sure to be well packed for this buzzy tropi-pop musician. Hynes worked with Solange on her 2012 EP Losing You, but the extent of his production work on the record became a source of contention in November as both artists took to twitter beef about Hynes’ role. Both Solange and Hynes are performing Saturday, so might this be a good time for them to kiss and makeup on stage?

    AlunaGeorge with Disclosure on Sunday
    Disclosure, returning for their second straight year, might be the only dance act to perform outside the tents. Last year, Jessie Ware joined Guy and Howard Lawrence to sing “Confess To Me”, and this year Aluna Francis from AlunaGeorge will appear to perform the smash hit “White Noise”. Lock it in.


    As has been the trend for Coachella, more emphasis has been put onto EDM, and with the addition of the Yuma Tent last year, Goldenvoice has been able to book all the big guys for the kiddies and all the OG underground acts for the “adults.”

    Calvin Harris, Skrillex and Fatboy Slim represent some of the biggest names in the genre and are sure to grab some of the biggest crowds in the Sahara Tent. On the other hand, Yuma will have some treats in the form of the Crosstown Rebels (Damian Lazarus, Art Department, Maceo Plex) as well as Scuba and (hopefully) French legend, Laurent Garnier.


    Showbams’ top tracks of 2013


    Sometimes the more music you listen to, the feeling of missing out on a song or an album can make you feel a little neurotic. You simply can’t give every piece of good music it’s proper due. So when it comes to picking your favorite songs, a safe bet is to pick the songs that not only soundtracked your year but also helped define it.

    Showbams presents our Contributor top tracks of 2013. What are your favorite tracks of this dwindling year? Holler with links in the comment section…

    James Blake at Treasure Island Music Festival 10/19. Photo by Marc Fong.

    James Blake at Treasure Island Music Festival 10/20. Photo by Marc Fong.

    Mike Frash // Founder, Editor, Columnist // @MikeFrash

    01. James Blake – “Retrograde”
    “Retrograde” perfectly represents the state of music in 2013, providing an amalgamation of cutting edge electronic, bass & R&B sensibilities. Also, the track is hauntingly memorable — How many contemporaries can use their pitch-shifting croon-hum as a low melodic layer like this? Lyrically, manipulative seduction is the center piece as Blake propositions his subject, asking to “show me where you fit.” Retrograde means ‘moving backwards’, and the theme is splendidly represented in the song’s payoff through elongated synth that modulates enough to sound like slow degradation.

    02. Disclosure – “When A Fire Starts To Burn”
    The mantra of the year, “When A Fire Starts To Burn” can ignite a party or help work get done faster. Somehow the motivational speech sample never tires, and it’s one of the only samples on Settle, proving the keen production sense Guy and Howard Lawrence have ingrained in them. The simple four on the floor house beat slightly evolves every 16 bars, allowing the sample to dominate throughout. An instant classic, it’s a track that uses long-used underground themes and brings them to the forefront as Disclosure continues to explode with popularity.

    03. Arcade Fire – “Afterlife”
    The penultimate song from Reflektor explicitly stares death in the face and dares you to live. More than any other song on the record, “Afterlife” successfully digs into the idea of what happens when we die in Arcade Fire’s serious, intense style. The song offers multiple rhetorical questions that function as a challenge. Our time is finite, and love should be the focus. “It’s just an afterlife with you…”

    04. FOALS – “Milk & Black Spiders”
    So much of FOALS’ music is about being on the verge of total loss, although the message is almost always vague. A far cry from yelling at “Cassius” that she’s “second best”, “Milk & Black Spiders” centers on the idea of confidence in finding the right mate and openly admitting it. Found in an album full of potential top tracks, this cut contains the best moment of the album at about 3:30. Is it hyperbole to consider this one of the most euphoric crescendo of all time?

    05. my bloody valentine – “in another way”
    To be truly understood, my bloody valentine needs to be felt, not only heard. To experience MBV live or in the comfort of your living space like the Maxwell Guy is encouraged (although it may be too late to catch them live). The sound is jarring at first, but upon adapting to the volume level, “in another way” transforms into magnificent hypnotism once the first major chords hit. It’s like a persistent, awesome airplane is taking off in your face, in a very good way…

    06. Baths – “No Eyes”
    07. Vampire Weekend – “Hannah Hunt”
    08. Kanye West feat. Frank Ocean – “New Slaves”
    09. The National – “I Need My Girl”
    10. Rhye – “Open”
    11. Volcano Choir – “Byegone”
    12. Phosphorescent – “Song For Zula”
    13. Run the Jewels – “Job Well Done (feat. Until the Ribbon Breaks)”
    14. Mount Kimbie – “Made To Stray”
    15. Kurt Vile – “Wakin on a Pretty Day”
    16. Darkside – “Paper Trails”
    17. Autre Ne Veut – “Play by Play”
    18. Jon Hopkins – “Breath This Air”
    19. Haim – “Falling”
    20. Bill Callahan – “Small Plane”

    Vampire Weekend at Fox Theater Oakland 4/17. Photo by Marc Fong.

    Vampire Weekend at Fox Theater Oakland 4/17. Photo by Marc Fong.

    Molly Kish // Artist Relations Manager, Columnist // @MollyKish

    01. Vampire Weekend – “Unbelievers”
    Far from the New England prep rock of their previous two albums, the boys of Vampire Weekend explore new territory both in songwriting and soundscape on their 2013 release Modern Vampires of the City. This breakout pop gem explores the frivolity of faith, dissecting spirituality in the context of a contemporary domestic relationship. Paying homage to blissful rockabilly melodies executed by such greats as Buddy Holly and the Crickets and Jerry Lee Lewis, Vampire Weekend put a current spin on an archetypal pop formula, composing easily one of the best tracks of 2013.

    02. Big Black Delta – “Side of the Road”
    Jonathan Bates, of Mellowdrone fame, delivers one of the catchiest terrestrial dance jams of 2013 with the lead single off of his debut album, Big Black Delta. A solo project, Bates performs the entire song through layers of modified vocals, electronic improvisation and innovatively tracked percussion. He succeeds in developing an addictive one man dance party that’s just as entertaining to see live as it is to listen to on record and calls for near immediate loops of repetitive play.

    03. Disclosure -“F For You”
    UK sibling duo Disclosure deliver one of the hardest hitting and simplistically rendered club hits of 2013 with “F For You.” Stripping away frivolous electronic production, they find success in a modest deep house composition featuring a pulsating baseline, repetitive chorus and a stylistically pert, finger-snapping beat. The song’s sassy subject matter and infectious groove are bound to get any dance floor moving and set the song apart as a standout hit on the band’s 2013 debut album.

    04. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Sacrilege”
    Departing from their traditionally art punk mold, the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s burst back on the scene with the first single off of their fourth studio album, Mosquito. Highlighting rooted soul riffs and Karen O’s bluesy wails, the beat driven arrangement pays homage to the band’s time spent writing and recording in New Orleans. The track in a fiery choral cameo by the Broadway Inspirational Voices Choir and serves as the band’s rousing call to arms for their alternative counterparts. The song exemplifies the band’s successful feat in retaining some of the genres fearlessness and artistic credulity as well as their willingness to step outside of the convoluted mainstream box.

    05. Holy Ghost! – “Dumb Disco Ideas”
    Often compared to fellow DFA records’ flagship artist LCD Soundsystem, Holy Ghost! assumed the label’s inherent responsibility of producing the next wave of synth-pop super hits with their 2013 album Dynamics. The most comparable track, coming in the form of this funk laden jam, draws directly from the genre-defining record label’s indisputable formula for discotheque domination. Rhythmically resonating with old and new fans alike, Holy Ghost! seamlessly transitioned into their new reign of the DFA universe with this stand out party anthem that floored live music venues and festival stages, all summer long.

    06. Daft Punk – “Get Lucky”
    07. Atoms for Peace – “Default”
    08. Arcade Fire – “Here Comes the Nighttime”
    09. Toro Y Moi – “Say That”
    10. Empire of the Sun – “Alive”
    11. Cut Copy – “Free Your Mind”
    12. STRFKR – “While I’m Alive”
    13. Jagwar Ma – “Man I Need”
    14. Phoenix – “S.O.S. in Bel Air”
    15. Washed Out – “All I Know”
    16. Kanye West – “Black Skinhead”
    17. CSS – “Into the Sun”
    18. Devendra Banhart – “You’re Fine Petting Duck”
    19. Wild Belle – “Another Girl”
    20. The Strokes – “One Way Trigger”

    Palma Violets at The Independent 4/23. Photo by James Nagel.

    Palma Violets at The Independent 4/23. Photo by James Nagel.

    Kevin Quandt // Assistant Editor, Columnist // @KJQuandt

    01. Daft Punk – “Get Lucky”
    When the ‘Song of the Summer’ (sorry “Blurred Lines”) is as thoroughly enjoyable as this interstellar first single off of RAM, you know you won’t get nearly as tired of it as past summertime jams. “Get Lucky” is still is as fresh as the first time it was debuted on a Saturday night at Coachella, eventually ruling airwaves across multiple genres all over the globe. This track has it all; from a space disco groove that rivals any legendary disco jam to the sultry vocals of the multi-talented Pharrell Williams. Was it the single that most fans were expecting? Probably not, but lends even more to the production and writing talent of these two mysterious French robots that most of us know by the name of Daft Punk. Though we haven’t seen how it’ll shake out on stage, if ever, it is sure to be on repeat for the foreseeable future. 

    02. Foxygen – “No Destruction”
    What a fun slice of American tinged psych-pop these young San Franciscans delivered this year. Sure this band has had a rough year on the road, but these issues never diminished their stellar sophomore release, spotlighted by this rousing tale of youthful urban life and love. Dylan-esque crooning coupled with phrasing that would make Ray Davies blush lends a nod to some of rocks legends in the form of “No Destruction”. Every listen also shines more light on the storyboard that these lyrics build, adding another key component to Foxygen’s success.  

    03. FOALS – “My Number”
    I’m not sure exactly when FOALS became masters of catchy song structures, but many are happy to hear this British act upping their game to dazzling new heights. The formula of placing the hook early in the track is part of the key, and this is not to mention the amazing returns to said hook while balancing afro-inspired guitar lines, piercing melodies and unpredictable rhythm shifts. “My Number” signifies the next era for FOALS while displaying they are ready to leave the clubs to larger theaters while bearing the banner of Bono-esque grandeur in the face of a changing landscape in popular rock music. 

    04. King Krule – “Baby Blue”
    Young Archie Marshall has come along way for a 19 year old Brit with a refreshing spin on bedroom-produced darkwave music. Though in all honesty, King Krule can not be defined as he bends genre lines all over his debut LP, 6 Feet Beneath the Moon. Archie’s unique vocal stylings paint a brilliantly simple portrait of love lost over a stripped down production that is akin to the muted style that launched acts like the XX and Toro Y Moi. The baritone delivery pitches and bends on the singer’s whim over gentle guitar flourishes and minimal beat production equally something fully unique. In an age of EDM maximalism, it’s tracks like this that demonstrate the idea of ‘less is more.’ 

    05. London Grammar – “Hey Now”
    London Grammar may not be an artist that the majority are familiar with, but a head-turning debut LP released in the fall has garnered this trip-hop trio much deserved attention. Hannah Reid’s vocals soar all over this chilled-out track that slowly builds to a mellow peak that could remind you of early Zero 7 (the Sia years). A feature on Disclosure’s album closer and vocal comparisons to Jessie Ware are promising signs for these up-and-comers that understand restraint can be extremely powerful as demonstrated in this powerful single.  

    06. Arcade Fire – “Afterlife”
    07. Parquet Courts – “Stoned and Starving”
    08. Palma Violets – “Best of Friends”
    09. Kanye West feat. Frank Ocean – “New Slaves”
    10. Jake Bugg – “Lightning Bolt”
    11. A$AP Ferg feat. A$AP Rocky – “Shabba”
    12. HAIM – “The Wire”
    13. Queens of the Stone Age – “My God is the Sun”
    14. Vampire Weekend – “Diane Young”
    15. The National – “Humiliation”
    16. Ducktails – “The Flower Lane”
    17. Deerhunter – “Dream Captain”
    18. Jon Hopkins – “Open Eye Signal”
    19. iceage – “Ecstasy”
    20. White Fence – “Pink Gorilla”

    Holy Ghost! at Treasure Island Music Festival 10/19.

    Holy Ghost! at Treasure Island Music Festival 10/19.

    Pete Mauch // Festival Manager & Columnist // @PeteMauch

    01. Daft Punk – “Get Lucky”    
    The summer anthem is just too good to be denied the number one spot. With Nile Rodgers laying down the funk chords on guitar and Pharrell Williams’s resurgence back on the scene with smooth croons, it gives the song has some serious lasting power.

    02. Kurt Vile – “Wakin On a Pretty Day”
    Best morning song ever besides Dylan’s “New Morning”? I absolutely love waking up to this song — it’s bright, catchy guitar licks are matched perfectly with Vile’s earnest lyrics about solitude, yet he’s optimistic about this pretty day. 

    03. FOALS – “My Number”  
    This song come firing out of the gates with infectious dance grooves that are nearly impossible to not move your feet to. The hypnotizing multi-guitar work is such a great complement to the vocals on this should-be hit single.

    04. Jagwar Ma – “Come Save Me”
    If the Beach Boys started to make electrified, psychedelic dance songs then I suspect it would sound a lot like this. These Australian rockers put together one hell of a dream-like track this year.

    05. Superhuman Happiness – “Sentimental Pieces”
    One of the most fun and creative songs I’ve heard in a long while. The way they combine dance grooves, hand claps, piano work, and some serious vocal harmonizing is quite impressive.

    06. Holy Ghost! – “Dumb Disco Ideas”
    07. Earl Sweatshirt – “Chum”
    08. White Denim – “Pretty Green”
    09. Sigur Rós – “Isjaki”
    10. Phosphorescent – “Song for Zula”
    11. Youth Lagoon – “Mute”
    12. Savages – “She Will”
    13. Anders Osborne – “Peace”
    14. Ty Segall – “Sleeper”
    15. Atoms for Peace – “Judge, Jury, and Executioner”
    16. Jim James – “Know Til Now”
    17. Deerhunter – “Back to the Middle”
    18. Johnathon Wilson – “Moses Pain”
    19. Bonobo –  “Cirrus”
    20. Darkside – “Paper Trails”

    Washed Out at First City Festival 8/24. Photo by Marc Fong.

    Washed Out at First City Festival 8/24. Photo by Marc Fong.

    Kevin Raos // Columnist // @Semirec

    01. Vampire Weekend – “Hannah Hunt”
    The best song, on perhaps the best album of the year, “Hannah Hunt” is an instant classic. Modern Vampires of the City is littered with tracks that will be considered amongst Vampire Weekend’s best, and “Hannah Hunt” leads the pack. Despite the lack of “quirkiness” that Vampire Weekend is sometimes known for, the track gently builds the listener up to one of the most jubilant climaxes found on any record this year.

    02. Youth Lagoon – “Raspberry Cane”
    Another song that builds you up and sweeps you off your feet, “Raspberry Cane” is a bright spot on Wondrous Bughouse, a sophomore effort that fell slightly short of expectations. Hauntingly fascinating and beautifully psychedelic, this song takes the listener on a musical journey.  

    03. Arcade Fire – “Afterlife”
    “Afterlife” is a song that took a few years to see the light of day. When it was released, Win Butler commented on the history of this song, saying it began “with a Haitian percussion loop we recorded way back at the end of the The Suburbs tour and “took a while to get the chorus right.” Enter producer James Murphy and the result is an extremely danceable synth-pop tune that is up there with the year’s pedigree.

    04. Rhye – “Open”
    Passion oozes from this song. Simple and pure love in it’s most basic form. Lyrics, musicianship and delivery make this track one of the most soothing songs of the year. Turn this on,  embrace those you love, and all will be right in the world if only for a couple minutes.

    05. Washed Out – “It All Feels Right”
    The title of this song says it best. Washed Out’s sunbathed reverb vibes can instantly transport you to a beach and put a beverage in your hand. Fact. Move aside “Get Lucky”, this was the summer anthem of 2013 on my stereo.

    06. Major Lazer – “Get Free”
    07. Wild Belle – “Keep You”
    08. Holy Ghost! – “Dumb Disco Ideas”
    09. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Sacrilege”
    10. James Blake – “Retrograde”
    11. Phosphorescent – “The Quotidian Beasts”
    12. Daft Punk – “Instant Crush”
    13. Boards of Canada – “Nothing is Real”
    14. Mikal Cronin – “Weight”
    15. Sigur Rós – “Brennisteinn”
    16. Kurt Vile – “Wakin on a Pretty Day”
    17. Phoenix – “Trying to Be Cool”
    18. Foxygen – “San Francisco”
    19. Junip – “Line of Fire”
    20. Disclosure – “White Noise (feat. AlunaGeorge)”

    Cut Copy at Fox Theater Oakland 11/02. Photo by James Nagel.

    Cut Copy at Fox Theater Oakland 11/02. Photo by James Nagel.

    Brooks Rocco // Columnist // @brooksrocco

    01. Jagwar Ma – “Uncertainty”
    In the wholly subjective exercise of selecting a favorite song of a year, one must consider one’s most notable experiences, focusing upon those driven by the most notable soundtracks. 2013’s best dance party, in my little sphere of dominion, was Jagwar Ma’s headlining set at Rickshaw Stop, and it was the song ‘Uncertainty’ that made me most notably lose control of my senses. Even upon sober reflection, the song (defining the tone of the album it appears on) is a sledgehammer of a good time, a song that revels in the Clichés that in an earlier year would have manifested in sardonic irony. It’s finally time to embrace what works, and in doing so, create the future that pushes towards the goal: a musical tribute to our ecstatic humanity, as we remain fueled by uncertainties.

    02. Deafheaven – “Dream House”
    In some ways, “Dream House” is the end of black metal. It’s been a long time coming though, with American kids raised on the stuff tilting their combo amps backward, screaming their fresh-faced idolatry for the legends that dared to not give a fuck. With the pink Pitchfork kiss of approval, black metal has become another texture in the tech-savvy hipster’s chest, to be yanked out when the time is appropriate (then and only then!). ‘Dream House’ is the black metal song that everyone can agree on. Euronymous is Dead. Long live Black Metal.

    03. Cave – “Arrow’s Myth”
    Shifting space, coagulating color, sound, motion; breaking barriers, and driving the motorized swirl ever farther, Cave returned in 2013 with some of their most funky and delicately harmonious hues yet. Once again they delivered just the right the stuff we all need—imbalance your chemicals (whatever that means to you), throw on “Arrow’s Myth”, and wrap your head around whatever comes natural. If it feels good, right?

    04. Carcass – “A Congealed Clot of Blood”
    I got a little worried when I found out Andy Sneap was producing the followup to Carcass’ swan song, Surgical Steel, as said producer is the type of surgeon to sterilize all his instruments thoroughly before performing his delicate incisions. Fortunately, this sublime return to force by the UK legends is necrotising death metal masterpiece; ‘A Congealed Clot of Blood’ worthy amongst their greatest.

    05. my bloody valentine – “in another way”
    I wasn’t listening to Loveless in the 90’s like it was my religion. In my erumpent musical debut, I was blasting stuff like Emperor, Dissection, Meshuggah; bands louder, noisier, and far, far more unsettling than My Bloody Valentine. But for a lot of people, MBV were the anti-music of their spheres. That said, the night m b v dropped, I got sucked into the tornado along with everyone else.  A cursory pirated listen and I was in. ‘in another way’ was the tune that made me whip out the plastic capital and order the wax. Full disclosure for Mr. Shields: it was that guitar.  How did you…

    06. RP Boo – “Invisibu Boogie!”

    07. Dispirit – “All Paths End The Same”

    08. David Bowie – “Where Are We Now?”
09. Föllakzoid – “9”

    10. FOALS – “Late Night”
11. Thee Oh Sees – “No Spell”
12. Mikal Cronin – “Shout It Out”
13. The Five Eyes – “HEY HEY NSA (Tinfoil in Every Hat)”
14. The Knife – “Old Dreams Waiting to be Realized”

    15. Kanye West – “On Sight”

    16. Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats – “Desert Ceremony”
17. Parquet Courts – “Master of My Craft”

    18. Cut Copy – “Free Your Mind”

    19. Anthroprophh – “Hermit”
20. Telekinesis – “Power Lines”

    MS MR at The Independent 6/16. Photo by James Nagel.

    MS MR at The Independent 6/16. Photo by James Nagel.

    Nikki De Martini // Columnist & Photographer // @SweetSoundBites

    01. M.I.A. –  “Y.A.L.A.”
    Seducingly rhythmic percussion loops, heavy dropping bass lines and a shining bratty-tude mock US society fads on this effortless dance track from my favorite Sri Lankan West-Londoner. M.I.A.’s signature ballsy Bollywood flavor minus the familiarity of foghorns will make you want to get up and dance before realizing what she’s singing about sets in and when it does, this track gets even better. “Y.A.L.A.” makes me wonder why Interscope Records repeatedly shelved her 4th album for not being “dark” or “controversial” enough.

    02. RAC Featuring Kelle Okereke and MNDR – “Let Go”
    As a fan of MNDR for years and a Bloc Party fan for even longer, this collaborative RAC track won me over since the very first time hearing it — the emotionally charged lyrics paired with it’s uplifting melody just melt into one so well.

    03. MS MR – “Hurricane”
    Easily one of my favorite tracks off of their breakthrough debut album, the first single “Hurricane” showcases the multitude of MS MR’s talents to a tee with rich, relatable lyrics and an underlying electro-pop essence wrapped up and delivered in a neat indie rock fashion.

    04. Arctic Monkeys – “Do I Wanna Know?”
    It’s heavy drums, low bass chords and dirty guitar licks reminiscent of The Black Keys are that draw me to this song. Then the lyrics hit and that was it. Every time I hear this song I turn it up and sing along.

    05. Schoolboy Q Featuring Kendrick Lamar – “Collard Greens”
    The catchy hooks and layered verses are a throw back to old school “dirty” rap yet remain fresh, leaving me hungry for more Kendrick Lamar!  

    06. Lana Del Rey – “Summertime Sadness” (Cedric Gervais remix)
    07. LORDE – “Team”
    08. Cage the Elephant – “It’s Just Forever (featuring Alison Mosshart)”
    09. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Wedding Song”
    10. Queens of the Stone Age – “Sat by the Ocean”
    11. Jay Z – “Tom Ford”
    12. Little Boots – “Strangers”
    13. Portugal the Man – “Purple Yellow Red and Blue”
    14. VV Brown – “Apple”
    15. Sleigh Bells – “Bitter Rivals”
    16. Broken Bells – “Holding on for Life”
    17. NONONO – “Pumping Blood”
    18. CSS – “Hangover”
    19. Atlas Genius – “Electric”
    20. Smallpools – “Dreaming”

    Atoms For Peace at Treasure Island Music Festival 10/19. Photo by Marc Fong.

    Atoms For Peace at Treasure Island Music Festival 10/19. Photo by Marc Fong.

    Pedro Paredes // Photographer // @pedropar

    01. Atoms for Peace – “Before Your Very Eyes”
    Every great album needs an opening song worthy of it, and “Before Your Very Eyes” gives just that to the supergroup formed by members of Radiohead (Thom Yorke, Nigel Godrich), Red Hot Chili Peppers (Flea), Beck (Joey Waronker) and Forro in The Dark (Mauro Refosco). With dense, steady percussions, electronic arrangements, a simple guitar section, and the soft sound of Thom Yorke’s voice, this song walks to the beat of life and death, joy and sorrow, and begins the path for one of the best albums of 2013.

    02. Vampire Weekend – “Obvious Bicycle”
    Vampire Weekend’s first song of their amazing Modern Vampires of the City sets the mood for an album that takes a different route from their previous work, with a warmer, more mature sound. A beautiful song for a beautiful album.   

    03. James Blake – “Retrograde”
    Melodic Bass Music are the words James Blake chose to describe his work, and “Retrograde” seems to fit that description quite well. It’s a love song for the future, coming from the darkness of the dawn.

    03. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – “Jubilee Street”
    Nick Cave is a natural storyteller that makes use of his musical talent to make any story come alive (his music scores for films like ‘The Assassination of Jesse James’ or ‘The Proposition’ are enough to prove my point)  Jubilee Street starts simple, growing in complexity in the subtlest of ways, beautifully contained under the spell of Nick Cave’s voice.

    05. Blood Orange – “It is What it Is”
    “It is What it Is” is exactly what it should be — Deliciously elegant, precise, presenting a new version of 80’s pop-reset. This song is the cherry on top of one of the best albums of 2013.

    06. Mutual Benefit – “Golden Wake”
    07. Arcade Fire – “Here Comes the Night Time”
    08. Daft Punk – “Instant Crush”
    09. Lorde – “Royals”
    10. William Tyler – “Cadillac Dessert”
    11. Kurt Vile – “Wakin on a Pretty Day”
    12. Phosphorescent – “Ride On/Right On”
    13. Deerhunter – “Back to the Middle”
    14. Darkside – “Paper Trails”
    15. Nine Inch Nails – “Copy of A”
    16. Parquet Courts – “Stoned and Starving”
    17. Low – “Plastic Cup”
    18. Blue Hawaii – “Try To Be”
    19. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Despair”
    20. Foxygen – “No Destruction”

    Showbams’ 40 best albums of 2013


    “Best of” lists are always subjective, and this one is no anomaly. When it comes to the best albums of any given year, we can most likely agree that the best records are excellent from beginning to end — no “skip ahead” songs — and that groundbreaking new music can emerge from any genre.

    At the same time, we imprint music on moments in our lives, and this will always influence personal taste. Combine these past influences with modern streaming capabilities in 2013, where new records are now accessible before an album release date, and our collective creation and criticism of music begins to transform, adapt and influence more rapidly.

    Here are our most addictive albums of 2013, the records we couldn’t stop spinning.

    01. Arcade FireReflektor
    02. DisclosureSettle
    03. Atoms For PeaceAmok
    04. FOALSHoly Fire
    05. Vampire WeekendModern Vampires of the City
    06. Daft PunkRandom Access Memories
    07. Kurt VileWakin On a Pretty Daze
    08. James BlakeOvergrown
    09. White DenimCorsicana Lemonade
    10. Toro Y MoiAnything In Return

    11. RhyeWoman
    12. DarksidePsychic
    13. Boards of CanadaTomorrow’s Harvest
    14. The NationalTrouble Will Find Me
    15. My Bloody Valentinem b v
    16. Sigur RósKveikur
    17. Parquet CourtsLight Up Gold
    18. Danny BrownOld
    19. Holy Ghost!Dynamics
    20. Jagwar MaHowlin

    21. Run the Jewels (El-P & Killer Mike) – Run the Jewels
    22. Washed OutParacosm
    23. ClassixxHanging Gardens
    24. Hanni El KhatibHead In The Dirt
    25. Queens of the Stone Age…Like Clockwork
    26. The StrokesComedown Machine
    27. Thee Oh SeesFloating Coffin
    28. Volcano ChoirRepave
    29. A$AP RockyLONG.LIVE.A$AP
    30. Anders OsbornePeace

    31. Jon HopkinsImmunity
    32. Yeah Yeah YeahsMosquito
    33. King Krule6 Feet Beneath The Moon
    34. Kanye WestYeezus
    35. Mount KimbieCold Spring Fault Less Youth
    36. Superhuman Happiness – Hands
    37. BonoboThe North Borders
    38. Tyler, the CreatorWolf
    39. PhoenixBankrupt!
    40. PhosphorescentMuchacho

    Vampire Weekend at Fox Theater Oakland 4/17. Photo by Marc Fong.

    Vampire Weekend at Fox Theater Oakland 4/17. Photo by Marc Fong.

    Mike Frash // Founder, Editor, Columnist // @MikeFrash

    Vampire WeekendModern Vampires of the City
    1The focus on larger themes of mortality and spirituality in Modern Vampires of the City have catapulted this indie group from angst-ridden collegians to mainstream players — and in the process Ezra Koenig and company crafted an American classic. Compulsively listenable, this record matured with age in 2013, just like the artistic path Vampire Weekend seem to be on. The album continuously waxes poetically about death and higher powers, and “Unbelievers” sums it up best: “Girl you and I will die unbelievers, bound to the tracks of the train.” The ambiguousness is biting, as it is tough to tell if the statement is earnest atheism or harsh criticism of Godless existence. In “Step”, we’re told, “Wisdom’s a gift but you’ll trade it for youth, age is an honor it’s still not the truth…we know the true death, the true way of all flesh. Everyone’s dying, but girl – you’re not old yet.” Even “Dianne Young” is a double entendre for ‘dying young’. Every track is filled with high-level substance lyrically, but sonically it’s multi-faceted as well, melding baroque sensibilities and African grooves at a wonderfully variant pace throughout. Ultimately, it’s a supremely empowering coming of age album from Vampire Weekend, one that stares mortality in the face while celebrating time’s finite quality.

    Run the Jewels (El-P & Killer Mike)Run the Jewels
    2Early in Run The Jewels, Killer Mike announces, “Producer gave me a beat, said it’s the ‘beat of the year’, I said ‘El-P didn’t do it, so get the fuck outa here.’ El-P, the sole producer of rap music’s most dynamic duo, bases his production in captivating weirdness, micro-sampling everything from classic organ to nintendo glitch sounds to electric guitar, building epic beats for Killer Mike & El-P to deliver clever rhymes, based both in reality and playful hyperbole. One of Run The Jewels’ greatest successes is that it can be both funny and deadly serious within the same song, and often within in the same flow or line at times. So motherfuckin’ grimy, “Job Well Done” highlights how successfully dolphin sounds can contrast with aggressive lyricism, for example. Killer Mike broaches serious topics, bringing up the “elephant in the room” whenever possible, and EL-P is hyperactive and light-hearted as he spits his ‘future shit’. Put these two together and you have the best hip hop album in years.

    FOALSHoly Fire
    3The beauty is in the build with FOALS, and that is the case with Holy Fire more than prior album as the UK-based festival-headliners-in-the-making have largely abandoned their post-dance punk sound aesthetic for a more ballad-based approach. Sure, “My Number” and “Providence” continue the upbeat, math rock-dance-freak-outs, but overall FOALS have centered their 2013 record around patient song development in order to establish more memorable, ecstatic moments. “Milk & Black Spiders” does just that, taking a full three minutes and forty five seconds to reach it’s blissful summit. “Late Night” is a harrowing slow burner, repeating the line, “Calling out your name,” asking for the subject of the song to “Stay with me.” Lead singer Yannis Philippakis’ impassioned vocals, paired with the band’s guitar interplay and non-standard rhythms make FOALS a unique force in the world of modern rock.

    The NationalTrouble Will Find Me
    4Matt Berninger has a way with words — who else could make the phrase “full of punks and cannonballers” sound eloquent and measured in the track “I Need My Girl”? The National thrives on non-literal lyricism, but the instrumental elements from The National in Trouble Will Find Me prop the singing up on a pedestal better than prior records. Void of any filler, this contemplative record easily allows the listener to take their own meaning from any given track, applying it internally. The first half impresses quickly with “I Should Live In Salt” through “Sea Of Love”, but it is the second half that solidifies the effort as The National’s best work to date. An album that also gets more addictive with subsequent listens, Trouble Will Find Me works well as both a “pick me up” record and one to embrace life’s good times, an odd duality indeed.

    Volcano ChoirRepave
    5Who needs Bon Iver when Justin Vernon is making music like he has with The Shouting Matches and Volcano Choir in 2013? Vernon, the creative centerpiece behind Bon Iver, announced while promoting Repave that Volcano Choir is his new band. Arguably, this is a genius move, as Vernon is exhibiting a higher level of confidence and innovation with this possibly permanent collaboration with members of Collections of Colonies of Bees. Repave traverses a path that balances grandiose and minimalism, choosing off-beat, unexpectedly contrasting moments to ‘drop the sound hammer’ in both “Comrade” and “Byegone”. “Drop the sound hammer” refers to the mesmerizing technique Volcano choir uses to quickly transition from falsetto-based minimalist intros into hard-hitting Philip Glass-like synth blasts and authoritative drums. I’m fine with Vernon considering himself a legend, as long as he continues creating music with cryptic, poetic lyrics and the progressive intermingling of intense and soothing sounds.

    06. Darkside – Psychic
    07. James Blake – Overgrown
    08. Arcade Fire – Reflektor
    09. Rhye – Woman
    10. Disclosure – Settle
    11. Kurt Vile – Wakin On a Pretty Daze
    12. My Bloody Valentine – m b v
    13. Atoms for Peace – Amok
    14. Foxygen – We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
    15. Washed Out – Paracosm
    16. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
    17. Bonobo – The North Borders
    18. Phosphorescent – Muchacho
    19. Jagwar Ma – Howlin
    20. John Vanderslice – Dagger Beach

    Atoms For Peace at Treasure Island Music Festival 10/19. Photo by Marc Fong.

    Atoms for Peace at Treasure Island Music Festival 10/19. Photo by Marc Fong.

    Molly Kish // Artist Relations Manager, Columnist // @MollyKish

    Atoms For PeaceAmok
    1Alternative Rock super group Atoms for Peace delivered one of the most evocative, skillfully executed and notable debuts of 2013, completely as expected. Bringing together some of the most innovative, iconic and artistically defining tastemakers of the past two decades (most notably Thom Yorke & Flea), Atoms for Peace composed a near-perfect representation of contemporary sound evolution. Touring this past year promoting Amok through intermittent concert dates and festival-headlining performances, Atoms for Peace captivated live audiences on a global scale while generating critical acclaim, and for good reason.

    Toro Y MoiAnything in Return
    2Drawing artistic influence from elements of 90s dance music while paying homage to the iconic hip hop sounds of the era, Chaz Bundick departed from his signature “chillwave” style to compose his third studio album, Anything in Return. Revisiting harder house elements from his 2010 debut Causers of This, Bundick taps into a funky soundscape filled with intensified vocals and hard hitting jam-based percussion. Paying homage to legendary producer J Dilla, Anything in Return touches upon intimate subject matter while remaining accessibly pop-driven, delivering Bundick’s “biggest sounding” album to date.

    3UK sibling duo Disclosure was one of the most successful breakout acts of the past year, largely in part to the global commercial appeal of their debut album, Settle. Mixing the perfect blend of R&B vocals, UK garage, two step and deep house cuts, Settle is a seamless composition of dance floor ready hits. Disclosure’s first full length succeeded in curating a sound both primed for the band’s spellbinding live improvisation and the album’s inevitable mainstream sampling and remixes.

    Daft PunkRandom Access Memories
    4Preceding its April release date with a show-stopping album trailer debut at Coachella (and nationally syndicated on Saturday Night Live) and a video website series presented by The Creators Project, Daft Punk set the bar early this year for the future of mainstream album promotional campaigns. Defying the expectations of their devoted fan base along with the speculatory opinions of many EDM counterparts, Random Access Memories marks the band’s groundbreaking introduction of live musicians into their otherwise strictly electronic body of work. Their most successful album to date, Random Access Memories is a definitive album that highlights the robots’ personal influence, and the effect is a lasting impact on popular music.

    Arcade FireReflektor
    5Arcade Fire’s Reflektor serves as a testament to their creative ingenuity as a modern art rock group. Its evolutionary sound was produced by nu-disco vanguard James Murphy and features collaborations with David Bowie, Kid Koala and an armada of additional percussionists and recording personnel. Promoted and released through an ingenious guerrilla marketing campaign, intriguing the attention of a frothing worldwide audience.

    06. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
    07. Kanye West – Yeezus
    08. Washed Out – Paracosm
    09. Holy Ghost – Dynamics
    10. Phoenix – Bankrupt!
    11. Devendra Banhart – Mala
    12. Major Lazer – Free The Universe
    13. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Mosquito
    14. Starfucker – Miracle Mile
    15. Cut Copy – Free Your Mind
    16. Franz Ferdinand – Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action
    17. Classixx – Hanging Gardens
    18. The Strokes – Comedown Machine
    19. St. Lucia – When The Night
    20. Jay Z – Magna Carta

    Thee Oh Sees at Phono Del Sol 7/13. Photo by Mike Frash.

    Thee Oh Sees at Phono Del Sol 7/13. Photo by Mike Frash.

    Kevin Quandt // Assistant Editor, Columnist // @KJQuandt

    Parquet CourtsLight Up Gold
    1In a year with many strong rookie efforts (Haim, Disclosure, Lorde, etc.), it was this Brooklyn quartet that rejuvenated garage-tinged, punk rock with a blisteringly fierce debut LP, Light Up Gold. Opening track “Master of My Craft” lets us know we are in for one helluva a ride and it doesn’t let up in the least as Andrew Savage belts out anthems full of modern tales of urban decay and the slacker lifestyle. This we do-whatever-the-fuck-we-want mentality was also clearly present on a recently released EP entitled Tally All the Things That You Broke, which was equally as impressive as the full length. Alas, all is not lost when it comes to irreverent rock music in a sea of shiny synths and EDM takeovers. 

    My Bloody Valentinem b v
    2If this album was a person, it could legally drink in this country. Now, after that fact settles in, we can concentrate on how impressive m b v actually is. Kevin Shields and cohorts took 22 years to deliver this baby and it is chock-full of all the aural beauty that made these shoegaze legends modern rock royalty a couple of decades ago. Standout final track “wonder 2” is a whirling dervish of otherworldly drums, guitars and distorted vocals, slowly building into one serious rapture. Attention to detail is not lost on this album as meticulous craftsmanship is ever-present, especially when listened to fully, or in the distinct ‘3 EP’ structure that m b v is recorded in. All I ask Kevin Shields is that I don’t have to wait till I’m almost 50 years old to hear another new release from My Bloody Valentine.

    Arcade FireReflektor
    3There’s little surprise that this ‘double’ release ended in my, and many others, top albums list. Why? Because Arcade Fire make great albums, and I enjoy great albums. The grab bag of influences on this album is truly startling and lends much to it’s overall success whether it be deep Haitian rhythms or the the electro-dance production of James Murphy. With so many standout tracks, it really makes you wonder what they are putting in the water up in Canada. “Joan of Arc”, “Normal Person”, “Afterlife” and so many others create something fully unique and fully Arcade Fire. 

    Boards of CanadaTomorrow’s Harvest
    4It was a bit of a long wait for fans of BoC, but well worth the interesting journey that was to become Tomorrow’s Harvest and it’s unique marketing campaign which precluded the June release. Not much has changed from the ambient electronic soundscapes that put these Scots on the map nearly two decades ago. What makes Boards so significant is their knowledge of analogue gear they use to transform sound into warm ambience that is loaded with emotion, complexity and cinematic themes. Songs like “Nothing Is Real” fully demonstrate their textbook mix of instrumentation and warm, vintage synths which gracefully paint a picture of the natural world which we live in. It’s albums like this which should make every listener wanna go out and spend four figures on some serious headphones, and Boards of Canada wouldn’t object.

    Thee Oh SeesFloating Coffin
    5It’s been a long time coming for the San Francisco garage titans that, most popularly, go by Thee Oh Sees. John Dwyer once used this moniker as his solo effort, but eventually became his primary effort, eventually growing from one man to a full blown band. Floating Coffin shows a shifting of the tide as the once tin-can recording sound has matured to a sonic boom of heavy guitar, driving rhythm and quintessential weirdo vocal. All these elements, and many more, equated to the most comprehensive sounding release in their extensive discography. “Come From the Mountain” opens this album with atomic bomb-shredding guitar and doesn’t really relent from this style till the soothing album closer, “Minotaur”. What’s most profound about Floating Coffin is that they have arrived with a permanent lineup, a better produced sound and a band mentality that creates a more unified front as opposed to it being solely Dwyer’s project. Oh yeah, they are also straight bananas on stage.

    06. Disclosure – Settle
    07. King Krule – 6 Feet Beneath the Moon
    08. The National – Trouble Will Find Me
    09. Atoms for Peace – Amok
    10. Tyler, the Creator – Wolf
    11. Jon Hopkins – Immunity
    12. Kurt Vile – Wakin On a Pretty Daze
    13. Rhye – Woman
    14. Danny Brown – Old 
    15. David Bowie – The Next Day
    16. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires in the City
    17. White Denim – Corsica Lemonade
    18. Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork
    19. Pickwick – Can’t Talk Medicine
    20. Mount Kimbie – Cold Spring Fault Less Youth

    White Denim at Bill Graham Civic Center 10/31. Photo by James Nagel.

    White Denim at Bill Graham Civic Center 10/31. Photo by James Nagel.

    Pete Mauch // Festival Manager & Columnist // @PeteMauch

    Arcade FireReflektor
    1All-star collaboration of these Canadian rockers and producer James Murphy proved a success with their fourth release. The album, filled with instant hits like “Reflektor” and “Here Comes the Night Time”, is heavily influenced by traditional Haitian music that adds a deep rhythm to the elongated grooves, but the real treat is how its all tied together. Arcade Fire let loose on Reflektor, finding comfort in initiating a party atmosphere while staying confident with a dash of weirdness.

    Jagwar MaHowlin
    2There seems to be a psychedelic air blowing in Australia these days, and Jagwar Ma’s debut album is filled with trippy yet danceable songs like the opening pair “What Love” and “Uncertainty”. “Come Save Me” evokes a dream land where the Beach Boys created acid-dance music. This album is gonna get a lot of play on Friday nights for many years to come.

    White DenimCorsicana Lemonade
    3These Texas rockers put out an intense album in 2013 filled with screaming guitar solos layered over intense time signatures and wailing vocals, but White Denim makes it all sound so simple. Songs like “Pretty Green” and “Cheer Up/Blues Ending” are straight up rocking songs, rooted in the genre’s past while offering a progressive take at where rock is heading. It never hurts to have Jeff Tweedy producing as well.

    Daft PunkRandom Access Memories
    4The instantly classic single “Get Lucky”, the summer anthem of 2013, is still hyper-catchy, but “Instant Crush”, “Lose Yourself to Dance” & “Doin’ It Right” succeed as pleasantly repetitious tunes that represent a variety of decades. What makes Random Access Memories work completely is all the mellow cuts, perfect for bedtime or a drive down the coast. The music lesson that is “Giorgio by Moroder” just takes off after the ballsy call to include an interview with Giorgio Morodor before launching into an exploratory space jam. 

    Anders OsbornePeace 
    5Underground New Orleans guitar slayer Anders Osborne released a very impressive long player, filled with deep personal songs that are truly outstanding. Title track “Sentimental Times” showcases Osbornes’ brilliant songwriting, and his guitar work is simply phenomenal and engrossing. Personal favorite “Sara Anne” begins with a reggae feel that builds into a great bouncy song that has me repeating it often.

    06. Kurt Vile – Wakin On a Pretty Daze
    07. Atoms For Peace – Amok
    08. Sigur Rós – Kveikur
    09. Superhuman Happiness – Hands
    10. FOALS – Holy Fire
    11. Holy Ghost! – Dynamics
    12. Jonathan Wilson – Fanfare
    13. Youth Lagoon – Wondrous Bughouse
    14. Darkside – Psychic
    15. Bonobo – The North Borders
    16. Phosphorescent – Muchacho
    17. Savages – Silence Yourself
    18. Deerhunter – Monomania
    19. Ty Segall – Sleeper
    20. Jim James – Regions of Light and Sound of God

    Toro Y Moi at Fox Theater Oakland 11/15.

    Toro Y Moi at Fox Theater Oakland 11/15. Photo by James Nagel.

    Kevin Raos // Columnist // @Semirec

    Toro Y MoiAnything in Return
    1Toro Y Moi just keeps getting better and better with subsequent listens. Part dance, part melancholy electro, Anything in Return strikes many different chords. From feelings of longing and romance, to coming to terms with growing up, Anything in Return ranges the emotionally gamut. This album stood the test of time in 2013, being one the first albums of 2013 to make a dramatic impact, then remaining front of mind come Christmas time.

    2Woman is the mellow album of the year — If you need to relax, fall asleep, or just chill out, this is the album for you. A go-to in the bedroom, Rhye’s Woman also has the uncanny ability to cradle and comfort you from start to finish. Equally as good in a live setting, Woman proves excellent musicianship can flourish in downtempo form. The record’s male vocalist, Milosh, also released an excellent solo record titled “Jetlag” in late 2013 that clicks at a slightly faster tempo.

    White DenimCorsicana Lemonade
    3Funky, fresh and just downright dirty, the guys from Austin can bring the heat. Corsicana Lemonade is an album that might not make many end of the year album lists, but it should not be overlooked. Cool and collected while still being rhythmically aggressive, Corsicana Lemonade pushes forward an innovative rock sound that should make The Black Keys nervous their throne is currently up for grabs.

    Danny BrownOld
    4Danny Brown’s Old creates a new genre of hip hop, one with an electronic psyche. Old may offend some and be lost on others, but Brown’s distinctive voice and tongue-flaunting rhymes constitute a “grower”. Here we have a rapper who isn’t afraid to talk about more than banging it out in the streets, and all together Brown breathes more fresh air into a hip hop landscape that has been seeing a resurgence the past few years.

    Vampire WeekendModern Vampires of the City
    5It’s tough to deny that indie kings Vampire Weekend are on top of their game right now. If you haven’t heard of these A-Punks that escaped from Cape Cod, you surely have been living under a rock. With Modern Vampires of the City, an already huge band has gotten huger, blasting off into new territory more than in previous efforts. Did I mention they shout out Oakland and Alameda, too?

    06. FOALS – Holy Fire
    07. Sigur Rós – Kveikur
    08. Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest
    09. Atoms For Peace – Amok
    10. Disclosure – Settle
    11. James Blake – Overgrown
    12. Arcade Fire – Reflektor
    13. Darkside – Psychic
    14. Kurt Vile – Wakin On a Pretty Daze
    15. Jon Hopkins – Immunity
    16. Camera Obscura – Desire Lines
    17. Wild Belle – Idles
    18. Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks
    19. Blood Orange – Cupid Deluxe
    20. Laura Marling – Once I Was An Eagle

    Classixx at Fox Theater Oakland 11/15. Photo by James Nagel.

    Classixx at Fox Theater Oakland 11/15. Photo by James Nagel.

    Sean Little // Columnist // @Splittle

    FOALSHoly Fire
    1FOALS have made their best album to date with Holy Fire. It’s a wall of sonic noise mixed with strong doses of angst that starts with “Prelude” and continues to pin listeners to their seats until the last track. The British quintet have produced my number one record of the year, and their live performance is one to see if you haven’t.

    ClassixxHanging Gardens
    2Classixx made a superb album here. Being a primarily electronic poduction group, their skills show something much deeper and diverse as they move from bouncey disco tracks to deeper, more evocative tracks like “Borderline” where they showcase their ability to craft a tune that hits heart strings and nods heads. Classixx are vastly underrated and should be given a serious listen, even by non-electronic fans.

    3What can be said that hasn’t already about this brotherly duo? They hit the scene hard and made a lot of people snap their heads in their direction. Their production quality and use of instruments in their sets has turned many notions of a “DJ” set on its head and opened the doors for a whole new type of set that calls to the crowd more. This album is full of gems that will surely go down in dance history as classics.

    Hanni El KhatibHead In The Dirt
    4Hanni grew up immensely since his last album and really fine-tuned his sound. This is a pure rock album with no pretense. If you arere tired of pop rock bands trying to make the next iPod commercial-worthy track and long for a record that slaps you in the face to wake you up while still being a tad gentle about it, this is the one for you.

    5Hip Hop has fallen to the wayside in years past as electronic has made its resurgence. Fans have grown weary of the over-produced, same old lyric songs that most artists offer. A$AP though brings in, what I consider to be the finest hip hop album of the year. Production by Skrillex, and cameos by Florence Welch, Drake, and Birdyman attest to his range not just as a rapper but as a producer and curator as well.

    06. James Blake – Overgrown
    07. Queens of the Stoneage – …Like Clockwork
    08. The Strokes – Comedown Machine
    09. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
    10. DJ Koze – Amygdala
    11. Atlas Genius – When It Was Now
    12. Portugal. The Man – Evil Friends
    13. Bass Drum of Death – S/T
    14. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Mosquito
    15. MS MR – Second Hand Rapture
    16. Tesla Boy – The Universe Made of Darkness
    17. Franz Ferdinand – Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action
    18. Cut Copy – Free Your Mind
    19. Ryan Hemsworth – Guilt Trips
    20. The Weeknd – Kiss Land

    Live music artists ignite the dawn of a smartphone backlash


    By Mike Frash //

    Mobile technology and social media have advanced exponentially the past five to ten years, connecting scores of individuals that would have never met a decade ago, enabling us to share narcissistic musings and photos at a moment’s notice. (Unsurprisingly, “Selfie” is the “Word of the Year”.) Bottom line — It’s mostly a glorious thing to live in the age of information and rapidly expanding technology.

    But holy shit do we misuse it sometimes. Our social behaviors frankly haven’t caught up to our relatively newfangled devices that are always available in our pockets and purses.

    The Pope’s inauguration at the Vatican, in 2005 & 2013.

    It’s all changed so quickly, hasn’t it? Communication abilities, access to content & opinions, the structure of web-based writing itself and a pervasive social media mentality have all collided and intermingled magnificently since Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone in 2007. Consequently a massive smartphone market has flourished, and a large majority of us have gotten a bit more ADHD.

    Our collective focus and attention span have changed significantly, taking a turn for the horrible. It’s become second nature for many to plug-in to their smartphones while mentally checking out of their immediate surroundings, whether we’re riding the bus, enjoying drinks with friends or experiencing a concert.

    Daniel Goleman, author of Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, recently said, “We have a world that’s been engineered to distract us.” This can’t be denied when a Facebook update, tweet or Instagram upload is always only a finger tap or two away.

    One of the most contentious issues revolving around smartphones today is crowd-based photography and videography at shows. A continuous lack of technology awareness from just one individual can inhibit the live music experience for those around the bright screen being held just above eye level. Not only is the screen-addicted cinematographer distracted, but so is everyone else, including the artists on stage.

    So is this the new normal, or is this a trend that can be addressed and changed? There are a handful of artists that have spoken out this year, igniting what might be the roots of a mainstream “be where you are” backlash in the world of live music.


    In the year that Arcade Fire’s Win Butler crooned, “We fell in love when I was nineteen / And I was staring at a screen,” many artists have fought back against concert camera phone use, putting their proverbial foot down explicitly, politely and absurdly.

    UK-based Savages fired the loudest, most forceful warning shot of 2013. The all-female foursome released their debut album Silence Yourself to critical acclaim, taking the ethos of the record on the road with them by banning phones based on the idea of immersion. For every show, they put up signs that read:

    Our goal is to discover better ways of living and experiencing music. We believe that the use of phones to film and take pictures during a gig prevents all of us from totally immersing ourselves. Let’s make this evening special. Silence your phones.

    That show at the Independent in San Francisco was special because of Savages’ intense, smart use of contrast and due to the room’s communal, energetic focus. The phone ban helped, keeping most devices out of sight.

    Savages haven’t been alone this past year shaming phones at shows. Prince threatened to boot any patrons caught playing director on his west coast club tour, and the Artist excluded all media photographers outright. Yeah Yeah Yeah’s phone ban sign was way more punk than Savages’ nuanced approach, advising that ticket holders “PUT THAT SHIT AWAY.” Neko Case stopped her show in Cincinnati multiple times October 22, threatening to end the show early because of flashing phone photos, finally saying “Just put away the cameras. It isn’t going to kill you, but it might kill me.” David Byrne & St. Vincent, She & Him, The Polyphonic Spree & Bjork all prohibited phone photography or asked for devices to be put away mid-show this year as well.

    Ever the groundbreaker, Jack White was the one to get the ball rolling in the summer of 2012. Rumor spread that the young living legend demanded that fans avoid social media and not take photos during his show, and the public backlash was surprising brutal. White’s label Third Man Records later clarified, “the only thing that we’ve ever asked of the audience is to not take pictures or videos while holding up their camera phones, etc that block other peoples view or otherwise hinder other fans concert experiences.” The message continued, “Along with that, the bigger idea is for people to experience the event with their own eyes and not watch an entire show through a tiny screen in their hand.”

    Father John Misty performed through a giant iPhone on his recently wrapped solo tour. Perhaps J. Tillman wanted to treat the audience to the same visual that has been thrown in his face the past two years. But Father John Misty gets bonus points for referring to himself as “content.”


    Some artists are using mobile technology to enhance their live performance. Dan Deacon told his fans to download his interactive app before his show via a projected message at the venue. Then during one song late in the set, he instructed the audience to pull phones out, launch the app, and dance with it. Deacon controlled the color blasts and strobe effects that emanated from scattered smartphones, using the devices to bring the collective attention of the crowd together. Pretty Lights followed suit this year at Outside Lands with a much bigger audience.

    So the possibilities for using our pocket computers to enhance the live music experience are out there and will likely gain steam.

    Author Daniel Goleman explains the phenomenon quite effectively:

    We all are carrying technological devices, our phones, our iPads, and whatever it may be, and they are diabolically designed to take advantage of the weaknesses of our attention system and nab us, and keep us nabbed. And so we’re constantly fighting distractions. That’s why, I think focus is more important than ever.


    Certainly there is a difference between popping out your Android for 10 seconds to snap off a couple shots versus literally shooting an entire concert on your smartphone with it’s shitty sound recording capabilities.

    The Festival Lawyer explained this best in his Upgrade article:

    Maybe you might want to record the whole show on your iPhone (or now iPads? seriously?) and just stand there and focus on getting the best video and pics. I’m not here to judge or scold you. Although I do feel the need to point out that you will NEVER watch that stupid motherfucking shaky video again and you are watching something through a tiny screen that is actually happening really big and loud RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU LIVE!!! (Umm…actually maybe I am judging you a tiny bit. Sorry.)

    Ultimately, it’s about finding balance between capturing the moment and immersing in the moment.

    When someone is shooting a song-long video during a show, staring through a screen version of their current reality, and thinking about their friends watching it on YouTube later, that person is simply not in the moment.

    The musical moments that give us auditory pleasure and ingrain in our memories are significantly more powerful and important than anything that can be captured on a phone.

    Just take a look at the Jimmy Kimmel crowd at their outdoor stage…

    This is the new normal — we’re all photographers. (Granted, people that go to a free taping in Los Angeles don’t represent a typical concert crowd.)

    We are moving toward a world where we are more connected to our phones than each other. Many of us (yes, including myself) are too damned dependent on digital devices.

    It’s a bit scary to contemplate a generation born with Facebook accounts. A generation of kids that are given tablets to stop them from crying at a restaurant. A third generation that is routinely fed amphetamine-based drugs when focus is an issue, even though we don’t teach attention-based skill strategies (yet).

    In his book, Goleman wrote, “Today’s children are growing up in a new reality, one where they are attuning more to machines and less to people than has ever been true in human history. That’s troubling for several reasons. For one, the social and emotional circuitry of a child’s brain learns from contact and conversation with everyone it encounters over the course of a day. These interactions mold brain circuitry; the fewer hours spent with people— and the more spent staring at a digitized screen— portends deficits.”

    The problem here is way bigger than just experiencing a show through a smartphone.

    Phone zombies can SnapChat all day if they want to, but it’s critical that we live in the moment as much as possible and enjoy who we are with. The key is to identify screen addiction, set new habits through cognitive control & repetition, and be where you are to the best of your ability in this distracting age of information.


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    The Reflektors shine bright in Hollywood on Halloween

    ReflektorsBy Kevin Quandt //

    Arcade Fire performing as “The Reflektors” //
    Hollywood Palladium – Los Angeles
    October 31st, 2013 //

    “My Grandfather played here. I can feel his spirit,” Win Butler announced to the packed house as the costumed and formal-dressed band took to the Hollywood Palladium stage to continue their ascension as the most buzzed band in the world.

    It was not your typical night in the famed LA venue as the Reflektors would stir up a packed crowd on this night. Though this band normally plays under the moniker of Arcade Fire, the baroque pop was shelved to make way for a world-infused dance party that rivaled the most banging discotheque.

    A massive line wrapped comically through a parking lot of stanchions filled with a vast array of costumed and formally dressed revelers, all patiently waiting to get in on the night’s festivities. Dressing up for the night was requested by the band, and the vast majority obliged, which Win would later comment on. In the meantime, the party was underway as soon as the doors opened — the lights stayed down as a mix of the Isley Brothers, James Brown and P-Funk got the crowd lubed up for the ensuing onslaught.

    “Reflektor” would open the ruckus evening as the expanded group were revealed behind a large curtain. Win wore a tiger-esque mask for the first song before unmasking. Somewhat surprisingly, they launched into Funeral track, “Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out)”, which got a great response from the devoted attendees. This was not a show for casual fans, as the tickets were much harder to procure than imagined with such short notice, among other mitigating factors. The next section of songs would be a grand-suite of Reflektor tracks which started with “Flashbulb Eyes” then “Joan of Arc”. It was pretty evident this room had heard the new album more than one or two times in the past week. “We Exist” was another new highlight, as this track is a sublime mix of an infectious dance beat coupled with a slightly more psychedelic take on the already famous Arcade Fire indie-rock sound many have come to love. At this point, the room was boiling as face paint smeared and costume layers were shed and abandoned.

    The second half of the show held even more surprises for the moist crowd as “Headlights Look Like Diamonds” was opened with a nod to Lou Reed via a tease of Velvet’s “Beginning to See the Light”. “Normal Person” showed off blazing guitar notes that led to a decent pogo section in the crowd. The temperature rose. Though most in the venue were not alive when the next song was released, Devo’s “Uncontrollable Urge” got a rapturous reply as Win enthusiastically hollered the word ‘yeah’ over and over. A few more degrees were added to the thermometer. Somehow Win caught his breath before telling the crowd that THIS was the time to go crazy, and subsequently launched into dance opus “Here Comes the Night Time”. Conga lines spontaneously sprouted and snaked through the pulsating fans lost in the thick rhythms, and yes, it got even warmer in the Palladium.

    An encore, which spotlighted Régine Chassagne, would close out the evening, starting with “Haïti” and then “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”. It did seem a bit odd to end the show with Win stuck in the back of the stage, but it was great to see his lovely bride dance to her heart’s content as we all caught our breath. This would be the end of the live music section, but not the end of the show as the band stuck around for more dancing festivities.

    Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)
    Flashbulb Eyes
    Joan of Arc
    You Already Know
    We Exist
    It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus)
    Afterlife (with The Velvet Underground’s “Beginning to See the Light” outro)
    Headlights Look Like Diamonds
    Normal Person
    Uncontrollable Urge (Devo cover)
    Here Comes the Night Time

    Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)

    Arcade Fire’s masterful album marketing, concert promo case study


    Arcade Fire performed at Capital Studios in Los Angeles October 28 to a small group of super fans and industry execs one evening prior to Reflektor officially releasing in the U.S. This abbreviated show, live-audio streamed by NPR Music, provided the first soundboard quality mix to listeners that haven’t been lucky enough to see Arcade Fire (or The Reflektors) in Montreal, Brooklyn, Miami or at the Bridge School Benefit. Sure, the Bridge School Benefit show was video webcasted, but only three songs from Reflektor received the stripped down, acoustic treatment that is customary at Neil Young’s yearly gathering this past weekend.

    The performance Monday night provided further proof that Arcade Fire are the band of a generation, both in a live and studio context; the chamber pop group arrived overnight in 2004 and has consistently impressed with their frenzied live show, improving with each tour. This 10-song performance Monday solidifies they are a group driven by progression and an evolving sound — they will only get more quintessential with time as they sell out arenas and headline festivals throughout 2014.

    Arcade Fire’s ingenious marketing campaign is a case study in using a band’s strength of performing live to help promote and encourage the purchasing of a new album. First, Reflektor street art started appearing in metropolitan areas all over the world in August. An interactive video arrived for “Reflektor” in September, integrating the viewer into the “It’s just a reflektor!” peak of the song. Then mysterious posters appeared in Montreal, then again in New York & Miami, promoting shows by “The Reflektors”. By touring in small spaces throughout the slow burning process of releasing previews and snippets of virtually every song on the album, the buzz has never slowed down. These intimate shows served as warm ups gigs for the band, and a genius marketing tool. If you pre-ordered the album, you received a code that gives you priority tickets to an Arcade Fire show in the next year. (I wonder if they will offer early access for Coachella through their website?)

    Then “Afterlife”, “Here Comes The Night Time”, “We Exist” and “Normal People” premiered on Saturday Night Live and a concert-based feature, and some songs were reinforced on The Colbert Report. The day the album leaked last Thursday, Arcade Fire had the entire album streaming on YouTube within four hours, stemming the digital thievery by offering something better. They synced Reflektor and the album’s lyrics with the 1959 film Black Orpheus à la “Dark Side of Oz”, and it was nothing short of mesmerizing before it was pulled (“Afterlife” is still available below). And on the day of Reflektor‘s release (October 29), Arcade Fire has chosen to make available a live recording of an incredible performance from the night before (view it above).

    It all signifies Arcade Fire are a group of innovators, bucking trends and norms through new angles of marketing and incentives. But more importantly, Reflektor is a classic record because it showcases a band that has improved sonically while developing more effective, vital lyricism.

    The overt theme in Arcade Fire’s fourth album is life after death, most notably in “Afterlife”, “It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus)”, and “Reflektor”. Win Butler has referred to Reflektor as “a mash up of Studio 54 and Haitian voodoo,” and it is clear the band’s trip to Haiti two years ago heavily impacted the group. Members of the group connected with local Haitians through traditional rara, the additional drumming the group has brought with them to the studio and on tour. Régine Chassagne draws her lineage from the Caribbean island — the place has been an influence and rallying point for the group since they featured “Haiti” toward the end of Funeral. Many parts of Haiti the country have been stricken by disease and squalor since the horrific earthquake in 2010. Then add the cultural layer of Haitian voodoo into the mix, which revolves around connecting with and brining people back from the dead, and the source of the storytelling and lyricism of Reflektor begins to come into focus.

    More important than wondering what happens after the inevitability of death, the meat of Reflektor harnesses the idea of dancing, celebrating and embracing the best moments of life. “Here Comes the Night Time”, one of the best songs on the record, creates a divide then asks a semi-hypothetical question:

    They say heaven’s a place and they know where it is. But you know where it is? It’s behind a gate that won’t let you in. And when they hear the beat coming from the street, they lock the door. But if there’s no music up in heaven than what’s it for?

    This multi-tempo sequence might be the part of Reflektor that resonates strongest with many Arcade Fire fans. The payoff line “When you look in the sky, just try looking inside, God knows what you might find…” leaves no room for ambiguousness. In a less obtrusive way than Neon Bible, Butler and Company are still pleading for people to think for themselves.

    When Win Butler greeted the audience by literally saying hello to “liberal America” via the NPR webcast, he clearly continued a common Arcade Fire thread that has existed since the beginning, the idea of Us versus Them. This ever-present theme is inert within Arcade Fire, and it was most notably projected through Butler’s introduction of “Normal Person” Monday night in Hollywood (Listen at 41:01 at the top of the page):

    Thank you liberal america, to all the blue states, and all the gay people stuck living in Atlanta, and all the parts of everywhere you believe people should be able to marry whoever they want, and if you get sick it’s ok if we all pitch in.

    Arcade Fire clearly want to use their influence to keep pushing what they believe in, which is frankly inspiring and fearless. These are the qualities that exist in a group that defines a generation — Arcade Fire aren’t merely reacting to contemporary social issues, they are engaging and driving the conversation.

    When it comes to the sound Arcade Fire has developed with Reflektor, and understanding the impact of James Murphy’s production assistance, it’s not so sad anymore that Murphy retired LCD Soundsystem. He did quip in Shut Up And Play The Hits that one of his reasons for retiring his band revolved around not being able to produce an Arcade Fire record because he was on tour. James Murphy ‘the producer’ could leave a bigger impact than James Murphy ‘the artist’ in the end. His fingerprints are all over one of the best records of 2013 — the tempo changes in “Here Comes the Night Time” to the disco groove in “We Exist” smell like they were concocted in DFA’s Brooklyn studios.

    The setlist from the performance in LA Monday night is pretty much what Reflektor would look like had it been a singular record (except “Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)” was left out. I don’t care what anyone says, that song is incredible.) A wonderful tribute to the late Lou Reed bookended a sparkling “Supersymmetry”, starting the song with “Perfect Day” and splicing in “Satellite of Love” in toward the end. This is, in fact, a must listen (around 17:10 in the top video). “It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus)” begins with a fast paced, crunchy dance beat that heightens the live version right away. Massive reverb is placed on the line “If there’s no music in heaven, than what’s it for?” in “Here Comes the Night Time”, announcing that this part of the song deserves extra attention. For the first time on this tour, it appears they are not ending with “Wake Up” for the first time, another signifier the group is moving forward artistically. There are many added texture layers throughout this performance that are absent from Reflektor that simply enhance the music, elevating Arcade Fire to the level of “better live”, not to take away from Reflektor in any way.

    Flashbulb Eyes
    Supersymmetry (Lou Reed — “Perfect Day” intro, “Satellite of Love” outro)
    It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus)
    We Exist
    You Already Know
    Normal Person
    Here Comes The Night Time

    Sprawl II