10 California music festivals you won’t want to miss in 2022

2022 California music festivalsWritten by Josh Herwitt //

With live music returning to stages across the U.S. during the second half of last year and spring now right around the corner, 2022 is shaping up to be a monumental year for the industry and a big reason for that is the comeback of the music festival. California has certainly played a major part in its revival coming out of a global pandemic, with a number of single-day and multi-day events already scheduled to take place up and down the Golden State over the next six-plus months. So, who’s ready for festival season to begin?

If you’re itching to hit a music festival, here are 10 in California you should save your cash for this year.


CRSSD Festival - Spring 2022 lineup

CRSSD Festival
Location: Waterfront Park – San Diego
Dates: March 5th-6th
Tickets: Buy them here!

One North American concert promoter who wasn’t deterred by the news surrounding the coronavirus’ omicron variant a few months ago happens to be FNGRS CRSSD, the San Diego-based brand that debuted CRSSD Festival back in 2015 and has been going strong ever since with a spring and fall edition of the event each year. Unleashing another electronic-leaning roster for its first installment in 2022 with Glass Animals and SOFI TUKKER as headliners, CRSSD has managed to hold tight with its plans. Four Tet, Get Real (Claude VonStroke and Green Velvet), Gorgon City, 070 Shake, Blu DeTiger, Cautious Clay, Chet Faker, Parcels, Franc Moody, Lastlings, SG Lewis and more stack the undercard.

READ MORE HERE


Smokin Groves Fest - 2022 lineup

Smokin Grooves Fest
Location: LA State Historic Park – Los Angeles
Dates: March 19th
Tickets: Buy them here!

Smookin Grooves’ lineup has easily matched what it offered fans in 2018 (read our review here) and 2019 (read our review here) after putting on excellent showings both years sheerly by landing Erykah Badu, Nas, The Roots, Miguel and Jhené Aiko to lead the charge. But adding The Internet, Flying Lotus, Kamasi Washington, Thundercat, Smino, Toro y Moi, SiR, Little Dragon, Hiatus Kaiyote and more to the roster makes this another must-see production. The one-day fest is also getting a change of scenery as it relocates north to the 32-acre LA State Historic Park in the Chinatown neighborhood of downtown LA that once hosted FYF Fest and several HARD events.

READ MORE HERE


Coachella - 2022 lineup

Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival
Location: Empire Polo Club – Indio, CA
Dates: April 15th-17th & April 22nd-24th
Tickets: Buy them here!

The three-day, two-weekend event is finally ready to give it another go in April after becoming one of the first large-scale music festivals in the U.S. to postpone its plans when the COVID-19 pandemic took the world by storm almost two years ago. Harry Styles and Billie Eilish will spearhead the 2022 lineup, with Swedish House Mafia back at Coachella for the first time in a decade since the electronic supergroup’s closing set on the main stage in 2012 and The Weeknd added late to help replace Ye (fka Kanye West). The famed California fest has had a penchant for booking more international acts — from BLACKPINK to Bad Bunny — in recent years, and 2022 will be no different.

READ MORE HERE


BeachLife Festival - 2022 lineup

BeachLife Festival
Location: Seaside Lagoon – Redondo Beach, CA
Dates: May 13th-15th
Tickets: Buy them here!

The three-day event moved to September in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s back to its normal month of May this year with plenty to get excited about. Leading the fest’s third installment will be Weezer and 311 as co-headliners on Friday while The Smashing Pumpkins and Steve Miller Band will have their own days — Saturday and Sunday, respectively — to shine even after the sun dips into the Pacific Ocean. Black Pumas, Vance Joy, Sheryl Crow, Stone Temple Pilots and Lord Huron, in the meantime, anchor an impressive undercard for what’s sure to be a party down by the shore.

READ MORE HERE


Just Like Heaven - 2022 lineup

Just Like Heaven
Location: Brookside at the Rose Bowl – Pasadena, CA
Dates: May 21st
Tickets: Buy them here!

The one-day music festival put on by Goldenvoice, which debuted in 2019 and was an instant success, has dropped a 2022 roster that should be a dream come true for any indie music fan. And after a two-year absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the show is ready to go on again — although this time it’s migrating north from the Queen Mary Park in Long Beach to take over the Brookside Golf Course at the Rose Bowl — and we still can’t remember the last time heaven ever looked this good. NYC indie rockers Interpol will have the honor of headlining this time around, but sets by Modest Mouse, The Shins, M.I.A., Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand, Chromeo, Santigold, Cut Copy, The Hives, Wolf Parade, Peaches, !!!, The Raveonettes and more are likely to leave a lasting impression.

READ MORE HERE


Lightning in a Bottle - 2022 lineup

Lightning in a Bottle
Location: Buena Vista Aquatic Recreation Area – Bakersfield, CA
Dates: May 25th-30th
Tickets: Buy them here!

After being forced to cancel its 15th edition more than 18 months ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the “transformational festival” is returning to Kern County over Memorial Day weekend and The Do LaB has retained a handful of acts on the 2020 roster from headliners like Kaytranada and GRiZ to several undercard standouts such as Purity Ring, Big Wild, Four Tet, Empress Of and Jon Hopkins. But LIB in 2022 will also feature some new blood, starting right at the top of the poster with Glass Animals as well as a pair of Brits in SG Lewis and Little Simz — who are newcomers to the event — on the bill. Other notable names include Chet Faker, Black Coffee, CloZee, Seth Troxler, Monolink, G Jones B2B Eprom, Maya Jane Coles, Goldlink, OPIUO, Chika, Mr. Carmack, Big Freedia, Dirtwire and more, including a Desert Hearts launch party with Lee Reynolds.

READ MORE HERE


BottleRock - 2022 lineup

BottleRock Napa Valley
Location: Napa Valley Expo – Napa, CA
Dates: May 27th-29th
Tickets: Buy them here!

Despite announcing its lineup at the beginning of this year when COVID-19 cases were skyrocketing across the U.S. due to the omicron variant, the three-day event is marching ahead toward its normal timing of Memorial Day weekend after canceling in 2020 and sliding the festivities back to Labor Day weekend in 2021. And much like BottleRock’s previous rosters, 2022’s follows very much in the same vein (i.e. lots of rock ‘n’ roll) with Metallica, P!NK, Twenty One Pilots and Luke Combs topping the bill. The Napa fest’s ninth edition should serve as a special performance for Metallica no less, considering that the legendary heavy-metal band has called the Bay Area home for almost three decades.

READ MORE HERE


Outside Lands - 2022 lineup

Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival
Location: Golden Gate Park – San Francisco
Dates: August 5-7th
Tickets: Buy them here!

After being forced in 2021 to push back its 13th year (read our review here) to Halloween weekend due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the three-day music festival is finally returning to its usual timing in August and spring is when we normally anticipate the lineup dropping every year. But the latest installment of SF’s signature event has a slightly different feel than in years past as Green Day, Post Malone and SZA assume headlining duties with Jack Harlow, Weezer, Phoebe Bridgers, Illenium, Lil Uzi Vert, Kali Uchis, Disclosure, Mitski, Polo & Pan and Anitta leading the undercard. And though all three headliners will be topping the poster at OSL for the first time, Green Day’s performance should carry a little extra weight given that the legacy act is originally from the East Bay.

READ MORE HERE


This Ain't No Picnic Festival 2022

This Ain’t No Picnic
Brookside at the Rose Bowl – Pasadena, CA
Dates: August 27th-28th
Tickets: Buy them here!

Concert promoter Goldenvoice is bringing back This Ain’t No Picnic to SoCal for the first time since 2002 and taking over the Brookside Golf Course at the Rose Bowl for two days in late August (warning: it will be hot) with a killer two-day roster that screams “Pitchfork Fest!” The event has a history of exposing the raw energy of punk-leaning, indie darlings such as Sonic Youth, Sleater-Kinney and Guided by Voices in 1999 before taking another step toward the mainstream by booking Beck, Yo La Tengo, Built to Spill, At the Drive-In and Modest Mouse for its 2000 edition. A couple of NYC products in The Strokes and LCD Soundsystem will serve as headliners in 2022 while the fest’s undercard offers its own set of highlights starting with the reunion of Le Tigre, another NYC product who last reunited in 2016 to give us “I’m with Her” as their latest single.

READ MORE HERE


Primavera Sound Los Angeles - 2022 lineup

Primavera Sound Los Angeles
LA State Historic Park – Los Angeles
Dates: September 16-18th
Tickets: Buy them here!

Primavera Sound has been a staple across the music festival circuit since launching back in 2001 with its Spanish roots firmly planted in Barcelona. But we would be lying if we didn’t admit here that we have eagerly been anticipating the release of Primavera Sound LA’s inaugural lineup, which was originally set to make its U.S. debut in 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic put a hold on things, and that news has finally become a reality with Arctic Monkeys, Lorde and Nine Inch Nails set to headline. That said, Arca, Bicep (Live), Buscabulla, Cigarettes After Sex, Clairo, DARKSIDE, Faye Webster, James Blake, Jehnny Beth, Khruangbin, Kim Gordon, King Krule, Low, Mitski, Stereolab and Tierra Whack have all signed on as well to mark what’s looking like a banner year for live music in the City of Angels.

READ MORE HERE


Which of these music festivals are you going to? Which are you looking forward to the most?

Lightning in a Bottle 2016

Primavera Sound LA drops inaugural 2022 lineup headlined by Arctic Monkeys, Lorde & Nine Inch Nails

Primavera Sound Los Angeles - 2022 lineup

Primavera Sound Los Angeles //
LA State Historic Park – Los Angeles
September 16-18th, 2022 //

The weather outside currently might be a little chilly, but the 2022 festival season in Southern California is already heating up. Just in the last week Smokin Grooves announced its return in March and concert promoter Goldenvoice unleashed its plans to revive the iconic This Ain’t No Picnic next summer to mark what’s sure to be a banner year for live music in the City of Angels.

But we’ve eagerly been anticipating the release of Primavera Sound LA’s inaugural lineup, which was originally set to make its U.S. debut in 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic put a hold on things, and that news has finally become a reality.

Headlining the three-day music festival at the 32-acre LA State Historic Park will be Arctic Monkeys, Lorde and Nine Inch Nails, the latter of which had previously confirmed on social media more than a year ago that they had been booked for the event.

Other highlights on the 2022 roster include Arca, Bicep (Live), Buscabulla, Cigarettes After Sex, Clairo, DARKSIDE, Faye Webster, Fontaines D.C., James Blake, Jehnny Beth, Khruangbin, Kim Gordon, King Krule, Low, Mitski, Paloma Mami, Shygirl, Stereolab, Tierra Whack and more. See the poster above for the rest of the scheduled acts.

Launching back in 2001 with its roots firmly planted in Barcelona, Primavera Sound has been a staple across the music festival circuit for two decades now after expanding in 2012 to Porto under the name NOS Primavera Sound and adding Primavera Weekender since 2019.

You can buy tickets for Primavera Sound LA starting this Friday, December 10th at 10 a.m. PT for just $50 down, but make sure to register here for your presale code. GA passes will start at $399 with VIP available for $925 here. Don’t miss out on what’s sure to be an epic weekend of live music!

Primavera Sound Los Angeles - 2022 daily lineups

UPDATE (February 23rd): Primavera Sound LA has just revealed its daily lineups for 2022, with Lorde headlining Friday, Nine Inch Nails rocking Saturday and Arctic Monkeys closing out the fest on Sunday. Single-day tickets are on sale here right now for $149 (Tier 1) plus fees before increasing to $159 (Tier 2) and $169 (Tier 3).

Primavera Sound Los Angeles - updated 2022 lineup

UPDATE (May 17th): New artists have been added for Primavera Sound LA’s debut this September, including GIVĒON, Girl in Red, Current Joys, Surf Curse, Amyl and the Sniffers, and Jeff Mills. Plus, those who haven’t done so already can still purchase your ticket for just $19.99 down here!

SF Show of the Week // GO4FREE to We Were Promised Jetpacks at GAMH 11/19 (THUR)

We Were Promised JetpacksWritten by Nik Crossman //

We Were Promised Jetpacks with SEOUL //
Great American Music Hall – San Francisco
November 19th, 2015 //

Succeeding with their first gig at Edinburgh High School’s “Battle of the Bands” in 2003, We Were Promised Jetpacks didn’t feel like a proper band until they moved to Glasgow to play “proper gigs at proper venues.” As their sound matured, their music also became strongly influenced by Frightened Rabbit and The Twilight Sad, two Scottish groups who shared the same label FatCat Records.

Releasing their debut album These Four Walls in 2009, these four lads from Scotland gained fame as the LP reached No. 27 on U.S. Billboard Heatseekers chart following the popularity of three singles, including “Quiet Little Voices”. In 2014, multi-instrumentalist Stuart McGachan joined the group and helped with WWPJ’s latest record Unravelling. More than a year after the release of their third full-length album, they continue to tour with 24 U.S. dates lined up for November and December.

This Thursday, these Scottish indie rockers are heading to Great American Music Hall with mysterious Montreal outfit SEOUL opening the show. Tickets are available for $25, or you could win a pair of tickets by submitting your full name and email below.

Contest ends this Thursday at 3 p.m.


Follow Showbams on Twitter for more contest giveaways throughout the week. Be the first to respond to our contest tweets to GO4FREE to these shows:

Low: November 18th (WED) at Great American Music Hall
Corosion of Conformity: November 18th (WED) at Slim’s
Fever the Ghost: November 18th (WED) at Brick & Mortar Music Hall
Gardens & Villa: November 20th (FRI) at The Independent


Win-2-Tickets

Enter your name (First and Last) along with your email below. If you win a contest, you’ll be notified on the day the contest ends (details above).

Like Showbams on Facebook, follow Showbams on Twitter and follow Showbams on Instagram. Subscribe to our social channels for a better chance to win!

CONTEST CLOSED.

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Hardly Strictly Bluegrass: 10 best ‘Hardly Bluegrass’ shows

Hardly-Strictly-Bluegrass-2013_post

The artist lineup for the best free music festival (in the world?), Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, has been released and it’s as strong as ever. The festival began as “Strictly Bluegrass Festival” in 2001 through the hard work of Warren Hellman, the sole benefactor and founder of HSB who passed away in late 2011. Hellman has made sure the festival will continue on long after his death — the investment mogul, banjo performer and all around music fan routinely referred to his festival as a “selfish gift.”

After three years of “Strictly Bluegrass,” Hellman changed the name of the Festival to its current moniker and started inviting acts that strayed from pure bluegrass. In the past few years, San Francisco has witnessed performances from Buckethead, MC Hammer, and Broken Social Scene at Hardly Strictly, so clearly the fest has evolved over 13 years.

And this year there are plenty of acts that are “Hardly Bluegrass” — here are the 10 best looking non-bluegrass shows (and a bonus wildcard) October 4-6, 2013 in Golden Gate Park.


Father John Misty

For a guy that gained traction as ‘the drummer from Fleet Foxes,’ things have certainly changed in the course of 1.5 years for Father John Misty. Now, FJM is more well-known than the group that helped catapult him into contemporary culture. This entire conversation is a moot point as J. Tillman has presented himself as the twenty-first century troubadour, mixing a mentality dripping in Bohemianism with over-the-top stage theatrics. The result is a debaucherous yet beautiful live music performance that should fit nicely into HSB.

And his fall tour promises a new experience — it’s billed as a “Solo Variety Show” featuring comedian Kate Berlant. Doesn’t a Father John Misty show already seem like a solo variety hour? FJM’s San Francisco shows in October will kick off this fall tour, so if you can’t bear the possibility of showing up late to Golden Gate Park and settling on a poor spot, reserve a ticket for his Thursday pre-HSB show at Slim’s. -MIKE FRASH



Sonny and the Sunsets

With such a vast array of acts present on the many stages over the 3 days, it’s a wonder so many local artists are able to be present on the lineup. Well this year, Sonny Smith, and his band the Sunsets, is likely to win over many new fans with his infectious take on folkified psych-pop with a flair for catchy lyrics and a rousing stage presence. The multifaceted front-man connects to his audiences in very intimate ways, so try to catch this rising star before he’s out of reach. -KEVIN QUANDT



First Aid Kit

For a duo whose greatest single (so far) revolves around “Emmylou,” “June,” “Gram” & “Johnny”, it’s really not too surprising to see the sisterly Swedish group First Aid Kit on the Hardly Strictly bill. If the schedule doesn’t preclude them, the ladies from First Aid Kit can catch Emmylou Harris’ set in the flesh at Hellman Hollow (most likely on Sunday).

When thinking about future Hardly Strictly mainstays amongst the new offerings this year, First Aid Kit just seems like the perfect fit going forward. And who would be more perfect than third year “Friday Friends” curator of the Rooster stage Conor Oberst to introduce the group to the festival?

Oberst made a cameo on the final track of First Aid Kit’s excellent 2012 LP The Lion’s Roar, and Klara Söderberg spoke about the experience last year: “People say you should never meet your idols. But for us it’s been the opposite, but that’s because our idols are the coolest, sweetest people.” Klara was referencing Oberst & company, so be sure to get to Golden Gate Park early Friday to secure your spot in Marx Meadow. Expect Oberst to make an appearance with First Aid Kit. -MF



The Evens

Ian MacKaye is not a name most would consider to be present on the bill for Hardly Strictly, but alas Conor Oberst invited the former Minor Threat/Fugazi frontman and his wife Amy Farina to his showcase on Friday. The Evens have a stripped-down punk-folk sound delivered in a guitar and drums format with husband and wife handling vocals equally. McCaye’s most consistent project after Fugazi demonstrates that a mellowed out sound is where his passions are now after years of hardcore and punk. You won’t be the only one calling in sick on Friday, October 4th. -KQ



Gogol Bordello

Gypsy-punk ensemble Gogol Bordello certainly fall into the “Hardly Bluegrass” category of this quintessential SF music fest. Eugene Hütz is the lead force of the bombastic, ecstatic curators of weird and crazy, but as many as five performers step into the spotlight to contribute vocals throughout any given song. A Gogol Bordello performance boarders on surrealism, projecting a humorous party atmosphere that is irresistible to join in on — just ask anyone in their small but loyal (and rabid) fan club near the front. -MF



Allah-Las

Hopefully the throngs of attendees will be rewarded with one of those perfect Indian Summer weekends; sun shining, a few patchy clouds and a steady on-shore breeze from the Pacific. Essentially a perfect storm to enjoy the lo-fi, surfed-out sound of LA band, the Allah-las. These garage rock wunderkids have been blazing a trail across the Western US with their melancholic, yet optimistic, take on traditional rock and roll. Tinges of psychedelia will certainly nod to the origins of loud, outdoor music events in Golden Gate Park. -KQ



The Wood Brothers

The Wood Brothers, Oliver and Chris Wood, procure roots-influenced folk rock that is simple and effective. The focus here is on straightforward lyricism, along with basic acoustic guitar and upright bass with simple rhythm backing. Chris Wood is better known as the bassist from Medeski, Martin & Wood, a jazz-fusion trio that has often included John Scofield in recent years. While you won’t hear a lick of vocals with MMW, The Wood Brothers should get music fans swooning and swaying come October.-MF



Low

These Minnesotan slow rockers have been mystifying their audiences for 20 years with a blend of muted tempos and minimized song stylings. Low are considered ‘slowcore’ mavericks, and have been heralded for dynamic stage shows that reach exploratory levels, especially in reinterpretations of cover songs from Toto to Outkast. An “anything goes” attitude is needed for the large crowds and distances at HSB, so might as well take another chance with indie demigods, Low. -KQ



Calexico

Named after the border town of Calexico California, Calexico aren’t your typical indie group. Aspects of Latin, country, jazz & rock can be gleaned from this band that has been going at it for about 15 years — but the overall product sounds mysterious and rambling. Joey Burns & John Convertino are the two constants in Calexico, who continue to tour on their 2012 LP, Algiers. Calexico will also be performing at Slim’s Friday night. -MF



Betty LaVette

50 years of soul singing makes Betty Lavette one of the vets in the industry, even if she is still a relatively new name to music lovers. A wide range of influences also lends to a truly unique voice and writing style, which is likely to thrill patrons of all ages. Her rise to fame was relatively late in her career, but she has since graced many of the biggest stages and collaborated with a “who’s who” of legends such as Sir Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. A sunday morning slot could be a perfect way to ease into the final day. -KQ


WILDCARD BONUS:

String Cheese Incident

String Cheese Incident and the circus that follows the group on the road will most likely bring their joyful sound to the Satr Stage. Kyle Hollingsworth, keyboardist of SCI, appeared last year alongside Steve Kimock, Keller Williams & Bernie Worrell Sunday evening at the Star Stage — so maybe Hollingsworth (and Keller) convinced the rest of the group that HSB is a worthwhile festival to contribute to, for all the right reasons.

Will SCI play to the roots of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass by honing in on bluegrass numbers like “Good Times Around the Bend” & “Restless Wind”, or will the group curate a ‘normal’ show by incorporating jamtronica classics like “Rivertrance” or mind-melters like “Miss Brown’s Teahouse” or “Jellyfish”? -MF

THANKS-WARREN

New Music Tuesday: Justin Timberlake • Black Rebel Motorcycle Club • Palma Violets • Phosphorescent • Low

Justin Timberlake - The 20/20 Experience

Every Tuesday, we focus on new music releases by naming our top tracks, album highlights, lowlights and important takeaways for select albums.


Justin TimberlakeThe 20/20 Experience

3-BamsTop Tracks:
“Pusher Love Girl”
“Suit & Tie”
“Strawberry Bubblegum”

Album Highlights: Justin Timberlake, boy band heartthrob gone full-blown-pop-megastar-actor-sex-symbol, has released one of the most interesting R&B pop albums in years. The 20/20 Experience is an album of two halves. First there’s the radio-edit half, mostly catchy pop tunes that are, for the most part, pretty standard. Then there’s the musical outro half. The dancey half, booty-shakin half. Most tracks on 20/20 are over 7 minutes, and contain an extended dance outro. Songs like “Pusher Love Girl,” “Don’t Hold the Wall” and “Strawberry Bubblegum,” to name a few, have extended dance time. This second half concept is what makes the album so interesting, and it opens the door to unlimited musical possibilities. From the dirty south to jazz clubs, this album touches upon many genres and styles. With The 20/20 Experience, Timberlake can have his cake and eat it, too.

I love it and I hate at the same time. It’s so poppy and produced, yet it hooks you with the musical interludes. There really is something for everyone on this record.

Album Lowlight: This album draws from so much of what has been done in the past. The beat in “Suit & Tie” sounds like an updated version of the beat from Outkast’s “Rosa Parks.” But it works, that’s why it’s so popular.

Takeaway: JT has created an album that contains songs with two distinct halves. The first half, the radio-friendly half, will be heard on AM/FM dials from here to Bombay. The second half, the half that makes me want to buy $10 watered down cocktails and grind on the dance floor until sunrise, will be responsible for unplanned pregnancies for years to come. Don’t expect to have a quiet evening with Pintrest and your hubbie while sipping Gewurztraminer in your snuggie with 20/20. Expect to channel your inner R. Kelly and bump n’ grind to this album. It is this yin-yang dynamic that makes this album worth a listen.

And just when you’ve had enough Justin, Timberlake announced on Monday that the second half to The 20/20 Experience is on the way.

~Kevin Raos


Black Rebel Motorcycle ClubSpecter at the Feast

3.5-BamsTop Tracks:
“Fire Walker”
“Hate the Taste”
“Funny Games”

Album Highlights: This seventh full-length release from the leather clad rockers signifies their return after years off the radar, and they have turned a painful time (death of crew member) into one of their best albums to date. A split album of heavy and mellow rock is evident, but doesn’t detract much as the album acts as tribute to a fallen brethren. Fuzzed out guitar and bass has made it’s way back to the forefront as demonstrated on soul-tinged track, “Hate the Taste.” The brooding tension on “Sell It” is some of the heaviest music out of these guys, and is one track you can’t resist head-banging to.

Album Lowlight: Nothing ground-breaking from this rock band. Though they weren’t active 20 years ago, the album does have a sound that might have been more palpable in the 1990s, alongside bands like Alice in Chains and Tool.

Takeaway: Specter at the Feast features the band’s return to straight ahead garage rock after flourishes in alt-country and outlying styles. Expect a big year from them as this record will win over new fans while fulfilling the desires of almost all longtime fans with a return to the B.R.M.C. sound that launched their career. A must listen for fans of harder-edged music, and a repeater for fans of leather jackets and true rock and roll.

~Kevin Quandt


Palma Violets180

2.5-BamsTop Tracks:
“Step Up for the Cool Cats”
“Rattlesnake Highway”
“I Found Love”

Album Highlights: Reminiscent of a western themed battle hymn, the band channels punk rock roots in the format and lyrical structure of “Chicken Dippers”. Equal parts a moody ballad and rockabilly revamp, “Chicken Dippers” showcases both the band’s musical talent and songwriting ingenuity. A creative risk uncommon on most debut albums, Palma Violets pulled this track off with the bravado of seasoned professionals.

Album Lowlight: Sounding more like the band professionally edited this during a studio warm up, the lyrics to “Last of the Summer Wine” are lackluster and the song’s composition is all over the place. This track’s delayed pick up leaves you in anticipation for a climax which is never fully reached, bottoming out awkwardly into a conclusion that even the band talked through while recording. Guess they were that bored.

Takeaway: A stomp box and surf guitar riff lead you into the lo-fi “Best of Friends” that instantly hooks you from the moment Sam Fryer shrieks out the opening lyrics. An homage to the clangy Brit rock singalongs of the late 60’s, Palma Violets produce a rousing garage rock anthem bound to be a crowd favorite during live performances. This track is not only the perfect introduction to the bands overall sound, but also is the strongest representation of their group dynamic on the album.

~Molly Kish


PhosphorescentMuchacho

4-BamsTop Tracks:
“Song for Zula”
“The Quotidian Beasts”
“A Charm / A Blade”

Album Highlights: If all “country music” sounded this good, I might be able to move away from the city. The opening “Invocation” and closing “Exit” songs frame Muchacho with such sonically delightful harmonization that the bookend helps all tracks within it shine. “Song for Zula,” the second track on the record, is surely in the running for best song of the year going forward. Matthew Houck’s spiritual voice is matched by a layering and swelling of strings. The track is striking as a timeless song at first listen, and it succeeds while hardly rooting itself in any of today’s trends. “Song for Zula” holds so much emotion it’s cinematic – the song could carry a boring montage to lofty heights and probably will. The third track “Ride On / Right On” is based around a crunchy beat and distorted guitar, creating a contrasting instrumental base for Houck’s vocals. Either way, whether featuring his voice over a symphonic, hopeful chorus or a steady distorted head-bobber, it all works magnificently.

Album Lowlight: The standard country arrangements in “Terror in the Canyons” and “Muchacho’s Tune” cause the tracks to end up hidden within the scope of the record, yet these cuts provide just enough pause to help you realize how easy this record is to absorb, and how addictive it is.

Takeaway: It’s all win for the most diverse-sounding and best Phosphorescent album yet. Muchacho is a soaring LP, and one of the best so far this year. The latter third of the record, from “A New Anhedonia” through the end, might be the strongest section. It’s power lies within “The Quotidian Beasts,” an epic track in the vein of Crazy Horse and The Allman Brothers that might serve as a rambling set-closer live. Instantly catchy yet nuanced, Muchacho achieves an elevated sound quality and long-lasting resonance through varied arrangements that serve as a continuous bed for Houck’s desperate, searching voice.

~Mike Frash


LowThe Invisible Way

3-BamsTop Tracks:
“Plastic Cup”
“Holy Ghost”
“Just Make It Stop”

Album Highlights: The subtle guitar and piano work fits perfectly with the angelic harmonies of husband and wife duo of Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker. The simpleness of this album is what makes the harmonies truly stand out and makes this album special.

Album Lowlight: The pace of the album is really slow, so if you’re looking for a jump start to your day this album is not for you.

Takeaway: Producer Jeff Tweedy from Wilco seemed to stay out of the way in his production duties and let the trio truly shine on their own. The harmonies and lyrics are what stand out on this album, especially the album opener “Plastic Cup,” where Sparhawk explains how our trash will be looked upon as a kings treasure in the future.

~Pete Mauch