The Bam Team’s 5 Favorite Albums & Songs of 2020

Best of 2020 - Run the Jewels, My Morning Jacket, Fiona Apple, Hum, Fleet Foxes

Wow, 2020 … what can we say? This year will certainly be remembered for a lot of things, but none more so than the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic that has ravaged both the U.S. and world over the last 10 months and forced the live music industry to mostly shutter as musicians pivoted to livestreams and drive-in concerts to keep the show going as best they could. Along the way, we lost musical legends who spanned multiple generations from Neil Peart to Bill Withers to John Prine to Little Richard to Eddie Van Halen to MF DOOM — some due to COVID-19 unfortunately — making these past 12 months even more painful to endure than they already were. Ready to officially flush 2020 down the toilet and start anew? Don’t worry … you’re not alone!

In retrospect though, it has been a very quiet year for The Bam Team. You’ll notice there haven’t been a lot of updates in this space, and that’s partly due to the lack of live music on Planet Earth right now. But it’s also been a hectic time for all of us as we try to navigate our way out of these dark days and into some brighter ones, and like any good remedy nowadays, new music has definitely played its part in helping us physically and emotionally cope with the chaos.

It’s why after several months of inactivity here, we decided to dust the cobwebs off Showbams and deliver a modified version of our annual “Best of” lists like we have done since this blog first started (see our 2019 picks here). While that doesn’t mean we had time to hear and dissect every new album or song in the last 365 days — we are still in a pandemic after all — sharing our own individual picks offers a fun and stimulating opportunity for us to reflect on the year that was in music.

So, without further ado, Showbams presents The Bam Team’s five favorite albums and songs from 2020.

Listen to The Bam Team’s favorite songs of 2020:


Run the Jewels - RTJ4

Josh Herwitt // Los Angeles

Top 5 Albums of 2020
1. Run the Jewels – RTJ4
One might think that after three critically acclaimed albums with some of the most socially and politically charged material since Rage Against the Machine burst onto the scene, it would only seem natural for Run the Jewels’ act to turn a little stale by their fourth time around. But despite the three-year wait for RTJ4, the longest that the hip-hop duo has gone between releases, the final product — like a fine wine — has only gotten better with time. Anchored by stellar production (a RTJ trademark) and provocative rhymes, the 11-track offering sees the two emcees sounding off on everything from corporate greed to police brutality just days after the tragic death of George Floyd. It also boasts a guest list loaded with star power, with DJ Premier, 2 Chainz, Pharrell Williams, Zack de la Rocha, Mavis Staples and Josh Homme each lending a hand while El-P and Killer Mike inject truth serum into our ears with one verbal haymaker after another. In what proved to be a shitstorm of a year, this was the soundtrack a lot of us needed to survive 2020.

2. My Morning Jacket – The Waterfall II
3. Fleet Foxes – Shore
4. Tame Impala – The Slow Rush
5. Caribou – Suddenly

Favorite live album: Sylvan Esso – WITH

Top 5 Songs of 2020
1. Royal Blood – “Trouble’s Coming”
The British rock duo composed of lead singer/bassist Mike Kerr and drummer Ben Thatcher are gearing up to drop their third LP in 2021 and wisely chose to wet our palette with an absolute banger for its lead single. “Trouble’s Coming” has all the makings of a Royal Blood song — catchy bass riffs that sound like they’re coming out of a guitar, heavy-metal drums and Kerr’s falsetto vocals — while charting a slightly different path for the band, one that conjures up some serious 70’s disco vibes. Just watch this scene from Charlie’s Angels to see what we mean, and if you have a pair of fingerless leather gloves handy, you might as well put those on too. We think Sam Rockwell would approve.

2. My Morning Jacket – “Wasted”
3. Run the Jewels – “JU$T” feat. Pharrell Williams & Zack de la Rocha
4. Pearl Jam – “Dance of the Clairvoyants”
5. Sylvan Esso – “Ferris Wheel”

Favorite remix: Bonobo – “Final Days” (Michael Kiwanuka)


Hum - Inlet

Andrew Pohl // San Francisco

Top 5 Albums of 2020
1. Hum – Inlet
This four-piece’s fifth studio effort came as a complete surprise when it dropped in June, and it was honestly THE album I needed. Being knee-deep into the COVID-19 pandemic, I wasn’t sure what the rest of the year would look like musically, and it was exactly the type of record that hits all the marks for me. It’s sonically huge, it showcases Hum’s trademark ultra-layered, dense instrumentation and it ebbs and flows between energetic and emotive. Inlet was easily my most-listened-to album in 2020.

2. Coriky – Coriky
3. PEARS – PEARS
4. Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters
5. Run the Jewels – RTJ4

Favorite live album: NOFX – The Decline (Live at Red Rocks)

Top 5 Songs of 2020
1. Run the Jewels – “Walking in the Snow”
Oh man, this track was just the thing I needed during what may have been one of the most tense times in modern history. And like all of RTJ4, it absolutely crushes as El-P and Killer Mike bring their signature styles to full effect on this dramatic, yet bouncy tune. The middle section, which sees Mike taking the lead, is not only effective, prophetic and timely, but it also serves as a reminder that the time for action is now and that history has a tendency to repeat itself if we’re not careful. Check out the song’s brand-new music video here, too.

2. Hum – “Desert Rambler”
3. IDLES – “War”
4. Middle-Aged Queers – “Gary’s Making Biscuits”
5. PEARS – “Zero Wheels”

Favorite remix: Squarepusher – “Pink Maggit” (Deftones)


Fiona Apple - Fetch the Bolt Cutters

Rochelle Shipman // Los Angeles

Top 5 Albums of 2020
1. Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters
I almost feel cheated that my two No. 1 picks went to the same artist, but this year belonged to Fiona as much as it did to Dr. Fauci. FTBC busted us out of our mental prisons and allowed us to imagine our lives were more exciting than they actually were in 2020. It reminded us that we are strong enough to survive anything, to use our voices to speak even louder for what we believe in and that we can work on our own healing even if we can’t quite get outside. Ms. Apple set women free together.

2. Fleet Foxes – Shore
3. Mura Masa – R.Y.C.
4. Kari Faux – Lowkey Superstar
5. Liv.e – Couldn’t Wait to Tell You…

Favorite live album: Dolores Diaz & The Standby Club – Live at O’Leaver’s

Top 5 Songs of 2020
1. Fiona Apple – “Shameika”
This is a badass, “can-do” tune that was inspired by a passing comment made decades ago, one Fiona surely never thought twice about until now. And as she pounds the piano with the strength of RBG, it’s clear that this is the song 2020 needed — not to mention that it came full circle, inspiring Shameika herself all these years later. Sweet.

2. Noname – “Song 33”
3. Open Mike Eagle feat. Kari Faux – “Bucciarati”
4. Liv.e – “Lessons From My Mistakes…but I Lost Your Number”
5. Quakers feat. Sampa the Great – “Approach with Caution”

Favorite remix: Thundercat feat. Smino & Guapdad 4000 – “Dragonball Durag”

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BottleRock taps Imagine Dragons, Neil Young and Mumford & Sons to headline 2019 edition

BottleRock - 2019 lineup

BottleRock Napa Valley //
Napa Valley Expo – Napa, CA
May 24th-26th, 2019 //

If you didn’t hear, festival season is officially back.

With Coachella releasing its 2019 lineup last week just two days into the New Year, many other large-scale music festivals are gearing up to unveil their rosters. Up in Napa Valley, BottleRock has done just that with Imagine Dragons, Neil Young and Mumford & Sons topping the bill for its seventh edition this Memorial Day weekend after Bruno Mars, The Killers and Muse led the way for the 2018 installment. For the 73-year-old Young, it will mark his first date in California with Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real backing him since their headlining performance last June at Arroyo Seco Weekend (read our review here).

More than 80 artists and bands will once again hit downtown Napa to perform at the three-day event in late May, including Logic, Pharrell Williams, Santana, OneRepublic, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, Tash Sultana, Sylvan Esso, Gary Clark Jr., Lord Huron, Flogging Molly, Juanes, Michael Franti & Spearhead, AJR, Cypress Hill, Big Boi and many more. Plus, live cooking demonstrations between a variety of celebrity chefs and Hollywood stars, from musicians to athletes, will return to BottleRock’s beloved Williams-Sonoma Culinary Stage.

Tickets go on sale this Tuesday, January 8th at 10 a.m. PT here and start at $359 for a three-day GA pass (or $159 for a one-day). Both three-day VIP and platinum passes are already sold out, but you can buy a one-day VIP pass for $349 and a three-day skydeck pass for an eye-popping $1,599 if you really want to go big.

BottleRock Napa Valley 2016 - The Struts

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 Empire 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, Empire Polo Fields, where it all started fifteen 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.

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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

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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

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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

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

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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

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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”.

Chromeo

• 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.

Disclosure

• 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!

Girls-on-Fire-Main-Stage-Tim

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. 

Mad-Rush-Tim

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.

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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.
 
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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
Santana
Neutral Milk Hotel
Janelle Monae
DARKSIDE
Mac Demarco

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New Music Tuesday: Pharrell • The Men • Drive-By Truckers • Real Estate • Eagulls • Kimono Kult

Pharrell

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


Pharrell WilliamsG I R L

4-BamsTop Tracks:
“Brand New”
“Happy”
“Come Get It Bae”

Album Highlights: It’s been eight years since Pharrell delivered his first solo effort, In My Mind, though he has been plenty busy in the meantime. Whether it’s his falsetto contributions to “Get Lucky” or backing Robin Thicke on his breakout single, Williams really has had the best year out of anyone in music. We all know and love (for now) the lead single off of G I R L, “Happy,” but the other nine tracks on this release will be new gems as we push into springtime.

Obviously this is a feel-good album, playing heavily on Williams’ pop neo-soul sound that he has been cultivated after his time with alternative hip-hop act N.E.R.D. Musically, nods to Jamiroquai, Jackson 5 and Prince are distinguishable while Hans Zimmer’s string arrangements add elements of sophisticated disco. Pharrell’s presence in the industry combined with his understanding of contemporary pop-music lend to a ton of standout tracks that really feel different from one another. Miley Cyrus guests on the funk banger “Come Get It Bae,” and is disgustingly infectious, sure to be a fan favorite. Though Daft Punk was officially left off the track list, “Gust of Wind” is the song they are featured on as Nile Rodgers-esque guitar sections lead to the manipulated vocals we have come to love from these French robots. Another standout appearance comes from Alicia Keys on the girl-power, reggae tinged track, “Know Who You Are.” Her sultry vocals do offer a nice respite before the auto-tuned closer “It Girl.”

Album Lowlight: Though the album is admirably considered to be a slight concept album, focusing on a more positive outlook on females in music (slightly motivated by “Blurred Lines” backlash), it really doesn’t need agenda. Also, the lyrics Pharrell penned don’t shine brightly, especially compared to the music that accompanies. One wonders how long Pharrell had been working on the production side while he should have been spending some time with pen and paper.

Takeaway: Pure, unadulterated enjoyment at it’s freshest and finest. Seems like we should start calling him Midas as Williams has the golden touch these days, so it’s no surprise that G I R L is sure to be a success on multiple levels. Pharrell is still rising stock after 2013, and he’s likely doubled his fan base in 12 months whether it was the 24-hour music video to “Happy” or even, dare I mention, his now-owned-by-Arbys Grammy headwear. Williams has also seemed to further his popular falsetto singing, and really shines alongside, equally falsetto-heavy singer, Justin Timberlake on “Brand New.” With that said, this may be the final piece in what will be dubbed the ‘Pharrell Williams sound.’

~Kevin Quandt


Drive-By TruckersEnglish Oceans

3-Bams

Top Tracks:
“Grand Canyon”
“When Walter Went Crazy”
“Pauline Hawkins”

Album Highlights: The Drive-By Truckers did something they never do for their 10th studio album, English Oceans — they split song-writing duties between long time band members Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley. Generally, Hood has been the primary songwriter of all the Truckers’ material. The results of this shared duty is a contrasting album ripe with vivid lyrics and story-telling. My favorite part of the record comes in the final two minutes of the album, during “Grand Canyon,” when the band finds a great psychedelic groove to close out the record.

Album Lowlight: The lyrics shine on this record. However, there is much left to be desired in the instrumental department. Most of the songs are straight up alt-country rock songs that struggle to capture listener attention. The storytelling, however, makes up for the pedestrian musicianship. I think this is more a product of their genre and style than their actual musical ability, because it is quite apparent the Drive-By Truckers are extremely comfortable and accomplished musicians.

Takeaway: Fans of the Drive-By Truckers, and alt-country rock fans in general, will probably love this album. As great as the storytelling is on this record, I simply get bored by the musicianship. The Drive-By Truckers have been around since the 90’s and are clearly trying to mix things up — the dual voice quality to this record give it a very interesting perspective that many of the previous DBT albums lacked.

~Kevin Raos


Real EstateAtlas

3.5-BamsTop Tracks:
“Had to Hear”
“Past Lives”
“The Bend”

Album Highlights: Real Estate are still one of the best purveyors of breezy, chill rock that is perfect for a day at the beach or a drive down the coast. Unlike Days and Real Estate, this day at the beach has a few clouds hanging overhead as the New Jersey crew begins to mature lyrically and look more inward. Though the subject matters have shifted, the sound has stayed true to their roots as swirly guitars are still the ‘king of the beach’.

“Primitive” is one standout track that features a slightly adventuresome guitar romp towards the end. “Horizon” is a late gift on Atlas as it features a more-catchy, upbeat vibe, and likely would have benefitted from an earlier spot on the album. In true Real Estate fashion, there is one instrumental “April’s Song,” as well as one song sung by bassist Alex Bleeker entitled, “How Might I Live.” One aspect of Real Estate which is different this time around is the addition of Girls’ keyboardist, Matt Kallman. This latest member is subdued in the mix, adding subtle elements and figuring his place in this once string-oriented act. An added density of sound is also present which will add to sustained replay value, hopefully long enough to reach those sunny months ahead.

Album Lowlight: I suppose if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Real Estate have crafted an empire off their laid-back sound years ago, and though the sound hasn’t really progressed it’s still entirely enjoyable. Basically, they are good at what they do, however this writer has to wonder if, and when, this trend will break to display an evolving sound and maturing musicianship that isn’t afraid to take a chance once in a while.

Takeaway: Fans of the group are sure to be thrilled to have another 10 tracks of lazy tunes to toss on during an early afternoon BBQ or an exodus to some body of water. Maybe it’s a surprise that there are really no surprises in Atlas, even if the lyrical content has moved towards something more personal than benign. Real Estate make great records, and Atlas continues this trend as they continue to break from the underground to something viable to a larger audience.

~Kevin Quandt


EagullsEagulls

3.5-BamsTop Tracks:
“Tough Luck”
“Possessed”
“Nerve Endings”

Album Highlights: This English quintet get down and dirty in their self-titled release, delivering one hell of a rock album. The sheer grittiness of each song makes you eager to hear what the next one will bring to the table. “Tough Luck” is the standout song that pairs an extremely catchy hook, colossal guitar work, and a thunderous bass line. This song is a straight rocker that leads its way to a different, slower direction by the time the song ends, which worked perfectly. The next highlight is the swirling guitar work and the gritty snarls of George Mitchell belting out the lyrics to “Possessed.” This song is extremely catchy, but still brings that certain edginess that these guys are going to be known for.

Album Lowlight: There’s not a whole lot that I would call lowlights, but the album seems to melt together, so its hard to pick out songs. Many of the chorus’ are just the repetition of a single word, but there’s a side of me that likes that simplicity, so that could go either way.

Takeaway: These rockers from across the pond made a very solid and concise album that is sure to catch momentum, and I’m sure I will be playing this album quite a few times this year. This release makes me want to catch these guys live as it’s sure to be an energetic, raucous show. If you’re a fan of gritty English rock, or Brooklyn’s own Parquet Courts, then I highly recommend this album. BAM!

~Pete Mauch


Kimono KultHiding in the Light

2.5 BamsTop Tracks:
“Todo Menos El Dolor”
“La Cancion De Alejandra”

Album Highlights: Any die-hard fan of the Red Hot Chili Peppers or The Mars Volta likely knows that both bands were tied to one another in the past. Former RHCP bandmates Flea and John Frusciante, after all, were key contributors during the recording sessions for TMV’s De-Loused in the Comatorium (2003) and Amputechture (2006), and the two outfits spent quite a bit of time together on the road. So, it should be no surprise to see Frusciante, who left RCHP in 2008 to focus on his solo career, hooking back up with fellow axe man Omar Rodríguez-López, who put TMV on hiatus in 2012 (despite the band dissolving four months later) to start Bosnian Rainbows with Le Butcherettes vocalist/guitarist Teri Gender Bender.

While Frusciante and Rodríguez-López provide Kimono Kult with the star power most new bands dream of having, the project is really Swahili Blonde drummer Nicole Turley’s baby. Turley, who recorded and produced the sextet’s debut EP Hiding in the Light on her own label Neurotic Yell Records, has described the record as “four songs of electro/dub/afro-beat/avant-freak/jazz-like conversations of instrumental ecstasy.” If that means sounding like a more electronic version of TMV, then she might actually be on to something. With Gender Bender on board, it’s pretty easy to see the similarities. Between her Spanish lyrics and high-pitched vocals, you could easily mistake Gender Bender for former TMV frontman Cedric Bixler-Zavala. That’s about where the comparisons end, though. With the longest song on Hiding in the Light clocking in at 3:23, these aren’t exactly the 25-minute sonic explorations that many longtime TMV fans grew accustomed to hearing.

Album Lowlight: After Turley cooks up a groovy backbeat on the opening track “Todo Menos El Dolor,” the ensuing “Las Esposas” is where things start to get weird — the kind of weird that we’re used to hearing from Rodríguez-López by now. Unfortunately, a lot of times that can also be Rodríguez-López’s biggest downfall when it comes to his songwriting ability, and in Kimono Kult’s case, sounding weird just for the sake of sounding weird doesn’t work all that well. Consequently, most of Hiding in the Light lacks much of the same listen-ability that “Todo Menos El Dolor” retains, making it easy to understand why it was the first track the band released.

Let’s also be honest — it’s not easy to make a rock band that sings almost entirely in Spanish accessible to a U.S. audience. But it’s not just the language barrier on Hiding in the Light that presents a challenge for listeners. The jangly organ line that overwhelms the beginning of “La Vida Es Una Caja Hermosa” grows tiresome rather quickly, and although the Latin guitar effect offers a nice twist on ballad finale “La Cancion De Alejandra,” the song is too short for it to build any momentum. If Hiding in the Light is only a slice of what Kimono Kult has to offer, it may just be one of this supergroup’s early growing pains.

Takeaway: It’s hard to say anything definitive about a band that only has four songs to its name right now, so it’s probably best to take the wait-and-see approach with Kimono Kult — it just might require a bit of your patience. With Frusciante and Rodríguez-López bringing on board other talented musicians like instrumentalists Dante White (Dante Vs. Zombies) and Laena Geronimo (Raw Geronimo), you’d like to think that there’s bound to be some magic made in the studio. Still, there are no guarantees that will happen.

On the whole, Kimono Kult feels very much like an experiment at this point, and that’s probably fitting considering that all of these songs sound quite experimental at their core. Yet, by the same token, that’s also how Rodríguez-López has been looking at all of his endeavors lately, which means there’s no way of knowing what Kimono Kult’s lifespan will be.

~Josh Herwitt

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

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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.

SUN


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 Fields 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.


EDM

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.

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