The 25 best live music acts of 2016

Best live music acts of 2016

As we officially place 2016 in the history books, it’s time to look back at all the live music we experienced this year. Last year we shared our 25 favorite live performers of 2015, so this year we thought we would do it again while excluding any artists we named in 2015. After all, who really wants to see the same acts listed two years in a row? That said, now that we’re two years removed, our 25 favorite live performers of 2014 were once again fair game.

After covering many excellent bands, musicians and DJs over the past 12 months, trimming our list down to 25 wasn’t easy and as usual, some difficult decisions had to be made. Those who didn’t make the cut but still deserve to be mentioned here include the following artists, DJs and bands (in alphabetical order) whom we either covered at their own show and/or at a music festival this year:

Adrian Younge, Air, Alessia Cara, Alina Baraz, AlunaGeorge, Alvvays, The Arcs, A$AP Ferg, Atlas Genius, Aubrie Sellers, The Avett Brothers, Bag Raiders, Baio, Banks & Steelz, Bas, Battles, Beats Antique, Beach House, Best Coast, Big Freedia, Big Gigantic, Big Grams, Big Wild, Bloc Party, Bob Mould, The Boxer Rebellion, Brand New, Brett Dennen, The California Honeydrops, Capital Cities, Cate Le Bon, Chairlift, Chelsea Wolfe, !!! (Chk Chk Chk), Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Chuck Mosley, Chromeo, Claude VonStroke, The Claypool Lennon Delirium, Cold War Kids, The Crux, Dan Deacon, Danny Brown, Deftones, The Devil Makes Three, Dirtwire, Disclosure, DMA’s, DMX, Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors, Duran Duran, Every Time I Die, Emancipator Ensemble, Ezra Furman, Faith No More, The Faint, Fantastic Negrito, Femi Kuti, Florence + the Machine, Flume, Fruition, The Gaslamp Killer, Geographer, Glass Animals, Gorgon City, Grimes, Halsey, The Head and the Heart, Heartwatch, The Heavy, Highly Suspect, Hippie Sabotage, Holy Fuck, How to Dress Well, Hudson Mohawke, Hundred Waters, IAMX, Ibeyi, Ice Cube, Iggy Pop, The Infamous Stringdusters, Jack Beats, Jack Garratt, Jack Ü, James Bay, Jamie xx, J. Cole, Jimmie Vaughn, Jhené Aiko, The Joy Formidable, Joywave, Julia Holter, Julien Baker, Kaki King, Kamaiyah, Kamasi Washington, Kehlani, K.Flay, The Kills, Kurt Vile, Lafa Taylor, Lana Del Rey, Låpsley, Les Sins, Lettuce, Lionel Richie, Lord Huron, Little Scream, Lucius, M83, Major Lazer, Marian Hill, Mayer Hawthorne, MC YOGI, Methyl Ethel, Metric, Miami Horror, Mick Jenkins, Midi Matilda, Miguel Migs, Modest Mouse, Moon Taxi, M. Ward, Nahko & Medicine for the People, The Naked and Famous, Nas, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Neon Indian, Nick Murphy (fka Chet Faker), Nite Jewel, Panic! at the Disco, Parliament-Funkadelic, Peaches, Petite Noir, The Pharcyde, The Polish Ambassador, Porches, Prince Rama, Purity Ring, Pusha T, Radiohead, Ra Ra Riot, The Regrettes, The Revivalists, RJD2, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Rogue Wave, Rubblebucket, Run the Jewels, The Russ Liquid Test, Ryan Adams, The Sam Chase & The Untraditional, Saosin, Sarah Neufeld, The Seshen, Shabazz Palaces, Shlohmo, Silversun Pickups, Snakehips, Solange, Son Little, St. Lucia, Stormzy, The Struts, STS9, Sturgill Simpson, Sufjan Stevens, Summer Cannibals, Sunflower Bean, Sigur Rós, St. Germain, Sylvan Esso, Tacocat, Taking Back Sunday, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Thao & the Get Down Stay Down, This Will Destroy You, Thomas Jack, Thundercat, Toro y Moi, Tortoise, Tory Lanez, Tourist, The Trims, Troye Sivan, Umphrey’s McGee, Viceroy, Vince Staples, Vokab Company, Walk the Moon, Warpaint, Wavves, Weezer, Wheeler Walker Jr., White Denim, Wild Belle, Wild Nothing, Years & Years, Yeasayer, YG, Young Fathers, Yuck, ZHU, Ziggy Marley.

Now, it’s time for The Bam Team to present our 25 favorite live performers of 2016.

The Bam Team’s 5 Favorite Shows, Albums & Songs of 2016

Listen to The Bam Team’s favorite songs of 2016:


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #25 - Tycho

25. Tycho

For as much as Epoch was a surprise, so were Tycho’s two most recent shows in LA last week. It was the first time Hansen and company had played The Fonda Theatre since the Awake tour back in 2014, and Thursday’s sellout, which was announced less than a week before the show, along with the subsequent need to add a second date the next night, made it clear that more than ever, Angelinos have a strong appetite for what Hansen is doing on both a musical and visual level. It helps, too, that KCRW Music Director Jason Bentley, who opened the shows at The Fonda with a DJ set, has helped expose Tycho to a broader audience, whether through the “Morning Becomes Eclectic” theme song or live, in-studio performances by the band. Even nowadays with an abundance of streaming sites, you can’t underestimate the power of radio in a city with a driving culture as large as LA’s. And truth be told, Tycho is some of the best music to drive to, especially when you’re surrounded by nature. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #24 - Isaiah Rashad

24. Isaiah Rashad

And when it did, Rashad torpedoed onto stage and turned the restlessness in the room on its head with “Smile”, the apropos homecoming banger he released after years of uncertainty that followed his 2014 EP Cilvia Demo. It was fitting because prior to his reemergence, which was sparked by the song, Rashad admitted to being addicted to Xanax and alcohol, and it almost led to him being dropped from his West Coast record label on several occasions. From his issues with substance abuse to the tears he shed while listening to Kid Cudi’s music and his open-book thoughts on the humanizing of mental-health issues, Rashad’s journey from being the contemplative unknown in superstar Kendrick Lamar’s crew to a complete artist deserving of your attention has been steeped in honesty. -Joseph Gray, photo by Joseph Gray


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #23 - Bob Moses

23. Bob Moses

Needless to say, worn-out axioms failed to apply in this scenario. Bob Moses silenced anyone attempting to pass them off as yet another contrived electropop outfit aiming to please the masses. At Mezzanine, both Howie and Vallance proved their prowess as EDM innovators, bringing more to the stage than a couple of laptops and a pretty light show. Surprising those unfamiliar with their work or expecting to be underwhelmed, Bob Moses have elevated the live electronic game for their respective contemporaries and succeeded in defining a new chapter for the genre — an innovative sound standard that’s all their own. -Molly Kish, photo by Lisette Worster


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #22 - Floating Points

22. Floating Points

The band continued building on its rhythms and melodies, creating a hypnotic feeling that was filled with textured synthesizers, guitar pedals and consummate percussion, as laser patterns reflected each rise and fall during its lengthy jam sessions. As Sheppard and his sidekicks progressed through each track, the complexity of the laser projections grew into optical illusions that, almost like another musical instrument onstage, intertwined with the style and progression of the band’s production perfectly. With each song reaching a climax and eventual denouement, the artwork remained untouched for a few minutes so that fans could observe each piece before their very own eyes. -Brett Ruffenach, photo by Alister Mori


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #21 - Ty Segall

21. Ty Segall

But Segall is no doubt a showman himself, and you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who expends as much energy onstage as he does in merely 90 minutes. His passion simply rubs off on his fans, who wasted little time climbing onstage and taking the plunge into a sea of hands for a couple of minutes. Segall, of course, also got in on the action at one point, as his shows are often known to feature crowd surfing from both band and audience members, and he made sure to take the mic stand with him while he horizontally slithered across the room. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #20 - Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem

20. Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem

One of the biggest questions on everyone’s mind coming into Outside Lands was, “Who were Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem?” For those who knew, it was, “How in the hell were the Muppets going to fill a Sunday slot on the main stage?” Because the band had never played a show of such magnitude or outside the context of a TV/film studio, no one had any clue what to expect during this early-afternoon slot. Though some festivalgoers (mistakenly) decided to forego the experience altogether, those present will not forget the incredible feat that Another Planet Entertainment and Jim Henson Enterprises were able to pull off for what was one of the most emotionally nostalgic, blissfully complex and once-in-a-lifetime festival performances maybe ever. The Muppet house band both effortlessly managed to pluck the heartstrings of multiple generations of fans while delivering the most conceptually beautiful “love letter” to the city of SF, blanketing the grounds in a sea of love and collective euphoria for a brief, yet unforgettable moment. -Molly Kish, photo by Rochelle Shipman


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #19 - RÜFÜS DU SOL

19. RÜFÜS DU SOL

By the time RÜFÜS made their entrance, the excitement in the room was at a fever pitch. The crowd was ready to dance from the very first beat (thanks to the excellent warm-up from Kllo and Yuma X), and they did just that. Lead singer Tyrone Lindqvist took center stage with great energy and proceeded to do the customary water bottle toss shortly after. Lindqvist set the tone right from the get-go for a high-energy, high-audience-participation set. The crowd responded in kind by getting down much harder than expected for a Wednesday night. Notably, there were surprisingly very few phones out as most attendees put away their cameras to make the most of every song. The intimate setting of The Fillmore could almost have been mistaken for the polo grounds of Coachella, given how many girls-on-shoulders could be seen around the venue. -Geoff Hong, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #18 - Rudimental

18. Rudimental

Through Rudimental tracks like “Not Giving In”, “Free” and “Waiting All Night”, the most unique element of the group’s live production was their charisma. Simply put, they look like they’re having fun. These aren’t tortured artists or cathartic performers — Rudimental are a band that loves the music they make. Even the band’s drummer, Beanie, easily one of the hardest working rhythmists on tour right now, managed to keep a smile on his face, racing through Rudimental’s repertoire of songs that were anywhere from 145 to 160 BPMs. The septet’s de-facto leader, DJ Locksmith, was surprisingly more in the background than you would expect from a typical DnB hype man. As Rudimental wrapped up their set with their chart-topping hit “Feel the Love”, the crowd joined in as the song ended, creating a shared moment at The Fox that perfectly reflected the intention of Rudimental — to spread the love. -Brett Ruffenach, photo by Marc Fong


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #17 - BØRNS

17. BØRNS

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 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. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #16 - Flying Lotus

16. Flying Lotus

Brainfeeder founder, producer and unapologetic cultural mouthpiece Flying Lotus (born Steven Ellison) ended the night with a mildly controversial headlining set. Walking onstage and making what any FlyLo fan would recognize as an off-colored comment on the current presidential race may have proven too brazen for those not used to his brand. He let Captain Murphy out of the box a little early and road the wave of confusion into a heady, bass-driven assault on the conflicted crowd, providing the distinct audio punctuation point for the night’s bill of artists. Playing several tracks off of his 2014 LP You’re Dead! as well as various hits from high-profile hip-hop emcees like Travis Scott and Kendrick Lamar that he has produced over the years, Ellison stunned us all with his double-screen, audio-visual stage setup and plenty of bone-rattling bass drops. -Molly Kish, photo by Marc Fong


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #15 - The Last Shadow Puppets

15. The Last Shadow Puppets

TLSP brought a strings section to their show, an added element that helped keep things fresh and new. The show began with the beautiful sounds of violins and cellos, but the moment TLSP got onstage, the whole floor at The Fillmore lit up in billows of smoke. I’m sure the band was stoned by the end of the show if it hadn’t been already, appearing beyond excited to be playing on a Sunday night in SF. Turner and Kane must have yelled out something about SF every few minutes and incorporated SF into some of their songs. They were so incredibly tight, and I felt their set in some ways was a bit better than what I had witnessed years ago — the mix and order of the songs felt more succinct at The Fillmore. -Rachel Goodman, photo by Diana Cordero


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #14 - Miike Snow

14. Miike Snow

Sunday’s roster at Coachella last year was significantly weaker in comparison to Friday’s and Saturday’s. This year was much of the same, though Calvin Harris somehow proved to be an even worse headliner than Drake (we didn’t know that was possible). But one of the bright spots on Day 3 was no doubt Miike Snow’s 9:45 p.m. slot in the Mojave Tent, the same place where I discovered the Swedish trio back in 2010 during my first Coachella. Andrew Wyatt, Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg have come a long way since then, and with three studio albums in their catalog, including their latest effort iii, they have more than enough material to fill out a 50-minute set and leave you wanting to hear more. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Norm de Veyra


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #13 - Young Thug

13. Young Thug

Fresh off releasing the latest — and final — installment of his Slime Season mixtape trilogy, Young Thug took his place on the stage. Arriving in a white blouse, multicolored sequined jacket, dark shades, a polka-dot head scarf and remarkably slim, golden pants, he aligned such a rangy and vibrant uniform with his performance. There wouldn’t be any towering LED lights, stunts or stage diving. However, Young Thug, who for the majority of his roughly hour-long set played the lone wolf, delighted the crowd with his animated and bright delivery while running through thundering Slime Season 3 favorites like “With Them”, “Digits” and “Slime Shit”. The audience, ranging from high school seniors to seasoned workers likely with mortgages, strikingly recited every uncanny, controversial lyric and Ric Flair-esque “Woo!” like they had been analyzing them for years. -Joseph Gray, photo by Joseph Gray


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #12 - Pretty Lights

12. Pretty Lights

Touring with a live band for the first time in 2013 — something that few other EDM artists have done to this day — he quickly changed the way electronic music can be experienced live. Fast forward to last Thursday, and we were once again treated to an electrifying Pretty Lights show that was more than just Smith behind a pair of Macbook Pros and two Akai MPD32s. Making his debut at the majestic Santa Barbara Bowl, he once again showed why he isn’t your typical EDM act. With Chris Karns and Big Wild providing support, Smith hit the stage at 8 p.m. with his bandmates — Karns, Borham Lee, Brandon Butler and Alvin Ford, Jr. — and put on a show that dazzled both sonically and visually. What was most impressive, though, was seeing how much of the performance was improvised, as the band transitioned from one jam to another while dropping in a number of remixes here and there. And as I looked on from my seat in the stands, I couldn’t help but think about how much the show reminded me of all the times I’ve seen STS9 perform live. It only seemed fitting considering that the livetronia band helped give Smith his start back in the day, and with the “EDM bubble” about to burst (that is, if it hasn’t already), it’s hopefully an approach more electronic artists will gravitate toward in the future. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #11 - Mac DeMarco

11. Mac DeMarco

The 26-year-old king of slacker rock, who over the past few years has become a fan favorite of many Bay Area audiophiles, never seems to hold back when he comes to town. His first night in SF last week saw him jump from The Indy’s balcony into an awaiting crowd (a feat that was later imitated by a female audience member at The Warfield the next night), run around half naked while playing new songs and perform a 25-minute cover of Eric Clapton’s 1971 hit single “Layla” with fart solos sprinkled throughout. -James Pawlish, photo by James Pawlish


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #10 - Moderat

10. Moderat

Easily the most anticipated set of the weekend from this spectator’s vantage point, Moderat hadn’t toured since dropping a pair of EPs in 2014. But with the release of its third full-length album, aptly titled III, the Berlin-based supergroup comprised of Apparat’s Sascha Ring and Modeselektor members Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary were primed to make their mark on the final day of LIB — and that they did. Beginning with “Ghostmother” off their latest LP, Moderat ran through a good chunk of new material, but nothing ignited the crowd more than their new single “Reminder”, which remains one of our favorite songs of the year so far. As we witnessed a few days earlier at The Fonda Theatre in LA, the group’s dark, minimalist stage setup with psychedelic flourishes paired nicely with Ring’s ethereal vocals. Of all the other performances throughout the weekend, Moderat’s 90-minute set undoubtedly stood as one of the brightest moments of LIB 2016. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #9 - Foals

9. Foals

Foals closed out their rambunctious set with a killer take on the title track “What Went Down” that brought lead singer/guitarist Yannis Philippakis diving into the crowd, giving fans one hell of a selfie and proving their rock credentials for good. After all, any band that can unite 20-something bros with 50-something grandparents gets a gold star in our book. Rock brings people together, and those who made it out to see this unicorn of a band won’t live to regret it. -Zach Bourque, photo by Steve Carlson


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #9 - Tame Impala

8. Tame Impala

As they opened with the dream-inducing interlude “Nangs” from their latest studio album Currents, Tame Impala gave the crowd an ample minute and a half to commit to the spatial surroundings before jumping full throttle into an explosive rendition of lead single “Let It Happen,” playing the tracks in reverse order than they are on the LP. By the third song (as promised), the sky, having just turned black, was filled with a stadium’s worth of rainbow confetti as the band played the opening chords of 2012’s psuedo love ballad “Mind Mischief”. Followed by a rare performance — only the second time in three years — of “Music to Walk Home By” from 2012’s Lonerism, Tame Impala played a wide range of emotive classics while scrambling the brains of more than 8,500 audience members with their intense onslaught of sensory-overloading imagery and hypnotic light show. -Molly Kish, photo by James Pawlish


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #7 - Jim James

7. Jim James

James is in rare company these days, amid a dying breed of guitar-rock gods like Jack White and Josh Homme who are not only capable of playing anything on six strings, but also on a myriad of instruments. And while Eternally Even feels in some ways like an opportunity for him to finally experiment more with keyboards, James made sure to remind his fans at the 90-year-old Orpheum Theatre last Friday that shredding is still a priority. Performing in his new hometown after officially moving to LA this year, he assumed the role of lead singer for much of the show as he and his bandmates from Twin Limb (also opening for James on this tour) played all of Eternally Even and half of Regions. But propped up by a stand onstage the whole time was James’ black Gibson axe, and you knew at some point during a two-hour set that he was going to unload some sick riffs like we have become accustomed to seeing from him at Jacket shows. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #6 - The National

6. The National

The real headline from The National’s performance was hands down the new material that was debuted, pretty much across their entire set, encore included. A rather standard opening of “Don’t Swallow the Cap” and “I Should Live in Salt” led into our first taste of the band’s upcoming LP in the form of “Checking Out”. Though many locals likely recognized this track from last year’s Treasure Island Music Festival (read our review here), it has tightened up over the past year and even begins to sound familiar as the Brooklyn-based five-piece begins to weave in more electronic, synth-like elements. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Steve Carlson


Coachella 2016 - Guns 'N Roses

5. Guns N’ Roses

There may have been no more talked-about act in Coachella’s 17-year history than Saturday’s headliner — and for good reason. Going back to 1993, it had been 23 years since Axl Rose and Slash last performed on the same stage together, and though some of that allure had worn off by the time they reached Indio thanks to a surprise show in LA and back-to-back nights in Las Vegas in prior weeks, Guns N’ Roses were still the talk of the town leading up to Coachella. In fact, all you had to do was look around on Saturday and see just how many GNR T-shirts were traversing the polo field before their 10:30 p.m. set. When it came time to deliver, the original trio of Axl, Slash and bassist Duff McKagan most certainly did, while rhythm guitarist Richard Fortus and drummer Frank Ferrer proved to be more than suitable fill-ins for Izzy Stradlin and Steven Adler/Matt Sorum. Meanwhile, the surprise appearance by Angus Young couldn’t have come at a much better time after the announcement was made minutes before GNR’s set that Rose will be filling in for Brian Johnson on AC/DC’s remaining tour dates this year. GNR have always been one of my biggest bucket-list bands, and even if a broken leg prevented Axl from strutting and slithering across the stage like he once did as a brash, slender 21-year-old rock star, seeing one of my favorite childhood bands perform for two and a half hours felt all too surreal as I left the Empire Polo Club that night. -Josh Herwitt, photo courtesy of Coachella


Coachella 2016 - Sia

4. Sia

From the very beginning, Sia set herself apart from every other artist who took the Coachella Stage this year. With the Australian artist standing in the back of the stage, her set was more performance art than it was pop music. While her face was hidden thanks to her trademark wig, Sia’s voice stood front and center as she belted out every note to hits like “Diamonds”, “Bird Set Free” and “Titanium”. Throughout it all, different dancers and actors would come on stage, abstractly embodying the themes her songwriting often conveys: fear, anticipation, stress, anger, joy, love and most of all, doubt. As Kristen Wiig and Paul Dano contributed to the overall performance, the height of Sia’s conceptual masterpiece reached its peak with a breathtaking rendition of “Breathe Me”, bringing some of the audience to tears. It was the true headliner of Sunday night and among the top performances of the entire weekend. -Brett Ruffenach, photo courtesy of Coachella


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #3 - Chance the Rapper

3. Chance the Rapper

In one of the few transcendent moments of the weekend, a set that had everyone throughout the fairgrounds hyped into an anticipatory frenzy, Chance the Rapper performed at the Lands End stage on Sunday afternoon for easily the largest crowd of the entire weekend. Even those who stood their ground through Third Eye Blind’s preceding set felt the drastic change in both crowd size and personal space as the Polo Fields flooded and temperatures rose. Even though Chance could have used this to his advantage and conducted an explosive show, igniting the tightly configured crowd into a combustive state, he instead took his fans “to church” with a spiritually centered gospel set, making sure everyone was attentive and of course, that “his part” resonated among the masses. -Molly Kish, photo by Norm de Veyra


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #2 - LCD Soundsystem

2. LCD Soundsystem

Over the last couple of years, it’s hard to think of a band I have wanted to see more than LCD Soundsystem. Deeply tied to my formative years in college, the Brooklyn outfit’s return after a five-year hiatus was nothing short of stunning. Opening with the undeniably groovy “Us vs. Them” and covering a good chunk of their catalog over almost two hours, LCD certainly met the expectations of an eager crowd. James Murphy kept the banter between songs fairly short, and these indie heavyweights demonstrated a true dedication to their craft, starting fast with songs like “Movements” and “Yeah” before moving to more deep, tightly wound rhythms on “Someone Great” and “Home”. Though “Losing My Edge” was written more than 10 years ago, Murphy’s part-improvised, part-proclamation, part-perfectly-delivered rendition of the track seemed to really capture the attention of more casual LCD fans. Nearing the end of its set, the band covered “Heroes” by late collaborator David Bowie. I have seen many concerts as well as attended many festivals in my life, but this was truly among the most beautiful moments in live music I have ever experienced. Wrapping up their headlining performance with “All My Friends”, LCD Soundsystem proved to be among the top artists to ever grace the festival’s main stage. -Brett Ruffenach, photo by Norm de Veyra


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #1 - Anderson .Paak

1. Anderson .Paak

I’m going to be completely honest: I went to SXSW this year to see .Paak because I knew once he played it, tickets to his shows would be impossible to get. Six months later, $30 tickets to his show in San Francisco at The Fillmore resold for upwards of $400. If you didn’t have another way to get into that show or rent to pay, it was worth it. The energy that comes out of .Paak while he’s performing is charming, infectious and unmatched. He splits his time roaming every inch of the stage and behind his drum set, often singing and rapping without missing a beat. At .Paak’s December show at the Hollywood Palladium in LA, Stevie Wonder came out not to sing, but to tell the crowd what a big fan he is. So basically, Stevie Wonder dropped by. OK, Anderson … we see you. -Rochelle Shipman, photo by Norm de Veyra

Outside Lands 2016

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After touring with Sia, AlunaGeorge have never been more well-suited to succeed than now

AlunaGeorgeBy Josh Herwitt //

Red Bull Sound Select – 30 Days in LA: AlunaGeorge with Xavier Omär //
Belasco Theater – Los Angeles
November 22nd, 2016 //

If you haven’t heard of AlunaGeorge, there’s a good chance you’ve probably heard them on the radio and just didn’t know. But it probably wasn’t one of their own songs that you heard. Nope, it was more than likely from another English electronic duo by the name of Disclosure.

For plenty, Disclosure’s 2013 hit “White Noise” off their debut LP Settle was the first exposure they had to the namesake of vocalist/songwriter Aluna Francis and producer/instrumentalist George Reid. And though their very first single “You Know You Like It” reached as high as No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 thanks in part to DJ Snake’s remix for “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” boosting the song’s popularity, AlunaGeorge had yet to have a bonafide pop song in their arsenal until brothers Howard and Guy Lawrence enlisted Francis’ pipes a few years ago.

Since then, Francis and Reid together have released two full-length albums, including most recently I Remember as the follow-up to 2013’s initial offering Body Music. While their latest studio effort sees them expanding horizons with some guest spots — something they didn’t endeavor on Body Music — from New Orleans-born rapper Pell, Chinese-American electronic musician/singer ZHU and Jamaican dancehall emcee Popcaan on lead single “I’m in Control”, the loudest roar from the healthy crowd at LA’s Belasco Theater last Tuesday came when they dropped the popular Disclosure track toward the middle of their hour-long performance.

AlunaGeorge

Despite the show being scheduled right before a holiday weekend, it was still billed as one of the premier events for Red Bull Sound Select’s 30 Days in LA series this month and rightfully so. AlunaGeorge, in fact, were coming off their most important string of dates having served as one of two opening acts (the other being Miguel) on the North American leg of Sia’s 2016 arena tour. So, after gracing the stage at the world-famous Hollywood Bowl this fall, Francis and Reid had no reason to be intimidated by the Belasco’s main theater room. If anything, it only gave them the freedom to showcase some of their songs under a new and different light.

As we reached the midway point of their set with back-to-back singles from I Remember (the title track and “My Blood”), AlunaGeorge entered unchartered territory as they welcomed Pell and a three-piece brass band onstage to help them perform “Full Swing” live for the first time. It was a fitting way to wrap up a tour after months and months of both festival dates and club gigs all around the world, stretching the scope of electronic music with merely an element or two of surprise sprinkled into the equation. Because on this night, whether many attendees had heard of them or not, AlunaGeorge did everything they could to help them not forget.

Setlist:
Mediator
Your Drums, Your Love
I’m in Control
Automatic (ZHU cover)
White Noise (Disclosure cover)
My Blood
I Remember
Full Swing (with Pell) (with brass section)
Heartbreak Horizon (with brass section)
Not Above Love (with brass section)
Hold Your Head High
Mean What I Mean
You Know You Like It

Our 10 favorite shows from the first half of 2016

Best live shows of 2016

2016 has been a rough year so far for music fans. We’ve watched legends like Prince, David Bowie, Merle Haggard, Phife Dawg, Ralph Stanley and most recently Bernie Worrell all pass on, leaving us stunned and saddened to see them go.

But this year has also provided those of us living in the great state of California with plenty of memorable moments in live music, from Noise Pop to Coachella and beyond. And with half of 2016 already in the rearview mirror (can you believe it?!?!), we thought now would be as good of a time as any to revisit the best performances we’ve witnessed over the past six months.

So, after careful consideration, we present our 10 favorite shows from the first half of 2016.


Top 10 shows of 2016 - Ty Segall

10. Ty Segall

When it comes to Segall and his live show, there’s really no way to sugarcoat it — the guy is an animal, ready to rip, claw and bite (or just spit) his way through a performance. And in many ways, it’s refreshing to see a musician who has little to no filter when he takes the stage. Just like his music, which borders on garage rock and glam rock and intertwines psychedelic and punk elements into it, his shows are raw and full of emotion. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Top 10 shows of 2016 - The Last Shadow Puppets

9. The Last Shadow Puppets

I don’t think I had been to a show in a long time in which the girls were screaming like they were watching The Beatles. The girls were going crazy for Turner, including throwing things on the stage (unfortunately we can’t say for sure if there were any bras or panties that flew through the air). -Rachel Goodman, photo by Diana Cordero


Top 10 shows of 2016 - The Kills

8. The Kills

As with any Kills show, the band was raw, untamed and ready to sonically destroy everything in their path. This was achieved by Hince’s voracious guitar playing, which saw him coxing a plethora of harmonically distorted riffs, with Mosshart taking duties on rhythm guitar when needed. -James Pawlish, photo by James Pawlish


Top 10 shows of 2016 - Bob Moses

7. Bob Moses

At Mezzanine, both Howie and Vallance proved their prowess as EDM innovators, bringing more to the stage than a couple of laptops and a pretty light show. Surprising those unfamiliar with their work or expecting to be underwhelmed, Bob Moses have elevated the live electronic game for their respective contemporaries and succeeded in defining a new chapter for the genre — an innovative sound standard that’s all their own. -Molly Kish, photo by Lisette Worster


Top 10 shows of 2016 - Mac DeMarco

6. Mac DeMarco

The 26-year-old king of slacker rock, who over the past few years has become a fan favorite of many Bay Area audiophiles, never seems to hold back when he comes to town. His first night in SF last week saw him jump from The Indy’s balcony into an awaiting crowd (a feat that was later imitated by a female audience member at The Warfield the next night), run around half naked while playing new songs and perform a 25-minute cover of Eric Clapton’s 1971 hit single “Layla” with fart solos sprinkled throughout. -James Pawlish, photo by James Pawlish


Coachella 2016 - Guns 'N Roses

5. Guns N’ Roses

When it came time to deliver, the original trio of Axl, Slash and bassist Duff McKagan most certainly did, while rhythm guitarist Richard Fortus and drummer Frank Ferrer proved to be more than suitable fill-ins for Izzy Stradlin and Steven Adler/Matt Sorum. Meanwhile, the surprise appearance by Angus Young couldn’t have come at a much better time after the announcement was made minutes before GNR’s set that Rose will be filling in for Brian Johnson on AC/DC’s remaining tour dates this year. -Josh Herwitt, photo courtesy of Coachella


Top 10 shows of 2016 - Young Thug

4. Young Thug

With his back momentarily turned to the camera-phone flash before the lighting guys again joined the party, Atlanta’s favorite outlander appeared to just take a moment. The point in time could have been one of appreciation or something else on a completely different side of the pendulum. That ambiguity is what seems to keep Young Thug and his pundits going. -Joseph Gray, photo by Joseph Gray


Coachella 2016 - Sia

3. Sia

With the Australian artist standing in the back of the stage, her set was more performance art than it was pop music. While her face was hidden thanks to her trademark wig, Sia’s voice stood front and center as she belted out every note to hits like “Diamonds”, “Bird Set Free” and “Titanium”. -Brett Ruffenach, photo courtesy of Coachella


Top 10 shows of 2016 - Moderat

2. Moderat

It’s no surprise that Moderat have made waves in the genre given their well-established roots in Modeselektor (Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary) and Apparat (Sascha Ring). What has been surprising, however, is their ability to step outside the conventions of both parent acts and craft something truly their own. -Zach Bourque, photo by Josh Herwitt


Coachella 2016 - LCD Soundsystem

1. LCD Soundsystem

I have seen many concerts as well as attended many festivals in my life, but this was truly among the most beautiful moments in live music I have ever experienced. Wrapping up their headlining performance with “All My Friends”, LCD Soundsystem proved to be among the top artists to ever grace the festival’s main stage. -Brett Ruffenach, photo courtesy of Coachella


What has been your favorite show of 2016 so far? Let us know in the comments section below!

Our 10 favorite moments from Coachella 2016

Coachella 2016Photos courtesy of Coachella // Written by Josh Herwitt & Brett Ruffenach //

Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival //
Empire Polo Club – Indio, CA
April 15th-17th, 2016 //

Say what you will about Coachella. The famed music festival has become known for creating a culture that hinges on celebrity sightings, shirtless bros, H&M outfits, pool parties, drugs and a shitload of millenials obsessed with their Instagram feeds.

But for music lovers like ourselves, there is no bigger stage in the entire music industry than the ones Goldenvoice set up across the Empire Polo Club each April, with 2016 marking the 17th edition of the longest-standing and highest-grossing music festival in the country. The latter of those two accomplishments has produced plenty of haters in recent years, but it’s impractical to deny the magnitude and scope of Coachella as it has morphed from modest, two-day music festival into three-day, two-weekend megafest.

What makes Coachella so unique are the trends it sets, whether it’s through music, fashion or culture. There is no music festival out there with the same pedigree for reuniting broken-up bands or welcoming special guest stars quite like Coachella has built over the last five years — and 2016 was no different. Between LCD Soundsystem and Guns N’ Roses, two of the biggest reunions in music served as headlining material while the fest once again made headlines with a laundry list of surprise appearances that included Rihanna, Kanye, T.I., Seal, Lorde, Kesha and even Kristin Wiig.

We hit the polo field in Indio for the first weekend of Coachella, and while it was physically impossible for us to catch all 180 acts in roughly 40 hours of festival time, we still witnessed plenty of great music. So, without further ado, we present our 10 highlights from Coachella after surviving three days in the desert. -JH


Coachella 2016 - Despacio

Despacio

Despacio is more of a side project than a particular artist. Consisting of a 50,000-watt sound system created by LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy in partnership with McIntosh Laboratory, Coachella was fortunate enough to be the only North American festival hosting this makeshift “club” all three days. With brothers David and Stephen Dewaele of 2manydjs spinning their personal vinyl collection for six hours a day next to Murphy, Despacio served as the perfect intro music as I arrived at the Empire Polo Club each day. The trio of DJs kept things pretty eclectic, playing very few tracks the crowd would actually recognize besides Sister Nancy’s “Bam Bam” or Warren Zevon’s “Nighttime in the Switching Yard”. I got the opportunity to experience Despacio at Sónar in Barcelona a couple years ago, and seeing it again only made me wish that it could be featured at every music festival. With the three DJs manning the decks in a dark corner of the club, Despacio tries to turn the crowd away from the stage and toward each other — something every festival could use a little more of. -BR


Coachella 2016

Miike Snow

Sunday’s roster at Coachella last year was significantly weaker in comparison to Friday’s and Saturday’s. This year was much of the same, though Calvin Harris somehow proved to be an even worse headliner than Drake (we didn’t know that was possible). But one of the bright spots on Day 3 was no doubt Miike Snow’s 9:45 p.m. slot in the Mojave Tent, the same place where I discovered the Swedish trio back in 2010 during my first Coachella. Andrew Wyatt, Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg have come a long way since then, and with three studio albums in their catalog, including their latest effort iii, they have more than enough material to fill out a 50-minute set and leave you wanting to hear more. -JH


Coachella 2016 - Run the Jewels

Run the Jewels

I’m not sure if there’s a group of rappers more infectious than Run the Jewels at the moment. Between their poignant songwriting, booming instrumentals and cultural relevance, the duo featuring El-P and Killer Mike has ascended into the top tier of hip-hop acts. Introduced via video by 2016 U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (a political ally and friend of Killer Mike’s), the two emcees opened with a new track from their highly anticipated third LP RTJ3. They managed to keep the crowd’s energy up throughout their Saturday afternoon set despite the heat, bringing onstage an impressive list of guests, from DJ Shadow to Boots to even Nas, the latter of which joined them for a short performance of his classic track “Made You Look”. Over the course of three days, I’m not sure I saw a crowd more excited to hear new material by an artist than what I witnessed at Run the Jewels. Killer Mike and El-P are unstoppable. -BR


Coachella 2016

St. Germain

For as “mainstream” as Coachella has become in recent years, it has made a point of staging some rare live performances by different alt-electronic artists from overseas. Back in 2014, we caught British musician/producer Bonobo for a full-band set in the Mojave Tent, and last year Norwegian DJ/record producer Todd Terje ignited a disco-infused dance party in the Gobi Tent with his backing band The Olsens. So, when St. Germain was billed for this year’s festival, I knew Ludovic Navarre’s gypsy jazz/downtempo house project was a must-see act on Day 1. Not only did St. Germain’s self-titled LP in October mark a 15-year drought between albums, but it had also been nearly as long since Navarre performed at Coachella. While his cast of sidekicks wasn’t quite as large as the 20-piece big band he brought in 2001, he did assemble a group of musicians from Mali, Senegal and Brazil that hypnotized the crowd with a variety of world-music grooves that played as well live as it would over the speaker system at a French-Moroccan cafe. -JH


Coachella 2016 - Vince Staples

Vince Staples

As an emerging force in the world of hip-hop, Vince Staples took the stage at the Sahara Tent on Day 2 and put on a set that met the hype surrounding his 2015 critically acclaimed album Summertime ’06. Though the primarily EDM-focused Sahara Tent seemed like a strange fit for the Odd Future associate, Staples covered the protruding wall of LED cubes with relative ease as the crowd hung on his every word. The Long Beach-based rapper’s banter between songs, along with his range and ability to deliver heartfelt tracks like “Summertime” and bangers like “Norf Norf”, proved that he is a human torch that shouldn’t burn out anytime soon. -BR


Coachella 2016

The Arcs

Dan Auerbach is no stranger to Coachella. The seven-time Grammy winner headlined the fest in 2012 with The Black Keys, just a year after the band assumed the sub-headliner role behind Kings of Leon. But after a four-year absence in Indio, Auerbach was back with his latest side project The Arcs months after releasing the group’s debut album Yours, Dreamily,. While it’s easy to confuse blues-y singles like “Stay in My Corner”, “Outta My Mind” and “Put a Flower in Your Pocket” — all of which were performed by Auerbach and his bandmates during their set — for some of The Keys’ own material, what made this performance extra special were the guest stars who took the stage. If you thought Auerbach could shred on his own, adding Joe Walsh and his mentor Glenn Schwartz only made our ears tingle even more, especially when you consider what Schwartz is still capable of doing at the age of 78. -JH


Coachella 2016 - Sia

Sia

From the very beginning, Sia set herself apart from every other artist who took the Coachella Stage this year. With the Australian artist standing in the back of the stage, her set was more performance art than it was pop music. While her face was hidden thanks to her trademark wig, Sia’s voice stood front and center as she belted out every note to hits like “Diamonds”, “Bird Set Free” and “Titanium”. Throughout it all, different dancers and actors would come on stage, abstractly embodying the themes her songwriting often conveys: fear, anticipation, stress, anger, joy, love and most of all, doubt. As Kristen Wiig and Paul Dano contributed to the overall performance, the height of Sia’s conceptual masterpiece reached its peak with a breathtaking rendition of “Breathe Me”, bringing some of the audience to tears. It was the true headliner of Sunday night and among the top performances of the entire weekend. -BR


Coachella 2016

Silversun Pickups

Ever since these LA alt-rockers burst onto the scene in the mid-2000’s with radio hits like “Future Foe Scenarios”, “Well Thought Out Twinkles”, and “Lazy Eye”, Silversun Pickups have been high on my list of bands to see live. But for whatever reason (most of it likely my doing), the opportunity hadn’t presented itself until Coachella revealed its lineup in early January. Pitted against Ice Cube in what proved to be my biggest scheduling conflict of the weekend, SSPU didn’t make me question my decision the minute they stepped onstage and tore into “Nightlight”, the first single from their fourth and most recent studio album Better Nature. At a time when special guest appearances have become the trend at Coachella, it was refreshing to see a band not feel the need to go down the same path as everyone else. Instead, Brian Aubert, Nikki Monninger, Chris Guanlao and Joe Lester looked comfortable just being themselves, even if their nine-song set felt like it was over in the blink of an (lazy) eye. -JH


Coachella 2016 - LCD Soundsystem

LCD Soundsystem

Over the last couple of years, it’s hard to think of a band I have wanted to see more than LCD Soundsystem. Deeply tied to my formative years in college, the Brooklyn outfit’s return after a five-year hiatus was nothing short of stunning. Opening with the undeniably groovy “Us vs. Them” and covering a good chunk of their catalog over almost two hours, LCD certainly met the expectations of an eager crowd. James Murphy kept the banter between songs fairly short, and these indie heavyweights demonstrated a true dedication to their craft, starting fast with songs like “Movements” and “Yeah” before moving to more deep, tightly wound rhythms on “Someone Great” and “Home”. Though “Losing My Edge” was written more than 10 years ago, Murphy’s part-improvised, part-proclamation, part-perfectly-delivered rendition of the track seemed to really capture the attention of more casual LCD fans. Nearing the end of its set, the band covered “Heroes” by late collaborator David Bowie. I have seen many concerts as well as attended many festivals in my life, but this was truly among the most beautiful moments in live music I have ever experienced. Wrapping up their headlining performance with “All My Friends”, LCD Soundsystem proved to be among the top artists to ever grace the festival’s main stage. -BR


Coachella 2016 - Guns 'N Roses

Guns N’ Roses

There may have been no more talked-about act in Coachella’s 17-year history than Saturday’s headliner — and for good reason. Going back to 1993, it had been 23 years since Axl Rose and Slash last performed on the same stage together, and though some of that allure had worn off by the time they reached Indio thanks to a surprise show in LA and back-to-back nights in Las Vegas in prior weeks, Guns N’ Roses were still the talk of the town leading up to Coachella. In fact, all you had to do was look around on Saturday and see just how many GNR T-shirts were traversing the polo field before their 10:30 p.m. set. When it came time to deliver, the original trio of Axl, Slash and bassist Duff McKagan most certainly did, while rhythm guitarist Richard Fortus and drummer Frank Ferrer proved to be more than suitable fill-ins for Izzy Stradlin and Steven Adler/Matt Sorum. Meanwhile, the surprise appearance by Angus Young couldn’t have come at a much better time after the announcement was made minutes before GNR’s set that Rose will be filling in for Brian Johnson on AC/DC’s remaining tour dates this year. GNR have always been one of my biggest bucket-list bands, and even if a broken leg prevented Axl from strutting and slithering across the stage like he once did as a brash, slender 21-year-old rock star, seeing one of my favorite childhood bands perform for two and a half hours felt all too surreal as I left the Empire Polo Club that night. -JH


Coachella releases 2016 lineup, headlined by LCD Soundsystem, Guns N’ Roses, Calvin Harris

Coachella 2016 lineup

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

Early last week, rumors started to swirl that both Guns N’ Roses and LCD Soundsystem would headline Coachella this April. Now, those rumors have been officially confirmed.

The three-day, two-weekend festival announced its 2016 lineup on Monday night, and both reunited bands (though we’re still not sure which members from Guns N’ Roses will take the stage) will indeed headline the Goldenvoice event along with superstar DJ Calvin Harris, who performed on Coachella’s main stage two years ago and attracted the second largest crowd in its history.

Other notable acts listed on this year’s bill include Ellie Goulding, Sufjan Stevens, Jack Ü, M83, Underworld, The Kills, Foals, Ice Cube, Disclosure, Zedd, A$AP Rocky, CHRVCHES, Halsey, James Bay, Sia, Major Lazer, Flume, Beach House, The 1975, Rancid and Mike Snow.

Coachella’s first weekend is scheduled for April 15th-17th, with its second weekend slated for April 22nd-24th. All tickets will go on sale for both weekends on Wednesday, January 6th at 11 a.m. here. GA passes for Weekend 1 are already sold out, and a limited number of Weekend 1 GA + Shuttle passes remain. The festival’s organizers strongly recommend buying Weekend 2 passes for those interested in attending.

UPDATE: Guns N’ Roses released a statement on Tuesday confirming that original members Slash (guitar) and Duff McKagan (bass) will join frontman Axl Rose onstage at Coachella this year. The band’s Saturday night headlining set will mark the first time all three have played a show together since 1993. The rest of the band’s lineup has not been confirmed yet, but stay tuned for more information here.

The Top 10 summer anthems of 2014

Summer-COVERWritten by Kevin Quandt & Krystal Beez //

With Labor Day in the rearview mirror, the days are getting shorter and most students are heading back in school. So what better time than now to identify this year’s most iconic summer jams?

These 10 sun-drenched summer anthems run the gauntlet from pop songs you couldn’t escape to indie gems that deserve even more attention as we head toward the end of 2014.

What are your favorite summer anthems from 2014? Tell us below in the comments.


Future-Islands

Future Islands – “Seasons (Waiting on You)”

Yes, we all know and love the dance moves of a one Mr. Samuel Harrington at this point. However, once that spectacle wears thin (unlikely), the music of Future Islands is truly amazing, with a lyrical depth that could be lost on a new or casual fan. “You know when people change / They gain a piece but they lose one too” is a pretty damned insightful line for a previously underground new-wave band. Yet, now that they have grown by leaps and bounds in 2014, it’s anyone guess as to how far their stock climbs. -KQ


Iggy

Iggy Azalea – “Fancy” (featuring Charli XCX)

Both Iggy Azalea and Charli XCX seemed to be everywhere this summer. Charli was featured on The Fault in Our Stars soundtrack and Iggy released her newest album The New Classic — But “Fancy” was destined to be a summer anthem. With that beat and catchy lyrics like “I’m so fancy / Can’t you taste this gold?”, plus a music video throwback to the movie Clueless, it is no surprise that we all got a whole lot fancier this summer. -KB


Nico-and-Vinz

Nico and Vinz – “Am I Wrong”

Though originally released in April 2013 when the act went by the name Envy, this track became a massive export for the Norwegian duo known as Nico & Vinz in the summer of 2014. The late success of this song was credited to it’s airy guitar vibe coupled with startling pop vocals peppered with just enough danceability to be remixed by every producer under the sun. “Am I Wrong” also holds the record for the most ‘Shazammed’ song of the summer, not to mention it’s been played on Spotify well over 100 million times. It’s hard to deny that this track was one of the most popular songs of the summer…I mean, am I wrong? -KQ


lana-del-rey

Lana Del Rey – “West Coast”

The hypnotic and moody “West Coast” is the perfect accompaniment to a bonfire on the beach on a warm summer night. And despite the fact that I’ve never heard anyone in California say, “Down on the west coast, they’ve got a saying / If you’re not drinking, then you’re not playing,” it’s still a beautifully dark song that shows off a new side to Lana Del Rey, and a moodier side to summer. -KB


Caribou

Caribou – “Can’t Do Without You”

Though this summer hit wasn’t slathered all over popular airwaves, it did however, make the summer playlist of many savvy music fans. Dan Snaith’s return to the studio, and the stage, has been welcomed with enthusiasm, and this premier new track had all the elements to thrill. Rolling waves of warm, bassy synths lightly pummel the listener into one seriously psyched-out coma. Each element fits neatly into the other – a characteristic Snaith honed on his previous release, Swim. His subsequent return to stage received accolades at FYF Fest, and his devoted fans are hoping for a tour in the near future. -KQ


Sia

Sia – “Chandelier”

“Chandelier” celebrates (and regrets) those classic moments of summer debauchery, contrasting feelings of uncontrollable angst with the unconscious process slowly losing control. But if the original is too moody for you, don’t fret. The Plastic Plates remix of “Chandelier” kept us on the dance floor all summer long. And when that chorus comes in, Sia’s powerhouse vocals hit hard. This was one that we were all belting out after we’d had a few: “I’m gonna swing from the chandelier, from the chandelier / I’m gonna live like tomorrow doesn’t exist, like it doesn’t exist.” -KB


Lorde

Lorde – “Tennis Court”

While Lorde’s ‘honeymoon’ in the industry is now over, the young Kiwi has proven that she is no one-hit-wonder. Once the dust from “Royals” and “Team” had settled, “Tennis Court” off of Pure Heroine took the spotlight this summer. This song found, and continues to find, a comfortable home on various FM outlets as its dreamy adult-contemprary vibe exhibits a wide range of appeal. The track was further bolstered this summer by a stellar remix by the fellow Oceanian we all know as Flume. -KQ


Sam-Smith

Sam Smith – “Stay With Me”

Sam Smith is a force to be reckoned with. “Stay With Me” starts as piano-soul and then builds to a gospel chorus that displays the British crooners powerful and soulful voice. As many have pointed out this year, “Stay With Me” has a strong resemblance to Tom Petty’s “Won’t Back Down”, but the similarity has mattered to few as “Stay With Me” is one of those songs that can bounce around the brain for hours. It’s interesting to note that Sam Smith’s collaboration with Disclosure, “Latch”, was released in 2012, yet this was another song of the summer in 2014 due to Smith’s meteoric rise in popularity. Also, Smith lit up the airwaves as the featured voice on Naughty Boy’s “La La La”. If you hadn’t heard of Sam Smith before summer began, you know him now. -KB


calvin-harris

Calvin Harris – “Summer”

Besides the obvious inclusion due to the the title, “Summer” quickly rose to be the club anthem of summer 2014. Similar to fellow mega-hit, “Feel So Close”, we see Harris returning to the vocal duties on his own track, which has shown to be successful. Sure, it’s not the most ambitious track of the summer, but it’s hard to ignore the far-reaching nature of the club hit, especially in a time of massive growth in popularity for the lifestyle surrounding club culture. Oh yeah, Calvin was also named as Forbes’ highest paid “Electronic Cash Kings” making some $46 million dollars in the past year. -KQ


ariana-grande

Ariana Grande – “Problem” (featuring Iggy Azalea)

Ariana Grande is no stranger to summer anthems. Getting her start on Broadway and Nickelodeon, Grande stepped on the scene last year in a big way with “The Way”, and she’s at it again. This time she teamed up with Iggy Azalea as the two delivered “Problem”, which blends together Grande’s many influences and her Mariah-esque vocals quite smoothly. This record-breaking summer anthem of 2014 is likely the most popular song of the year. -KB