Writing in Another World

A new semester has officially begun. I can't say I'm surprised the summer came and went so quickly. There were many items on the agenda - both personally and writerly. To put into too few words, this is part of what happened...

I went to Indonesia - that country in Southeast Asia that is thrown across an archipelago of around 17,000 islands, big and small. The trip was a "Field Seminar", a part of the travel writing concentration in my MFA program at Chatham University. The goal is to offer real-world experiences. It's the opportunity to gain cultural knowledge and awareness. To become a writer of the world, not just a writer close to home. Just around twelve of us students and two professors took the long journey there.

I learned quite a bit - and felt quite a bit - on this trip. I wasn't prepared for the experience. I don't think I even could have been. It was unlike any traveling I had done before. I knew this going into it, but I don't think I understood the day to day implications.

We arrived in Jakarta, the nation's capital. The city is sprawling and highly populated and chaotic. The drive from the airport into the city showed us what we were in for. The traffic is wild and untethered. THere is very little courtesy for the rules of the road. There are so many motorbikes, scooters, and motorcycles that I became convinced there was some type of convention going on, but no, there are just that many.

Unsurprisingly, the air is heavy with smog. Gray particles seem suspended in the humidity, which grabs at your body with hot hands and doesn't let go. The culture - one of modesty with a large portion of the population, especially in the large cities, practicing Islam - makes suffering the heat more challenging. No shorts or tank tops, especially for the girls.

Of the few days we spent in Jakarta, before hopping on to different islands, there were two events that struck me the most, revealed this culture the most.

Firstly was our foray into Jakarta's Chinatown or the Glodok neighborhood. This was our first real emersion into the lives of Indonesian people. It was shocking. Mostly in the contrast of beauty and darkness. On one corner would be the bright colors of unknown tropical fruit and on the other was a cage so filled with tiny birds, you could hear the sickening buzzing and thwacking of their wings on one another. We walked into a Buddhist temple and smelt savory incense and saw the adorned shrines. Then we walked through the homeless people who find refuge on the temple floor. Children playing barefoot basketball and then kittens with infected eyes and injured tails. The happy and the sad. It's a weird way to feel. And then mix that with my privileged white American identity - I didn't know how to feel. Still don't.

The second memorable moment in Jakarta was our visit to Salihara, an artist community. In this gorgeous facility that promotes the arts of all forms - visual and performance, music, dance, writing - we heard from writers and publishers talking about the unique challenges of pursuing their craft in Indonesia. One roadblock is simply Indonesia's history. It includes decades of colonial occupation, eventual independence, then dictatorships, then natural disasters, and financial crisis, and censorships (which ended up being the topic I chose to write about for my final essay of the class) and widespread massacres, and a new era of reformation that is still continuing now. This fraught history, as you can imagine, took its toll on the arts, but amazingly in many cases, the art and the artists won out - are still winning out. Humans are resilient. That's one fact that was proven again and again on this trip. 

One important notion I walked away (well flew - to Sumatra - another adventure of its own) from Jakarta with was a gratefulness to write with freedom. Take this blog for example. No one can censor it or take it down. I can freely express my ideas, simply given my place of birth. I think many of us take that for granted. And honestly in this political climate should be more aware of it. It seems secure, but I can see that slipping away.

Traveling to Indonesia was a life-changing experience that I both enjoyed and struggled with. It feels nice to discuss it with a couple months of distance. This was a snapshot of my time in Jakarta. Up next will be the jungles of Sumatra.

Until then,

Julia

One Year Into Grad School

When I think about the maze I crisscrossed in order to get here, I can almost chuckle. So many unnecessary twists and turns. But I'm here after all.

Yesterday, I attended my very last class of my first year into the Master of Fine Arts program at Chatham University in Pittsburgh. In true writerly fashion, we gathered at a deli/cafe for a reading. This class in particular was Travel Writing. Over the semester, we wrote about our experiences with travel, whether that meant a harrowing trip abroad or a walk to the corner store. Ending the class with a reading is always a positive forward stepping motion to close with. We celebrate our work and prepare for the next thing.

For me, this was a perfect class to take this semester because I will be going on a "Field Seminar" with the program to Indonesia in a little over a week. We'll be gone for about 20 days. So, even though the end of my first year feels melancholy, I won't need to be feeling that for very long. There's always something exciting on the horizon. That's what I've grown to love about grad school.

The Julia that walked into the program last August seems so divorced from the Julia now. I took a grand leap into the literary world and have loved it. I'm learning how this community operates and adore the chance to constantly exercise my creativity. I've also been challenged, which I always find difficult at the time, but always see myself grow after. 

Public readings have probably been the hardest. I have anxiety surrounding public speaking. In the past, I avoided it at all costs, but now I'm actively putting myself behind the lectern. If I want to find success as a writer, I need to be able to read my work, so I've been making myself do just that. Every opportunity I get. 

Another change I've seen in myself is sharing my work with people. Before this program, I was so self-conscious about my writing, but now I want as many eyes on my work as possible. That's the only way I'm going to get better. I'm so focused on developing a strong body of work that I have no patience for being self-conscious.

The best part of this first year was finding out that a flash fiction piece of mine is going to be published next month in Rag Queen Periodical. It's the most validating feeling to know that my work is appreciated. It's the sign I needed after all this work, that I'm heading the right direction. Here's to this summer and beyond!

***

A note about this blog: It's something I've written on and off since I graduated college in 2013. I originally wanted to solely focus on music which is another passion of mine besides writing. I'm still going to do that. I'm still going to talk about music, but also about my life as a writer. I find those two parts of my life intertwine more than not. So, to start that out. Here's a song I discovered recently that has such beautiful lyrics. The first line: I fell into your eyes with an inky black splash.

The Fade

I have a pet peeve about a certain aspect to some songs. It's something so small that most people probably don't even notice when it happens to a song. [That's right it doesn't just happen in a song.. It happens to a song. That distinction is important to me.]

From years of playing music on the radio [On a tiny college station, but still a station nonetheless- ps. I just took a detour from writing this to tweet about how nonetheless is a top notch word. It really is! You feel me?], I have noticed how much It irritates me when when songs fade out. The damn dreaded fade. I hate it. It feels like the song never comes to a final conclusion. There's no end note. There's no period (or full stop for you British folks) at the end of the damn sentence Yeah, see how annoying that is?!

To me it seems like the artist or producer [or whoever decides these things] just gave up. They couldn't give the conclusion to the song a damn thought and carelessly threw a bullshit fade onto it. It's the same feeling you get when you watch a fantastic movie, but the ending just doesn't work. I's are left undotted and Ts are left uncrossed. It feels so unsatisfying.

[Completely ridiculous sidebar: Holy shit. This just occurred to me... Is the fade a marketing tool? I know how this sounds, but just listen. You know how the remedy for a song being stuck in your head is to listen to the song all the way through? The idea is that you will finally get a resolution to the endless loop that is stuck in your head. You get the song out of your system. But. But. But. But, what if the song fades?! Do you get that same resolution? Doubtful. Is that what music producers have been doing all along? Is the fade a sly marketing tool devised by some cackling executive in the board room of a multimillion dollar record label? They want the song stuck in your head because that means more dolla dolla bills y'all! Think about it. I mean, I did preface this whole rant with the word "ridiculous" so I'm not sure how much thought this actually deserves. But still.. Makes me say "hmmm".]

The part about the fade that really bugs me is that [save for electro based music] it's not very achievable live! And because the fade seems to appears in rock music, this is a relevant observation. Even the tightest, most practiced band could not achieve a computer level fade. And there's no way they would waste their time doing that in a live show anyway. This means that legit conclusions must exist for these faded tracks. While playing live, bands can't just fade out. They need to end the song. So, non-faded versions of all of these songs must exist for the purpose of live shows. And, if that's true, then why the hell aren't these versions being used on records?! Why aren't they being recorded and used on albums instead of the faded monstrosities we must live with?!

As you can see, I've thought about this topic extensively [because it runs through my mind every damn time I hear a song fade out]. Although I doubt this topic is worthy of the amount of words I have just spent on it, thanks for sticking it out and allowing me to air my grievances. You the real mvp.

Why I Want to work in PR

I want to work in PR because I have noticed a disconnect between the world and brands. I first noticed this in the music industry... As an artist starts to gain more public attention, their connection to fans and those following their story gets less and less authentic. The separation grows and grows until, instead of feeling like they were talking to a friend, fans begin to feel like they are talking to an untouchable entity. I'm not saying that I don't want my favorite bands to gain popularity and success. Quite the opposite - I really want them to be successful just like I wish success on my own friends and family! I just don't want the connection to change. Is that even possible? I want to find out.

In our modern society where social media makes access to artists more open than ever before, you would think an artist's "image" would be more authentic too. I think for a while during the rise of Facebook and twitter, yes, that was true. But with any channel of communication, marketing and advertising weren't far behind. Now, people find rehearsed phrases and scheduled communication where they expect to find authenticity and an actual human voice. As an artist gains popularity and reach, the authentic story becomes twisted into something created by those who gain from the story's success. Executives and marketers and PR people step in to help mold the image because they are now financially invested in it. [Money rules the world. This should not be a surprise to anyone.]

Basically, what I'm saying is that, a lot of the time when I see communication from an artist, whether it's social media or an interview or even their music, I don't feel like I'm getting the real person. I feel like I'm getting a watered down version that has been passed from expert hand to expert hand until some power-that-be decides it's a pristine [plastic?] product ready for public consumption. Sure, this may be the strategy to take when it comes to manufacturing technology or other consumer products, but music and art? No, thank you. I prefer my art served fresh and authentic.

So, then why do I want to work in public relations? Surely, I would just be another one of those invisible expert hands that the "product" needs to pass through before it's released into the world. Why would I want to perpetuate the problem and be a part of the system that I so overtly condemn? Well, it's because I'm a bit of a romantic. I have hope that it can be done in a better way. I want to point out that glaring inauthenticity and I want to somehow polish away all of the rubbish layers of manufacture and release the authentic thing underneath. I have a degree in Marketing so I'm sure I have a much keener eye to know when I'm being marketed to. One extremely important less I have learned is to question everything. For all I know, this "problem" I see in the music industry may only bother me and may not be recognized. Or, the public is just so used to being marketed to every waking hour, they just expect it by now. Either way, I am still determined to find the honesty behind it.

I believe that it is possible to tell an artist's real story in a way that is both eye catching and also true to life and true to that artist's voice.  Sometimes people just need help telling their story. They don't need an embellishment to a story or a story that leaves out any unsavory [read: real human] bits. They don't need to appeal to everyone and they don't need to trick the public into liking them. They just need to find a good storyteller to help them out. That's what I want to be. I want to be their storyteller that finds an awesome hook in an already awesome story. I don't want to invent some storyline to make albums sell. I want to listen to an awesome album true to an artist's sound and tell people, "Damn, you need to listen to this, and here's why".

I'll give you one example of this phenomenon that had become so obvious over the last year. One Direction. This band got so hot over the past four years because girls fell in love with attractive young boys and catchy beats. From the beginning, this group was manufactured -literally put together on stage in front of cameras with millions watching. So, not starting out very strong in the authenticity corner. But anyway. They got popular from pristine tracks that most definitely passed through hundreds of expertise hands rubbing out any scratches, covering up any cracks, and erasing any tinge of authenticity this band could have given their adoring fans. This became all too obvious to the easily swayed public when Zayn Malik, curated bad boy of One Direction left with the diluted version of why: he wanted to be a normal 20 something. With his fame, that would never be possible. Even his reason for leaving was so drenched in illegitimacy. It's so obviously a lie, why not just tell the truth? Saving face for the not-so-complete-but-still-capable-of-selling-an-album band left behind? Probably.

Months since his original departure and interviews later, we learn he was sick of the band being made into something he didn't think resembled the five guys it started out as. In short, the music wasn't real, what they said wasn't real, and the story the public had been told wasn't real. With a band that was literally manufactured in front of our eyes, we should look at the story being told to us with suspicion, but I think we still deserve the truth. Since the music entered the public eye, it becomes part of our lives whether we want it to or not. By letting this band become a part of our culture, I at least think we are deserving of a legit narrative. It's a relationship. We lend you our ears [and, for many, dollars]. So, what do we get in return? That's exactly what Zayn wasn't happy with - what they were offering up. So, he went out on his own and guess what? He's being true to who he is and we will finally [hopefully] be given some honesty.

My opinion on this is probably why indie music appeals to me in a way that mainstream music does not. This inauthenticity that bothers me is rampant in that world. I feel like the masses are being tricked into liking something that has no heart or soul behind it. I crave something real and the general public apparently craves a catchy chorus. I understand that this view is probably taking the whole idea of entertainment far too seriously and that I probably sound like a music snob. Don't get me wrong, I have been known to dance [enthusiastically] along to songs on the local Top 40 station. I just think it would be better for everyone [including the artist] to hear something authentic [I wish there was a better synonym for "authentic" so you wouldn't have to read it 5483975493 times, but I think it just accurately expresses what I'm trying to say. Sorry].

I want to work in PR because I want to help artists like Zayn tell their true story and not be forced into a narrative that's just not them. I want to put a little authenticity back into our culture. I think we deserve it.

 

Adulting?

Please excuse the [ahem] nine-month absence. Since redoing my website, I am inspired to begin blogging once again!  Much has changed in my life since I last wrote, so I will give you a brief overview...

Earlier this year in January, I landed a job at a home healthcare company here in Richmond. I know… not exactly what I was shooting for, but that’s what happened [as is with life]. I’m the Media & Communications Assistant giving me many different responsibilities. The good news is that I’m doing all the type of work that I enjoy – writing, designing, and managing social media. The varied experience I’m getting will benefit my career moving forward. Whether I step next into the world of PR or directly into the world of music, I will be able to use what I’m currently learning.

This position has been keeping me insanely busy. It has been quite the adjustment trying to balance work life, personal life, and continuing to better myself. Is this what adulting is? I'm not sure I'm succeeding. That’s why I haven’t been writing. During this time, I also took my amazing trip to Europe in July!! That’s a longer story for another day. Planning and getting ready had me occupied as well. Once I got back, it was really rough getting back into the swing of things.

But, anyway, the important thing is that I’m back! I’m not sure how frequently I’ll be writing, but when a musical idea strikes, I’ll put pen to paper [or fingers to keyboard as is my case].

Until next time, here’s an awesome 10-minute jam session of Ed Sheeran mashing up a bunch of songs. You’re welcome.

P.S. If you haven't been here since the beginning, you can learn what this blog is all about by reading here.

Too early to be talking music festivals? I think not.

Lately my friends and I have been discussing how we should definitely go to a music festival this year. I went to the Firefly Music Festival in Delaware a few years back. It was your typical music festival with several stages hosting bands from morning till late at night. The campgrounds were crowded with all sorts of music lovers at various stages of intoxication. By the last day, everyone was sunburned and tired and very, very dirty [seeing as showers cost money and not to mention the line was about an hour long]. They had a great lineup and I got to see some bands that I have loved for forever [like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Matt and Kim] and ones that I have loved from then on [like Haim and Japandroids]. It was a great experience. Will I ever return, though? I don't know.

One of the friends I went with always says that we should "go back to Firefly!", but for me, it really all depends. [Don't worry - I'm about to tell you why.] Every year there is a very long list of festivals that take place all over the country. And each festival has a new lineup every year. So, why go back to the same festival? For me, my finances basically limit me to attending just one festival - so I have to make it a good one! I want to go to a festival whose lineup includes many bands I want to see, not just one or two. I want to like the headliner and lots of the other bands, too. The lineup is definitely the most important, but there are other factors.

First of all, we have the logistics. When is it? How many days? I need to make sure it will work with my super hectic schedule [Ha.]. Where is it located? How far? How am I going to get there? Like I said, Firefly is in Delaware which is kinda not too far from Virginia [where I'm from], so we just drove. It wasn't that big of a deal. But, obviously this can become a crucial detail depending on which festival you have your eye on. How much are tickets? Should I buy a pass or just go for a day or two? Are tickets still even available? For some of the wealthier population, this might not be that concerning, but for me... well, it's just a different story. I just need to make sure it's doable. Where will I stay? Are there camp grounds? Do I have the gear I need? Some festivals have camp grounds, some don't. You just need to figure that shit out and see if lodging is just going to be another annoying cost.

Okay, so, logistics: check! Next, and probably more important, we have company! I sure as hell am not going to one of these festivals alone. That wouldn't be any fun anyway! Just a word of warning: choose carefully. Make sure that the people you bring aren't going to be Debbie Downers because they might not be able to take a shower or might not be able to charge their phone or end up missing a band for some reason. The best people to go with are the laid back type - people who just roll with the punches and are going to have fun no matter what because that's what they're there to do. You know, you just don't want anything to harsh your mellow- get me?

Anyway, I'm bringing all of this up because my two best friends and I have found a few contenders for this year's festival choice.

  • Lava Music Festival: This one would probably be the easiest one for us. It's only a day show, but it's in Virginia so we would be able to drive there and back on the same day. We wouldn't have to worry about lodging and the tickets are relatively cheap. ALSO one of my favorite bands of all time Tokyo Police Club is on the lineup! Yay! And Cloud Nothings! Double yay!!
  • Shaky Knees: So, this one is more along the lines of Firefly. It's a long weekend thing in Atlanta. Pretty far from us but not too, too bad. I've made the drive before with a packed car and didn't go [too] insane. THE BEST PART IS THAT THE STROKES ARE HEADLINING. [Oh, sorry, I didn't mean to shout that, but I couldn't hold back my enthusiasm if you couldn't tell]. I would be sooooo excited to see them again! And at a festival! Cool beans [is that phrase lame now?].Other highlights: Neutral Milk Hotel, Kaiser Chiefs, The Mowglis, Jukebox the Ghost, TV On the Radio AND the legends that are The Pixies! There's no camping, so we would have to get a hotel. Kinda sucks, but whateves. [This is the one I'm kinda pushing for.]
  • Governors Ball: It's a long weekend event all the way up in New York at Randall Island Park. It would be quite the trek. Also we would need to stay in a hotel since this one doesn't involve camping. Some lineup highlights are Florence + The Machine, The Black Keys, Weird Al, War on Drugs, Charli XCX, Echosmith and Tame Impala. Good bands, but no one I would go crazy for.
  • And of course, Firefly, because why not. They unfortunately have not released their lineup as of yet, so they are still at the bottom of my list.

They all sound pretty great! I'm just excited decide and then to just go!

Hey readers out there! [If there are really any of you. I don't really know if anyone actually reads this blog or not. I might just be talking to myself. Ha.] If you guys have any festival ideas or any festival stories to share, let me know in the comments! I'm always up to learn something new!

Until next time, happy listening!

Xx. J

Musical Pastimes

The list of fun music-related activities [excluding the obvious going to shows and, you know, just listening] is quite endless if you think about it. As a person like myself with a [sometimes unhealthy] obsession of music, I haven't even explored all of them. One new type of entertainment has been brought to my attention recently, though. It occurs every Tuesday evening at my local Irish pub. A group of my friends attend together each week and without fail the night is filled with drinks and laughs. The enjoyable occasion I am speaking of it, of course, music trivia. It's a great time. Hanging out with friends and discussing music and playing a game - what could be better? We always have such fun seeing how much we each know and learning new facts and about new music. The game usually consists of 4 rounds. First off, the guy who runs the trivia night [who also happens to be a DJ at WDCE - which is how we found out about these events] plays 30 seconds of 20 different songs and we, as a team, need to write down the song title or the artist - sometimes even both, depending. At the end of the round, he goes through the songs again quickly so we can just double check everything. Next we have the questions round - just a good old, straight up music trivia quiz. Round 3 gets a little bit trickier. He plays only 20 seconds of 100 different songs in quick succession [ And you don't get the chance to hear anything twice, like you would in round 1]. Finally, we have the quick fire buzzer round. This is basically exactly what it sounds like. Each team has a buzzer and as songs are played, you hit the buzzer the second you know the tune [title and artist, to be specific].

The final round stresses me out like no other. For a trivia game, it definitely is able to get the adrenaline pumping. You wouldn't believe how quickly some of the regular participants buzz in. Some of them have been doing trivia for ages, so can you really blame them? But, I mean, sometimes it's just truly astonishing how quickly they can identify a song. Frequently it's after only the first two notes of a song. Within seconds [sometimes less] they recognize the tune. I aspire, one day, to be like them.

The amazing part is that many of the trivia nights have no theme. This means music is being played from every genre and every decade. I have to admit, while I do have a depth in knowledge of music, it can be limited to certain types and time periods. The music will also include covers [which always throw people off], live tracks, and obscurities that no one knows. When there is a theme, I suppose it's much easier. At least you know what you are getting yourself into. But, still. I get severely dissapointed in myself for not being quicker on the uptake. I do know a fair amount of the music played, but sometimes I'm not quick enough or can't immediately think of the artist or song title. I always feel like I should know it.

Anyway, as you can imagine, when you are on a team with a ton of your friends, you have loads of help. This is especially true with genres that you might not be that interested in [ahem, country] or don't know much about. Because we generally have quite a diverse crowd for a team, we usually do pretty well. [Many times we come in second place and win free shots for the table - not a bad prize!]

No matter how we do or what place we come in, we are always having a great time. This just demonstrates one of the best qualities that music has [at least in my opinion] - being able to bring people together. My life would be a big pile of nothingness without it. And, for that, I am grateful. I know that, throughout my life, I will continue to find amazing musical pastimes [just like trivia] that will continue to make my life that much brighter. :] [Okay, the sappy rant is over.]

Until next time, happy listening!

Xx. J

P.S. Alex Winston [I must have mentioned her before because she's an all-time fave.] just released a new track! Check it out!

Alex Winston - Careless

 

Vinyl - Is It Worth The Hype?

I've been a CD, mp3, spotify girl for most of my life. Okay, maybe cassette tapes for a few years, too. I have yet to venture over to the trendy world of vinyl and record players, but I have a feeling it's in my future. Sure, I have heard my fair few of vinyl recordings over the years [just because I have friends like that]. I mean, I do like some weird and obscure indie music, but I wouldn't call myself a hipster or a trendster per se. People probably sometimes think I'm into vinyl and all that, but I haven't really crossed over. I see [and more importantly hear] the benefits, but the cost. Man, the cost.

A few weeks ago, just before the holidays, I hit up our local record store here in Richmond to pick up a Christmas gift, and man, I went a little overboard in there. I ended up buying like 6 different records [and some of them weren't that cheap]. I definitely spent more dollars than I would be willing to admit. The worst part, though, was that I ended up keeping 3 of them for myself [They were supposed to be gifts, goddammit]. I just got overcome by all the awesome albums that I hadn't heard in forever and there were cool special editions that I had never heard. As a music lover, how could I resist.

Anyway, seeing as I wasn't currently an owner of an operable record player, holding some freshly bought vinyl put me in a bit of a pickle. Well, turns out my Mom had a dusty, old player chilling in the attic from back in the day. I claimed that shit, and here we are.

Of course it needed some fixing up because it hadn't been touched in I don't know how many years. It's still not working perfectly, but I think it will manage. Right now, I'm anxiously awaiting a part form Amazon that will finish up the job... at least I'm hoping. These records I have need to be spun!

The record I'm most excited about spinning is probably one of my favorite albums of all time - Give Up by Postal Service. The lyrics. The musicality. The sound. Simply amazing. And, the fact that it's a stand alone record only enhances the overall appeal. I'm excited to compare the digital recordings I've heard with the vinyl equivalent. This will be an interesting journey. I will report back with my findings.

Anyway, until I am able to go further into detail, enjoy some Postal Service below.

Until next time, happy spinning!

Xx. J

Best of 2014

Since we are only 6 days into the new year, I thought I would recap my favorite music findings of 2014. Keep in mind, these might not all be 2014 releasees (although most of them are), but music the I personally got into this year. I hope you enjoy. To kick things off, we have the lovely and multitalented Pentatonix. If you haven't heard of them, I suggest you get on the bandwagon. The a cappella group consists of 5 members: Scott Hoying, Mitch Grassi, Kristie Maldonado, Avi Kaplan, and Kevin Olusola. [Mitch and Scott host "the best show on the internet" called Superfruit, which is how I found PTX originally.] They are going to be very famous. [I feel it in my bones.] They just recently got a Grammy nom, so you can see where their career will probably be headed. They basically do pop in a cappella which as we all know is amazing from the movie Pitch Perfect.

I got very into them at the start of 2014 from my many adventures into the world of YouTube. I immediate became very attached to their Daft Punk mash up [which, not surprisingly, is the song for which they received the Grammy nomination- for best arrangement]. It is in my top 10 most played tracks last year for sure. Anyway, I recently got excited about them again within the past few months because they released a Christmas album called It's Christmas To Me. It is to die for. I have christened it my favorite Christmas album of all time. [Check out the Daft Punk mashup and Christmas album below.]

 

Next up, we have The Griswolds. I admittedly don't know as much about their band as I do other artists included in this list, but the music is good [and that's good enough for me]. They are a "four-piece indie rock band from Sydney" as Wikipedia tells me, so there you go. I find the music similar to like the rockiness and vocals of Grouplove and Ghost Beach. Like, I would include their music in a playlist that also had Empty Streets by Ghost Beach or Ways to Go by Grouplove. Good stuff. It's basically just really dancy, fun rock music as you can see in the video for Heart of a Lion below. That song technically came out in 2013, but it is the song that originally interested. However, they did have a 2014 release in the form of a full length album called Be Impressive. It's getting a lot of attention on Spotify. Check it out below.

I was actually introduced to the next band I want to mention on an airplane ride from Florida back home to Virginia. I was taking the trip solo and to pass the time, I mindlessly flipped through options on one of those headrest TV screens. I found a short documentary-type thing about a band that, solely by looks, seemed like one I would be into. I guess you can judge books by their covers because Young Rising Sons became one of my favorite 2014 bands.

They are a four-piece indie/alternative band out of New Jersey [of all places]. They apparently formed in 2010, but have only released two short EPs, both last year. So they are basically like babies in this whole music industry thing, but I wish them the best of luck. They have gotten the most noteriety for their song High [see below], which was a track that got Caught In My Head [see what I did there?? If not, check the top of this page] for the remaining 2 hours of that flight. I found it sort of painful waiting until the plane landed to download it to my phone. Once again, like many of the bands I spotlight, their music is fun and addictive rock music. I would compare them to Youngblood Hawke and The Drums [Check out Youngblood Hawke's We Come Running and The Drums' Money to see what I mean].

The next band I enjoyed last year actually composed the theme music for an MTV show called Finding Carter. MTV is criticized for airing too many reality shows and dramas, but you can't deny that they work hard to include new and interesting music in these shows. MisterWive's song Vagabond was in like a billion commercials for Finding Carter before it debuted this year and then ended up being the theme song as well. It turns out that this track was off their first full length album called Reflections released January of last year. Not so bad for a debut release!

The music is actually pretty similar to the two other bands I just mentioned - Young Rising Sons and The Griswolds. The difference is that it's just a 3-piece and has a female vocal lead [both positive facts, in my opinion]. The vocals kind of sound like a mix between Alex Winston and Regina Spector, but with more of a fuller sound. The music however more closely resembles a cross between Oh Land and Los Campesinos! [I'm thinking along the lines of White Night [Oh Land] and You! Me! Dancing! [Los Campesinos!].]

I have to give this band a nod for lyricism, too. Check out the video for Vagabond below [which conveniently has the lyrics on screen]. You gotta really appreciate a good lyrics, nowadays.

 

And I'll end this post with one of my favorite artists, Ed Sheeran. He of course was not a new finding of 2014, as I have been a fan of his for years. I would just feel too guilty not to include is multiplatinum album X. He included every bit as much soul as was in his debut album +. So if you were a fan of that, give this one a shot too. [Although you probably have because several singles from the album charted in the top ten.]

Here Ed Sheeran is being as daper as ever in his video for Thinking Out Loud. Enjoy. :]

I could have probably made this Best Of list a whole lot longer, but I figured I'd just pick the faves. So, I hope you enjoyed it and here's to another year of new music discoveries! Stay tuned for posts on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Thanks for reading!

Until next time, happy listening!

Xx. J

The Road So Far

Well, hello there, internetland! Long time, no see! As you can probably tell from my [ahem, 3 month] absence from the pages of this blog, my life has been a bit crazy as of late. Well, it actually went from super hyperdrive busy, busy, busy to  nothing, nothing, nothing. It's not new, though. This has basically always been the story of my life. So, let's play catchup. Here is the cliff notes version of what I have been up to during my temporary hiatus.

As far as progress on the career front goes [because that's what this blog is meant to be about afterall], I really haven't made any. It's been an extremely frustrating process for me and it's starting to really wear me down. [This is kind of my state of mind lately, but I'm pushing through, as you do.]

I've been applying to basically any PR internship out there. I have sent apps all over the United States. [Location, to me, is not that huge of a deal. I would actually enjoy a change in scenery.] Anyway, I did get a few call backs. I got pretty far in interviews at one firm in New York City and another in San Francisco. I went through three rounds of interviews with these companies and everything seemed to be going so well with both of them.

One thing I have learned is that the job hunting is such a tease. I get so far into the processes where I am literally already inquiring about apartments to sublease on craigslist [and not applying to any other positions because I think I must have this one in the bag] to  just find out I wasn't good enough. Again.

The last time that whole scenario played out was right before the holidays. I had recently quit my soul-crushing part time job at CVS to focus more on this career hunt [and to avoid it's overall soul-crushing nature]. Things really weren't looking up and as I watched my bank account continue to dwindle, I decided to just apply to any and all business/office related jobs in Richmond. I figured any business-type experience would be good and I needed an income fast. So, I ended up applying to this random administrative assistant job which happened to come from a temp agency. Long story short, they called me that day, I interviewed that week, and now they are going to be finding me marketing related temp work. Now that the holidays are over, more opportunities for temp work should be coming in soon [or so they say]. This might be just the experience I'm looking for to be able to break into the PR industry. Here's to hoping.

In the mean time, I have [of course] been continuing my radio show at WDCE. Since quitting CVS, I have had more free time t0 develop it further and to really plan the shows. This is one area of my life that will always be a positive.

Anyway, the dream is still alive. This is just a little road block and as long as I have music in my life, I'll make it through.

Until next time, happy listening!

Xx. J

What I'm Listening To Right Now Part Deux

Hey guys! Guess what?! I made another mix! [Reference this post, if you don't know why this is exciting] So, just a short post today. Well, long in physical length, short in verbage. Anyway, here's "Bodado" [Long story- inside joke- derivative of the word potato]. Enjoy!

OctaHate by Ryn Weaver

Love Love Love by Avalanche City

A Little Opus by Little Comets

Call Me in the Afternoon by Half Moon Run

Battles by Hudson Taylor

Caves by The Plastics

Shake It Off by Taylor Swift [Don't judge me. I had to. It's too catchy.]

Vegabond by MisterWives

Noah by Amber Run

Changing of the Seasons by Two Door Cinema Club

Until next week, happy mixtape jamming!

Xx. J

Rock Band [and no, I'm not talking about the video game]

In recent years, popular music has lost sight of the rock band. The focus has been on pop and EDM for so long, that I'm sure the kids of today can't even identify with a typical band setup. Back when I was a kid, it was all about the rock bands. And, not just weirdo alternative kids like me- popular culture was into it, too. My youth was the heyday of alternative rock and pop punk bands. It was awesome and I was so into it [as was most everyone]. I'm talking bands like All American Rejects, Blink 182, Yellowcard, Simple Plan, Good Charlotte, Hoobastank... Remember all that good early 2000s shit? Bands like these kind of rode the wave of reviving garage rock [ahem, The Strokes, The Hives, The Vines, and The White Stripes] but put a more catchy [and, I guess, commercial] spin on it. For me, they were certainly a gateway drug of sorts to the trend of music they were following.

or a kid, what a great thing to look up to! Friends coming together, learning instruments together, writing together, and creating some kick ass tunes. Nowadays it's all auto-tune, hired lyricists, computers and producers. I mean, there's talent in that, too. It just comes from a different place. It come's form a place of calculation and manufacture; not honesty and real life, like where these band originated from. I'm pretty sure the members of every band I just named came together as friends first, and then tried to make it. You can't get more real than that. They were producing music that they wanted to give us [as the listening public], not what we wanted to hear. At least that's the way it seems. You can't but a price on honesty when it comes to creating good music.

ately, there are signs that rock bands might once again be entering the popular music spotlight. And, this news makes me all warm and tingly inside. Most notably [in my opinion], we have the band 5 Seconds of Summer. They are 4 teenaged boys from Australia who are making a splash lately [most likely because of their association with the boyband One Direction, who they are touring with again this summer]. No matter how they got popular, they are a band with actual instruments!

You know it's a sad state of affairs when I'm excited that a group who plays instruments is getting popular. I actually got the chance to see them play live a few months ago and they were pretty good. As I quickly learned, they have a huge [mostly female] following. This means young kids are getting into bands again! I'm hoping this means the start of another era of the rock band.

Until next time, happy rocking out!

Xx. J

AIDEN [Grimshaw]

There's a lesser known artist from the UK called Aiden Grimshaw. His style and the type of music he produces doesn't fit how he got his start, but that's what's so beautiful about the music industry- everyone has their own unique journey. He was a contestant on the X Factor UK. Yes, one of those god awful singing competition shows. An entity that has been condemned by music lovers and members of the music industry alike. They are criticized for taking the authenticity [and therefore, feeling] out of the music. For producers, managers, and record labels with money on the mind, manufacturing hit makers becomes the ultimate goal. And, if that happens on screen, generating more cash, so be it.

I agree with the sentiment. I understand where people are coming from when they condemn these competitions. It seems like successful artists who worked all of their lives to get where they are today have a hard time respecting other artists who took the easy way to the top. They went on a music show, gained a following, got a record deal, and voila- Kelly Clarksoned that shit. I totally get where they are coming from, too. There's something less satisfying about an artist who didn't work their way to the top- there's less of a history. And that's what makes them seem/feel manufactured.

With all of that said, I have to admit that I continue to watch the X Factor [only the UK version because I'm a bit of an anglophile]. However manufactured or fake those artists who graduate from these shows may come off, you can't deny that many of them actually have some real, undeniable talent. Some of them had hard lives and found entering one of these competitions as a final chance to get that ticket to the big time. Others [mostly the young ones] had no patience and wanted fame over night. Either way, in many cases the talent is there. Which brings be to Aiden.

In 2010, he didn't win the X Factor, but he made it pretty far on the show with his unique voice. Like many of his predecessors, he signed to a record label shortly after. For me, what set Aiden apart from his other competitors was his style of music and his presence on stage. The way he sang and his song choices seemed much more alternative than others on the show. When you think about competition shows like the X Factor, you usually associate it with pop or popular music. This wasn't the case with him. [And, that might have been his downfall on the show for all we know.]

Anyway, he went on to release some music in 2012, which is where I really started to like him. The album Misty Eye (2012) boasted two really awesome singles. Both Is This Love and Curtain Call allowed him to really emphasize his voice with a fitting style of music. It takes on a more bluesy tone that really matches his voice well. It's probably an odd comparison, but I feel like he has a soulful tone similar to Alicia Keys. I might only be making that reference because a female vocalist features on Curtain Call and it just sounds amazing adjacent to his voice. Check it out below.

After that release, we really didn't hear much from him. He split with Sycho after his debut and he decided to dramatically switch up his image. He no longer goes by Aiden Grimshaw, but just Aiden. He released a new EP titled [guess what] AIDEN in late 2013. It strays very, very far from his first EP. He got more into EDM, I guess following the trend of the industry. More Daft Punk, than Keys. Personally, I'm not a huge fan. I don't think it does his unique voice justice. But, you can check out the first single Satisfy Me below and decide for yourself.

With all the negative things said about singing competition shows, I just wanted to bring up the positive that can come out of it. Sure, it might be the easy way, but it can bring our attention to artists and music that we might have never heard before.

Until next time, happy listening!

Xx. J

On Hiatuses & Seeing Bands Before You Can't

As I mentioned in a previous post [talking about Bloc Party], many of the best bands out there will eventually go on hiatus or dissolve. For dedicated fans, this is the worst news. No more new records. No more tours. If you had the amazing chance to actually see them play live, you'll never get the chance to relive that experience. And quite possibly worst of all: if you never got the chance to see them live, you never will. [Unless, of course, they get back together that is. Which can be the best and also slightly weird.]

I've talked about it before, but going to shows puts that experience of listening to music on hyperdrive. You can really feel it, you know? You really get a feel for the band or the artist. This is why music lovers and fans get all bent out of shape when they don't get to see a show. There have been many a time when missing a concert put me down in the dumps- because of money, school, work, etc. Seeing bands is not a constant likes some other experiences. Missed the chance to go to an amusement park? So what. Go next weekend. Depending on where you live and the artist, they may come around more or less once a year- maybe even every other year. This uncertainty makes the times you do get to see them even sweeter. So, when a band does happen to go on hiatus [or just plain ol' break up] at the most inopportune time [at least when it comes to your life], it [a little bit more than] sucks. It is something I get legitimate anxiety over- not seeing some bands before I can't.

One time I did get the chance to see a band for whom the odds weren't looking so good. Back in 2009, when Blink 182 finally got back together and began touring again, there was no way I was going to miss the chance to see them live. Having been a fan since the All The Small Things days, I was super siked. I drove over to Virginia Beach from Richmond to see them with my best friend. It was an amazing, high energy show. We even booked a hotel room to stay the night. And went to the beach the next morning. Good times. [Side note: I'm wearing that concert teeshirt right now. Oh, the memories.]

Another instance I had with this [on hiatus/off hiatus/breaking up/ getting back together] dilemma, was actually with The Strokes. I was able to see them once when they played a small outdoor venue in here in Richmond. Sadly, this was before my era of The Strokes obsession. I was a small high school underclassmen, way too concerned about all the drunk people around me to properly enjoy the show. After seeing them, I proceeded to become more and more infatuated with the band. And then that dirty little word - hiatus- came up. Damn. I got the chance to see them and pretty much didn't make the most of it. I have always wished I had seen them after I got really into them. BUT, now that they are producing again, hopefully I'll get the chance once again. We'll see.

inally, I just need to bring up the artists that I for sure, with no doubt, would never, ever have the possibility of ever seeing live. I'm talking about older bands- mostly classic rock or the oldies or whatever you wan to call it [ugh, genres]. Not being able to see such greats as The Beatles, Janis Joplin, The Who [god, even like Mozart and Beethoven], and so many others is a great sadness of my life. I mean I know The Who still tours, but not with all of the original members, and not like back then. I would have been honored to see them in the days of exploding bass drums and destroyed guitars. And then, festivals. Like Woodstock. Before they got overrun with hipsters who don't even know the bands and frat bros who are just there to drink and get high. Although that was important to those festivals as well, but first and foremost was the music. The fucking music. Feeling it and experiencing it and connecting with it. Maybe I'm glorifying it, but it's nice to think about.

Let's be real, though. Sometimes it's good that bands break up. And stay that way. They might have passed their prime. If they are producing music just to keep the dream alive, or just to keep going, it might not even be worth it. I really don't think it should be something that is forced. If the band is done, the band is done. Some things just happen for a reason. But, I'll definitely always reserve hope that I'll see certain bands someday.

Until Thursday [see below], happy listening!

Xx. J

P.S. I have been super busy lately with the job search [stay tuned for some good news on that front hopefully soon (!!!)], so I am going to change up the Caught In My Head schedule. I'm going to be posting on Tuesdays and Thursdays now. Since my posts have been rushed lately, I just think it will give me more time to create better content. I'll also post short extras when I feel the need. Thanks for reading!

What I'm Listening to Right Now

Let's be real here. This blog is almost completely inspired by the bands and/or songs I am currently jamming to. Most of the time, it is how I come up with ideas on what to write about. When I don't start out with a particular subject to post about, I just check out my recently played tracks and go from there. At any given time, I'll have a mix CD [or, you know, playlist] of the tracks that I am listening to. Over time, I start collecting certain songs that get stuck in my head or I see myself constantly returning to. A lot of the times they contain new releases or multiple tracks from a band that I am starting to get into. Other times it has songs that have been around forever that I am just connecting with again.

At a certain point, I usually just think, "Okay, it's time for a new mix". I then grab all of the songs that I have been listening to recently and put them together. I also always have fun coming up with a creative title for the mix. Usually the songs really don't have anything to do with each other or with what I call the mix, but more about what's going on in my life at that moment. I could probably go back and look at my mixes in chronological order and have a decent timeline of events in my life. I used to journal about my life all the time, but now this is the method I use to chronicle my life.

So, I suppose I must ask the question: What am I listening to right now? Well, here's my current mix...

Title: Let's Rock, Let's Rock, Today

[If you don't get the reference, I'm disappointed in you.]

1. Right Now by Watsky ft. Lisa Vitale

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ReJvNlzcD7s

2. Stay With Me by Sam Smith

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pB-5XG-DbAA

3. Take Me to Church by Hozier

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYSVMgRr6pw

4. Tongue Tied by Grouplove

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1x1wjGKHjBI

5. Drop the Game by Flume & Chet Faker

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vopR3ys8Kw

6. I'm With You by Grouplove

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NdB296pKdPI

7. Boom Clap by Charli XCX

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AOPMlIIg_38

8. Youth by Daughter

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2QT5eGHCJdE

9. Shark Attack by Grouplove

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YXHrfIZe484

10. The Writing's On the Wall by OK Go

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m86ae_e_ptU

11. Let Me In by Grouplove

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CvqyxgZMDXI

12. Happy Little Pill by Troye Sivan

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QEWHF3E9YJQ

13. A Love Like War by All Time Low ft. Vic Fuentes

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDbVY3gCJgg

It's a little heavy on Grouplove and Top 40 stuff, but definitely jammable. Also, most of them have pretty rad music videos, so you're welcome. :]

Until next time, happy jamming!

Xx. J

Cool Opportunities

Recently, I had a pretty cool opportunity kind of related to the music industry. My mom actually got me the job because, you know, connections are everything in the biz. Who you know can get you pretty far whether or not you have the talent and determination to succeed. I've been told it a thousand times and to be quite honest, it is my most lacking of assets.

But, anyway, here's what happened. My aunt owned this really awesome bar for years in Tempe, Arizona called the Sail Inn. With an indoor and outdoor stage, she constantly hosted live music. As a huge supporter of local music, many were saddened by the news that she had sold the bar to developers. They gave her an offer she couldn't refuse and, for her, it seemed like the right time. The send off event was a huge farewell festival spanning a three day weekend with over 15 bands performing. I wasn't able to attend but I have seen video from the event and it looked fantastic. You can read a cool article about it here.

My aunt's original plan was somewhat of retirement- getting out of the business and spending time pursuing other interests. You know how owning a business can be. You are pretty much on call 24/7 and rarely have time for anything outside of it. This is how her life had been for years and it seemed like she was ready for a break. Well, if you knew her, you would understand why this was an unrealistic plan. She's a go-getter, the type who always has to be doing something, which is why it wasn't a surprise when she [almost immediately] bought into a different bar [thankfully with a partner]. She by no means took on the same amount of responsibilities as with [her baby, her pride and joy] the Sail Inn, but it is work nonetheless. She arranged a situation where she is only responsible for her favorite part of the Sail Inn- entertainment. She still has the exciting job of booking bands and promoting shows, but without the hassle of keeping up with the bar's operations. 

So, this brings us to where I got involved. See, the bar she bought with her partner was an already established and running business called Cactus Jack's. Their vision for the bar, however, was different than the previous owners. With all of my aunt's connections in local music, the bar would be more of a live music type bar, than a tavern type place. So, the logo, marketing, and aesthetic were all wrong. My aunt and her partner would have preferred to just change the name of the bar completely [because Cactus Jack's really doesn't give off the feel they would like], but the building came with a huge, very expensive lit sign that they cannot replace. So, the name had to stay, but the logo? That's where I came in.

They wanted a logo that would reenforce the message that the bar's main attraction was live music. They wanted to steer away from the cactus-y, dessert-y, Arizona-y connotations and really push the music aspect. I went through a bunch of designs and ended up with something that is simple, yet effective [my favorite kind of design]. I was really excited about this project and having the chance to do a little something [even if it wasn't that much] in the music industry. It actually opened my eyes to the possibility of working at a venue as my music industry "in". I'll definitely add this possibility to my job hunt. And, if my aspirations of working at a PR firm [to get that kind of experience] works out, I'll keep a venue job in mind as a possible part-time supplement position. That way I'd be working in both industries simultaneously. Woah, that's a really good idea. I actually need to make that happen. Haha. I love having ah-ha moments while I write. Anyway, you can check out my cool logo below.

Until next week, happy listening!

Xx. J

A Word About Genres...

Okay, so, let's talk about genres. I feel like this conversation has been a long time coming. I almost feel a moral obligation to share my difficulties with musical genres to make my thought process/writing of music make sense. For many reasons, I take issue with using genres as an effective and valuable way to describe music.

First of all, the amount of genres and sub-genres and cross-over genres is almost excessive. When writing about music or maybe even simply chatting about it, I find difficulty in determining how specific to get. Is it good enough to call some music "rock"? Or would I be better off saying "post-punk revival"? Would you even know what I'm referring to? Relying too much on genres can also pigeon hole artists. Artists may be able to fit under several genres. In this case genres are not as reliable as descriptors anyway.

Another problem with using genres is simply the language behind it. In the same way every word has different connotations for each person, a specific genre may have different meanings for each person. The same song that I would consider indie pop might seem more like EDM to the next person. In all honesty, there are probably valid arguments to put certain tracks in several different genres. And, that's our problem. Once again, genres are not valid descriptors, not only because our ideas on genres might be different, but because neither of us are right or wrong.

Finally, comes the perspective of the artist. When it comes to a piece of art [which of course includes music], what the artist was intending to say is of utmost importance. We can talk about music all day, but until we know what the artist was trying to do, is anything we say even valid?

So, with all of this negative talk about genres, it all comes down to one question. If using genres to describe music is unreliable and counterproductive, how are to even describe music in writing or conversation? The best answer I have found, is to describe music by alluding to elements of other music. Music journalists frequently use this tactic. For example, if a new band is releasing their new EP, the journalist might describe the group as having lyricism similar to band x and a lead guitar style similar to band y. It is much harder to find these connections and to communicate them well. It's a method I struggle with, but I hope that as I continue to write about music, it will get easier and more second nature.

Well, that's about all I have to say about that.

Until next time, happy listening!

Xx. J

TRXYE

Troye Sivan is this little Australian YouTuber who has kind of taken the new music scene by storm lately. With over 1.5 Million followers on Twitter, he already boasts quite an impressive fanbase just from his short, quirky videos. Already having a huge number of supporters gave him an awesome advantage when it came to releasing his first EP, TRXYE. Troye kept the whole project a secret up until VidCon [a conference for YouTubers and their audience] this year. He hadn't even told his fans about his record deal with EMI Australia [a Universal Australia label]. Doing so created massive hype around the EP that would be released shortly. The most interesting thing about the project is that it is so well thought out. It has a visual aesthetic and a sound that is very cohesive. Troye even says in one of his recent videos that he has had this specific sound and look in his head for a long time. He was excited to create a complete package for his fans. Everything about the project is pretty striking and memorable. Even the cover art has become sort of iconic. It's an image of Troye's face with a paint stripe across his eyes with "TRXYE" overlaid. Fans and other well-known YouTubers [like Tyler Oakley] have edited the image to add their faces. A website has also been created where you can create your own icon. Involving everyone in the project makes them feel apart of it and even more excited for the music.

troye
troye
And, here's one of me.
And, here's one of me.

Soon after originally announcing the EP, Troye released the single Happy Little Pill through soundcloud on his Tumblr. He later put out a lyric video true to the TRXYE aesthetic. Because Troye is so versed in online culture, he was able to reach his fans in a very familiar way. All of his social media platforms are synched up and the TRXYE brand is cohesive across all accounts. Not surprisingly the single reached number one in several countries and charted in the US. Preorders are now available for the EP through iTunes. I wouldn't be surprised if the EP charts as well when it is officially released in a few days on August 15th. In the meantime, check out his new video for Happy Little Pill...

 

Until next time, happy listening!

Xx. J

Bastille [Day]

To finish off my series about UK artists, I'll mention a band that, unlike Two Door Cinema Club and Bloc Party [from my posts earlier this week on Monday and Wednesday], is at the beginning of their career. They gained popularity relatively recently and hopefully won't go down in history as an "one hit wonder" in America. Starting as a solo project by lead singer Dan Smith, Bastille is a four piece indie pop/rock group. It includes Dan Smith, Kyle Simmons, William Farquarson, and Chris Wood. They all play many instruments and contribute vocally for the band so it is useless to concretely define their positions in the band other than to mention that Dan Smith is the lead singer and Chris Wood plays drums. [Fun fact: The band is called Bastille because Dan Smith's birthday lands on Bastille Day (July 14th).] 

This is how it all went down: Bastille released some self-written and self-produced music (mostly done by Dan Smith) on the internet and started gaining popularity and a fanbase in the UK. They subsequently got signed in the UK, released an album, and earned awards and notoriety. I know that's a very brief way of explaining what I'm sure was a very complex journey from their formation in 2010 to the present, but I'm addressing UK bands that broke the US, so let's get to that part.

Their debut album Bad Blood (2013) did extremely well in the UK, debuting at number one in March of 2013 after releasing singles as early as spring 2012. The single Pompeii is what gained them major popularity within the US. It is one of those tracks that regularly plays on Top 40 radio. The song has an awesomely catchy chorus and starts out with just as addicting chanting in the beginning. This song definitely leans more towards synthpop than rock and has interesting lyrics.

The main reason I wanted to mention this band was to show how one good tune can break a band in the US. The part that most groups or artists struggle with is keeping that momentum and popularity. You know, "Sophomore Slump" and all of that. Bastille is currently in that all important moment when they can either hold onto this break or let it fade. As a band with multi-instrumentalist members who majorly write and produce their own songs, I think they have all the tools necessary to extend their success. Rumor has it that they have already started on album number two. I personally can't wait to see how this all plays out.

Until next time, happy listening!

Xx. J

Let's [Bloc] Party!

To continue UK week here on Caught In My Head, I'd like to talk about a band that is similar in genre to Two Door Cinema Club [from Monday's post] called Bloc Party. The indie rock band with four members [including the founding members Kele Okereke on lead vocals and rhythm guitar and Russell Lissack on lead guitar as well as Gordon Moakes on bass and Matt Tong on drums] had a pretty awesome run from 1999 to 2013, but are unfortunately currently on an indefinite hiatus. [If there's one thing I've learned, this sadly only happens to the best bands.] The coolest part about this band is probably how they got their break. Back in 2003 when they were trying to get started, Kele Okereke attended a Franz Ferdinand show and was able to hand over a copy of their debut single She's Hearing Voices (2004) to the band's lead singer Alex Kapranos and a BBC Radio 1 DJ named Steve Lamacq. The DJ later played the "genius" [in his words] track on his show and invited Bloc Party to have a recording session. The buzz created from these fateful events led to their signing on the independent label Wichita Recordings in 2004. I guess it really is all about who you know. AND being in the right place at the right time. Essentially, you need luck [and (sometimes) talent] to make it in this business.

I would have to agree with Steve Lamacq's assessment of the band as "genius" especially when it comes to their debut record Silent Alarm (2005). It's honestly one of my absolute favorite indie rock albums. And for good reason... It's one of those albums that is complete. You know, as in every track holds its own and is equally important to the record as a whole. Not surprisingly, it earned accolades proving this point including NME and PLUG awards indie album of the year. It also went platinum in the UK. [If I absolutely had to pick some standout tracks (even though every track is amazing), I would say, give This Modern Love and Little Thoughts a try].

I'd talk more about them, but the music really does speak for itself [their debut album and everything after that]. If you are into some awesome rock music with tinges of EDM and pop punk [and some pretty great lyrics to boot], it is worth listening all the way through. Even if that really isn't your thing, give Silent Alarm a listen and it might be just enough to change your mind.

Until I bring up our next UK band, happy listening.

Xx. J