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We Need To Talk About The Grammys

I feel like this post is obligatory, given the weight of the award show that took place last night. As always, I had some major problems with the award show, but if you kept up with my live tweeting (@notreallyindie — I know you didn’t), you know that overall I was actually very pleased with the show.

So let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Holy sh**: Kendrick Lamar. I will be the first to admit that I don’t listen to Kendrick Lamar on a regular basis. Hell, I don’t listen to rap on a regular basis. But Kendrick Lamar has unmistakeable talent that even someone who lives under a rock could recognize.

That’s why I was so happy when he took home the Grammy for Best Rap Album. It’s why I felt a new faith in the award itself when he won Best Rap Song for “Alright.” It’s why he definitely deserved to win for Best Rap Performance. And it’s why I was fully expecting him to take home Album of the Year. Especially after that performance.

For those of you who didn’t see it, it was FIRE. Literally, there was fire on the stage. But the fire wasn’t the most important part. Maybe it was the way he came out on stage — in chains — that made the biggest statement. Maybe it was the way his spoken-word-influenced track “The Blacker The Berry” flew from his lips. Maybe it was the bonfire that raged behind him. Maybe it was the word “COMPTON,” written in black text against the blank continent of Africa. His message wasn’t easily missed.

 

 

So. Can someone PLEASE explain to me why he lost to Taylor Swift? Nothing about The Grammys has pissed me off more. I thought I was mad when they cut off Queens of the Stone Age at the 56th Awards, but this takes the cake.

Those of you who know me know exactly how I feel about T-Swift. I don’t exactly try to hide my feelings about her. But I don’t think my opinion would be different if I loved her. 1989 just didn’t deserve Album of the Year. It wasn’t even close to being the best album in the category. Not against Chris Stapleton, not against Alabama Shakes, and definitely not against Kendrick Lamar.

And as much as I loved her dig against Kanye (though she seemed a little self-righteous when she accepted the award, in my opinion), I maintain my hope that one day just being Taylor Swift won’t be enough for Taylor Swift anymore.

Kendrick Lamar wasn’t the only one who got snubbed either. As far as Best New Artist, well — it was a loaded category to say the least. I really think Cmeghan-trainor-could-barely-get-through-her-best-new-artist-acceptance-speechourtney Barnett should have taken it, but I don’t feel as offended with Meghan Trainor’s win as I do Swift’s. Trainor does have talent, and her acceptance “speech” made me cry (I’m a sympathetic cryer, what can I say?).

Now, as far as the things The Grammys did right, well, even I’ll admit there were a few. Lady Gaga’s performance, for one. Between the Oscars last year, the national anthem last week, and now her David Bowie tribute, we know that we can expect something from Gaga. And it’s going to be big. No one can deny she’s talented anymore and she no longer needs to show up to award shows in an egg. The Bowie Medley was perfect for her, and her work ethic and dedication to the music really showed last night.

The 58th GRAMMY Awards - Show
LOS ANGELES, CA – FEBRUARY 15: Recording artist Lady Gaga performs onstage during The 58th GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 15, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/WireImage)

Brittany Howard also killed it when Alabama Shakes performed their Grammy-winning “Don’t Wanna Fight.” The category for best rock song was absolutely packed, but I can’t help get the warm fuzzies when I think of their win. I’ve been with them from the beginning, after all. And “Thunderbitch” proved that rock isn’t dead when she screeched into her microphone — something I’m sure gave the audience chills.

Christ Stapleton also had a successful night, picking up two Grammys. He deserved both, if not more. It’s nice to see a great artist like him emerge. I really think he’s bringing country back to where it should be.

Some other highlights? Well, Skrillex plays guitar like a badass and so does Johnny Depp, and Adele still made everyone cry despite the major sound issues during her performance. Also, she is so classy. I love how she took the moment after her performance to shoutout to Kendrick. I bet she thinks he got snubbed too.

So, what are your thoughts on The Grammys? What were your favorite moments? Share here, Facebook, or Twitter! I’d love to know everyone’s opinions on Album of the Year. I mean, I can’t be the only one who’s mad about this, right?

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Crash Into DMB

Good afternoon everyone! I hope you’re week has been lovely. Mine actually has. I’m in Rockville visiting my sister again. I’m also seeing Dave Matthews Band again tomorrow. Last year’s concert turned out to be a bust (not because of DMB, they were amazing as always) because of some rather unfortunate circumstances. So! We are trying again, and thus I must write about my favorite Dave album for good juju. Gear up, cause it’s a long one.

Album: Crash                                                                         Artist: Dave Matthews Band

DMB_Crash

As I mentioned, Crash really is one of my favorite DMB albums, if not actually my favorite. I have really distinct memories of putting this album on for long drives back when I had my first iPod. If I really listened, I could fall asleep about halfway through “Two Step” and wake up around “Lie In Our Graves.” Every time. Really it was the album I went to for everything from needing a good cry to just dancing around for the longest time. It’s just THAT good.

Crash was released in April of 1996. This is actually DMB’s best selling album, and it peaked at #2 on the US Bilboard 200. For the longest time I thought this album was their fourth, but it’s actually their third. My sister set me straight — Before These Crowded Streets actually came after. Steve Lillywhite, who has worked with the band quite a bit, produced the album and it was released by RCA Records.

I think I like this album because so many of the songs found on Crash were songs that just floated around for awhile. I’ve listened to DMB’s Live Trax Vol. 20 (thanks Erin!) and early versions of “Two Step,” “Tripping Billies,” and “Lie In Our Graves” are on it, despite the fact that it was recorded 1993. This album had literally been played and perfected a thousand times before even being recorded. And it has my all time favorite song on it, so that helps too.

Crash is actually kind of a long album, as per usual with Dave Matthews Band. There are only 12 tracks, but total time on the album is almost 70 minutes. There’s some jamming to say the least. I think this album is a great demonstration of what DMB has to offer, and I think in writing about it I’ve realized why not everyone likes it.

Dave Matthews Band has a very distinct style to their music. I mean, every album is different and I can actually pick out the ones that are less like this than others, BUT a Dave Matthews Band song lacks structure. Not in the way you’re thinking — it’s not a free for all. But it’s hard to find the melody in a Dave song. This isn’t a bad thing, though. If anything, it works for the band because every player is able to showcase their talents. I’ll be coming back to this in a second, but I want to talk about the actual tracks on the album first.

Crash opens with a few really upbeat numbers. Honestly, don’t ask me why this is the album I always picked to listen to before bed. The opener, “So Much To Say” is a great jam that features a lot of LeRoi Moore, but I’m going to gloss over it to move on to “Two Step.”

“Two Step” is a much darker song than it’s predecessor, but then suddenly it’s not. It’s almost like listening to two different songs, but quite honestly it’s one of the most beautiful love songs I’ve ever heard. Lines like “Hey my love do you believe that we might last a thousand years/Or more if not for this, our flesh and blood” show the dark place the author is in, but then the song takes on a lighter tone with lines like “Celebrate we will/for life is short but sweet for certain.” The song has a pretty interesting story behind it; I really encourage you to look it up, but it’s just not something I can cover here.

But moving on, I want to talk about my favorite song. I honestly think Crash is my favorite album because of “#41.” People get really confused when I say my favorite song is a number, but DMB fans know exactly what I’m talking about. I think what makes this song special is it applies to any situation. Rumor has it it’s about the band’s break up with an old manager over creative differences — it’s probably the best break up song ever written. “#41” is especially unique in that it has no chorus. It’s literally the most beautiful poem I’ve ever heard put to music. This song is the reason that I believe Dave Matthews is an amazing lyricist. I can’t even pick just one line for you guys because the whole song is THAT good. And remember how I said DMB songs lack a certain structure? This song is the perfect example. I can’t tell you or sing you the melody, but I know the song front to back. It’s just so perfect to me.

From the upbeat tracks like “So Much To Say,” “Too Much” and “Tripping Billies” to the more serious “#41” to the slow and quiet “Crash Into Me” and “Cry Freedom,” Crash covers it all. I could probably give each song on this album it’s own post because I have that much to say, but don’t worry. I won’t share. Crash is an album with a little bit of everything, and it’s an album that really showcases what every member as well as the band as a whole has to offer. This album — this style — might not be for everybody, but it’s certainly something everyone should try. And it’s an album that probably makes my top 5.

Like this album? Hate this album? Share any strong, weak, or ambivalent feelings below in the comments, on my Facebook page, or on Twitter @notreallyindie. Until the next time I feel like writing, keep listening 🙂

Lately I’ve forgone the honorable mentions section, but I think it’s time for a revival: Crash Into Me, Too Much, Drive In Drive Out, Lie In Our Graves, and of course, #41. Seriously. Listen to it.

Interview Series: Carlos Cardenas talks The Vast Alps and being an artist today

Ok, I know I haven’t posted in awhile (as per usual) but I have great news! Recently, I created a twitter profile page for my blog (@notreallyindie). Selfless plug time — follow it if you want to keep up with music news and up-and-coming artists! But that’s not the point. The point is, shortly after I created this twitter page a bunch of up-and-coming artists followed me. There was one band in particular from California I took an interest in, so I reached out to them and hoped to land an interview… and it worked! For this post, I interviewed a member of a band called The Vast Alps, and I’m very excited to share with you guys.

The Vast Alps are a 4 piece band from Riverside, California, which is a little over an hour from LA. The band members include Chris Lacayo, Cory McCormick, and brothers James and Carlos Cardenas. Their latest EP, the Auto Pilot EP was released on May 16th, 2014, and since then they’ve been working hard to bring their new fans a bunch of new music. Recently, they entered the NPR music competition known as Tiny Desk and have started a project they call the “1/1 Project” (1 By 1 Project) in which they put out a new song each week. I was lucky enough to speak with their guitarist and vocalist, Carlos Cardenas, about the band, their music, being a new artist in today’s media world, and where they’re going next.

Maddie Luchsinger: So just go ahead and tell me a little about yourself and the band.

Carlos Cardenas: So we’re called The Vast Alps and we’re from Riverside, California. The band is made up of myself, Carlos, and my brother James, and two of our best friends Cory and Chris. We’ve known each other for probably 10 years just as friends. We met in high school and we’ve been friends through college and stuff like that so we’ve been pretty close in that sense. We’ve all played music before being in this band, and we’ve been playing music for the last couple years — not as The Vast Alps, but just for music projects or for fun or for little films — stuff like that. Officially as The Vast Alps we’ve been a band for I want to say eight months. So we put out an EP last year and we’ve been putting out more music. That just started happening in February. We’ve been putting out like a song a week, which is pretty crazy for us. We’re pretty excited to be doing that, actually.

L: So at what point did you guys sit down and say we can do this and put out our own music?

C: I think The Vast Alps started pretty organically. Like we were all friends before this and we were comfortable just playing around and doing everyday things. And then one day we were like, ‘Hey, we have all these songs, we have all these ideas. Why don’t we just start a band and market ourselves?’ and become what we are today. And the timing was just right. I just finished college last year in the summer and our other member Chris has been done with school for awhile. Two of our members are still in college, but it felt pretty good and pretty right for us to start last year and go from there.

L: Did you have any initial hesitations or challenges that you thought might prevent you from being able to form this band?

C: No, I don’t think we really thought about it that much, like we should do it full blown. I think we’re all pretty committed people. Like in everything that we do we like to give it 100%. I think the timing was just right. Like our oldest member Chris got married a year and a half ago. There’s just things in life I guess, you know, finishing school, getting a job, stuff like that, that you don’t wanna be dealing with and trying to be creative as well because I feel like that can get in the way a lot. Like you know, you don’t have a job or you don’t have enough money, you can’t make it a practice and stuff like that. Things just kind of fell into place really well last year and I guess that gave us the time and the energy to do it.

L: Well what kind of gigs are you playing now?

C: Well it’s a weird thing because we’re from Riverside and that’s probably like an hour away from Los Angeles, and it’s so weird the way the music industry is now. It’s crazy. Like you’ve got to be a better band online than you are playing live I guess. So we always talk about amongst each other how ‘we’re not a live band’ just to be funny you know? Like we kind of grew up in the 90s, going to shows and stuff like that. But the way things are now, nobody really goes to local band gigs. Either you hear about somebody from YouTube or something like that. So we don’t play that often, but we try to be pretty selective on the shows that we do play so that it should benefit us. Like the last show we played was at Cal Poly [Pomona] for the school I graduated from. They had a big fashion show and we were actually the headlining band there… So we try to do shows that are going to help the band and promote the band in some way or another. But we’re not really about ‘oh we’re playing at a local pub, friends come and see us’ because people don’t really go to shows that much, so we really focus on our online and social media.

The Vast Alps

L: Did you notice a surge in social media activity with the release of your first EP?

C: It happened pretty slow for us, because like I said we’re kind of 90s kids I guess. So social media is really important to us, but we’re still learning a lot from it. It’s just changing constantly all the time. I guess the coolest thing that happened to us was we made a video for the Tiny Desk contest and then we had like probably 100 or 200 views in the first couple of days and then NPR put our video up on their tumblr page, and as soon as that happened we had like 1000 views the next day or something.Things like that kind of show you the power of promoting yourself on social media and making the right moves… It’s so beneficial to artists who are just starting out. Because it is hard for artists to get noticed but it can be really easy too if you know what you’re doing — if you play the social media game well.

L: Well let’s move on and talk about the music. What are your biggest musical influences?

C: So basically we have three songwriters in the band. There’s Cory McCormick, Chris Lacayo, and myself Carlos. We all write the basic structure of a song and we bring it to the band and the band makes it into a song where we all collaborate. All three of us are pretty influenced by pretty different genres and stuff. Like me for example — I’m influenced a lot by Spanish music, and Spanish rock, and punk and stuff like that. And Cory — he loves classical music and he listens to a lot of hip hop and things like that, and then Chris listens to a lot of mass music and weird sounding stuff that not everybody gets all the time, but it’s really cool, so it makes our music really — like for me it’s hard to pinpoint our genre exactly. Like if you listen to “Fiction,” which is the song we recorded for Tiny Desk, and then you listen to a song like “Dear, Man,” they’re kind of two different genres.

L: Well tell me a little bit about what’s on the Auto Pilot EP. Why did you choose to release those songs?

C: So this is what happened: we have a collection of just recorded songs or just recorded ideas, and we have a lot of them currently. So we thought ‘Ok, we have all these songs, so we should put something out that kind of will let people know this is  what we sound like at the moment, like this is kind of like our sound.’ So we picked four songs that all sound like The Vast Alps but don’t sound exactly like each other. Like we picked the instrumental song that’s just music that’s the one called “Auto Pilot” because we thought it was this really cool instrumental song that we made up and we picked a pretty poppy one which is “Let Your Walls Down” and we kinda just threw in a little pop, and a little experimental, and a little bit of artsy “Dear, Man” kind of vibe and that’s how we chose to put out those four tracks — so people could get an idea of who we are.

L: What’s changed since you released Auto Pilot both within the group dynamic and the music?

C: That’s a good question. The thing that’s cool is that when you release a song you kind of get over it in a sense that it’s like, ‘Ok, we’ve released these songs, they’re forever out on the internet, so what’s next?’ So it makes you kind of look for the next song or the next sound. So more recently we’ve been kind of experimenting with new songs and we’re releasing a song a week… and it’s gonna be pretty different from Auto Pilot because once you put out songs it feels like, ‘Alright, I already did that song in that genre, so what can I do different, and better?’ So it kind of makes you a better artist I think. We’ve just been working on new material and trying to write better songs.

L: What are you calling this project where you put out one song a week?

C: It’s called One By One (1/1).

L: How did you come up with that idea?

C: Well everything kind of goes back to that social media aspect of being an artist. Like people are on their phones like 24/7. That’s just the reality of the world we live in. I don’t know about you, but I wake up and I’m like,’Oh I need to check my twitter’ and “I need to check my Instagram.” Like that’s how our brains are starting to think. So people want content. They want something everyday. And as a musician it’s hard enough to put out an album a year but since we have all of these ideas and songs that we’ve recorded over the last couple of years or months or whatever, we decided it would be cool if we could put that out every week and put out at least one song a week and give the listeners something new every Friday because if you just put out last year, if we don’t put something out next year, you lose so much traction. Because so much is going on everyday. It’s just trying to keep up with the pace of the world I guess.

L: Is it stressful knowing you have to release something each week?

C: It can be, definitely, but there’s a lot about The Vast Alps that a lot of people don’t know. Like we’ve been playing music for a long time and we’ve really honed in on what we’re doing. Like we’ve recorded everything ourselves and we’ve made life really easy for ourselves. And it could be super stressful if we were like, ‘Dude, we don’t have anything for next week.’ Then it would be a nightmare. But we pretty much have it covered for awhile. We have enough material in our computers and stuff that we can just put it together and release it. But it could be a real challenge if we didn’t have the setup that we have… That’s why we try to be self sustainable and do everything ourselves from website, to music, to social media, to everything. It’s the only way to make it nowadays.

L: Well to wrap it up — it’s been almost a year since the Auto Pilot EP dropped. Where do you guys see yourselves next year?

C: Honestly the way that the industry is and the way things are, it’s so hard to picture where you want to be or where you will be in a year. The nature of the game has changed so much you see bands that are overnight successes or something happens that’s just like “Wow!” For us it was being on NPR and the Tiny Desk thing and the fact that we had like 1,000 people listen to our music in a matter of hours has just made me realize that things can really change on such short notice nowadays. So to answer you’re question, I don’t know. I don’t know where we’ll be a year from now. Hopefully we’ll be writing more music, and putting out more videos and just doing what we love to do. That’s why we’re in a band. We love making music — not because we want to be famous or make a ton of money. If that does happen, absolutely! We’ll take that any day, but we do it because we love music.

All Images were found at the Vast Alps Facebook page.

You can find them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Check out their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/TheVastAlps, and follow them on Twitter and Instagram @TheVastAlps.

The Auto Pilot EP as well as all of their 1/1 Project releases can be found on iTunes and Spotify. I highly suggest checking them out. They’ve got a lot of variation in their music and you can tell they really love what they’re doing. They’ve also released several music videos, all of which can be found on YouTube!

I wish The Vast Alps the best of luck in the coming year and look forward to working with more artists like them!

2014, It’s Been a Good Run

Well, here we are! It’s the end of 2014, and so starts another year. I’ll admit, I’m very proud of myself for making it this far with the blog. I honestly didn’t expect to find myself still blogging at this point. With that being said though, I would like to take a moment to talk about some changes for 2015!

This year, I’m going to be a full-time student, teaching swim lessons twice a week or maybe more, and training for a triathlon. My weeks might be getting pretty busy from this point forward and I MIGHT end up switching my update day — just a heads up so you can watch for that. I also have made some changes to my page. I’m really going to try to post a playlist on the sidebar at some point.

But I also want to talk about 2014 (I was going to update on Christmas Eve, but we had no internet *surprise surprise*, so I think a New Year’s post is appropriate).

In 2014, I went to a total of thirteen concerts. Not bad, if I do say so myself. That comes out to about one a month (which Alexandra and I were totally doing for almost six months). But which concert was the best? Here is my definitive ranking of the top 5:

5) Frank Turner

ft2

So, I sort of had a hard time with this one. I was going to say The 1975, because it was totally sick and Matty Healy is Matty Healy and I’m not afraid to fangirl about it, but then I remembered White Arrows/The NBHD. That was just an amazing show. The energy at that show was amazing and I discovered a really awesome band called White Arrows. But then I remembered Frank Turner. I was going to go with The NBHD anyway, but I ultimately decided on Frank Turner for one reason: he really cares.

Frank Turner 2At one point in the show there were a few kids who wouldn’t leave him alone or start heckling and he went off and had them thrown out. Ultimately, it kind of seems like a jackass move (sorry for the sketchy language, Mrs. Clupper), but after the show it almost seemed like he felt bad about it. But in the moment, he wanted to share his thoughts and his feelings that he pours into his music with the audience and these kids weren’t very respectful of that. Also, at the end, during “Four Simple Words,” he brought three kids from the audience on to the stage and gave them tambourines. So yeah, Turner wins.

 

4) Local Natives

Local Natives 1 Local Natives 2

 

 

 

 

 

I have no words. I wish I had words. But I don’t. I still can’t listen to Local Natives without being overcome with PCD. The emotion and excitement of the concert are still so alive, and I saw them in April. I mean, forget about that group of kids that stood in a circle at the front and talked the entire time. The rest of us were so involved in the music and the atmosphere and the lights and the emotion. It went from upbeat to slow and emotional to excited and everything in between. I highly recommend.

 

3) DMB (That’s Dave Matthews Band for anyone not in the loop)

This picture 100% belongs to the band's instagram page.... I was WAY too far away.
This picture 100% belongs to the band’s instagram page…. I was WAY too far away.

DMB will always make the list. They can go out there and not sing a single word and still make the list. The music is what matters at a Dave show. You make so many friends, and Dave fans are pretty die-hard. Dave shows unite thousands of people, the music is always good, you can dance like no one is watching, and the energy of the band really translates to the crowd. There’s nothing like yelling “YEAH” at the top of your lungs during “#41” with hundreds of other people. So really. Even if it isn’t a good show, it’s a great show. Everyone who can go see DMB should go see DMB.

 

 

 

2) JT

JT1JT2 JT3Honestly, I haven’t been to a show like JT’s before. Like, holy crap does this guy have talent. And the setup — I mean the stage FREAKING MOVED. I don’t even want to know how much that costs. Regardless, it’s really refreshing to see a pop artists with real instruments to accompany him. Plus, he brought out Garth Brooks at our show so we were basically winning as an audience. Would I go again? Probably. Could I afford it? Hell no.

 

 

 

 

 

1) Fleetwood Mac

FM2

I saved the best for last. I truly mean it was the best. You know how you see these bands that were super cool in the 70s and 80s, but now they’re just sad and they should probably stop (*cough*KISS*cough*)? Fleetwood Mac is not one of those bands. They haven’t lost anything. And let me tell you, Christine McVie KILLED it. Like, she sounds exactly like she did in the 70s. It’s amazing. And despite the fact that Lindsey Buckingham takes himself way too seriously, he’s super talented. They all are. I won’t even lie about it, I totally cried when they came out and started playing. I have nFM1ever been so overwhelmed by greatness. I have never been in the same room with such greatness. It was the most amazing moment of my life. I’m seriously considering going by myself to the show in Knoxville, despite the fact that it will more than likely empty my checking account. It was that good.

 

 

So there you have it. These were my top five, and if you get the chance to see them, I highly recommend it. What were your top five concerts on 2014? Let me know in the comments here, on Facebook, or on Twitter! You can also follow me at @notreallyindie on Twitter for updates on the music scene!

As always, keep listening 🙂

Also, if the picture placement is odd, I apologize.