TOP SONGS OF THE FIRST HALF OF 2017

Has it already been halfway through the year? It’s already July, but luckily our favorite artists made sure we weren’t in a music drought. Long awaited new music to chart topping comebacks, and it’s only 7 months into the year. Here is a list of my favorites so far and my suggestions if you are looking for new music.

*this is not in any particular order

  1. Chase Atlantic “Triggered”

The Australian  trio caught my attention after popping up on my suggestions to listen to. Composed of two brothers Clinton and Mitchel Cave and friend Christian Anthony, the group’s dark sound is what appealed to me. Utilizing sound effects, a saxophone and heavy synths, “Triggered” creates a sultry aura filled with angst and lust. With Mitchel’s and Christian’s smooth vocals, this song will become your new obsession.

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  1. Halsey “Strangers”

The New Jersey pop artist recently released her long awaited sophomore album “hopeless fountain kingdom”, which has the basis of Romeo and Juliet but with much darker undertones and much higher stakes. “Strangers” is sung as a duet with Lauren Jauregui of Fifth Harmony. Their voices molding together fit perfectly and is the duet you didn’t know you needed. Written about two female lovers (Halsey and Jauregui are both bisexual) as their love fades and becomes about human touch and not true passion. With Jauregui’s raspy vocals against Halsey’s voice, it really feels complete and makes the song come to life.

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  1. Taeyeon “Fine”

KPOP singer Taeyeon released for first solo album “My Voice” earlier this year. Spanning several genres from alternative indie to dance pop, she covers it all. A fantastic album, one of the many songs that really caught my ear was “Fine”. It is the title track of the record and showcases her powerful and emotional vocals. Lead by a guitar and some background synths, Taeyeon’s voice really shines as she sings passionately about not being “fine” after a breakup.  The entire album is honestly worth listening to.

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  1. BTS “Spring Day”

KPOP boy group BTS embarked recently on a sold out world tour from Brazil to Sydney. They also made history by becoming the first KPOP act to go the the Billboard music awards, to be nominated and to win Top Social Artist. Prior to all that, they released a repackaged version of their chart topping album WINGS, called You Never Walk Alone. Adding 4 new songs, they instantly reached #1 on several charts and worldwide charts. One of their title tracks “Spring Day”, is truly a beautiful song. It has been mentioned several times, that it was in memory of the Sewol Ferry tragedy costing over 200 students their lives. Emotional, passionate and meaningful, “Spring Day” is a standout that every person should hear.

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  1. Sistar “LONELY”

With the shocking news of this iconic KPOP girl group’s disbandment, the quartet released two last songs in wake of the news. Sistar is the group responsible for infectious  summer jams such as “Touch My Body” and “Shake It” or more sultry hits like “Give It To Me” and “I Like That”. Their final goodbyes are in much mellower songs “FOR YOU” and “LONELY”. Their closeout was in “LONELY” an indie acoustic song with accompanying synths. Although sung about a breakup, it has some correlations as a goodbye to their fans for their 7 years of support. A sorrowful and regretful mood, “LONELY” makes me already miss Sistar. Thank you for 7 years.

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  1. Harry Styles “Sign Of The Times”

I’m sure by now, everyone has heard Harry Styles’s solo debut. For those who haven’t, Styles was one of the members of pop boyband sensation One Direction. While they are currently on an indefinite hiatus, each member has dabbled in their own solo work. For Styles, his sound is a huge contrast to what One Direction was. Adding classic rock elements and soul, we see a different side of him than before. His first single “Sign Of The Times” really is a standout. Styles is a powerhouse vocalist in this song, and whether you like One Direction is out of the question. Composed, arranged and sung wonderfully, you cannot miss this song.  

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  1. Lorde “Perfect Places” 

The New Zealand pop singer has been releasing a few singles to build up for her sophomore album “Melodrama” which everyone had been anxiously waiting for. One of the singles she released was indeed “Perfect Places”. Different from the other two singles she released earlier, it’s much more dancey and makes you want to get lost in the city at night. There is however a darker tone underneath it all, as it describes the darker side of teenage partying, drugs and sex. Honest and blunt, Lorde once again holds nothing back but the truth. The happy anthem sound it has contrasts sharply with the more depressive lyrics. But even so, Lorde knows how to make a catchy song and she definitely did with “Perfect Places”.

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  1. WINNER “REALLY REALLY”

After the loss of a member, KPOP boy group went on as a quartet. Their first release since 2016, they came back with the EP “FATE NUMBER FOR”. Featuring two singles, “REALLY REALLY” has become my obsession since it came out. While WINNER is usually a more jazzy, classical sound, “REALLY REALLY” is an EDM dance anthem. An infectious, catchy song that makes you just want to dance, you won’t regret listening to this one.

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  1. KYGO “It Ain’t Me”

Norwegian DJ teamed up with pop singer Selena Gomez for this dark but reminiscent track. With piano keys, finger snaps and a soft guitar strum in juxtaposition to the synths, it’s what makes this song so relaxing to listen to. Selenas smooth vocals pull in the emotional and nostalgic aspect. Written from the perspective of someone walking away from a toxic and withering relationship, the theme of alcoholism is also quite prevalent. There’s something so devastating in Gomez’s voice that pulls in all sorts of feelings. But even with the somber meaning, it has glints of hope as she takes a stand to walk away from it all.

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  1. BTS “Not Today”

Of course, I couldn’t ignore this underdog anthem by BTS. With a short speech at the beginning by member Namjoon, we are introduced to the song with heavy bass, pounding drums, blaring horns and trumpets and BTS’s powerful vocals. BTS takes a stand for all the outcasts, women, underdogs and everyone else who feels the world is against them. Inspirational and encouraging, the boys of BTS create an intense dance song. Saying “not today” they won’t fall, this track can encourage anyone to lift their feet and fight again.

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  1. Lorde “Sober”

After Lorde dropped her hotly anticipated album “Melodrama”, her song “Sober” instantly became one of my favorites. It’s angst ridden with a deep ominous sound. Maybe it’s the soft hardly understandable background vocals, or the lyrics itself. Or possibly her whispering “I know the story by heart Jack and Jill get fucked up and possessive when it get dark” hinting at a relationship purely based around a high. That wouldn’t be very surprising considering the song itself is about a party and her and her lover who only seem to be in it for the thrills, sex and catching a high. The deep snippy trumpets give off a melancholy vibe as it is consistent with the whole song. There’s something saddening about this song yet it makes you want to party your woes away. Maybe that’s what she was trying to get across, either way it is a fantastically done song.

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  1. Halsey “Sorry”  

While all of Halsey’s songs are deeply personal, “Sorry” is much more raw and emotionally connective. With only a piano, Halsey strips away synths and drums to produce something tragic and regretful. She sings slowly and softly to someone she calls her “unknown lover” and apologizes greatly for how she has treated them. She reassures them they will be loved but it cannot be by her. She has only one other song in which she’s done it completely by piano, so hearing her unaffected vocals with just a piano makes this song so pure, emotive and sorrowful. 

 

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  1. Hyolyn & Changmo “Blue Moon”

The vocalist of former KPOP girl group Sistar, Hyolyn teamed up with rapper Changmo for this EDM track. Possibly one of the most underlooked songs this year, this song is a hidden gem that deserves much more love. Hyolyn soft and raspy vocals contrast Changmo’s deeper rap verses yet it mixes to make this an addictive track. Along with heavy piano synths, this song definitely needs more love.

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  1. PVRIS “What’s Wrong” 

It’s been three years since the electronic rock trio released their debut album “White Noise”. Now dropping new singles as they’re completing their sophomore effort, so far we have been given two singles, “Heaven” and “What’s Wrong”. Although I greatly enjoyed “Heaven”, “What’s Wrong” left a bigger impression. Suggested by the title, lead singer Lynn Gunn sings about “what’s wrong”. Not straying away from their initial sound, the use synths, sound effects bass and drums to give off a ghostly and haunting atmosphere. In “What’s Wrong” she sings against critics and the idea of having power through fame. As Lynn raspily sings “No I never sold my soul” hinting that she will never fall into the pit of fame. The song intensifies and so does Lynn’s voice. Ethereal, haunting and atmospheric, PVRIS is the band to keep an eye out for.

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  1. MisterWives “Machine”

Indie pop band MisterWives is back at it creating infectious jams. Always bold and unafraid to speak their minds, lead by Mandy Lee who has an incredibly unique voice. Freshly off of debuting their sophomore album “Connect The Dots”, the album is full of life. However before that was released, they teased the record with dropping songs. One of them so happened to be “Machine”. Blunt and straight to the point, they reject making music that sounds the same and refuse to let anyone else write their own songs but them. They want to create their own versatile sound, and oh have they accomplished that. Mandy Lee’s vocals again prove her place as a singer, and MisterWives prove again they don’t need anyone to make their music.

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  1. In This Moment “Roots”

One of the heavy bands I started listening to in 7th grade when I started listening to metal and hard rock. This metal band fronted by Maria Brink has seen a great diversity in their music. Their last two records have been much more experimental, utilizing electronic elements and theatrics such as dancing and costumes. However, they dropped the whole concept starting fresh again. Turning in a more hard rock sound with the industrial sound from before and electronics elements put to a minimum. Maria Brink’s powerful and aggressive vocals shine as she calls out everyone who hurt her and how they made her stronger. In full force as Maria sings and screams, this is the In This Moment style I loved, and I can’t wait for the album “Ritual”.  

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  1. All Time Low “Life of the Party” 

The beloved pop-punk quartet has been evolving and ever-changing with their sound. This time, they took a darker and softer sound with their new album “Last Young Renegade”. One of the darkest songs on “Last Young Renegade”. An internal battle of who they were, what they’ve become and who they want to be. Tying in the newer sounds of synths and pop with electric guitar riffs, “Life of the Party” stays as an anthem sounding song yet has a much grimmer meaning. Personally one of my favorite songs so far, All Time Low doesn’t disappoint with their music.

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  1. Taeyeon “Fire”

There’s something about Taeyeon’s fresh vocals that brings me in. On her debut album “My Voice” of course all her songs show off her incredible talent, but “Fire” can prove any doubters that Taeyeon indeed can sing. The alternative soft rock ballad has Taeyeon reaching long and high notes over a strummed guitar. While she is more known for her indie acoustic music, stepping into more of an alternative genre only shows off her diversity in genres. 

 

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  1. Ed Sheeran “Castle on the Hill”

Surely by now you must have heard this chart topping hit by Ed Sheeran. The fast paced nostalgic track brings Ed back to his time growing up in England. With quick playing guitars, drums and inserts of  piano medleys, Sheeran sings about his past and childhood. Sheeran rasps his voice more but it works making it seem all more raw. From driving down the roads at 90 miles per hour, singing Tiny Dancer, and just making memories with his friends, he crafts the perfect song to reminisce your past on.

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  1. Shawn Mendes “There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back”

The 18 year old singer who hails from Canada broke out in the past few years. From humble beginnings on the social media app Vine to joining the MAGCON, a tour of young social media stars, Mendes has only been in the music business for a bit. However, he has made a huge impact already, especially on the top charts. Earlier this year he released his second album “Illuminate” with several of his songs receiving huge amounts of radio play and peaking considerably well on music lists around the world. His song “There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back” was one of them, and one which happens to be a favorite of mine. A quick paced guitar driven romance song, Mendes again creates earworms due to lyrical consistentes. The track’s chorus helps pack a punch by showing just how good Mendes’s vocals are. An infectious pop hit that is perfect for dancing too, the young singer continually rises and it looks like there’s nothing holding him back. 

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  1. BTS “A Supplementary Story: You Never Walk Alone”

One of the new songs added to the repackaged version of their album “WINGS”, “You Never Walk Alone” is the last song on the tracklist. A mid tempo, upbeat song, with lyrics of encouragement, although shorter than their normal songs, it still packs a powerful punch. Like the title, the lyrics “You Never Walk Alone” are are a big part of not only the song but the record too. Truly an underlooked song, “You Never Walk Alone” is worth the listen.

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  1. BTS “Come Back Home”

Ok so this isn’t BTS’s song, this is actually a cover by a legendary Kpop trio Seo Taiji and The Boys. In honor of their 25th anniversary several Kpop artists handpicked by Seo Taiji and The Boys are remaking some of their hit songs. BTS covered “Come Back Home”, an electric hip hop song about youth, but BTS added their own touch. While still doing justice to the original, they were able to still make it new and fresh.

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  1. Hey Violet “My Consequence”

The pop rock band has finally released their debut album. Originally known as Cherri Bomb and as an all female band, with the loss of lead singer Julia Pierce, the group rebranded as Hey Violet. Now lead by Rena Lovelis, they also gained Iain Shipp, and supported pop punk group 5 Seconds Of Summer on their tour. Between touring and releasing EPs, Hey Violet gained quite a fanbase. Now lead by Rena Lovelis, they released a series of singles leading up to their first album, “From The Outside”. “My Consequence” is an interesting song, lyrically wise. With parts like “when you spill your guts they don’t go back in” and “so take your razor love and run it down my skin”, it may make you shiver, but this is a love song. In fact it’s actually sung about being in love with someone and telling them you love them, yet they hurt you in the end. An atmospheric, dark pop song, “My Consequence” will take you away.

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  1. Brave Girls “Rollin’”

This 5 piece Kpop girl group came back with one of the best Kpop songs this year. I admit, this is one of the only songs I know of theirs, but I am so glad I stumbled across it. A deep house EDM track, “Rollin’” is an incredibly catchy song, especially during the hook. While it is about a girl who wants the feelings of a boy, Brave Girls created the perfect dance club song and definitely one of the most addictive songs of the year already.

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  1. BLACKPINK “As If It’s Your Last”

Rookie Kpop girl group has already made waves with their amazing debut last year, and just continue with their newest comeback. Connecting the idea that they have two sides a “black” and “pink” side, for this comeback they choose the latter, however they’re still as fierce and badass even doing the “pink” or cuter concept. A mixture of a club, funky beat and pure pop, the beat drop is definitely a YG style (YG is the company they are under). Definitely a great song, BLACKPINK is in your area and won’t be leaving anytime soon. 

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I am beyond excited to see what the rest of 2017 has in store for us!

 

Sincerely Yours,

Amy

 

Halsey: Eyes Closed

A huge slew of new releases from artists are coming our way this year. A particularly buzzed about singer, Halsey, will be releasing her new album Hopeless Fountain Kingdom June 2. Halsey, born Ashley Nicolette Frangipane, released her debut album Badlands back in 2015. If that doesn’t ring a bell, perhaps you have heard her vocals on the summer hit “Closer” by EDM duo The Chainsmokers. The alternative pop singer brings several genres together in her unique sounding music. A blend of dreamy and dark synth pop, with bits of heavier influences, Halsey manages to stay away from the Lana Del Rey aesthetic. Atmospheric and raw, the 22 year old has kept her sound on her new releases while tweaking it to make it different from her first record. Following a new theme, out of the universe known as the badlands, she created a new world similar to Romeo and Juliet. Her most recent music video and song released April 4, “Now or Never”, give that theme life with Halsey smitten with a young man who happens to be from a rival “community”. Singing to her lover saying he needs to choose whether he’ll love her now or never. A month later, Halsey dropped her second single “Eyes Closed”. A dark pop song that just so happens to be co-written by The Weekend, this release is gives off a “trippy” R&B vibe. You can hear The Weekends influences in this one but it’s not a bad thing. Singing about having feelings for an ex while in a new relationship, Halsey croans slowly how she imagines her ex even with her new lover. Both singles are definitely worth listening to, so keep an eye out for her album Hopeless Fountain Kingdom. 

*these pictures are not mine they belong to their right owners

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Sincerely Yours,

Amy

 

Paramore: Hard Times

 

A huge wave of new albums are coming out this year from beloved artists. Pop-punk band Paramore happens to be one of them. My favorite band, this alternative band is fronted by Hayley Williams, a powerful force in the emo scene since 2004. Along with her, Taylor York plays guitar and Zac Farro plays drums. Their last album, titled “Paramore” was released all the way back in 2013. Personal issues, combined with founding member and bass player Jeremey Davis leaving the band, left the balance of Paramore up in the air. However, former member  Zac Farro who left in 2010, rejoined. Along with him rejoining the band, motivation and writing about their struggles they will be releasing a new album titled “After Laughter” which will be out May 12.

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While we all want anxiously for their new album, they debuted a new single “Hard Times”. Definitely a twist in sound, it mixes in an 80s synth pop style rather than their alternative sound. Similar sounding to their self titled record, it’s a brand new direction for the trio to start fresh. Taking a dip into a different sound than an angsty emo sound from their youth, Paramore creates a funky 80s sound blended with quick guitar riffs and synths. Paramore has done it again – they manage to take on a new sound and turn it into something unique. Always experimenting while writing honestly, Paramore is back.   

Sincerely Yours,

Amy

My Top 20 Songs of 2016

In the year of 2016, we were gifted with a whirlwind of brand new releases. From blink-182 to White Lung, each showed a new side and sound to them. It’s so difficult to just pick one of my favorites, so I compiled a list of at least my top 20.

*all these songs were specifically from 2016 and they are my personal opinion.

*these are not ranked in any order

1.“How Does It Feel?” Tonight Alive

A stand out on their newest album “Limitless”, “How Does It Feel?” brings these pop-punkers back to their roots, while adding elements from their new record. Frontwoman Jenna McDougall’s vocals soar over pounding drums and blaring guitars, and really captures a perfect balance of pop and alternative. 

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2.“Sleep On The Floor” The Lumineers

The first track of their sophomore effort, “Sleep On The Floor” invokes an indie pop sound over rolling drums. It really stood out to me off of their album “Cleopatra” as I especially enjoyed the lyrics that could make anyone think of taking a road trip across the USA.

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3.“You and I” PVRIS

The electro-rock trio re-released their debut album “White Noise” with two more songs and one of them was “You and I”. A blend of dark pop and electronic instruments, it has this certain essence to it that makes it super addictive. A truly mesmerizing song, with a dark sounding beat, topped off with Lynn Gunn’s fantastic vocals makes this song a real standout.

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4.“Carter and Cash” Tor Miller

Tor Miller has the face of a 50’s movie star but his voice is unique on it’s own. Taken from his album “American English” this love song gives the listener a throwback to the 80s. Using Johnny Cash and June Carter’s love story, Tor delivers a nostalgic sounding song with a 21st century twist.  

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  1. “Dark Necessities” Red Hot Chili Peppers

After 5 years, the Red Hot Chili Peppers dropped their new album “The Getaway”. Off the album, the song “Dark Necessities” is where it really delivers. Not straying far from their signature sound, “Dark Necessities” talks about lead singer Anthony Kiedis’s extensive battle with drugs. Melodic with climaxes and falls, the Red Hot Chili Peppers demonstrate their lyrical abilities. You probably have heard this song, as it was consistently played on the radio. Ending with a slick guitar riff, the Red Hot Chili Peppers once again prove age is just a matter when rocking out.

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6.“Sister” White Lung

A truly dark song, not only in the way it sounds, but lyrically speaking as well. White Lung doesn’t shy away from any topic. They are no stranger to the music industry, but their newest album “Paradise” shows a more versatile sound that is more poppy sounding then punk rock. While the new sound can be attributed to frontwoman Mish Barber-Way’s change in how she’s singing due to vocal injuries, their songs still retain their hard-hitting sound. “Sister” is no exception, a twisted song about the real-life Ken and Barbie killers, written in first person of Karla Homolka who killed her sister Tammy in 1990. Gritty and fast-paced, Barber-Way snarls over the guitar, adding to the overall mood of the song.

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  1. “Bored to Death” blink 182

One of the lead singles off their newest release “California”, blink 182 are back with a new album, a new sound and new member. After founding member Tom DeLonge parted ways with the band, Matt Skiba of Alkaline Trio stepped in to fill Tom’s place. While “California” can be seen as taken in a more pop friendly direction, “Bored to Death” emits the sound of their early hits. With Matt’s vocals blending in with Mark Hoppus’, they create a perfect sound that will resonate with the old fans as well as new ones.

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8.“WHY” Taeyeon

This year in KPOP (Korean pop music), we were gifted with various comebacks. Girls Generations Taeyeon was one of them. The title song from her solo sophomore album “WHY”, brings a tropical atmosphere that we have never seen from her. Showcasing a more pop and EDM side then her notable ballads, she perfectly captures a summer vibe. With her strong vocals aiding her, “WHY” was a great anthem for 2016.

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9.“Save ME” BTS

Finishing off their youth concept, KPOP boy group BTS released “The Most Beautiful Moment in Life: Young Forever” along with three new songs, “Young Forever”, “FIRE” and “Save ME”. All three could be on this list, but for me “Save ME” was the one that really stood out. Passionate, and composed, “Save ME” shows off the slower side that “FIRE” doesn’t. Laced with synthesizers and soft whistles, BTS proves they are well-rounded in being able to produce dynamic songs. The composition really completes the song, making it sound truly beautiful.

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  1. “Aftermath” Crown The Empire

After the release of  “The Resistance: Rise of the Runaways”, Crown The Empire took a step back and changed the direction they were headed in. Dropping the concept of the resistance, they took some time to reevaluate themselves, and came back with “Retrograde”. Moving away from their metalcore music and diverging to a more post-hardcore style, “Aftermath” retains some metalcore elements, but is still true to their new sound. With Andrew Velasquez’s clean vocals contrasting David Escamilla’s roaring vocals, “Aftermath” has outdone itself and demonstrates that changing your sound is not always a bad move.

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  1. “Below” White Lung

Of all the songs from their new album “Paradise”, the song “Below” is the one that differentiates itself from the rest of the album. Turning away from their aggressive rock sound, “Below” is melodic with pop influences usually not seen in their music. However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as “Below” brings Mish Barber-Way’s raw vocals to the forefront. A unique take on talking about beauty, White Lung has the ability to captivate the listener with any style of music they create.

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  1. “Blood, Sweat and Tears” BTS

I could say the entire “WINGS” album was one of the my favorite releases, but I decided to choose my favorite song of it, which is really hard considering how well produced this album is and how much I really loved it. “Blood, Sweat and Tears” is the lead single off of “WINGS”, and a complete 180 from “Save ME” and “FIRE”. Forgetting about loud drums and trumpets, instead it infuses a moombahton trap beat with a more tropical sound. With an addictive chorus, and alluring vocals, “Blood, Sweat and Tears” took a prominent spot on my list at least, for one of the best songs of the year.

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  1. “Setting Fires” The Chainsmokers

An underrated song from their EP “Collage”, “Setting Fires” features brother-sister duo XYLO on it. Heavily infused with tropical beats and synthesized drums, “Setting Fires” has a much more different sound then The Chainsmokers previous ones, such as “Roses” and “Closer”. A catchy song with a chorus that’s bound to be in your head for days, “Setting Fires” easily became one of my most listened to songs of 2016.

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  1. “Someone Like U” Dalshabet

One of the most underrated KPOP songs of the year goes to girl group Dalshabet with their single “Someone Like U”. Utilizing the 80s retro sound that has become increasingly popular in music, “Someone Like U” was filled with charm and attitude. A song about telling off an ex to find someone as horrible as himself. “Someone Like U” had everything to make this a great song. Not only is it a fun and addictive song, Dalshabet’s sweet vocals made it an easy listen.

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  1. “FXXK IT” Big Bang

No, I did not add two X’s on purpose, that’s how Big Bang’s latest hit is actually titled, and they don’t drop any F-bombs either. Released right before 2016 ended, Big Bang came back with one more album before member T.O.P enlisted in the army (in South Korea every male must enlist in the army for at least two years before they reach a certain age). Finishing what they started, the full album “MADE” included the new song “FXXK IT”. Written with the help of several members of the group they proved once again their musical skills and talents. With an eccentric sound that is somewhere between hip hop and EDM, Big Bang once again show their ability to create a unique sound and style that can captivate any listener. 

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  1. “Life Changes” Good Charlotte

Pop-punk at its finest. “Life Changes” is the perfect embodiment of what pop punk is, fast, fun and real. Breaking their hiatus, Good Charlotte came together to release “Youth Authority”. Including the hit “Life Changes”, Good Charlotte prove that they still are a kick-ass band. Honest and positive, they doesn’t hold back on anything. Talking about growing up, relationships and friendships, the song helps capture the essence of youth. A feel good pop-punk anthem that can relate to every age and every person.

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  1. “Find Me” Jun Hyo Seong

KPOP soloist and girl group member of Secret, Jun Hyo Seong came back this year with EP “Colored”. Among the songs was the single “Find Me”, a melodic and piano driven song. Making use of whistles and dance beats, “Find Me” was an instant catch. Along with Jun Hyo Seong’s vocals, rapper D.Action takes a bridge adding to the groove of the song. Although Jun Hyo Seong’s vocals are fairly soft, that doesn’t deter from this enjoyable song.

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  1. “Heartbreak Hotel” Tiffany

The second member of KPOP girl group,”Girls Generation” to go solo, Tiffany’s “Heartbreak Hotel” is filled with a dreamy, and alluring atmosphere. This song was not from her solo EP, but an released as a single. Invoking a much darker tone, Tiffany sings of a relationship that has ended. Her voice conveys a fragile emotional state, and the piano helps to give off the moody vibe that she was aiming for. “Heartbreak Hotel” also employs rapper Simon Dominic to give the contrasting story from the guy’s point of view. An atmospheric and hazy song, “Heartbreak Hotel” is perfect for deep-thinking and moody listening.

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  1.  “Are We Ready? (Wreck)” Two Door Cinema Club

Indie rock band Two Door Cinema Club released their third album in 2016. The lead single “Are We Ready? (Wreck)” takes materialism and consumerism head on. Enlisting the help of a children’s choir echoing “nah nah nah” and a dramatic urgency that frontman Alex Trimble sings, Two Door Cinema Club know the formula to create a song that is danceable yet filled with dark lyrics. Thanks to the guitar riffs and the children’s choir, “Are We Ready? (Wreck)” steps out of just being “indie” and shows a versatile sound.

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  1. “Galaxy” LADIES’ CODE

The group’s first comeback since the tragic deaths of members EunB and RiSe back in 2014, the remaining three members of KPOP girl group LADIES’ CODE released “MYST3RY”. In contrast to their bright retro pop sound, the ladies took on a jazzy more R&B approach. Filled with an ethereal sounding synths and the member’s beautiful vocals, it is much more “chill” then what we have heard from them prior. I’m not complaining though, they harmonize wonderfully, and in the end create an atmospheric and mature sound that works well with them. 

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That was my top 20 songs of 2016! What were your favorite releases last year? I hope you enjoy!

Sincerely yours,

Amy

Vans Warped Tour 2016

Vans Tour Photo

It’s summertime, and for most people it’s beaches, vacation, and fun in the sun. However, for a select few, it’s the yearly music festival, the Vans Warped Tour! For those unfamiliar with the Vans Warped Tour, it’s a touring music festival with big name acts in the alternative and punk scene. Hundreds of thousands of people attend this music festival for moshing, crowd surfing and enjoying the music. This year, Kevin Lyman, the founder of Warped Tour, is basing it on “back to basics”. During the live-streamed lineup announcement, Lyman said “this years tour is really about bringing it back to basics. It’s just about simplifying”. Acts such as Sum 41, New Found Glory and Good Charlotte are kicking it old-school pop-punk. While newer acts such as Waterparks, State Champs and Knuckle Puck are bringing in the new generation of pop-punkers. Warped Tour has also enlisted currently popular bands such as melodic post-hardcore band Sleeping With Sirens, or metalcore act Falling in Reverse. With the diverse styles of music, from pure metal such as Atreyu, to acoustic like Saywecanfly, this year has made it out to be quite promising. And promising it was!

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Mayday Parade

 

Starting off the day, we saw Mayday Parade. A pop-punk band fronted by Derek Sanders. While we missed the very beginning, it was still a fantastic start. Playing some of their older songs, they also incorporated many new songs from their most recent album. On the stage right next to Mayday Parade was We the Kings. At some point, you have probably heard their famous song, “Check Yes Juliet”. They played many fan favorites, such as “Say You Like Me” and “Sad Song”. They even brought out Machine Gun Kelly, who is a Cleveland native, and had him perform a snippet of his song “Wild Boy”. We the Kings also performed “The Middle” by Jimmy Eat World, which got everyone singing along. They definitely knew how to play a great set! We had some downtime, which was used to buy merch, and energize ourselves because Sleeping With Sirens was about to play. Managing to get through the crowd was a bit of a challenge, but we were able to snag a good spot. Starting right away, they played one of their newer but popular songs, “Kick Me”. They had everyone singing loudly, and I was out of breath by the end of the song. Continuing on, Kellin Quinn knew what to do to keep everyone excited despite the humid temperature. The band amassed a huge crowd that jumped, sang and moshed the entire time. Ending with their iconic hit, “If You Can’t Hang”, I was breathless by the end of their set.

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Sleeping With Sirens

Trying to get around the large crowd that Issues was gaining, we took some time off to eat and walk around. Around this time, we realized we were in a bit of a dilemma. Crown the Empire, who I really wanted to see was playing at the same time as Good Charlotte. Because of the genre difference they were set up on different stages, but close enough that we could run back and forth. So deciding that we could not miss either band, we split up the sets. Running too Crown the Empire, they opened up with one of their new songs “Zero” which is taken from their new album “Retrograde”. Due to being a bit of a heavier band, we stood farther back, but still enjoyed their set. The crowd was definitely rocking out to Crown the Empire, as a huge mosh pit formed in the front. While I loved the set, I wish I could have stayed for the whole thing. But Good Charlotte was playing and my friend loves them. Quickly sprinting, we were in the far back of their enormous crowd. I didn’t really know any of the songs, but I could tell everyone else did because everyone was singing along. Even though I really didn’t know any of the songs, they still put on an incredible performance. After they ended their set, we walked around for some more merch and even got a picture with Alternative Press’s Nick Major! Since Sum 41 was a pretty iconic band I wanted to watch their performance. Getting into a spot where we could see was incredibly hard because so many people were trying to get in too. We were in the back, but very tightly packed with so many other people. I honestly don’t know any of Sum 41’s songs except for “Into too Deep” and “Fat Lip”, but I knew by jumping and crowd surfing going on, it wasn’t hard to know they were extremely popular.

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Sum 41

Once they ended their performance, one of my favorite band was up next, Tonight Alive. Literally grabbing my friends and moving to their stage, which luckily was right next to Sum 41’s, so we got a really great spot. I was so excited, and when they started performing “To Be Free” I was so pumped. Next they played the song that got me into them “Lonely Girl”, which had me singing at the top of my lungs. As embarrassing as it was, I loved it. I actually almost lost my voice because of it. Jenna McDougall, the lead singer, gave an amazing speech on living our own lives freely. Due to their latest album “Limitless” being based around the idea of living life and having your own power, it was only fitting to encourage the crowd to believe in self-power. Continuing with their set, they played old songs such as “Listening” to new songs like “Drive”. Tonight Alive closed the set with rocker “How Does It Feel?” Getting the everyone to wave their hands in the air, it was a perfect way to close off their set, and close off Warped Tour.

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Tonight Alive

While Warped Tour recently ended its course for the summer of 2016, I would say it was an incredibly successful one. They brought old-school bands back on tour to bring nostalgia back from when it started, to popular bands that bring in the newcomers. Despite the extreme heat, it was an amazing day and I can’t wait to go back next year!

Sincerely yours.

Amy

 

Rock Photographer: Nalinee Darmrong

How amazing would it be to have the opportunity to follow your favorite rock band around the world on tour and take photos of them? What would be even cooler is to take those photos and turn them into a photo book published by Rizzoli New York Publications. Nalinee Darmrong did just that! At the age of 17, she went on tour with The Smiths, one of the most influential alternative rock bands of the 80’s fronted by Morrissey. Nalinee ended up putting all of her photos into a book appropriately titled, The Smiths. Born in Bethesda, MD, she now currently resides in Washington DC and is a house photographer for several clubs in the DC area. Recently, I was able to ask her questions about her amazing career:

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Where did you attend high school and college?

Holton-Arms School for high school, University of Maryland, College Park for college.

How did you get into rock photography?

Ironically, The Smiths were the first band I ever shot consistently after high school.  I took a couple of high school photography courses, shot a few pix of shows at the old 9:30 Club on 9:30 F Street.  I was very lucky, at the right place at the right time (between high school and college) to shoot The Smiths for such an extended period of time.  They were amazing, and I will forever be grateful that they granted me the access to take most of the photos that are now part of my first photo book, The Smiths (Rizzoli publishers).

How did you get into rock music?

I’ve always been into music, as far as I can remember.  There was always music in the home when I was growing up.  I love all music, but rock music especially, because it speaks to me the most.  I’ve been in 5+ bands over the years,  and The Smiths’ guitarist, Johnny Marr, is the reason I had the courage to pick up a guitar and see what I could do. He is one of my ultimate guitar icons. and an amazing human being as well.

How did you end up touring with The Smiths? Are you a big fan?

My good friend Tony made me a cassette tape of the music and got me my first ticket to a Smiths show (Washington DC) as a graduation present in 1985.  Another friend got me a ticket to the next show (Philadelphia).  A bunch of friends and me talked to Johnny Marr after the DC show, and he put us all on the guest list for the 2 shows in New York (following Philadelphia).  Everything seemed to happen organically, and not forced in any way.  I grew to love the band the more I saw their live shows – incredibly energetic and crowd-inclusive – that’s what sold me for the long haul on why The Smiths were so great, and are still great to this day.

What was the experience like?

Magical!  I was 17 going on 18, shooting candid pix of an amazing band, and traveling for the first time on my own (without my parents) and discovering the world.

What are you planning on doing next?

I’m currently one of the house photographers for the 9:30 Club, U Street Music Hall, Lincoln Theatre, Echostage, and Merriweather Post Pavilion.  I will continue to do that while focusing on my book and selling photo prints.

What was the coolest place your job has taken you?

Though photographing The Smiths wasn’t exactly ‘my job,’  the coolest place I went to was The Shetland Isles in Scotland.  It was a very small community, and everyone had to travel by ferry to get there.  I saw some Shetland ponies, and learned about their rich Viking culture.  Everyone who was there for the show felt special, honored, and humbled to see a Smiths show in such a remote locale.

What other bands do you really enjoy?

Too many to name…the great thing about being a hired music photographer is that you get to see bands you wouldn’t normally see and get turned on to all different kinds of music.  I love that!

What inspires you?

My son, Rama, he’s 7, and I love seeing the world through his eyes.  He’s an amazing individual.

As a photographer, what do you feel makes a good picture?

It’s not the medium (DSLR, point and shoot, cell phone, etc.), it’s the eye.  It’s taking the time to see and frame a photo in your mind before you tap the button.  Bill Crandall, a mentor and good friend of mine, calls this ‘intention.’  I’ve never forgotten this valuable advice.

What is the best photo you have ever taken? Why?

One of my faves is Joan Jett at RFK Stadium, July 4th, 2015.  It was the first stadium gig I was hired to shoot photos for.  Joan Jett was one of the first female rock pioneers, and it was amazing to get this shot.  I’ll treasure it always.  I got a lot of experience from my good friend, James Canty, for getting me into Coachella 2013 with a photo pass for all 3 days.  I learned A LOT.  One word: sand.

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If you weren’t a rock photographer, what would you be?

Probably a musician.  It’s funny, I always thought that that’s what my career would be, but photography was always so much more natural to me.  There hasn’t been a week in my whole life where I haven’t taken a picture.  I just didn’t think that anyone would ever want to see my photos.  I’m so humbled and grateful that I was wrong!

You can get Nalinee’s photo book,  The Smiths, in stores now or online at Amazon (The Smiths ). I would like to thank Nalinee for taking the time to answer my questions, and for giving me advice on how she got into the industry. I would also appreciate any feedback, as this is my first blog post!

Sincerely yours,

Amy