Now Playing: Winter 2017

Hellooo! I’ve been listening to a lot of chilling (pun intended–it’s cold as heck outside) tunes lately, and I wanted to share a few of them with you. Enjoy, and please tweet me any suggestions you have!

Wolf_Alice_-_Visions_of_a_LifeWolf Alice: Visions Of a Life

I initially discovered this record when I saw Wolf Alice live for the first time in Portland a few months ago. I was immediately intrigued by lead singer Ellie Rowsell’s chilling voice–Courtney Barnett meets Dolores O’Riordan. My favorite tracks from the record are “Don’t Delete The Kisses” and “Planet Hunter.” I’ve been annoying my roommates by playing these two earworms over and over. Both tracks are drastically different from each other. One is a longing, soft ballad and the other is a loud, poem-esque sing-along that is guaranteed to get suck in your head. This album is fairly new–it was just released in September.

 

Kodaline: I Wouldn’t Be EP

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I’ve been obsessed with this EP, lately. Although it came out in October, I didn’t hear about it’s release until one of the tracks popped up on my Spotify recommended. And thank goodness it did, because I’ve had the track, “I Wouldn’t Be” on repeat, since. This little ditty is sung in the style of an Irish ballad–complete with bagpipes and bone-chilling harmonies. (Seriously, you’ve gotta listen to it.) The rest of the EP is fabulous as well. My other favorite is “The Riddle.” Truly some of Kodaline’s best work.

 

James McAlister, Bryce Dessner, Sufjan Stevens & Nico Muhly: Planetarium

Planetarium-web-1497014950Maybe it’s because I’ve been watching too much Stranger Things, complete with it’s excellent 80’s soundtrack. Or maybe because of my friends’ recent re-interest in The Police and Corey Heart…but for some reason, I am SO into synthesizers right now…and 80’s/ambient music in general. Which is why Planetarium has become a favorite of mine. The electric guitar solos, spacey riffs, unique tones, and  feedback included on each track makes the whole album quite an experience to listen to. My favorite tune by far on the record is “Mercury.” Check it out–each song is named after a planet.

 

Swimming Tapes: Soft Sea Blue EP

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The perfect study soundtrack. Chill, honeyed vocals paired with lush guitar tones. My favorite track off this EP, which was released in September, is “Allison.” Swimming Tapes, an up-and-coming U.K. band has only released two EPs and a few singles so far, and I’m super excited to hear what they do next!

 

 

 

Happy Holidays, music-lovers around the world. 🙂

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An Interview With Haley Johnsen

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Haley Johnsen

28-year-old singer-songwriter Haley Johnsen is a risk-taker. From landing herself a spot in the top 24 of American Idol Season 11, releasing her debut EP Through the Blue in 2015, and playing The Troubadour stage in Los Angeles, Haley refuses to let fear inhibit her success. Haley “is a one-of-a-kind voice with gusto and soul, and mesmerizing presence. One of the Pacific Northwest’s most individual up-and-coming acts,” according to her website. She has toured with Texas-based band The Wind and the Wave, Seattle-based band Gabriel Wolfchild and the Northern Light, Season 8 Winner of The Voice, Sawyer Fredericks, and is good friends with famed American Idol winner, Phillip Phillips.

Despite all of her amazing success over the years, Haley hasn’t always felt as confident in herself as she is today. Haley’s struggle with inner doubt and self-reflection helped her develop into the strong, kick-ass Indie-folk singer we know and love today.

A Perfect Playlist: Tell me a little bit about how you got started. How long have you been singing?

Haley Johnsen: I would say the first official age I began singing was around 3 years old when I first watched The Little Mermaid. Throughout my youth, you might have found me singing in a closet so no one in my house could hear me. I was painfully shy and didn’t want anyone to know I could sing. As I got older and warmed up to the idea, I began singing in my college A Capella group and Chamber Choir, and from that point on, I continued to develop my voice as a professional singer-songwriter.

ppAPP: You were a contestant on American Idol and ended up making it to the top 24! That’s amazing. Tell me a little bit about that experience and how it shaped you as an artist.

HJ: Being on American Idol was a game changer for me. I was so terrified each time I made it through an audition, but the adrenaline was enough to make me realize that I was in it to win it. I had to overcome a lot of inner doubt and I worked as hard as I possibly could to prepare for each performance. Being on the show was one of the most fun, terrifying, and life-changing times in my life. It made me realize how much singing and music means to me, and I began to realize I have a responsibility to myself and the rest of the world to do something with the voice I was given. (Right: Haley and American Idol winner Phillip Phillips.)

Click here to watch a bit of Haley’s American Idol journey!

APP: Who are your influences?

HJ: Brandi Carlile, Bonnie Raitt, Florence and the Machine, Eva Cassidy, Grace Potter, Aretha Franklin…I could name so many more! These are the women who inspired me to sing with power and grace. 

APP: What’s the story behind one of your most popular tunes, “Feel The Water?” 

HJ: “Feel the Water” first came to me during a guitar lesson with my bandmate. I created the chord progression and structure of the song, but it took me almost 3 months to put words to the tune. When I finally did, it’s almost as if it wrote itself. It was as if a voice in my head was telling me to believe in myself, so that’s what I wrote about. I expressed how it feels to be afraid to do something, and how much I had been struggling with being confident in myself. I had been feeling numb, and this song helped pull me out of that. I think now this song could be for others to reflect on what might be going on inside themselves, and what areas they are longing to be more courageous in.

APP: Where do you find inspiration to write music? Do you have a particular place you like to go, or any type of method that helps you think creatively?

HJ: I used to rent this little Airbnb Cabin in Hood River for a weekend at a time. I would go there by myself and just write for hour and hours and demo out my songs. I definitely need to be alone when I first begin to brainstorm ideas for a song.

APP: Do you have a pre-show ritual?

HJ: I always warm up my voice for at least 20 minutes. Sometimes if I really need to pump myself up, I’ll do a few pushups to get the blood flowin’. I always take a moment to breathe, close my eyes, and check in with myself. I give myself a little pep talk and say “Hey, you’re awesome. You got this.” I think centering myself before going on stage always helps me stay grounded during the performance.

    

APP: What has been your favorite venue to perform in?

HJ: My favorite venue I’ve played so far was The Troubadour in Los Angeles. Artists like Elton John and Joni Mitchel got their start in the music industry by playing there, and it was just such an honor to stand where so many other legends had performed.

APP: What do you hope fans will derive from your music?

HJ: I hope that my music speaks to those who need to hear it. A lot of my music is just me working through something, telling myself I just need to take the risk and believe. So many people don’t pursue their passions because they don’t think they can do it or it feels too unfamiliar and scary. I believe that tapping into your creative self, no mater how “successful” you are in it, is the most important thing we can do for ourselves. I want to inspire that.

APP: If you could perform a duet with any artist, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

HJ: I would perform a song with Florence and the Machine. She just seems like such a fun and sweet person to be around, but she is also such a force of nature on stage. She’s not afraid to wail. Singing a powerful ballad or something with her would be a dream.

APP: “When You Lit The Sky” is your latest record, as it just came out this August. (Love it, by the way.) Is there a particular track on that album that is close to your heart?

My last track “Carry On.” This song came to me 3 days after the Pulse Night Club Shooting. I was feeling very distraught and just wanted to write something that was comforting to me. I strived to convey the idea and possibility that we are all stronger together when we show empathy. I want everyone to know that they are not alone, and that we need to show our love and compassion for one another now more than ever. 

 

Follow Haley:

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All photos are courtesy of Haley’s website/social media.

Cassette Tape Revival

Rewind! Over the past few years, you’ve probably noticed a huge resurgence in retro music formats. Vinyl has seen 260% growth since 2009, according to Forbes magazine. These days, I constantly see teens in addition to adults digging through the vinyl crates in the record store I work in. What may have started as a Instagram-motivated fad has now adapted into a full fledged vinyl revolution, encouraging young audiophiles to re-embrace the physical side of music during this age of Spotify and Apple music.

In addition to vinyl, cassette tapes have recently made a comeback. Mainstream artists like Khalid, Lana Del Ray, Arcade Fire, and The 1975 are releasing their latest albums on vinyl, CD, and now, cassette. Urban Outfitters has started selling clear, portable cassette tape players. (Gotta admit–they’re pretty cool. Here’s a tip, though: you can get something similar at Goodwill or a thrift shop for way cheaper.) “Check out my mixtape” isn’t just a silly phrase anymore–kids are actually making tapes again. (Okay, maybe it’s still a silly phrase.)

According to The Verge, “Helping the cassette boom are a few factors. For one, the official soundtrack for Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is still going strong, despite its 2014 release. The soundtrack, featured heavily in the movie as the personal mixtape of Chris Pratt’s character Peter Quill, sold 4,000 cassettes last year.”

FullSizeRenderIf you want to get in on the trend, you can find cassette tapes at pretty much any local record store. If you’re looking to get creative and make your own, all you need is a CD collection, tape recorder, blank cassette tapes (you can get them at Fred Meyer) and Google images. I made some pretty quirky personalized mixtapes for my friends (see right and above)–they work great as birthday presents or just random lil surprises to show you care.

It’s pretty rad how retro is constantly becoming  the new cool. What’s next, the return of 8-tracks and floppy disks? I’m all for it!

Soundtrack to my Summer 2017

My summers at home are made up of memorable sunsets, vibrant colors, favorite foods, lovely smells, special people, the books I get lost in, and notable music. I remember each of my summers differently through these things, and looking back on them brings back the feelings I had during that time.

Every summer, I like to give you a little sample of what I’ve been listening to. I’ve got an extra good feeling about Summer 2017. ❤

alt-J: Relaxer (album)

alt-j-relaxer-album-artworkListen to this album while drinking lemonade in a hammock, or laying out on the grass in the evening. Each song on this album is expertly formulated–with slow, dramatic melodies and soft guitar slides paired seamlessly with their trademark maraca and echoey guitar riffs, this album incorporates these aspects in addition to celctic-esque harmonies in order to create the sound that makes alt-J so unique. According to MTV, the band also apparently tackles themes of climate change in this record. Also, the name of this album is extremely fitting–it’s a great record to simply chill out and relax to, and I’ve even fallen asleep to it a few times.

george-ezra-dont-matter-now-1George Ezra: “Don’t Matter Now” (single)

This is the perfect song to sing along to in the car with friends on a warm summer night. It’s been a while since George released any new music since his debut album, Wanted On A Voyage in 2015. This single, which he launched with a fun music video, is about remembering the fun things in life, taking time to yourself, traveling and being carefree. This song is a great way to remind yourself that the past year is in the past–let it go, it don’t matter now!

32c0dc1effb1c4cbc5068a10bb591eac.1000x1000x1ARIZONA: Gallery (album)

Woah woah woah. This album, lemme tell ya, sounds incredible live. I had the pleasure of seeing ARIZONA open for the band Coin a few days ago in Portland, and they did not disappoint. Their sound is R&B mixed with electronic and dreamy pop, and a few of my favorites off of this album (which is their very first) are “Annie,” “Electric Touch,” and “Oceans Away.” Their opening set was rad, and I absolutely loved the backing guitar in every single song.

jap houseThe Japanese House: “Saw You In A Dream” (single)

I first heard this song when Matty Healy, lead singer of The 1975, tweeted about it. The Japanese House has a very memorable, distinct style–reverberating vocals and dreamlike electric guitar and piano. Definitely one of my picks this summer as a refreshing, new band that are rising onto the music scene.

 

COIN: How Will You Know If You Never Try (album)

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I saw these guys live with my friend and sister a few nights ago, and they rocked! Lead singer Chase Lawrence had crazy amount of energy that kept the crowd engaged the entire show. The band’s stage set was amazing, too–complete with a neon hand hanging from the ceiling, reaching towards a large cardboard cut out of a gravestone with the words: “How Will You Know If You Never Try?” written on it. Coin have a sound similar to the band Bad Suns–alternative rock with a hint of Saint Motel vibes. I love pretty much the whole of their new record, but a few of my favorites are “Boyfriend,” “Are We Alone?” and “Don’t Cry, 2020.” Their fans loved these songs too–they screamed the lyrics back at Chase, seeming to overwhelm him with surprise and love.

16227a22a29ffaf90eaa55a24d26bdd3.1000x1000x1Liam Gallagher: “Wall Of Glass” (single)

If you think you don’t know who Liam Gallagher is, you do. He was 1/2 of the band Oasis, the iconic 90’s band who released the hit single everyone and their mothers know, “Wonderwall.” Liam debuted this new single during Ariana Grande’s One Love Manchester benefit concert a few weeks ago in anticipation of his first ever solo record, As You Were, set to release later this year. Although Liam (and his brother, Noel) are known to be pretty bratty, I gotta admit, their music is stellar. If this new single is anything like the rest of Liam’s upcoming album, it’s sure to be a hit.

CONCERTS: Passenger

IMG_8762Passenger

I’ve been lucky enough to see singer-songwriter Passenger live three times now, and each time, he never ceases to impress me with his infectious energy, crowd involvement, funny travel stories, and remarkable music. Last month, I had the pleasure of seeing him in Portland, Oregon with my friend Shayna, who bought me tickets for Christmas! (Click the picture above to see a clip of Passenger performing his song “Life’s For The Living.”)

Michael Rosenberg, also known as Passenger, is most famous for his single “Let Her Go,” which, he jokes, often gets confused with the hit Disney song “Let It Go.” He formed the initial band, Passenger, with singer and friend Andrew Phillips in 2003. They produced one album, then the band broke up in 2009. After that, Michael continued to pursue music on his own, keeping the stage name Passenger as he busked around the world solo. He is good friends with singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, and performs with him often. My favorite duet of theirs is “Heart’s on Fire.”

Each of Passenger’s songs tell a story. Focusing on themes of life, loss, laughter, love, change, travel, stars, summer nights, fear, shimmering waves, growing old, and his views of the world, Passenger captures vivid scenes and memories through his music. His latest album is titled Young As the Morning Old As the Sea.

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Before Passenger came on stage in Portland, the fabulous Paper Kites performed, an Australian band who formed in 2010. This was a fun surprise for me–I listen to The Paper Kites regularly, and I even played one of their tracks recently on my weekly college radio show. They rocked! I was standing directly in front of the guitarist, who had so much energy and incredible skill. I even met the guys after the show (see above), and talked to them about my music blog and radio show. They were pretty stoked to hear that I had played them on the air. Along with being enormously talented, these guys are so funny and kind. Check out their latest album “Twelvefour,” here, and click here to watch a clip of their performance in PDX. (Pictures below are mine.)

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My friend and I were first in line about 2 hours prior to the concert, and ended up being front row once we got inside the venue! It was amazing to be at the barrier–I’ve only ever experienced it at one other concert. Passenger was so interactive with the crowd–he responded to fans shouting compliments, and talked to all of us as if we were old friends of his. Being so close to him standing on the edge of the stage as the lights reflected off his guitar and the beads of sweat on his forehead made the whole experience so raw, real, and incredibly fun.

Passenger told a few different stories through out his set. He started by explaining the story behind his song “Travelling Alone,” from his album Whispers II. Michael said he initially struggled to write this song–he had the first half of it written, but wasn’t sure how to continue it.

Me at the concert.

He recalled the day when he had crossed paths with an Australian man who was travelling alone. The man explained that he and his wife had saved up to go on an extravagant trip together after their children had grown up, but she had died before they had been able to go. To honor her memory, the man decided to take the trip anyway. Along the way, however, he found that it was more difficult than he expected–he began to feel further away from home, and further from his wife, than he ever had before: “He said ‘I’m a long way from the Gold Coast. Furthest I’ve ever known. Oh and this just ain’t my home. It was my wife’s idea, but she’s no longer here. She left me travelling alone.’

The other half of the song is written about a woman Michael met during his travels. Her husband left her, and she told him the story: “‘See, ten years with this man. And a life time of plans. Oh, and I loved him to his bones. Now I’ve lines on my skin…And he’s traded me in. He left me travelling alone.'” Michael described to us the process of intertwining the two stories in order to weave the song together. Although the two stories are very different from each other, they shared a common theme of lost love experienced in different ways. Listen to it here!

Passenger played a mix of old and new tracks during his concert–one being “27,” a fast-paced, witty single that tells the story of his life up to the age of 27. Before performing it, he reminded the crowd of the importance of doing the things that make you happy, regardless of what anyone else might think. He wrote “27,” during a time in his life where he felt he had to “sell out to get sold”–he struggled to create music that he knew producers and record labels would enjoy, but not necessarily content that brought him joy. I sang along to every word!

After his final song, the encore was loud enough to break the glass windows. He had wrapped up the show with his single “Scare Away the Dark,” a fan favorite that features a distinctive chorus of “oh, oh oh, oh, oh oh no’s” that the crowd continued to belt even after Michael had left the stage. After a few minutes, he came back on and finished up the show with “Holes.” Click the photo below to watch the fun encore!

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After the show ended, Shayna and I took our chances and waited outside in the rain in hopes of meeting Michael. After about an hour or two, he came out and greeted us! He was so kind, asking us if we enjoyed the gig. I gave him a big hug, telling him that we loved the show, especially since we were lucky enough to get front row. “Oh yeah, I saw you dancing and singing!” he responded with his thick British accent. We chatted for a few minutes about Portland and music before he hopped onto his tour bus.

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Overall, it was an unforgettable night! Thank you to Passenger for being such a down-to-earth, talented performer, and Shayna, who made this night possible 🙂

An Interview with Higuera

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Higuera

Higuera is a five-piece alternative band from California who formed in 2013. They’ve played numerous shows along the West Coast in venues ranging from The Hard Rock Cafe in Seattle to a California house show in the middle of nowhere. Vocalist and main songwriter Valley Taylor says Higuera is committed to creating genuine, quality records: “no hype, no bullshit and writing and playing music for the sake of music,” he says. Taylor, who has always been passionate about music, went from working as a pastor in North Carolina to becoming the lead songwriter and creator of Higuera. I chatted with him about this experience, inspiration behind his songs, and more.

A Perfect Playlist: Tell me a little bit about how the band got started.

Higuera: Well, the band actually formed back in 2013 after I got divorced. I moved from San Luis Obispo, CA to Los Angeles and started a band called “thrdvsn” with some people I had met on twitter. After a few years of altering the line-up, style, and manager of the band, we finally settled on our current sound and name “Higeura.”

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APP: How would you describe your sound?

We’re currently working on our first full length album, and our producer Sam Pura (he’s worked with bands such as The Story So Far, Basement, and State Champs) said that a majority of the songs have a “Cowboy Bebop” vibe to them. Since I write all the songs and then present them to the band, they all start in a very folk singer-songwriter-like style and then evolve a bit as the rest of the band contributes.

APP: Who in the music industry inspires you?

H: I’ve spent most of my time deeply embedded in religion in the past, so I didn’t listen to anything but contemporary Christian music and instrumental bands until I left home for  Bible College, ironically enough. Because of my musical upbringing, I don’t really have a lot of friendly sentiment towards most of the music industry and generally don’t feel inspired by any artists in particular. That being said, I really enjoyed the new Bon Iver album and Frank Ocean’s new music. I admire the work itself in making an album more than anything.

16472890_563336280526398_6381675691072392291_nAPP: Where do you see the band in 5 years time?

Hopefully similar to where we are now, but with more of a platform. I hope to be touring with bands I enjoy and have my tracks featured in more TV shows and movies.

APP: Thoughts on this year’s Grammys? Best performance this year, in your opinion?

I totally didn’t even watch the Grammy’s this year or last year. I think 2013 was the only year I’ve ever watched them. I did, however, watch Lady Gaga KILL the halftime show at the super bowl if that counts.

APP: I love your song “Thermopylae.” Tell me a little bit about it–what was the inspiration?

twoH: I wrote that song while I was working as a pastor out in North Carolina. It was a really good time for me. I had just gotten off a 6 month long road trip, and I was loving the idea that freedom is nothing more than a ball and chain that costs so much. The song is about how you really just have to let go of everything in order to truly be free.

APP: What do you hope fans will get out of your music?

H: I’m hoping fans will be inspired by my music to go out and accomplish all the crazy dreams they can think of. I’d also like for people to reevaluate the situations that life throws at us as they listen. Often times, I write from unique perspectives that I’ve spent years observing various lifestyles to gain insight into.

APP: You mentioned you’re working on a new record. Do you have a release date set for that?

H: We’ve been living and working at The Panda Studios in Fremont, Ca working on our first full length since Halloween of 2016. We’re hoping to have the album finished by April, but we are really taking our time on this.

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All photos are from the band’s Instagram.

Check out Higuera here:

Soundcloud

Instagram

Facebook

New Old Favorites

I’ll admit it…sometimes, I’m late to the game. I keep up with current music as much as I can (alongside the artists I already love) but there are times when an older, classic album I’ve heard about for years (but never got around to listening to all the way through) slips through the cracks. I usually end up hearing it much later. Thank goodness for Spotify and its ever-increasing music library. I’m making it my goal this month to listen to one new, old record every week. Come join me on this nostalgic journey, and check out some of my new old favorites below! 🙂

verveUrban Hymns–The Verve

Most people recognize “Bittersweet Symphony,” the iconic earworm (AKA a catchy song that gets stuck in your head) which appears as the first track on this album. With tunes that feature echoey choruses, snippets of electronic zings and guitar harmonics, it’s no wonder why this record is such a classic–it was ahead of its time. Released in 1997, it became the 18th best-selling album in UK chart history. Lately, I’ve been jamming out to “Sonnet,” and “Space and Time” on this record. The song titles themselves on this record are also rad–creative and witty, they each tell a story.

81mwe-cc1vl-_sl1121_Our Endless Numbered Days–Iron & Wine

There are some artists that just seem to whisper into your ear…this is definitely what its like listening to Iron & Wine. Hushed, melodic guitar, and an occasional accompanying guiro (an instrument with a ridged surface that is scraped with a stick for sound) mixed with lead singer Sam Beam’s gentle vocals wraps this record into a little bundle of tranquility. I’m loving “Naked As We Came,” and “Passing Afternoons.” When I listen to this album, I picture warm, orange sun spilling through the blinds, streaming across a carpet on a summer evening.

                                                                  No Need To Argue–The Cranberries

maxresdefaultI’ve loved The Cranberries for as long as I can remember–“Linger” was my anthem in middle school–I’ve grown up listening to the sweet lullaby vocals of lead singer Dolores O’Riordan. This record, No Need To Argue was released in 1994 as the band’s second studio album. It was also the most successful–it sold out over 17 million copies across the world, and is still popular today. My favorite tracks on the album are “Zombie,” (of course–this is one of the band’s most famous songs), “Ode to My Family,” and “Twenty One” (which has an intro similar to “Linger”).  Grungy, deep guitar that is so 90’s-esque fills every dreamy track on this album… its nostalgic and so beautifully Irish. I could easily fall asleep to this one every night.

P.S. I apologize for the lack of posts, lately! Working as quickly as I can to get new content up soon. 🙂