The annual Pitchfork Music Festival will take place July 13-15 in Chicago's Union Park. NUVO's selected twelve acts that will be worth the drive.
Don't call them a punk band, don't call them a noise-rock band, don't call them anything, in fact. Just listen. This rising band from Brooklyn has made it well known they don't like being placed into a specific category, they just like to melt people's faces off with hard beats, walls of buzz-saw guitars, and roaring vocals, but they know how to ease it up as well; listen closely and you'll hear a little bit of a country twang. With a handful of self-produced albums to their credit, their first widely-available album was 2011's Leave Home, however they've really broken through the hipster-sphere with this year's release Open Your Heart. If I had only one band I could see at Pitchfork this year, it'd be them.
There is a special place in my heart for all-female punk/alternative rock bands, and Wild Flag is occupying that spot right now. Called a "supergroup" by the media, the band is comprised of former members of Sleater-Kinney, The Minders, Helium, and Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks, just to mention a few. Perhaps best known amongst this band's roster is singer and guitarist Carrie Brownstein, co-creator of the TV show Portlandia, whose tremulous yelp fronted Sleater-Kinney and now takes part of the Wild Flag singing duties with Mary Timony (Helium). To arrive at Wild Flag, take a good dose of 90s Pacific Northwest-influenced alternative, some 80s pop, and some riot grrl attitude, and you've almost got it. The band is touring on their self-titled debut album released last September.
This band is another absolute can't-miss. Hailing from Cleveland, Ohio, they've come a long way musically since their debut album in 2010. This year's release, Attack on Memory, was produced by music industry maverick Steve Albini and is a highly-polished, and vastly more mature effort than their previous two albums that erred toward more loosely-constructed pop-punk and lo-fi; however, they've lost none of their brain-frying guitar power. Their sound features quick, noise-rock beats and explosions of guitar fuzz that come at the brain like an approaching hurricane, with Dylan Baldi's desperate rasping whine straddling the line between being irritating and irresistible.
At the ripe old age of 25, Ty Segall already has a discography of releases - both solo, with his bands, and with various collaborations - that reads like a phone book. His recently-released album Slaughterhouse is somewhat of a darker variant on his garage- and punk-influenced sound. The album, which he recorded as the Ty Segall Band, borrows a lot from metal and drone rock; distorted, epic songs with complexly layered arrangements and a distinctly moodier cast than earlier releases for which Segall is known, such as last year's Goodbye Bread. I'm expecting lots of cuts from the new album, but also hoping he dips into the garage-pop well during his set. This is the chance to see an artist who has already been and will be a force on the indie rock scene for years to come.
A recent visitor to Radio Radio, Youth Lagoon is the solo project of Boise, Idaho-based Trevor Powers. His debut album The Year of Hibernation (2011) feels like the musical accompaniment to a trip down memory lane in which you see yourself playing Nintendo in someone's basement with people who've long since faded from your life, or sitting in your teenage bedroom pining after someone who never knew you existed. It somehow manages to be lithe and understated, yet powerfully emotional and evocative. Laden with drum machine beats, dreamy synth effects and keyboard riffs, his songs drip with nostalgia while the electro element keeps them from sagging into sappy territory. True, the album might inspire you to pull out your high-school yearbook and a box of Kleenex, it is also smooth and sensual at the same time, and occasionally a song wends its way into a driving, almost anthemic beat. It will be interesting to see how this plays-out in a festival setting, but I wouldn't dream of missing this one.
The first time I heard the song "White Rune" by this young band of Danish punks, I immediately bought their 2011 album New Brigade and didn't take it off my turntable for a month. Using rolling beats and tons of pace-changes, they manage to generate an epic build-up even in their super short songs, as well as a thick, driving energy that leaves no sonic space unused. Lead singer Elias Ronnenfelt's slightly accented English and back-of-the-throat holler add a sort of exotic quality to their songs. Expect to rock hard and fast and get hit so hard that you'll feel like you've been mugged. They're that good.
In our interview with Alex Scally (Editor's note: read the interview in next week's NUVO), he admitted the band’s dream pop sound is better executed in dark clubs than expansive outdoor venues. I wholeheartedly agree, but Beach House remains my most anticipated show. In their recently acclaimed album, Bloom, Scally’s guitar riffs again intertwine with the haunting vocals of Victoria Legrand. Each song swells slowly, gaining momentum until it’s spinning around your head like a dreamy merry-go-round. In “The Hours,” Legrand sings unapologetically, “It’s deeper than you me / It’s all in a glance you’ll see / It’s farther than we could be.” Go. Listen. Love them. Then invite the girl in plaid next to you to their show at The Vogue in Indy on July 17. A darker atmosphere, lesser-known songs, and better light show will guarantee you a second date...
Alex Zang Hungtai, the one-man force behind Dirty Beaches, is a true blast from the past. By combining the charm of 1950s-style rockabilly with lo-fi recording, Dirty Beaches’ old-school tone sounds as if an Elvis Presley sample was sung into a vintage Nestle Quick time capsule, buried in Denace the Menace’s back yard, and allowed to escape after bouncing around inside for sixty years. Last years critically acclaimed album, Badlands, was long-listed for the 2011 Polaris Music Prize. With gems like “True Blue” — which could easily be part of a soundtrack to any post-WWII Hawaiian family vacation — Dirty Beaches delivers a nostalgic feeling that will go hand in hand with the dozens of filtered Instagram photos you inevitably upload of the band.
Much has been said about the conflict of interest in Pitchfork being both a source for music reviews while sponsoring its annual festival. Case in point: Dirty Projecters' new album Swing Lo Magellan comes out July 11. Normally we would get a Pitchfork review following its release, but wait... a July 2 Dirty Projectors interview and new song releases that conveniently mention festival day passes are still available? I’ll buy my ticket and preorder their album NOW! Not that I’m complaining about this symbiotic relationship. Pitchfork is right, both “Dance for You” and “Gun Has No Trigger” are damn good, and how can I take Rolling Stone seriously after it gave Justin Bieber’s new album three out of five stars too many.
Listening to Cults for the first time, you can’t help but picture singer Madeline Follin next to The Supremes, a long flowing dress between thumb and index finger — perfectly shuffling back and forth in step. There’s a hint of Motown in several songs of Cults’ 2011 self-titled debut, most noticeably the striking similarity between The Supremes’ “Where Did Our Love Go” and Cults’ “You Know What I Mean.” Then the drums in the chorus nearly knock you off your chair, bringing you back to 2012. “Never Hear Myself” is almost too cute, with Follin’s delicate voice begging, “Please don’t leave me lonely, tell me all the ways to make myself right in your eyes... ” — Is this girl old enough to be in a band? — “... but I can never be myself, so fuck you.” Guess so!
Sleigh Bells could not have chosen a better album cover for their 2010 debut, Treats. It pictures cheerleaders, pom poms in hand and faces scratched out, as if some girl who got cut went voodoo on her yearbook. She did. Her name is Alexis Krauss, the anti-cheerleader’s cheerleader. Sleigh Bells often sounds like a grunge cheer squad, employing intensely distorted guitar, heavy percussion, and even stomping and clapping. Combine this with Krauss’ vocals, which range from sensitive, dreamy singing to shouting, and you get a kick so hard in the gut you cough up blood on her white tennis shoes. Don’t worry, though, she snapped a photo of them for Sleigh Bells’ sophomore album, Reign of Terror, which came out earlier this year.
With lyrics like “Blowing blunts rolling doobies up, smoking sections / Groupies rush hold they boobies up, in my direction,” Harlem based rapper A$AP Rocky’s drug and sex-infused lyrical content doesn’t exactly cater to any true hip-hop head’s music collection. Nevertheless, a smooth flow combined with a keen ear for beat selection made his debut mixtape LiveLoveA$AP last year’s pride and joy of music blogs. The buzz for this self-described “pretty motherfucker” has only been growing with cosigns ranging from hip-hop stars Drake and Theophilius London to indie acts like Lana Del Rey, the latter even extending an invitation to appear in her music video “National Anthem” as well as collaborating to record the recently leaked “Ridin’.” Expect to see it on A$AP Rocky’s debut album LongLiveA$AP, due out in September."