Dozens of free downloads from bands playing Pitchfork
The folks at eMusic have put together a free, 29-song MP3 playlist featuring some of the artists performing at this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival. Through an exclusive partnership, eMusic is making the tracks available to readers of the Reader through July 31. Listen to tracks and download the playlist from eMusic.
Julianna Barwick “The Magic Place” The Magic Place
Baths “Hall” Cerulean
Battles “Ice Cream” Gloss Drop
Neko Case “Middle Cyclone” Middle Cyclone
Cut Copy “Need You Now” Zonoscope
Darkstar “Gold” (Radio Edit) Gold
Deerhunter “Cryptograms” Cryptograms
The Dismemberment Plan “What Do You Want Me to Say?” Emergency & I
EMA “Milkman” Past Life Martyred Saints
Fleet Foxes “Helplessness Blues” Helplessness Blues
Fresh & Onlys “Do You Believe in Destiny?” Secret Walls
G-Side “Came Up” The One … Cohesive
Gatekeeper “Chains” Giza
Health “Die Slow” Get Color
How to Dress Well “Ready for the World” Love Remains
Kylesa “Tired Climb” Spiral Shadow
Thurston Moore “The Shape Is in a Trance” Trees Outside the Academy
No Age “Fever Dreaming” Everything In Between
Off! “Upside Down” First Four EPs
The Radio Dept. “Heaven’s on Fire” Clinging to a Scheme
Shabazz Palaces “Swerve … the Reeping of All That Is Worthwhile (Noir Not Withstanding)” Black Up
Sun Airway “Oh, Naoko” Nocturne of Exploded Crystal Chandelier
Toro y Moi “New Beat” Underneath the Pine
Twin Shadow “Slow” Forget
Kurt Vile “Freeway” Constant Hitmaker
Wild Nothing “Chinatown” Gemini
Woods “Pushing Onlys” Sun and Shade
Yuck “Rubber” Yuck
Zola Jesus “Sea Talk” Valusia
In the past few years Pitchfork has started booking a stage at Primavera Sound in Spain and collaborated with All Tomorrow’s Parties for a festival in the UK, and this fall it launches a festival in Paris. But Chicago is still the influential online music magazine’s home base, and the 2011 Pitchfork Music Festival is the seventh large-scale event it’s hosted here. This year’s Pitchfork fest runs Friday 7/15 through Sunday 7/17 in its customary Union Park digs, at the intersection of Ashland and Lake, and brings together approximately 50,000 fans and 45 artists—including rappers, weirdo electronic musicians, hardcore punks, and a few bands playing the kind of indie rock qua indie rock that the site’s best known for championing.
Gates on the east and west sides of the festival grounds open at 3 PM on Friday and at noon on Saturday and Sunday; the festival ends each night at 10 PM. An on-site box office will be open from noon until 8 PM on Thursday 7/14; it also opens at noon on Friday and at 11 AM Saturday and Sunday (and closes at 9:30 PM all three days), though it’s a better idea to buy tickets in advance online. Single-day tickets are $45; Sunday passes and all flavors of multiday passes are sold out. This year the fest’s stages have been renamed Red, Green, and Blue (rather than Aluminum, Connector, and Balance), but as usual the bigger names play the park’s two northernmost stages—meaning they’ll alternate between Red (northwest) and Green (northeast). The smaller Blue stage at the southwest corner of the grounds hosts music throughout the day.
The festival is all-ages, and admission is free for children under ten accompanied by an adult. Reentry is prohibited. Outside food and drink are prohibited (except for sealed bottles of water), but there are plenty of vendors willing to sell you some once you’re inside; also forbidden on the festival grounds are cameras with detachable lenses, audio and video recording devices, tents, musical instruments, and pets. Cameras with nondetachable lenses are permitted, as are folding chairs and small or midsize backpacks and bags.
Street parking near the park is limited, but festivalgoers can reserve spots at a lot at 1640 W. Jackson for $20 apiece at pitchforkmusicfestival.com/info. If there’s any way you can, it’s a much better idea to walk, bike, or take public transportation (the Ashland and Madison buses as well as Green Line and Pink Line trains all stop nearby). The Reader is sponsoring a secure bike-parking area in the park that offers free water, air for tires, and chain lube, plus separate restrooms and hand-washing stations. You can also enter a raffle for a chance to win a custom bike.
Nonmusical activities at the festival include the Chicago Independent Radio Project’s CHIRP Record Fair & Other Delights, a bazaar of recorded music with an emphasis on independent labels, collectibles, and vinyl; Coterie, a similarly independent-minded fashion emporium; and the American Poster Institute’s long-running Flatstock exhibition, a sort of outdoor poster-art museum that doubles as a marketplace. Local charity Rock for Kids, which provides musical education for underprivileged Chicago youth, will once again be auctioning off memorabilia donated by Pitchfork performers.
Gatekeeper, 3:20 PM Blue stage One of the most bizarrely specific trends in recent pop-subcultural history is the wave of bands whose music invokes the scores from the horror flicks and thrillers of the 70s and 80s. Among the best of them is Brooklyn-via-Chicago duo Gatekeeper, whose eerie, pumping tracks combine Vangelis’s new age atmospheres and John Carpenter’s muscular synth rock.
EMA, 3:30 PM Red stage Erika M. Anderson came up in the microscopic South Dakota riot-grrrl scene, and the stubborn resilience she seems to have developed by being weird in a place that’s very antiweird has apparently given rise to a penchant for weaving confrontation into her music. After doing time in experimental groups Gowns and Amps for Christ, last month she released her bracing full-length debut as EMA, Past Life Martyred Saints (Souterranian Transmissions), and though she’s now wedding her sonic explorations to relatively accessible pop structures, she’s hardly gone Lady Gaga. The hints of Kate Bush in the album’s electronics and ambience are very 2011, but the fractured majesty of the half-ranted “California” already feels timeless—and Past Life Martyred Saints is one of the best records so far this year. Also Thu 7/14 at the Empty Bottle, 21+. —Miles Raymer
Tune-Yards, 4:30 PM Blue stage
Describing Tune-Yards on paper makes for a pileup of quirkiness that could choke Wes Anderson. It’s the solo endeavor of a New England bohemian and former nanny named Merrill Garbus, who relies heavily on lyrics that read like journal excerpts, field recordings from her day-to-day life, and offbeat, vaguely retro instrumentation that includes ukuleles, a string bass, and a sax section. But on record Garbus’s music is fascinating, shot through with enough actual weirdness and serious experimentation to banish any comparisons to The Royal Tenenbaums from your brain. Her full-length debut, 2009’s Bird-Brains, is a winner largely because of its inventiveness and unpredictability, and this spring’s Whokill (4AD) would sound good even played by a run-of-the-mill rock band. —Miles Raymer
Battles, 4:35 PM Green stage When Tyondai Braxton, who cofounded Battles in 2002, announced his departure in August, I was dubious about the group’s future. Based partly on Braxton’s stylistically slippery 2009 solo album, Central Market, I assumed he’d been the guiding force behind the genre-averse sound the quartet created on 2007’s Mirrored. But the remaining members—guitarist Ian Williams, bassist Dave Konopka, and drummer John Stanier—proved me wrong with this year’s Gloss Drop (Warp), pushing Battles further into turf all their own. They brought in a few guest vocalists to compensate for Braxton’s absence—techno producer Matias Aguayo, Blonde Redhead front woman Kazu Makino, new-wave relic Gary Numan, Boredoms kingpin Yamantaka Eye—but the instruments burst with so much personality, colliding daring ideas and unclassifiable sounds, that the music would sound great without any singing. There are clearly plenty of electronics and keyboards, but it’s hard to say where they leave off and the guitars start up—trying to figure out which noise is coming from where is wonderfully puzzling. Onstage the band uses their guests’ prerecorded vocal tracks, usually synched to projected video of the singers delivering their parts.
Curren$y, 5:30 PM Blue stage Over the past decade Curren$y has worked the likes of No Limit, Young Money, and Roc-a-Fella, but the popularity he’s earned outside the rap world has little to do with those name-brand labels. He’s largely made his own way by killing it on the mix-tape circuit and putting on berserk live shows—true to New Orleans’s well-deserved reputation for producing the best onstage performers in hip-hop. —Miles Raymer
Thurston Moore, 5:30 PM Red stage He’s known for his weird tunings and aggressive feedback in Sonic Youth, but Thurston Moore has a fondness for melody too—ever since 1985’s Bad Moon Rising he’s used his awkward voice to sketch surprisingly catchy hooks. Reviewers have taken to calling his new Demolished Thoughts (Matador) a folk record, and certain interludes do recall Pentangle—but it’s also just an amp and a power outlet away from sounding like the lyrical parts of a late-period Sonic Youth album. The songs emphasize Moore’s gentler side (as well as his limitations as a singer), and the arrangements gain depth from the melancholy violin of Samara Lubelski and the austere harp of Mary Lattimore. The touring lineup, which adds second guitarist Keith Wood and drummer John Maloney, sounded pretty electric on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon last month.
Guided by Voices, 6:25 PM Green stage Guided by Voices didn’t wait as long as a lot of bands to re-form; they called it a day in 2004, then reunited for Matador’s 21st anniversary shindig last fall. This mid-90s version of the band, dubbed the “classic lineup” (with a logo inspired by Coca-Cola Classic), is arguably the one that propelled them to greatness. Not only did each album from that era include an armful of Robert Pollard’s shattered anthems and stunted art-rock epics, sung in a faux English accent (as have all of GBV’s records), they were also elevated by a couple tracks of sweetly soulful pure pop by guitarist Tobin Sprout. And onstage, no incarnation of the band since then has matched the spectacles of guitarist Mitch Mitchell spinning in circles like a tail-chasing terrier and bassist Greg Demos resplendent in his striped pants. It’s the real thing. —Bill Meyer
Das Racist, 6:30 PM Blue stage After Das Racist went viral with the single “Combination Pizza Hut & Taco Bell”—basically an existential joke fit for Dr. Demento—lots of folks assumed that Himanshu Kumar Suri and Victor Vazquez were just two dumb stoners. But in fact they’re two dangerously brilliant stoners who happen to be really good at playing dumb. (The group is now a trio, having made hype man Ashok “Dap” Kondabolu a full-fledged member.) Pick apart the obscure references, deadpan puns, and double entendres in their dense blocks of verbiage and you’ll usually find an underlying thesis you’d sooner expect in a scholarly article on Derrida and postcolonialism than on a rap mix tape. Or you could just turn off your brain and jam along, since the songs are perfectly fine for that too. Also tonight at Lincoln Hall, sold out. —Miles Raymer
Neko Case, 7:20 PM Red stage Lots of things are compelling about Neko Case, but none so much as her voice. With its fullness and precision, it’s the force that animates her music, and on 2009’s Middle Cyclone (Anti-) it sounds better than ever. Case uses her dead-on ear for phrasing to make sudden, perfectly timed melodic leaps, and her songs unfold intuitively rather than, say, simply sticking to the verse for four lines and then moving to the chorus for two. Case sings about troubled love more directly and personally than she has in the past, at one point coming right out and saying, “The next time you say forever, I will punch you in your face.” She recently dueted with Nick Cave on a cover of the Zombies classic “She’s Not There” for the TV show True Blood, upstaging her partner and proving once again that she can gobble up any kind of song. —Peter Margasak
James Blake, 7:30 PM Blue stage I sat out the debate among dubstep fans about whether James Blake is a charlatan because the music on his self-titled debut flirts so shamelessly with pop. It still strikes me as a stupid argument—what the naysayers call selling out looks like creative ambition to me. Blake’s album grabbed me on first listen and has grown more resonant with repeated spins, reminding me of the homemade late-90s electronic soul of fellow Brit Lewis Taylor. He isn’t a particularly strong singer, and calling his lyrics slight is probably too kind, but he works around his limitations brilliantly—he uses multitracked vocals, some of them nonverbal, to harmonize with himself, creating rich layers of multicolored sound. Blake’s vocal melodies and programming—beats, synths, even some actual piano chords—greatly enhance each other, turning his rhythms into hooks and his singing into a vivid, intricate abstraction. —Peter Margasak
Animal Collective, 8:30 PM Green stage Few bands have had as big an impact on underground music over the past ten years as Animal Collective. The shroomy, glitchy take on classic Brian Wilson from their 2004 breakthrough album, Sung Tongs, inspired untold numbers of would-be indie-rock guitarists to pick up samplers and synths instead and convinced them to take texture as seriously as melody. Since then the group has (among other things) kicked off a somewhat baffling resurgence of new age music and ensured the continued popularity of the Grateful Dead among young people for at least another generation. —Miles Raymer
Julianna Barwick, 1:00 PM Green stage On her arresting album The Magic Place (Asthmatic Kitty) Brooklyn’s Julianna Barwick uses wordless vocal patterns—processed, looped, layered—and sprinklings of piano and guitar to create lush, heavenly vignettes. More than once I’ve seen her compared to new age thrush Enya, which makes little sense given the mysterious turbulence in her ethereal harmonies—Barwick’s music sounds like something by Terry Riley, not a soundtrack to a reiki session. She recently made an album of improvisations with pioneering electronicist Ikue Mori where she demonstrates a kind of fearlessness that’s practically antithetical to the new age aesthetic. —Peter Margasak
Chrissy Murderbot featuring MC Zulu, 1:00 PM Blue stage Like a lot of dance-music fans, local producer Chris Shively (aka Chrissy Murderbot) has recently been a bit gaga over footwork music. In case you’re unfamiliar, footwork is the south-side-born descendant of house and juke known for its spooky melodies and 160-bpm tempos, and it’s got a growing reputation as a possible successor to dubstep, that au courant genre that unites dance-floor hedonists and cerebral art-music producers. A good number of the songs on Shively’s new full-length, Women’s Studies—released by esteemed British dance label Planet Mu—are built around footwork beats. But as with his past efforts, he never sticks with one style for long, preferring to take sharp turns into electro, dancehall, or whatever else can hold his attention long enough for him to put a track together. He’ll be joined onstage by local dancehall vocalist MC Zulu, a frequent collaborator who appears on Women’s Studies on the track “The Vibe Is So Right.” Also Fri 7/15 at Ultra Lounge, 21+. —Miles Raymer
Woods, 1:45 PM Red stage The latest Woods album, this spring’s Sun and Shade (Woodsist), is packed with decades-old stylistic rips: a Neu! groove here, a Lou Reed riff there, Byrds-style 12-string guitars everywhere, and a fantastic anthem called “Any Other Day” that sounds like P.F. Sloan backed by Keith Moon on drums. The song’s soaring chorus (“I won’t believe that it can’t get worse”) is the best summation I’ve heard of the nation’s post-Yes We Can comedown. Onstage there’s no hint of that trepidation in their giddy jams, though, as Jeremy Earl’s raga-rock guitar extrapolations snake through the obstacle course of G. Lucas Crane’s cassette-born sound effects. Also tonight at Subterranean with Kurt Vile & the Violators, 17+. —Bill Meyer
Sun Airway, 1:55 PM Blue stage Stacked up against the lightning-rod rappers, math-rock wizards, and genre-defining icons on the bill at this year’s Pitchfork fest, Sun Airway’s airy, wistful indie-pop might seem downright tame. But the sparkly, shiny tunes on this Philadelphia band’s ludicrously titled debut, last year’s Nocturne of Exploded Crystal Chandelier (Dead Oceans), hit the spot with their synth-heavy hooks even as they float off the stage. This isn’t the sort of music that grabs you by the collar and forces you to pay attention, but it’s great for a sunny summer day. Also Fri 7/15 at Schubas, 18+. —Leor Galil
Cold Cave, 2:30 PM Green stage Wesley Eisold learned to spill his guts as front man for several late-90s/early-00s hardcore bands (American Nightmare/Give Up the Ghost, Some Girls, et cetera), and his morose vocal style translates perfectly to Cold Cave, whose dark, driving synth-pop draws on 80s new wave like the Cure and Depeche Mode. The group’s impressive second album, Cherish the Light Years (Matador), dropped in April. —Kevin Warwick
G-Side, 2:50 PM Blue stage Yung Clova and ST, aka hip-hop duo G-Side from Huntsville, Alabama, might have less name recognition than any act on the festival’s bill, but that’s all the more reason to catch their set. If the gods of music popularity have any sense of justice, G-Side’s blend of straight-off-the-streets rap shit and abstract musical exploration is gonna blow up, and you’ll want to say you saw them back when. —Miles Raymer
” /> No Age, 3:20 PM Red stage This duo of Angelenos has earned a reputation as one of the foremost punk bands in the world without sounding or looking much like a punk band—their albums tend to oscillate between psychedelic ambience and bursts of frenetic noise, and despite their aggression they come off as more chilled-out than confrontational. Still, there’s a good reason to call No Age punk—more than any other band going, they know how to evoke the almost mystical energy of a great punk show, and for anyone who’s ever been addicted to the stuff, their live sets are pure bliss. —Miles Raymer
Wild Nothing, 3:45 PM Blue stage Though Wild Nothing tours as a full band, it’s undoubtedly a one-man show, hosted by and starring Jack Tatum of Blacksburg, Virginia. With song titles like “Live in Dreams,” “Summer Holiday,” and “Drifter,” Tatum telegraphs the niche he’s occupying—Wild Nothing hangs out in the clouds above a landscape of summery dream-pop that’s filled with shoegaze guitars, minimalist drums, and droning, deadpan vocals. Last year’s debut full-length, Gemini (Captured Tracks), is consistently chill—the ultimate sunny, midday-Saturday Pitchfork soundtrack. The yearning in his music ought to appeal particularly to folks clustering on picnic blankets and everyone who’s stoned. Also Fri 7/15 at Subterranean, 17+. —Kevin Warwick
Gang Gang Dance, 4:15 PM Green stage Gang Gang Dance has always been the best kind of weird, colliding a feverish, vaguely tribal hippie throb with noisy improvisation, downtown New York art-disco, and no-wave clangor. The new Eye Contact (4AD) is their most polished release yet, but they sound even more bizarre and unpredictable, creating many kinds of tension—slick 80s radio funk fights a tug-of-war with dancehall, and Lizzi Bougatsos’s strange Bollywood-inspired vocals tangle with synth-guitar licks and washes of keyboard in a way that suggests a Muzak take on Madonna or a forgotten house diva from a lost continent. Better yet, this stylistic range never feels dilettantish or self-consciously eclectic—just compellingly foreign. Also Fri 7/15 at the Empty Bottle, 21+. —Peter Margasak
Off!, 4:45 PM Blue stage Thirty-five years in, Keith Morris remains one of very few more or less unsullied figureheads in the great hierarchy of hardcore punk. This affords him certain privileges—including doing whatever the fuck he wants all the time, even if that means interrupting the production of the first Circle Jerks album in 14 years to start Off! In late 2009 Morris began writing songs with guitarist Dimitri Coats (Burning Brides) while Coats was producing the aforementioned Circle Jerks album, and in seemingly no time the 16-song, 17-minute assault First Four EPs (Vice) was done. Morris still has a thing or two sticking in his craw (“Now I’m Pissed,” “Fuck People”), and he shares his feelings in frenzied blasts of raw, unfiltered punk—the songs are short, simple, and dirty, just as they should be. Also Sun 7/17 at Reggie’s Rock Club, 17+. —Kevin Warwick
Destroyer, 5:15 PM Red stage Easy listening made endearingly difficult by the tangled wordplay of Dan Bejar (New Pornographers, Swan Lake). Imagine a mellow summer afternoon with a mimosa and a side of Merriam-Webster’s.
The Radio Dept., 5:45 PM Blue stage This Swedish band alternates between bruising noise-pop (a la early Jesus & Mary Chain) and fragile ballads. It’s nothing you haven’t heard before, except maybe in the sense that Radio Dept. sound especially bored while playing it.
The Dismemberment Plan, 6:15 PM Green stage By the time they split up in 2003, the Dismemberment Plan owned their niche: by cross-pollinating the brashly nerdy and the hip cool, they’d popularized a hybrid of quirky indie rock and danceable postpunk. The D.C. quartet’s third album, 1999’s Emergency & I, got a fancy remastered double-vinyl reissue from Barsuk in January, and for good reason: it’s the Plan at their best, combining the herky-jerky fun of 1997’s The Dismemberment Plan Is Terrified with a new maturity but still not sweating the mess of confetti and party favors. Travis Morrison sasses his way through the album with a dorky magnetism and lyrics that mix the triumphal with the tongue-in-cheek, while the bass, drums, and keyboards create frantic, urgent grooves full of head-fakes and extra beats—enough to get the gangliest, most sheepish zit-faced kid dancing shamelessly at a too-cool-for-school party. —Kevin Warwick
Twin Shadow, 6:45 PM Blue stage The most common comparison people make when they talk about Twin Shadow (aka George Lewis Jr.) seems to be Morrissey, which is fair to Lewis’s swoon-and-croon vocal style but doesn’t tell the whole story. His recent Forget (Terrible Records) shimmies and pops in a saucy way that’s not quite like anything in Moz’s catalog—it’s more like the decadent early-80s output of Bowie or Prince. Also tonight at Beauty Bar (DJ set) with Deerhunter (DJ set), sold out. —Miles Raymer
DJ Shadow, 7:25 PM Red stage The 14 years that have passed since the release of DJ Shadow’s debut album, Endtroducing. . . . . , have done little to diminish the shocking impact of its elaborate sample-based constructions, and the legions of wannabes who’ve tried to match its quality haven’t done much damage either. The tense, anticipation-building piano riff that opens the first proper song on the record, “Building Steam With a Grain of Salt,” still raises hairs, and its berserk polyrhythmic breakdown still astonishes. Shadow himself seems to have given up on matching it, and has instead switched from showcasing the depth of his crates to emphasizing their breadth—putting out an album steeped in Bay Area hyphy, say, or curating Soundcloud mixes of tweaked-out vintage Korean psych-funk. —Miles Raymer
Zola Jesus, 7:40 PM Blue stage Postgoth chanteuse Zola Jesus (born Nika Danilova) is only 22, but even in her earliest work she doesn’t sound like a self-indulgent college kid with an all-black wardrobe and a Siouxsie Sioux fixation—her vocal control takes the music to another level entirely. Her second album, Conatus, is due in October from Sacred Bones, and “Vessel,” its first single, features fuller production and even more assured singing. —Peter Margasak
Fleet Foxes, 8:30 PM Green stage On their gorgeous second album, Helplessness Blues (Sub Pop), Seattle’s Fleet Foxes don’t tinker much with their successful strategy; if anything, the songs are clearer and stronger than on their 2008 debut. The focus remains on Robin Pecknold’s pretty melodies, steeped in late-60s folk rock, as well as on the vocal harmonies his bandmates array around them—they sound like something you might get from a cross between a Renaissance choir and 70s soft-rock paragons Bread, and I mean that as a compliment. The arrangements are still built on simple guitar, mandolin, and keyboard parts, but this time unexpected instrumental embellishments pop up here and there—like the borderline cacophonous bass-clarinet squawks at the end of “The Shrine / An Argument” and the zipping violin of Alina To on “Bedouin Dress.” To my ears, bands don’t usually sound their best playing outdoors, but the Millennium Park show in 2008 where I first saw Fleet Foxes was one the year’s highlights. —Peter Margasak
Darkstar, 1:00 PM Blue stage This British dubstep trio sprinkles thin, stuttering beats with jaundiced pop melodies on last year’s North (Hyperdub), which makes it sound a bit more frantic and a touch less interesting than, uh, the Human League. —Peter Margasak
Fresh & Onlys, 1:00 PM Green stage Prolific San Francisco garage combo the Fresh & Onlys stepped inside a proper recording studio for the first time to make their third album, last year’s Play It Strange (In the Red). Tim Cohen’s voice remains a ghostly presence, and the guitars and organ float as if in a thick soup—but despite all this the music is remarkably melodically generous, full of hooks that leap out at you like beams of light piercing a dense fog. For garage rockers, the Fresh & Onlys are on the stylistically ambiguous side, combining bubblegum melodies, surf twang, Byrdsian folk-rock jangle, punk drive, and psychedelic murk; they seem to be doing for hooky pop what Greg Cartwright’s Reigning Sound has done for blue-eyed soul. Also tonight at the Empty Bottle, 21+.
Yuck, 1:45 PM Red stage There are approximately one million bajillion bands currently plundering 90s alt-rock for ideas, but very few of them realize those ideas with the period-perfect accuracy of young London four-piece Yuck. Blindfold some thirtysomething indie fans, play them a track from the group’s recent self-titled debut album on Fat Possum, and watch them struggle to name the artist whose obscure B side they think they’re listening to. Is it Dinosaur Jr.? Teenage Fanclub? Pavement? Yuck’s music may be derivative, but it’s brilliantly done—I weep that I never had “Shook Down” in my arsenal back when I was into making smooshy mix tapes for girls. Also tonight at Schubas, 18+. —Miles Raymer
How to Dress Well, 1:55 PM Blue stage Recent Chicago transplant Tom Krell, who makes impressionistic dream-pop streaked with radio R&B as How to Dress Well, is chronically shy—which has made his success somewhat problematic for him. Given his appearance here, though, it seems like he’s coping. Krell recently released an EP, Just Once (Yours Truly), that swaps out the lo-fi synths of his previous releases for lush string arrangements. —Miles Raymer
Kurt Vile & the Violators, 2:30 PM Green stage Indie rock’s rekindled love affair with low fidelity continues to smolder, but some of the acts that laid the groundwork for the revival are already starting to abandon it. It turns out that cleaner production highlights some artist’s flaws, while others take to it so naturally you almost want them to rerecord their back catalog. Kurt Vile’s recent Smoke Ring for My Halo (Matador) earns the prolific musician a spot in the latter category: it’s an even stronger set of songs than 2009’s brilliant Childish Prodigy, thanks in part to production by indie stalwart John Agnello, who removes the veil of tape hiss and echo Vile hid behind on previous efforts and frames his voice with lush but simple arrangements, heavy on the acoustic guitars and tastefully touched up with modulation effects. For more on Kurt Vile, see this week’s Artist on Artist interview. Also Sat 7/16 at Subterranean with Woods, 17+. —Miles Raymer
Twin Sister, 2:50 PM Blue stage They’ve only released a pair of EPs so far, but New York five-piece Twin Sister will drop their full-length debut, In Heaven (Domino), at the end of September. Judging from the EPs, the album will most certainly be full of decadent mazes of indie pop with occasional detours into electro beats, funk, and dissonant weirdness. With her airy yet sultry voice and peculiar magnetism, front woman Andrea Estella has “future indie darling” written all over her. Also Sat 7/16 at Schubas, 18+. —Kevin Warwick
Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, 3:20 PM Red stage By far the most controversial act in the Pitchfork festival’s history, this clique of young rappers has occasioned the spilling of much ink in the music media thanks to lyrics that feature the occasional rape fantasy and zealous use of the word “faggot.” Of course no one would care what they were saying if they weren’t very good at what they’re doing, which they are. With a bewildering profusion of releases that includes mix tapes as well as label-backed albums, the group’s members—Tyler the Creator, Earl Sweatshirt, Frank Ocean, Hodgy Beats, Syd tha Kyd, Left Brain, and a few second-stringers who seem to just hang around—have provided some of the best, weirdest, and most morally troublesome moments in rap’s recent history. Syd tha Kyd also tonight at Beauty Bar (DJ set), 21+.
Shabazz Palaces, 3:45 PM Blue stage Shabazz Palaces’ new debut album, Black Up (Sub Pop), sounds like a concept sketch of the rap people will be making in the year 2020. The music feels like it might’ve been produced by scribbling equations on a chalkboard rather than by fiddling with a bunch of knobs—it layers atomized samples, usually processed till they’re unidentifiable, atop synth bass and Kraftwerky analog bleeps that remind me of early Detroit techno. But it’s consistently warm and organic, never dispassionately robotic, which puts the group—fronted by Ishmael Butler, formerly of 90s jazz-rap trio Digable Planets—firmly in the line of funky Afro-futurists descended from Parliament-Funkadelic. Also Sat 7/16 at Lincoln Hall, 18+. —Miles Raymer
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, 4:15 PM Green stage It’s when indie rock seems like little more than a farm league for Target commercials that I’m most thankful for Ariel Pink. While his contemporaries aim for consistency and accessibility, Pink seems blissfully free of such concerns. His albums are manic, haphazard affairs, which he creates by ripping apart a variety of styles that once topped the charts (psychedelic pop, cock rock, 70s soft funk) and reassembling them into strange, cryptic hybrids that even the most open-minded listener is likely to find baffling as well as pleasurable. Last year’s Before Today (4AD) sounds like Pink put Steely Dan, the Beach Boys, Motley Crue, and an eyedropper of LSD in a blender—and then shot the blender with a grenade launcher.
Baths, 4:45 PM Blue stage At first, Will Wiesenfeld (aka Baths) got lumped in with the chillwave crowd, but last year’s Cerulean (Anticon) proved him capable of more than the typical nostalgia-addled bedroom pop. His dense, stimulating sound includes complex piano melodies, jagged rhythms, skittish laptop funk, and avant-garde hip-hop—all tied up with a pretty bow by his haunting vocals, which waver between a soothing coo and an overwrought croon. Like many laid-back indie-leaning electronic artists, Wiesenfeld sometimes coats his tunes in layers of distortion, but Cerulean—not to mention Wiesenfeld’s buoyant stage presence—is far more engrossing than it is “chill.” —Leor Galil
Superchunk, 5:15 PM Red stage The 2010 release Majesty Shredding (Merge) was the first new Superchunk album in nine years—a gap almost half as long as the Chapel Hill band’s career—so it’s not surprising that they’d spend part of the record looking back, half wondering where the time went. In “My Gap Feels Weird” front man Mac McCaughan discovers that the passing years have turned him into the sort of “old guy at the show” that his younger self dissed for not knowing what the kids were about. And on “Fractures in Plaster” he pleads, “When the past proves hard to resist / You’ll keep a loose grip on my wrist, won’t you?” The foursome complement this self-awareness with their musical choices, recalling the brashness and energy of their first few albums—Majesty Shredding is the spunkiest, most aggressive Superchunk record since the early 90s. —Peter Margasak
Kylesa, 5:45 PM Blue stage The Pitchfork festival’s token metal act for 2011, these dudes and lady from Savannah, Georgia, jam a hypnotic, psych-infused style of heaviness that’s also repped by Peach State contemporaries Mastodon, Baroness, and Zoroaster. Last year’s Spiral Shadow (Season of Mist) proves yet again that two drummers, in any context whatsoever, are always better than one.
Deerhunter, 6:15 PM Green stage Deerhunter’s seemingly inexhaustible talent for coming up with catchy tunes has made them arguably the best indie-pop band currently working, but it’s the complications they put between their listeners and their hooks that make them the most interesting one. Their recent fourth album, Halcyon Digest (4AD), opens with “Earthquake,” five minutes of slo-mo lo-fi drum machine and guitar, hissy atmospherics, and narcotized vocals—it probably would’ve been catchy as hell if the band had played it twice as fast. Even the record’s snappier, punchier cuts, like “Don’t Cry” and “Memory Boy,” tend to wander off into abstraction, staking out their own spots in a territory unique to the band where garage rock, twee, and swoony, floppy-haired Britpop overlap. Also Sat 7/16 at Beauty Bar (DJ set) with Twin Shadow (DJ set), sold out. —Miles Raymer
Toro y Moi, 6:45 PM Blue stage More hazy plundering of the 80s by a guy whose nostalgia for the decade’s music can probably be explained by the fact that he’s too young to have been scarred by it directly. Chaz Bundick’s tracks as Toro y Moiare pleasant enough to play quietly in the background, but you shouldn’t bother listening too closely—the biggest difference between nearly every “chillwave” act and the bands who inspired them is that the 80s hacks could at least carry a tune. —Peter Margasak
Cut Copy, 7:25 PM Red stage Dance music from down under that’s been around for a decade. Cut Copy hit the indie-cred tipping point last year when they turned down Lady Gaga’s offer to have them open for Her Majesty on a yearlong tour. —Mara Shalhoup
Health, 7:40 PM Blue stage Once you get past Health’s screech and scrawl, they’re just four dudes who wanna dance. Their self-titled debut album veers toward cacophony while its companion disc of remixes, Health Disco, strips those boisterous tunes down to their funky backbones—and on 2009’s haunting Get Color (Lovepump United), the LA group splits the difference between those two approaches to great effect. Get Color does away with the unfocused noise and cozies up to some head-nodding alt-pop, making Health’s bombastic, cataclysmic style that much easier to dance to. —Leor Galil
TV on the Radio, 8:30 PM Green stage It’s strange to see TV on the Radio—a rock band that’s made an art out of not acting like a rock band—succumb to the typical manifestations of musical middle age. After the breakthrough 2008 album Dear Science, they took a hiatus and went their separate ways. They did solo projects and collaborated with other artists. The guy with the quirky hairstyle cut his hair. Now the members finally get back together, and the result, the recent Nine Types of Light (Interscope), has some of TVOTR’s avid fans feeling strangely ambivalent—not least because it’s the band’s last album to feature bassist Gerard Smith, who died of lung cancer in April just days after it came out. That’s not to say that Nine Types of Light doesn’t have its high points. “No Future Shock” shows off their twitchiest postmillennial funk, and “Will Do” is simply one of the best songs they’ve ever written. But lots of the record has the feel of a band playing by rote. I may be holding them to a ridiculously high standard, but it’s their own fault for having previously made such goddamn great records.