1 PM Allá
1 PM Cave The motorik groove of Krautrock has always been the bedrock of Cave’s music, but lately this local trio have tamed the desperate wildness of their early years—with a fresh emphasis on forward-mixed vocals and relatively clean instrumental sounds, they seem to be trying to grow, perhaps even mature a little. The flat, rather uncharismatic singing of Dave “Rotten Milk” Pecoraro is a poor substitute for the noisy intensity that’s missing now, but the band can still cast a spell with their high-speed lockstep rhythms—the tightly coiled drumming, the terse, looping guitar, the pointillist keyboard splatter—and it’s magnetic when they ride a lick into infinity or smear analog synth and effects-heavy guitar into a levitating miasma.
1:45 PM Cass McCombs Complex but not tortured about it, folk-rock singer-songwriter Cass McCombs is both the lone wolf and the wounded deer it eats for dinner. Even those of us who can pick up strong, specific emotions from songs with no words probably only get half of whatever’s going on with him. Is he making a joke, is he bitter, has he fallen in love? Only a foolish music critic would try to figure that out. Listening to McCombs is like stargazing downtown, straining your eyes to see through a translucent darkness—the two sparkling dots you can make out through all the atmospheric haze and city glow could be light-years away, or they could be just beginning the last moments of their fiery plunge to the earth.
1:55 PM Best Coast Also Sat 7/17 at the Empty Bottle, 21+.
2:30 PM Girls
2:50 PM Washed Out Georgia youngster Ernest Greene, aka Washed Out, makes cloudy, twinkly, deceptively vulnerable boy-in-a-bedroom synthscapes—like a mud wrap in a spa, they’re a kind of detox that only works if you really spread yourself with grime. His music is lovely jellyfish chilltronica, delicate and floaty, but if the lighting’s different it can sound like the sun’s rising and whatever substance you abused with the hottie you just met is starting to wear off, and even though you’re kind of exhausted it’s time to have sex.
3:20 PM Beach House Now three albums in, Beach House seem happy to merely tweak their brand of dream pop—and that’s just fine with me, since Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand seem to be putting the energy they might’ve wasted overhauling their sound into developing as songwriters. On their first Sub Pop record, Teen Dream, they roll back their usual haze of echo and reverb a bit, but the hypnotic, cascading melodies don’t suffer for it; Legrand allows the darker, sultrier side of her voice to come forward, and the organ, piano, and guitar sound more defined, so that they pair better with the vocals instead of just hovering in the background. Given what a perfect summer soundtrack this album is, it seems perfectly appropriate that Beach House will be able to look out into the audience during their Pitchfork set and see plenty of sunglasses, flowered dresses, and picnic blankets.
3:35 PM Local Natives Also tonight at Lincoln Hall, 18+.
4:15 PM Lightning Bolt The 2009 album Earthly Delights, Lightning Bolt‘s first in four years, sounds just like, well, Lightning Bolt. Drummer-vocalist Brian Chippendale and bassist Brian Gibson have made only relatively cosmetic changes to their frantic shitstorm of thumping noise-rock riffs: Gibson has thickened the braincase-rattling effects on his already ludicrously deformed bass, resulting in some heavier grooves, and Chippendale has pushed his distorted, delay-laced vocals a bit higher in the mix, so that they’re almost comprehensible. The drumming still sounds like the work of three hopped-up berserkers playing perfectly in sync, and the menacing swirls of repetition still sound like apocalypse announcing itself (Earthly Delights‘ 12-minute closer, “Transmissionary,” may just be the perfect Lightning Bolt song). If you’re at all familiar with Lightning Bolt live, then you already know that this may very well be the “I don’t care how hungover I am” set of the weekend (sorry, Pavement). Here’s hoping they stick to their guns and set up their gear anywhere but on that big stage.
4:45 PM Surfer Blood
5:15 PM St. Vincent If you know me at all, you know I’m in love with Annie Clark. Under the name St. Vincent she made one of the best indie-rock albums of 2009: her second full-length, Actor (4AD), is sugary but powerful, meandering but astute, and deploys its occasional fuzzed-out explosions of grit and noise with savvy and precision. Like her debut, Marry Me, the record moves in waves, alternating between fluttering, sparkling pop and jagged, dirty rock, without ever sounding arbitrary or confused. Clark is a charming front woman and engaging bandleader, and her quirky stage banter is good for some warm fuzzies even if you don’t share my feelings—but she’s also got enough “Kick out the jams” genes to go toe-to-toe with any dude.
5:45 PM Here We Go Magic Also Sat 7/17 at Schubas with Sharon Van Etten, 18+.
6:15 PM Major Lazer Last year Diplo and Switch—the pair behind M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes”—released Guns Don’t Kill People . . . Lazers Do (Downtown) under the name Major Lazer. It’s a giddy, ADHD-inflected tribute to dancehall’s throw-it-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks spirit, and though they recruited about a dozen deejays (as MCs are referred to in Jamaica), ranging from gangsta-leaning superstar Vybz Kartel to goofball oddity Prince Zimboo, the focus on Guns is the beats, which include two of the most bizarre dance tracks of last year, “I’ll Make Ya” and “Pon de Floor.” The former’s a stream-of-consciousness assemblage of surf guitar, horse whinnies, and vibrating cell phones over a stuttering dancehall beat, and the latter is built around drum rolls and a wordless vocal digitally stretched into the most naggingly addictive high-pitched whine since Dre stopped making G-funk.
7:25 PM Big Boi According to a New York Times story that ran a couple weeks ago, Big Boi‘s Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty (Def Jam) was in progress as early as 2006 and collected dust for nearly two years prior to its release this month. The OutKast cofounder’s solo debut is a fine piece of work, distinguished by his twangy drawl and malleable flow, but the delay—the result of disputes with his previous label, Jive—hasn’t done it any favors. It lacks the forward-looking aesthetic that made OutKast one of hip-hop’s most popular and important groups in the 90s and early aughts. “Turns Me On,” with frequent sidekick Sleepy Brown, sounds like an outtake from Speakerboxxx, and the overripe vocal hook on “Follow Us” has a whiff of failed crossover hanging over it. I’m sure it would’ve sounded fresher and more progressive if it’d come out when he finished it, though, and many of the other songs are on par with his best—he’s also the only veteran A-lister at Pitchfork not working the reunion angle.
7:40 PM Sleigh Bells You’re totally going to get a ticket if you drive while listening to Sleigh Bells—they sound like they’re out of their fucking minds. The New York duo mixes Alexis Krauss’s cheerleader-angel Tampax-commercial vocals with heavy-metal piano-man digital hardcore, the two sides interrupting each other and then screaming their heads off together. Derek Miller’s guitar, which sounds like it’s made from an American flag and a bug zapper, is a venom-tipped whip lashing the hip-hop-scented beats, which sound like they’ve already destroyed your sound system and are coming for your ears. Their music is chaotic and inescapable, mind piercing and almost sickening—if there were even one tiny little bit more of it, you’d die. They’ll probably have the best-looking mosh pit of the entire festival.
8:30 PM Pavement Indie-rock fans don’t tend to have the best-developed senses of history, and in light of that it’s hardly surprising that Pavement, who threw in the towel just a decade ago, could precipitate such a virulent outbreak of reunion fever. Given those conditions it’s also a nonsurprise that the band decided to get back together—only Stephen Malkmus has made records that don’t pale in comparison with the band’s work, so it’s not like the other four guys had something better to do. As allergic as I am to the ongoing acceleration of the breakup-reunion cycle, though, I have to admit that revisiting Pavement’s music—all but their fifth and final album, Terror Twilight, have been reissued by Matador Records over the years, in deluxe packages crammed with B sides, compilation tracks, and unreleased material—has been enlightening. Yes, even the best Pavement record is a little inconsistent, and yes, some of the lyrics reek of self-conscious cleverness, but by and large they still sound pretty great to me—and I don’t think that’s just subconscious nostalgia talking. Only their 1992 debut, Slanted & Enchanted, imprinted itself on my brain thoroughly enough that I didn’t really need to listen back to it, but the other records make it just as clear how smart Pavement were, both in what they borrowed (Sonic Youth, the Fall, classic rock) and in what they added to the music themselves (the slackness, the wryness). And if YouTube videos of the reunited band can be taken as evidence, the time apart has brought back at least some of the joy they used to find in playing together.