Credit: Pooneh Ghana

Artists’ names are in the color of the stage they’re appearing on. See our previews of the bands playing on Friday and Sunday.

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Twin Peaks

Wet-behind-the-ears local four-piece Twin Peaks took off with the release of last year’s Sunken EP, but they’re young ‘uns no longer, at least in the eyes of rock ‘n’ roll—on their upcoming full-length, Wild Onion (Grand Jury), they’re grown up and getting loose. Front man Cadien Lake James has a voice that sounds about a decade older than he is, and Twin Peaks have replaced some of their twee, sunshiny tunefulness and concealing reverb with riff-based melodies and hot sax solos. They’ve got a precociously firm grasp on what making a full-length record is all about—they’ve been testing new material on tour, and their road-dog ways have treated them well. Wild Onion is the sound of dudes who’ve been playing together since high school coming into their own: they’re hanging on to their wild side (you should follow the band on Instagram), but they’re fully aware of their talent and know how to balance the two. Kevin Warwick

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An unlikely story: a 40-year-old underground MC from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Brownsville finds minor success and critical acclaim 20 years after his first recorded appearance. On last year’s The Night’s Gambit (Iron Works), gruff rapper Ka unravels drug-crime narratives over bleak, sparse beats—you’ll hear hardly any snare drums on the album, and some tracks have no percussion at all. This music is excellent for harsh winters and blunted home listening; for an outdoor summer festival, maybe not so much. Tal Rosenberg

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Circulatory System

W. Cullen Hart came to prominence in the indie-rock world as a member of ramshackle Athens psych outfit Olivia Tremor Control, and his fever-dream paintings did double duty as the band’s iconography. After OTC broke up in 2000, Hart formed Circulatory System, where he and most of his Olivia Tremor Control buddies have continued to toy with airy, textured dream-pop spiked with distortion and sharp left turns into static. This summer’s double album Mosaics Within Mosaics (Cloud) balances noise experiments (“Mosaics”) against cloud-on-a-sunny-day pop tracks (the chiming “If You Think About It Now,” the siesta-­appropriate “When You’re Small”) in a way that sometimes feels wistful. But watching Hart and friends muck around with their hefty arsenal of instruments ought to be a fun way to spend an hour. Maura Johnston

Credit: Kluas Thymann

Wild Beasts

This English foursome’s 2009 breakout, Two Dancers, is well-­orchestrated, seductive indie rock, dressed up by the theatrical vocals of Hayden Thorpe and Tom Fleming and distinguished by a few standout tracks. Since then Wild Beasts have been exploring dark electro, experimenting with synths and negative space on albums that seethe and bubble as a whole. The new Present Tense (Domino) is their most adult-­sounding record yet, and its opening single, “Wanderlust,” features delicate jolts of thick, low-end synth and a driving programmed beat; Thorpe’s creepy “Don’t confuse me with someone who gives a fuck” vocal outro adds to its already threatening vibe. Wild Beasts did sacrifice a bit of their guitar-rock catchiness when they chose this path, but overall they’re a more compelling listen. Also Fri 7/18 at Lincoln Hall, 18+. Kevin Warwick

Credit: Ed Lozano

Empress Of

Brooklyn songwriter Lorely Rodriguez attracted Pitchfork’s attention with “Hat Trick,” a bubbling, gauzy single where she sustains a late-summer-evening mood with just a couple of synths and pedals and the upper register of her ghostly voice. The recent “Realize You,” on the other hand, collides her ethereal singing with cacophonous percussion in a way that makes the track sound like a slightly outre take on freestyle, the soap-operatic dance music that dominated New York and Miami airwaves some 20 years ago. Maura Johnston

Credit: Pooneh Ghana

Cloud Nothings

This Cleveland band, founded and fronted by Dylan Baldi, has become a reliable source of ripping indie rock that falls just on the punk side of the fence. On the recent Here and Nowhere Else (Carpark), the follow-up to 2012’s brooding Attack on Memory, Cloud Nothings pump out anthemic, pulsing pop-punk in quick, precise blasts—”Psychic Trauma” and “Now Here In” especially ought to be catnip to folks craving a bit of electric guitar this afternoon. Leor Galil

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Mas Ysa

The brainchild of New York’s Thomas Arsenault, Mas Ysa (pronounced “maas EE-sah”) commingles 80s synth-pop and contemporary techno in a way that recalls M83’s dreamy hooks and Boards of Canada’s humming electronica. Worth (Downtown), his eclectic debut EP, ranges from lively toe-­tapping numbers (“Why”) to dark mood music (“Years”), with Arsenault’s emphatic vocals as the through line holding it all together. Drew Hunt

Credit: Favian Montique

Pusha T

When brothers Terrence “Pusha T” Thornton and Gene “Malice” Thornton Jr. (who now goes by “No Malice”) announced in 2010 that they’d be stepping away from their hard-as-hell rap duo Clipse to focus on solo work, the big question was, “Are these guys going to be any good without each other?” With two mixtapes, an EP, and a full-length album under his belt as a solo artist, Pusha at least has answered that question in the affirmative. It certainly hasn’t hurt him to have some of hip-hop’s most forward-thinking producers in his court—Kanye West, Pharrell Williams, and The-Dream are just a few who pop up on last year’s My Name Is My Name (GOOD/Def Jam). But producers can’t make you a strong presence on the mike, and Pusha bleeds an almost terrifying amount of street smarts and pride into his aggressive verses; when he raps about slinging coke and buying guns, you believe him. Sure, Chris Brown pops up on the hook for the Swizz Beatz-produced “Sweet Serenade,” but Pusha won’t ever end up a pop star himself—he’s way too real. Luca Cimarusti

Credit: Hector Perez

The Range

James Hinton of Providence, Rhode Island, makes frenetic, choppy music that combines electronic effects with heavily distorted samples he pulls from YouTube. His debut album, 2013’s Nonfiction (Donky Pitch), could be lumped in with contemporary IDM such as Four Tet or Jon Hopkins, but it reminds me most of 90s dance-music superstars Orbital. Hinton’s music is unpredictable but also largely forgettable—with any luck, his live show will stress the former. Tal Rosenberg

Credit: Chloe Aftel


Something about Merrill Garbus is just so insanely likeable. As the lead singer, main songwriter, and central personality of Tune-Yards, she brings infectious fun and manic, unself-conscious energy to every song. The band has always been about Garbus’s idiosyncratic vocals first and foremost, and that’s more true than ever on its most recent album, this spring’s Nikki Nack (4AD). Not until I first saw Tune-Yards live did I fully appreciate Garbus’s finesse and prowess—to bring her songs to life onstage, she records vocal sounds, drums, and ukulele on the spot, building a complex matrix of loops and beats that forms the backdrop for her own singing as well as the bass, synth, and vocals of Nate Brenner (her only consistent collaborator) and the contributions of her touring band (which in this case consists of three backup singers, one of whom also adds more percussion). The album’s lead single, “Water Fountain,” is so danceable you hardly realize you’re bopping your head along to a verse about “a blood-soaked dollar.” Brianna Wellen

Credit: Nate Walton


Los Angeles-based R&B singer Kelela Mizanekristos has a sumptuous, soulful voice and a keen ear for the strange—her debut 2013 mixtape, Cut 4 Me (Fade to Mind), includes mesmerizing tracks from experimental producers Nguzunguzu, Bok Bok, and Kingdom. The refined instrumentals can cross over from cool to chilly, even unapproachable, but Mizanekristos’s lovely voice brings out their latent pop potential, adding an endearing warmth to every eccentric bass line and stuttering percussion pattern. Against the crystalline, artfully retro synths of the title track, which are all startling angles and impacts, she delivers tender, straightforward lyrics about love with total emotional commitment. Leor Galil

Credit: Josh Wehle

Danny Brown

Detroit rapper Danny Brown calls himself an Adderall Admiral, but he hardly conducts himself like an officer—on 2011’s XXX he’s a zany lothario with a flamboyant hairdo and a honking, nasal flow, oscillating between thoughtful insights about growing up poor and nasty rhymes about what he likes to do with, to, and on women. On last year’s Old (Fool’s Gold) Brown is still rapping about disenfranchisement and bacchanalia, and he balances those dueling impulses even more successfully. The eclectic beats underline his clever, detailed wordplay—most of the record is pretty bombastic and EDM friendly, but on “25 Bucks” he gets serious about black America’s struggle over a moody, cloudy track. Brown has also grown as a storyteller, and on “Wonderbread” he makes a trip to the corner store for bread sound like Frodo’s journey into Mordor. Leor Galil

Credit: Sonia Alvarez

The Field

Swedish producer Axel Willner gives new meaning to the term “minimal techno.” His tracks as the Field often consist of nothing more than one or two brief, blissful samples that skip repetitiously over light, tapping beats—it sounds like Steve Reich taking a stab at trance music. The Field’s most recent album, Cupid’s Head (Kompakt), exchanges the twinkling, sunny vibe of previous records for something sleeker and more sinister—a welcome departure, given that Willner’s approach was quickly becoming rote and formulaic. Unfortunately Cupid’s Head is also his least compelling work. Tal Rosenberg

Credit: Renata Raksha

St. Vincent

As St. Vincent, Annie Clark is a visionary front woman and bandleader. She wields her guitar as a weapon of noise, not just an instrument of melody, and she’s grown bolder with each album, sharpening her quirky, off-center sound as well as her image, which has evolved into the almost unfuckwithable aura of an art-rock avatar from outer space. On her recent self-titled fourth album (her first for a major label, Loma Vista/Republic), Clark oozes power—a power that’s made visible on its cover, where she’s at her most futuristically regal, fixing the onlooker with an “I dare you” stare. It’s not just her most polished and best-produced record by far, it’s also her weirdest—and she’s crafted a scripted, choreographed live show that’s just as innovative and bizarre. She might be too out-there for much of the Saturday Night Live crowd, but the Pitchfork demographic ought to appreciate her kind of spectacle. Kevin Warwick

Credit: Jamie-James Medina

FKA Twigs

The critical cognoscenti have developed a bit of a fetish for slightly bent R&B over the past few years, and British singer FKA Twigs is leaps and bounds ahead of most everybody making that kind of music. She’s teased her forthcoming debut, LP1 (Young Turks), with the single “Two Weeks,” which balances the erotic tension created by the interplay of its taut percussion and her breathy upper-register singing with a come-on so plainly spoken it’d make Nicholson Baker blush. Maura Johnston

Credit: Will Westbrook

Neutral Milk Hotel

In 1998 this cacophonous collective released their second studio album, the wide-screen mortality opera In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (Merge); filled with brutally rich imagery and kitchen-sink musicality, it helped turn the band into a potential Next Big Art-Rock Thing. Neutral Milk Hotel went on hiatus shortly thereafter, though, and front man Jeff Mangum became something of a recluse, contributing to the band’s legend—which only grew more powerful as time went on. That’s not to say NMH’s enshrinement is undeserved; in the 90s, their live shows were delightful, thanks not just to Mangum’s raw-nerve persona but also to Jeremy Barnes’s gonzo drumming, Scott Spillane’s brass blasts, and Julian Koster’s ability to turn any object into a musical instrument. But to me—who once saw Neutral Milk Hotel play to approximately 15 people, back in the day—their current status doubles as a nice reminder that sometimes the best way to make people care about you might be to stay quiet for a while. Maura Johnston


Diiv (see Sunday), Lodro, Regal Degal 9 PM, Empty Bottle, $15

Dum Dum Girls (see Sunday), Ex Hex, Speedy Ortiz (see Sunday) 10:30 PM, Bottom Lounge, $15, $13 in advance, 17+

Earl Sweatshirt (see Sunday) 7:45 PM, Metro, $23 A

Real Estate (see Sunday), Peter Matthew Bauer 11 PM, Lincoln Hall, sold out