Credit: Danny Dorsa

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

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Mutual Benefit

The luminescent, richly detailed post-Sufjan indie-folk of Mutual Benefit’s 2013 debut full-length, Love’s Crushing Diamond (Other Music), sounds like it was made in a cozy bungalow with the help of a tight-knit circle of neighbors. By contrast, Mutual Benefit main man Jordan Lee seems unmoored—he’s called Ohio, Austin, and Boston home, and now claims to live in “NYC sometimes.” But he’s grounded in a community, if not a place; for Love’s Crushing Diamond he enlisted a dozen friends to add vocal harmonies, tap hand drums, and collect field recordings. The album owes much of its lively sparkle and scrappy, almost symphonic feel to the contributions of the crowd that passed through Lee’s intimate sessions. Leor Galil

Credit: Emma Rothenberg-Ware

[Recommended] Speedy Ortiz

I found Northampton four-piece Speedy Ortiz via “No Below,” a solemn single propelled by an ascending-and-descending guitar line—I was hooked as soon as the raw, tender vocals of front woman Sadie Dupuis began walking in step with it. “No Below” comes from the band’s breakout album, 2013’s Major Arcana, whose songs are jagged and peculiar and sometimes achingly, nakedly nostalgic for the 90s (particularly in the way Dupuis seems so trepidatious as she spills her guts into the mike). This year’s EP Real Hair (Carpark) is grungier, noisier, and more unwieldy, with less cardigan in its sound, but none of those are bad things—and none of them distract from Dupuis’s prowess as a vocalist and guitar shredder. Kevin Warwick

Credit: Chiaro Tiso

[Recommended] Diiv

Diiv took its name from a monstrous Nirvana B side, but this Brooklyn band doesn’t do 90s-style grunge punk. Initially the solo project of Beach Fossils guitarist Zachary Cole Smith (who’s now backed by a three-piece that includes former Smith Westerns drummer Colby Hewitt), Diiv goes more for the warm fuzzies, playing pretty, hazy, new wave-influenced dream pop—the kind of summery indie stuff that’s been a staple on Pitchfork lineups since the festival’s inception. Luca Cimarusti

Credit: Drew Reynolds

[Recommended] Perfect Pussy

Never mind the hype haters who harrumph at the rapid rise of this underground Syracuse punk band fronted by Meredith Graves, formerly of even noisier underground punk band Shoppers. (I recently read an online comment that said, “Shoppers > Perfect Pussy,” which is, like, who cares?) Why wouldn’t Perfect Pussy catch fire? Beginning with their modest debut EP, the self-released I Have Lost All Desire for Feeling, they’ve built their feedback-streaked, reverb-hammered cacophony on a foundation of pop. Graves is unstoppable and charismatic, both on record and during the band’s notoriously short live sets, and Perfect Pussy’s debut full-length, Say Yes to Love (Captured Tracks), is hot and raw to its core. I challenge you to watch them at Pitchfork and not end up talking about them to everybody you see. Kevin Warwick

Credit: Reid Haithcock

[Recommended] Deafheaven

On 2013’s Sunbather (Deathwish Inc.), San Francisco’s Deafheaven launch black metal out of dungeonlike clubs and gray arctic wastes and send it screaming across a cloudless summer sky. Spindly tremolo picking and chest-rattling blastbeats piggyback on soaring postrock riffs that rocket toward the sun, while George Clarke’s larynx-­searing shrieks reach desperately after them. Deafheaven bundle black metal up with shoegaze fuzz, cathartic bursts of emo, and angelic ambient loops, creating a thrilling, coherent whole—the music often glides gracefully across sharp segues, from roaring and frenzied to glacial and moody. Sunbather is massive—its seven tracks total 60 minutes—and its longer cuts have a reach as vast as the cosmos. Leor Galil

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[Recommended] Isaiah Rashad

Tennessee native Isaiah Rashad might lack the outsize personality of his Black Hippy comrades and Top Dawg Entertainment labelmates Schoolboy Q and Kendrick Lamar, but pound for pound, the 22-year-old is probably the most technically sound rapper signed to TDE. On his debut EP, Cilvia Demo, Rashad’s smoked-out flow belies the intricate structures of his verses, which pack together sly pop-culture references and politically charged punch lines. Drew Hunt

Credit: Brick Stowell

Earl Sweatshirt

When Los Angeles rap collective Odd Future broke out in 2011, one of its best and brightest, rapper-producer Earl Sweatshirt, was conspicuously AWOL. His mysterious absence transformed him into a cult hero; fans wore T-shirts that said free earl and chanted for him at shows. (As Complex and the New Yorker reported, he was at a boarding school in Samoa.) Earl faces down his outsize persona on 2013’s Doris (Columbia/Tan Cressida); on the second track, “Burgundy,” he raps lucidly about juggling audience expectations and personal woes. Sparse, stumbling drums and leaned-out, squealing synths give Doris an atmosphere of alienation and paranoia, but high-profile guest producers (the Neptunes, RZA, Frank Ocean) help lighten the mood with refined beats that complement Earl’s humane, personal, and heartbreaking rhymes. Leor Galil

Credit: James Orlando

Dum Dum Girls

On her latest album, Too True (Sub Pop), Dum Dum Girls mastermind Dee Dee Penny, aka Kristen Gundred, works again with Sune Rose Wagner of the Rave­onettes and veteran producer Richard Gottehrer, but this time she lets go of the 60s girl-group elements from her earlier records to tighten her embrace of the 80s. She sings her moody, catchy melodies in a plush yet steely croon that channels Debbie Harry, and descending chord progressions and effects-heavy guitar dominate the gothy songs. Penny’s approach is retro but not imitative—her glossy hybrid sound has a precise snap and hazy beauty all its own, and Too True has burrowed its way into my head. Peter Margasak

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Schoolboy Q

Hip-hop commentators frequently posit a rivalry between Quincey “Schoolboy Q” Hanley and his Top Dawg Entertainment labelmate Kendrick Lamar—the two of them are the marquee members of the Black Hippy crew. Listening to Hanley’s third album, February’s Oxymoron (Interscope/TDE), you get the sense he wants to reach stardom by any means necessary—he tries just about everything, including borderline R&B (“Studio”), lean crossover EDM (“Hell of a Night”), and sinister street rap (“What They Want”). Oxymoron debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, and if you cue up the rattling “Collard Greens” or the swaggering “Man of the Year,” it’s easy to see why—even though the album isn’t coherent enough to be spectacular, when Hanley hits, he really hits. Leor Galil

Credit: Steve Gullick

Jon Hopkins

UK electronic producer Jon Hopkins begins the 2013 LP Immunity (Domino) with street sounds and keys jangling in a door lock, and ends it with a humming voice fading into deathly nothingness. These cues surround a hermetically sealed hour of elegantly structured techno, infused with bursts of warm color and loping house beats. Hopkins has recorded with Coldplay, and as you’d expect from someone with experience crafting mainstream music, he excels at propulsive, melodic fare—but he’s also collaborated with Brian Eno, and he takes us to more interesting places when the pleasing house beats fall away into pure, glowing ambience. J.R. Nelson

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Real Estate

Fortunately this New Jersey band’s music is more interesting than “Real Estate” is as a band name—the 2011 album Days is a winning combination of the Feelies’ guitar intricacies and Kurt Vile’s sleepy sprawl. This year’s Atlas (Domino) is a little tighter and duskier but not quite as consistent, losing steam and lacking strong songs in the album’s back half. Tal Rosenberg

Credit: Sarah O’Driscoll

[Recommended] Majical Cloudz

Montreal’s Majical Cloudz can get under your skin with music that’s almost skeletal. The penetrating indie pop on last year’s Impersonator (Matador) sounds deceptively uncomplicated—it leaves so much space in its loops and layers of dramatic drums, otherworldly synths, and occasional string or vocal samples that the silences can feel like canyons. The eerily beautiful arrangements leave the spotlight on front man Devon Welsh, whose sonorous, direct singing goes for the gut and squeezes tight. He spends most of the cryptic “Bugs Don’t Buzz” singing about a sort of encroaching darkness, and when he lets out a heartfelt, wordless coo near the end, it’s as though that gloom has been lit up by the idea of love. Leor Galil

Credit: Colin Bell


Is the melting, droning shoegaze of Slowdive a good match for the melting, oppressive mid-July heat of Union Park? Tough to say. Either way, this English band will be playing one of the most anticipated sets of the weekend. Slowdive morphed into Mojave 3 in ’95 after taking a more ambient direction, then reunited early this year. Their masterpiece, 1993’s Souvlaki (which I’ve been happy to revisit to write this), sounds as lush, distant, and hazy as ever. The nonchalant, dragging guitars and shaggy-­haired vocals of Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell withdraw deeper into the recesses of la-la land, even as you feel like you’re getting a better grip on them—an aesthetic reflected in the spectacularly aloof lyrics to the perfect “40 Days,” where they sing, “If I saw something good, I guess I wouldn’t worry / If I saw something good, I guess I wouldn’t care.” Kevin Warwick

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[Recommended] DJ Spinn

Footwork music has a reputation as unapproachably eccentric and experimental, but the version on DJ Rashad’s 2013 album Double Cup (Hyperdub) is much more accessible—and that’s relevant here because Rashad, who died in April, made more than half the album with fellow Teklife collective leader DJ Spinn. Spinn worked on the title track, which opens with a gnarly, pumped-up synth melody, then gives way to a gentler tempo and spacier ambience. He also had a hand in my favorite Double Cup tunes: “Feelin” and “Let U No” pump up sultry R&B samples with polished footwork beats, and the results are just as exciting as the genre’s rawest songs. Leor Galil

Credit: John Londono

[Recommended] Grimes

Grimes has been taking her sweet time with the follow-up to 2012’s world-beating Visions (4AD), but then again, any visionary bedroom synth-pop weirdo who also happens to be partnered with Jay Z’s Roc Nation empire would probably do the same. I was hoping that the recent stream of Dolly Parton videos and Game of Thrones OMGs in her Twitter feed—consider that thematic conflation for a second—might reflect something she was up to in the studio, but her self-described summer jam “Go” is a conventional (and thoroughly enjoyable) pop move. Originally written for Rihanna, it starts like an electro “Battle of Evermore,” then erupts into silky WGCI choruses and stuttering EDM bass drops. Only time will tell if the upcoming LP features more of the same. Always a kinetic live performer, Grimes brought along a few local seapunk dancers for her 2012 Pitchfork set, and in June at Governors Ball she had mimes and hula hoops; who knows what our khaleesi has in store for us this time. J.R. Nelson

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[Recommended] Hudson Mohawke

On his 2011 EP Satin Panthers (Warp), Hudson Mohawke laid the groundwork for the kinetic, maximalist sound that’s come to define hip-hop and dance music in the early 21st century. The 28-year-old Scottish producer and DJ also known as Ross Birchard became Kanye West‘s ace in the hole after contributing to “Mercy,” the dancehall-sampling lead single from the 2012 compilation Cruel Summer (GOOD), and their collaboration continued on “I Am a God” and “Blood on the Leaves,” two of the most memorable tracks from Yeezus. Live, Mohawke uses rhythms trap music has borrowed from drum ‘n’ bass to bridge seemingly incongruous melodies, building energy with a steady wall of sound before dropping everything for a zany, space-age synth line. Plus, he’s been known to tease unreleased Kanye joints in his sets. Drew Hunt

Credit: Dan Monick

[Recommended] Kendrick Lamar

In the two years since Kendrick Lamar last played at Pitchfork, the silver-­tongued Compton MC has climbed to within sight of hip-hop’s peak on the strength of his 2012 major-label debut, Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City (Interscope), a complex, introspective concept album that also really bangs—the moody single “Swimming Pools (Drank),” for instance, is about alcoholism, but it’s also the kind of tune that will light up a drunken rager. Though Lamar has kept the forthcoming follow-up to Good Kid under wraps, he’s maintained his place at the center of hip-hop’s conversation by pulling off the occasional borderline miracle: his manic verse on Big Sean’s “Control” turned what might’ve been a throwaway nonalbum track into one of the most talked-about songs of 2013. Leor Galil


Majical Cloudz (see Sunday), Hundred Waters (see Friday) 10 PM, Lincoln Hall, $15, $10 with wristband, 18+

Jonathan Toubin Soul Clap, Negative Scanner 9 PM, Empty Bottle, $10