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Music List

The 8 Best Debut Albums of 2017 (So Far)

Music ListAarik DanielsenComment

We’re just a little more than halfway through 2017, and the year has already yielded some fascinating music. Much attention has been paid to superlative records by household names like Kendrick Lamar and Jason Isbell, blockbusters by newly minted superstars such as Lorde, and the forthcoming efforts of indie stalwarts Grizzly Bear, LCD Soundsystem, and Arcade Fire. But amid the waves of artists you love — and artists you love having back — it could be easy to lose sight of some terrific debut albums that have made their mark on the first half of 2017.

Some of the following artists had already made their presence felt with singles, EPs or previous projects, but in early 2017 they put out fully-formed statements that made listeners feel like they were getting acquainted with tomorrow’s stars today.

Hit play on our playlist and scroll down to check out our list of the best debut albums of 2017 (so far):

Bedouine - Bedouine
(Spacebomb Records, June 23)

It feels silly and obvious to talk about how melodic the first Bedouine record is, but this collection from Azniv Korkejian is just so lovely and tuneful. The songs glide along with tasteful instrumentals only accenting, never interrupting or overpowering Korkejian’s singing. There is an effortlessness, an unforced quality, to her sound yet with it comes with a definite sense of sophistication.


Diet Cig - Swear I’m Good at This
(Frenchkiss Records, April 7)

Alex Luciano and Noah Bowman had already created serious buzz with EP Over Easy and 7” Sleeptalk / Dinner Date that overflowed with personality. The duo amplified and sustained that buzz on a dozen tunes that only further establish Diet Cig as the new standard-bearers for pop punk. Kudos to the band for delivering perhaps the most staggering opening statement of the year with first track “Sixteen,” the awkward, ultimately empowered tale of Luciano trying to make it with a guy who shared her first name.


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Nick Hakim - Green Twins
(ATO Records, May 1)

The Washington D.C. native builds a bridge between groove-oriented R&B and a more ethereal, shapeless sort of electro-pop. Hakim’s full-length debut has all the killer rhythms and slow-burning, stirring vocals once could want, but the record also bobs and weaves in artsier directions with slightly detuned pianos, echoing drums and fine layers of modern musical dust.


Priests - Nothing Feels Natural
(Sister Polygon Records, January 27)

There’s nothing casual about this fearsome foursome from Washington D.C. Both those who think of punk as a genre, and those who see it as a state of mind, will be challenged and heartened by Priests’ debut. There is righteous anger here, expressed by pounding drums, the occasional squall of saxophones and Katie Alice Greer’s darkly compelling vocals.


Sheer Mag - Need To Feel Your Love
(Self-Released, July 14)

Buoyed by the powerhouse vocals of Tina Halladay, this Philadelphia unit makes music perfect for rawk-fist pumping and scream-till-you’re-hoarse sing-alongs. There is definitely a ‘70s aesthetic at work here with the band playing massive riffs and pursuing slinky grooves, but Sheer Mag is so good at what it does, it almost doesn’t matter when it is doing it — the band would have found an audience at any point in rock history.


Sarah Shook and the Disarmers - Sidelong
(Bloodshot Records, April 28)

The first thing you notice about Sidelong is Sarah Shook’s voice. And like her last name, that voice will leave you rattled in the best sort of ways. The North Carolina outfit writes and plays first-rate juke-joint, somebody-done-me-wrong songs. But the strength of the material reaches a new level in Shook’s distinctive timbre; she has all the confidence of a honkytonk heartbreaker, yet possesses the quaver of an alt-rock icon.


Peter Silberman - Impermanence
(
Transgressive Records, February 24)

The solo debut from The Antlers frontman is only six songs long but, at around 35 minutes of music, it qualifies as a full musical expression. Silberman melds cinematic and, at times, neoclassical colors into a quietly exquisite vision. At the risk of hyperbole, his wispy, floating vocals approach Jeff Buckley territory at more than a couple moments. This work is atmospheric, but is far from background music.


Vagabon - Infinite Worlds
(Father/Daughter Records, February 24)

Laetitia Tamko’s voice is a rich, expressive instrument that embeds itself immediately in a listener’s sensory memories. The Cameroon-born, New York-based artist freshens the stylistic tropes of 1990s Alternative Nation, fearlessly going hard after whatever she wants to do or sound like — whether that’s playing loud and fast, establishing a more esoteric sense of space and place, or calling out people who prowl like sharks, as she does on A-plus opening track “The Embers.”


The Transverso Guide to Pitchfork Music Festival 2017

Music ListTransverso MediaComment

Pitchfork Music Festival is an experiential embodiment of the magazine itself, topped off with all the sweat and smoke you reflexively sense when reading their articles. All the artists too cool for Lollapalooza descend on Union Park just a few weeks before in the publication's (and our!) native Chicago, and we've taken the liberty of condensing the lineup into a handy guide you can use to preview what's in store this weekend.


FRIDAY


Hiss Golden Messenger (Red Stage - 3:00)
What’s this? An artist who has some predominant twang and mountain revival gospel roots featured on the Pitchfork Musical Festival lineup!? Say it ain’t so! Anyway, trade in your dad hats for a decidedly more Stetson-y aesthetic, because Hiss Golden Messenger is bringing some much needed Americana grit to the ultimate poseur festival on the calendar. Coming off of 2016’s Heart Like a Levee, MC Taylor is one of the few aritists in rotation today that have become consistently better with each subsequent release. So, if you want some pickin’ music to mix things up before you see Vince Staples, then Hiss Golden Messenger would serve as an interesting pre-Crabs in a Bucket fare. (Sean McHugh)

Vince Staples (Green Stage - 4:00)
Rap’s current “Big Fish,” as far as hip-hop personas go and as his recent studio release Big Fish Theory suggests, is a strong addition to the festival and helps maintain Pitchfork’s reputation for diversified and well-curated lineups. Performances of Staples’ new material will satiate an audience hunger for hip-hop bangers, invigorating electronic beats, and recitable hooks. Those who have yet to hear the new album need not be alarmed as Staples’ latest release will easily captivate fans previously earned and win over new ones. [Editor's Note: Not to mention Vince Staples' feature was probably the best part of the new Gorillaz record, too.] (Ezra Carpenter)

 

William Tyler (Blue Stage - 4:00)
One of the prides and joys of Nashville, Tennessee, William Tyler is a man that everyone has heard but never realized. His unique brand of post-bluegrass/country music brings about a side of the Southeast that many have never considered. Concise and deft in his ways, Tyler and his backing band (typically consisting of members from Margo Price and Bully) elicit sounds and senses of a Southern sound making its way into a proud but creeping decay, with the slightest sliver of hope trickling through each and every one of Tyler’s fine finger picking. Unfortunately, Tyler drew the toughest slot share of fest going up against Vince Staples’ set, which will undoubtedly be the belle of the ball (festival). (Sean McHugh)

Thurston Moore Group (Red Stage - 5:00)
Undoubtedly included in the lineup as means for Pitchfork to retain its ties to the indy-establishment community, post-punk legend Thurston Moore will be a polarizing act for the festival audience. Millennials will either embrace Moore’s cultivated practice of ambient punk or rip their ears off entirely from a boredom induced by music they simply don’t understand. Guitar enthusiasts, avid fans of experimental music, and post-punk die-hards do not need any persuasion as to why they should not miss out on a performance by the Sonic Youth founding member. But casual Sonic Youth fans (whose favorite of their catalog is most likely Goo) and those unfamiliar with their work should be weary of lengthy, downtempo post-punk instrumentals that do little to win over impatient listeners. (Ezra Carpenter)

Frankie Cosmos (Blue Stage - 5:15)
Under the guise Frankie Cosmos, Greta Kline has established herself as one of the finest songwriters of her generation. Her intimate, earnest lyrics are as emotionally transparent as a diary entry and as charmingly frank as a gossip sesh with your best friend. Her hooks worm their way into your brain, often weeks after you first hear them. So even if you’ve never heard her, check out Frankie Cosmos on the Blue Stage. By September, you’ll know all their songs by heart. (Julian Axelrod)

Kamaiyah (Green Stage - 6:30)
Fresh off her appearance on this year’s XXL Freshmen Class cover (the only female MC, bafflingly), Oakland’s own Kamaiyah is riding a massive wave of well-deserved hype. Her incredible mixtape A Good Night in the Ghetto is the perfect distillation of her bright, funky sound, which recalls Salt-N-Pepa and TLC but sounds completely singular. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more fun show at this year’s fest. (Julian Axelrod)

Dirty Projectors (Red Stage - 7:00)
Upcoming Dirty Projectors’ performances bear more of a loss than a win for avid fans. On one hand, you will have the new material featured on their recent self-titled LP at your disposal with the band’s signature electro-pop sound nuanced with the dancehall influence that has marked most popular music this past year. But sadly, you will miss out on the vocal and guitar contributions by hallmark member Amber Coffman, who left the band to begin a solo venture catalyzed by the disintegration of her relationship with former partner and DP frontman Dave Longstreth. Within the context of Pitchfork’s Friday lineup, Dirty Projectors will serve you best as a palate cleanser for headlining act LCD Soundsystem. They will do well to help you adjust from the hip-hop/R&B/industrial electronic acts (Danny Brown, Vince Staples, Arca, and DAWN) featured on the day’s lineup. (Ezra Carpenter)

Acra (Blue Stage - 7:45)
If ever there were a sound that would be simply and best described as being “creepy” while not being a post-punk emo band consigned to Warped Tour oblivion, Arca would be at the top of the heap. Alejandro Ghersi’s self-titled 2017 release is by far and away his best AND creepiest/WTF-iest. Where other records like 2015’s Mutant went for a more devilish production route, S/T is remarkably pop-y (if you can consider music that sounds like the revised soundtrack of Saw-meets-Antichrist to be pop-y) and insatiably listenable. If you want to impress even the Pitchfork-iest of wannabe scenesters at Pitchfork Fest this year, then sticking it out during Arca will almost certainly impress those strangers you desperately seek validation from! (Sean McHugh)

 

 

LCD Soundsystem (Green Stage - 8:10)
15 years later and they haven’t quite lost their edge yet. Like we wrote in our preview of Lollapalooza last year, LCD Soundsystem are about as good as a headlining act can get. Say what you will about their temporary breakup and subsequent reunion, you’d have to be heartless to sit through a live rendition of “Dance Yrself Clean” and not feel at least a decent hit of euphoria. With the introduction of new instant classics “call the police” and “american dream” to their set, plus some other unreleased tracks from the forthcoming return record American Dream (due out September 1 via Columbia / DFA), James Murphy and co will continue to rise like a phoenix from the ashes, even if New York still brings them down. All you have to do is show up. (Weston Pagano)


SATURDAY


Weyes Blood (Green Stage - 2:30)
A quiet, yet deserving member of the “next-wave” of west coast indie stars (as christened through association with Father John Misty and Ariel Pink), Weyes Blood is one of the most refined new talents in music. Orchestral compositions spread across infectious melodies make for a magnificent and beguiling live experience that settles quite nicely into the Pitchfork aesthetic. Decidedly more reserved than the delightful garage-ska of Jeff Rosen and the Rock chic of Cherry Glazerr, Weyes Blood is a nice mid-afternoon comedown on Pitchfork Fest’s second day. (Sean McHugh)

 

Mitski (Blue Stage - 4:00)
In-studio performances with various radio-stations and online media outlets have revealed a tasteful versatility in Mitski’s live performance arsenal. The artist behind 2016’s Puberty 2 is able to manage solo performances accompanied only by an electric guitar and amp, as well as support from drums and rhythm  guitar (in which case she hops on bass). Mitski Miyawaki is a true music virtuoso with proficiency in several instruments and a keen ability to curate a performance according to individual venues and audiences. It is always a unique opportunity to experience a grassroots independent artist taking on an outdoor venue and one would be wise not to miss out on her set. She pairs well with fellow New York-based independent artist Vagabon (also featured on the Saturday lineup) and will be a great primer for Angel Olsen.  (Ezra Carpenter)

Angel Olsen (Green Stage - 6:15)
The best Olsen sister of them all, Angel is set for a homecoming of sorts after leaving Chicago for Asheville, North Carolina back in fall of 2013. Coming off of last summer's rollickingly infectious "Shut Up Kiss Me" and the rest of her breakthrough album My Woman, it'll be worth stopping by the Green Stage for that single alone. (Weston Pagano)

 

Madlib (Blue Stage - 6:30)
If you are at Pitchfork Music Festival 2017 and actively choose to skip out on Madlib’s set then you are - to place it in layman’s terms - a loser. Madlib is an absolute and unequivocal of hip-hop, rap, house, electronic, chillwave, and everything else Pitchfork readers salivate over. He is the All Father of modern urban music. AKA Otis Jackson, Jr. is the go to collaborator for one of the most criminally underrated rappers of his generation, MF DOOM, and has created one of the greatest rap albums of all time, Madvillainy. I mean, come on, the dude has worked with Mos Def, Kanye, De La Soul, Erykah Badu, AND has been on heavy rotation in every DJ worth his or her weight in wax. Seriously, I cannot reiterate enough, if you are in attendance at Pitchfork Music Festival 2017 and you choose NOT to see Madlib, please do return. Go see Madlib, for the love of all that is good and pure in this world, GO. SEE. MADLIB. (Sean McHugh)

A Tribe Called Quest (Green Stage - 8:30)
Hip-hop greats currently celebrating a late career second wind, and the life of esteemed emcee and former founding member Phife Dawg, will navigate through their performance by revisiting classic tracks and new material from 2016’s politically charged We Got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service. Performing throughout the 2000s, Q-Tip developed an onstage presence that is more lively, energetic, and tenacious than anything from ATCQ’s catalog would suggest. Hip-hop heads young and old need not worry of whether or not these veterans still have the stamina to energize a crowd. Q-Tip’s mellow delivery and tack-sharp lyrics over Ali Shaheed Muhammad’s pristine work on the ones and twos are vintage hip-hop at its finest. (Ezra Carpenter)


SUNDAY


Kilo Kish (Green Stage - 1:00)
One of the coolest acts on Pitchfork’s lineup this year, Kilo Kish is exactly what someone like Kehlani wishes she could be. She’s the performance art contemporary of SZA and NONAME, and immediate associate of Vince Staples (AOTY?), so if that’s not endorsement enough, then you probably aren’t one for her set. Nevertheless, if you’re at Pitchfork Fest, you should go because her 2016 LP Reflections in Real Time kicks as AND she’s the only one playing during her time slot. (Sean McHugh)
 

 

 

Colin Stetson (Red Stage - 1:45)
Bon Iver, Arcade Fire, BadBadNotGood, Animal Collective, David Gilmour, Feist, Timber Timbre, Tom Waits, TV on the Radio. Yes, those are all bands that Pitchfork has an obsessive Stan-ism for, but they are also bands that have called upon alto and baritone saxophonist extraordinaire Colin Stetson for all their brasswind needs. On top of such a fact, Stetson’s live set and solo work is absolutely exceptional - he gerry rigs his own unique microphone apparatus (effectively a choker around his neck) that picks up guttural noises emanating not only from his core, but also his esophagus. His live set is all but a masterclass in circular breathing and live-sound MacGyvering, so if you’re one for DIY-isms, then Stetson’s set is a must see. (Sean McHugh)

NE-HI (Green Stage - 2:30)
Pitchfork is relatively light on hometown heroes this year, so make sure you show out for Chicago’s own NE-HI. The scrappy foursome traffics in sun-bleached, nostalgic guitar anthems that were custom-made for drinking on a friend’s porch. Their infectious riffs recall fellow Chicago mainstays Twin Peaks (who played Pitchfork last year) but NE-HI’s earnest tone sets them apart. The gang is holding down a prime spot on the main stage, so come celebrate their success by cracking open a cold one with these boys. (Julian Axelrod)

Isaiah Rashad (Red Stage - 3:20)
One of the best rappers working and yet somehow can’t seem to garner the respect of his contemporaries. He’s a southern rapper (Chattanooga, Tennessee) that managed to work his way into the XXL Freshman class of 2014, which included Kevin Gates, August Aslina, Vic Mensa, and some guy named Chance the Rapper (pre-spiritual revival) and Rashad STILL managed to murder the cypher. His post-2014 work has been equally as exceptional and under covered, but if you hit his Sunday set at Pitchfork Festival, you will hopefully convert to a Rashad disciple rather than Chance. (Sean McHugh)

Joey Purp (Green Stage - 4:00)
Joey Purp is yet another Chicago-based rapper that counts the like of Julien Ehrlich of Whitney and Mac DeMarco as fans; so if that isn’t Pitchfork-y enough for you, then you aren’t at Pitchfork. Otherwise, you should still check out Joey Purp because he’s a founding member of Savemoney (whose alumni include Chance the Rapper and Vic Mensa) and he samples Drake’s “Gyalchester” on his song “Gucci Link.” That fact alone is worth hitting his set (and because his set is ultimately more interesting than Hamilton Leithauser, speaking from experience). (Sean McHugh)

Hamilton Leithauser (Green Stage - 4:15)
Because Rostam is never along for the live shows it can be easy to forget that The Walkmen’s Hamilton Leithauser’s newest album is not technically a solo record. He and his live band, which includes former members of Spoon and White Rabbits, still do more than a sufficient job performing the duo’s fantastic I Had A Dream That You Were Mine, though. “I use the same voice I always had,” Leithauser belts out on “Sick as a Dog,” and despite the “extreme hiatus” of his original act there’s really no excuse to miss out on those world class pipes in any context while he’s still able to howl and wail with such passionate power. (Weston Pagano)

Pinegrove (Blue Stage - 5:15)
Arguably the greatest Bandcamp band to date, Evan Stephens-Hall and his Montclair, NJ cohorts bring their blue-chip millennial middle class spectral gazing to an otherwise lavish Pitchfork lineup (then again, the festival is the wannabe indie “tastemakers” wet dream). Anyway, Pitchfork is yet another festival stop on what has become a near two-year victory lap for Pinegrove highly lauded debut album Cardinal. There will undoubtedly be countless fervent and angst-laden Pingrovians, as the band’s faithful travel extremely well. Certainly a must see if you’re looking for more guitar and viscerality as opposed to the majority of Pitchfork’s beat-saturated 2017 lineup. (Sean McHugh)

The Avalanches (Green Stage - 6:25)
Most artists wouldn’t be able to come back from a 15-year hiatus. Then again, most artists aren’t the Avalanches. More than a decade after their seminal debut Since I Left You, the Australian group returned with another silly, sunny, sample-heavy sound collage in Wildflower. Even more impressively, they expanded their sound (including collaborations with Toro y Moi and fellow Pitchfork performer Danny Brown) while still sounding like they did in 2000. The group doesn’t tour often, so this may be your last chance to see them… until they drop their third album in 2033. (Julian Axelrod)

Jamila Woods (Blue Stage - 6:30)
Solange’s 2016 masterpiece A Seat at the Table earned her a much-deserved headlining spot at Pitchfork this year. But before you hear “Cranes in the Sky” live and ascend to heaven, make time to see another incredible 2016 R&B album come to life. Chicago singer/poet Jamila Woods gained widespread acclaim with her solo debut HEAVN, a deeply stirring and empathetic work about struggling to find peace amongst personal and political turmoil. It’s an invigorating record, and Woods brings the same mix of warmth and passion to the stage. (Julian Axelrod)

 

American Football (Blue Stage - 7:45)
The godfathers of American emo and native sons of Illinois (Urbana) who helped bring Chicago independent music into bloom in the late '90s have hit the festival circuit in support of their self-titled second LP (released in 2016 and not to be confused with their 1999 debut which was also self-titled…). Household name amongst indy/emo circles, Mike Kinsella has returned with the band’s original members to capitalize on 90s nostalgia and the hometown yearning for the unapologetic emotionality of their cult classic debut. Known for the technicality of their math rock sound, the sharpness and complexity of their instrumentals alone qualify American Football as a must-see. If not for their pristine instrumentation, see them to indulge in your forgone teenage feelings and perhaps buy yourself a PBR or some fireball to realize the sentiment.  (Ezra Carpenter)

Nicolas Jaar (Red Stage - 7:25)
Its highly likely that Nicolas Jaar is your favorite DJ-producer’s DJ, and yet somehow, most people who claim to be up-to-snuff on their scene knowledge leave him unabashedly unlisted in their “top-DJs-working” lists. So, if you wish to make up for past transgressions of not-listening-ness, then hit up Nicolas Jaar’s set. He put out one of the best experimental records of the decade in 2016’s Sirens as well as one of 2017’s best Boiler Room TV sessions. Go see him to prep for Solange, if you’re trying to groove instead of feel blue after American Football’s set. (Sean McHugh)

Solange (Green Stage - 8:30)
Pitchfork named Solange’s 2016 LP A Seat at the Table its number one album of the year. Her live performance is as visually striking as her music is provocative. Elaborate stage decor and lush wardrobe pieces create a medium that amplifies her songs’ conceptions of black beauty, assessments of race relations, and interrogations of the African American identity. A live performance by Solange is nothing short of an enriching experience sonically, visually, and intellectually. As Sunday’s headliner, she is an undeniable match for her festival headlining peers and has the potential to come out of the weekend as the best performer amongst them. (Ezra Carpenter)

10 Band Member MVPs (That Don't Play Guitar) Part Two: Contemporary

Music ListAarik DanielsenComment
  Flea, bassist of Red Hot Chili Peppers (via Facebook)

Flea, bassist of Red Hot Chili Peppers (via Facebook)

This is part two of a two part series. Catch up with Part One: Classic.

Guitar players get all the glory. Aside from lead singers, they typically are the focal point in any band, and at their most prolific, guitarists can overshadow singers or even render frontmen interchangeable. The dynamic is understandable; The mythic power of rock is perhaps most fully alive in a great riff or solo. If we’re going to play “air” anything, we usually go for the guitar first.

That doesn’t lessen the significance of a band’s other members, though. Strong players on other instruments sharpen a band’s sound, make it more versatile, and make their running mates look even better. The best of these players don’t just keep the beat or meet minimum expectations, they find spaces of their own to express something intangible, to contribute moments of lyric beauty and sheer power. Here is a small sample size of those who’ve shouldered these roles, a team of most valuable players who don’t primarily play guitar. They might not be the flashiest players, but they make their bands better in important, sometimes nearly imperceptible ways.

First, we looked at legacy artists. Now indie icons — players whose bands have earned respect and a faithful following, but started from the outside looking in.


Jim Eno
Role
: Drums, Spoon
Strengths: A great drummer knows the quirks of his or her fellow bandmates. In Spoon, Eno backs a singer, Britt Daniel, with a particular style and cadence. Eno has developed a remarkable sense of phrasing that suits, and at times pushes and pulls against, Daniel’s. In that way, the pair have a relationship not unlike the one most singers share with a lead guitarist.
Check out: “Rent I Pay” 

John Stirratt
Role
: Bass, Wilco
Strengths: Long Jeff Tweedy’s right-hand man, Stirratt is the only other member to be part of Wilco’s entire arc. Stirratt is always a true servant of the song. But don’t mistake him merely for some low-end bedrock or trusty sidekick. He can take hairpin turns on his instrument; his basslines are deceptively funky and only grow more so as time passes.
Check out: “Handshake Drugs” 

Janet Weiss
Role
: Drums, Sleater-Kinney
Strengths: Weiss is no less than one of rock’s great drummers — but she’s something more. Playing in a trio with superlative guitarists Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker, and no permanent bassist, Weiss has to cover more musical ground and account for more sound than many drummers. Her ability to fill in the gaps, and do so with ferocity and flair, is awesome to behold.
Check out: “Bury Our Friends” 
 


Dave King
Role
: Drums, The Bad Plus
Strengths: The Bad Plus is about as punk rock as a jazz trio can get. Technically, pianist Ethan Iverson is tasked with melody, though bassist Reid Anderson and King pull their fair share of the load as command is passed between each player with ease. It’s hard to call a drummer as zealous as King melodic, but he definitely does more than drive the beat. He digs into his kit, making use of every inch of it and impacting a song in ways traditionally reserved for a more tuneful instrument.
Check out: “Pound for Pound”

Ryan Young
Role: Fiddle, Trampled by Turtles
Strengths: This Minnesota new-grass outfit is known for the intensity of its picking. More than just a happy-go-lucky fiddler, Young is able to match his bandmates blow for blow, but also can bring the legato to the party, providing a melodic counterpoint to all that chugging. Young’s ability to mimic other instruments or effects with his bow and strings only adds to his value.
Check out: “Wait So Long” 

Rick Steff
Role
: Keyboards, Lucero
Strengths: An all-around talent on keys, Steff can temper Lucero’s scuffed-up sound with soft, sweet piano, soulful organ or accordion playing that evokes a New Orleans street corner. He also can indulge the band’s basest urges with boogie-down, bandit scampers across the keyboard and mountains of B3 reverb.
Check out: “Baby Don’t You Want Me”
 

Noam Pikelny
Role:
 Banjo, Punch Brothers
Strengths: Think the 1927 “Murderer’s Row” New York Yankees. Think the Wu-Tang Clan. Whatever says “supergroup” to you, the Punch Brothers are the string-band equivalent. This staff full of aces can play anything, and Pikelny often does. He can be fast and mean, but often coaxes unconventional sounds out of his banjo, playing painterly, rippling passages that set the band’s mood.
Check out: “New York City” 

Jay Gonzalez
Role
: Keyboards, Drive-By Truckers
Strengths: Gonzalez does wield a guitar on occasion, helping the Southern rockers achieve a three-axe attack. But he does the most damage behind the keyboards. His soulful organ stabs and cascading piano runs add a killer element to the Truckers’ sound and qualifies Gonzalez as a potential heir to rock keyboard royalty such as Benmont Tench and Garth Hudson.
Check out: “Pauline Hawkins”

 

Wylie Gelber
Role
: Bass, Dawes
Strengths: Less can indeed be more. And when a band boasts one of its generation’s great lyricists, as Dawes does with Taylor Goldsmith, it feels unnecessary to dress those words in unnecessarily technical playing. With the exception of last year’s We’re All Gonna Die, the band has kept its cool, focusing more on nuance. As Dawes’ bassist, Gelber has played a major role in keeping it simple, but never simplistic. His sense of control — and ability to find the pocket right away, then stay there — is an example to young bassists who think they have to run their fingers all over the frets.
Check out: “Just My Luck”
 

Sergio Mendoza
Role
: Keyboards, Calexico
Strengths: Mendoza leads the vibrant “indie mambo” collective Y La Orkesta, but is best known in the rock world for his association with the Tucson rockers. His experience growing up on both sides of the Mexican-American border, and his instinct to listen attentively to the soundwaves floating across it, brings richness to the Calexico sound. Mendoza can do a traditional Cuban dance across the piano or replicate the bargain-bin synths heard in popular cumbias.
Check out: “Cumbia de Donde”


10 Band Member MVPs (That Don't Play Guitar) Part One: Classics

Music ListAarik DanielsenComment
  Flea, bassist of Red Hot Chili Peppers (via Facebook)

Flea, bassist of Red Hot Chili Peppers (via Facebook)

This is part one of a two part series. Don't miss Part Two: Contemporary.

Guitar players get all the glory. Aside from lead singers, they typically are the focal point in any band, and at their most prolific, guitarists can overshadow singers or even render frontmen interchangeable. The dynamic is understandable; The mythic power of rock is perhaps most fully alive in a great riff or solo. If we’re going to play “air” anything, we usually go for the guitar first.

That doesn’t lessen the significance of a band’s other members, though. Strong players on other instruments sharpen a band’s sound, make it more versatile, and make their running mates look even better. The best of these players don’t just keep the beat or meet minimum expectations, they find spaces of their own to express something intangible, to contribute moments of lyric beauty and sheer power. Here is a small sample size of those who’ve shouldered these roles, a team of most valuable players who don’t primarily play guitar. They might not be the flashiest players, but they make their bands better in important, sometimes nearly imperceptible ways.

First, an all-star group culled from legacy bands — acts that have achieved longevity and done most of their swimming in the mainstream.


Christine McVie
Role: Keyboards, Fleetwood Mac
Strengths: In a band full of big, unpredictable personalities, McVie was an anchor, an elegant, steadying force. She not only suited her playing to the band’s stylistic shifts, but had a serious hand in shaping them. McVie could create warm sound beds, accent all-out rockers or show off a surprisingly bluesy side.
Check out: “Say You Love Me” 

 

Benmont Tench
Role
: Keyboards, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Strengths: The classically trained pianist took a fork in the road to become a rock keyboard legend and the prototypical MVP. His Hammond organ chops and nimble piano playing brought a dimension to one of the truly great American bands. Tench is as important — on some songs, even more so — than Petty’s first mate, guitarist Mike Campbell.
Check out: “Refugee”
 

Steve Nieve
Role
: Keyboards, Elvis Costello
Strengths: Whether in Costello’s first band, The Attractions, or a later iteration, The Imposters, Nieve has been a regular presence alongside the English bard. Like any great rock keyboardist, Nieve can do a little bit of everything. But he established a unique voice, augmenting Costello’s particular neuroses with the jittery, kaleidoscopic sound of the Vox Continental organ.
Check out: “(I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea”

Tina Weymouth
Role
: Bass, Tom Tom Club
Strengths: Weymouth and husband, drummer Chris Frantz, will of course always be better known for their integral roles in Talking Heads. But the band they formed in the midst of the Heads’ peak years, and the one that still remains, benefits from the still-bounding energy and lovely, strange persona Weymouth brings to the table.
Check out: “Genius of Love”
 

Flea
Role
: Bass, Red Hot Chili Peppers
Strengths: Flea is the Red Hot Chili Peppers. You can argue that without him, Anthony Kiedis would just be a shirtless surfer mumbling something about California. The bassist provides the Peppers’ manic energy, but also is its music historian, working from a great knowledge of jazz and funk.
Check out: “Soul to Squeeze”
 


Steve Berlin
Role
: Saxophone, flute and keyboards, Los Lobos
Strengths: Berlin is the consummate team player, bringing versatility and an edge to the Lords of East Los Angeles. Berlin plays the saxophone with a chip on his shoulder and a groove in his heart. His ability to move seamlessly between instruments and styles makes him a perfect fit for the multi-faceted band.
Check out: “Mas y Mas”

Jeff Ament
Role
: Bass, Pearl Jam
Strengths: Ament’s contributions can be lost to the two-guitar attack of Stone Gossard and Mike McCready and fevered singing of Eddie Vedder. A recent episode of Steven Hyden’s Celebration Rock podcast noted that Ament brought a bit of funk with him from stints in bands such as Mother Love Bone and Green River. Hyden and Co. were right on: Ament is an agile player, commanding in a relatively quiet way.
Check out: “Corduroy”

Phil Selway
Role
: Drums, Radiohead
Strengths: If it’s possible for a drummer to be a quiet force within a band, Selway is the embodiment of that notion. With whirling dervish Thom Yorke at the microphone and all the squalling noise coming from guitar and synthesizer, Radiohead needs a steady force behind the drums. That’s not to suggest that Selway is merely reliable; he is an incredibly musical drummer who, like the other members of his band, finds the fullest range of possibilities on his instrument.
Check out: “Bodysnatchers”

Charlie Gillingham
Role
: Keyboards, Counting Crows
Strengths: Following in Tench’s footsteps, Gillingham fits the man of mystery role for the Bay Area folk-rockers. All he does is put his head down and play resonant parts. Occasionally, Gillingham cedes the piano to frontman Adam Duritz, allowing him to paint from a different palette, moving to the organ or stepping away from his perch to play accordion.
Check out: “If I Could Give All My Love (Richard Manuel is Dead)”

Kevin Hearn
Role
: Keyboards, Barenaked Ladies
Strengths: In a band that, at least on hits like “One Week,” can be a little up-in-your-face, Hearn has a beautiful, deft touch. Hearn glides across the piano, executing runs that, in some cases, make the song without ever drawing too much attention to himself. Set against their hits, the Ladies’ deep cuts exhibit a serious musicality, and often Hearn underscores and upholds it.
Check out: The live version of “Jane” from “Rock Spectacle”


The Ultimate Playlist for Your Next Political Rally (as Long as You're Not a Republican)

Music ListWeston PaganoComment

It happens every election cycle - politician plays song at rally, artist complains, politician replaces it with another song, that artist complains, rinse, wash, repeat.

Of course many musicians do pledge support of some campaigns and lend their tunes to the cause (Killer Mike and Grizzly Bear's stumping for Bernie Sanders being recent highlights), but it's always the conflicts that get more news time and are, well, more amusing.

While America's touring president-hopefuls usually turn to safe, generic fight songs and vaguely patriotic anthems for firing up their attending constituents there can sometimes be peculiarly glaring disconnects, from Trump's doomsday-implicating entrance to an incensed R.E.M.'s "It's The End Of The World As We Know It," to Reagan evoking the ostensible feel-good nationalism of Springsteen's "Born In The U.S.A.," a song that is actually a clear criticism of the US government and its war-mongering. But even if it's just a song about the sun, there will likely be complaints assuming the politician has one thing in common - the GOP.

Though sometimes candidates are technically allowed to play the music in question under different blanket licenses, this usually falls under textbook copyright infringement concerning public performance rights, and those responsible usually back down regardless once a complaint is lodged even if only out of awkwardness. While it's rare, there are a few examples of lawsuits taking place, most notably the time also-bassist Mike Huckabee had to cough up $25,000 in reparations for tainting Survivor's "Eye Of The Tiger." 

While countless pieces have been penned (and performed) on this matter before, we at Transverso have taken the liberty of being the first to compile all (well, at least until Trump adds to it again) of the songs that have been retroactively barred from being used as sweet, sweet misappropriated right-wing propaganda in recent years into one playlist. In the age of Spotify hawking mix tapes from "Teen Party" to "Jock Jams" to "Not Your Mother's Christian Music," we figured why not curate the ultimate collection of tracks for you to use at your next campaign speech or event - that is, of course, if you're not a Republican.

The playlist itself is sorted by artist name, and we also provided a list of the tracks below sorted by the names of the offending candidates and public figures.

Donald Trump

  • Adele - “Rolling in the Deep”
  • Adele - “Skyfall”
  • Aerosmith - “Dream On”
  • The Beatles - “Here Comes The Sun”
  • Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band - “All Right Now”
  • Neil Young - “Rockin’ in the Free World”
  • R.E.M. - “It’s The End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)”
  • Rolling Stones - “Start Me Up”
  • Rolling Stones - “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”
  • Queen - “We Are The Champions”

John McCain / Sarah palin

  • ABBA - “Take a Chance on Me”
  • Bon Jovi - “Who Says You Can’t Go Home”
  • Foo Fighters - “My Hero”
  • Gretchen Peters - “Independence Day”
  • Heart - “Barracuda”
  • Jackson Browne - “Running On Empty”
  • John Mellencamp - “Our Country”
  • John Mellencamp - “Pink Houses”
  • Orleans - “Still the One”
  • Van Halen - “Right Now”

George W. Bush

  • John Mellencamp - “R.O.C.K. in the USA”
  • Orleans - “Still the One”
  • Sting - “Brand New Day”
  • Tom Petty - “I Won’t Back Down”

George H. W. Bush

  • Bobby McFerrin - “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”

Newt Gingrich

  • The Heavy - “How You Like Me Now?”
  • Journey - “Don’t Stop Believing”
  • Survivor - “Eye of the Tiger”

Mitt Romney

  • K’Naan - “Wavin’ Flag”
  • Silversun Pickups - “Panic Switch”

Mike Huckabee (ft. Kim Davis)

  • Boston - “More Than a Feeling”
  • Survivor - “Eye of the Tiger”

Rand Paul

  • Rush - “Spirit of the Radio”
  • Rush - “Tom Sawyer”

Chuck Devore

  • Don Henley - “All She Wants to Do Is Dance”
  • Don Henley - “The Boys of Summer”

Michele Bachmann

  • Katrina & The Waves - “Walking On Sunshine”
  • Tom Petty - “American Girl”

Ronald Reagan / Bob Dole

  • Bruce Springsteen - “Born in the USA”

Marco Rubio

  • Axwell / Ingrosso - “Something New”

Paul Ryan

  • Twisted Sister - “We’re Not Gonna Take It”

Scott Walker

  • Dropkick Murphys - “I’m Shipping Up to Boston”

Charlie Crist

  • David Byrne - “Road to Nowhere”

Bob Dole

  • Sam & Dave - “Soul Man”

Joe Walsh

  • Joe Walsh - “Walk Away"

Transverso's Guide to Lollapalooza 2016

Music ListTransverso MediaComment

Longtime staple of both the Chicago and music festival experiences, each year Lollapalooza earns their reputation as one of the premiere menageries the performance industry can offer. Lolla, as the kids call it, needs no introduction at all, in fact, but we’ve written one anyway to justify our staff compiling such a lengthy list of recommendations (and condemnations) for this year’s edition. So if you’re still building your schedule, torn between conflicts, or just don’t know much about the bands that’ll be there, this is the guide for you!


THURSDAY


Pinegrove (Petrillo Bandshell 12:15-1:00)

So you didn’t want to go to Lollapalooza. It’s too big, too loud, and way too crowded, but your friends talked you into buying a ticket and now you’re at a goddamn music festival at noon on a goddamn Thursday. New Jersey punks Pinegrove feel your pain. On their incredible new album Cardinal, singer-guitarist Evan Stephens Hall crafts antisocial anthems that thread the line between emo and country, alchemizing unease and isolation into universally relatable howl-alongs. (Standout single “New Friends” is a rousing power ballad about deciding to have more than three acquaintances.) Pinegrove specialize in songs that sound great screamed in a giant crowd or whispered alone in your room, and their festival-opening slot offers you a rare chance to choose the former over the latter.  (Julian Axelrod)

Autolux (Samsung 12:45-1:30) 

Coming off a delightfully peculiar and long-awaited return on Danger Mouse’s 30th Century Records with Pussy’s Dead, Autolux are uniquely melancholic in a captivating way. Despite their relatively under-the-radar history, you may know founding member and multi-instrumentalist Carla Azar as one of Jack White’s main studio and touring drummers. (Weston Pagano)

Lucy Dacus (BMI Stage 1:00-1:40)

Seeing a festival set based on one song is a risky proposition, but early Thursday afternoon is a prime time for experimentation, and when the song is as good as Lucy Dacus’s “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore,” it’s not much of a risk. The track is a deft, subtle breakdown of the ways women are pigeonholed into types – the Funny Girl, the Cute Girl, the Groupie. It’ll have you laughing as you cringe with recognition, a trick Dacus pulls throughout her strong debut No Burden. The record recalls sarcastic storytellers like Jenny Lewis and Courtney Barnett, but comparing Dacus to other women does her a disservice. Don’t come to this show to see a Type – come to see Lucy Dacus kick ass. (Julian Axelrod)

Hiatus Kaiyote (Petrillo Bandshell 2:00-3:00)

The Melbourne-sprung Hiatus Kaiyote lead off early in the festival, and is a standout performer among its peers. This is a must see act, particularly anyone trying to bend their knees and swing their hips. Coming off a salutary reprise of "Laputa” in collaboration with Taylor McFerrin and Anderson Paak in April, the psychedelic soul outfit is in top form. Lolla is the first stop on their lengthy North American tour, so they should be full authentic giddiness and energy. Whether you’re trippin’ hard on something good and need a deep groove or atmospheric musings to set your mind right, want to get down’n dirty with some dance moves, or just want to vibe with a beer in hand, Hiatus has got you covered. (Andrew Meriwether) 

Yeasayer (Lakeshore 3:30-4:30)

Despite their latest LP being named Amen & Goodbye (arguably one of the best and most under-appreciated records of 2016), Yeasayer will be saying hello to Chicago for the third time in as many months when they ascend the Lakeshore Stage on Thursday. Not that we could get tired of seeing them, though, as the psychedelic freak-folk rock electro-pop trio wear many hats and wear them exceedingly well. Don’t miss their aftershow-that’s-really-a-preshow on Wednesday, as their sound always conveys better indoors and their impeccably intriguing performance decorations that play with the Sgt. Peppers-esque album art direction motif will likely not make it onstage at the festival itself. (Weston Pagano)

Wild Child (BMI 4:30-5:10)

I first saw Wild Child after we interviewed them at SXSW. It was in a small church downtown in their native Austin, and every time the band swore - in a song or otherwise - they semi-jokingly cringed and asked “Can we say that in here?” They’re the cutest folk outfit, but now they can say whatever the fuck they want out in Grant Park as well. (Weston Pagano)

The Arcs (Lakeshore 7:30-8:30)

Once you listened to a couple Black Keys records, you’ve pretty much listened to them all, right? So why go see Dan Auerbach, the lead vocalist and guitarist of BK, when you’ve got the plenty of other artists who could punch your eardrums? Because The Arcs, Auerbach’s most recent solo project, are not a blues rock band, and because they kick a lot of ass. On 2015's very well received Yours, Dreamily, Auerbach delves into the psychedelic and macabre both musically and lyrically; a refreshing departure from his past productions. His time behind boards as a producer has also broadened his sound beyond riff-a-licious jams to include horns, synths, and a dizzying collage of other fantastic instrumentation. Fit this veteran into your evening schedule - you won’t be disappointed. (Andrew Meriwether) 

Lana Del Rey (Budlight 8:45-10:00)

Do people really still like Lana Del Rey? (Weston Pagano)


FRIDAY


Lewis Del Mar (Bud Light 12:45-1:45)

After surfing with MGMT convinced them to sign to Columbia, Lewis Del Mar burst onto the scene with a confident "Can you please sit the fuck down?" We assume they'll be asking - and getting - the opposite this Friday. (Weston Pagano)

Joey Purp (Perry’s 2:30-3:15)

There is a truly astounding amount of incredible rap coming out of Chicago right now, and the city’s vital scene is well represented on the Lolla lineup, from perpetually rising star Vic Mensa to Rick Rubin disciple Towkio. Joey Purp may not have the same recognition as his comrades at the fest (yet) but he’s making the most interesting music. His mixtape iiiDrops crackles with inspiration as Purp recounts his violent upbringing and with a dead-eyed mumble, somehow sounding sleepy and urgent simultaneously. And the man has an incredible ear for beats, from the throwback Neptunes funk of “Girls @” (with Chance the Rapper) to the dying elephant bounce of “Photobooth.” Whether you’re a Chicago native or a first-time visitor, don’t miss this preview of the city’s next big star. (Julian Axelrod)

Foals (Samsung 4:00-5:00)

Still on the road a year out from their fourth LP What Went Down, Foals bring one of the most aggressively exhilarating indie rock sets to the festival stage. The youthful hints of mathiness in their set have been all but drowned out in favor of their more mature, denser sound of late, but you won’t be able to analyze much of anything with Yannis Philippakis shredding guitar whilst splayed out on top of you. Look for “Inhaler” to turn the droves of calmly-swaying-white-guys into an animalistic frenzy as cries of “I can’t get enough SPAAACE” go from purely metaphorical to literal, too. (Weston Pagano)

Sunflower Bean (BMI 6:50-7:30)

Sunflower Bean finds themselves in the unfortunate predicament of being surrounded by heavy reputations: Future, Miike Snow, and M83 are all set to perform in neighboring time slots. But for the rock fan whose feelings on grunge-rock are more fond than ill, Sunflower Bean may be the band to see. Their post-punk is fast and aggressive and guitarist Nick Kivlen is a true virtuoso on the axe. If you’re swayed more by advocacy, the Brooklyn-based band stands opposed to the plethora of shoegaze that the New York borough’s music scene has been producing. So if you’re in the mood for aggressive guitars or feel like protesting the shoegaze genre, check out Sunflower Bean.  (Ezra Carpenter)

Miike Snow (Lakeshore 7:00-8:00)

Those of you who still don’t know Miike Snow probably are familiar with Britney Spear's "Toxic" and Bruno Mars' "Grenade," the world-beating hits the Swedish writers and producers were the masterminds behind. But for the rest of us, it's been a few years of waiting for them to tour again like they are now in support of their latest record, iii. After their hiatus the first few shows were noticeably rusty at times (frontman Andrew Wyatt nearly killed a girl with a mic stand when I saw them at SXSW in March), but they’ve almost certainly gelled back to their delightful old ways since then. Either way, their uniquely engaging brand of perfect pop that blends professional polish with indie edge make this a set you should see. (Weston Pagano)

M83 (Samsung Stage 6:00-7:00) 

Friends, family and fellow 2011 nostalgists: We are here today not to bury M83, but to praise them. (Or rather, him.) While many people populate the stage at an M83 show (including Dallas musician Kaela Sinclair, who joined the touring band after an open call for keyboardists) the project is the brainchild of Anthony Gonzalez. The French pop mastermind was thrust into the mainstream on the heels of hit single “Midnight City,” which you might know on the off chance you’ve seen a movie, TV show, or commercial in the past 5 years. This year’s follow-up album Junk seemed at first like a decisive (and divisive) left turn away from the epic, windswept pop anthems that cemented M83’s place atop festival lineups, filled with overtly cheesy synth struts and melodramatic strings that evoke the elevator music in an overpriced '80s hotel. But like a weird foreign soap opera you find on cable at 3 AM and end up watching until sunrise, Junk is packed with peculiar pleasures. Give yourself up to Gonzalez’s vision of a pop utopia – it is a world unlike any other.  (Julian Axelrod)

Radiohead (Samsung Stage 8:00-10:00)

No introduction needed for this Friday headliner, but the release of LP9 and the reintroduction of “Creep” to the band’s set has reinvigorated fan curiosity and interest. Firstly, Radiohead has consistently played A Moon Shaped Pool true to its tracklist until its fifth track: “Ful Stop.” The front end of the album has been well-received for its stoic and somber tone, so expect to get very intimate with the band from an early onset. Now onto the issue of “Creep.” We get it, the majority most probably despises the reinclusion of the band’s 1993 single. However, this majority is also likely comprised of fans who have followed Radiohead’s progression since the release of 1993’s Pablo Honey. So to the younger Radiohead fan: this may be one of the few times you will ever hear “Creep” performed live if you haven’t experienced it already. However one may feel about the song, it is undoubtedly a privilege to hear it performed live. EDM fans will be split between Martin Garrix and Major Lazer, so the Radiohead crowd should consist of a homogeneous set of genuine Radiohead fans. (Ezra Carpenter)


SATURDAY


AudioDamn! (BMI 1:00-1:45)

Fresh-faced and endearing, the up-and-coming German trio told Transverso all about their debut EP and subsequent first American tour in our interview not too long ago. Expect a playful show in which their clean suits do little to betray solid rock and roll chops. (Weston Pagano)

Big Grams (Samsung 4:15-5:15)

Though starting out as an unexpected pairing, the Big Boi + Phantogram supergroup have become staples of this year’s festival circuit following their self-titled debut, and we’re excited to see these #FestivalKillers supply their #JediRapShit at Lolla this year. Also look for Phantogram’s aftershow at House of Blues on Sunday which will be their first of many dates in support of their forthcoming record, Three - whether or not Big Boi will appear in that as well remains to be seen. (Weston Pagano)

Leon Bridges (Bud Light 4:45-5:45)

Saturday night offers a wide selection for those looking for vanguard of foundational genres. Whether it’s country’s golden boy Chris Stapleton, The Band-channeling Houndmouth, or the foot-stomping Nathaniel Ratcliff and the Night Sweats, one can easily get their fill of the horns, tube amps, and Rhodes organs. Carrying the mantel for classic Soul is Leon Bridges, whose career has skyrocketed since releasing a couple of tracks on SoundCloud two years ago. Bridges seems to be the walking definition of vintage. Everything from his tucked white t-shirts in high waisted jeans to the analogue tinged sound of his records is something out of another era, or perhaps a hyper real version of an era. You may not get anything “new” per se from this performance, as he essentially stays in the safety of Sam Cooke and Otis Redding type tracks. Nonetheless, Bridges ability spark that comforting feeling of nostalgia will undoubtedly delight audiences. So give yourself a break and go enjoy some smooth crooning. (Andrew Meriwether) 

Chris Stapleton (Petrillo Bandshell 5:45-6:45)

The country act - still quite the anomaly for well-established music festivals. Yes, Chris Stapleton is definitely a performance out of left field, yet his popularity is as unquestionable as his vocal talent. Stapleton’s voice is a rustic, molasses-smooth brand of country ballad that will resonate with fans of R&B, soul, blues, and traditional male vocals. He deserves the highest attendance for his allotted time slot (excusing Jane’s Addiction die-hards) and is sure to please anyone who can appreciate a good voice. If you find yourself undecided on who to see early Saturday evening, take a chance on Stapleton. (Ezra Carpenter)

Houndmouth (Pepsi 6:30-7:15)

One could make a strong argument that the market for alt-country bands is oversaturated. Fans may be burnt out on bemoaning lost love and rehashes of blues bar brawls, and genre is a reaching a breaking point and the whole edifice may come crashing down (which, I suppose, may end up being a decent country song). Luckily, one can take solace in a group like Houndmouth. The band is nothing if not earnest, which is hard to come by these days with acts like The Lumineers, whose one-trick-pony folk tunes have spawned a whole litany of saccharin imitators. Houndmouth is steeped in the Music From Big Pink and Basement Tapes rock, and they do about a good a job as anybody at tapping that raw emotional power found in the old masters. On a warm summer evening, on the cusp of rowdiness and love, you won’t find anything much better than Houndmouth. (Andrew Meriwether)

Grimes (Lakeshore 7:30-8:30)

When the Coachella organizers booked Grimes opposite Guns 'n' Roses, they made a clear statement: Give this artist three years (and one more great album) and they’ll be headlining every festival in existence. Listening to last year’s bone-crushingly sweet masterpiece Art Angels, it’s hard not to see Grimes as a global superstar from an alternate dimension who slums it on our planet as a critically acclaimed indie darling. Right now she’s in a weird limbo between the two, so this may be your last chance to see Grimes in any sort of intimate setting before she blows the fuck up. (Julian Axelrod)

Disclosure (Bud Light 8:30-10:00)

A lot of variety to pick from for Saturday’s closing acts: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Hardwell, Vic Mensa, and Disclosure. Saturday’s closing action seems to offer something for fans of every genre to appreciate. Not to be underestimated is the hometown boy Vic Mensa’s performance of his new, politically-charged material. But if the headlining RHCP don’t quite pique your interest, Disclosure will surely be the most fun way to spend your time. The release of their latest Moog for Love EP promises a return to their old U.K. garage house style and though their second LP Caracal demonstrated a shift towards more accessible pop music, the transition hasn’t curbed the band’s ability to inspire dance. (Ezra Carpenter)


SUNDAY


Låpsley (Samsung 12:45-1:30)

It’s Sunday afternoon and somehow, you’ve found yourself back at the festival at way too early of an hour, still feeling the effects of Saturday night’s drinking. Låpsley may be the cure to your hangover. Coming off Long Way Home, Her atmospheric and minimalist pop/R&B is incredibly easy to listen to and exudes a sensational sort of spatial relaxation - Låpsley’s Sunday afternoon set would be a perfect way to ease yourself into the day.  (Ezra Carpenter)

FIDLAR (Bud Light 2:45-3:45)

This band turned heads when their “Cocaine” music video featured a montage of Nick Offerman public urination, but FIDLAR has more credit owed to them than just their ability to enlist star power in their visuals. For one, FIDLAR will definitely contend for the best moshpit of Lollapalooza. Their fanbase comes together in full energy and enthusiasm for each show. FIDLAR’s set is worth their cover of the Beastie Boy’s “Sabotage” alone. Stop by if you’re in the mood for some rough, high-throttle moshpitting, the Sunday mid-afternoon time slot is pretty slender anyway. (Ezra Carpenter)

Third Eye Blind (Petrillo Bandshell 3:45-4:45)

When I saw Third Eye Blind on the Lolla lineup, I laughed. Don’t get me wrong – I love “Semi-Charmed Life” as much as the next guy. But I couldn’t figure out why the ostensibly one-hit wonders were playing a major festival in 2016. Then the RNC happened. According to Cleveland.com, 3EB were scheduled to cover “several pro-America anthems” at a Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame charity show during the convention. Instead, the band skipped most of their big hits, railed against the party’s anti-gay policies and quipped, “Who here believes in science?” to glorious boos. In summation: I love Third Eye Blind, “Jumper” is a fucking jam, and if you skip this set you hate America and science and the LGBT community. (Julian Axelrod)

Local Natives (Bud Light 4:45-5:45)

I once saw Local Natives from what felt like a mile away from the stage amidst a sea of melting people in direct sunlight at Bonnaroo. I distinctly remember feeling trapped and wondering if I put on enough sunscreen as it was 100 degrees and the midday sun was mercilessly brutal to our tired bodies. Despite this, it was still one of the most enjoyable sets of the entire festival, as Local Natives' power and poise reached out all the way to where I was, making me forget the pain. They’re thankfully a little later in the day this weekend (4:45), but it’ll still be hot. At least their new album is appropriately named Sunlit Youth. (Weston Pagano)

 

HAIM (Bud Light 6:45-7:45) 

Transverso recommends boycotting HAIM until they apologize to Grizzly Bear’s Ed Droste for abandoning his friendship for Snake-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named(Weston Pagano)

Vince Staples (Pepsi 7:45-8:30)

Stage banter is an underrated art. By the time you hit day four of your 10th music festival of the summer, you’ve lost all patience for the “How’s everybody feelin’ out there?” and “We love you, Chicago!” bullshit you hear at every show. No one understands this better than Long Beach rapper Vince Staples, who has garnered a reputation as the enfant terrible of the festival circuit. The same dark humor and perceptive wit that made last year’s bracing Summertime ’06 an instant classic manifests itself onstage as Staples takes aim at the suffocating corporatization of every fest, like when he told off Spotify at SXSW while performing at a Spotify event. You should see Staples because he’s one of the best rappers out there, but the fact that he’s playing the Pepsi Stage makes this show even more enticing. (Julian Axelrod)

LCD Soundsystem (Samsung 8:25-10:00)

What hasn’t already been said about LCD Soundsystem’s reunion? The dance punk veterans are resurrected and they’re going to perform “Dance Yrself Clean,” and that’s all that matters. It’s worth the entry price alone, but it will also be joined by “I Can Change,” “All My Friends,” and “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down.” James Murphy is going to croon and howl and we might cry - there truly isn't a better set to end the festival with. If any Arcade Fire members make cameos we called it first. (Weston Pagano)

 

Transverso's Guide to Pitchfork Music Festival 2016

Music ListTransverso MediaComment

Chicago is no stranger to music festivals. From Lollapalooza to Spring Awakening, the city boasts such an impressive lineup of lineups that it takes a uniquely impressive roster for a festival to stand out.

But over the past 11 years, Pitchfork Music Festival has carved out a space as one of the most consistent and distinctive weekends of the festival season, and it returns to Chicago’s Union Park this weekend to protect that title with a lineup that’s as confounding as it is exciting. After all, what other festival would juxtapose the aggravated experimentation of Girl Band and Oneohtrix Point Never with the powerhouse pop of Shamir and Carly Rae Jepsen? What other mainstream festival inexplicably devotes a sizable portion of its lineup to intricate jazz acts like Sun Ra and Kamasi Washington? What other festival hears Sufjan Stevens’ pained folk opus Carrie & Lowell and thinks “Now THIS is headliner material!”?

Yet for all of Pitchfork’s idiosyncrasies, there are some unfortunate elements it shares with its summer festival brethren: oppressive heat, unruly crowds, and a mystifying undercard filled with bands you’ve never heard before. While we can’t help you with the first two, we can offer a carefully curated guide to this year's lineup that highlights who we're most excited to see, as well as some excellent acts you might not be as familiar with yet. If you saw two bands you love on the schedule and impulse-bought a weekend pass, this is your chance to do your homework before gates open. Eventually you'll be able to tell your friends, “Oh, I saw [insert buzz band here] before they blew up,” as you’re waiting to see them headline a much larger festival, and after all, isn’t that what Pitchfork is all about?

Fire up the playlist below and check out Transverso's staff picks for this weekend:


FRIDAY


Car Seat Headrest (Red Stage - 3:30)

In the recent avalanche of acclaim for his excellent Matador-released duo of LPs Teens of Style and Teens of Denial, Car Seat Headrest mastermind Will Toledo has been repeatedly praised for restoring dignity to that once-mighty staple Indie Guitar Rock. Whether or not “white dudes with guitars” is a genre that needed any help is debatable, but it is notable that CSH is opening the festival; after all, this is a band trafficking in a sound that once defined blogs like Pitchfork, and it’s a band that does it better than pretty much anyone else. Toledo is operating at the top of his game, both as a dynamic bandleader and a bluntly engaging songwriter, and you owe it to yourself to show up early and see him in action. (Julian Axelrod)

Whitney (Blue Stage - 4:15)

Buzz bands, man; they build and build into this ascendent phoenix, and at no point does anyone entertain any sort of demise (who would be liable for blame here... oh yeah, Pitchfork). Whatever the year, there's going to be one or two groups that materialize seemingly out of nowhere, and everyone believes "this might be the one." Which one, you might ask - no one really knows; it all seems vacantly aspirational. Following the Chicago locals' debut Light Upon the Lake, Whitney is 2016's buzz band du jour, but there's something about the former UMO man Julian Ehrlich-fronted melancholic machine that feels more purposeful than buzz bands passed. It's as if the mellifluous tones act as a misdirect from the calculated drive that "will be the one" to overcome the all too familiar buzz band descendent. Plus, they've got some dulcet guitar tones from Smith Westerns veteran Max Kakacek to go along with euphonious falsetto of Ehrlich. (Sean McHugh)

Moses Sumney (Blue Stage - 5:15)

There are some musicians whose make music so personal and achingly intimate that it seems almost perverse to see them perform in a festival setting (and many of them are playing Pitchfork this year!). But something about Moses Sumney’s music feels perfectly suited to a mid-day festival spot, where audience members can sway along as his ghostly falsetto dances around his hymn-like rhythms like an afternoon wind through the trees surrounding the Blue Stage. The California singer-songwriter doesn’t have much recorded output (he’s currently working on his debut 7” with Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor) but the opportunity to witness an astounding talent like Sumney before his inevitable ascent is hard to pass up. (Julian Axelrod)

Twin Peaks (Red Stage - 5:30)

Is scuzz rock a thing yet? Who knows? At this point, it seems almost certain there's going to be some reticent all-father of scuzz rock that will surely have a "sublime" rock-doc chronicling said public reservation, but for the time being, modern scuzz rock has been catapulted to the media-savvy masses due in large part to Chicagoans Twin Peaks. Lynch-ian name aside, the dudes in Twin Peaks will crush the grimiest hits only to turn around and slice you with a deft riff of garage punk wonderfully debased by scuzz pedals. Its a masterclass in punk rock sensibilities, with all five members likely to make a mockery of the pretension expected at Pitchfork. (Sean McHugh)

Mick Jenkins (Blue Stage - 6:15)

Let's be real here, Pitchfork is lacking heavily in the arena of hip-hop, rap, of urban culture in general. Feel free to attribute such a fact to manicured digits of Conde Naste, or perhaps this year was "thin" on "quality" rap artists. (Oh wait, it wasn't/isn't.) Thank goodness for Mick Jenkins - the bracket-ly inclined rapper from Chicago is bringing some swerve to a considerably emotionally, consciously, emphatically tepid lineup on the first day of Pitchfork. Expect to see Jenkins finally perform some tracks from his recently completed [T]he [H]ealing [C]omponent, along with tracks of the stellar [W]ater and [W]aves(Sean McHugh)

Carly Rae Jepsen (Green Stage - 6:25)

Is Carly Rae Jepsen an unknown artist waiting for her big break? No. Is she on an independent label? She is not. Is it weird that she’s playing this festival at all? Yes, it is very fucking weird. But put aside your preconceived notions about labels, genre, and fame and put on “Run Away With Me”. Listen to the opening saxophone wail, the breathy vocals and breathless crescendo, the heart-stopping beat before the massive chorus. Imagine experiencing that live in a giant park with a bunch of sweaty Pitchfork readers. Savor how weird and wonderful it is that one of the most prominent pop stars of our time is on a festival lineup with Sun Ra Arkestra. Pitchfork Fest only happens once a year – why not have some fun? (Julian Axelrod)

Broken Social Scene (Red Stage - 7:20)

One of the greatest indie bands no one seems to talk about, know about, or understand. At the very least, the Canadian collective has seen a revolving door of members that have gone on to become Feist, Metric, Stars, Tortoise, and Jason Collett. They've put out a handful of some of the greatest indie-records of the past two decades - You Forgot It People in 2002, and a self-titled LP in 2005 - and yet people still seem to have overlooked every last ounce of great music BSS has produced. While the complete lineup for BSS has not yet been determined (there have been times where only six members play a set, and nineteen the next), don't be surprised to see appearances from some of the larger names borne out of BSS (looking at you, Leslie Feist). So for the love of all that is good in the world, go pay your respects to your indie deities and see Broken Social Scene. (Sean McHugh)

Shamir (Blue Stage - 8:15)

Hi, Hi, howdy, howdy, hi, hi; Shamir is playing Pitchfork Friday night. This is going to be a dance party unseen by any other act sharing the Friday evening bill with Shamir. I highly doubt you're going to see any new-age Madonna vogueing mixed with Harlem Fela Kuti at Beach House or Twin Peaks, but you will definitely see it in one way shape or form at Shamir's set. Still running off the power of Ratchet, Shamir's sweet demeanor on stage mixed with the playful panache of his lyricism will undoubtedly make for a fun time while closing out the festival for the evening or finding some emotional respite before heading into the vibe-heavy Beach House set. (Sean McHugh)

Beach House (Green Stage - 8:30)

Rarely will you see a band perform so gracefully despite being so far out of their element as Beach House at an outdoor festival. In an interview with Pitchfork themselves, guitarist Alex Scally recounted how the 2007 edition served as a disastrous first festival appearance for the dreamy Baltimorean duo, as they failed to adjust to the conflicting noise and quick pace. Fast forward to 2016, and coming off the back of a one-two punch of stunningly gorgeous albums in Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars, the pair are undoubtedly set to put in a far more veteran shift in their fourth Pitchfork appearance nearly a decade later. While the exposed stages of the outdoors will never offer peak conduciveness to the trancelike Beach House experience (and you do owe it to yourself to witness them at their best), having seen them at both ends of the spectrum from Bonnaroo's afternoon chaos to an intimate, dark theatre, I can attest even their lowest point is still swirling somewhere up in the loveliest clouds. (Weston Pagano)


SATURDAY


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Circuit Des Yeux (Green Stage - 1:00)

Oh boy, here you go folks - if you fancy yourself an aficionado of good or "hip" music, or if you're one of those jagoffs that loves to say "I saw them before they were big," then here's your chance. Circuit Des Yeux is the work of Jackie Lynn, a highly prophesied Gemini out of Franklin, TN, that has since wandered her way up to Chicago to bring her femme fatale experimentalism to Pitchfork. Think if David Bowie met Roseanne Cash did tabs upon tabs; their vision quest brought them to Circuit Des Yeux. Its going to be a guaranteed weird old time. (Sean McHugh)

RP Boo (Blue Stage - 1:45)

One of the egregiously overlooked pioneers of Chicago footwork, RP Boo is going to bring some heavy grooves to Pitchfork to break up all that indie rock and brooding. Its probably going to be a small crowd at RP Boo's set, but that's fine by him, because Kavain Space is accustomed to being underrated and flipped over, but don't expect his music to be any sort of by-product of such an unfortunate reality. Be ready to dance your ass off at this set. (Sean McHugh)

Kevin Morby (Green Stage - 2:30)

You may know Kevin Morby from his stints in bands like The Babies and Woods (who also play Pitchfork this year), or you may know him from his excellent solo career. But you don’t have to know him from Adam to enjoy his warm, lived-in folk rock, which recalls the likes of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen in its lyrical specificity. (Check out “Dorothy,” a love song so heartfelt and tender you don’t even notice it’s about a guitar.) If you’re trying to kill time on a warm festival afternoon, it’s hard to do better than Morby’s propulsive, sprawling Americana. (Julian Axelrod)

Royal Headache (Blue Stage - 2:45)

A gang of punks comes to America from Australia. They call themselves Shogun, Law, Joe and Shorty. They proceed to fuck shit up. If this sounds more like the plot of a Mad Max sequel than the backstory of a Pitchfork act, that’s because Royal Headache are not your average buzz band. Over the course of just two albums, the group has perfected their signature brand of tuneful, heartfelt garage rock, bringing the acidity and wit of '70s punks like the Buzzcocks into the 21st century. If nothing else, you should check out their set to witness Shogun’s throat-scraping howl in person. (Julian Axelrod)

Savages (Green Stage - 4:15)

Go to Savages' set, for the love all things that are punk rock and not indie, go to Savages' set. Jehnny Beth (who recently made non-news with her "feud" with fellow fest act Sufjan Stevens) and her cohorts in Savages put on one of the best and most impressive live performances in terms of bravado and pure wall of sound fury. There's no frills of "hey guys, we're so honored to be here," but rather an unabashed smash-a-bottle-over-your-head existentialism that is a right of passage brilliance. Savages are arguably one of, if not the best live band on the festival circuit in 2016, so consider their set to be a nice upper before you head into the smooth grooves and grinds of, say, Dev Hynes. (Sean McHugh)

Blood Orange (Red Stage - 5:15)

Dev Hynes, otherwise has known as Blood Orange, distills what it means to have a contemporary musical sensibility. Drawing from everything, whether it’s post-punk, '80s soul, pop, and funk, free jazz, or the Golden Age of hip-hop, Blood Orange isn’t afraid to take genre and obliterate it. Coming off his critically acclaimed 3rd studio album, Freetown Sound, Dev has mastered his craft and his message. If there was ever a time to see him, now is the time, and like Kendrick Lamar, Blood Orange’s music is dialed in on the current state of affairs in this country. Do your do-diligence a favor by seeing this artist perform. Also, the man can dance. (Andrew Meriwether)

Brian Wilson performing Pet Sounds (Red Stage - 7:25)

This will be short - it doesn't matter who you are, what music you prefer - go see Brian Wilson. He's playing arguably the most formative pop record in all of music, Pet Sounds, in its 50th ANNIVERSARY, its a modern masterpiece, and a relic of what led to all this indie nonsense we listen to now. Go see Brian Wilson, you dopes. (Sean McHugh)

Anderson Paak (Blue Stage - 7:45)

I’ve never scheduled a music festival before. It seems like a tough job; no matter where and when you put each act, people are going to be upset that two of their favorite bands are playing at the same time. That said, what were the festival organizers thinking when they scheduled ascendant singer-rapper-musician Anderson Paak to play opposite Brian Wilson? Did they not think these two polymath masters of California soul would have any shared audience? Regardless, Paak’s set is required viewing for anyone who couldn’t care less about the Beach Boys. On his sun-kissed opus Malibu, he gleefully skips between sounds and styles, displaying a disregard for genre that comes with knowing he excels at everything he tries. If you don’t want to spend your Saturday night seeing a legend’s last bow, you can spend it watching a legend in the making. (Julian Axelrod)

Sufjan Stevens (Green Stage - 8:30)

Let's be honest, if you read Transverso, you're probably a Sufjan Stan. So you're already planning on bawling your eyes out at his set, as you should. It's a no brainer, and if you skip it, you might actually be brain dead. (Sean McHugh)


SUNDAY


Kamasi Washington (Red Stage - 3:20)

Its amazing to consider the fact that someone who is likely to go down as the finest modern neo-afro-jazz performer of a generation keeps getting thrown into such shitty festival slots. Kamasi's 2015 release The Epic is already one of the greatest albums of the decade, and will likely continue suit to become one of the best in the first half of the first century of the new millennium. Expect to be torn about by torrid saxophone and heaving afro-beat fusion only to be rematerialized by neo-classical soul that only Kamasi could provide. (Sean McHugh)

NAO (Blue Stage - 3:45)

Hey you hipster dopes! Here's another artist playing Pitchfork that (if you're lucky) you'll happen upon and two years from now, gleefully gloat about having seen her before she blew up! Or you'll just lie, because you know she was on the bill, but you didn't go because you actually just listen to the same homogenized aesthetic of music! Neo Jessica Joshua is going to break onto the scene like no other electro-funk artist has. She encompasses the pure new age R&B revivalism that music counter culture has so willfully embraced, and will undoubtedly usher in a new era of pop and R&B sensibilities to trip-hop and the like. (Sean McHugh)

Empress Of (Blue Stage - 4:45)

The Chicago Reader recently published a piece criticizing the gender disparity of Pitchfork’s lineup, and while the festival is definitely lacking in female artists, there are plenty of incredible women scattered throughout the lineup. Take Lorely Rodriguez, who records thoughtful, incisive electropop under the moniker Empress Of. Rodriguez’s songs play with a subtle tension between listener and artist, from her frantic beats to her pained cries to the topics she addresses in her music, such as gender roles and class disparity. She's also coming off a recent feature in Blood Orange's impressive Freetown Sound, and you can see her on Sunday to prove that incredible artists can always draw a festival audience, regardless of gender. (Julian Axelrod)

Neon Indian (Red Stage - 5:15)

Here's one of the most indomitable indie-pop electro bands to cut their teeth in the post-Aughts era, and they just continually manage to get wedged in between other sets for one reason or another. But that never stopped Alan Palomo and co. from putting on a hella good show, and put on a good show they will. Their 2015 release, Vega Intl. Night School was criminally overlooked by many a mediocre media outlet, but look out for standout tracks from the record like "Smut!" and "61 Cygni Ave" in the live set to keep you more than just interested. (Sean McHugh)

 

Jeremih (Green Stage - 6:15)

Every year, it seems like the indie crowd decides it would be ironically funny, or charitable (get over yourselves) to randomly select an early-Aughts R&B stalwart and suddenly plaster the "cool" ascription upon them. 2014 it was The Dream, 2015 T-Pain, and it looks like 2016 has seen Jeremih receive the indifferent title. Whether you're up to snuff on your knowledge of early-Aughts R&B or not, you have got to see Jeremih for the deep cuts off of his self-titled and stay for the dark hour virility of Late Night as well as Jeremih's rumored collaborations with PARTYNEXTDOOR. (Sean McHugh)

Thundercat (Blue Stage - 6:45)

It’s rare for session players to attain solo stardom, and that feat is even rarer for session bassists. But most musicians don’t have the vision, talent and ambition of Stephen Bruner, aka Thundercat. Whether you know him from his work with Kendrick Lamar and Flying Lotus, or his own jams like “Oh Sheit It’s X,” Bruner is a force to be reckoned with live, wielding his four-string like a weapon and leveling crowds with intricate basslines. There’s a good chance you won’t see anything else like Thundercat all weekend. (Julian Axelrod)

FKA Twigs (Green Stage - 8:30)

Non-conformism has become a little overwrought with this current generation of "don't you dare put me in a category" generation of pop-artists, but they all inevitably wind up being pretty much one in the same. FKA Twigs, however, is unequivocally her own entity, to the point of which it seems almost as if Twigs' role as pioneer pop fatalist has seen the likes of Madonna and Beyonce try and mimic (and of course, fail). The former choreographer not only has sumptuous and tempestuous post-R&B beats to help fuel the live performance, but her falsetto is so enviable, its hard to picture anything other than a cherubim uttering at the same octave. (Sean McHugh)

Oneohtrix Point Never (Blue Stage - 8:45)

You're looking at one of the most acclaimed electronic artists in the history of the genre in Daniel Lopatin, and you're getting a chance to hear one of the seminal genre records in a decade live - what more could you need to be brought to the set? (Sean McHugh)

The Top 30 Records of 2015

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3. Beach House - Thank Your Lucky Stars

Thank Your Lucky Stars acts as both an extension of and pivot point for Beach House’s career as a whole. Many may want the band to actively change in a progressive way, but the band chooses to continually broaden their sound in the most familiar and microscopic ways possible instead. Perhaps one of the best integration of all five preceding albums, you hear the metronome, drums are crisper, individual instruments are audible, and Victoria Legrand’s lyrics are unexpectedly discernible at certain points. It's what works for them, and its afforded Beach House the ability to carve out a dream-pop legacy (and avoid becoming a caricature) on their own terms.

 

2. Majical Cloudz - Are You Alone?

Are You Alone? takes off where the Montreal duo’s preceding Impersonator left off; a paradox of bare-bones, minimalist soundscapes ebbing with lush depth that are somehow simultaneously tranquilizing and uplifting. Welsh’s immaculately vulnerable monologues and unflinching vocals are gently bold, and they drive their synth lullabies forward with severe care. It's Welsh at his most overbearing, and yet his tight grip is irresistible. Calculatedly organic, passionately controlled, it’s a journal reading in a dream.

 

 

1. Tame Impala - Currents

Currents is the most adventurous, interesting, and well-produced collection of songs Kevin Parker has created thus far, sitting atop Tame Impala's discography as the most mature and painstakingly crafted iteration in their twisted psych-pop world. From the lush synth tracks that bubble through the mix to his effortless, washed out vocals, every sound is rendered with the utmost care. Currents proves Parker is unable to stick with a certain sound, forever looking for new ways to evolve his ideas and push his project beyond what was expected when Innerspeaker first hit the shelves.