We chose four acts for each day of Paris’ Pitchfork Music Festival this weekend that are absolutely not to miss.
1. This Is The Kit
British musician Kate Stables, working under the alias of This Is The Kit, offers sometimes sweet and playful, sometimes ethereal and wispy, always welcoming alt-folk with a slew of synth and guitar beautifully intertwining with banjo and brass. Stables’ warm and inviting vocals are masterfully foregrounded that burrow deep in listeners’ ears.
Her newest release, Moonshine Freeze, recalls a trip through the European woods: “Bullet Proof” reminds of the bittersweet sadness through a slow and slightly sad tempo as fading autumnal light trickles through the last orange leaves on trees through soothing violin and thoughtfully plucked guitar. Title track “Moonshine Freeze” evokes the (appropriate) “change of things” in the slow increase of restlessness. The trembling vocals and strings bring to mind an image of life being breathed back into a wintry landscape at the start of spring.
Oxfordshire-based Ride achieve a melodic shoegaze through their neo-psychedelic distortion and dynamic songcraft. Having officially disbanded back in 1996, the four-piece came storming back in 2014, and released Weather Diaries this year. Having their sweet time to hone their own skills and sounds since their debut (Mark Gardener pursued solo projects and collaborations, Andy Bell formed Hurricane #1 and played bass with Oasis, and Stephen Queralt played with the Jesus and Mary Chain and Supergrass) they follow a multitude of new genres in addition to their classic style. “Integration Tape” takes on a drone-ish form with echoing vocals and “White Sands” echoes the 1970s in jazzy rhythms. They’ve created a perfect balance between a salute to the past in classic Wall of Sound style like in the introductory harmonies on monolith “Charm Assault,” as well as modern production styles that include kaleidoscopic synth lines like on album opener “Lannoy Point.” It’ll be an exciting experience to witness the nostalgic revival of their newest work, hopefully mixed in with some older favorites.
3. Kevin Morby
A singer-songwriter out of Kansas City best known for his work with Brooklyn bands the Babies (featuring noise-pop powerhouse Cassie Ramone) and Woods, Kevin Morby began his solo work with Harlem River in 2013 before relocating to Los Angeles to continue this pursuit.
Each of his albums seem to exemplify a point of transition in his life: Harlem River as a love letter to New York City as he moved away from its charms, Still Life as a documentation of Morby’s life as a wanderer, and Singing Saw grounds him in the present reality. This summer’s release of City Music seems no different as it takes a peaceful, utopian perspective on the bustling restlessness it so aptly references. Like a captivating dream that comes rushing back to you weeks after you’ve had it, whether it be through a jolting shock of energy or a muffled, dreamy melody seemingly shouted into a great open space, the Dylan- and Cohen-esque music will be sure to bring optimism to all. With each album after the last being described as “his best yet,” it’ll be good to see if a live performance gives them justice.
4. The National
Two EPs, seven studio albums and 18 years under their belt, New York indie-rock band The National have been proving themselves as unique and dynamic musically. Sleep Well Beast, released this past September, is a patiently grand addition to their heaving and masterful discography, moving away from the consistent sounds of their past and into a less done-up version of themselves. They continue to feature the most poetic sides of themselves, however, never moving away from the sweet poetry their intensely-crafted lyrics, powerful vocals, and tight instrumentals that have defined them from the very beginning. It seems The National have finally found a way to relax, and it suits them beautifully.
HMLTD (fka Happy Meal LTD until legality issues loomed) aren’t playing around when it comes to, well, just about anything. Residing somewhere in between glam pop, experimental hip hop, trap, noise rock, and post-punk, the six-piece are masters of their own art. They’re creating a unique production through the integration of various seemingly-different influences, but that doesn’t just limit them to music. Each show is a theatrical set-piece in and of itself; their performance, not just through sounds but also through each of the senses, achieves a provocative and interactive experience for everyone. The band’s greatest goal is to achieve a reaction, no matter how positive or negative that may be. Have a listen to their songs, watch one of their videos, or catch them early on Friday at the Grande Halle, and decide for yourself where you stand.
6. Cigarettes After Sex
Wistful, noir, hazy, ambient; Cigarettes After Sex are everything you need to close your eyes to and ship yourself off to a melancholic soundscape dreamland. Formed by frontman Greg Gonzales in 2008 in El Paso, Texas, he released his first EP, I, in 2012. The recording gained “mysterious” fame–at least in its manner of publicity. The androgynous vocals and tight-knit guitars that pierce through the pleasant and slowly seeping fog-like atmosphere leaves no room for question why they were launched into the public view. Their newest self-titled album, released this past summer, attacks the notion that slow songs must and always will be boring; after a few concentrated listens, strengths emerge. Electricity juxtaposes serenity, and the album forms complete.
7. Sylvan Esso
Comprised of singer Amelia Meath and producer Nick Sanborn, electropop duo Sylvan Esso debuted with their self-titled album, featuring the smoothly upbeat hit “Hey Mami” (easily recognizable by Meath’s echoing vocals and bell-clear harmonies in a catchy and quirkily arrhythmic backing beat) three and a half years ago. It wasn’t until this spring that the duo emerged again with a new album: the boisterously humorous and touchingly tender What Now. The formulaic process of creating pop music can sometimes take the soul out of an artist’s productions, but Meath and Sanborn take the opportunity to be sincere and bittersweet (“Die Young”), but also scathingly critical (“Radio”), proving to themselves and to everyone else that pop music is anything but shallow.
In a world of music artists performing with their fingers glued to keyboards, London-sourced funk and soul band Jungle expands to include seven members (from two founding members Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland, originally known as only the anonymous “J” and “T”) onstage during live sets to present their hypnotic tunes sans computers. Busting down doors seemingly out of nowhere in 2013 and then launching into even further fame after their self-titled in 2015, Jungle’s addictive danceable music touches on gooey bass accented by sometimes bubbly, sometimes frothy synth, and the occasional presence of some beautifully synthesized horns. It’ll be an impressive end of a Friday night to catch the seven-piece pull the attention of the entire Grande Halle.
Synth-pop singer-songwriter Sigrid has been gathering crowds in her home country of Norway since 2013, but with the release of “Don’t Kill My Vibe” this year, the infectious chart-topping hit has brought her into the limelight of even more countries in Europe. Sweet yet salty, with booming vocals raspy as a rock epic but smooth as a ballad, backed by bright synths and heavy drums, it’s no wonder she’s attracted the attention of listeners. It won’t be any surprise if her sound travels all the way around the world by the time she releases her first album. Having only a few single releases so far, perhaps witnessing a performance will give insight to a bright future.
BadBadNotGood, a four-piece out of Toronto’s Humber College jazz program, layer their songs in a perfect blend of soul, funk, hip hop, and jazz to create hypnotic, futuristic improvisation. Having caught the attention of the music world through their jazz interpretations of songs from a variety of genres (ranging from My Bloody Valentine to A Tribe Called Quest), they have been able to work with hip hop scene bigwigs like Tyler, the Creator, Frank Ocean, and Ghostface Killah. Their newest album, IV, exemplifies a maturity gained from experiences such as these; velvety smooth, they’ve graduated from jam-band status to something just as intriguing but with a done-up tie, a clasped cuff link, painting the picture of a smoky neon-lit lounge with classic gravelly-yet-hushed vocals, peppered jazz flute, and sly saxophone.
11. Princess Nokia
Harlem native Destiny Frasqueri donned the alias “Princess Nokia” and released two mixtapes and an EP independently after label interest increased her skepticism of the music industry. She defines herself through her unabashedly confident individualism and self-assured, confrontational style. Facing topics such as the fight for feminism against the patriarchy, the struggles of social injustice, and diversity in beauty and identity, the Afro-Puerto Rican rapper’s autobiographical songs are a perfect meld of humor and palpable honesty. She is comfortable in her own skin, and each songs, reminiscent of 1992 (the name of her latest mixtape released on Rough Trade as 1992 Deluxe) when hip-hop in New York was gritty and raw, exemplifies that in a rugged manner.
12. Run The Jewels
Intensely honest hip-hop duo El-P and Killer Mike of Run The Jewels identify as leftist, politically active, and ready to stick it to the man. With the release of their 2013 self-titled album, its follow-up RTJ2 the next year, and now RTJ3, they’re defining themselves as powerhouses of their own kind. A rallying of troops and a call to hold those in the elite classes accountable for their actions, RTJ3 is a manifesto of the duo’s definitively defiant image and the desire to topple oppression in the present world where it is all-too present. The “addictive, energetic, funny, and endlessly listenable” songs paired with the pair’s psychedelic frenzy in a live atmosphere will make the night one not to forget.