Who doesn’t love a music festival, right? It’s all the best parts of a concert–music, friends, alcohol and drugs…just lots and lots more of them! Each year, more and more of them are popping up all over the place. Whether or not you already know, Fun Fun Fun will be launching it’s 6th annual event, one of the most diverse line ups ever! Fun Fun Fun Fest (FFF) is an independent genre based festival, known as one of the most relaxed, creative, and pioneering festivals in music today. FFF is a fest that is custom booked for the most passionate underground and progressive musicians, comedians and fans around the world.
No matter how bad the U.S. economy might be doing, there are always certain things you can depend on. We will always spend money on food, electronics, vacations, and music. And you can certainly count on the festival scene to not only continue, but to expand and grow. FFF has grown so much that this year it has moved from its original location at Waterloo Park to Auditorium Shores. This year some of the scheduled performers include Public Enemy, Slayer, Neon Indian, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Passion Pit, Danzig Legacy, The Damned, Trash Talk, Ty Segall, Davila 666 and many more! Pitchfork will be live streaming the entire event all weekend, November 4th, 5th, and 6th.
One of the best reasons to go is to discover new music! Anyone who has ever been or considered going to experience a massive event like this knows what it feels like when looking towards the bottom of the schedule. It can almost feel like reading a foreign language, seeing bands listed that you have never heard of. That’s where we come in to help. This can be used as a planning guide for deciding who to catch for those of you lucky enough to be able to attend. For everyone else, this is intended to be used as a primer for armchair quarterback fans. We will be providing first hand live coverage, in addition to posting reviews and interviews after it next week. In our best and on going effort to cover the best in indie music, we present The Top 20 Indie Picks for FFF 2011. These are some artists seemingly turning up everywhere this year, and those we expect will be soon.
M83 is the electronic music project of the French artist Anthony Gonzalez. He and former member Nicolas Fromageau founded the group in 2001 in Antibes, France. M83’s style owes a lot to the shoegaze genre, in that there is much emphasis on tonality, extensive use of reverb effects and often softly-spoken lyrics at times submerged in instrumentation. M83 was named after the spiral galaxy “Messier 83”. The double album was grandiose in scale and inspired by Smashing Pumpkin’s revered double disc Melancholy & The Infinite Sadness, Anthony has long had the goal to create his own monumental double disc record. Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming was just released in October, including a contribution from Zola Jesus. M83 has opened for both the Killers and Kings Of Leon, and also had music featured in the trailer for A Scanner Darkly.
Odd Future (short for Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All), a ten-member cult rap collective from L.A., bring to mind a younger, crazier Wu-Tang Clan — if the Clan had skateboarded and rhymed about drugs and gore instead of chess and kung-fu. Ranging from the age 16 to 20, core members Earl Sweatshirt, Mike G, Left Brain, Hodgy Beats, and Tyler, the Creator started making music along with collaborators Taco, Matt Martians, Domo Genesis, Syd, and Jasper Dolphin in 2007. The crew’s crude sense of humor and confrontational subject matter earned them a huge underground following, and put them on “top artists to watch” lists. Throughout 2010, Tyler, Earl, Mike G, and MellowHype (Hodgy and Left Brain) released mixtapes individually as free downloads, but as of 2011, no concrete plans were yet made for a definitive Odd Future album. It’s hard to believe that anyone doesn’t know about or hasn’t at least heard of them. This has been their year, from Tyler The Creator releasing Goblin and winning an MTV VMA, to gaining international attention, releasing a book that has sold out of pre-orders and getting their own Adult Swim show. So far this year they played SXSW, Pitchfork Fest, and most recently and notoriously Voo Doo Experience. Their rock and roll rebellious attitudes and actions combine with the music and culture of hip-hop to form one powerful force to be reckoned with. Love them or hate them, there is no middle ground with these emerging superstars.
One of the most popular and buzzworthy blog favorites this year is the San Francisco based duo. The band’s lead singer, Christopher Owens, is a former member of the Children of God cult. Owens was prohibited from hearing secular music and forced to grow his obsession through whatever means he could find, mainly music from PG movie soundtracks. He says it made him obsessed with music in a way. So he I found out about Queen by watching Highlander, and Guns N’ Roses by watching Lean On Me. In September they released their second album Father, Son, Holy Ghost. They tour with a larger ensemble and sometimes even with a choir.
4. We Were Promised Jetpacks
Following closely in the footsteps of The Twilight Sad and Frightened Rabbit, We Were Promised Jetpacks are yet another hugely talented young Scottish 4 piece band. Before even releasing a single, WWPJ have laid claim to some recent successes which bode well for the future of the band. A well recorded three-track demo was circulated and managed to pick up a KEXP track of the day over the pond, and plays on national stations in the UK were popping up on XFM, BBC and Q radio. You could loosely pin some reference points onto WWPJ; the vocals reminiscent of Morrissey or Paul Banks (Interpol), clever guitar interplay similar to something you’d hear on a Billy Mahonie track, dynamically you could compare them to Mogwai, and generally Futureheads/Hot Club De Paris/Postcard/Fire Engine are all good markers. If the nascent WWPJ aural template embraced light-footed compositions – few effects pedals, traditional song structures, clear-cut guitars – succeeding years have seen WWPJ soar aural heights and mine emotional depths in every sense: the band you will encounter now are a cacophonous tour de force: louder, wilder, avidly literate; fiercely melodic, yet eagerly restrained.
5. Cloud Nothings
Cloud Nothings is the brainchild of 18 year old Cleveland resident Dylan Baldi. Late in 2009, he started recording a bunch of catchy indie rock songs on his computer in the basement of his parent’s house. Dylan wasn’t so concerned with them being lo-fi. But since he only had his simple computer and a crappy microphone that’s the way they turned out. Almost immediately praise was bestowed upon young Dylan, and as new songs were unleashed, the online excitement only grew. It’s been a crazy year for Cloud Nothings since they burst onto the music scene last winter. Dylan needed to take his songs on the road, so he formed a band with TJ Duke on bass, Jayson Gerycz on drums, and Joe Boyer on guitar. Since then the band has played SXSW and CMJ, toured with Wavves, and played shows with such bands as Titus Andronicus, Parts & Labor, Best Coast, and Kurt Vile. Their live shows have become super tight, displaying an intensity and precision rarely seen in bands of any age, thus receiving recognition from Pitchfork, Spin, The NY Times and the Washington Post.
The brainchild of Merrill Garbus, tUnE-yArDs began life as dictaphone recordings which were then painstakingly mixed down on GarageBand to create the opening gambit, her debut album BiRd-BrAiNs. Initially released on a limited LP run through Marriage records with screenprinted sleeves recycled from thrift store bargain bins, it wasn’t long until others took notice and she soon signed a worldwide deal with 4AD. The album was formally released in late-2009, having been remastered and with four more tracks added. The Guardian, whilst awarding it 5/5, called her “the find of the year.” In 2011, that rings as true. Alongside the record, she also started to build quite a reputation for her live performances. Using loop pedals, two mics, a snare drum, a ukelele, her distinctive voice (she’s spent time teaching singing in Kenya) and crucially, a second band member, Nate Brenner on bass. Together, things started to happen when they took to the road with kindred spirits, the Dirty Projectors, on both their US and European tours. As word of mouth spread, the venues they were playing in were filling up earlier than usual as people heard of their genius. Anyone who has seen them live will attest to them being nothing short of incredible live. It comes as no surprise then that at this year’s SXSW, they were one of the biggest draws.
Some bands are fly-by-night operations, garnering instant fame, critical acclaim and shattering all album sales expectations within their first couple years of operation. You’ve seen ‘em before — they’re certainly here today, everyone’s darlings tomorrow, and merely relegated to curbside refuse service just before the end of the week. Boris is certainly not one of those spontaneous success stories. Boris have carved out a prominent niche within hipster metal with a combination of muscular rock and abstract drone. Here’s Boris’s simple stage: A long-haired dude in a Harvey Milk t-shirt with a headless, double-necked bass/guitar; a woman looking Dolores O’Riordan-tiny behind her ax; and an even longer-haired drummer in an open-chested animal-print shirt with an enormous Zildjian gong mounted behind him. If you’ve been into Pink since its Japanese release, you don’t know the names of the songs because they all show up as strings of squares on your iPod, but you recognize the snarling bass grooves and bowel-rumbling sheets of guitar.
8. Purity Ring
Purity Ring is the futuristic pop project of Corin Roddick and Megan James. Purity Ring makes lullabies for the club, drawing equally from airy 90s R&B, lush dream pop, and the powerful immediacy of the very best modern indie pop. The band erupted out of the gates in early 2011 with its first single “Ungirthed” b/w “Lofticries”, released on notable UK label Transparent, garnering praise from tastemakers such as Pitchfork, the Guardian, and the FADER. They have played CMJ and toured with Neon Indian. Purity Ring creates great dub-step-y electro with lots of samples and lots and lots of super melodic hitches and machine made catchy glitches.
9. Major Lazer
That epic dancehall collaboration from DJ/producers Diplo and Switch, and a slew of guest contributors like M.I.A., Santigold and Amanda Blank, it’s a hit! Fronted by a cartoon zombie-slaying Jamaican soldier the Major Lazer experience is beyond surreal. It’s a freaky sideshow brought to you by two of the scene’s biggest and brightest talents who bend genres onto themselves with seamless ease, swarming pop culture with an outlandish outpouring of mayhem that spans from absurd live shows to chart-smacking bangers with breakthrough performances worldwide. Having collaborated on M.I.A.’s surprise hit “Paper Planes” and Santigold’s debut album, Diplo and Switch birthed Major Lazer from a shared appreciation for the Jamaican dancehall genre and spirit of the sound system. They have played Coachella, Pitchfork and HARD Summer festivals.
Diplo, Diplodocus, Wes Gully, and Wes Diplo are all pseudonyms of Wesley Pentz, a Philadelphia-based producer and DJ. Together with DJ Low Budget, he runs Hollertronix, a club and music collective. In addition to his solo career, he has worked with British-based singer and artist M.I.A.. The two were also romantically involved. Pentz’s alias, short for Diplodocus, derives from his childhood fascination with dinosaurs. As a DJ, Diplo is characterized by his eclectic, often 80s-oriented mashups, mixtapes, and live sets. On his full-length solo effort, Florida, however, his sound is closer to sample-based cinematic instrumental hip hop, such as the work of DJ Shadow. Through a widespread assortment of releases and artistsʼ works – from cumbia
to dubstep to punk and beyond – Diplo has shown dynamic range with interests that span far beyond any singular culture or musical realm, standing as a working model for the truly 21st Century artist.
11. Flying Lotus
Flying Lotus (Steve Ellison) comes across as gregarious and buoyant as his beats; lithe and animated on stage, the L.A. hip-hop head would be infectious even if you couldn’t hear a thing. It’s no surprise his music and personality have made him fixed point in a constantly expanding global network of creative producers, in some cases linked through the Low End Theory night and his own Brainfeeder label. He tackles more celestial connections on his new album Cosmogramma, completed in the wake of his mother’s death. Adding layers of emotional and musical complexity– including string arrangements, harp and saxophone from his cousin Ravi Coltrane– the record shows Ellison making a cathartic and creative leap, his own unique contribution to his family’s spiritual discography. Flying Lotus has grown into the position of being far more than a producer, he has helped materialize a far-reaching strain of musical ideology that has encompassed not only a global family of like-minded artists, but also a nearly infinite palate of planetary (and interplanetary) sonics. Certainly these are further reaches into a musical space that Flying Lotus had hitherto been exploring, however other collaborators such as Erykah Badu and Outkast string arranger Miguel Atwood-Ferguson and guest vocalists Thom Yorke and a returning Laura Darlington (featured on Los Angeles epic closing track nifinitum) help deliver Cosmogramma to dizzying new heights. This video has over 2 million hits, and was on Adult Swim.
12. Architecture In Helsinki
5 piece Australian indie pop band, over three wildly diverse studio albums, a remix album and countless singles and eps, Architecture in Helsinki have delved deep into the heart of pop music. Heart and pop being the operative words here. For all their expectation-confounding twists and turns, AIH have always retained a massive amount of heart in their skewed take on what pop music is, and what it can be. The band’s relentless years of touring have turned them in to a live force to be reckoned with. Having played festivals and shows in every corner of the globe the band has built a fierce international following. Architecture in Helsinki live shows are a heady blend of sweat, heart, energy and fun. They were on NPR’s Song of the Day, as well as garnering praise from all the blogs that matter. Their newest record, Moment Bends, might be the first great modernist pop album of 2011. It is a hook-laden, magnetic and lush album they’ve waited their whole lives to make, retaining the fizzing immediacy of its three predecessors but re-moulded with a more sophisticated touch.
13. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
Influenced by the East Coast post-hardcore scene of the late 80s is this American rock band formed in 1999 in Washington, D.C. and currently recording for Matador Records. They have released six full-length studio albums and have toured internationally. Though the group’s lineup has fluctuated throughout their career, singer/guitarist Ted Leo has remained the band’s main songwriter, creative force, and only constant member. For their fifth full-length release (and first with Touch and Go Records), Ted Leo and the Pharmacists met up with Brendan Canty (Fugazi) at Long View Farms to iron out a new set of anthems that arrive with a confident and outspoken immediacy. With “Living with the Living,” Ted & Co. wipe clean the slate that once held names like Weller, Strummer and Bragg and indulge some of their farthest-reaching musical ambitions.
14. The Joy Formidable
The Joy Formidable, a trio from Wales, released their new album, The Big Roar this year. The Big Roar comes two years after The Joy Formidable released their debut album in February of 2009, the indie-rock explosion of A Balloon Called Moaning, which SPIN magazine named one of the 10 Best Records You Might Have Missed in 2010. The band has since tightened their focus and loosened their sound, allowing for the choruses to be more anthemic and the colossal rush of guitars and melodic hooks to stand out in their jaw-dropping splendor. NME praised the band and album, calling lead-singer Ritzy Bryan “rock’s new heroine,” and proclaiming The Big Roar “an LP that ultimately delivers on every count on the four years of promise leading up to it-primarily in its gutsy, chest-swelling brilliance.”
15. Lykke Li
Sweden’s Lykke Li can’t stay still. Her life and her career are relentlessly pulled forward by an impatient desire to see what’s just around the corner, her music full of ideas about moving on and breaking free. Just eighteen months ago, she was complaining to her mentor, Bjorn, of Peter and John fame, that everything had gone wrong because she was twenty and still hadn’t released an album. Now twenty-two, she’s finding that things are on track. In addition to recording with Bjorn, she has also been featured on the cover of Spin.
Spoon full-lengths have included Telephono (1996), A Series Of Sneaks (1998), Girls Can Tell (2001), Kill The Moonlight (2002) and Gimme Fiction (2005), which received raves from THE NEW YORK TIMES, TIME, NEWSWEEK, ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY and VANITY FAIR, and wound up on BLENDER and SPIN’s Best of 2005 lists. Britt also co-authored the score to the feature film STRANGER THAN FICTION, to which the band from Austin contributed the exclusive track “The Book I Write” as well as several other songs. Their newest release Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (2007) which debuted at Number 10 on the BILLBOARD 200 as well as Number 1 on the BILLBOARD Top Independent Albums and was selected by ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE as #10 on their Top 50 Albums of 2007. Simply a legend in their own right, everyone should experience Spoon live!
17. Active Child
Los Angeles based Active Child, the musical project from choirboy-turned-indie pop musician Pat Grossi, recently released his debut album You Are All I See. One of those tracks, “Playing House,” is a collaboration with lo-fi r&b singer How To Dress Well and was recently premiered on Pitchfork. Pat has been getting nods from Pitchfork and The Fader. “The cascading piano line that introduces this duet is too perfect, spiraling like an Alice in Wonderland techno-trip into fantasy R&B, like spelunking the deep internet without a safety USB cord. Pairing bedroom falsetto connoisseurs Active Child and How to Dress Well, “Playing House” rivals heights of collaborative Auto-warble last seen in Kanye‘s weird work with Bon Iver. The boys always threaten to take homage over-the-top, but “Playing House” is undeniable magic.”
18. Okkervil River
Okkervil River’s Black Sheep Boy was one of the most acclaimed releases of 2005. This underdog of a record even managed to come to the attention of rock icon Lou Reed, who on the MTV Video Music Awards and in the Denver Post pronounced Okkervil River one of his favorite contemporary bands. Their fourth full-length may also be the Austin natives’ most conceptually gnarled work to date, as frontman Will Sheff’s intricately detailed lyrics leap from the ornate to the blunt, encompass philosophical inquiries and goofily playful riffing, invite the listener into confidence only to con them. With a voice both poetic and toughly slangy, these songs are equal parts high-concept filigree and low, street-level kicks; they’re both artistically ambitious and refreshingly unpretentious. They have opened for Arcade Fire before.
For mercurial L.A. music-maker Will Wiesenfeld, Baths has been a long time coming. The 21-year-old has spent the better part of his days living amidst “pleasant” and “unremarkable” in the suburbs of the San Fernando Valley, so perhaps it’s due to a general lack of local inspiration that Wiesenfeld’s own work has never fit into a prefab box of its own. bbed The Fabric – was released on Mu-Nest in January. Though Baths represents the next evolution in Wiesenfeld’s oeuvre – which also includes the excellent ambient project Geotic – it came together under nigh-opposite circumstances. Last September, [Post-Foetus] was invited by L.A. electronicist Daedelus to share a bill with a handful of local Beat Music luminaries. Witnessing a burgeoning movement firsthand sparked something in Wiesenfeld that the ‘burbs never could. In a fit of inspiration, Baths was born, though not into a preexisting scene. As is to be expected, this music goes its own way: fueled by spontaneity, tempered by Wiesenfeld’s background in classic songwriting. Those two influences collide in glorious ways on Cerulean, Baths’ stunning debut.
20. Fat Tony
Fat Tony is a Houston based Nigerian-American rap artist known for his wordly, literate, funny, smart songwriting and energetic live performances. Winner of the 2010, 2009, & 2008 Houston Press Music Awards’ “Best Underground Hip Hop” award, he’s also known to be a bit of a critical darling. His latest album RABDARGAB is entirely produced by Tom Cruz (Supreeme, Cen’c Love) and features Murs and more. His accessible nature has brought forth collaborations with artists such as Bun B, Das Racist, Nick Diamonds (Islands, Mister Heavenly, The Unicorns), OG Ron C, Juiceboxxx, B L A C K I E, and more. His RABDARGAB press release says it best: “he raps like a nigga that read a book before, but a nigga nonetheless.” He is one of the select few to already have been picked for SXSW 2012, and has played there before.
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