Five Pitchfork Festival Bands You Should Be Listening To Right Now

Pitchfork’s editor-in-chief recommends bands from this year’s festival.

Every two weeks, titans of the mediasphere give Nerve their music recommendations. This week: Mark Richardson, the editor-in-chief of and author of the book Zaireeka. This Friday, The Pitchfork Music Festival 2011 kicks off in Chicago. 


EMA, Past Life Martyred Saints

EMA is Erika M. Anderson, from Oakland via South Dakota, and she makes bleak, multi-layered drone rock that is shot through with a few rays of hope. Her voice sometimes recalls Liz Phair, her songwriting could be compared to Live Through This-era Hole, and her approach to sound sometimes brings to mind Sonic Youth. But Past Life Martyred Saints somehow combines all of these influences into something that feels distinct, intimate, and personal. 

Listen: "Milkman"




James Blake, James Blake

We first heard of this U.K. producer in the context of experimentally minded 12" singles that could be loosely classified as post-dubstep. His tracks were alternately dense and spacious with a keen ear for sound design and a lot of love for cavernous bass, but nothing about them said "pop music." His self-titled debut album changed that, however, with vocal-led tracks that mixed his virtuosic production with song and melody.

Listen: "Milkman"



Destroyer, Kaputt

Destroyer main-man Dan Bejar has rocked out, dabbled in lo-fi, touched on new wave, and grabbed his acoustic and gone folksy, but he's never sounded quite like this. Drawing inspiration from Roxy Music and other icons of early-80s new-romantic pop, Bejar wrapped his songs in a pillowy-soft gauze and added trilling saxophones. But his songwriting is as sharp as ever, resulting what is arguably his career-best record, and certainly the easiest entry point into his catalog.

Listen: "Chinatown"



Shabazz Palaces, Black Up

This album is from a project led Ishmael Butler, formerly of '90s downtempo rap collective Digable Planets, and it sounds like nothing else you'll hear this year. Bass-heavy, disorienting, fragmented, but ultimately still coherent, Black Up is avant-garde hip-hop laced with relatable human concerns.

Listen: "Swerve... The Reeping of All That Is Worthwhile (Noir Not Withstanding)"



Gang Gang Dance, Eye Contact

For years, New York's Gang Gang Dance have been making weird pop that incorporates spiky noise, hip-hop beats, and textures from around the globe. But it wasn't until Eye Contact that they brought all of their influences together into something that could be approached without any knowledge of what the band is about. No less adventurous but considerably more accessible, Eye Contact is the fullest realization yet of Gang Gang Dance's bent aesthetic.

Listen: "Mindkilla"


Commentarium (15 Comments)

Jul 13 11 - 2:21am

(I could/should be critical of music criticism, but I'm afraid the paradox may destroy the universe.)

Objectively speaking, I've always felt that listening to albums before attending a festival always burned me out on the surprise of hearing or having a moment. If you haven't lived with (or loved) the music before this week, revisiting it prior to (instead of after) just doesn't seem as exciting to me. I'll elaborate for a second: Bon Iver has gained a lot of cultural appeal over the past month, in spite of the fact that the group (and Justin Vernon) have been performing for years already. Now, if I wanted to go see them in concert, I have to buy tickets almost three months in advance. Can I guarantee the cool September evening will still mean something in the fast-shuffle, ramshackle world of popular music? Or, can I resign myself to listening for the first time, loving every minute, forgetting completely about the old, and then eventually longing for a unique concert experience?

Let me know if you're with me. I personally think it'd be cool, in lieu of these artists, to suggest origin records to gear up for the festival. (For example, spin Roxy Music's "Avalon" or an old Chris De Burgh album instead of Destroyer.)

Jul 13 11 - 3:12am
Vinegar Bend

One "no" vote for EMA

Jul 14 11 - 4:41pm
some bitchcunt

hot girls will always go far even when their depth is dangerously overstated

Jul 15 11 - 8:31pm

one "yes" vote for EMA
one "no" vote for the rest

Jul 13 11 - 11:40am
Wilhelm Murmur

Objectively speaking, I've always felt that listening to the James Blake album before attending a festival or doing anything else always burns me out. Burns me out because it is the worst. "James Blake" is the most overrated album of 2011. His music is repetitive and annoying. I am finding it hard to believe that the editor in chief of Pitchfork wants the internet to listen to James Blake. You should listen to James Blake if you want to be slightly agitated for the rest of the day.

Jul 13 11 - 1:06pm

that's just, like, your opinion, man

don't claim to know anyone else's

Jul 13 11 - 2:02pm

Wait, so this James Blake went from dubstep-esque to white boy soul covers of Feist? Talk about a 180.

Jul 13 11 - 2:50pm

I've been listening to the Shabazz Palaces album. It's some pretty awesome stuff.

Jul 13 11 - 6:21pm

UGH. This is possibly the worst collection of music I've ever heard in one place. Horrid.

Jul 13 11 - 11:51pm

If Pitchfork like, then I must hate. Die, Pitchfork. Die (in fire).

Jul 14 11 - 1:53am

Dear Nerve,
You have awful taste in just about everything. Could you try to get it right just once?

Jul 14 11 - 2:58am

right out a list of tips about things you like, and maybe they will write only about those to please you

Jul 14 11 - 11:10am

Based on this list, the music production of this era is going to be very easy to pick out 10-15 years later. Not sure how well it will hold up.

Jul 14 11 - 4:42pm
some bitchcunt

does everything by gang gang dance sound like a tranced out emulation of the knife?

Jul 15 11 - 6:17pm

Well at least Deerhunter will be there.