James Blake, Bon Iver Share Stunning ‘I Need A Forest Fire’ Video (Watch)

After building buzz for his new album The Colour in Anything with a pop-up flock of Quentin Blake-illustrated billboards, James Blake released the 17-track, melancholic beast on May 6. For his third full-length studio LP, Blake recruited the legendary Rick Rubin to co-produce seven tracks, with additional support from Frank Ocean, Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and Connan Mockasin.

The result is chilly and textural, metallic and complex—a familiar sound from the London native that, perhaps, sounds strongest on the Vernon-assisted album opener, “I Need a Forest Fire.”

While the track alone inevitably tugs on heartstrings, as Blake songs typically do, the accompany video brings it to a more stylized, sophisticated place. Directed by Matt Clark in collaboration with Chris Davenport, the visual treatment is simple, featuring a lineup of beautifully lit art pieces, from Renaissance statues to pendulums. Watch, below: 

9 Best Kanye West Collaborations of All Time

Producer and singer-songwriter James Blake has been vague on the details surrounding his new album Radio Silence, but yesterday brought good news for fans of the Grammy-nominated Englishman. He confirmed in an interview with Esquire that Kanye West, as well as Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, will make appearances on the forthcoming LP. A devout user of superlative statements, West has referred to Blake as his “favorite artist,” so all signs point to the collaboration being a cross-genre success. West is nothing short of an accomplished solo artist (he did declare himself the “greatest living rock star on the planet” at this year’s Glastonbury festival), but some of his best musical moments have been collaborations. In fact, you might say his success would be half of what it is today if it weren’t for all of the artists he’s made music with. Though he’s known to show up in the background of many a Jay Z and Rihanna track, his best collabs have been with members outside of his billionaire club. Here are the best Kanye West collaborations of all time.

Big Sean, “One Man Can Change The World”

Theophilus London, “Can’t Stop”

Kid Cudi, “Erase Me”

Keri Hilson, “Knock You Down”

Kanye West, “Homecoming” ft. Chris Martin

Katy Perry, “E.T.”

Kanye West, “Monster” ft. Jay Z, Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross, and Bon Iver

Kanye West, “Gold Digger” ft. Jamie Foxx

Kanye West, “Only One” ft. Paul McCartney

James Blake Comes Thru on Drake Remix

Back in 2011, the enterprising Philadelphia DJ Bombé mashed up James Blake and Drake for his appropriately-titled James Drake mixtape. Now the British crooner and Canadian rapper have come together for real, as Blake steps in to remix “Come Thru.” The penultimate track on Drake’s recently-released album Nothing Was The Same gets remade with blasts of airy synths, the original’s sudden change in tone turned into a thumping electronic fantasy.

Following his collaborations with RZA and Chance the Rapper, it looks like Blake’s still strengthening his hip-hop connections. The soulful singer/producer is currently on an extensive US tour in support of his second album, Overgrown, which came out earlier this year. Check out jamesblakemusic.com for full details.

Airhead Streams ‘Autumn,’ Announces Debut LP

Airhead is Rob McAndrews, a childhood friend of James Blake who has jammed in the studio with James and Brian Eno. In other words, yes, he is a musician. And he’s putting out a debut album, For Years on June 11 with R&S Records. Take a listen to the winsome first single, “Autumn,” below.

Matching all the pretty melancholia of the season, “Autumn” is composed of cloudy picked guitar and coy, childlike vocals. Its success is in how it sounds like something recorded outside, with the sun coming through red and golden leaves.

Airhead’s roots, however, as discussed, go far beyond the pastoral lilt and Nick Drake naturalism. Here, for example, is an old fifteen-minute mix for BBC Radio1 he put together with long-time collaborator James Blake, who is forging a new strange path through dubstep.  

How To Dress Well Makes Thought-Provoking R&B That Stands On Its Own

Tom Krell is a Colorado-born singer and producer whose haunting vocals, emotionally driven lyrics, and experimental beats can only heard when channeled through his R&B-loving alter-ego, How To Dress Well. He’s an artist who is very concerned about how his music is perceived, and his eagerness for a seal of approval comes across in every track as he pours his heart and soul into every note in the process. We caught up with him to discuss his new album, Total Loss, being compared to Jamie Woon and James Blake, and where he stands in the R&B world.

How To Dress Well—interesting name you’ve got there. How did you come up with it?
When I first starting recording music, I was filing it away in my laptop at a friend’s house. iTunes asked for a name, and there, on the coffee table, were two old books my friend had copped from the bookstore below our flat: How To Photograph Women Beautifully and How To Dress Well. I just picked one, and, since then, everything I’ve recorded has been filed under that name. I can see how some people would find it off-putting or arrogant, but it’s definitely not intended to be. It’s really just a random name.

Random, but cool! As a youngster growing up, which musicians did you draw influence from as you were finding your musical feet?
Like, as a kid, kid? I’d say Michael Jackson, Tevin Campbell, and so on. But then it’s like Brian Eno, Grouper, Feist, Kate Bush, Babyface, Mount Eerie, Nine Inch Nails, Antony, The KLF… Yeah, I’ve been into a lot of different shit.

And you would describe your music how?
Regardless of what genre it’s closest to, I consider HTDW spiritually experimental music. The voice and harmonies are the foundation.

You’ve been compared to the likes of U.K. crooners Jamie Woon and James Blake. What are your honest thoughts on that?
Some comparisons are a bit knee-jerk. I mean, most of them I can certainly understand. However, I do find my music to be more in the plane of Maxwell, Tracy Chapman, Grouper, and Kate Bush, rather than Woon or Blake.

Thanks for clearing that one up! It seems many artists today are almost afraid to put themselves under the R&B bracket, but you don’t seem to mind. What do you think you bring to the genre that is, perhaps, currently missing?
Well, I’m not too quick to place myself under that bracket, either, but I do love a very wide range of R&B artists. And, to that genre, I hope I can bring something thought provoking and heartfelt. I do think that pop-R&B often misses those elements. 

Although you released music before 2010’s Love Remains album, that particular LP got the music world talking a lot. What was it about Love Remains that you think people connected with so much?
I’m glad that a lot of people connected with it. It’s an album about melancholy, and the goal was to portray melancholy, not simply by singing about it, but actually trying to present the affective terrain of melancholy sonically. I think people heard, understood, and felt that intention.

Tell me about your latest project, Total Loss. What was the thought process behind this album?
It’s an album about mourning: mourning the loss of loved ones, love, faith, desire, and hope. And when I say mourning, I mean coming to grips with loss, not getting over it—as I do feel like that’s an impossible task, particularly with death—but learning to live with and grow from it.

Very deep. All right, honestly, do you feel that the mainstream’s ready for what you’re about? 
Man, I really don’t know. I mean, I hope so! I genuinely do. I would love for more people to listen to and find solace in Total Loss.

On a totally different note, who are you listening to right now? Anyone out there who you could see yourself working with down the line?
Right now, as we’re speaking, I’m listening to And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead [laughs]. I was listening to Jeremih before that. Collabs are super exciting, and I hope I get to do some sick ones, but I’m more looking to work with artists, filmmakers, etc.

You’re already off to a great start, but what are your hopes for the future?
I hope these upcoming tours go well, and that people can take something special away from the shows. I want to record, record, record! I’m constantly writing new music. I also hope that I can live fully and love, be in love, and be loved for the rest of my life.

Follow Joseph ‘JP’ Patterson on Twitter.

Deciphering the Pitchfork Readers Poll

Sure, it may be a brand-new year, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take some time to reflect back on what was awesome and what was terrible from last year. People love giving their opinions and others love to hate said opinions! It’s pretty much the only thing to read on the internet in the last two weeks of the year, so it’s unsurprising that it’ll carry over to the first business day of the new year. Take Pitchfork’s year-end lists, for example: the staff lists were full of considerate and well-written criticism, which is somewhat dissimilar to the point-of-view of most of the site’s detractors, who still associate Pitchfork with pretentious hipster snark. The 2011 Pitchfork Readers Poll, on the other hand, does without the commentary, and instead compiles lists of the so-called best albums of the year, as well as the most underrated and overrated albums. 

The list of Pitchfork’s readers’ favorite albums of the year is not so surprising. Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, M83, James Blake, and Girls all top the list, meaning it was yet again another stellar year for sensitive dudes and their emotions. It’s nice to see that other Pitchfork favorites like St. Vincent, PJ Harvey, tUnE-yArDs, Feist, and Lykke Li also made it into the boys’ club of whatever we’re calling the broader genre of "indie rock" these days. 

What’s more entertaining, however, are the next two lists of the most under- and overrated albums. Panda Bear’s Tomboy and Radiohead’s King of Limbs is made it not only in the top 50 but also the overrated and the underrated lists. The Strokes’ Angels is the sole album that only shows up on the underrated list; the others, which range from Childish Gambino to Yuck to Wilco (Wilco! So underrated!), show up on the top fifty list. I guess means that The Strokes are actually the only underrated band of 2011. What a long way they’ve come from the heady days of 2001 when I couldn’t turn on the radio without hearing "Last Nite."

Of course, the list of the most overrated albums is hilarious, because Bon Iver’s self-titled release takes the number one spot just as it does on the top fifty list. The collection of overrated albums also includes popular titles like Adele’s 21, Coldplay’s Mylo Xyloto, Foster the People’s Torches, Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter IV,  and Florence and the Machine’s Ceremonials, none of which showed up in the readers’ favorites. 

So what have we learned here? Some people who read Pitchfork really like Bon Iver! And also some people who read Pitchfork do not like Bon Iver. They also don’t care for bands and musicians with chart-topping albums (unless, in the case of some of them, they are fans of Bon Iver). But I think the most important part is that we can all agree that The Strokes are so underrated; it’s really unfair that no one ever talks about that band! A fascinating study, for sure!

[via Annicka]

James Blake’s ‘A Case of You’ Gets a Brooding Music Video

Earlier this year, James Blake released a debut album beloved by listeners, with delicate tastes and aesthetic sensibilities. Did you listen to it? You probably did! You also probably watched his transformation into an Indie It Figure, and maybe read interviews in which he talked about the evolution of dubstep and pointed out the anti-testosterone current running through his music. All in all, it was a very James Blake 2011.

But 2011 is not over, and today, Blake released a music video for his cover of Joni Mitchell’s "A Case of You." His version first got attention back in February, when he covered it for the BBC, but this take is all cleaned up and very crisp sounding. Actress Rebecca Hall (Vicky Cristina Barcelona, The Town) is the centerpiece of the entire video: she shaves her legs in the bathtub, does her makeup in a mirror, talks to someone off-screen, looks alternately sad and happy, and everything in between. There’s a lot more gravitas than The Town, that’s for sure! (Jokes, I’ve got jokes for days.)

You can also watch Joni Mitchell perform the song below, if that’s more your speed.

James Blake on Dubstep, Outkast, & Growing Up an Only Child

They say in the music world that every generation witnesses a “British Invasion.” Consider yourself warned: James Blake, the talented “post dubstep” artist from London, might be the new coming. But perhaps his thoughtful, haunting music will ultimately stand alone rather than be lumped in with that of his countrymen and fellow dubstep producers, many of whom are currently also gaining traction in the States.

To listen to Blake’s self-titled debut album is akin to burrowing inside the head of an introspective young musician; the quiet yearning expressed in his songs seems a far cry from the deafening, all-encompassing bass that often comes to mind when you think of the genre. Yet if his remixes of “A Milli” and the Destiny’s Child anthem “Bills, Bills, Bills” (along with his recent set at Pitchfork, which transformed into a dance party during “CMYK”) is any indication, Blake doesn’t take himself too seriously. Furthermore, he wants to make sure his music will bring the ladies out on the dance floor. Here he talks to us about what “post dubstep” actually means, why he considers OutKast to be a major influence, and how the “arbitrariness of University” helped inspire his debut album.

You consider yourself a dubstep artist, but your songs are a lot slower and more lyrical than a lot of the big, loud dubstep tracks that your hear in clubs. Especially in America.

That’s led some music critics to create a new term for you, called “post dubstep.” For those of us non-music critics, what does this mean exactly, and what kind of music do you consider yourself making? I mean, I’m a non-music critic, so I’d probably just say it’s just musical, electronic music. Some of it’s dance music, some of it’s electronic music. I would draw a distinction between the two and I’d say I didn’t just borrow from dubstep, I tried to make it. And I suppose in doing so, I made things that weren’t necessarily dubstep. Or at least what it originally meant, which was kinda the Digital Mystikz,Loefah, Skream, you know, a Pinch sound. I couldn’t really ever make music like that. I feel like my latest Hemlock 12″ is as close to that as I’ve ever been, but not really backward-looking. For me, that was forward-looking. Thing is, I haven’t really thought about what dubstep means to anyone, actually. I’ve only really thought about what it means for me.

What does it mean for you? It’s headspace. And it’s darkness and it’s intense. At the same time, it’s fun. It is kind of a weird paradox of people and producers, taking the art very seriously but actually making music that can be very fun. It went through a massive series of mutations before it even arrived in the U.S. So now I suppose the average kind of thing you would get over here—and actually now in the UK as well—is really noisy, aggressive stuff. Which is cool as well.

Dubstep is reaching such a fever pitch in the States whereas it’s been around in the UK for quite a bit longer. What do you think it is about the London scene, or Croydon where it originated, that made it such an incubator for this, as you put it, dark sound? Well a lot of garage, especially, wasn’t dark, wasn’t intense. But some of it is very emotional. I think also the distinction is that some of it was music that girls could dance to.

Could you explain more about that? I mean, girls can dance to anything they want. You know, I remember going to some drum n’ bass raves where girls wouldn’t even go on the dance floor because it was just too aggressive. It was too masculine, there was too much testosterone floating around. And I felt like what was nice about dubstep when it came along was that it wasn’t like that really. It was girls and [guys]—it was a mixture, a 50-50 split. It was also really diverse culturally, as well. That’s why London was a good place for that to start, because London is that.

So in other words, it was the club scene that was able to make this music evolve into something that could be consumed by more people perhaps, or by people looking to dance? Yeah, it was just people looking to dance. And a lot of people are like “Oh, it’s too slow.” Or “It’s too, like, too whatever…”Like what are you talking about? All the dances that I used to go to were such vibrant things. But when it gets to be that level of testosterone, that’s when it’s just to me, not fun anymore. It’s not rewarding at all. It’s not a statement of intent, but it’s kind of nice when girls are all dancing ’cause you think, “Well, if the girls are all dancing then the guys will.” But if the guys are all dancing and there’s no girls, then that’s it. The night ends in about two hours and everyone goes home.

I read somewhere that you consider OutKast to be an influence, which might surprise some people. Can you talk more about that and how American hip-hop and R&B have influenced you? Obviously I kind of understand it [hip hop] in a different way. I’m not from the States but I connected to some hip-hop—mainly instrumental stuff—in quite a big way. And I found that Andre 3000 has this kind of self-awareness and introspection in almost all of his stuff that I felt like I identified with. It wasn’t necessarily the subject matter. It was the delivery, his rhythm, and his poise, and just the respect that he commands when he’s rapping. And the fact that they produced it—my mind was completely blown. Speakerboxxx was the first that I actually heard of them, and I just got so into their album that everything I did after that must be colored by, in some way, their approach to music.

A lot of your music in your debut album seems to evoke this wistfulness or yearning, almost. I’ve heard others describe the songs as having a sadness to them. Are there any experiences in particular you could share with us that have influenced or motivated your songs? Yeah, growing up, really. That’s kind of what did it. There’s no point in going into specifics because everyone has their own experiences in school and university and all that sort of stuff. But I didn’t really like it. It felt a bit arbitrary to me.

University? School and university. I just felt, you know, “Why are we stuck here?” But I think my attitude to it was—I mean, I did okay in school. I did quite well, but I think I had a similar experience to what a lot of other people have, but I reacted to it in a [different] way. I was an only child as well, so I was always thinking about things and not necessarily having anyone to bounce those ideas off. When you’re an only child, those things just swirl around your head for years, you know? All those ideas you have just don’t come out the other end, they just kind of remain in there. So when you write an album, they say that an artist’s first album is everything that they’ve experienced until that album, and the second album is just everything they’ve experienced on tour, which is virtually nothing really, especially creatively and musically.

Since you brought up touring, have you noticed differences between shows you’ve played here in the States, and the crowds that come out for your shows back home in the UK? There are a lot of differences. I must say, I do absolutely love being in the U.S. It’s difficult to relay what it’s like to be English and come here but it’s exciting, fun, and it’s an adventure. And it is for the band as well. We’re all mates together, traveling the world, but when we come to America we feel like [it’s an adventure] because we have the language in common but virtually nothing else, let’s be honest. The Atlantic sea separates us more than physically. It’s like everything’s a discovery in an amazing way. I just feel like it really is a discovery every time I come here. We’ve had such a good time. We’ve met so many amazing people, and I’ve made some great friends, and that all adds to when you come play here. The shows are fun because of that.

Top Photo by Steve Scap

An Exhaustive Review of the 2011 Pitchfork Music Festival

The hipster gradation begins on the subway. You know you’re getting closer to the Pitchfork Music Festival as the crowd on the El, Chicago’s famed elevated subway system, begins to shade from downtown office workers and tourists coming in from O’Hare to twentysomethings in cut-offs, neon, and free-range beards. Unlike other music festivals in more remote locations – Coachella, Bonnaroo – the caravans to Pitchfork aren’t composed of Subaru Outbacks, but rather the Green Line, the Ashland bus, and bikes. Indeed, one of the best things about Pitchfork is the extent to which it identifies with the city of Chicago, home to the e-zine’s headquarters (there’s also an office in Brooklyn, of course).

"It feels good to have established Pitchfork here in Chicago. It really is, I guess, an institution at this point," says Ryan Schreiber, founder and CEO of Pitchfork Media (author’s note: no relation). Chicago pride is on display throughout the weekend–vintage Bulls jerseys abound, and more remarkably still, you can catch glimpses of naked arms displaying Chicago-flag tattoos.

The three-day fest, held in Chicago’s Union Park, provides that rare combination of big-name talent (Animal Collective, Fleet Foxes and TV on the Radio were this year’s headliners) with an intimate, community vibe. Compared to larger behemoths, Pitchfork only sells 18,000 tickets per day; to put that in perspective, the attendance at Coachella, Bonnaroo, and Lollapalooza each hover between 70-80,000 fans. Rather than having every sensory organ pummeled – competing guitar chords, the musky scent of sweat not your own pervading your nostrils – Pitchfork allows its attendees a high-quality experience, where you can actually take in and be aware of your surroundings rather than be overwhelmed by them. Incidentally, it also makes finding your friends and bumping into people you know easier.

"We’ve done it in this park for seven years, and there are many other opportunities to move it to a bigger park or do something different with it, but I just like this. I feel like this is the perfect size. Get much larger and you have to walk for miles to get to where you’re going," says Schreiber.

Because it’s sponsored by the influential online music magazine rather than a big marketing firm, there can be, at times, a distinct ‘industry vibe’ (the ratio of industry-to-non industry folks is higher than at bigger fests, even if overall numbers are low). You can’t go more than two feet without seeing someone prance by in a "VIP" pass, "Artist" pass (which managers, agents, and publicists may wear in addition to the bands), or "Press" pass. All of this is a long way of saying that this festival has cred, both geeky and cool.

In addition to the previously-mentioned headliners, buzz-worthy acts like Das Racist, James Blake, Odd Future, Toro y Moi, Deerhunter, Ariel Pink, and Cut Copy were joined by veterans such as Guided By Voices, Thurston Moore (of Sonic Youth), Off!, and DJ Shadow. The process of choosing the lineup is "about booking the artists we really love," according to Schreiber. "We [the Pitchfork staff] come up with sort of a dream list, collectively." image Twin Shadow image Das Racist

Battles was one of the first acts to kick off Friday, playing a high-energy set that included LED screens of Gary Numan and Matias Aguayo singing in the background. Perhaps it was the heat, but the crowd, though receptive to the show, seemed to be conserving its energy, failing to match the moxie onstage. Towards the end of the show, guitarist Dave Konopka shouted "Afterward, everyone’s invited to my house, 857 Marshfield. We’ll have a party there." (A quick and stalker-y perusal of Chicago’s White Pages was unable to verify if the Battles guitarist had actually just invited thousands of people to his house.)

Despite the fact that they didn’t humor the audience by playing "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell," Das Racist provided some on-stage rowdiness, enhanced by their hype man, Dap, deliriously jumping and running around onstage. The crowd erupted and girls were hoisted onto dudes’ shoulders when the three rappers came onstage and played "Who’s That? Brooown!" The energy (both that of the group and of the crowd) dipped a little towards the middle of the set (at one point, a rapper named Danny Brown from Fool’s Gold hopped onstage, and although his performance promised a talented new MC, the crowd was just hankering for more Das Racist). Finally, towards the end of the show, hands were back in the air when Das Racist launched into "You Oughta Know" before ending the set with "Rainbow in the Dark."

James. Blake. James Blake is perhaps the most buzzed-about artist to play Pitchfork this year and, perhaps, one of the must buzzed about new artists anywhere. Let’s not mince words: Blake did not disappoint. Whereas, after listening to the slow and sparse songs on his debut self-titled album, it can sometimes be tricky to see how his music is affiliated with dubstep, his pitchfork performance was a new (and exciting) experience entirely. The powerful, heavy bassline that’s so characteristic of dubstep came across more clearly in his set than I’d ever heard it before, yet the enveloping beats still left space to enjoy Blake’s haunting vocals. Blake’s stage presence (much like his demeanor in person) was charming and mild-mannered, most clearly evidenced by the fact that he chose to sit off to the side of the stage rather than front-and-center. When he played "CMYK," the crowd turned wild, getting down to the lighter and dance-ier track. Before a rapt audience at dusk, he closed the set with a great rendition of one of his album’s signatures, "The Wilhelm Scream."

After Animal Collective’s Friday night closing set, the crowds dispersed, many en route to any number of "Official" and "Unofficial" after shows and parties. One of the most cleverly marketed parties proved to be a fête hosted by Patron XO Cafe, Spin Magazine, and Superfly marketing group. Invites had been emailed to guests a few days before, revealing only the date and time of the party and vague instructions about finding a food truck parked near the festival grounds, where more information and directions would be dispensed. By 10pm, a small crowd was gathered outside Mama Green’s Gourmet Goodie Truck eager to continue the party-meets-scavenger hunt. We were given cups of iced coffee with the secret address of the event written on the coffee sleeve, which turned out to be the site of Chicago’s Prairie Studios. We party-goers ended up being a funny mix of media folk a little grungy from hanging outside at the festival all day and some of Chicago’s most beautiful people decked out in cocktail dresses and heels. Once inside, you could pose for professional photographs with models dressed in 20s-inspired burlesque costumes, sip any number of Patron-inspired cocktails, and chomp down on classic Chicago-style hors d’oeuvres such as "mini deep dish pizzas" or mini Italian sausages. Walking around the beautiful inside-outside space, sipping Patron margaritas, we could also listen to a live band and watch a magic show. Even if some of it was a little gimmicky – and more than a few people wished the live band could have been replaced by a DJ (of which there are many in Chicago, like the Hood Internet and Flosstradamus) – the party was a success. image Fleet Foxes

Saturday’s uncomfortably hot temps didn’t stop people from getting down during Gang Gang Dance‘s set, which provided a raucous blend of their unique multi-instrumental, percussion-heavy dance music laced with electro. After feverishly jumping and jolting onstage during instrumental breaks, lead singer Lizzie Bougatsos took the mic and told the audience, "If you can’t act crazy onstage, there’s no reason to live. If you see me humping a monitor, you just know."

As it grew later and became just a touch cooler, crowds coalesced before the Green Stage to see Fleet Foxes, who played one of the best sets of the weekend. Given the usual amount of delays in between set changes, people were visibly impressed when the band hopped on stage to begin their show a mere seconds after DJ Shadow ended his at an adjacent stage. Playing mostly songs from their first album led a guy next to me to remark, "They’re just putting on a big show. That’s what they’re doing." Yes, sir. The sound quality was stellar, such that you could actually distinguish between the various instruments onstage. The hushed crowd broke out into cheers when the first chords of "White Winter Hymnal" reverberated out across the crowd–a song that can evoke feelings of wintry tranquility and Christmas tidings even during the peak of summer. In a smart move, they brought the crowd out of their trance with a rocking rendition of "Ragged Wood" before ending on a song from their new album, the titular "Helplessness Blues."

As Day 2 drew to a close, not everyone had the stamina to keep up with the afterparties, but for those of us who did, many chose to head over to Beauty Bar, which hosted one of the few "Official Pitchfork After Parties," featuring DJ sets by Twin Shadow, members of Deerhunter, and Tim Koh of Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti. The Pitchfork crew (including Ryan Schreiber) were in attendance, as well as members of the Windish Agency (disclosure: I do some on-and-off unpaid work for Windish), which represents both Twin Shadow and Deerhunter and DJ/local celeb Million $ Mano.

Sunday was the most anticipated day at the fest if for only one reason: Odd Future. Already one of the most hyped new acts, Odd Future’s show at Pitchfork received a particularly large amount of publicity due to the planned anti-violence protest during their set. For better or for worse, it appeared that by the end of the afternoon it was Odd Future: 1, Protesters: 0. Representatives from anti-violence groups were in attendance and handing out fans as first reported, but the ill-conceived gesture didn’t seem to have much impact. Sunday was an inferno and concert attendees were grateful to get a fan–any fan–but hardly anyone gave nary a glance to see what was emblazoned on its side (besides, there had been several different sponsors handing out fans throughout the weekend so any novelty was lost). If anything, the preceding controversy and the insane amount of PR that ensued only upped the ante for Odd Future, increasing what would already have been a huge crowd. image Odd Future

Though it was the first time I’d ever seen the collective, Odd Future’s set was basically exactly as I expected: brash, punky, and a pretty damn good time. As Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah reported in her feature on the group in this month’s BlackBook, the guys understand the role they (and the media) have created for themselves, and they work hard to live up to it. They seem to relish playing the part of the villainous rap group, donning freakish masks during set, strutting across the stage, and chest thumping with the bravado that only a twenty-year-old can possess. Occasionally, the heavy bass drowned out some of their lyrics, but when you could hear Tyler, the Creator or Hodgy Beats, their oft-reported crudeness and offensiveness was in full force ("You fucking bitch, you smell like dick").

One majorly weird thing I witnessed were hipster parents who’d brought their toddlers to Odd Future’s set, the dad bopping around to Tyler’s jams with the tot on his shoulders (there were actually a disconcerting amount of hipster parents who brought their kids–sometimes babies!–to the fest). Neither the baby sightings nor the fact that Tyler had been hobbled by a broken foot and monster cast (he spent much of the set seated but managed to get up and chant "Kill People, Burn Shit, Fuck School" at the end) killed the vibe. As the show ended, Left Brain did a half stage dive/ half body slam, throwing himself projectile-style into the crowd. It was a fitting description of the group itself and their Pitchfork show: aggressive and in your face but openly received by the mainstream.

After that intensity, it was nice to take a breather before heading over to absorb Toro y Moi’s blissed-out, disco-y electronica. Even though the crowd was subdued–maybe still recovering from the heat or Odd Future’s set, or both–their stillness could not be mistaken for disinterest: all eyes were fixed on Toro y Moi, lapping up his every beat.

Finally, as the sun set over the Chicago skyline, TV on the Radio came on and gave everyone a festival-wide second wind. With the ubiquity of electronica or experimental pop at the fest, the explosion of percussion heralding their rock show was a welcome sound. Throughout the set, intensity built up with a steady trajectory but, almost teasingly, would hold out, captured as if like steam pressure in some kind of boiler. That is, until they broke out full-force into "Dancing Choose" ("He’s a newspaper man") and "Wolf Like Me," their crescendos giving the crowd the relief they wanted. The audience ebbed and flowed in a massive wave of dancing and even the industry folk gathered on the VIP risers had their guards down and were seen grooving (one VIP was even maniacally jumping around). Finally, towards the end of the show, hip-hop group Shabazz Palaces joined TV on the Radio onstage, playing tambourine shakers as backup to "A Method."

And with that, another impressive performance ended along with another impressive effort by Pitchfork’s organizers. The festival proved that once again it lived up to much more than the hype of being an "indie fest" or "hipster fest," displaying a diverse line-up and three days of non-stop musical experiences. Combining the cool, industry-ness of SXSW with the grassy, park setting of a large-scale music festival and the intimacy and community vibe of your local fest, Pitchfork has managed to create a unique festival experience. It is sure to continue being a destination for those seeking to hear some of the best acts they know and to be exposed to new ones they don’t.

image James Blake

All Photography by Steve Scap