The Cute Kids of the Pitchfork Festival

All Photos by Marcel Pawlas

Chicago’s Pitchfork Music Festival took place this past weekend, with performances from Beck, Neutral Milk Hotel, St. Vincent, Grimes, Giorgio Moroder, Kendrick Lamar, and many others. Pitchfork is a huge draw for musicians, and as it turns out, stylish kids, too. There were over 50,000 attendees, and about a million cute outfits. Here’s a sampling of the well-dressed crowd, working everything from blue lipstick to tennis outfits to Reeboks to art-patterned shirts.

28

9KA

34

35Kelela

52

78-90

89-53

56-7FKA Twigs

88-55

99-08

98-11

77-7

99-68

 

You May Now Stream The Strokes’ ‘Comedown Machine’

We were a bit confused by the first couple tracks off Comedown Machine, the fifth LP from perennial New York bar soundtrack fixtures The Strokes, who’ve struggled since the opening strains of First Impressions of Earth to land a killer track. “One Way Trigger” was just awful, but “All The Time” was a return to excellence. So now here’s the whole thing, which awaits your steely final judgment.

Okay it’s not right here, you have to go over and play it through something called “Pitchfork Advance,” which is a “new immersive music streaming platform designed to emulate the classic album experience.” In other words, something you can’t embed on your own website. Ha!

Anyway, there is cause for some relief—despite lunges in the direction of Phoenix-like soft-rock, there are a lot of the goofy, trebly guitar solos and chugging riffs we fell for back in 2001. In particular, the classicists will enjoy tracks 4 and 6, “Welcome To Japan” and “50 50,” both sneering and snappy enough to make you forgive just about any misstep. Welcome back, fellas. 

Follow Miles Klee on Twitter.

Go Download This Kurt Vile Song

If you’re feeling rushed and out of time, pull up a seat and listen to all nine minutes of this. You’ll still be running late, but you won’t be in a hurry anymore.

Kurt Vile’s trademark effortless strum is in full effect here on “Wakin on a Pretty Day,” but the guitar work begins to curl like cool tongues of flame lapping at whatever you came out to the woods to burn. There, doesn’t that feel better?

“Wakin” features on forthcoming album Wakin on a Pretty Daze, but you won’t have to wait till April to get your hands on this. Head on over to Pitchfork and download the sucker right now. You should also be smoking, for maximum effect.

Follow Miles Klee on Twitter.

R. Kelly, Bjork, Belle & Sebastian Headlining Pitchfork Music Festival

When you assemble a summer musical festival in a tiny park in an affordable city, you’re already doing something right. When you manage to nab R. Kelly, Bjork, and Belle & Sebastian as headliners, you’re basically suggesting that every other musical festival just go ahead and give up. The Pitchfork Music Festival, which was arguably already the best summer festival our nation had to offer, has just announced its three amazing headliners. The festival will take place July 19-21 in Union Park in Chicago. [via Pitchfork]

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Watch the Gaspar Noé-Directed Video for Animal Collective’s ‘Applesauce’

With spastic, psychedlic melodies and distorted sonic warbling, Animal Collective’s new video for their song "Applesauce" is intended to be viewed in complete darkness. And to be fair, most music sounds better after sundown with the curtains closed tight, but in this case, the request for lightlessness stems from the visually entrancing nature of their latest video, directed by maestro of fucked-up cinema, Gaspar Noé, whose affinty for sexuality and neon-colored violence is like a swallowing a pill succumbing to whatever he puts before you. 

"Applesauce" comes off Animal Collective’s latest album, Centipede Hz, and stars model Lindsay Wixon. Featuring five and a half minutes of flashing vibrant color juxtaposed by a colorless close-up of the model’s mouth as she eats fruit in a way akin to Noe’s signature sense of grotesque sexuality, the film also has elements of Paul Sharits’ 1968 short film “N:O:T:H:I:N:G." Recently, Noé directed the shadowy video for Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds "We No Who U R."

Check out the video below, courtesy of Pitchfork.tv

“I Hate Music!” Says Michael Musto, Your Gay Grandpa

How many times have you heard some old person complain about what the kids are listening to these days? (Oh, yesterday, from me?) It’s a certainty, like death and taxes, that popular music will only cause the furrowed brows of the cool kids of yesteryear to become more creased, their now wrinkled hands forming into limp fists raised slightly in the air as the loose skin on those arms shake with a ferocity only matched by the senility so depressingly spouting from their typing fingers. Do not dare hush them! They have opinions, and they are always correct! Ladies and gentlemen, Michael Musto has something to say about the current state of pop music! 

The venerable Village Voice columnist is very upset today, because of Rihanna and Flo Rida and Ke$ha. And honey, he has lost his mind and control of his elipses:

The number-one slot on the chart generally goes to whoever gave the most free copies to concert-ticket buyers that week. The second week, they’re suddenly not even in the top 100. … Adele is happy. … Once you’ve heard the title of a Taylor Swift song, there’s no need to hear the actual song. … The "Piano in the Dark" sample in Flo Rida’s "I Cry" drives me cuckoo crazy. I keep wanting them to finish the phrase! … Someone please tell Rihanna it should be "shine brightly like a diamond." … Boybands are back. They’re like a case of crabs you just can’t get rid of. I really like their hair, though. … The musical repetition that started with all those Kesha songs is now in every single mix-mix-mix-mix-mix by every singer-singer-singer-singer. Stop-stop-stop-stop. … People who walk around listening to music are generally oblivious to everything else, not even aware that they’re endangering your life as they step into traffic in the middle of the street. Somehow they always come off scot-free as they glide through everyone else’s tragedies. They’re probably listening to Eminem.

Please, sir, tell me more!

Every song today happens to be "featuring" someone. Would the Beatles have had to give up their instrumental breaks to someone rapping about bitches and hos? 

Very good musical analysis, Mr. Musto! I had never ever considered the possibility of the Beatles singing about bitches and hos, much less the notion that Paul and John might step away from their microphones to give room to someone else to rap about bitches and hos. Very astute observation, pitting a band that has not released music since 1970 against, say, Jay-Z and Kanye West. Very smart! 

But hey, Michael Musto is hardly a music critic, and he knows it! Which is why he then begins to quote heavily from his music critic friend, who, similarly, is so angry about everything, especially Pitchfork:

"Pitchfork.com is an intentionally obscure website that reviews every indie record, rating them with a score from 1 to 100. It’s hard to get a score over 73. They create stars, like Melody Maker and NME did in England 20 years ago, and then they turn on them. As a result, your EP will sell 6,000 copies in Brooklyn, and then your full album will stiff. If you’re no longer new, you’re not as cool to them. They love bands they never heard of, and they love Neil Young, but everything in between is not good."

Anonymous Music Critic, you are so on-point! We’re on the cusp of 2013, after all, so it’s about time someone take a stance at those dastardly Pitchforks with their 100-point rating scale. And goddamn you, Brooklyn, for being so overpopulated by people who pay money for EPs! "White people," am I right? 

I mean, I get it: it’s hard to take your afternoon nap while listening to One Direction, and that only leaves you being cranky at dinnertime (which is 6PM, in case you forgot). 

Follow Tyler Coates on Twitter

Has Kendrick Lamar Released The Album Of The Year?

Last night my friend said he was in danger of overdosing on rapper Kendrick Lamar’s major-label debut, good kid, m.A.A.d. city. “It’s so good,” he said, “and I need to ease up.” But easing up is exactly what Lamar never seems to do—he’s relentless, both in his delivery of memoiristic narrative and demonstrations of technical skill.

Receiving a near-unthinkable 9.5 rating from Pitchfork, Lamar’s album swerves between the countless current demands on hip-hop, from the slinky, bong-ready vibe on the appropriately named “Bitch, Dant Kill My Vibe” to the absolute club-banger beasthood of the next track, “Backstreet Freestyle,” which flat-out destroys similar efforts on Kanye’s Cruel Summer project.

The secret weapon, not that Lamar is hurting for one, is Dr. Dre, who first shows up on “Compton,” named for the infamous city both rappers grew up in. With a blaring horn section at their backs, Dre and Lamar explain in no uncertain terms what their home is all about. But bonus track “The Recipe,” also featuring Dr. Dre, may be even better. Either way, it’s an exciting debut (of sorts) and a signal that while Jay-Z has his hands full with the Brooklyn Nets, the West Coast scene is in Renaissance mode. 

Follow Miles Klee on Twitter.

Prolific Wunderkind Ty Segall Releases Yet Another Album This Year—And It’s Completely Different

Fans of sludgy, lo-fi, aggressive rock have only had one name on their lips this year: Ty Segall. The 25-year-old Californian, whose shaggy blond hair and baby face make him look like a young Thurston Moore, has already put out two albums in 2012. One, Slaughterhouse, has a spaced-out wall of guitar sound, while the other, Hair, is a lo-fi, feedback-filled, shambolic psychedelic trip. These records are the best kind of genre exercises: wildly fun and playful, but still operating within conventions that make them easy to listen to. Both records were deemed “Best New Music” on Pitchfork (average score: 8.45), and praised up and down the blogosphere. Stereogum spoke for many fans and critics when they called
 Slaughterhouse “a confident attempt at
making the ‘evil, evil space rock’ Segall
has repeatedly cited as his ideal sound.”

So why, on his third album of the 
year, Twins, is he leaving all that behind? “The whole ‘evil space rock,’ thing—honestly I wish I’d never said that,” Segall admitted recently while on a rare break in his European tour. Confronted with that Stereogum quote, his usually implacable Californian good–naturedness is punctured for a rare moment. “Evil space rock is one ideal sound,” he says, sounding a little baffled. “But, we like doing different stuff.”

From the opening chords on the new album, that’s clear. The screeching, lo-fi, dirty metal sound of almost all his other records (save, perhaps, last year’s tuneful Goodbye Bread) is gone. In its place is an unusually mature, structured, and melodic collection of songs. There are layered vocal harmonies, female backup singers, bridges, and snappy, memorable choruses. That’s not to say it’s not heavy—there are still plenty of lightning bolts of guitar wizardry. But the mix has calmed down, the notes all have plenty of space to breathe, and the background fuzz is at a minimum. At times, Segall almost sounds like 1990s Britpop kings Supergrass (especially on the album’s opener, “Thank God For Sinners”) or even Revolver-era Beatles. (“The Hill” has moments that sound like “Tomorrow Never Knows,” or, as Segall calls it, “that song where they say ‘Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream.’”)

Segall sees the record as more of an evolution than a departure. “I wouldn’t say that I have to sound distorted and gnarly and messed up on recordings for me to be happy with them,” he tells me. “I’ve always wanted to get that clean sound.” Indeed, the past year have seen a whole raft of lo-fi artists, from Frankie Rose to the Vivian Girls, attempting to release more full-sounding, mature albums. Segall is just another in a long line.

Not that he necessarily had any of this planned going in. When I ask him what his inspiration for the new record and its new sound was, he pauses for a moment. “Well, you know, I got this fuzz pedal that I really liked, and I really wanted to use. I was like, okay, start here and see what happens.” Some things never change.

Follow Chris Chafin on Twitter.

You May Ask Yourself: How Does Music Work?

In 1986, David Byrne made a movie called True Stories, a mockumentary of sorts about the fictional city of Virgil, Texas. With a nod to the ugliness of industrialized civilization predicated on a mass killing of the native people, animals and vegetation, his treatment of the town—look at this field, where they build houses; the shopping mall is where people socialize on the weekend—comes in its own brand of wry compassion, with the same degree of bite as A Prairie Home Companion.

And a new book by Byrne, How Music Works, is a tour of all things musical delivered in the same voice that took us through Virgil. As smart and impeccably researched as it is, it doesn’t lack for irony. For one, it comes packaged by McSweeney’s as a minimalist coffee table tome, designed by the staggering genius himself. And threaded through an otherwise disjointed collection of chapters on Talking Heads history, the music industry, recording technology, and the science of sound is a cheekiness bordering on disdain directed at the Roger Scruton school of classical music is virtuous music, and pop music is for the plebian masses.

He spends a good deal of time picking on Theodor Adorno, who saw the jukebox, and all mechanized distribution of popular music, as a gimmick for suckers. “He might be right,” says Byrne, “but he might also have been someone who never had a good time in a honky-tonk.” It’s hard to imagine Byrne in a honky-tonk unaccompanied by a “check this shit out, I’m in a honky-tonk!” kind of attitude. Or maybe not. His ambiguous sensibility is what makes the fun parts fun.

A student of design, some of the passages on the architecture of musical spaces make for the most interesting stuff. He has a few good jabs at the opera houses and even Carnegie Hall, whose acoustics aren’t conducive to rock ’n’ roll: “This acoustic barrier could be viewed as a subtle conspiracy, a sonic wall, a way of keeping the riffraff out.” He favors the populist scenes around the likes of CBGB’s and Le Poisson Rouge (“I go to at least one live performance a week, sometimes with friends, sometimes alone. There are other people there. Often there is beer there, too.”)

In a lingering op-ed piece of a chapter, he knocks the moneyed set for “supporting the arts” by preserving antiquated opera houses and museums while scores of aspiring artists and musicians go hungry. His historical tracings of musical gentrification are of note; apparently, people would drink and socialize during operas and shout at the stage, requesting encores of their favorite arias. A similar transformation occurred with jazz, where the relaxed, funky vibe was taken over by tweedy highbrow geezers in Greenwich Village. Out with dancing, in with sitting quietly. “Separating the body from the head seemed to have been an intended consequence—for anything to be serious, you couldn’t be seen shimmying around to it,” he notes.

All this is not to say that he doesn’t have any grievances with pop music. The shimmying going on in the discos of the ’70s wasn’t merely the effect of catchy tunes—“I suspect there was a drug connection as well; those high frequencies in particular sounded sparkly fresh if you were on amyl nitrate or cocaine.” And not every pop song comes off the pen of an Andre 3000 or an Aimee Mann. “In Beyoncé’s song ‘Irreplaceable’ she rhymes ‘minute’ with ‘minute,’ and I cringe every time I hear it,” he concedes.

Byrne notes in the forward that the book can be read in any order, and I may go so far as to say that certain passages can be skipped altogether, sans guilt. One chapter begins with this gem: “The online music magazine Pitchfork once wrote that I would collaborate with anyone for a bag of Doritos.” While I think there’s nothing wrong with amassing collaborations, it gets pretty tedious to list them all; every member of an obscure Latin jam band that he may have played with gets name-checked. He gives an exhaustive account of how songs were written for all of his albums, and anyone who doesn’t know an A-flat from an A need not try to comprehend those passages. A chapter detailing the six major variants of a recording contract is enlightening by way of proving, with thorough charts and figures, that musicians make no money. But it reads like a textbook—and, in many ways, How Music Works kind of is a textbook, backed up with a thorough bibliography and peppered with annotated images. The handsome presentation may cause some hesitation, but it really is a text to read and pick through time and again.

And all this is what you’d expect, and hope for, from the foremost heady apologist of pop music. It’s a must-read for anyone who has ever felt moved by a catchy tune and wanted more. And for those who haven’t, I suppose it’s understandable—it’s hard to shimmy around a room with a stick up your ass.

Follow James Ramsay on Twitter.