Of all the festivals we've covered this summer, Pitchfork certainly isn't the biggest. It doesn't have the most bands, the longest days, or the flashiest art installations. Heck, compared to Glastonbury, the Union Park festival looks downright quaint — which is probably why we like it so much. With its carefully curated list of indie and alternative acts (oh, and R. Kelly), this year's Pitchfork fest hits the perfect balance between menu size and quality content. We could have picked just about any band playing and called its show a "can't-miss" experience. Unfortunately, that wasn't an option, so we've selected just 10 of our absolute favorites. Read on for the acts we think you should check out, but honestly, for once, you really can't go wrong. See you in Chicago!
Since dropping the critical and auditory bomb that was Maya back in 2010, M.I.A. has had a lot to prove. Could she return to the mix of politics and club beats that made her famous? While she may never have another "Paper Planes" (and why should she try?), recent singles "Bad Girls" and "Bring the Noize," along with the Vicki Leekx mixtape, have all been crowd-pleasers. Furthermore, Maya's raw production has grown more palatable in hindsight (thank Yeezus!). With a near decade-long career of provocative pop, she's certainly a show to catch.
Spare, brittle, and raw, Angel Olsen is one of the most diverting new singer/songwriters working today. The native Chicagoan specializes in a windswept songs, backed by the occasional flourish of spaghetti Western guitar. Put simply, her music is absolutely gorgeous.
NYC punks Parquet Courts came out of the gate last year with Light Up Gold, an album that found fans and listeners slowly by word of mouth. Yet even after one play, the band sound like its been in the East Coast punk canon for years. Parquet Courts may only be a year or so old, but its live show already feels like an old hat: the witty lyrics, big hooks, and punk attitude are all pulled off without breaking a sweat.
Coachella may have pulled the ultimate switcheroo when Kells appeared on stage during Phoenix instead of Daft Punk, but with an audience primed and ready, he's going to be a festival highlight. With a virtually infinite number of hits (especially if you count the "Trapped In The Closet" series), the most unlikely headliner at Pitchfork also happens to be the show we're looking forward to most.
As far as maximal, massive electronic music goes, no one does it better than Glaswegian producer Rustie. With huge tracks like "Slasherr" and the AlunaGeorge featuring "After Light," Rustie's set should get you sweatier than any other in the Chicago heat (you know, in a good way).
With seven studio albums and two decades in the spotlight, Björk continues to explore the strange and wonderful sounds inside her head. Live, there's nothing quite like seeing the Icelandic singer's magnificent costumes and light show or hearing her one-of-a-kind voice.
Hailing from Alabama, Katie Crutchfield's Waxahatchee project mixes raw guitars and emotive lyrics with a '90s bent. She's already been compared to Liz Phair and Cat Power (among others), but Waxahatchee is the sound of a singular artist in full command of herself. Live, Crutchfield is a tour de force, bringing new intensity to the album's guitar-pop sound.
Johnny Jewel could have showed up with any of his acts at Pitchfork, and we still would have been excited to see him, but the sleek noir-disco of Glass Candy may be the most fun to watch in person. With the new After Dark 2 compilation having been just released, Jewel is in top form, and Ida No's vocals are some of the most beguiling in alt-pop today.
If Rustie is the brightest, most intense electronic act playing Pitchfork, then Andy Stott is his polar opposite. Specializing in some of the darkest bass music around, the Manchester-based producer creates soundscapes that unfurl patiently and slowly. Live, Stott has a way of grabbing and holding his audience like few other DJs can.
While she may not have released a new album for a few years, Joanna Newsom will forever be one of our favorite artists. Her voice — like nothing else in music — evokes fanciful worlds far removed from sweaty festivals and long beer lines. Don't miss her.
Clockwise from left Photo: Courtesy of R. Kelly; M.I.A., Glass Candy, Angel Olsen.