Lollapalooza 2012 | The best of the bottom
Every year, when the Lollapalooza lineup comes our way, I hear the same thing.
"Who the hell are these bands at the bottom?"
"I don't know a single name in this third column."
Don't feel bad. They are all nascent or obscure acts. But remember, Lady Gaga and Feist were once down there in the fine print.
I'm looking exclusively at lines 18 through 30. Here is what will get me to Grant Park when the gates open. Besides, like, my work obligation.
1) Michael Kiwanuka
This one is easy. The Ugandan Londoner made our best new acts of 2012 list in January. The 24-year-old's lightly psychadelic soul-folk earns justifiable comparisons to Bill Withers and Richie Havens. His debut, Home Again, already hit No. 4 on the U.K. charts and has him primed to be the male Adele. Adude? Crafty betters would put money on him snatching a Grammy in 2013.
Odd Future is oddly absent from Lolla, but the L.A. rap underground does represent. This kushwave quartet rides beats that remind me of Dungeon Family ("Before We Go On"), but mostly dive into fazed g-funk k-holes ("December," "Pasadena"). Grab the mixtape here. I love that one of the four, Creamie, is billed as being the crew's "Comedian." Kendrick Lamar drops in, too.
Jay-Z and Justin Vernon has praised the seductive and downbeat Poliça, a dark R&B spin-off of Gayngs. When I caught Gayngs in Minneapolis, siren Channy Leaneagh was far and away the most intriguing thing onstage. On Give You the Ghost, her vocals get that Auto-Tune wash the Bon Iver family is so obsessed with, but it works. I hope the group plays closer to dawn than noon.
The L.A. surf-punks' Bandcamp page sums it up perfectly with its tags: drunk, fildar [sic], garage, no waves. no ass, punk, reaper, skate, surf, Los Angeles. The Black Lips and Wavves are obviously touchstones, but there's underlying slick song-craft that suggests a Swedish pop Svengali is pulling the strings. FIDLAR's few songs are so preternaturally hooky. (By the way, it's an acronym for "Fuck It, Dog. Life's a Risk.")
5) The Growlers
If FIDLAR is what rushes through surfers' head on the crests, than the Growlers are what they listen to after they pull on Mexican ponchos and sit around the bonfire. A little bit shambling '60s psych, a little bit Dylan, a touch punk, the Long Beach act should be bigger. Listen here.
The Neptunes produced the latest single from the granola-soul songstress, "Live Your Life." Tasty. She oozes mellow positivity, even when covering Nirvana's "Come as You Are."
7) Los Jaivas
While not as wild as Os Mutantes, as heavy as Los Dug Dugs or as amazingly Beatlesy as We All Together, Chile's Los Jaivas trace back to the 1960s Latin American rock scene. These guys tapped more into their indigenous roots, and are even folkier now. The old records are a trip, even if their current incarnation is slick Pritzker fare. Cool of Lolla to bring them north.
A who-the-fuck name to match a what-the-fuck sound, Anamanaguchi are a hyper instrumental rock combo that work exclusively in 8-bit Nintendo sounds. I have no idea how the foursome translate this live, as their records feel like Andrew W.K. conducting Contra. It should be amusing at the least.
9) Dry the River
The English band adds muscle and Britpop guitars to the Mumford & Sons formula. Yet they don't wear little vests, as far as I know.
Steve Lillywhite (U2, Morrissey, the Rolling Stones [What? Dirty Work counts.]) produced Oberhofer's debut, Time Capsules II, for Glassnote Records, home of Phoenix. Obviously, big things are expected from this supremely crafted mainstream indie. The xylophone and whoa-oh-oh fueled pop works as a cheat sheet to all recent trends—twee, MGMT, beach rock, Vampire Weekend, Smith Westerns, Brooklyn, whistling, Arcade Fire, etc. Or maybe it's some fleeting mix of Walk the Moon and Smith Westerns. Whatever. There's a song called "Homebro," which sums it up.
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