After repeated days of some very sketchy, on-and-off gloomy weather, the good people at Pitchfork provided Chicago-based music lovers with a weekend escape in the form of their annual music fest.
Since its inception in 2005, Pitchfork Music Festival has boasted exciting weekends full of both popular and obscure alternative artists spanning all genres. Last weekend was no exception, as many big names headlined the 2016 edition such as Miguel, FKA Twigs, Anderson .Paak and The Free Nationals, BJ the Chicago Kid, Jeremih, Carly Rae Jepsen and many more.
One of the coolest things about #P4KFest is that because of its alternative and “free-spirited” nature, chances are you’ll become exposed to several artists and groups (or even genres) you’ll wish you’ve been up on a long time ago. Within the span of three days, your mind will open up as you listen to some of the best curated group of musicians, with some being moderately new and even some old school artists you might haven’t been up on.
With that said, leaving no genre untouched, here is a carefully crafted list of several artists and bands from this year’s roster you have to bump with the quickness.
Coming from the gritty industrial of Gary, IN., electronic musician/producer Jlin (pronounced Jay-Lin) is a beast when it comes making trap and footwork music, a staple in Midwest hip-hop. But listening to her electric instrumentals alone doesn’t do it enough justice. Her frenzied sets are a must see, featuring impressive foot working and juking that shows fans what Chicago foot working is all about. The intensity of her production is a reflection of the guttural Midwest culture and her music is nothing to miss out on.
Songs to Check Out: “Unknown Tongues,” “Guantanamo”
This Chicago-based indie rock group carries a rich, soulful and smokey sound that’s inspired by country, classic rock and folk music with a Chicago rock twist. In fact, if you ever get the urge to throw yourself a bonfire in the woods and sip some moonshine out of a Mason jar, you’re not crazy. It’s the vibe that their music gives you: a unique down home sound that’s slightly reminiscent of Lynyrd Skynrd meets John Lennon’s solo work. They’ve been making music together since 2015 and have recently put out their debut album Light Upon The Lake this past June.
Songs to Check Out: “Golden Days”, “No Matter Where We Go,” “No Woman”
Jenkins is one of the premier artists coming out of Chi-Town who, although has been putting in work for quite some time and worked with the likes of fellow natives Chance the Rapper and Vic Mensa, along with NYC’s Joey Badass, hasn’t quite received the spotlight he deserves on a major level. Despite this, he’s garnered a cult-like following to his dense lyricism and metaphors, a mellow, but 808 bass heavy soundscape, and realistic subject matter. His highly energetic shows and uncanny skill to connect with the crowd makes him a must see when he comes to your city. And you can enjoy more of this when his upcoming album, [T]he [H]ealing [C]omponent, drops sometime this year.
Songs to Check Out: “Alchemy”, “The Water,” “Gang”
Las Vegas-bred Shamir is an electronic/house music artist with a highly eclectic, unique style, all the way from his production and voice to his colorful and outlandish visuals. His deceptively high-pitched voice, an instrument within itself, effortlessly expresses a full range of his emotions, depending of the mood of the song. If anything, the closest thing to describe his voice his if you could imagine what Fantasia Burrino would sound like if she was a man. And because of the way he manipulates his voice, it further amplifies his lyrics.
The beauty of his music is that it carries a strong sense of liberation and a bold, fearless freedom to not allow himself to be bound by traditional music standards, as he identifies as genderqueer (Shamir doesn’t care about the pronouns). Not only that, but his performances are fun enough to cut through even the most rugged machismo men in the area. Shamir is certainly one of the more innovative artists on this list that you can’t miss out on. Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait until 2017 to see him live as the 2016 Pitchfork Music Festival was his last performance of the year. In the meantime, you can check out his 2015 album, Ratchet from XL recordings.
Songs to Check Out: “In For The Kill,” “Darker”
The dreamy sounds of this Spanish-Honduran artist coming out of Los Angeles will certainly take you places unlike any other. Real name, Lorley Rodriguez, she’s an alternative R&B/synthpop artist who is one of the more versatile musicians on this list with her dopes skills on the synthesizer with an angelic singing voice to match. From her musical abilities to her highly creative visuals, her tunes carry a lot of depth and meaning as she often gets very personal in her music. It goes well with the very trippiness of her soundscape. If Empress Of’s music doesn’t create visuals in your head and you don’t end up seeing colors, you’re lacking. Get up on game with her latest album ME.
Songs to Check Out: “Water Water,” “How Do You Do It,” “A Woman Is A Word”
Don’t let the name of his Ireland rock band fool you; there’s nothing even remotely “girly” about them. This all-male punk band brings the spirit of Nirvana with classic headbanger rock to their performances. It’s not difficult to listen to tracks like “Paul” or “Lawman” and wonder why you ended up bouncing in a real live mosh pit at one of their shows. It’s sinful to the punk rock gods to NOT set off a riot to their music…or bang your head into something (but don’t hurt yourself!). The sheer intensity of their music matched with their sometimes creepy and/or bleak, but highly creative visuals makes this rock band a group you have to watch out for. Check out their newly released debut album Holding Hands With Jamie.
Songs to Check Out: “Paul,” “Lawman,” “Pears For Lunch”
Band leader and exceedingly awesome saxophonist Kamasi Washington is a guy some of you should be already familiar with if you’ve been listening to Kendrick Lamar’s masterpiece, To Pimp A Butterfly. He lend his solid musicianship to the jazzy soundscape and helped make it one of the best albums of 2015. The Los Angeles native worked with the likes of Snoop Dogg, Flying Lotus, Chaka Khan, Thundercat, Lauryn Hill and many other legendary artists.
Washington, along with his band, The West Coast Get Down, perform with such palpable chemistry. With the heavenly vocals of Patrice Quinn along with Tony Austin, Miles Mosely, Ryan Porter, Cameron Graves, Ryan Bruner Jr., and Brandon Coleman, they create very spirited and soulful jazz music (that has slight hints of hip-hop in it) that’s sure to fill your spirits with plenty of groove and harmony.
Songs to Check Out: “The Rhythm Changes,” “Isabel,” “Final Thought”
If there were a new age British Invasion occurring anytime soon, the UK’s NAO would one of the many artists leading the pack. Real name, Neo Joshua, she’s an exciting R&B/electronic/pop newcomer who’s has very soft and sensual voice that brings out the emotion in her soul stirring lyrics about based around love.
Her tunes are dreamy and her style is loosely reminiscent of Brandy, Aaliyah or Monica in the early/mid 90s with a heavy funk and electronic influence. If you listen to her beautifully crafted music long enough, it’s sure to have you deep in your feelings. Have a listen to her debut album, For All We Know, which will be released on July 29.
Songs to Check Out: “Fool To Love,” “Girlfriend,” “Bad Blood”
BJ the Chicago Kid
BJ the Chicago Kid is your favorite rapper’s favorite new-ish R&B singer. While he’s had a lot of great looks by appearing on many-a-lyricist’s deep and soulful cuts, like Big K.R.I.T., Kendrick Lamar and Schoolboy Q’s biggest hit, “Studio,” he’s getting real close to that shining spotlight on his own with songs like “Church” and having one of his jams “Smoking and Riding” featured on the Grand Theft Auto V soundtrack.
BJ, real name Bryan James Sledge, is the epitome of new age soul music with his harmonious voice sounding better than frying bacon on a Sunday morning. And his live shows are absolutely a must see, as he’s just as bad (meaning good) on the drums as he his with singing. In Feburary, the Motown signed artist released his album In My Mind to great critical acclaim and is well on his way to super stardom.
Songs to Check Out: “Smoking and Riding” ft. Freddie Gibbs & Problem, “Church” ft. Chance The Rapper, “Turnin’ Me Up”
If Janet Jackson was from the UK, brought to this era, never made pop music, and went the experimental route, you would almost certainly get FKA Twigs. She’s arguably the queen of the experimental R&B scene (though its been reported that she would argue “punk”) and is gunning to be one of the most talented and versatile artists of this decade.
Like Shamir, FKA Twigs has a boundless freedom in her music that allows her to play with various industrial sounds and have highly artistic and often though provoking images in many of her videos and performances. Her dancing is also “Janet” and possibly Caribbean influenced, which makes her shows stand out, along with her wardrobe. And the sensual and melodic nature of her voice is to die for. Check out her latest album, M3LL155X.
Songs to Check Out: “Pendulum,” “Video Girl,” “Water Me”