It's that time of the year again. Summer is great and all, especially in C-U, but we're lucky enough to have something to still keep us going once the those months have passed. That month is September, which means it's time for Pygmalion Music Festival.
I'm always budding with anticipation, much like many of our readers are, to hear who is going to be performing at Pygmalion each year. I know many of us at SP are. Well, I've put this together, so here you have it.
Pygmalion Music Festival takes place September 26–28, 2013 all around C-U. Here's your 2013 initial lineup.
The party has officially started in Champaign-Urbana for Pygmalion 2013. There is no underestimating how massive this headliner is for the festival because it's going to absolutely bring the house down. As stage moniker and alter-ego for globally renowned producer Diplo, Major Lazer is a project that crosses over between mainstream hip-hop and rap lovers to indie heads, those who love reggae and everything in between. Major Lazer is a project that is just about as versatile and as colorful as his outfit appears, and about as powerful as his stature. The combination of a new record in 2013, Free the Universe, combined with the critically acclaimed Guns Don't Kill People... Lazers Do from 2009 — basically makes Major Lazer the king of the fucking planet — this one, and whatever one he plans to take over next.
It's not fair to judge a band entirely by a single "hit" song, which means something totally different in indie rock than it does in the mainstream world. A hit single, like Breeders' "Cannonball," doesn't really epitomize what this band is about. However, a standout record amongst many other fantastic records can shape the legacy of a band forever. Last Splash is that album for this band, and a spectacular one it is at that. The band is taking on 2013 in a huge way, touring and performing all over the world in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the release of Last Splash, which isn't anything to complain about. It's something to be revered.
Following the success of their re-released self-titled debut, The Head and the Heart haven't really stopped doing what they do best. This six-piece outfit has risen from the depths of the unknown and into a place of prominence seemingly in the blink of an eye. Anyone who loves these guys will be very happy with this booking as well as the following act, Dawes. They're writing and recording their new record and follow-up to that debut release from a couple years ago, so new music is on the way. Their mixture of gospel harmonies and jangly piano ballad sing-a-longs feels vintage with a hint of rooty rock music to complete the package.
Another band that falls along the crossover line that appeals to lovers of country, indie rock, Americana, and folk rock, Dawes are gracing the Pygmalion bill with their presence this year. They recently made their way through C-U touring with the one and only Robert Zimmerman, aka Bob Dylan, this past April. They're quickly moving up and for good reason. Their sound transcends genres and the band continues to put out consistently great records, including this year's Stories Don't End. They'll fit right in with this year's bill, just about as comfortably as their sound would indicate.
"No destruction ... in the waking hours" might not sum up the last couple of months Foxygen has had on their wild ride in revitalizing a sound within rock 'n roll. They had some issues at SXSW, which anyone probably would have had touring nonstop since the release of their terrific We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic. This record is one of the best things to come out all year, and it sounds like something we've heard before, yet totally reinvented in many ways. Jangly pianos, destructive guitars, waining vocals, and an all-around delight to listen to, Foxygen tributes to their rock 'n roll forefathers like Dylan, Velvet Underground, and the Rolling Stones in the most redeemable ways without sounding like a replica. They're piecing together an addictive sound that feels like yesteryear.
Bedroom pop has its place within the world of indie rock music. It's just a matter of making it sound like it belongs in a much bigger space than a single bedroom. Youth Lagoon fosters that type of sound: intimacy and inclusiveness combined with projection and ambition. Year of Hibernation stood out a couple of years ago, and as Youth Lagoon heads back to C-U after performing at Pygmalion 2011, Trevor Powers is packing more of a punch in 2013 with the expansiveness of this year's Wonderous Bughouse. Truly a giant step forward in the establishment of a bedroom pop sound that is completely engulfing and fulfilling.
Literally on the heels of his highly anticipated new mixtape, Acid Rap, Chicago's up-and-coming emcee has a ton of hype on his side. A couple of nods from the ol' Pitchfork machine will help increase that hype-meter as well, but Chance doesn't really need all of that hype. The product is there; just listen to the free mixtape yourself and you can be the judge. Having performed in C-U a few times over at the Canopy Club, this area of Illinois is his friend. I mean, look at this. Boom. Although Pygmalion hasn't dabbled much in the rap/hip-hop genre, this and Major Lazer could create another awesome dynamic to the festival.
Warpaint is a band on the bill that has been relatively quiet since the release of their acclaimed debut The Fool from a few years back. That record was stellar because of its versatility: packing the punch that it takes to fit in with garage-psych acts while at the same time, doing something a band like The xx does in utilizing silence so well. Warpaint's sound doesn't jump right out at you, grab hold of you, and shake you until you understand. A lot of it is about patience. Perhaps they'll have a new record out by the time Pygmalion rolls around, but for now, it's all up to speculaton. What we don't have to speculate about is the fact that they're making gloomy indie rock sound that feels comforting as it washes over you.
It takes a lot to put together piano ballads that are really gripping. Perfume Genius, aka Mike Hadreas, has showcased that ability time and time again. This is especially true on the triumphant Put Your Back N 2 It from last year, which was overlooked towards the end of the year. Although his methods appear delicate and fragile, songs like "Take Me Home" and "Hood" balance out of quieter cuts like "Normal Song" and "Awol Marine." This guy knows how it works and makes patient music soaked in emotion.
This UK trio, fronted by the elegance of vocalist and songwriter Elena Tonra, makes its way over to the Midwest to be a part of this year's festival. Their mixture of gloomy instrumentation and rhythms capable of grand proportions provide a terrific backdrop for any landscape. They're cut from a similar cloth as a band like Florence + the Machine, but feel more worthwhile. They have the potential to sound massive, while at the same time creating lush tracks that have the ability to slowly sink in. Daughter is a pretty dynamic outfit and do a lot more than appears at surface level. Just take a listen to their debut If You Leave and you'll understand where I'm coming from.
Post-punk of the past few years sounds a lot different than it did back in the late-80s. That's just a fact. There's nothing wrong with an updated version of what post-punk should sound like, and this is one of those bands doing it the right way. When you produce a sound that is as pummelling as how METZ delivers their style of this genre, it can pretty much destroy your eardrums. This Canadian trio is riding high off of their stellar self-titled release from last year and riding all the way into our portion of the Midwest in September. This is a band that is abundantly resourceful, with a few quality tricks and a lot of firepower.
With their release of Bitter Drink Bitter Moon around the time Pygmalion was happening last year, Murder by Death has been busy performing and touring all over the place. In particular, they performed recently in C-U with Man Man as a part of the Pygmalion Spring Show Series at the Highdive. They're no strangers to this part of the Midwest because, well, they're from Bloomington, Indiana. So not too far away from these parts. Regardless of whether they come through C-U on a yearly basis or not, their brand of alt-country is one of a kind and keeps us all coming back to see them when they're around.
Seattle's own Damien Jurado makes his way back to Pygmalion after a six-year absence from the festival. His last appearance came way back in 2007 opening up for Okkervil River. He's also performed in Urbana as recently as 2011 for the Pygmalion Afterglow series with John Vanderslice. After a solid 2012 with the release of his newest effort, Maraqopa, it's about time he comes back and performs for us here in C-U. This down tempo acoustic folk will be a treat between the end of summer and the start of fall in September.
Similar to how artists like Owen Pallett or even Andrew Bird utilize the violin, Kishi Bashi takes those techniques and twists them through a pop sensibility. Kishi Bashi, aka K. Ishibashi, uses this pseudonym for this multi-instrumental project and fits right in with indie pop bands that he's performed with, like of Montreal and Regina Spector. Bashi produces these violin-pluckingly driven tracks that swirl into a symphony of bliss, while maintaining the ability to sneak wonderful straightforward toe-tappers like "Bright Whites" streaming below.
We had the pleasant opportunity to have Saturday Looks Good to Me perform in Champaign just about a year ago at this time. We also have the pleasure of having the band on Champaign's own Polyvinyl Records. Although we had the band in town in a pretty great way, 2013 will bring them back to C-U in an even bigger way, as they're set to perform at this year's festival. They're on the heels of releasing their new record, One Kiss Ends it All (out at the end of May), and they're on the road showing everyone what they're made of and how much their indie pop sound still resonates so gracefully.
This rapper grew up in Illinois as well, but has been going places. K.Flay's mixture of forward-thinking hip-hop with her hooks make her an up-and-comer in the world of emcees. She recently released her new mixtape, West Ghost, which you can download over at her website for free. She's put out tracks featuring the explodingly popular Danny Brown that have made quite the splash on the internet, and continues to churn out more solid material.
Erin Fein is prepared to take this project to new heights in 2013. We still like to call them another local C-U flavor, but in reality, they're on their way to another great place. Fein moved to Brooklyn in attempts to get this post-Headlights project the attention it really deserves (moving directly to a hotbed of indie rock music cannot hurt their chances), and is working on mixing their new record at the moment. We've been pretty spoiled up to this point to have them around our neck of the woods for as long as they were here, but we're glad to see them on the way up. They will, without a doubt, be as stellar as ever at this year's festival with all of this material fine-tuned and ready for us to hear.
New Yorkers Caveman have put together a pretty awesome sound piecing together some '80s undertones and mashing it with their own style of harmony-driven indie rock. The synth drenched track below, "In the City," is a perfect example of what we're dealing with in these five guys. Those soaring vocals and guitars sound both modern and retro-inspired, and their newest self-titled record on Fat Possom Records is nothing to overlook this year.
On An On's sound often feels like it could fill rooms much bigger than the average alternative or indie rock band. With their debut record Give In hot off the presses this year, they're garnering a lot of attention. They've been on a pretty huge tour of the United States and falling into Europe on the second leg, so they'll be returning stateside for more shows, including a spot at this year's festival. On An On take the redeeming parts of alternative rock and add an synthed-out backbone that has a big-time kick to it.
Someone who has spent time performing with Guided by Voices can't fall too far from the tree of good music. This is one of those projects, where ex-GBV member James Greer is taking the reins and producing some satisfying garage pop. Their 2012 release However Strange is a perfect display of what they're about. They're packing the best of indie rock lo-fi at times mixed with male-female vocals that remind me of some Yo La Tengo-esque routines, but much more straightforward. Their style is easily digestable.
PHOX is not an easy band to pin down into one category or another, so I'm not even going to try. Vocally led by the raspy gorgeousness of Monica Martin with the rest of this crew, they are a band to pay attention to at this year's festival. They performed recently with our very own Grandkids at Mid By Midwest prior to making their way down to SXSW. They caught some attention down there, so certainly they'll try to do the same up here in C-U. The good kind of attention, that is.
This Norweigan singer-songwriter brings her 2013 release Innocence Is Kinky to C-U for this year's festival. Watch out for Hval though; she has some serious pipes that are on full display throughout that release, which came out just a few weeks ago on Rune Grammofon. Her voice sounds very grounded at times, while sounding like she's on top of a mountain shouting within the same breath. It's an incredible mixture of vocal technique and is a very intriguing method to use. Her sound is very choir-esque.
We had the pleasure of having Dirty Projectors blow us away in Urbana at last year's festival, and now we get some residual effects of them coming to town. That is, the band's bassist is bringing his side project back to town. When he's not performing with the full band or helping out other artists (appears on the Department of Eagles' In Ear Park and Vampire Weekend's Contra), he's putting together some experimental indie folk that is worthwhile. His last record came a few years back with 2011's People Changes, so I would imagine by now that he'll have some new material ready for us.
Electronic artist out of Ann Arbor, Michigan, Justin Walter joins the bill this year as he is set to release his upcoming debut record, Lullabies & Nightmares, at the end of this month on Kranky Records. It's been a few years since touring electronic artists have been incorporated into the festival, so this is another welcomed dynamic coming around this year at Pygmalion. Walter meshes the ambience of his older material with a more electronic feel in the newer single, "Dream Weaving," so he's capable of delivering something pretty dynamic.
LOCALS (listed alphabetically):
THE DIRTY FEATHERS: Another local outfit in the midst of recording their new record and follow up to the grimy rock 'n roll of Midnight Snakes joins the bill again this year after peforming last year with the mighty HUM.
ELSINORE: No surprise here as Elsinore and their new record PUSH / PULL find their way on to the Pygmalion bill once again. In past years they've performed with Tennis & Dirty Projectors, as well as Pains of Being Pure at Heart.
GRANDKIDS: On the heels of their splendid full-length Timeshare, Grandkids have set the bar very high for local release of the year thus far.
THE STRUGGLE: This C-U hip-hop band has frequently performed with local emcee Swords, but will be stepping out on their own this year.
SUN STEREO: Indie-electro rock outfit Sun Stereo hops on the bill this year after their impressive debut record, Rogue Satellite.