Muzik. Coachella: My top 10 acts to see.

If I know you and have spoken to you in the past 3 months, I would have no doubt informed you of my upcoming trip to the US, headlined by a cheeky visit to Joshua Tree for California’s and arguably the USA’s most popular multi-day music and art festival. To say the least I am super psyched to drink some beer, meet some Californian royalty, dress in some douchey festival gear and wake up dazed and really fucking confused. However, let’s face it, the reason we all go to these festivals is to hear a lineup full of the some of the biggest artists in the world currently…

One can only hope that this is the true reason they come to these festivals… maybe I’m overestimating the power of live music. Anyway, with a lineup headlined by Canadian indie rock demi-gods, Arcade Fire, the evergreen Muse and of course who could forget the ATLiens returning for EVERY festival across the Northern Hemisphere, it is clear that this is another bumper year for the two weekend event.

There are always reasons to complain for stalwarts of the festival who believe that it is becoming too electronic, too mainstream and too ready to jump on the hottest new act rather than sticking to those who arguably deserve more of the spotlight. But we live in the 21st century mahn, hot new trends come at us like a bogan’s offering his opinion on Australia Day being changed to Citizen’s Day… pretty bloody fast. And for me, well I’m just here for a good time nark.

It is extremely difficult to reduce a lineup of a multitude of artists into one list of 10 based on how thirsty I am to see the act however I’m going to give’er a go because no one has even thought about doing something like this yet! I have to add that there are acts I am obviously incredibly keen but I’ve already seen them in rather close proximity to the festival. Arcade Fire, City and Colour, Muse, Outkast (hohoho, just kiddin’) and James Vincent McMorrow.

10) Girl Talk

I’ve seen Girl Talk before at the 2012 Big Day Out and I can safely say that the sweat that dripped down my back is still sitting there in some elusive crevasse, waiting for the next time that the opening of ‘All Day’ drops and the assault of Black Sabbath x Ludacris x Jay Z smashes your eardrums all in quick succession. Some may suggest that Gregg Michael Gillis is simply a DJ, I rather contend that the man is a genius, deftly combining classic songs from one genre with something completely out of the ordinary. With the overdose of electronica firmly an aim by the Coachella organisers (to the detriment of the old school guitar, drums and singer combo), it is quite a conundrum for me to endorse a mash up DJ. But this man is not simply a DJ, this man knows how to get us moving and he is extremely skilled at what he does. Let’s just hope everyone wears dark colours otherwise the sweat patches are going to stain through.

9) The 1975

I cannot understand most of what these guys are saying. They are from Manchester after all, however there is something so tremendously alluring about how they do it. There is nothing particularly fresh about the themes they preach about (women, drugs, chocolate) but there is something pretty damn fresh about the way they go about putting it out there. There is something desperate about Matthew Healy’s vocals accompanied by the often frenetic drums and bass. I suppose you could call it delicate synth pop that just oozes sexuality. It will be interesting to see what type of crowd it attracts. There might be a bit of adherence to the whole ‘we get back to your house, your hands, my mouth, now I just stop myself around you’ if you know what I mean! Oh, you don’t?

There you go.

8) Darkside

The reason? Well, the first 11 minutes of their album, Psychic, probably sums it up.

Wow. And they also do some pretty gnarly remixes as DAFTSIDEStreuth.

7) Blood Orange

Dev Hynes is a virtuouso. For me, Cupid Deluxe (Blood Orange) and Apocalypse from Thundercat were the two albums that illuminated the future of R ‘n B music last year. Of course, the man takes great inspiration from the brilliant voices of the past but his sound is vibrant mix of a large percussion section, synth and of course the delicious guitar work from the man himself. A host of other voices including Samantha Urbani (Friends) on numerous tracks perfectly complement the outrageous range of Mr Hynes.

Hynes is the classic producer/writer come highly respected solo artist story and I couldn’t pick a better mid afternoon set in the Coachella sunset. It would be pretty delightful if Solange and him could put the conjecture behind them and come together for a jam. However, what I am really looking forward to is ‘It is what it is’, one of the best songs from the album, hopefully with a guest appearance from Ms Urbani to fill in the gaps.

6) Disclosure

Minus Daft Punk’s ubiquitous ‘Random Access Memories’, Disclosure’s debut album was probably the most successful dance album released in 2013 (#trends). Latch, You and Me, White Noise, Help Me Lose My Mind and Confess to Me not only launched the career of the two brothers from the UK but also helped bring international attention to Sam Smith, Eliza Doolittle, Hannah Reid (London Grammar) and Jessie Ware. Sam Smith plays in LA in between Week 1 and Week 2 of the festival so it seems reasonably likely that he will be joining the lads on stage which judging on last year’s performance at Coachella, will be bring the house down.

Love it or hate it, Disclosure are part of the changing of the guard of pop music. There is a huge energy within Disclosure’s debut, something that their set will no doubt reflect and I expect one of the biggest crowds of the festival to crowd will gather to witness the word of the ‘Clord’. Simple themes delivered with spectacular nuance sums up their first album and I expect a rousing… potentially arousing set from the duo.

5) Nas

Hip hop figures don’t get any bigger than the King of New York (sorry Jay… and Compton’s own K.Lamar..? ;)) Illmatic is still my favourite hip hop album of all time. To be fair, I am certainly not to be considered a hip hop purist but I know what I like and Nas combines a social conscience, passionate and exceptionally tight delivery with innovative beats. Although newcomers continue to attack his throne and his own form is currently not platinum, Nas remains one of the most influential figures in hip-hop. No newcomer would be where he is without Nas (imagine that). The moment when I was informed that ‘life’s a bitch denya die’ was the moment I started to nod my head and relax. How many hip hop artists can vouch to having surrounded the gloomy landscape of the ghetto with so many shades of grey. Optimism, realism, idealism. Rage, genuine sadness, hope, desolation, lust and a call to arms. These are the many sides of Nas.

When Nas drops the line ‘I never sleep, because sleep is the cousin of death’ I will do the white boy thing and bang me chest five times. Nas is the Prince of hip hop. The King of New York. But he transcends race and geographical circumstance. He is untouchable.

4) Little Dragon

With a new album due out on May 13, it will be interesting to see if Swedish outfit Little Dragon decorate their set with new numbers in between the seductive tunes from the first two albums and of course the heartbreaking ‘Twice’. ‘Twice’ still sums up this act for me. Distinctive, dreamy, confounding. I can’t quite put my finger on them and whether I am just a curious passerby or truly passionate about their music. Yukimi Nagano has one of these tender voices and enunciates so delicately that I just have this ridiculous urge to run my fingers through her hair with my eyes closed as she sings. Bonobo, SBTRKT and Little Dragon are just a few acts that fall into that bracket of music that is so soulful yet so different to traditional soul and nu-soul… and yet, it embraces those elements that make it so alluring and it challenges us to react impulsively. It really is quite remarkable stuff.

3) Haim

One of the buzz bands of 2013, the California girls burst onto the scene with a sound reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac mashed into Sheryl Crow (They’ve covered her splendidly already). But they insist they are more heavily inspired by acts such as TLC, Aaliyah and other 90s R ‘n’ B acts. They are ‘cool’ at the moment, they are ‘hot’ at the moment but are they the real deal? Their live presence is constantly improving however they are still rather raw. Yet, there is so much to like about these girls. They’ve covered songs such as Beyonce’s ‘XO’, Sheryl Crow’s ‘Strong Enough’ and Miley Cyrus’ ‘Wrecking Ball’ in their eccentric, fulsome manner and they’ve also released a killer album that reflects their easy Californian way. Sure, they were basically bred to succeed in the music industry judging on their early rendezvous with pop music fame as ‘The Valli Girls’ but they have not been slain by the industry. They have their own voices and they have created some damn catchy music. Write them off as lukewarm hipster garbage at your peril. They may be an act to be seen at but it could be argued that they are the Scene right now. Whether it lasts is to be, well, seen but until then I’m just going get my jam on.

2) Queens of the Stone Age

Queens of the Stone Age. Kings of the California Desert. Josh Homme still reigns as one of the current Tsars of modern rock. …Like Clockwork involved a few of the other Kings (and Queens) of both rock and pop music. Dave Grohl, Trent Reznor, Alex Turner, Mark Lanegan and the one and only Elton John. This raises a few questions. Why are the Arctic Monkeys not on the bill? And how come Bonnaroo gets Elton John and we get Skrillex? Oh well. We still get the moodiest motherfucker in rock, Mr Josh Homme and the best fucking rock band in the world behind him. …Like Clockwork just showed that these guys are not done and Josh Homme may never die. That would be good news for people who like… good news? Not only was it gloomy, moody and sizzling with frustration, it was also rugged and extremely fucking good. I’m not sure why I’m swearing so much, I’m just that damn excited. Songs for the Deaf still reigns as my favourite QOTSA album. I mean, No One Knows, Song for the Deaf, Mosquito Song and Six Shooter. Enough said. And yet, it doesn’t cover even a smidgen of their decade and a half of brilliance. We are really in for a blistering set of music you can set your watch to. It is music that is made for the maddening desert. So this is probably the perfect place to unleash the beast. And how good is this for a setlist.

1) Outkast

Do we need to bother going through the details? The greatest hip hop duo ever (apologies to Eric B. and Rakim) finally back together. FINALLY! Andre 3000, the slickest MC of all time, enough to make this white straight boy go ‘Yeah, that man is fucking sexy’ and Big Boi, a warrior with the mic, one of the most insightful and intelligent rappers of all time. Outkast. Southernplayisticadillacmuzik – Welcome to Atlanta, ATLiens – Comin’ up slammin’ Cadillac doors, Aquemini – Return of the Gangster, Stankonia – Bombs over Baghdad, Speakerboxx/The Love Below – Where the fuck are my panties? and Idlewild… well, everyone makes mistakes, even ATLiens.

What surprises do they have in store? What song comes first? Will they shed any light on future projects or is this a year to pay off their debts, make good their promises and walk back into the sunset? Either way we are going to get one of the most exhilarating sets of all time.

And one for the Aussie contingent.

With a rather large group of Aussie performers this year, Jagwar Ma stand out to me as the act most likely to crack international success. Their zany, bouncy sound never ceases to cause a seismic shift in my pants. With their dizzyingly jagged guitar solos and their constant harmonies that push the ‘Australian Beach Boys’ comparison, it is pretty easy to see how these guys are considered one of the most exciting new acts out of Australia. Their debut album ‘Howlin” could be summarised in two words (if you have a good imagination.) Psychedelic funk. To see how this transfers to a live crowd will be particularly interesting for me. But how can this fail in front of a crowd of ludicrously intoxicated young adults?

The rapturous chorus, the nostalgic sentiment, the drums that feel like you are careening out of control (more in the album version than the above video)… one to watch.

I’m fairly excited…

… yep.
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