Coachella 2011 preview

Jesse Paller

Roar Musicologist

Coachella Lineup Top 10

For the Coachella devotees who showed their support by buying tickets, here is a list of (in my opinion) the best and most rewarding performers to catch in the three-day Utopia that kicks off spring break. To everybody else, these artists are all great listening. Start your playlist today!

1. The Chemical Brothers (Friday)

With all the superstars and reunions this year, you may wonder why I picked the relatively lesser-known (although still very known) Chemical Brothers as the number-one act to see. How could a two-DJ group outshine a live rock band, or a rapper? If you are looking to have fun at Coachella, then this is your priority too. The Chemical Brothers put on an amazing show, complete with highly psychedelic visuals and lights. But the music is the key: unique beats and expansive synth loops are destined to blow your minds and move the feet of even the most aloof indie kids. Many of their songs have titles with space-travel imagery, appropriately. I wouldn’t be surprised if the far reaches of the cosmos reverberated to the sounds of these brothers and the rhythm of the ecstatic dancing Coachella-goers. I’m sure they will steal the show.

Songs to know: Swoon, Another World, Escape Velocity

2. The Morning Benders (Friday)

The Morning Benders started out a few years ago as an outlet for frontman Chris Chu, an indie rock band soaked with acoustic West Coast folk and appropriately sunny textures. A current checkup on their musical evolution finds them evoking more impressions of Grizzly Bear, gracing Chu’s stellar songwriting with ominous reverb and ethereal guitar atmospheres. The combination of this unique sound and the band’s musicianship with Chu’s yearning vocals (think halfway between the Shins and Phoenix) and honest lyrics makes this a very exciting band to watch, especially in this critical stage in their development, their first Coachella festival.

Songs to know: Excuses, Loose Change, Promises

3. The Strokes (Sunday)

Forget Kings of Leon. This band wrote the book on bringing the testosterone back into modern rock. Their music and style redefined the direction that alternative rock music would take. With blistering guitar, danceable beats and drawling attitude-soaked vocals, the Strokes provided our generation with a killer soundtrack. Their addictive hooks will have you rocking out, easily. Coming out of a three-year break, their energetic live performance will ensure you that you are right in doing so. A victory celebration for the most exciting reunion of this year’s festival.

Songs to know: Juicebox, Last Nite, Reptilia

4. Ratatat (Sunday)

This group broke into the music scene a couple years ago with their singular sound: skittering electronic beats bearing the weight of colossal guitar harmonies. Since then they have widened their scope a bit: adding instruments like piano, harpsichord, and strings to the mix, adding liquefying effects and deeper bass lines, and incorporating elements of hip-hop and reggae, to name a few. But as their sound matures, the bittersweet chords and melodies remain. I’ll see you at this set if you’re in the mood to dance it up with some true musical innovators.

Songs to know: Loud Pipes, Mirando, Drugs

5. Death From Above 1979 (Sunday)

Seniors’ delight! The band to love 7th grade has reunited to party once again. This two-piece group creates a huge sound for their size- the intense wailing of Sebastien Grainger smolders in the heat of his own powerhouse drumming and the crunchy bass riffs of the great-named Jesse F. Keeler (also of MSTRKRFT fame). Get pumped to see this group, which has excelled in creating intensity out of simplicity, crafting succinct burners for everybody to dance ferociously to.

Songs to know: Little Girl, You’re a Woman I’m a Machine, Sexy Results

6. Erykah Badu (Saturday)

Mama Badu created a stir in 1996 with her classic album Baduizm, blending tough hip-hop beats and bass lines with her own jazzy vocals and hyperconscious lyrics. Since then she has continued to innovate in the genre of R&B. Her singing range is incredible and her subtleties of inflection and melody will excite. Meanwhile your heads will nod like you weren’t expecting- her beats are only the best.

Songs to know: Window Seat, On & On, Bag Lady

7. Chromeo (Sunday)

Spare beats, disco bass, synths just as dated, and vocals pushing the boundaries of Auto-Tune? Could it actually work? Apparently, yes, at least with Chromeo. An extremely fun band to watch, this twosome takes the music of several decades ago and gives it a modern twist, accentuating the sleaziness with some modern production tricks including the aforementioned singing machine, which they have a lot of fun with. Hey, it’s what the kids are listening to. At least, the ones who like to get down.

Songs to know: Momma’s Boy, Bonafied Lovin’, So Gangsta

8. Nas & Damian Marley (Sunday)

It’s interesting to hear Nas in this setting. The rapper who took hip-hop by storm with his violent debut at 19 years old (Illmatic, widely considered the best rap album ever), and who continues to be considered one of the most powerful and lyrically versatile rappers of the genre, may at first seem too hardcore, too vitriolic to rap over a genre as seemingly complacent as reggae. Until, of course, you realize that reggae itself is protest music, and Damian Marley one of its most streetwise prophets. In a unique fusion of genres on Distant Relatives, the two poets interact in lush island surroundings, darkened by urbanity and pining for Africa.

Songs to know: Leaders, Nah Mean, As We Enter

9. Arcade Fire (Saturday)

In the world of indie rock, many bands display their creativity through a lens of whimsy, appealing but unattainable in any unaltered modern setting. The Arcade Fire, an excellent pillar of the indie genre, abandon this and create songs of cathartic emotion that in acknowledging the world’s stress and grief somehow make us feel better about it. The quavering heights of frontman Win Butler’s voice and the aching string accompaniments are too poignant to be simple displays of musical talent. Rather the band is doing what is done less and less in music today: being honest.

Songs to know: Neighborhood #1-4, We Used to Wait, Wake Up

10. The Black Keys (Friday)

The music video for their excellent single “Tighten Up,” reveals this band’s knack for humor and fun groove. But the music on their latest album, Brothers, is nothing but serious. These two hipster-looking dudes have managed to cook up a legitimate brand of gritty, no-nonsense rock n’ roll. The minor key blend contains measures of classic rock, southern blues, and even some gospel, creating a dark soundtrack, perhaps, for the on-the-edge life of the Old West. Great rockers well worth seeing.

Songs to know: Tighten Up, Ten Cent Pistol, The Go Getter

Honorable Mentions

Kanye West (Sunday)

If he doesn’t show up late, may entertain with awesome songs old and new, possibly clarify his opinions some more.

Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti (Friday)

Blends the music of the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s with psychedelic sonics and hazy vocals, a cosmic trip laced with neon.

Kings of Leon (Friday)

A band in the classic sense, all rock and no gimmicks… catch them before alcohol does.

Lauryn Hill (Friday)

A strong vocalist over rough hip-hop beats, killing you softly with her song.

Cee-Lo Green (Friday)

The soulful self-proclaimed lady killer of Gnarls Barkley fame gives the middle finger to a special someone.

Cage the Elephant (Saturday)

The true essence of the garage band: fast, aggressive, and noisy, but somehow charming.

Flogging Molly/Gogol Bordello/Aquabats (Friday/Saturday/Friday)

The cult rock favorites and bands from elementary school: angry Irish, gypsy punks, and just plain cuties.

Wiz Khalifa (Sunday)

If you can see his swagger through all that smoke, he’ll flow rings around your piercings.

Phantogram (Sunday)

Not sure if they’re electronic or pop or trip-hop or alternative or what, but they’re certainly beautiful.

Ducksauce (Sunday)

Oo-oo-oo-oo-ooh oo-oo-ooh oo-oo-ooh, oo-oo-oo-oo-ooh oo-oo-ooh ooo Barbra Streisand!

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