Hector’s Top 10 Non-EDM Picks for Coachella 2016
A few weeks away from Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival and tickets are being sent out now! Following up from my previous post, selecting 10 EDM acts that are must sees, I’m selecting 10 Coachella bands and other non-EDM acts I’m stoked to see. The styles here will range from a mellow indie feel to punk to the nostalgic rumble of my 80’s rock-loving self to bars from Ice Cube. It’s hard to not have any time conflicts with so much talent on a lineup like Coachella always stacks, so hopefully this will help you sort out your musical priorities before heading out to the polo fields.
Miami Horror (Friday)
Miami Horror is an Australian band that has mostly a chill-wave, indie pop sound. Their most recent album, “All Possible Futures,” has the field frolicking sound you would expect to hear from an indie band with some dance-pop influence sprinkled in. They’ve supported the likes of Phoenix and other bands, to give you an idea of what their instrumental vibe consists of; upbeat energy with a gently rocking use of electronic elements. “All Possible Futures” features vocals from Sarah Chernoff on “Real Slow,” and singer-songwriter Cleopold as well. Expect to hear lots of layered melodies, as in “Cellophane” that will twirl through the crowd with really light elements of funk that move your body. My most anticipated track to hear is “All It Ever Was,” which reminds me a lot of Tame Impala because it has a really transformative, wondrous ambiance to it that borders psychedlic rock. Check out the album I’ve been blabbing about below!
Unknown Mortal Orchestra (Saturday)
Unknown Mortal Orchestra is a lo-fi rock band from New Zealand starring frontman Ruban Nielson. He really carries the sound as the vocalist and lead guitarist for the band, where the man is just completely synced with his guitar. His experimental guitar use seamlessly goes from simply shadowing his own vocals to driving a bridge with a rhythmic melody. Their self-titled album from 2011 got a lot of great reviews, wining the Spring 2012 Taite Music Prize in New Zealand; Nielson also won Best Male Artist at the New Zealand Music Awards. The album has a strangely organic feel even during some of the more flourished guitar riffs that he throws out in front of the garage sounding drum beats. Unknown Mortal Orchestra released the album Multi-Love in early 2015 which has a more somber and soothing feel, like in “Necessary Evil.” Check out this live performance on KEXP, a Seattle-based radio station, with some of the psychedelic jams off of that new album below. Unknown Mortal Orchestra is guaranteed to move you in at least one of many ways with their performance at Coachella this year; let’s hope that keyboardist in the KEXP performance is there, because he complements these newer tracks so well.
Deerhunter is an American Indie-rock band from the early 2000’s, featuring frontman vocalist and guitarist Brandon Cox. I definitely didn’t know much about them until last October when their most recent album, “Fading Frontier,” was released. My roommate at the time turned me on to their sound right as that album was coming out, and they were going to perform at The Regent Theater in Downtown LA. Getting a taste for the style of music they make took a couple of albums because “Monomia,” released in 2013 was very different from their oldest as well as their newest stuff. “Monomania” has the cohesion and feel of an eclectic garage rock band, while track-to-track the album is pretty varied. It gave me the impression of The Raconteurs with less frequent, but equally pretty, bridges within songs like in “The Missing” and “Blue Agent.” Now, in “Fading Frontier,” Deerhunter signifies their ambient sound with much less punk-rock in it than earlier works albums like “Monomania.” They’ll likely play a few throwbacks, but I think the recent direction towards something refreshing and wavy will be the focus of their Coachella performance. The guitar work is much more confessional, and Cox’s vocals are a bit more dreamy and frail which might better suit Coachella attendees. Give a listen to my favorite track off of the new album, “Duplex Planet” here!
Zella Day (Saturday)
Zella Day is an American singer-songwriter from Arizona who is on the rise for this year. Coachella is going to be her biggest stage yet, where she’ll be performing songs from her debut album from last year, “Kicker.” Some of the songs on here, such as “Hypnotic,” “East of Eden,” and “Compass,” were on her original EP, and then added to the album. Louis The Child has a wavy remix of “Compass,” which builds on the sultry vocals and sentimental lyrics, although I still prefer the ballad-like original as the finishing track of the album. She performed live for UCLA Radio and talked a bit about her beginnings, first playing in her grandmother’s coffee shop. “Ace of Hearts” is my favorite track of the album because it is impactful as indie while Zella’s voice sways along your heart strings. Overall, she’s able to use her vocals to drive the chorus on each song while simply storytelling like in her album’s opening track, “Jerome.” I’m excited to see her fill the large space of a Coachella stage because she can really sing and is so original; Coachella often provides a canvas for great up-and-coming artists to shine, and I think Zella Day will be no exception this year.
Guns N’ Roses (Saturday)
I was listening to tons of Guns N’ Roses when I was in high school, rocking long, curly, Slash-like hair and playing Guitar Hero III(Slash was a featured character) religiously. Anyone who’s heard more than just “Sweet Child of Mine” can tell that this wild band stands for quintessential 80’s rock. Similar to the nostalgia I felt when seeing AC/DC last year, I’ll be so glad to hear the guitar riffs from a source that isn’t my iPod. It’s not clear how solid the performance will be given that it’s been over two decades since singer Axl Rose and Slash have even played together, and I’m really hoping that drummer Steve Adler will be present. In any event, when people here the opening guitar riff of “Welcome to The Jungle,” it’s gonna be impossible to pay attention to anything over the roar of a crowd reliving a legendary rock dream. I’m confident that the right surge of energy from the band onstage will bring out the loudest and proudest of the rock and roll fans in the crowd this year.
Ice Cube (Saturday)
Growing up in Los Angeles, it was impossible to avoid the hip-hop influence generated by Ice Cube. He’s well-known for being a member of N.W.A alongside Dr. Dre, and Eazy-E, creating some of the most memorable gangster rap the west coast had ever seen. One of the originators of bringing the streets into music and lyrics, Ice Cube has held down a voice for the struggle of city-living with both flow and style. If you’ve heard any of his verses, you can hear the thug in him, only overshadowed by his intelligence and keen story-telling for people of an entire generation. Even if you aren’t familiar with his many works, you’ve probably heard tons of instrumentals and samples from the tracks that he’s rapped on or helped write. One of his most memorable songs, “It Was a Good Day,” was recorded when I was still an infant in diapers in the early 90’s. Since then, he’s remained prolific, working with Snoop Dogg, Lil’ Jon, Mack 10, and so many more; he’s even lent his vocals to DJ Paul Oakenfold for his debut album. At this set, heads will be bobbing, and arms will be rolling side to side. Fans’ lips will be singing right along with every lyric you hear from one of the biggest legends of rap. This performance has been a long time coming and I’m really hoping that it’s going to include some appearances from a handful of Cube’s old crew.
Gallant has one of the most beautiful male voices I’ve heard in a really long time. He sings with the passion and high register of Motown greats and singers from 70’s groups like Earth, Wind, and Fire. Most known lately for his recent track, “Weight In Gold,” Gallant melts you with the way he uses his vocal range. This man is no exception live; he gets so into his singing that it might literally bring fans(myself included) to tears. “Weight In Gold” has been praised by many for the way it pours out a truly epic sensitivity; remixes by Ekali, Brasstracks, Ta-ku, Louis Futon, oshi, Electric Mantis, and more emphasize that power. He’s collaborated with the likes of ZHU, who is listed on my top 10 EDM acts for Coachella, and I’ll be glad to see him appear on that stage to belt out another song or two. He’s been working on a redo of “Weight In Gold” with singer Seal, which would push the bounds of passion on the polo fields this year.
You guys are getting an idea for how diverse some of my musical interests are with this one. Rancid hits very close to home as another group who has recorded music since around the time that I was born, and was brought into my world from the people I grew up with. A family member toured with them for a while and exposed me to the sound of punk along with The Casualties and the old-school punk group, Descendents. Rancid’s frontmen Tim Armstrong and bassist Matt Freeman, originally in Operation Ivy, formed together and soon acquired guitarist Lars Frederiksen to create an incredibly talented source of punk rock. They are one of the most famous American punk rock bands that I can think of, with classics like “Time Bomb,” “Young Al Capone,” and “Radio Havana.” Rancid’s sound is a siren of rebellion with raw musical talent to carry their legacy out to Coachella decades after their formation. Their style is special because of how perfectly Freeman, Frederiksen, and Armstrong work together in making songs, also apparent in side project Transplants(Tim Armstrong, Lars Frederiksen, and drummer Travis Barker). I doubt I’ll be able to catch the whole performance due to other acts going on Sunday night, but I’m happily going to join the crowd for about 10 minutes of rocking out to some childhood punk influences.
Beach House (Sunday)
Beach House is an American band formed in the mid 2000’s, composed of a simple duo doing vocals, guitar work, and playing keyboards. Their dream-pop sound has gotten positive feedback from Pitchfork time and time again, and they’re the perfect band for drifting into a mellow daze. They’ve toured extensively already, making an appearance at SXSW in 2009 and Coachella just 6 years ago. Since then, they’ve added several albums, and Victoria Legrand’s vocals sound a bit less shy than in earlier albums. Their pop sound hasn’t completely drowned out, but there is definitely a more open feel in their album, “Depression Cherry,” which was released last summer. In the album’s track, “Space Song,” you can notice much less emphasis on the programmed drum patterns and a stronger focus on keyboard to fill in behind the almost whispered vocals. Just months after the release of “Depression Cherry” came “Thank Your Lucky Stars,” which saw a return of drum use and the pop sound that you can hear in their earlier stuff. Although carrying a very simplistic style, Beach House will not let you down because they have great skill at pushing out emotion through their guitar strokes. “Elegy to The Void” is a prime example that blends Legrand’s vocals with the soft wail of a slightly distorted guitar melody. This set will be pretty low energy the entire time, so expect to hear something much more soothing than striking from Beach House.
Artsy and ethereal, Canada’s Claire Boucher aka Grimes is a multi-talented music artist for more than just her singing. She’s also a songwriter, producer, and music video director which puts her style in multi-dimensional territory. While a lot of her music has some clear elements of electronica, her sound is a bit further reaching into experimental synth pop. Over the last several years, her skills as a producer have developed along with her artistry. Her first album, “Geidi Prime,” was an extremely experimental flurry, which she seems to look back on as a sort of rough draft of her musical career. She really started making waves as a stand-out artist in 2012 with the release of “Visions,” containing the single, “Oblivion.” This track got rated by Pitchfork as number-one on their 200 Best Tracks of the Decade So Far in 2014, which helped spread her name to anyone who hadn’t already been impressed by her work. For a showcase of her live capabilities, see for yourself in the performance below which she did for KEXP. In this performance, she loops her own harmonies, sings, plays the keys, and more from the “Visions.” You can expect a similar caliber eccentric personality coming from her set on the big Coachella stage.
Other Notable Acts:
There is plenty to enjoy at Coachella this year, and listing 10 doesn’t do the whole lineup justice. These acts are just some of my most anticipated, and the variety is immense. I’ll also be less urgently looking forward to the likes of
- LCD Soundsystem
- Ellie Goulding
- Mavis Staples
- Run the Jewels
- Moon Taxi
- Anderson .Paak
and many more!