Whether you're an avid follower, passive peruser, or determined hater of Pitchfork Media, there's no denying the impact the Chiacgo-based Internet music daily has had on the independent music industry since it first hit the scene back in 1995. With more than 1.5 million unique visitors per month, it's the most popular independent-focused music publication online.
Now in its eighth year, the annual Pitchfork music festival takes place in Chicago's Union Park and showcases some of the best acts across the alternative rock, rap, hip-hop, electronica, and dance music genres. This year, Bjork, Belle & Sebstian, and R. Kelly headline a three-day lineup of the webzine's most coveted and up-and-coming artists.
This Friday, County Grind makes its way up to Chicago to revel in all the glorified indie goodness. Here's a list of the top 10 acts we're looking forward to most.
10. Angel Olsen
Angel Olsen's voice sounds like it came from another time, or maybe even another plane of existence. Each delicate song plays like a haunted note to an estranged lover, a childhood memory, or all the time we'll never get back. Deep, full of emotionally-wrought vibrato, with an impressive range and a singular, folky twang, the voice of Angel Olsen makes us melt, and we can't wait to hear it echo across the crowd against the crisp accompaniment of her electric guitar.
9. Lil B
Lil B, aka TheBasedGod, is a rapper, author, and self-described "Historical Online Figure" who, like a growing number of his contemporaries, has built a huge platform of fans and followers through relentless hustling on social media. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Lil B is all about spreading messages of positivity, optimism, and what he calls "the Based lifestyle."
After rising to fame alongside Bay Area rap collective The Pack with the single "Vans" in 2006, Lil B has gone on to hone an impressive solo career, regularly selling out shows and putting out a volume of mixtapes, as many as 17 in one year, the latest of which is called 100% Percent Gutta.
8. Belle & Sebastian
Glasgow-based indie pop staple Belle & Sebastian have been the darlings of alt music nerds for ages. The band's 1996 album If You're Feeling Sinister, earned Pitchfork's number 14 spot in its list of top 100 albums of the 1990s, and this past February, the webzine's Pitchfork.tv put out an hour-long documentary on the album. If you've never heard it, it's never too late to pick up the album; it's timeless, honest, and enchanting.
After a relative dry spell in the mid-2000s, the band have begun touring and releasing new material. This August, following a Summer tour, the band will release a second compilation album chronicling the B-Sides and rarities from 2003's Dear Catastrophe Waitress to 2010's Write About Love.
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Bey's little sister's kinda got it going on. In recent years, she's collaborated on music with the likes of Pharrell, the Lonely Island, and Blood Orange's Devonte Hynes, and she's also become something of a fashion icon, sporting Alexander Wang, Alexander McQueen, and Chanel while earning props for her fashion-forward, retro looks in her music videos. This past May, the artist and entrepreneur announced the launch of her own record label, Saint Records, on which she'll release her third full-length album.
6. The Breeders
Kim Deal recently made headlines for officially announcing her departure from seminal '90s alt-rock group the Pixies. It made perfect sense since we'd already bought tickets for the upcoming Breeders show at Grand Central Miami. This year, the Last Splash lineup of Kim and Kelley Deal, Jim Macpherson, and Josephine Wiggs reunite for a world tour commemorating the twentieth anniversary and reissue of that classic album, entitled LSXX.
5. Toro y Moi
The music of chillwave pioneer Toro y Moi, a.k.a. South Carolina's Chaz Bundick, has greatly evolved since putting out 2010's memorable Causers of This. Besides this year's third full-length, Anything in Return -- which brings together a mix of old-school '90s house sounds in a refreshing dance-pop record -- Bundick stays busy working on a number of side projects. This includes a solo production under the moniker Les Sins, as well as some high profile DJ gigs, like Berlin's live video streaming web series, Boiler Room.
4. Mac DeMarco
What do we like best about Vancouver's Mac DeMarco? Is it his lovely gapped-teeth, his charming drawl and personable presence in interviews, his gender-bending, out-of-the-box music videos, or his completely authentic and unhinged live performances? We can't decide, but we do know one thing: This off-kilter, glam-inspired rocker's got that something special, and we'll take as much of it as we can get.
3. Blood Orange
Dev Hynes has been writing, producing, and performing original music since the mid-2000s, whether under the moniker Lightspeed Champion, or for other artists like Solange Knowles, Theophilus London, Basement Jaxx, and Sky Ferreira. But it wasn't until his latest solo project Blood Orange that he hit his stride and really came into his own sound.
The Essex-born artist currently resides in Brooklyn, where he's regularly seen out and about with best friend and fellow Brit, model and TV personality Alexa Chung. Lately, he's been changing things up by offering listening sessions of a rough cut of his latest album in his car as he drives around NYC, announced via his Twitter.
For his live performances as Blood Orange, it's just Dev with his laptop and electric guitar, and whether he's crooning sexily into the microphone or shredding in an '80s-inspired solo, that's all we really need.
2. Yo La Tengo
"Yo La Tengo" is Spanish for "I have it," and ever since forming in 1985 and breaking out in the early '90s, the band's been universally acclaimed for its eclectic, addictive mix of folk, punk, shoegaze, instrumental noise, and electronic sounds into something wholly unique. This indie powerhouse has all of "it," and enough to share. We're anticipating an unforgettable extended jam set of dynamic instrumentals and classics like "Autumn Sweater" for a satisfying emotional release and a throwback to romantic youthful interludes.
1. R. Kelly
When we think "indie," the likeness of R. Kelly isn't typically first to cross our minds. Why, then, has the Grammy Award-winning, golden shower-giving King of R&B become a favorite of Pitchfork and pretty much anyone else with ears? After releasing the 33-episode "Trapped in the Closet" epic between 2005 and 2012, R. Kelly solidified his place as a genius, making his mark as one of music's smoothest, realest, and freakiest prolific artists to date.
Pitchfork Music Festival takes place from July 19 to 21, at Chicago's Union Park. Visit pitchforkmusicfestival.com.
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