Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Pitchfork Music Festival Sampler

If you got the Tribune last Friday and looked at the “On the Town” section, you couldn't help but notice that the entire front page was about the Pitchfork Music Festival- literally the whole page. I found this intriguing since I have never heard of the Pitchfork Music Festival (which is probably neither here nor there), so my first order of business was to do a bit of research. According to the article, the festival was being held at Union Park on the west side; again, I have never head of Union Park (I am suburban, after all). Finally, I looked at the lineup and, not surprisingly, had heard of exactly 5 of the 45 acts. I’m reaching the conclusion that no matter how much “research” and experimenting I do, there are a LOT of bands out there, most of which are apparently unknown to me.

I was not deterred, though. I had no intention of making my way to the festival, but I was curious to see whether a suburban mom had a place (theoretically) at Pitchfork. The Tribune’s Greg Kot had identified 17 “must see” acts, four of whom were amongst those I had actually heard of (Greg, no Modest Mouse?). I decided to try a song from each of the remaining 13 acts- I wanted to challenge myself by not including those I already knew. I eliminated four more bands after doing a 30 second preview of their most popular songs on iTunes and determining that they were too screamy for me (I am a middle-aged mom, after all). That left me with nine previously unfamiliar groups/artists to try. Fun fact: the majority of these songs were in the $0.99 category rather than the trendy new $1.29 category!

In the midst of this project, the Monday Tempo section showed pictures from aforementioned festival, and I probably could have waited to look at the picture of all those sweaty young people before deciding whether I would have fit in. The very surprising answer was: probably not. The second goal in my mission was more practical (and satisfying): determine whether any of these songs/bands were “good” (using my scientific standard of listening to them repeatedly and noticing whether I tended to sing any to myself even when I wasn’t listening to it). The answer to this was yes! I know I’m probably in the minority on this, but I become unnaturally excited when I find a new song or artist that I really like and wasn’t familiar with previously. Here are the results of my experiment; maybe you will also find a new song that strikes a certain emotion or lifts you up.

  • Spit on a Stranger (Pavement) - It turns out this song is pretty old (1999), and to be honest it did sound vaguely familiar when I started listening to it, but it apparently remains their most popular song (on iTunes, anyway). It's pretty mainstream and has kind of a twisted but sweet love song sentiment to it. It's a keeper in my book.
  • The Overly Dramatic Truth (El-P) – This is a rap song, so if you don’t like rap you can skip to the next song. One thing about rappers is that it doesn’t matter if they have good voices because they don’t actually sing. I kind of liked this song and the music itself stayed with me more than the words did (hard to sing along to a rap song). It wasn’t my favorite rap song of the group, though (keep reading to find out what was!). What does it mean when your teenager comes in the kitchen and comments that a song is inappropriate to listen to while getting dinner ready?
  • Paris is Burning (St. Vincent) – This might have been my favorite song of the entire group. It has pretty female vocals, memorable music and interesting lyrics (meaning debated from my online research, but it has a WWII sound to it). The end of the song is all about music and you can almost visualize a ballroom full of people moving to the sound of this song.
  • You Do Tell (Bear in Heaven) – This song didn’t have a huge impact on me. Not bad, just not super memorable.
  • Lust for Life (Girls) – This is kind of a breakup song about seeing an ex-girlfriend move on. I liked it okay, didn’t love it.
  • Keep It Goin’ Louder (Major Lazer, featuring Nina Sky and Ricky Blaze) – The genre for this is classified as “Electronic” on iTunes, but it has kind of that B.O.B. hip hop sound to it. One thing you can always count on with these types of songs is: 1) they always recruit other people to sing with them, and 2) at some point during the song they’ll mention their name. What did Major Lazer do at Pitchfork? Were here numerous singers in the wings of the stage to come in for the appropriate song? Okay, I did like this song, although the repeated lyrics of “Girl, I wanna party with you” didn’t necessarily resonate with me.
  • Catalina (Raekwon, feat. Lyfe Jennings) – If you are offended by profanity or derogatory nicknames, you’ll probably not enjoy this song. I always buy the explicit version of songs, partly because I don’t really get offended easily and partly because I find it annoying to hear dead air where there should clearly be a (profane) word. This is pretty hardline rap, so if that’s not your thing, skip it.
  • Be My Girl (Smith Westerns) – Kind of like the Bear in Heaven song, not too memorable to me.
  • Dancing on My Own (Robyn) – This is a great techno kind of dance song, but the fun thing is that it’s about being at a dance club! Although this suburban mom does not frequent (or even go to) dance clubs, I would imagine what they’d be like from the sound of this song. Poor Robyn has to watch her guy with another girl; hence, she is dancing on her own per the title. Good song!
My experiment resulted in 4 out of 9 hits and 5 that I found so-so; no outright misses, which I thought was pretty good. The ones I really liked were Pavement, St. Vincent, Major Lazer and Robyn. I guess the conclusion is that I’m not necessarily cool enough to actually GO to the Pitchfork festival, but not so uncool that I can’t listen to some Pitchfork songs in the privacy of my iPod. Not too bad, right?

Quite honestly, I didn't like any of the videos for the songs I liked, so I'm not including them- just listen and you'll probably like them better!

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