Originally published on Monday, April 3, 2017.
2017 probably will be remembered as a turning point for Coachella. Now in its 18th year and fighting to retain its reputation as the pacesetter for all American festivals against stiff competition both locally (FYF) and nationally (Governors Ball, Outside Lands), Coachella seems to be moving away from the "anything as long as it's cool" model that guided its programming over most of its history and more toward an approach that might best be described as "anything as long as the kids love it."
This year, that meant no more legacy rock bookings (unless you count Radiohead, which at this point you probably could) and way more pop, hip-hop and EDM. While the guitar shortage drew some criticism — and the festival later addressed the haters by adding a slew of late bookings heavy on punk, garage and indie rock — in the long run it's probably a smart move for Coachella and its organizers, Goldenvoice. For now, at least, guitar-based music no longer drives the culture the way it once did, and having a headliner like Green Day, Metallica or even Beck would have generated as much confusion as excitement.
Assuming you're not a hard-core rocker, this year's Coachella lineup is one of the strongest in recent memory, even without Beyoncé (see you next year, Bey!). I'm especially excited about (most of) the dance-music bookings, which you'll see reflected in this highly subjective ranking of every single act on the Coachella flier. (Unlike last year's rankings, this list does not include the Do Lab stage's bookings. I still love you, Do Lab, but I decided to cut myself a little slack this time.)
Ready to get good and mad at me because your favorite band didn't crack the top 100? Then hop on board: The ranking train is leaving the station.
Bonus: If you read all the way to the end of the list (Okay, fine, you can just scroll, too), you'll be rewarded with an all-Coachella-artists Spotify playlist that is pretty damn lit, if I do say so myself. You're welcome.
Every generation gets the masked EDM superstar it deserves. We Gen-Xers got Daft Punk. Millennials got Deadmau5. Post-millennials — or Gen-Z or whatever stupid name some Time magazine cover story has slapped them with — gets a dude in a marshmallow helmet who sounds like Avicii getting stomped by a methed-out gang of Teletubbies. Sorry, Gen-Z!
161. The Atomics
Four H&M models (the faces of their "Coachella collection") release a couple of crappy surf-rock tunes and — surprise! — get booked to play the festival. This isn't a band; it's product placement.
160. Martin Garrix
159. Big Gigantic
158. Steve Angello
EDM's four horsemen of the apocalypse (Big Gigantic are a duo — and if you didn't already know that, congratulations). Only the biblical Four Horsemen, who will probably be here any day now, will almost certainly have a much better soundtrack.
This Canadian band's bio says that they write "songs about punching clocks and punching faces." I know, right? Canadians rock so hard, especially when they're trying really hard to sound like The Killers circa 2006.
My favorite thing about this British electro-soul duo is that their singer is named Andy Clutterbuck. Andy Clutterbuck! How do you not just name your band Clutterbuck and call it a day? Instead, they're called Honne, a name as forgettable and vaguely pretentious (it means "real intention" in Japanese, apparently) as their watery music.
I hate to bag on a local band, but then again, Grouplove are the kind of band that just reinforce everything outsiders hate about Los Angeles. Their music is all unearned anthemic choruses and vapid lyrics masquerading as hippie enlightenment ("The lesson of my life is to never comprehend it") — like Arcade Fire with less songcraft, or Edward Sharpe stripped of any shred of folksy charm. Above all, it's their relentlessly sunny optimism that makes songs like "Ways to Go" and "Standing in the Sun" the aural equivalent of an uninvited backrub. My shoulders are fine, Grouplove!
EDM meets adult contemporary. Except even worse than that sounds.
153. Zipper Club
152. Capital Cities
151. Oh Wonder
Coachella doubled down this year on electronic music, especially synth-pop — and results are, predictably, mixed. Zipper Club come with a great pedigree — producer James Iha, Cerebral Ballzy guitarist Mason James and singer-songwriter Lissy Trullie — but weirdly forgettable songs that find a bland middle ground between The Submarines and early Katy Perry. Capital Cities' "Safe and Sound" is pretty undeniable, but once you get past that hit, the dropoff in quality is steep. London's Oh Wonder is the most interesting of the three, but that's not saying much.
French cheese, anyone? I want to like this producer's shiny, happy disco jams more than I do, and I feel like I probably should. He's signed to Ed Banger Records, which is generally awesome. But songs like "Get Lost" just leave me wanting to throw on some Chromeo.
149. Grace Mitchell
145. The Lemon Twigs
Most of you probably have never heard of any of these bands, so I see no point in dwelling on all the various reasons I don't much like them. Let's just say that sometimes the font size on the Coachella poster doesn't lie and move on.
144. Bishop Briggs
I suspect this British singer-songwriter, now based in L.A., is genuinely talented, but her music sounds like it's been put into the same "Lana Del Rey but slightly more hip-hop" box into which the music industry currently seems determined to jam every promising young female solo artist (see also: Zella Day, Ryn Weaver, the aforementioned Grace Mitchell). Maybe that's genuinely what she wants to sound like, but for now, singles such as "Wild Horses" are just too generic for her to stand out.
143. Mura Masa
There's a lot going on in British producer Alex Crossan's tracks — steel drums, toy piano, chopped chipmunk vocals, a marimba or something that sounds like one — and for a while, I was digging it. But after repeat listens, tracks like "Love$ick" and "Lotus Eater" begin to seem like less than the sum of their parts.
141. Travis Scott
140. Lil Uzi Vert
Listen, everybody: This trend of rappers delivering every verse in a sing-song, Auto-Tuned croon has officially gone too far and it needs to stop. It was cool the first time Kanye and Drake did it, but now it's just become a crutch mediocre rappers use to make their uninspired verses more fun to chant along to. If that makes me a crotchety old-school hater, then so be it. Get off my lawn, Auto-Tuned rappers!
139. Francis and the Lights
Am I the only one who doesn't get what all the fuss is about over Francis Farewell Starlite? I know he's endorsed by Drake and Bon Iver and Lin-Manuel Miranda and pretty much everyone cool ever, but to me all his stuff just sounds like the least interesting parts of Peter Gabriel, James Blake and the aforementioned Bon Iver patched together with some sparkly synths to make it sound contemporary.
If Imagine Dragons were British and slightly less terrible, they would probably be Bastille, a band with a couple of catchy, percussive singles ("Pompeii," "Good Grief") and a singer in Dan Smith who's a slightly less insufferable Chris Martin.
This L.A. producer's big claim to fame is that he got the rights to turn Nate Dogg's "Gangsta Walk" into a funky house stomper. How he pulled that off I'm not sure, because the rest of his output to date is decidedly not gangsta.
136. Car Seat Headrest
There's a certain type of fellow music journalist — male, white, straight, probably attended a New England liberal arts college, probably owns at least one Pavement record on colored vinyl — who automatically assumes without asking that I must be a huge fan of this band. Nope! Stop assuming, bro. Don't worry, though, I'm still impressed with your Pavement colored vinyl.
135. Majid Jordan
This Toronto R&B duo are signed to Drake's OVO label, and it's easy to hear why; their music has that soulful, slightly woozy vibe that has long been the weapon of choice in Drizzy's production arsenal. Take Drake himself out of the equation, however, and it's a sound that wears out its welcome pretty quickly.
134. Banks & Steelz
You'd think a collaboration between Interpol's Paul Banks and Wu-Tang's RZA would be like catnip to the hipster music blogs of the world. But not even Pitchfork could get behind last year's weirdly lifeless Anything But Words. "For those who think Chris Martin might just the best part of Graduation," sniffed Pitchfork, which pretty much nails it.
This British indie-pop quintet reps the great music city of Manchester. Not well, mind you. They just happen to be from there.
Of all the ways a collaboration between AFI's Davey Havok and everyone from No Doubt not named Gwen Stefani could have gone, lead single "Kill for Candy" is hardly the worst. But it's not particularly great, either. With that much talent in the room, you'd think they could manage to sound like something more interesting than a Killers tribute band. (And yes, I know that's my second Killers reference already. Hey, a lot of rock music just kinda sounds like second-rate Killers right now for some reason. Don't shoot the messenger, people.)
The most interesting thing about this rootsy band from the hollers of Eastern Kentucky is that it turns out they're actually from Iceland. Which probably explains why, despite some undeniable talent — especially the ragged pipes of frontman Jökull Júlíusson (aka JJ Julius Son) — they sound like a contrived cross between the Avett Brothers and Cage the Elephant.
130. Crystal Castles
Does anyone still care about this band since Alice Glass left? No? Moving on, then ...
129. The Head and the Heart
Is it just me, or does every song in this Seattle band's catalog sound as if it could soundtrack either a cellphone commercial or that part of the rom-com movie trailer where the lovers fling their arms around each other on a boat dock?
If you wish more of today's dance music sounded like the neon-colored nu-disco stuff that was popular 10 years ago, this L.A. duo is for you. They're really, really good at it — and it all really, really sounds like stuff that came out 10 years ago.
Even other Brooklyn bands probably hear this Brooklyn band and think, "Dude, this is way too Brooklyn."
126. Jen Ferrer
This L.A. DJ and manager of the excellent Friends of Friends label has the dubious distinction of being the very last artist listed on the Coachella flier this year. I hope she won't take my placing her here, relatively low on this list, as a diss — anyone who begins a house set for Boiler Room with a little Stevie Wonder is aces in my book. Really, I'm ranking her here as a signpost of sorts — from here on out, I'll have to (mostly) put away the haterade and acknowledge that every single remaining act on this list is pretty solid (even if some of them still aren't my jam). Yeah, the Coachella lineup's that good.
125. Surf Curse
124. Twin Peaks
The beautiful thing about rock & roll is that you don't need to reinvent the wheel to make it work; you just need conviction, good riffs and something to say. That's both these bands in a nutshell. Reno, Nevada's Surf Curse transplant jangly, lo-fi surf-rock from the beach to the desert and somehow make their deceptively sunny music an ironic commentary on the land-locked ennui of their lyrics. Chicagoans Twin Peaks find a beer-soaked middle ground between Lou Reed and Cheap Trick, stripping everything down to just a few meaty guitar hooks and vocals that toggle between laconic croons and throat-shredding, so-bad-they're-great Jagger impersonations. Each, in their own way, rock like fucking champs.
123. Empire of the Sun
At what point does an amazing live show stop being an amazing live show? By now we all know what to expect from an Empire of the Sun set: a crazy headdress on Luke Steele, backup dancers in shiny bodysuits, lava lamp–meets–Windows 95 screensaver video projections. If you've never seen them before, it's totally worth it; if you have, well, I guess how much you enjoy their show depends on how many of their songs beyond "Walking on a Dream" you actually like.
I can't tell if this Illinois pop singer is for real or not. On the one hand, her combination of ethereal vocals and hip-hop–influenced beats and lyrics (lots of lines about hopping in people's whips and whatnot) seems like it was concocted in a marketing meeting at her label, Atlantic Records; on the other hand, every 21-year-old's playlist probably has some Lana Del Rey, Flume and Future on it these days, and the intersection of those sounds seems to be what she's aiming for. When she hits her mark, as on hit single "Gold" (co-written and produced by savvy production duo EFFESS), it totally works.
121. Dillon Francis
We called Francis the "class clown of EDM" back in 2014, and that still sums up most of his appeal. All the elements of his tracks are familiar — poppy synth hooks, trap and moombahton beats, smack-you-in-the-face bass drops — but he shuffles them together with a playfulness that most of his peers can't match.
Very soon, a music journalist smarter than me will write a book explaining why so many millennials are obsessed with the soulful synth-pop of the 1980s. And this British singer-songwriter-producer could very well get her own chapter.
119. The Martinez Brothers
Bronx brothers Steven and Chris Martinez favor a purist style of tech-house that, depending on what gets your feet moving, is either the kind of hypnotic stuff you can lose yourself in for hours, or the kind of monotonous stuff that can send you toward the exit after five minutes. I'll probably get all kinds of hate-tweets from the purists for making that observation, but deep down they all love the fact that most people don't get dance music this stripped down.
I can't decide if this Virginia rapper's cartoonish style (which he himself has called "trappy go lucky") is ingenious or stupid, and that's probably the point. But hey, it's hard to argue that pickup lines like "I choose you like a Pokémon" (from "Cute") are a nice change of pace from the casual misogyny that permeates most male rappers' lyrics.
117. Mac Miller
If nothing else, I can't wait to see whether he's changed any of the lyrics to "Donald Trump."
I'm pretty sure if it weren't for Lorde, this New Zealand synth-pop duo would not be touring internationally. But hey, good for them. The fans love 'em for their pretty, emotive power ballads, but I think they get more interesting in full-on anthem mode, as on the very Chvrches-like "Free," from their latest album, Conscious.
115. Jai Wolf
At his best, this Bangladeshi-American producer makes blissed-out ambient electronica with nifty little Eastern flourishes and a cinematic sense of grandeur. At his worst, he does corny electro-pop like "Diamonds for Breakfast," which is literally an entire song about missing a call because your phone is set to silent.
Irish bloggers/crate-diggers turned ace house/techno production duo. I presume their name is a reference to how ripped their arms are from lugging all their obscure vinyl to gigs. Their original tracks and remixes get pretty heavy, too.
113. King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard
Aside from having the best band name on this year's lineup, these Australian psych-rockers also have a great sound somewhere between fellow Antipodean freak Connan Mockasin and local hero Ty Segall in full turned-up-to-11 mode. Also, their latest album, released in February, is called Flying Microtonal Banana, so everyone else putting out an album in 2017 may as well just give up now and call theirs Untitled.
112. Jagwar Ma
More Australian psych-rock, less weird but catchier than King Gizzard. I personally gravitate more toward KG's retro-leaning style but, objectively speaking, JM's sound is definitely the more festival-friendly of the two.
111. Declan McKenna
Did you know England's Glastonbury Festival has an emerging-talent competition? Me neither, but this kid won it in 2015, when he was just 16 years old. He's now all of 18 and already sounds like a young cross between Boxed In and Badly Drawn Boy, with a gift for slightly twisted earworm melodies and a charmingly sleepy vocal style. And yes, we're all allowed to hate him a little for being that young and that insanely talented.
110. Porter Robinson & Madeon
As of this writing, Coachella is the final stop on this EDM wunderkind duo's Shelter Live Tour — and believe me, to young dance music fans, this is a very, very big deal. Whether you love their bright, shiny synths and sing-along melodies or think they're the worst dance-music collab since David Guetta and Black Eyed Peas, the energy at their sets should be off the scale.
109. Ben UFO
This British DJ is a rarity in today's dance-music world: an actual DJ. He doesn't dabble in production or press play on a laptop while he lets the light show do all the work. His sets are actual, hand-crafted, in-the-moment creations, assembled from obscure corners of the worlds of deep house, minimal techno, dubstep, ambient and beyond. Listen and learn, kids.
108. Show Me the Body
This New York hardcore band had the most punk-rock reaction to getting booked to play Coachella of all time: They denied they had ever agreed to play and added, "Hopefully Goldenvoice and Coachella will not exploit our name." Coming from a band that has a whopping 2,500 Twitter followers, that is pure gold, people. They seemed a little less punk when they later announced that they would play after Goldenvoice "amended their offer," but that kind of no-fucks-given attitude should be a welcome change of pace on this year's synth-and-EDM-dominated lineup.
107. Tall Juan
This Queens-based Argentine rocker has a co-sign from Mac DeMarco, who recorded and mixed his debut EP, Why Not? His cover of The Ramones' "Chinese Rock" gives you an idea of the sound here: short, strummy blasts of primitive pop-punk, carried by Juan's yelpy, charismatic vocals.
106. Hans Zimmer
Everyone seems to be freaking out that the guy who did the Inception and Dark Knight scores is playing a music festival. A film composer! Playing Coachella! Has the world gone mad? Personally, I would've been far more excited if they had booked John Carpenter, but yeah, it might be fun to hear Zimmer's big, melodramatic compositions played by a big, melodramatic orchestra on the Polo Grounds.
This British producer's big claim to fame is that he co-wrote Sam Smith's "Stay With Me." His own music tends to favor the gauzy synths and trap/hip-hop beats that are all the rage right now, although he definitely adds some cool, Four Tet–like wrinkles to the formula.
Orange County native Jillian Rose Banks has shown flashes of brilliance since emerging in 2013, but except for singles "Beggin for Thread" and "Gemini Feed," her material is never quite as interesting as she is (though "Fuck With Myself" sure tries really hard). But even her weaker tracks might go over live thanks to her swooping, alluring vocals.
103. DJ Snake
I know what you're thinking: Has this guy done anything since "Turn Down for What"? (OK, that's what I was thinking.) Turns out he has, and while none of it is quite as awesome as his signature anthem, anyone who tells you they're not feeling "Let Me Love You," his collaboration with Justin Bieber, is taking this shit too seriously.
102. Real Estate
On paper, I should love Real Estate. They do blissed-out, slightly intricate (but not too intricate) guitar pop. I love blissed-out, intricate guitar pop! They're from New Jersey. I'm from New Jersey! And they're fine, I guess — the way New Jersey is fine, and I'm also glad I don't actually live there anymore.
This Chicago trio favors productions and remixes that are more about vibing out than dancing your ass off, although everything from the beats to the soulful vocals nods to the four-on-the-floor traditions of their hometown. They're way better at remixing Lorde than Stevie Wonder, but that's OK. Even Stevie Wonder probably shouldn't remix Stevie Wonder at this point.
I still love this Norwegian electronic duo, even though I feel they've lost the plot a little, chasing increasingly pop sounds on their most recent album, 2014's The Inevitable End, and latest single "Never Ever." That being said, they remain masters of making bubbly, vaguely retro synths sound as epic as a 70-piece orchestra.
99. Loco Dice
German-Tunisian DJ/producer Yassine Ben Achour likes to keep it deep, dark and dirty. His home country's official soundtrack, techno, is part of the sound, but so is Chicago house, especially the witty, thumping variety practiced by Derrick Carter and Green Velvet. It's definitely not daytime music, so even if he's in the Yuma Tent, here's hoping they give him a late time slot.
98. Two Door Cinema Club
If Ben Gibbard fronted an arty, Irish post-punk band, this is probably what it would sound like. I've never found their songs to be particularly memorable, but the interplay between Sam Halliday's spiraling guitar leads and Kevin Baird's bouncy basslines is pretty hard to deny.
95. Tory Lanez
This rapper split his childhood between Toronto, New York, Miami and Atlanta, and you can hear elements of each in his music and vocal style — on one track, he's crooning Auto-Tuned cloud rap; on another, he's spitting bars comparing himself to Tony Montana over gunshot sound effects and trunk-rattling bass. Not everything he tries works, but his unpredictability is definitely part of his appeal.
Though he's only 20, producer Valentin "Kungs" Brunel has clearly learned a trick or two from his fellow Frenchman Ludovic Navarre and his house project St. Germain's classic 2000 album, Tourist. Kungs' best songs, like "Don't You Know," feature very St. Germain–like bluesy vocals, jazzy guitar licks and horn sections, though the underlying tracks are bouncier and more dance floor–friendly than Navarre's more chilled-out take on the genre. If you're a burnt-out former tropical house fan, you'll totally vibe out to this stuff.
93. Lee Field & the Expressions
Also known as "that other soul guy who's not Charles Bradley." I kid! Fields is great, too. Although I'm pretty sure Bradley is better at dropping to his knees midsong because he's feeling it so goddamned hard.
92. The Interrupters
This year's token ska-punk band are local and relatively new arrivals on the scene, having formed in 2011. They have a cool lead singer in Aimee Allen, aka Aimee Interrupter, and a song called "Take Back the Power" that should ignite quite the anti-Trump mosh pit.
91. DJ Khaled
Your best chance all weekend to make the "bless up!" gesture and strike up conversations with cute strangers in which you both try to figure out who all those guest rappers are.
This Riverside Afro-Latin tropical combo's name means "remove worries," and that's exactly what their music does.
Something about French seems to lend itself really well to rapping (see also: MC Solaar, TTC, among many others). These brothers landed on the cover of Fader with their distinctly French take on blunted cloud rap, and already seem to be gaining a bigger Stateside following than any of their predecessors.
87. Jack Garratt
Sensitive singer-songwriter dudes who, even just 10 years ago, would've been content to hit the road with an acoustic guitar and maybe a loop pedal are now delving into all sorts of bedroom electronica and making music that is generally far more interesting. That's certainly the case with these two British lads, both of whom write soulful folk songs and then explode them with layered and filtered vocals, cinematic synths and trip-hop beats.
Even people who've never heard a note of this Oakland R&B artist's music have strong opinions about her, after she became the high-profile target of misogynistic internet trolls in early 2016. It's tough for a young artist to bounce back from that sort of unwelcome media attention, but Kehlani's clearly got the talent to do it. Her debut studio album, SweetSexySavage, released in January, is state-of-the-art, pop-minded R&B — maybe a little too slickly produced for its own good but full of catchy earworms like "CRZY" that showcase her versatile vocals and DGAF attitude.
Considering how great some of his work is with his other projects, Miike Snow and Bloodshy & Avant, much of Christian Karlsson's work in Galantis, his duo with fellow Swedish producer Linus Eklöw, can feel a bit throwaway. But when you're as talented as Karlsson, even your throwaways are still pretty great. Hating the caffeinated disco grooves and tropical house vibes of a song like "Love on Me" is like hating cookies or something. It's just weird.
84. Los Blenders
I don't know much about this band, but they sound like Mexico City's answer to The Black Lips, which probably means they could whip The Black Lips' asses.
I know "Prince meets Foxygen" sounds kind of terrible, but listen to this Australian band's "Sweep Me Off My Feet" and you will see that, in the right hands, such a combination can be insanely great. The rest of their psych-pop catalog is a little all over the place but has its moments. But "Sweep Me Off My Feet." Hot damn. Remember that song title, because something tells me you'll be hearing it everywhere this summer (even if the trying-too-hard-to-be-weird video isn't doing it any favors).
82. Preservation Jazz Hall Band
After booking several jazz groups last year, Coachella seems to have backed away from the genre — this venerable New Orleans combo are its only real representatives on this year's lineup, and they're a far cry from the adventurous, forward-thinking sounds of Kamasi Washington and BadBadNotGood, who graced the Polo Grounds in 2016. Their rollicking, Big Easy sound is tailor-made for big outdoor festivals, but it'll be interesting to see how it goes over with Coachella's EDM– and hip-hop–loving masses.
San Francisco multihyphenate (composer, designer, photographer) Scott Hansen works at the same intersection of dream-pop and ambient electronica occupied by producer Ulrich Schnauss and guitarist Mark McGuire. His work can be lush and at times almost breathtakingly beautiful, but it also adheres to a definite formula — all triumphant, roll-credits emotional release — that can wear on anyone who likes their music with a little dramatic tension. Still, those breathtakingly beautiful moments can make the journey worthwhile.
Hey, guess what? You've made it to the halfway mark. Congratulations! And if you're actually still reading every blurb, you're even crazier than I am. Onward ...
80. Gucci Mane
It's interesting that these two ATL rappers are playing Coachella on the same day. Together, they represent Southern hip-hop's past, present and, possibly, its future — although I still think the current fad for Auto-Tune, which Future fully embraces, will sound dated in a few years. Pitch-shifted warbles aside, Future's moodier, more introspective approach is certainly fresher than Gucci's bricks-and-bling routine — although because this is his first Coachella appearance, and one of his first festival appearances after a two-year prison stint, the East Atlanta Santa will have fans hyped AF when he takes the stage.
78. Hot Since 82
This British DJ/producer just got his own night at Pacha Ibiza, which in the dance music world is a little like having Fender name a new guitar line after you. He landed it with a deep yet progressive sound that's easy to get lost in — which is probably why his new Pacha night is called "Labyrinth."
I don't know much about this Dutch/Norwegian band, except that they're signed to excellent L.A. label Mind of a Genius (Gallant, Zhu) and they have a cool, hard-to-pin-down sound. Are they post-rock? Shoegaze? Synth-pop? Chillwave? Yes. If their live show is as good as their sound, they're definitely worth a look.
Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter are at their best when their emotive electro-pop starts to warp around the edges, like an old cassette tape left on the dashboard too long — check the off-kilter backing track on the otherwise dream-pop-tastic "Answer" from their most recent album, Three. Without the stuttering edits and wobbly loops, their stuff can sometimes sound a little pedestrian, but they seem to be embracing their avant-pop tendencies more with each album, even on a straight-up anthem such as "You Don't Get Me High Anymore."
The third album from these hometown garage-rock heroes, last year's Calico Review, didn't get much shine from the press — including, ahem, us. And clearly we suck, because it's the best thing the quartet have ever done, keeping their appealingly throwback guitar sound intact while finally busting out of the "kinder, gentler Black Lips" formula they too often fell into on their first two records. Tracks like "Could Be You" and the aptly titled "Strange Heat" are perfect summer festival guitar-pop — catchy, shimmering, slightly psychedelic.
74. Chris Cruse
73. Alison Swing
I love that Goldenvoice seems to have put more of an emphasis on booking local acts this year; it's a nice counterbalance to the festival's growing rep as an international destination for trust-fund scenesters who are there for the pool parties and celeb-spotting as much as the music. These two local DJs hold it down for house music, in different ways. With his Spotlight parties, Chris Cruse reps the music's queer, black and Latino roots with lots of layered percussion, diva vocals and touches of classic electro, while Swing and her partner Masha (who played last year) go for a more eclectic vibe at their Dig Deeper parties. Both are excellent selectors who will likely be given early time slots to get the party in the Yuma Tent started.
When a guy names his dance-music label Bromance, you really want to hate him, don't you? But this French producer's tracks tend to win over the most jaded old-schoolers with their funky mix of house, techno, electro and hip-hop. He's worked with everyone from Kaytranada to Gesaffelstein to ILoveMakonnen, which should give you an idea of how eclectic his sound is.
71. Mac DeMarco
It's pretty great that a guy who sounds like he grew up listening to nothing but Beck's Mutations, Ween's Pure Guava and Lennon & Ono's Double Fantasy could achieve the level of popularity Mac DeMarco has. No matter how weird he gets, there's just something lovable about him. He's like Jason Mraz for stoners.
70. Eli & Fur
Part of the same resurgent deep-house scene in England that gave rise to Disclosure, Eliza Noble and Jennifer Skillman mix soulful vocals with some tech-ier elements on a growing catalog of original productions that would sound right at home on Soma Records in its late-'90s heyday.
69. Róisín Murphy
Since leaving her trip-hop duo Moloko in 2003, this Irish singer has gotten weirder and more fun, collaborating with musique concrète experimenter Matthew Herbert and generally making the kind of twisted electro-pop we all wish Annie Lennox had made after she left Eurythmics. After a long hiatus, Murphy has returned with two albums over the last two years: 2015's Mercury Prize–nominated Hairless Toys and last year's deliciously idiosyncratic Take Her Up to Monto.
68. Floating Points
A Floating Points track is never in a great rush to get from point A to point B. British producer Sam Shepherd's compositions tend to be all slow build, finding the inherent tension in a good groove and riding it for as long as possible, letting jazzy keys and other touches drift in and out of the mix like objects in the near distance seen from a train window. Much of what he makes could be called dance music, but it's definitely not EDM or even, strictly speaking, electronic music; acoustic instrumentation abounds, giving his tracks a breathing, organic quality no matter how metronomic they become. It's not clear if this will be a solo set or one with his larger group, the Floating Points Ensemble — but either way, it should be a low-key dance marathon.
On his latest single, this ATL rapper croons about contemplating suicide and wishing he was a butterfly. His first mixtape was called Indigo Child. So yeah, Raury is definitely cut from the same in-touch-with-his-feelings cloth as Chance the Rapper and Childish Gambino (in fact, he used to stage renegade gigs outside Childish's shows). But rather than copying his predecessors, he's taken inspiration to go off and do his own thing, incorporating gospel, pop, folk and chain-gang chants into a truly unique sound.
66. Red Axes
This Tel Aviv duo's music is all over the place, in a good way. One minute they're layering African sounds over house beats ("Sun My Sweet Sun"), the next they've sent Brazilian singer Abrão down a well to croon a muffled samba ("Papa Sooma"), then they're dishing out ghostly synth-punk with British singer C.A.R. (the collaborative EP Caraxes, released last year on Kompakt). What Dori Sadovnik and Niv Arzi will break out for their Coachella set is anyone's guess, but it'll almost certainly be interesting and very likely fun to dance to.
65. Glass Animals
Glass Animals are a sort of Radiohead for millennials. Like this year's art-rock headliners, they're from Oxford, England, and mix trippy electronics and elaborate percussion into a sound rooted in traditional guitar rock. The millennial part comes in when they punctuate a hip-hop beat with party rap chants on "The Other Side of Paradise" and drop stoner-friendly rhymes like "My girl eats mayonnaise/From a jar when she's gettin' blazed" on "Youth." Sometimes the Cash Money–meets–Animal Collective vibes get a little annoying, especially coming from a bunch of nice Oxford lads, but mostly — and improbably — it all works.
When the Coachella 2017 lineup was first released, a lot of people commented on its near total lack of anything resembling punk rock. So adding this veteran Long Beach crew was a smart move. Their latest album, January's The Trigger Complex, is a surprisingly vital blast of tuneful punk shot through with their trademark goth-y atmosphere.
If Prince had lived to hear this British singer's insanely funky "Get to Know Ya," he would've had her on the next plane to Paisley Park. She co-writes and co-producers all her own shit, too, which has a dark, arty vibe without ever full-on aping FKA Twigs, as so many young R&B singers trying to be arty have been doing of late. I'm sold.
62. Devendra Banhart
Remember when everyone called Banhart's music "freak-folk"? Despite being saddled with what was, in hindsight, a completely ridiculous and reductive genre tag, he's evolved into a clever, versatile tunesmith while surrendering none of the quirky humor and touches of psychedelia that made him such a cult hero lo those many years ago. Usually when someone describes an artist as "whimsical," it's synonymous with "cringe-inducing" — but Banhart makes whimsy cool and even a little mysterious.
61. Nora En Pure
I only ranked this Swiss-South African DJ/producer at No. 116 last year. She jumps nearly 60 places because a) I was stupid not to rank her higher and b) her latest EP, Conquer Yosemite, is melodic and luscious and even a little trance-y in a way few other producers are doing anymore, and I can't get enough of it. She's a rising star, for sure, and has more than earned the right to play back-to-back Coachellas.
60. Local Natives
I got off on the wrong foot with these L.A. indie rockers when they included an oddly twee cover of Talking Heads' "Warning Sign" on their debut album, 2010's Gorilla Sign. If you fuck up Talking Heads, you earn my enmity. They've redeemed themselves since then with an increasingly assured sound that dials back the angular guitars and vaguely Afro-pop influences that were trendy seven years ago in favor of harmony-rich guitar-pop that seems to better play to the band's strengths. Their latest, Sunlit Youth, is far and away their strongest album to date.
59. What So Not
If more trap music sounded like this Australian producer and his thunderous take on the genre, I would be totally in the tank for trap. Actually, part of what makes What So Not's frenetic soundscapes so much fun is that it's not really fair to call them "trap" — they range into glitch, IDM, dubstep and hip-hop, sometimes all on the same track. The title track of his latest album, Divide & Conquer, even has a completely random but completely awesome desert-twang guitar interlude. I'll even go out on a limb and say I think What So Not's Emoh Instead is a far more creative producer than his former partner-in-crime, Flume.
58. The Paranoyds
Here's where I sound like a hypocrite for bashing The Atomics earlier on this list, because this L.A. quartet are fronted by another model, Yves Saint Laurent face Staz Lindes. But Lindes' and her bandmates' shambolic garage-rock feels more honestly come by than The Atomics' ersatz surf-punk (and, to the best of my knowledge, H&M played no role in getting them on the lineup). They've released a couple of singles and a pair of EPs that crackle with distortion and attitude.
Floorplan is the gospel-house alter ego of Detroit techno legend Robert Hood, and it's awesome. For the project's latest release, last year's Victorious album, he collaborated with his daughter Lyric, and it sounds like they're having a blast on hallelujah-disco workouts like "Tell You No Lie." All techno legends should let their hair down once in a while like this.
This British singer-producer is all the rage right now, with a lush yet fragile, piano-and-electronics sound (think England's answer to Frank Ocean) and a monster list of collaborators and co-signers that includes everyone from Drake to SBTRKT to the aforementioned Mr. Ocean. His ethereal sound may not translate well to a festival setting, but those who can get close enough to get enveloped in his expressive vocals will definitely be won over.
55. Hannah Wants
Footballer-turned-DJ Hannah Alicia Smith plays a U.K. style of dance music I'm currently obsessed with, a mix of house, garage and bassline that cranks up the bass without losing the groove. It's ridiculously fun to dance to, as are Hannah's original tracks and bouncy DJ sets. Fans of local DJ crew and club night Night Bass won't want to miss her.
One of the most critically hyped artists on this year's lineup, and for good reason. Whether getting all anthemic and shoegaze-y on "Your Best American Girl" or going full lo-fi on the urgent "My Body's Made of Crushed Little Stars," Mitski's songwriting crackles with wit, honesty and fresh ideas. Her latest album, Puberty 2, was one of 2016's best.
53. Nicolas Jaar
Jaar specializes in a type of electronic music so lush with atmosphere that you sometimes forget you can also dance to it. But something tells me that on a big, fat sound system at Coachella, that won't be a problem, especially if he breaks out some of his more percussive cuts for the Wolf + Lamb label, such as "Mi Mujer" and "El Bandito."
52. Las Ligas Menores
Does Burger Records have a South America branch yet? If so, they should totally sign this sunny garage-surf band from Buenos Aires. Actually, knowing Burger, they will have released a Las Ligas Menores cassette by the time you read this.
Burger already put out a tape by this terrific jangle-and-reverb Spanish quartet, and those crazy Fullerton kids don't even have a Madrid office last I checked. Worldwide, baby!
50. Marcel Dettmann
Two Berlin DJs with very different approaches: Where Dettmann tends to favor the sleek, minimal vibes you probably most closely associate with Berlin techno, Dixon takes a more unpredictable, freewheeling approach, a style he developed playing weekly marathon sets as a resident at several of the German capital's best-known clubs. Together they promise to turn the Yuma Tent into Berghain West for a few hours, minus the draconian door policy and kinky public sex acts happening in the corners. Well, OK, minus the draconian door policy.
48. Anna Lunoe
L.A.-based Australian DJ-producer-vocalist Anna Lunoe calls her Beats 1 Radio show Hyperhouse, and that's a good way to describe her music, which keeps the four-on-the-floor beats going without ever settling for too long into any one style. Her original productions, especially recent OWSLA single "Radioactive," are pop anthems with a house pulse, but her DJ sets can get deliciously deep, too.
47. Diamante Eléctrico
I had never heard of this Colombian rock trio before they became a late add to this year's lineup, but I'm kind of obsessed now. They're the kind of throwback rock band America seldom produces anymore, with a hard-to-pin-down sound anchored in good songwriting and stellar musicianship. Check the scorching guitar solo on "La Gran Oscilacion" and the horn-fueled, rockabilly-tinged stomp of "Dejala Rodar" for a sample of how likely they are to light up a festival stage.
46. Sofi Tukker
This New York duo's ethereal dance-pop stands out mainly for the way Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern weave Latin rhythms and touches of Brazilian instrumentation into the mix, giving their best four-on-the-floor bangers just enough tropical sway to keep things interesting. "Awoo" is exactly the kind of song you want to dance to barefoot in the grass — except don't dance barefoot at Coachella. Are you crazy? By Sunday, that polo field grass is 90 percent sweat and Spicy Pie drippings.
45. Toots and the Maytals
Bob Marley and Peter Tosh may be reggae's most famous emissaries, but 74-year-old Toots Hibbert holds the distinction of having named, if not invented, the entire genre with the Maytals' 1968 song "Do the Reggay." After 55 years (no joke), they can still rock steady with the best of them. If you've ever dreadlocked your hair, rolled a spliff or used the word "skank" in a sentence, your presence at this set is pretty much mandatory.
I'm surprised I'm not ranking them higher, too. But their latest album, Woman, just feels like a misfire — too much "D.A.N.C.E.," not enough "Genesis" — and I fear their live show will follow suit. I like kitschy retro keys and falsetto vocals just fine, but they don't play to Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay's dance floor–destroying strengths. Still, if they drop some version of "Waters of Nazareth," theirs will be a set well worth catching.
43. Slow Hollows
When your indie-rock band gets hit up for collaborations by Frank Ocean and Tyler, the Creator, you must be doing something right. Led by the insanely precocious Austin Feinstein (he's 18, or maybe 19 by the time you read this), Slow Hollows started out making fairly straightforward garage-rock jams, but last year's Romantic is an amazing leap forward, laced with lounge-lizard horns, quirky chord progressions and casually scorching guitar solos. Imagine if Destroyer's Dan Bejar, in full Kaputt yacht-rock mode, tried to make a Luna album. Yeah, it's that good.
42. Dudu Tassa & the Kuwaitis
This might be the band with the most amazing backstory on this year's lineup. Dudu Tassa, an Israeli rock singer-songwriter, knew that his grandfather and great-uncle, Daoud and Saleh Al Kuwaiti, had been popular musicians in Iraq but was stunned to discover that they were superstars back home. To connect with their Arabic sounds, he began trying to play along to their old recordings and eventually turned these rock makeovers into an album. Now he's taking the music on the road, and its collisions of Western and Eastern sounds are both beautiful and, in today's divided world, deeply moving.
I never really cared for the jangly retro-rock of Smith Westerns. But Whitney, the newish group featuring that band's Max Kakacek and Julien Ehrlich, adds a wood-paneled, countrified tinge to the proceedings that I can't get enough of. Whitney's debut album, Light Upon the Lake, is arguably even more self-consciously '70s-obsessed than anything Smith Westerns ever did, but Kakacek, Ehrlich and their new bandmates sound like they're having a blast channeling their inner Flying Burrito Brothers.
40 1/2. Thundercat
Well, this is embarrassing. It's hard to avoid accidentally omitting at least one artist from a list like this, but I hang my head in shame that it's bassist extraordinaire Stephen Bruner, a local hero and key player in Flying Lotus' Brainfeeder crew whose live shows are always intriguing mixes of space-age electronica, R&B, jazz and psych-rock. My deepest apologies, 'Cat!
40. Tove Lo
This Swedish singer-songwriter's mix of cockiness and vulnerability recalls fellow Scandinavians Robyn and Lykke Li. But she's definitely got her own swag, too — a distinctly millennial self-awareness and zero-fucks attitude that makes already great pop songs like "Cool Girl" and "Habits (Stay High)" just that much fizzier.
39. Shannon and the Clams
Mixing garage-rock and doo-wop is nothing new, but something about the way this Oakland group do it is pretty damn irresistible, especially thanks to the charismatic lead vocals of singer-bassist Shannon Shaw.
I've been sold on this Seattle jangle-punk quartet ever since they came out in 2014 with "Crimson Wave," the sunniest, funniest ode to menstruation any band to my knowledge has ever penned. Since then, they've only gotten better, with raucous, acerbic jams about weekend warriors ("I Hate the Weekend"), awkward breakups ("You Can't Fire Me, I Quit"), mansplaining ("Men Explain Things to Me") and more. You probably can't hear most of the lyrics at their live shows, but when the mosh pit erupts it won't matter.
37. Tale of Us
Berlin-based Italian brothers Karm and Matteo Milleri make the kind of deliciously deep, dark house music you can lose yourself in for hours. Even if Coachella makes them play a relatively brief set, it should still be quite the journey.
36. Father John Misty
Joshua Tillman is hands-down Goldenvoice's favorite angsty white singer-songwriter; this is his third Coachella appearance since 2013, and last year he headlined the Goldenvoice-produced FYF Fest, too. So I'm sure I'm not alone when I say I'm a little Father John Misty'ed out this year. That said, Tillman remains an extraordinarily gifted songwriter, and the tracks released so far from his next FJM album, Pure Comedy (out, conveniently, on April 7, one week before the festival), sound like more gold, especially the drolly nihilistic title track. So I'll probably try to catch some of his set again this year, albeit reluctantly — which somehow seems like the perfect attitude with which to experience a Father John Misty set.
Wife-husband indie-pop duo Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley have gotten more interesting with each album, and their latest, the just-released Yours Conditionally, is their most fully realized yet. Though their sound remains as steeped in '70s nostalgia as a faded Polaroid, Moore's lyrics have grown more cutting and confident, as she dissects gender stereotypes ("Ladies Don't Play Guitar") and relationship dynamics ("Baby Don't Believe") with a clear-eyed steeliness barely softened by her sweetly soothing vocals.
Nearly 30 years into a career in which he's helped define everything from downtempo to trance to progressive house, Sasha remains possibly my favorite composer in all of dance music. His original tracks, remixes and DJ sets unfold more like film soundtracks than overt invitations to hit the floor. If he brings that energy to the Polo Grounds, it will be a welcome palate cleanser from the parade of heavy beat droppers that dominate this year's lineup.
Nope, it's not some mononymous new pop star you never heard of. It's Canadian producer Dan Snaith, who's spent the past few years conquering the dance world with his main project, Caribou, and their mesmerizing techno-jam-band live incarnation. For Daphni, Snaith works solo and explores some of house and techno's more experimental nooks and crannies, coloring his precision-tuned tracks with classic '80s synths and fragments of world music.
32. Future Islands
I can't say I'm a fan of this Baltimore band's music, which for me never quite rises to the level of its obvious forebears (New Order, Simple Minds, Echo & the Bunnymen). But I'm a huge fan of their singer, Samuel T. Herring. How could you not be? In an era when far too many bands still seem to think it's cool to look unimpressed with their own music, Herring is earnestness incarnate, part Pentecostal preacher, part dorky yet fully committed dude at the Morrissey karaoke night, grimacing and beating his chest with every shift in his group's swooning synth-rock. I can't wait to see him awkwardly lose his shit on a big festival stage.
31. Sam Gellaitry
The way everyone except me always freaks out about Flume is the way I've been freaking out lately about this 20-year-old Scottish producer's impossibly lush, inventive soundscapes. There's a little Bonobo, a little Dilla, a little Flying Lotus and a whole lot of nothing else you've ever heard.
30. Patrick Topping
Appropriately named British DJ/producer Topping has topped the Beatport tech-house chart five times. In British slang, "to top" means "to kill," so his name is also a fitting description for what he'll do to whichever dance tent he plays, Yuma or Sahara.
I'm less enamored of this Berlin electronic super-trio made up of Apparat's Sascha Ring and Modeselektor's Sebastian Szary and Gernot Bronsert now that they've added vocals to most of their tracks. Ring, the group's main vocalist, isn't a bad singer, but he's a far better producer, and there's a sense of atmosphere and mystery to Moderat's instrumental tracks that discernible lyrics can sometimes undermine. Still, they remain among the most intriguing production teams in the business, and III finds them applying their classic breakbeat and techno talents to the dynamics of future-bass music in some very cool ways.
28. Thee Commons
"If Thee Commons aren’t the best live band in Los Angeles, they’re damn near the top," L.A. Weekly writer Chris Kissel declared recently, and I share his enthusiasm. Their self-described "psychedelic cumbia punk" sound can whip nearly any audience into a frenzy, even when they're not joined onstage by dancing gorillas and other carnivalesque elements. Of all Coachella's late lineup additions, Thee Commons are hands-down the best.
This D.C. rapper keeps getting better with each release, refining his tough yet melodious flow and honing the unique sound he calls "future bounce" — a mix of hip-hop, house and Baltimore club — even as he brings in outside producers like Kaytranada and Sevn Thomas.
26. Honey Dijon
If you're not sure what househeads mean when they describe a track as "jackin'," spend about 10 minutes with this New York–by-way-of-Chicago DJ on the decks and you'll understand. A protégé of the great Derrick Carter, Dijon reps the sounds of both her hometowns in sets that are relentlessly bouncy, funky and fun.
25. New Order
OK, so it's been about 30 years since their last memorable single, and they're without groundbreaking bassist Peter Hook. But even as an oldies act, New Order remain one of the most important live dance-music acts still regularly hitting the festival circuit, with a deep catalog of indelible songs, from "Blue Monday" to "Bizarre Love Triangle," that sound great pumping across the polo fields (as anyone who saw their previous Coachella appearances, in 2005 and 2013, can vouch for).
Pop music's resident weird kid hasn't yet reached "Royals"-level heights with the singles she's released so far from her forthcoming sophomore album, Melodrama. But "Green Light" adds an appealing frisson of dance beats to her trademark minimalist sound, and "Liability" is the kind of ballad that reveals more emotional depth on each listen. Lorde never seemed as if she was wired to churn out hits, anyway; she's way too idiosyncratic, "a little much for everyone," as she sings on "Liability" — which is exactly what makes her such a fascinating performer.
23. Ezra Furman
I discovered this live-wire Chicago singer-songwriter back in 2011 by way of an incredible album called Mysterious Power. How the rest of the world hasn't discovered him in the years since is beyond me; he does occasionally inspire headlines like this one, but he remains weirdly slept-on, a big-font personality with small-font billing at Coachella, who will probably get a crappy time slot and play to half the audience he deserves. But you should be part of that audience, because he's basically a doo-wop–loving, androgynous cross between Jonathan Richman, Bruce Springsteen and David Bowie, and he is, according to that Guardian headline, "the most compelling live act you can see right now."
22. Chicano Batman
Speaking of crappy time slots ... these local heroes got one at their first Coachella in 2015 but have likely earned better placement and should be able to back it up with tracks off their career-best latest album, Freedom Is Free. Their sound, a funked-up mix of lowrider R&B and jammy psychedelic rock, with maybe a cumbia or two thrown in for good measure, is perfect festival fodder, and they're political without being preachy. This is their moment to seize, and they're ready. (And if you don't believe me, just read our recent cover story on them.)
21. Little Dragon
These Swedish electro-poppers sound more Prince-like with each passing album, and aside from its decidedly modern, trilling synths, new single "Sweet" is their most overt homage yet to His Purpleness — which bodes well for what should be one of the festival's funkiest, sexiest sets.
20. DJ Shadow
Officially, sampling and turntable wizard Josh Davis is still touring behind his last studio album, 2016's solid The Mountain Will Fall. But he's also celebrating the 20th anniversary of his groundbreaking debut, Endtroducing ..., and even though Shadow's relationship with his most famous LP is complicated, it will be fascinating to hear him serve up some of those classic tracks in new contexts — maybe even in remixed form, courtesy of last year's Endtroducing Re-Emagined set, which featured work from the likes of Daedelus, Prince Paul, Salva and Hudson Mohawke.
19. Bon Iver
In a way, Justin Vernon's third Bon Iver album, 22, A Million, is even more claustrophobic than his infamous cabin-in-the-woods debut, For Emma, Forever Ago. It's hard to imagine the impenetrable murk of "10 (Death Breast)" or the Auto-Tuned minimalism of "715 (Creeks)" rocking a festival crowd, but if anyone can pull it off, it's Vernon, who has long since mastered the art of turning his insular studio output into rousing live presentations — especially his most recent dates, which have included an entire saxophone section dubbed the Sad Sax of Shit.
After seeing this quartet blow away the crowd at last year's Music Tastes Good festival, I'm a full-blown convert. Drummer Stella Mozgawa and bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg are one of the best rhythm sections in rock right now, bar none, and all four members have the vocal chops to weave harmonies over their craftily danceable take on post-punk that will make the hairs on the back of your neck tingle. And hey, we put them on our cover last fall! That was smart of us.
17. The xx
I've only seen The xx live once before, at South by Southwest in 2010, and I'm not gonna sugarcoat it: They were boring as fuck. So why am I ranking them so high, you ask? Two reasons: First, many people whose opinions I respect assure their live show has gotten a lot better since their early days, and second, their latest album, I See You, is a more diverse, upbeat affair, channeling some of the house and disco vibes the trio's producer, Jamie xx, flaunted on his 2015 solo debut, In Colour. New tracks like "On Hold" and "Dangerous" promise to make this the weekend's best melancholy dance party.
Much as I love this Texas duo's eerie synthwave soundscapes, it's hard to say whether they'll really make for a riveting festival experience. That said, I'd put the odds of awesome Stranger Things cosplay sightings at their set at approximately 100 percent, and that alone makes them worth checking out.
Mladen Solomun is less famous in the States than he is in Europe, but he deserves superstar status here, as well. His residency at Ibiza's Pacha nightclub is the stuff of legend, and his banger-after-banger Boiler Room set has racked up a whopping 21 million views, more than sets by Richie Hawtin, Maceo Plex and Jamie Jones combined. His style could be loosely described as deep house, but he's not afraid to venture into techno and progressive terrain, always favoring tracks that are richly textured and pack an emotional punch even as they get you moving.
14. Guided by Voices
By the time you finish reading this list, Robert Pollard will probably have written and released another 20-odd songs. To call GBV's legendary mastermind "prolific" is like saying that characters on Game on Thrones get killed off occasionally. At the core of this avalanche of material is a catalog of lo-fi power-pop gems as good as anything anyone's written since Big Star blazed the trail. The full set list is anyone's guess, but shambling gems "Glad Girls," "Game of Pricks" and "Cut-Out Witch" will almost certainly make appearances.
13. Denzel Curry
This 22-year-old Florida rapper understands the power of contrast. While his beats generally sound like they're floating in a swimming pool drinking something with a little umbrella in it, his rhymes hit with the force of a Glock grip. With a distinctive style and a high-energy live show that garnered him some major buzz coming out of South by Southwest, he won't stay underground much longer.
12. Maya Jane Coles
This London DJ/producer is, simply put, the future of dance music. Under her own name and a variety of aliases, most notably her Nocturnal Sunshine project, Coles has been putting her stamp on classic deep house, tech-house and dubstep (the good kind — moody, minimal and very British) for nearly a decade, landing on magazine covers and "most influential DJ" lists all over the world with zero gimmicks and bullshit, just a remarkable ear for beats that sound both timeless and futuristic. If Disclosure's mainstage set was one of your highlights last year, bring an extra pair of dancing shoes for this one.
11. Swet Shop Boys
Cashmere, the debut album from this group featuring Heems of Das Racist and British actor-rapper Riz Ahmed (best known to American audiences for his amazing lead performance in HBO's The Night of) begins with the eerie wail of a zurna — that Central Asian wind instrument Hollywood uses every time a white person is menaced by a brown person in any Islamic corner of the world — and the words, "I'm so sorry, you've been taken for a random search — follow me, please." Songs like "No Fly List" and "Zayn Malik" are full of witty rhymes, but they also pack a powerful punch — and in the wake of Trump's travel-ban chaos, their relevance can't be overstated. Here's hoping Ahmed isn't turned back at customs before he and Heems can get to Indio.
"I'm glowed up," Anderson .Paak sings on a Kaytranada track, and that's pretty much exactly how I feel every time I hear anything from this sublimely gifted Montreal producer. Louis Kevin Celestin's music loosely falls under the whole future-bass category, or what used to be called (horribly) "PBR&B" — but he's really a genre unto himself, a wizard who weaves jazzy keys, deep house bass lines, hip-hop beats and Flying Lotus–like spacey experimentalism into something luminous and lustrous and wholly unique.
9. The Avalanches
I know I'm in the minority among fans of the sample-heavy, kaleidoscopic electronica that was all the rage in the early '00s — but to be honest, I would've been far more excited about a Lemon Jelly reunion than the second coming of this near-mythical Australian duo. As mind-blowing as The Avalanches' 2000 debut, Since I Met You, was at the time, like Girl Talk and roughly 80 percent of Fatboy Slim's catalog, it hasn't aged well. If Robbie Chater and Tony Di Blasi had kept releasing music, its reputation probably would have diminished by now. But instead, they ghosted their fan base for 15 years, so the excitement surrounding last year's surprise release of their second album, Wildflower, and this, their first full live shows in the United States, is palpable. That alone makes their set a must-see. Well, that and Wildflower track "Frankie Sinatra," which is probably the best thing The Avalanches have ever done.
8. Schoolboy Q
So many L.A. rappers have been making Big Statements lately that it was easy to sleep on last year's Blank Face, the fourth LP from Kendrick Lamar's TDE/Black Hippy cohort, Quincy Matthew Hanley. This publication sure did; it took us until December, even though it came out in July, to acknowledge that it's the best work of Q's career, worthy of a spot on our list of L.A.'s best albums of 2016. It's the streetwise yin to To Pimp a Butterfly's consciousness-raising yang, using its title phrase as a recurring image for the dehumanizing effects of the constant twin threats of police brutality and gang violence. Also, not incidentally, even the album's grimmest tracks are total bangers.
7. Four Tet
Even since pioneering — and then abandoning — the sound critics dubbed "folktronica" with his breakthrough albums Pause and Rounds, Kieran Hebden has forever stayed one step ahead of trends in electronic music, exploring an ever-broadening palette of techno, jazz, post-rock and world music, collaborating with everyone from Steve Reich to Jamie xx, and generally kicking ass and forcing his contemporaries to rethink everything they're doing every couple of years. His most recent release, Morning/Evening, finds him at his prettiest but also his most experimental, as he stretches two companion ambient tracks, laced with enchanting Indian vocals, into sprawling, raga-inspired, 20-minute meditations. He'll likely mix edits of those tracks with more uptempo numbers from the rest of his catalog, especially his 2010 masterpiece, There Is Love in You.
6. Lady Gaga
No, she's not Beyoncé, and Joanne sure as hell ain't Lemonade. But circumstances may conspire to make this a Lady Gaga set for the ages. As the replacement act, and coming off the lukewarm response to her Super Bowl halftime show and her country-tinged fifth album, Stefani Germanotta will be coming into Coachella with something to prove, and she's likely to pull out all the stops in an effort to remind everyone that, just eight years ago, she was the most exciting performer in pop music.
5. Richie Hawtin
It's hard to put into words just how good Richie Hawtin's Sahara tent set was at Coachella in 2007. Hearing techno that dense and precise was a little like dancing inside a pointillist painting; the more you listened, the more little details revealed themselves, all adding up to a sublime, constantly evolving whole. He returns to the Polo Grounds this year to debut a brand-new live show called Close — Spontaneity & Synchronicity, which promises to add a cool new visual component to Hawtin's endlessly innovative approach to Detroit techno.
The fact that British-born, L.A.-based Simon Green's Bonobo project is now one of the most widely recognized names in electronic music makes me do a little happy dance in my chair as I type this. He's achieved this success without selling out or compromising his core sound, a downtempo yet danceable style that mixes programmed beats and synths with live horns, bass, keys and the occasional soulful guest vocal from the talented likes of Rhye, Erykah Badu and Andreya Triana. His latest album, Migration, released in January, is another triumph, brimming with richly detailed, blissed-out head nodders that should take on new life when Green presents them with the full band that is his preferred live format.
This will, weirdly, be my first time seeing Radiohead live. I say "weirdly" because I am, as far as I know, possibly the only white male music journalist in existence who is not a rabid follower of the venerable art-rock band's every move. It's not that I hate Radiohead; I think they're fine (an attitude that seems to drive the rabid fans even crazier than saying you hate them outright), although I'm fond of pointing out, only half-kidding, that the two greatest things they've ever done are The Bends and Thom Yorke's dance moves in the "Lotus Flower" video. With all that being said, I'm psyched to finally see them live, because they're still fucking Radiohead, and their live shows are still the stuff of legend. Plus, I'd say odds are good they play "Creep," which Prince famously covered at Coachella in 2008.
2. The Belleville Three
For techno fans, these are Coachella 2017's real headliners: Derrick May, Juan Atkins and Kevin Saunderson, the three Detroit DJs and producers who pioneered the genre in the early 1980s. Though long known as the Belleville Three, after the high school where they all met, aside from a few one-off gigs (such as at the Netherlands' Awakenings festival in 2010, seen in the above clip), they've seldom appeared together — until this year, when they're promising to do an international tour and even release new music under their long-standing moniker. Coachella marks the first of these shows, and so far, their only other confirmed date is at Detroit's Movement festival in May. So yeah, this is a big deal.
1. Kendrick Lamar
As soon as Queen Bey dropped out, we all knew who became the de facto headliner. Even though he just headlined FYF last August (where he crushed it), anticipation for K-Dot's second Coachella performance (and first since 2012, not counting a couple guest appearances) is running red-hot since he started teasing the release of his fourth studio album, expected to drop April 7. What it will sound like is still anyone's guess, but if the just-released song "Humble" is any indication, it signals a move away from the introspection and experimentation of To Pimp a Butterfly and on to some well-deserved ass-kicking. "This that Grey Poupon, that Evian, that TED Talk," Kendrick boasts over a stomping, piano-driven Mike Will Made-It beat, before urging all pretenders to his MC throne to "sit down, lil' bitch, be humble." As brilliant at TPAB was, it's thrilling to hear the game's best pure rapper just flexing and putting everyone else on notice. If he comes out at Coachella with the same attitude, it might go down as the best hip-hop headlining set in the festival's history.
What? You're still here? That list seriously wasn't enough for you? Fine, see below for a playlist, too.
Corrections: An earlier version of this list incorrectly listed GZA, rather than RZA, as a member of Banks and Steelz. It also omitted Thundercat from the list entirely. We apologize to the Wu-Tang and Brainfeeder nations for the errors.
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