Faux-chella — that wondrous time of year where we NorCal leaches suck from the teat that is Coachella — has arrived. There are some major must-see shows this week if you’re not heading south for the big party in the desert this weekend (or, for that matter, weekend No. 2): Radiohead at HP Pavilion (Wednesday), M. Ward at the Fillmore (Wednesday), Andrew Bird at the Fox (Friday), Damien Jurado at Bottom of the Hill (Friday), and on and on…
In an era when bands regularly milk every last dollar out of their name recognition and ride waves of success until every merchandising opportunity has materialized, the story of Neutral Milk Hotel and Jeff Mangum is as rare as it is fascinating. NMH made two jarring albums in the ‘90s that impressed the right tastemakers — In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (their second) is regularly cited as being one of the first important albums in the subsequent indie rock movement of the ‘00s, in addition to being a thoroughly affecting piece of art. Long story short: Mangum got a taste of influence and fame, didn’t think much of it, stopped making music, stopped touring, and more or less disappeared from the public eye. Now he’s back for a tour and a Coachella spot, and his post-breakup cult followers will at long last see Mangum’s genius in the flesh.
This Los Angeles-based collective of rappers and producers — including Tyler, The Creator and Frank Ocean to name just a few — took the music biz by storm last year on the viral strength of live performance YouTube clips and some good ol’ fashioned media controversy. Their lyrics are routinely graphic and disturbing, earning the "horrorcore" label from those in the labeling business and some slaps on the wrist from the PC police, and their live shows are exercises in confrontation — there will be moshing/crowdsurfing. Their new album, The Odd Future Tapes, is a bit underwhelming, but the spectacle of the live show continues to be worth the price of admission.
“Faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaade …. Aaaaaiiiiiinto youuuu.”
Hope Sandoval’s twangy three-word chorus of “Fade Into You” moves the ‘90s nostalgia needle in a way few acts from that era can. Play it, and yearn for flannel, Reality Bites quotes and car phones. But Sandoval and Mazzy Star were more than a fad; 15 years later, Sandoval’s solemn, haunting voice still raises hair and smacks the soul. The band hasn’t released an album since 1996, but this gig and their Coachella billing is a sign of a new album to come, fingers crossed.
This Swedish super-ish-group once affiliated with Britney Spears made a stunning pop album in 2010 (self-titled), and put an exclamation point on it later that year with a festival-stealing set at Treasure Island Music Festival. Two years later, the band has polished its sound, and seems a bit more subdued since we last met. Its recently released album Happy to You doesn’t pack the same dance anthem bang for the buck, but there are plenty of brilliant moments for intrigue's sake ("Enter the Joker's Lair" = magic). And, for the last time, nobody in the band is named Miike Snow.