The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival took over Indio, CA this past weekend and will repeat the feat this weekend. Between performances by headliners Arcade Fire, OutKast and Muse, plus sets by Calvin Harris, Beck, Pharrell Williams, Lorde and surprise guest appearances by Jay Z, Beyoncé and Blondie’s Debbie Harry, there was a lot to see at the festival.
But if you’re hitting the festival circuit later on in the season — or if the heat, crowds and surprise appearances by Justin Bieber aren’t your thing — here are seven bands to check out, either at Coachella’s second weekend or as far as you can possibly get from the maddening crowds:
Jillian Banks, who performs simply as Banks, makes yearning seem like a worthwhile pastime when she sings about it in her seductive voice. The singer marries her R&B inflected tunes and warm vocals with big production and electronic beats to create magnetic pop songs. Her debut album isn’t due out for months, but the singles released so far warrant setting Spotify on repeat.
Listen: “Warm Water”
Baltimore synth-pop punks Future Islands just released a new album this week, and it seems like the fourth time is the charm for the band, as they’re finally earning some well-deserved buzz. The three-piece drags listeners across their musical threshold with songs that range from quietly introspective to industrial new wave, all topped by the unforgettable, raspy-yet-smooth vocals of singer Samuel T. Herring (who is worth the effort to see live).
Listen: “Seasons (Waiting On You)”
MS MR make high drama pop music with a gothic edge that is hard not to dance to. The Brooklyn duo of singer Lizzy Plapinger and producer-instrumentalist Max Hershenow craft deftly dark songs that bring to mind alt-’80s bands — if acts like Siouxsie and the Banshees and Sisters of Mercy had iPods filled with Katy Perry songs and developed a knack for making dance party anthems.
The Swedish electro-pop collective made their first stateside appearance in eight years at Coachella — and they made it count. Belatedly touring in support of their experimental early 2013 album Shaking the Habitual, the band turns mere concerts into exuberant stage shows that are equal parts Willy Wonka-inspired performance art and ecclesiastical youth group gatherings that make for instant parties and mandatory viewing for music fans.
Listen: “A Tooth For An Eye”
Fronted by two 20-year-old rappers, Wiki and Hak, alongside producer Sporting Life, Ratking represents the next generation of New York rappers. The band was raised on a steady diet of Notorious B.I.G. and Black Star, and they put that education to good use on their debut album, So It Goes. They’ve already earned comparisons to fellow Coachella performer OutKast for their fast-paced rhymes and socially-conscious lyrics that cover everything from love and money to gentrification and police brutality.
Listen: “So Sick Stories, feat. King Krule”
The Australian band makes music that sounds like they are the lone holdouts of the early ’90s Madchester scene (think: Happy Mondays, Stone Roses and the Soup Dragons). On their albums, they deliver an updated twist on a throwback sound, crafting psychedelic indie rock with seriously danceable trip-hop beats. Live, their crowd-pleasing tracks make for an irrepressible celebration that feels unstoppable.
Listen: “The Throw”
This 24-year-old Australian singer-songwriter plays rambling folks songs that cover typical topics like relationships and gardening, but with a keen eye for detail and a sharp sense of humor. Her dynamic and sophisticated songs are filled with clever lyrics that, when parsed, read like novellas — but don’t underestimate her ability to write a catchy song out of a fuzzy guitar melody, an undulating piano run and a simmering bass line.
Listen: “Avant Gardener”