Thanks to the armies of R. Kelly fanboys, weekend passes to this year’s Pitchfork Festival sold out faster than you could say “Remix to ignition, bro.” Nevertheless, it’s likely they’ll be looking for something to do between now and Sunday night’s headline set, so here are some other not-so-major names worth listening to while waiting.
1. Angel Olsen
Friday, 5:15 PM: Blue Stage
Olsen is gifted with a voice of transportative power, and there’s an authenticity to her songwriting that runs against the grain. Songs like “The Waiting” recall simpler times, tempting us with the idea that all music was once this good. In fact, such talent was as rare during folk music’s apex as it is today. Nevertheless, Olsen has kept apace with the times: “Sweet Dreams” from this year’s Sleepwalker EP channels PJ Harvey’s heaviest, most haunting moments.
Saturday, 7:25 PM: Red Stage
It takes some major cojones to pursue a musical career when your older sister happens to be multi-platinum-selling artist Beyonce Knowles. But Solange did it right by doing it her own way, wedding herself not to R&B, but exploring the 80’s and 90’s pop terrain of Michael Jackson and Robyn. As such, her music fits more comfortably within today’s disco and glam revival than alongside her own immediate kin — probably why she wisely dropped her last name from her billing.
Sunday, 1 PM: Green Stage
Catch MC Tree’s Sunday set and you’ll school yourself on the hip-hop dynamo that is the Chicago, Illinois in 2013. Tree’s debut mixtape, Sunday School, solidified his place as a forward-thinking rhyme stylist alongside Save Money Army’s Chance The Rapper and Vic Mensa, while his beat-making, affectionately termed “soul trap,” is shorthand for jittery, Fruity Loops-powered production stripped of all excess but no less likely to have your hands up waving along.
4. Killer Mike & 5. El-P
Sunday, 2:30 PM: Green Stage and 3:20 PM: Red Stage, respectively
Performing on the heels of their widely-acclaimed collaboration Run the Jewels, it’s unclear which of these two is going to make an unannounced appearance on the other’s set, but you know it’s just got to happen. My advice is to take no chances: make sure you’re there for both. After roiling underground for years, Mike’s R.A.P. Music rode a groundswell to the top of many of 2012’s “Year’s Best” lists, and featured some of the hardest, most unrelenting rapping of the MC’s career: the album’s first four songs especially play like a hardcore rap suite, but throughout all 12 tracks, Mike’s verbal assault is matched bar by bar and blow for blow by El-P’s production. To say the beats on both Run the Jewels and R.A.P. Music sound futuristic doesn’t quite do El-P justice–post-apocalyptic might be more accurate. All the same, his past few releases confirm beyond doubt that the former Company Flow MC/producer has achieved the near-impossible in a genre as derivative and referential as hip-hop: he’s created a sound entirely his own.
6. Evian Christ
Sunday, 6:45 PM: Blue Stage
Of the many collaborators listed on Yeezus’s album credits, I was most pleasantly surprised to see Evian Christ, whose doom-ridden sensibilities proved a perfect fit for Kanye’s emotional wasteland of an album. His latest release, Duga-3, hangs like a low-lying cloud cover, punctuated by drizzling analog washes that resemble long-lost Boards of Canada outtakes. The comparatively straightforward Kings and Them, which he released for free in 2012, is a beat tape for the deconstructionist hip-hop fan. No matter which of these two directions Christ takes on Sunday, it’ll definitely merit close listening.