Music to your ears

Nine incredible festival acts that should be on your turntable

Music to your ears

Festival season is upon us, and while there’s nothing quite like seeing live bands, when you live in the Middle East, a weekend at Fuji Rock Festival in Japan is possibly a trip too far. For all of us that have to make do with singing along via our headphones, here are our picks of the festival acts that you need to check out.

1 A Tribe Called Quest

Playing: Pitchfork, Electric Picnic, Bestival.
Last year’s surprise reunion album We Got It From Here…Thank U 4 Your Service was the hip-hop crew’s first since 1998 and it was recorded shortly before the death of founding member Phife Dawg. The album went gold, and they proved they can still bring it with performances on Saturday Night Light and the Grammys. The group cancelled three shows earlier in the year due to Q-Tip sustaining a shoulder injury, but other gigs should go ahead. This album was also supposed to be their last. Can they kick it? We think they can.

2 Angel Olsen

Playing: Glastonbury, Halfway, Rosklide, Panorama, Oya, Way Out West, Flow, Green Man.
Angel Olsen is simply brilliant to see live. However, she’s almost as good through your JBL pocket speaker. The 30-year-old indie rocker’s third album, My Woman, received rave reviews and justifiably so. The St. Louis native has moved away from the dark country of her earlier material and towards a more grungy yet poppy sound. It’s given her minor hits such as the playful Shut Up and Kiss Me and thrust her into the mainstream more than ever before. Listen to rising star Olsen now and get ahead of the curve. You can tell people you knew who she was when no-one else cared.

3 Pet Shop Boys
Playing: Tinderbox, Montreux Jazz Festival, Bestival, Rock in Rio.
Winners of NME’s Genius award this year, the synth pop veterans really know how to put on a show, especially if your idea of a good show is colour, sparkle and some wacky headgear. With Bestival’s penchant for fancy dress, their Sunday night headline set is bound to be a lot of fun. Of course, they also have four decades’ worth of studio material to keep you busy. Check out Actually for ’80s pop sheen, 1990’s Behaviour for a more experimental sound (and classic electro track Being Boring), while last year’s Super is full of life for a band that formed back in 1981.

4 Radiohead
Playing: Best Kept Secret, Glastonbury, Open’er, Rock Werchter, TRNSMT.
Radiohead are rumoured to be planning a special set to honour the 20th anniversary of OK Computer during their headline performance at Glastonbury, which will also mark 20 years since their legendary set at the festival. While the band is playing weekenders across Europe, Thom Yorke and co. aren’t known for putting on greatest hits shows. But you can listen to them all at home of course. So, pick out your favourites from debut Pablo Honey and work your way through their back catalogue to create your own Radiohead
‘Best Of’. Will there be anything from The King of Limbs in yours?

5 Run the Jewels
Playing: Best Kept Secret, Glastonbury.
Hip-hop supergroup Run the Jewels, made up of MCs El-P and Killer Mike, have gone from strength to strength over the last four years and three albums. Last month, they linked-up on a new track with Danger Mouse and Big Boi, Chase Me, taken from hotly-anticipated summer film Baby Driver (see page 26). They’re political with a wonderfully dark wit, and their music nods to hip-hop traditions (they’re big fans of legendary rappers EPMD). With each album the band has moved on in terms of production and lyrics. Check out the difference between Run The Jewels 1 and Run The Jewels 3 if you don’t believe us. Visit their website ( and you can even download all three for free.

6 Solange
Playing: Glastonbury, Piknik I Parken, Roskilde, Montreaux Jazz Festival, Lovebox, Pitchfork.
Solange has had a great twelve months. In October, her album A Seat at the Table, which features Lil Wayne and the smooth-toned Sampha and focuses on black identity, beat Bon Iver to top the US album charts. Yet there is no tour as such – you can only catch her at museums (yeah, we know, pretentious or what?) and festivals. Instead of trying to track her down you can sit back and listen to the latest album from Beyoncé’s sister in the comfort of your own home.

7 Skepta

Playing: Wireless, Longitude, Lollapalooza Paris, Austin City Limits.
Current holder of the Mercury Prize for his album Konnichiwa, Skepta is holding the torch this year for UK grime at festivals in Europe and the US. Grime has taken its time, but seems to be having a moment right now. “There is a revolution happening,” according to Skepta – and its popularity is picking up pace globally. Liam Gallagher has talked about collaborating with him soon, so we recommend listening to Konnichiwa to find out what Skepta was like before he went Britpop.

8 The Black Madonna
Playing: Sonar, Sonar by Night, Love International, Kappa Festival, The Garden Resort, Creamfields, Gottwood, Into the Valley.
It’s almost difficult to find a festival The Black Madonna isn’t playing in this year. Enjoying a meteoric rise from the brink of obscurity to EDM powerhouse, she was MixMag’s DJ of the Year in 2016. Her sound operates in the space between techno, disco and house – perfected over a decade in Chicago – and she is a feminist DJ heroine who is a welcome tonic to the scene after years of staid male DJs. Guaranteed to get you dancing in your living room.

9 The xx

Playing: Glastonbury, Rosklide, Open’er, Firenze, Night + Day.
Since debut album xx was released in 2009, almost every new song in the charts has sounded a bit like The xx. But the band aren’t keen to repeat the same formula. With I See You, released at the beginning of this year, the band’s sound has evolved again. Check out the band’s latest and Jamie xx’s In Colour to hear them at their best.

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