For music aficionados, summer is especially exciting because it brings a glut of music festivals. The long heady days lend themselves perfectly to dancing in the sun to your favourite band, discovering new ones, and drinking the odd warm beer in any scrap of shade you can find. Usually music is a purely subjective experience. But the magical thing about a decent festival is that for the duration of it, music becomes not only a celebration of self-expression, but also a celebration of a community. Feeling this collective joy makes the accidental sunburn and inevitable muscle aches the next day completely worthwhile.
An example of one such festival is Laneway Festival. Since its humble beginnings down a ramshackle laneway in Melbourne nine years ago, the teams dedication to offering audiences only the most seminal artists and freshest talent across a variety of genres has never faltered. These steadfast principles have seen the Laneway ethos be taken around Australia and the world, including Singapore, Detroit, and Auckland. As per usual, 2016 sees Laneway mashing together a myriad of styles that are only otherwise bound by their creativity and talent. However the breadth of sound and bands has reached dizzying heights this year, giving me 33 reasons to go to Laneway. With less than a week to go until the gates open, tickets are looking to sell out for the fourth year in a row. So for those of you who are dithering, for the sake of readability I will cull my 33 picks down to five reasons to click that “buy now” button.
Beach House (United States):
Dream-Pop darlings Beach House return to New Zealand off the back of two sensational albums released in 2015- Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars which were successors to 2012’s pop-scuzz triumph Bloom.
Over the last twelve years, the duo have produced six meticulous albums that each show subtle yet pertinent growth from its predecessor. Depending on which one you are listening to, the duo incorporate drawn out droning, elegant distortion, and gorgeously breathy vocals that whisper transcendental promises into your ear. 2015’s offering showcases a shift in texture which leads to a more autumnal tone that suits the cohesively secretive sound of Beach House. As a band whose music oscillates between being dimly luscious and grandly theatrical, their set promises delicate deviations from pop banalities.
Beach House plays the Cactus Cat stage 8.10pm-8.55pm
Since Claire Boucher adopted the above moniker in 2009, she has been constructing one of the most cleverly bizarre universes around her stage persona. It is a world that embraces the strange, where the multi-referential textures of her sound are translated into a kaleidoscopically surreal aesthetic that delights critics and fans alike with its constant movement and colour.
Grimes’s third album, 2012’s Visions first brought her to widespread attention, with Pitchfork Magazine hailing its lead single Oblivion as “the single of the decade.” It was an album built on breathy, self-conscious vocals intertwined with hazily dreamlike effects, and four years after its release Grimes has metamorphosed yet again with the release of 2015’s Art Angel.
Within its confines, Grimes has shed the quietly meditative songs of Visions and unleashed a cacophony of confidence and frenzied experimentation. Millenials will instantly recognise the glossy pop tropes of their teenage hood that inspires much of Art Angels. But in the hands of Grimes the kooky possibilities of this oft-dismissed genre becomes apparent. Radio-ready hooks, whip snap backbeats, and her sugary vocals are intertwined with Taiwanese rap music, EDM bangers and Bubblegum pop, giving the nostalgic touchstones of this album a psychedelically futuristic edge. This reworking of pop standards into hyperbolic amalgamations has led some critics to suggest that she is trying to save the genre. But this writer suggests that Grimes is simply trying to get lost in her own rich soundscapes. Either way, her set will be one of the most ecstatically weird ones on the day. Bring your dancing shoes.
Grimes plays the Mysterex Stage 8.00pm-8.45pm.
Silicon (New Zealand):
On the international stage, New Zealand has a strong track record of producing kooky musical imports- from the quirkily suited Split Endz to the cooly cult following of The Chills and laconic pop-comedy of Flight of the Conchords.
Lately people have sat up and taken notice of the Nielson brothers, Ruban and Kody, two people I have a well-documented musical admiration for. They first came to national attention with the rambunctious art-punk outfit The Mint Chicks, however the pair are now working on their individual projects- Ruban fronts Unknown Mortal Orchestra, while Kody is the mastermind behind Silicon.
Over the last few years antipodean musicians have been enamoured with a glitchy electro-disco soul sound- think Tame Impala and, well, UMO. Silicon unabashedly references this back to the future style with his debut offering Personal Computer, but some of the sonic and thematic standards of the genre are rerouted. This gives the album a distinctly different feel. The retro synths and angular samples are offset against Kody’s falsetto creating an icily soulful sound. This is fitting considering that Personal Computer was inspired by the increasing trend of digital-only socialisation. By simultaneously embracing and eschewing the digital age, Nielson has created an album that is filled with quietly danceable pensive music that will undoubtedly translate excellently irl.
Silicon plays the Thunderdome 7.40pm-8.25pm.
Thundercat (United States):
As a virtuosic bassist, Stephen Bruner has spent the last 10 years playing in an eclectic mixture of contemporary music’s biggest bands. He began working with punk trash legends Suicidal Tendencies before moving onto the Erykah Badu band. 2014 saw him working with Flying Lotus’s Brainfeeder Imprint while he also worked closely with Kendrick Lamar on his seminal album To Pimp a Butterfly.
Thundercat is the name of Bruner’s solo project, which he has released three albums under- The Golden Age of the Apocalypse (2011), Apocalypse (2013) and 2015’s The Beyond/Where the Giants Roam. On his latest record, Bruner’s textured grooves give his avant-jazz sound a bombastically psychedelic edge-making it ideal for a hazy summer’s day. Thundercat wields the bass with an almost godlike prowess, which means he should be on your to watch list for Laneway 2016.
Thundercat plays the Cactus Cat stage 3.15 pm-4.00pm
Vince Staples (United States):
Hailed as “the most exciting man in rap” by Rolling Stone, Vince Staples was bookmarked as being one to watch long before his breathtakingly focused debut album Summertime ’06 dropped in 2015.
22-year old Staples first came to international attention for his part on Earl Sweatshirt’s debut album. He immediately impressed critics with the gritty realism of his flow set against corrodingly industrial beats. On the surface the rhymes found in Summertime 06 reflect on the hard-edged world of rap music where fragility fuels bravado and vice-versa, giving it an obvious street appeal. But at its heart it is an album that turns the loss of childhood innocence into something positive and will undoubtedly translate to a powerful live performance.
Vince Staples plays the Cactus Cat stage 5.35pm-6.00pm.
LANEWAY 2016, Silo Park, Auckland, New Zealand line up:
Battles – Baynk – Beach House – CHVRCHES – Courtney Barnett- DIIV – East India Youth – FIDLAR – Flume – GoldLink – Grimes – Groeni – HEALTH – Hermitude – High Dependency Unit – Hudson Mohawke – Leisure – Lontalius – METZ – Nadia Reid – Oscar Key Sung – Purity Ring – QT – REIN – Scuba Diva – Shamir – Silicon – SOPHIE – The All Seeing Hand – The Internet – Thundercat – Vince Staples – Violent Soho