Pitchfork has essentially established a tradition by having a majority of black artists on the lineup perform on Sundays. It’s not so much a purposeful segregation as it is trying to book similar artists across a day to satisfy fans of particular genres or styles of music. That’s how you get rappers Pink Siifu, Injury Reserve, Noname, Earl Sweatshirt, and The Roots together and make it worth buying a ticket to see all of them. But also don’t sleep on the pop/R&B material KAINA, Erika de Casier, and Tirzah will be bringing to the festivities. The experimental folks can have a little treat with sets from L’Rain, Xenia Rubinos, and Cate Le Bon, and the alt-jazz fanatics can get their fix thanks to BADBADNOTGOOD. Not much in the way of straight up rock music on Sunday, but there’s more than enough on Friday and Saturday for those who want it.
Mostly Sunday at Pitchfork should be all about good, occasionally sexy vibes you can coast on to close out the weekend. It will satisfy in that respect. So join me once more after the jump, and I’ll break down all the artists and set times for the day so you can figure out who to see and when to see them. Then join me all weekend on Twitter and Instagram for some highlights and recaps direct from the grounds of Union Park. Hope to see you out there. Don’t forget to wear sunscreen and stay hydrated!
1:00 – 1:40 Pink Siifu
Pink Siifu has had a busy last couple of years. Scratch that, Pink Siifu has had a busy last decade. The Los Angeles-based rapper, whose legal name is Livingston Matthews, has been releasing material since at least 2014 under multiple different aliases. Of those, iiye is probably his most recognizable moniker outside of Pink Siifu. He has more than 50 different releases listed on his Bandcamp page, almost all of them ushered into the world independent of any record label. Technically speaking, his 2021 record GUMBO’! was the third official “album” from Pink Siifu. That record paid tribute to many of his heroes and inspirations as an artist, while simultaneously carving a wholly unique path that manages to deconstruct traditional hip hop and neo-soul music. It’s weird and unexpected in the most refreshing ways, like when he uses his voice as percussion, or buries his vocals so deep in the mix they’re almost indecipherable. Not everything he tries works, but there are always plenty of beautiful, fun, and even commercially accessible moments to show he’s more than capable of fitting in yet chooses not to. And good for him! His Pitchfork set should be a really interesting way to kick off Sunday.
1:45 – 2:25 L’Rain
Brooklyn artist and multi-instrumentalist L’Rain (Taja Cheek) started out in the DIY scene making noise and drone music. Just a whole lot of loud, harsh sounds assembled into something resembling songs that serve largely to entrance the listener. She’s a classically trained cellist and pianist, using those skills in addition to keyboards, synthesizers, guitar, and various effects/samples to craft an ambient, jazz-inflected self-titled debut album back in 2017 that served as a meditation on grief. Last year’s follow-up Fatigue managed to take dark topics such as depression, fear, and regret and explore them through the lens of compassion and personal growth. It also served as an expansion of L’Rain’s sound into some beautifully orchestrated pieces along with more pop and dance influences. Found sounds and field recordings also permeate most tracks, giving them a much more personal feel that’s experimental but never inaccessible. Honestly, it’s a brilliant record that many (including this site) named one of (if not THE) best thing released in 2021. You’d be foolish to miss a chance to see L’Rain perform these songs live, so show up to Pitchfork early on Sunday and allow yourself to be wowed.
2:30 – 3:15 KAINA
2:45 – 3:30 Sofia Kourtesis
Chicago’s own KAINA provides the perfect follow-up to L’Rain’s set, as the two artists share a lot in common sonically. Her music flows effortlessly between genres, encompassing everything from R&B to Latin pop to indie rock to soul and more in ways that are fascinating and engaging. Of course at the heart of everything are her lyrics, which focus on community and the relationships that come with it – from family to friends to total strangers who may not understand the challenges and systematic racism people of color and particularly women of color face in the world today. Despite all this, KAINA pushes to maintain a more optimistic outlook and includes many affirmations to combat the exhaustive struggles of everyday life. Her second album It Was A Home has been one of the more meaningful and powerful statements released so far this year, with collaborations from Sleater-Kinney and Helado Negro, along with a host of fellow Chicago musicians such as Sen Morimoto and NNAMDI. It’s exciting to see an artist like KAINA grow, and hopefully a set at Pitchfork will be just another stepping stone on her journey to even greater success.
Born in Peru but currently based out of Berlin, electronic producer Sofia Kourtesis has become known for crafting warm and inviting dance music that frequently blends elements of house, disco, and tropicalia. Much of it purposely eschews wild experimentalism in favor of more traditional sonic comfort food, carefully crafting build ups and releases that become joyous highs. The three EPs she’s released to date have each been beautiful in their own unique way, often paying tribute to the styles and sounds of her heroes while tossing in samples, field recordings, live synths/beats, and original vocals. Tracks are frequently used to express freedom and love through acceptance, as her latest single “Estacion Esperanza” features pieces of Manu Chao’s “Me Gustas Tu” and includes crowd chants against homophobia. This might not be music that will light up the dancefloor, but it is the sort of relatively sedate yet pulsating material that will keep you blissfully nodding your head and tapping your feet the morning after the clubs have closed. This should be a nice sound bath to relax in over at the Blue stage on a Sunday afternoon.
3:20 – 4:10 Injury Reserve
Injury Reserve has often been referred to as a “hip hop group for people who don’t like hip hop.” Given their experimental sound, which isn’t afraid to lean into trip-hop, post-rock, and noise elements, that implication makes a lot of sense. The trio’s latest album By the Time I Get to Phoenix came out last fall, and represented the final recordings from member Stepa J. Groggs, who passed away in 2020. Producer Parker Corey and vocalist Ritchie with a T have vowed to continue on without him in some capacity, though it’s not clear if future recordings will keep the Injury Reserve name or if they’ll choose to call it an entirely new project. For now however, IR soldiers on as a duo for live shows, paying tribute to Stepa and his legacy with songs from the group’s two albums plus older mixtapes and EPs. Their Pitchfork set should be very interesting, especially since it’s be their only US tour date for the foreseeable future. If they choose to record new music under a different moniker, this may be one of the final times they’ll perform Injury Reserve tracks on American shores.
4:00 – 4:45 Erika de Casier
4:15 – 5:10 BADBADNOTGOOD
It will be fascinating to see how Erika de Casier’s soft and seductive songs play in a festival atmosphere. Perhaps relegating her to the moderately shaded Blue stage in the middle of a Sunday afternoon will provide many in the crowd with a much-needed respite against the heat and general exhaustion that comes with a three-day summer music festival. Over the course of two lovely and languid albums, de Casier has been indebted to ’90s and ’00s R&B superstars such as Sade and Craig David. You’ll get plenty of synths with wandering melodies, anchored by effortlessly smooth, nearly whispered vocals that feel almost ASMR in nature when listened to through headphones. Despite the lackadaisical nature of her songs, the lyrics are frequently biting with a sly, winking sense of humor that really inflects everything with some fun and spirited momentum. De Casier’s music may be quiet, but at no point is it ever less than engaging and filled with charm.
BADBADNOTGOOD came to popularity thanks to their effortless blending of jazz and hip hop. Their early records frequently reinterpreted classic hip hop tracks in more of a lounge-worthy jazz style. They teamed up with Ghostface Killah for an entire album. Toss in collaborations with Kendrick Lamar and Tyler, the Creator and you’ve got a unique band known for blurring the lines of genre. A lot of that work earned them bonafides, and seemingly gave permission to further explore their sound by incorporating elements of soul and electronica. That was the basis for their 2016 record IV, which brought in more saxophone, a bit of jazz flute, and a wealth of guests (Kaytranada, Colin Stetson, Sam Herring from Future Islands) to bring more focus and tightness to their recordings. Last year’s Talk Memory went so far as to abandon hip hop elements altogether in favor of more classic jazz arrangements, indebted to everyone from Miles Davis to Sun Ra. Sandwiched in between Injury Reserve and Noname on Sunday, it’ll be fascinating to see if BADBADNOTGOOD choose a set list dominated by their most recent album, or if they’ll mix things up just a bit by leaning back into their earlier hip hop-influenced days.
5:15 – 6:10 Noname
5:15 – 6:00 Xenia Rubinos
Noname’s relationship with music can best be described as “complicated” right now. After releasing two successful, critically acclaimed albums (Telefone and Room 25), in the spring of 2019 she announced work had begun on her third record, tentatively titled Factory Baby. This was not too long after she had relocated from Chicago to Los Angeles. By the fall of that year, Noname posted on social media that she was strongly considering quitting music, largely due to the fact that she was performing for predominantly white audiences. She had also launched a very successful book club and wanted to focus more on that along with advocating for education. During the pandemic in 2020, Noname released the 70-second “Song 33”, which was both a direct response to an insult J. Cole made about her on a track as well as some words on activism in the wake of George Floyd and Toyin Salau being killed. “RAINFOREST” arrived in early 2021, and was intended to be the first official taste of Factory Baby, due for release later in the year. By December, Noname announced the record would no longer be coming out and that she would be taking an indefinite hiatus from music. Then in April she posted photos from the recording studio, performed at the Afropunk Festival in Minneapolis, and announced her third album would be coming soon. So yeah, where Noname stands in her relationship with music today is anybody’s guess, but she’ll be at Pitchfork on Sunday in only her second performance since the start of the pandemic and her first hometown Chicago show in more than a minute, and that alone makes it worth checking out.
Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Xenia Rubinos may come from a Puerto Rican and Cuban heritage, but that fact has had very little to do with her actual sound. She often gets labeled as a “Latin” artist, perhaps in part because some of her songs are in Spanish, but from a purely instrumental perspective there are no other indicators of her background. Instead, you might think she shares some DNA with Tune-Yards or St. Vincent or Battles, as many of her melodies are complex yet bouncy and fun. There tends to be a lot of keyboard, staccato drumming, and funky bass work that interplays with her smoky yet immensely smooth vocals. Honestly, her magnetic vocals are the star of the show, along with some very incisive lyrics that range from surrealist yet playful love songs to an exploration of identity and defying expectations to navigating the dark feelings often associated with grief. Rubinos’s three albums are all remarkably excellent and showcase different skills and sides of her personality. She continues to evolve as an artist, even as it remains difficult to ascribe her to any specific genre or influence. Expect a reliably engaging and rather entertaining set from her at Pitchfork.
6:15 – 7:15 Earl Sweatshirt
6:30 – 7:15 Tirzah
Earl Sweatshirt was introduced to the world as a rap prodigy just over a decade ago at the tender age of 16. As part of the Odd Future hip hop collective started by Tyler, the Creator, he quickly made a name for himself with intricately detailed wordplay and the poise of an artist with years of experience. Then he vanished, having been sent to a boarding school for at-risk youths in Samoa by his mother. Upon his return a year later, his 2013 solo debut Doris brought him incredible acclaim that hasn’t really let up since. 2018’s Some Rap Songs marked a new career high, even as he experienced a whole lot of low moments with the death of his father and the dark trappings of fame. That record managed to shift the tone of hip hop by incorporating avant-jazz elements and leaning into his deep emotional wounds. He essentially became a poet philosopher, with sharper, more incisive rapping than ever on the topics of grief and depression. The follow-up Feet of Clay hit those subjects even harder, in a quick and raw record that felt like an exposed nerve. It wasn’t until Sick! arrived at the start of 2022 that Earl rediscovered some of his optimism and let a little light in. His rapping has become more concise, meaning he’s saying less but the words remain just as impactful. COVID is on his mind too (as the album title implies), but more from the lens of trying to protect his family and his recently born child from illness. There has yet to be a bad Earl Sweatshirt album, and credit to his adept lyricism and steady hand for ensuring the quality remains high. As an introvert who’s often struggled with the spotlight, he’s never the most exciting presence on stage. However if you like his records and can appreciate his approach, you’ll find his no-frills Pitchfork set to be worth your time.
As far as I’m aware, Tirzah has never played a show in Chicago. She was scheduled to perform at Pitchfork Music Festival in 2019, but was forced to drop out due to visa issues. The London-based singer-songwriter doesn’t appear to get out much in general, as a majority of her tour dates outside of the UK are for festivals. Nothing wrong with that, though in my mind the best way to experience her live would be in a dark theatre. Across two albums of meticulously crafted experimental R&B she’s managed to find immense critical acclaim, but what’s rather perplexing is how much widespread success she’s received from general music listeners. Her music is quiet and introspective, the melodies often strange and stripped down to the bare minimum with her soft voice hovering at just above a whisper. Listening to it feels almost alien, with strange incongruous elements floating in and out of songs for no apparent reason as it leans hard into the avant-garde. This is the sort of stuff that earns a small cult following, not a huge audience. Yet here we are, and Tirzah defies the odds. If you’re not familiar with her music, you may find her Pitchfork set to be slow, weird, and generally off-putting. Again, this feels like it shouldn’t be experienced at an outdoor festival with the sun still out. But for the opportunity to see Tirzah perform these incredible love songs and lullabies, I don’t care about atmosphere.
7:25 – 8:25 Toro y Moi
7:45 – 8:30 Cate Le Bon
As one of the “founders” of the chillwave movement that permeated indie music in the late ’00s and early ’10s, Toro y Moi may have started out making lo-fi, semi-relaxing dance music for the masses, but over the past seven albums and a dozen or so years things have evolved. The solo project of Chaz Bear (formerly Bundick), one of the hallmarks of Toro y Moi at this point may be his sonic eclecticism. Not that he’s made a big deal out of the shifts in sound, as they’ve been more subtle than anything else. Bear has helped produce house music and collaborated with rappers, but that’s more stuff he does outside of Toro y Moi albums. His main throughline has pretty much been that he makes albums you can dance to. Sometimes they have skittering breakbeats and turbo charged synths. Other times they might incorporate some guitars or bring some bass and bounce to some soulful R&B. On the most recent Toro y Moi record Mahal that came out this past spring, he dove head first into psych-funk and enlisted friends such as Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Ruban Nielson and Neon Indian’s Alan Palomo to help bring that vision to life. It may not be the best thing Bear has ever done, but it is a supremely enjoyable album that both long-time fans and new converts can get into. When it comes to his set at Pitchfork, it’ll be nice to get in one last joyous dance session in before the weekend wraps up. Really looking forward to hearing what Toro y Moi have in store.
Cate Le Bon has spent six albums crafting complex art-pop that manages to find grooves and hooks amid otherwise knotty melodies. It’s a rather precarious balancing act, keeping things challenging while also easily accessible to outsiders not used to her eccentric sound. Her latest album Pompeii, released earlier this year, adds psychedelic notes to traditional pop structures, ambiently drifting when it’s not grabbing you with a sharp-angled chorus or toe-tapping rhythm. In many ways the record feels like one long, mostly improvised song, taking the listener on a journey with several highlighted stops along the way. It is equal parts elegant and absurd, similar to what you might get if Talking Heads and Pink Floyd were to clash with a good amount of synths, bass, and saxophone thrown in. The point is it works, even if it’s tough to imagine what that might sound like based on words alone. If you find yourself worn down at the end of a long Sunday and need a break, park yourself over at the Blue stage and let Cate Le Bon pull you close and provide some respite for what promises to be a very lovely 45 minutes.
8:30 – 9:50 The Roots
You probably know The Roots as the house band on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon”. They’ve had that gig since 2009, and as a result haven’t had a whole lot of free time to make new records and tour. I mean, they’re still doing those things, just not with the frequency they used to. Then again when you’ve been at this as long as they have, there’s a natural inclination to slow down a little. The Roots have a ton of classic material to still tour on, stretching all the way back to the mid-’90s when they were one of the first artists to blend hip hop with live instrumentation. At that time, most regarded them as a novelty act from Philadelphia, but as time passed their pure talent won a lot of people over and earned them a strong, passionate fan base. All the instruments in the band enabled them to stretch their sound in exciting and innovative directions at the time, pulling in elements of jazz, soul, R&B, and even indie rock that created cross-generational and cross-genre appeal. They retain those sensibilities today, as the “Tonight Show” segment Freestylin’ with The Roots involves them making up a song about an audience member on the spot in a randomly selected style/genre. Then you watch Black Thought go on a radio show and freestyle for 10 minutes straight and think about the brain it takes to pull something like that off. The point is that even though The Roots haven’t released a proper album in six years, they’re as good as they’ve ever been. It will be a treat to see them close out Pitchfork 2022 with hopefully a bunch of classic tracks from across their vast catalog.