BJRNCK – Thug Cry
Chelsea Cutler – Walking Away
ppcocaine – B.M.P.U
BJRNCK – Thug Cry
Chelsea Cutler – Walking Away
ppcocaine – B.M.P.U
Cindy – To Be True
Trippie Redd – Holy Smokes! (ft. Lil Uzi Vert)
Tycho – Only Love (ft. Benjamin Gibbard)
Bas – The Jackie (ft. J. Cole & Lil Tjay)
Fredo Bang – Bless His Soul (ft. Polo G)
Icona Pop – Off Of My Mind
Ant Clemons – Section (ft. Kehlani)
Blake Banks – Los Angeles
Omar Apollo – Go Away
We’ve once again reached the halfway point of another year, and as such it creates a perfect opportunity to reflect on the past six months just to check in and see how things are going so far. You don’t need another recap of pandemic fatigue, vaccine distribution, and the “return to normalcy” while our democratic institutions remain in constant peril. That’s not what this site is about. Everyone is stressed out enough already, so let’s take a moment to remember the good things, like music. Oh hey, remember music? It’s that thing you can play to soundtrack your life and enhance your emotional state. The right song can turn your entire day around, for better or worse. A fond memory can be triggered by a song, or an uptempo beat can somehow make a sunny day that much brighter. Great stuff, right?
After the last 15 or so months that we’ve had, your relationship with music may have changed. Perhaps staying home without constant obligations inspired you to revisit some favorite albums or go digging for something new to expand your horizons. Then again, maybe like some other activities, listening to music just doesn’t ignite the same spark within you it once did. I absolutely get that. Live music in particular has been a constant source of joy in my life, and not attending a single concert in a year and a half left a hole no livestream could ever fill. I’m excited to get back to shows and festivals later this summer, and to share some of those experiences with you here on this site. Part of me also worries it won’t be the same or at least inflame my passions as easily as it used to.
Thankfully, the well of freshly recorded songs and albums has yet to run dry. Things weren’t looking so great for a couple of months this past spring though, as it appears a number of high profile artists chose to hold off on announcing new records until it became clear the world was reopening again and they could go out on tour. Don’t get me wrong there was still plenty of good stuff being released, you just needed to dig a little deeper some weeks to find it. When I began composing this mid-year playlist, my concern was over finding enough quality tracks to make it a worthwhile endeavor. Were there 50-100 songs from the past six months that I truly loved? I wasn’t sure, and it took a few weeks of searching through my library and checking the calendar for release dates before the answer became clear.
Below you’ll find 100 songs (6.5 hours of music) that I genuinely love from the first half of 2021, in both embedded Spotify and linked YouTube formats. They are very much all over the place in terms of genre, mood, tempo, and any other qualifier you may consider. Some great representation from Chicago’s local music scene in the mix too. As always, you’re unlikely to agree with all of my choices. I’d also be extremely surprised (and impressed) if you’ve heard all of these songs before seeing them on this playlist! For every Lorde or Lil Nas X there’s an Alicia Walter or Geese. My hope is that you’ll press play on something completely foreign to you and fall in love with it. Explore a bit! Hit shuffle and see where it takes you! Or find an artist/song you already know and like, then listen to the one in order before and after it. Everything is organized by genre/vibe and purposely not ranked, so please scroll down and give those later tracks some spins too. Enjoy and Happy Summer!
dvsn & Ty Dolla $ign – I Believed It (ft. Mac Miller)
Logic – Vaccine
Lolo Zouaï – Galipette
I’d like to wish a warm welcome back to the Pitchfork Music Festival! After last year’s cancellation thanks to the pandemic, they’ve officially announced that a 2021 version of the festival will return a couple of months later than usual, from September 10-12 at Union Park in Chicago. That hopefully gives adequate time for enough people to get vaccinated and new infection numbers to reach a safe level.
Along with the lineup announcement, some initial health and safety guidelines for the festival have been announced. Attendees will be required to wear masks at all times while inside the gates, but masks may be removed when eating and/or drinking. Beyond that, everyone ages 12 and over will be required to show proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test within 24 hours for each day of the festival. That’s about as strict and uncomfortable as you can get, but hopefully that level of care keeps everyone safe and prevents this from becoming a superspreader event. Of course if the country continues to improve and we’re close to herd immunity by September, some of these restrictions may get loosened.
So let’s talk about the lineup! If you happened to look over the lineup for the cancelled 2020 version of Pitchfork Music Festival, you’ll notice a lot of the same names are back for 2021. Of course it may not initially appear that way given the three headliners have all been changed. Phoebe Bridgers was listed as fourth on the Sunday lineup for 2020, but thanks to the success of her Punisher record has suddenly been elevated to Friday night headliner status. Good for her! Run the Jewels were set to headline on Saturday in 2020, but Riot Fest snatched them up already for 2021 so St. Vincent steps up as a replacement. A strong choice. As for Sunday, The National are gone from the 2020 lineup and Erykah Badu now rules the day in 2021.
Overall, 19 out of 42 artists have made the crossover from 2020 to 2021. Some of those names include: Angel Olsen, Kim Gordon, Big Thief, The Fiery Furnaces(!), Waxahatchee, Danny Brown, Cat Power, Yaeji, Hop Along, Faye Webster, Caroline Polachek, Dehd, Dogleg, Divino Nino, Mariah the Scientist, and oso oso.
The half of the lineup that’s brand new contains some rather exciting artists as well. Animal Collective has headlined Pitchfork twice before (2008 & 2011), and while their status has dropped a little in the last decade, they’re still making a long-awaited return to Union Park. Flying Lotus hasn’t been on a Pitchfork lineup since 2012, and he’s made a whole lot of great music since then that should play really well at the festival. Great to see Thundercat coming back too, along with Kelly Lee Owens, Ty Segall, Jamila Woods, and black midi.
Capitalizing on some hot up-and-coming artists is something Pitchfork does extraordinarily well, which makes names like Ela Minus, Armand Hammer, Bartees Strange, Amaarae, KeiyaA, and Cassandra Jenkins worth showing up early to check out. Other artists making their Pitchfork Music Festival debut include Yaeji, Andy Shauf, Jay Electronica(!), local favorites Horsegirl, The Weather Station, Yves Tumor, and Special Interest.
Honestly, one of the best things about any Pitchfork lineup is the potential for discovery. You’ve got to be an extremely passionate music fan to immediately recognize every name listed, so chances are there’s something unfamiliar in the mix that may end up catching your ear either leading up to or during the actual festival. Have you listened to the latest albums from The Soft Pink Truth, Georgia Anne Muldrow, and Maxo Kream? All worth your time if you haven’t checked them out yet. I could say the same about every artist on the lineup. Or buy a ticket and take in their performances fresh just to see if they’re your cup of tea. If not, there’s almost always another stage to watch or other fun activities to try elsewhere in Union Park. Ideally you’ll walk away from the weekend eager to explore and listen to more new and unfamiliar music.
Get more details and buy 3-day passes for the 2021 Pitchfork Music Festival by visiting the official site. Hope to see the top half of all your beautiful faces in Union Park this September 10-12!
Bobby Gillespie & Jehnny Beth – Chase It Down
Dayglow – Balcony
HEALTH – ISN’T EVERYONE (ft. Nine Inch Nails)
Lord Huron – I Lied
The Marias – Hush
Still Woozy – Kenny
Chiiild – Gone
Hiatus Kaiyote – Red Room
Lil Baby – On Me (Remix ft. Megan Thee Stallion)
The Chemical Brothers – The Darkness That You Fear
Ellise – Over Breakfast
TheHxliday – Wit Dat (ft. Polo G)
ARMNHMR & Anki – Sun Comes Up On You (ft. Amidy)
CHVRCHES – He Said She Said
cleopatrick – FAMILY VAN
Chet Faker – Whatever Tomorrow
iann dior – shots in the dark (ft. Trippie Redd)
Lord Huron – Long Lost
Dave – Titanium
Jodi – Go Slowly
MIKE – Evil Eye
Alice Merton – Vertigo
Polo G – RAPSTAR
Ritt Momney – Set the Table (ft. Claud)