Just as winter begins to bum everyone out with its dropping temperatures and dark-by-4:30-p.m. routine, the newly liberated Coachella lineup has us daydreaming of spring and a weekend trip to the west coast. Seemingly every year, Coachella sets the standard for Important Music Festivals, and 2012 is no exception.
There's a lot of talking points but here's a quick run-down: Underappreciated and surprisingly influential bands are reuniting (Refused, At the Drive-In), Radiohead will play, David Guetta and the Shins are listed next to each other on the poster (exemplifying the festival's continued steps toward sonic diversity) and Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg will headline the final night. Phew, all of that and we didn't even get to our personal picks yet. (For a full list, head over to coachella.com.)
Wesley Case's Coachella 2012 Picks
Frank Ocean: The R&B singer-of-the-moment comes armed with an excellent mixtape/album (last year's "Nostalgia, ULTRA") and a handful of live performances under his belt. Part of Ocean's inclusion here is betting on his potential, something he continues to showcase wonderfully. Has anyone noticed that Ocean and Mellowhype are the most intriguing Odd Future acts of 2012?
AraabMUZIK: Let's hope Coachella sets up a camera on Abraham Orellana, bka rising rap producer AraabMUZIK, and his fastest hands in hip-hop. Anyone curious about his buzz (and his capabilities with an MPC) should watch this video. Most interestingly, his debut instrumental album, 2011's "Electronic Dream," bent toward house and trance music, not hip-hop, which should play well at Coachella.
Real Estate: Here's the truth — I'm partly making up for not including some of these acts in my best of 2011 albums. Real Estate, in particular, was a band whose second album ("Days") grew from its first with subtlety and below-the-surface charm. Stay with it and it rewards you with music to get lost in but never ignore. Pray for good weather when Real Estate takes Coachella's stage and you'll see and hear what I mean.
Girls: Another album I wanted to include last month but didn't have room for was Girls' "Father, Son, Holy Ghost." But while I've never seen Real Estate live, I can vouch for Girls and lead singer Christopher Owens' ability to command a crowd without ever seeming hokey. (I watched Girls headline at Recher not long ago.) Owens often sings with his eyes closed, not to concentrate on hitting a note but to focus on his songs' (usually longing) feelings. It's powerful stuff.
Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg: There will be hip-hop to avoid (Childish Gambino) and hip-hop not to miss (Kendrick Lamar). Sunday's headliner, Dre and Snoop, fall into the latter. I don't care if Dr. Dre reveals "Detox's" actual release date or if Snoop announces he's giving up weed — the only thing that matters is seeing one of rap's greatest duos take the stage for a full set. "Dre Day," "Let Me Ride," "Nuthin' But a G Thang," "Still D.R.E.," "The Next Episode" — these are all certified classics. Please let there be decent YouTube footage.
Erik Maza's Coachella 2012 PicksM83: Even before the line-up was announced, there was already a parody poster making the Tumblr rounds where the bands’ names had been replaced with pithy labels: “Pretentious Hipster Band,” “Past Their Prime Icons,” “Pitchfork Gave it an 8.7.” Past their prime icon must surely go to Noel Gallagher this year. The Pitchfork honorific goes to M83, whose last album actually got a 9.1. Still, listening to “Midnight City” and “Steve McQueen” — one of the best tracks of the year! — in the middle of the desert, at night, surrounded by a million trippy 20-year-olds, well, it’s something. Or, you could just try to buy tickets off a scalper for his sold-out show at the 9:30 Club (May 12).
The Black Keys: Despite a disappointing new album, “El Camino,” and a scathing piece that name-checked them among the reasons rock sucks these days, Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney are still redoubtable live performers. Theirs was one of the best performances at Virgin Mobile FreeFest.
Calvin Harris: The line-up is heavy on the kind of DJs that can sell out arenas – Hi! Avicii! – but I wouldn’t miss sets by Calvin Harris, who isn’t quite there yet, but whose hyper-commercial brand of electro-house is going to be ubiquituous this year thanks to Rihanna. Also worth checking out: Porter Robinson, another wunderkind DJ, who played an early set at FreeFest.
The Rapture: For a while there a lot of us fans had to play apologists for the Rapture. Sorry, for “Pieces.” Sorry for everything that wasn’t “House of Jealous Lovers.” That changed this year with their new album, which featured the irresistible “How Deep is Your Love” — one of the best tracks of the year.
Santigold: Since her caustic debut an incredible four years ago, we’ve only heard from the girl formerly known as Santogold in spurts and starts – a few cameos, a few online-only releases, even an appearance on “Hot Sauce Committee Part II.” She’s finally back on the road this year with new album “Master of my Make Believe.”