The full 2014 line-up of 70+ artists for July 24 – 27 will be released April 23, with tickets going on sale April 24. To whet your appetite for the summer, we're leaking one artist weekly – see below.
Three voices joined in harmony so closely it's impossible to unknot them, singing American roots music with raw emotion and surgical precision. This is the intensity, facility, and wild freedom of The Lone Bellow. Following a horseback riding accident which left his wife paralyzed from the neck down – temporarily, fortunately – Zach Williams, Lone Bellow lead singer and principal songwriter, turned his turmoil and uncertainty into songs. During this harrowing apprenticeship the native Georgian found his musical niche: earnest, soulful tunes that swell and ebb like heavy weather, nearly bursting with the joy and pain of living.
After moving to Brooklyn, Williams can pinpoint the moment the group serendipitously willed itself into being: a morning in 2010 at a diner where Williams’ old friend Brian Elmquist worked that became the ideal place for the then-solo Williams to test new songs. Joined by fellow singer Kanene Pipkin, the jam birthed a new group. From the first moment the trio lifted their voices together, they knew they had hit on something special.
Now an octet, their debut album has drawn raves; the songs have a melancholic undercurrent, but are often more rave-ups than ruminations, inclusive we-will-survive anthems with swelling three-part harmonies and rousing group-sung choruses. Above the very crowded folk-revival throng, this group's stirring, emotional country-gospel soars.
It would be doing Yamantaka // Sonic Titan a disservice to call it a band. Drawing from Chinese mythology, manga, experimental film, Japanese Noh theatre and performance art, YT//ST is a multimedia onslaught, a sprawling art project united by the vision of Ruby Kato Attwood and Alaska B. Conceived in 2007 while the pair was studying at Concordia University, the group left audiences in Montreal gaping thanks to its visual and dramatic flair.
YT//ST's musical instincts are just stunning as their mixed-media productions. Outsiders got their first taste with the group's self-titled 2011 debut, a confident blend of progressive rock and scorching psychedelia that seamlessly brought in elements of Attwood and B.'s mixed Asian heritage. Their follow-up, 2013's Ozu, pushes the band's pan-cultural approach further, adding an indigenous influence to the mix while somehow making their rock influences even more accessible.
No matter how much they've taken on, it's obvious YT//ST are no dabblers. Their self- described Noh-Wave sound (a play on New York's arty No Wave scene of the '70s and '80s) is as singular as their aesthetic, and their ambitions are every bit as titanic as their moniker. Rest assured—this show is going to be massive.
The world’s introduction to the autoharp-wielding pixie Basia Bulat came in 2007 with the release of her Polaris-nominated Oh, My Darling, which delivered her now distinct honeyed vibrato, baroque femininity and sweet minimal arrangements. Her third album, the 2014 Juno- nominated Tall Tall Shadow, takes a more modern approach, with echo and reverb, electronic flutters and electric autoharp. Voices charge and incandesce around buzzing guitars, lonely piano and rattling percussion. Her knack for turning heartbreak and tough times into exuberant beauty is highlighted on this brave new album, which tells the tale of a difficult year and the love that helped her through it. She may seem like yet another singer-songwriter in the indie-folk mould, but that classic sense of melody and artful, from-the-heart songcraft gives her work a timeless quality.
This Ottawa native producer/DJ crew dubs their pioneering sound “pow-wowstep,” a fresh fusion of traditional vocals and drumming with cutting-edge electronic music. It’s art that respectfully pays homage to roots while pushing the envelope, resulting in them being long- listed for the Polaris Music Prize and nominees for the 2013 Juno awards in two categories. While getting accolades and shaking up club culture, they’re also the hip face of an urban native youth renaissance and resistance. DJ Bear Witness doubles as the crew’s visual artist, creating stunning, political and sometimes humorous videos that incorporate film and pop culture references to native people and reclaim the aboriginal image. The modern and ancient complement one another gracefully as dark synths meld with stuttering stabs of bass, juxtaposed with mournful other-era chants.
From her modest beginnings as a shy acoustic folkie, Jill Barber slowly realized that her voice was more suited to torchy jazz-pop. Over the years, Barber made a name for herself as a deft songwriter with a sultry style, singing sophisticated retro-chic songs with more than a hint of coquettish sass. After releasing 2011’s Mischievous Moon, Barber decided to push the envelope further, and what could suit this vintage-style romantique more than singing in the language of love itself?
Last year Barber released Chansons, her first album entirely en français, comprised of cover versions of francophone pop classics from giants like Serge Gainsbourg and Edith Piaf, and proved herself a masterful interpreter of song. Whether she’s singing her own words or wrapping her luscious custardy voice around French pop, Jill Barber sings with an honesty and tenderness that underpins stylized torch-songs, creating magical lyrical themes of romance, dreams and spells.
Superman is basically a superhero for cheaters. (Bear with me here, we'll get to Fishbone in a second.) Where every other superhero has one or two powers, tops, that lucky ol' Kryptonian has flight, super strength, X-ray vision, super speed, and the list only goes on. It's like, every time his writers heard an idea they liked, they said “our guy can do that, but better.”
Fishbone has the same approach. Create a unique, progressive blend of funk, punk, soul, rock, metal, ska and whatever else crosses their mind? Done. Socially conscious? Yep. Silly as all get-out? That too. Inspire some of the most successful artists of the '80s and '90s? No doubt.
It'd be easy to throw up your hands and just say, those guys must be cheating. That is, until you see them hit the stage. Seven albums and 35 years into their career, Fishbone has the kind of energy most bands can only dream of, and their live shows are notoriously unpredictable. Motoring along on a smooth soul groove, they can turn on a dime into a heavy riff, then lift spirits with an upbeat anthem that's suspiciously bolstered by Earth's yellow sun—it is, in a word, superhuman.
But as the acclaimed 2010 Laurence Fishburne-narrated documentary Everyday Sunshine showed, Fishbone is very human. Creative, quirky, maybe even a little too crazy for their own good, but you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone else quite like 'em.