The best NYC concerts and music festivals: Further ahead
Grab your tickets early for Julian Casablancas, Alt-J, the New Pornographers, St. Lucia and more
Photograph: Michael J. Chen
Heat-seeking New Zealand songstress Kimbra is much more than the crystal-clear–voiced cameo artist on Gotye's 2011 viral hit, "Somebody That I Used to Know." As a follow-up to 2012's Vows, a heavily rhythmic jazz-and-soul-inflected pop concoction, the 24-year-old recently released The Golden Echo, which promises to earn her the stateside name recognition she enjoys at home.
The reigning hooligan king of indie pop, Mac DeMarco, peddles pouty, surreally stylized lo-fi tunage in support of a new LP, Salad Days. The impish outsider-lite-rocker has been busy on the local festival circuit recently, playing Northside and 4Knots this summer (not to mention a sold-out show at Webster Hall). In case you missed all three chances, here's your opportunity to catch the Canuck live.
Of all the weirdo guitar-driven indie outfits the '90s spat out, few have been as stylistically singular and influential as post-hardcore group the Dismemberment Plan, whose game-changing Emergency & I emotively spoke to worldly malaise with the wonkiest of melodies and oddest of time signatures. Re-formed groups often have little to prove to overeager fans or to themselves. Fortunately, last year's reunion album, Uncanney Valley—an ambitious, weird and slightly out of time collection—demonstrated that the group still has something novel to offer.
When considering London singer-songwriter FKA Twigs (real name: Tahlia Barnett), one word immediately comes to mind: spellbinding. Whether it’s her creeping, sensual songs; the subtly discomfiting visuals accompanying them; or the languid, undulating onstage motion of the doe-eyed artist, a trained dancer, one thing is certain: It’s very difficult to break the trance. Her first EP surfaced in 2012, self-released and with each of its four tracks boasting a simple but compelling video. By the following year, FKA Twigs had signed to esteemed British imprint Young Turks, home to the xx and fast-rising Drake collaborator Sampha, and had released her second EP, again with matching visuals. EP2 explored a newfound musical kinship with Brooklyn producer Arca, whose cavernous, glitched-out soundscapes were a natural fit for FKA Twigs’s airy, minimalist songwriting. With her debut album expected to materialize this year, FKA Twigs makes her inaugural New York appearances at this pair of shows. If she can bring to the stage even a fraction of the transporting effect of her records, the audience will be in for quite a trip.—Kristen Zwicker
Alvvays is on the up-and-up. The wistful Toronto indie-rock crew's much-lauded self-titled debut was released in July, providing a timeless feast for those jangle-loving guitar-pop purists who find themselves lost in a sea of EDM. Snag your tickets now—we predict that this is one of the smaller NYC stages Alvvays will be playing for a while.
Smooth, bequiffed Norwegian neosoulster Bernhoft is something of a one-man band, looping and layering his vocals and instrumentation. His live performances can be jaw-dropping—check out the video for "C'mon Talk," which has racked up millions of YouTube views. His songs are rock solid, and at this gig, you'll hear from his latest album, Islander.
Fast-rising British indie-pop trio London Grammar hits NYC with support from soulful electro-r&b songster Pete Lawrie Winfield, a.k.a. Until the Ribbon Breaks.
Leeds, England–based quartet Alt-J traffics in a distinct sound, combining clever songwriting and colorful, jazzy instrumentation with world beats and skittering drops for a quirky brand of alt pop. The band's Mercury Prize-winning debut, An Awesome Wave, made a big splash in 2012, and now Alt-J's back with sophomore effort This is All Yours.
Beloved Canadian crew the New Pornographers (which launched the careers of A.C. Newman, Neko Case, and Destroyer's Dan Bejar) is back with Brill Bruisers, its latest set of shamelessly grandiose, irresistibly hooky pop. Peppy Brooklyn jangle-pop faves the Pains of Being Pure at Heart set the stage.
Having reached the Tony Bennett stage of her illustrious career, Diana Krall's latest album, Wallflower, finds the husky-voiced jazz pianist covering classics like "California Dreamin'" and "Desperado." It's the culmination of her slow-but-steady move toward pop material in the decade since her marriage to one Declan MacManus, a.k.a. Elvis Costello, so get ready to hear jazzy renditions of your pop darlings.
You remember Luscious Jackson, right? The funk- and hip-hop-infused pop crew was the first to be signed to the Beastie Boys' Grand Royal label in the early ’90s, and had a run of alt hits with "CitySong," "Deep Shag" and "Here" (which featured in Clueless). Over a decade after they called it quits, Jill Cunniff, Gabby Glaser & Co. are back together and making new music—at this NYC date you'll hear from last year's Magic Hour.
Jean-Philip Grobler—originally from Johannesburg, not St. Lucia, thanks very much—creates thumping, euphoric, synth-driven electropop that's retro but refreshingly unkitschy. After four big Bowery Ballroom and Music Hall of Williamsburg gigs earlier this year, Grobler graduates to the big room.
Interpol's brief moment as indie-rock gods didn't last forever—Turn on the Bright Lights holds up as one of the most memorable debuts of the ’00s—but the band still manages to churn out solid, Joy Division–esque anthems on its new, fifth LP, El Pintor. Art-pop up-and-comers Hundred Waters open.
After years of confronting the typical pop-group problems—quibbling, intra-band romance, addiction, figuring out how to transition away from shoulder pads—Culture Club has reunited to play both coasts before next year's release of a brand-new album. Boy George hit town behind a new solo LP earlier in 2014, but the nostalgia factor ought to make this gig even bigger.
NYC rock legend (and the last guy still swapping s for z) Julian Casablancas isn't resting on his considerable laurels as frontman for New York's beloved Strokes, who played a knockout gig at this year's Governors Ball. With his new band the Voidz, Casablancas has just released Tyranny, his first extracurricular effort since 2009's Phrazes for the Young. Snag your tickets as this hometown show is sure to sell out fast.
One month shy of a decade since the release of their much-acclaimed debut, 2004's You're a Woman, I'm a Machine, the amped-up Canadian dance-rawk duo finally dropped their follow-up, The Physical World, just in time to ride the early aughts nostalgia wave. Smart move, guys.
Industrial veterans Skinny Puppy have left a mark on many during the last three decades—for both better and worse. Goth-inspired art-pop queen Grimes cites her first time hearing the band as a revelatory experience, but earlier this year, much to the band's dismay, the U.S. government used the SP discography in Guantánamo prison camps to torture inmates. The Vancouver electrometallers are no strangers to taking on big, bad politicians, though, as their infamous live antics have included mock executions of George H.W. Bush. It goes without saying that we're excited to see what cEvin Key and Nivek Ogre have planned.
This big show by jam-jazz champs Medeski Martin & Wood finds the ever-funksome group renewing its acquaintance with soulful guitarist and fellow traveler John Scofield.
Opeth singer-guitarist Mikael Åkerfeldt had worn his vintage prog-rock fetish on his sleeve for so long that 2011's Heritage didn't come as such a surprise. Foregoing almost entirely the death-metal crunch and growl of the Swedish group's salad years, the disc found Opeth playing long, loose and even jazzy at times. August's follow-up, Pale Communion, finds the band further exploring its prog side—no death-metal growls here. Swedish melodic-death-metal faves In Flames and Portland, OR's Red Fang, which does melodic, boogified doom with cool proggy flourishes, set the stage.
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