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16 Must-See Bands at Coachella 2016

Ah, Coachella. The festival so nice they do it twice. But actually, in singular fashion, the California music festival is so popular that it assembles an entire music festival and then field its virtual replica the following weekend. Musical icons freeze tours and personal plans to hang out in SoCal for 10 days (sounds terrible, I know), often spending their in-between time playing venues in the Los Angeles area.

Coachella’s first weekend begins Friday. Thousands of music lovers and flower children in bohemian garb will flock to Indio, lying in the sun on imported sod, surrounded by desert and mountain air, absorbing the sound waves of LCD Soundsystem, Guns N’ Roses, and Calvin Harris. Beyond the headliners, an eclectic bevy of acts fill out the roster. Because we want to make sure you know the best of the less recognizable acts, we made you this great list. If you’re going to Coachella, may you dance to these artists in paradise. If not, may you dance to them in your room.

In no particular order except alphabetical:


Toronto-based indie pop crew Alvvays have been around since 2011, gradually cultivating their songwriting acumen to be one of the best in the biz. Today they create jangly shoegaze that clings to the coattails of the indie aughts, and as their name suggests, they’re gonna be around for awhile.


Paak is one of those guys at the vanguard of new R&B. He sings, raps, and spins a slew of sounds into complex textures that are so, so smooth. He was homeless in 2011 and now in 2016 he’s recording with Flying Lotus and just signed to Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment. How life can change.


You may not have heard of Autolux, but you’ve heard of their fans. Thom Yorke, Portishead, and Trent Reznor have all invited the LA-based band to participate in various projects, and the label that nurtured their post-punk, krautrock sound—DMZ—is a joint operation between T Bone Burnett and the Coen Brothers. Need I say more?


Contrary to their moniker, Toronto-based BADBADNOTGOOD don’t do a lot of things poorly—at least not musically speaking. I can’t speak to their personalities, but I’d like to think they’re chill-as-hell, badass mofos. That’s the impression I get from their jazz-rooted instrumental hip-hop, anyways. BBNG are one of the few instrumental hip-hop groups that feel complete even without a vocalist. Having one doesn’t hurt, though, as can be heard on their excellent 2015 album with Ghostface Killah, Sour Soul. 


Deafheaven are black metalers so talented and innovative that they could win over even the least metalsome of music lovers. That may not be entirely true, but their assiduous skill, thoughtful song construction and forays into corollary genres like shoegaze and post-metal certainly make them worthy of a listen, regardless of your musical palette.

Ex Hex

Ex Hex is a relatively new project from garage punk maven Mary Timony. You may know her from bands like Helium, Autoclave, and Wild Flag, and now you’ll know her as the frontwoman of DC power trio, Ex Hex. They released their first album, Rips, in late 2014—check them out.


Girlpool made a splash when their debut full-length Before the World Was Big arrived in 2015. The duo hang in the mostly uninhabited realm of folk punk, creating songs with acoustic guitars and angsty vocal harmonies. They’re tender and semi-abrasive, so you can get out all the feels.

Gogo Penguin

Finally we’ve arrived at the first non-North American band on our list. GoGo Penguin, a jazz trio out of Manchester, is another group contemporizing the jazz genre. Unlike BADBADNOTGOOD, though, this isn’t hip-hop; it’s full-fledged, rhythmically and tonally complex jazz—just with modern sensibilities. Don’t miss these guys.


To sound familiar without sounding cliché is a rare accomplishment for a young band, and London trio HÆLOS certainly makes it work. The outfit creates grandiose soundscapes that balance rich electronic textures with trip-hop’s brooding shade—imagine the cosmic love child of Moby and Portishead. They avoid triteness by being epic, which is exhibited thoroughly on this track:

Kamasi Washington

Back to jazz. Kamasi Washington is one of the most talented jazz artists of our era, perhaps the only one actually redolent of Coltrane-era jazz icons. The saxophonist has collaborated with Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus, and Thundercat; his 2015 jazz compendium, fittingly titled The Epic, garnered universal acclaim. If you like enjoy jazz at all, this is for you:

Matthew Dear

Matthew Dear is a seminal producer with a flair for the avant-garde. The Texas native, who also operates under the pseudonyms Audion, Jabberjaw, and False, is celebrated for his rich, kaleidoscopic live sets—both as a DJ and with a live band. If you want to get your dance on, Matthew Dear is your guy.


LA-based Rhye, a duo comsisting of vocalist Mike Milosh and multi-instrumentalist Robin Hannibal, make music that’s nothing short of gorgeous. Milosh’s ethereal vocals and Hannibal’s soft grooves coalesce in rich odes of poignance and romantic whimsy, and it will pour across the sun-drenched fields of Coachella like angels’ breath. Make sure you’re there for that.


In October 2014, when Shamir was only 20, he became internet famous for the video you see below. The Las Vegas native combines his distinct vocal with the trappings of upbeat R&B to create a supremely catchy sound that’s making me groove “on the regular.”

Tei Shi

Valerie Teicher, better known by her Tei Shi moniker, is a Brooklyn transplant by way of Argentina. The indie pop singer-songwriter embeds her vocal loops into rich latticeworks of danceable electronica. Give it a spin and feel that bass:

The Last Shadow Puppets

The Last Shadow Puppets moniker may be new to you, but the band’s constituents are surely not. The newly reunited supergroup—which formed in 2007, created a Mercury Prize-nominated album, and then disappeared—consists of Alex Turner (Arctic Monkeys), Miles Kane (The Rascals), producer and drummer James Ford (Simian Mobile Disco), and Zach Dawes (Mini Mansions). As you’d expect, that combination yields an excellent musical crop.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra

UMO are hardly new to the scene, but they’ve never quite received the love they deserve. The lo-fi psychedelic band is a beacon within their genre, mostly for their ability to fill musical space in an interesting way. The American/New Zealand quartet negotiate fuzzy, intricate textures with a soaring intelligibility, and they deserve your attention.

Anyone else you think we should have included on this list? Any new favorites after reading through the artists we included? Let us know in the comments.


IMAGE: Coachella

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