Every Act Playing FYF Fest 2017, Ranked
The 2017 FYF lineup is so top-to-bottom good that attempting to rank all the acts becomes an act of critical hair-splitting. Can you really say whether Ty Segall rocks harder than Thee Oh Sees, or vice versa? Is A Tribe Called Quest's jazzy, Golden Age version of hip-hop any better than Run the Jewels' edgier, more modern take? The less obvious apples-to-oranges comparisons start to feel even more random: Is Nine Inch Nails really a better live act than Erykah Badu? Am I really going to go out of my way to catch some of Sleep at the risk of missing Frank Ocean? And come to think of it, how in the hell is anyone supposed to make it through a festival this stacked without having a total FOMO meltdown every 10 minutes?
Still, in a well-intentioned but probably futile attempt to help you navigate your way through all the awesomeness, I have gone ahead and ranked every act playing FYF, all 75 of them, for you to judge, debate and possibly even take into account when you're making impossible choices over who to see and who to miss. So with apologies to all the acts I diss at the beginning (there's only like six of them, which somehow makes me feel like an even bigger asshole than when I do this for Coachella and diss closer to 50), let's dive in, shall we? The full list begins after this nifty Spotify playlist.
75. Mura Masa (The Trees, Sunday, 7:45 p.m.)
It takes real effort to make Damon Albarn and Christine and the Queens sound boring, but damn if Britain's Alex Crossan didn't pull it off on his recent single, "Second 2 None"/"Blu." His tracks incorporate a lot of interesting sounds — steel drums, marimbas — but never really do much with them.
74. TR/ST (The Club, Sunday, 9:40 p.m.)
Maybe if you're super into the sound of synthesizers weeping, Robert Alfons' TR/ST project is the perfect way to sad-dance your way down from three days' worth of festival sensory overload. But for me, once you get past undeniable single "Bulbform," most of his stuff just sounds like all the members of a bad '80s darkwave cover band fighting over the one mirror in a shitty dressing room to apply their black eyeliner.
73. Majid Jordan (The Trees, Friday, 12:25 a.m.)
I know, I'm bashing two Toronto acts in a row. Sorry! I love you Toronto, really, I do. Just not TR/ST and Majid Jordan.
72. The Drums (The Trees, Saturday, 9:05 p.m.)
Now essentially the solo project of sole remaining original member Johnny Pierce, The Drums update straightforward surf-rock drum beats and guitar riffs with touches of dream-pop and shoegaze. It's perfect if rather unremarkable summer festival music that probably stands out in Pierce's home base of Brooklyn — but here in L.A., a dozen different Burger bands do it just as well.
71. Temples (The Trees, Sunday, 5 p.m.)
This British psych-rock group's touchstones — Donovan, The Byrds, Primal Scream — are a bit less obvious on their latest album, Volcano, than on their entertaining pastiche of a debut album, 2014's Sun Structures. But that's not necessarily a good thing, as cluttered production overwhelms the band's songwriting, which in hindsight was never all that interesting to begin with.
70. Paranoid London (Outer Space, Friday, 9:45 p.m.)
If your favorite dance music track of all time is Green Velvet's "Flash," then by all means go see this London duo, who employ a vocalist named Mutado Pintado to intone nonsense over their springy tech-house tracks. But if it's not, your time is better spent elsewhere.
69. Hannibal Buress (The Trees, Friday, 9:30 p.m.)
I don't even know how to rank a comedian on this list — apples, oranges and all that — but since FYF saw fit to put Buress on at the same time as Björk, I have no choice but to put him pretty far down in the ranking. Hannibal, you are a very, very funny dude, but I'm sure you understand. (Hell, if I were you, I'd just hire another look-alike so you can go catch Bjork's set.)
68. Horse Meat Disco (The Woods, Friday, 5 p.m.; Outer Space, all day Saturday)
67. Young Marco (Outer Space, all day Saturday)
Both these acts are co-billed on Saturday with the great DJ Harvey to be sharing a 10-hour (2 p.m. to midnight) mega time slot. Both are good fun, but U.K. crate diggers Horse Meat Disco (who also get their own extended set on Friday) pretty much play FYF every year, and Amsterdam's Young Marco, while he shares Harvey's freewheeling, anything-as-long-as-it-gets-the-crowd-moving style, isn't in the elder DJ's league. So here's hoping they're mostly on the Saturday bill so Harvey can have the occasional smoke or bathroom break.
66. Homeshake (The Trees, Saturday, 4 p.m.)
Former Mac DeMarco guitarist Peter Sagar must've felt like his boss's music didn't sound stoned enough, because the stuff he does as Homeshake sounds super-duper stoned. I hardly ever use the term "super-duper" but somehow it totally fits here.
65. Royal Headache (The Club, Friday, 7 p.m.)
Good old-fashioned rawk from Down Under. If you like beer-soaked guitar bands who defiantly ignore the last 20-odd years of recorded music, these guys will scratch that itch until it bleeds.
64. Russell Alexander (Outer Space, Friday, 5 p.m.)
63. Kelly Lee Owens (Outer Space, Friday, 7:30 p.m.)
These were both late additions to the FYF lineup to play the new "Outer Space" on opening night. Based on the name and FYF's sprawling layout, I have to assume "Outer Space" will be somewhere on the far side of where the old Sports Arena used to be and take roughly 45 minutes to get to. (Kidding! Probably.) British producer Kelly Lee Owens is the more intriguing of the two (mostly because Russell Alexander seems to have no online presence as either a producer or DJ), with a self-titled debut album out earlier this year that straddles the lines between techno, electro and synth-pop.
62. Blonde Redhead (The Club, Sunday, 8:15 p.m.)
These '90s alt-rock survivors have all the hallmarks of a band I should probably like — stints on two excellent labels, Touch & Go and 4AD; quirky guitar hooks; a sound that can be heavy, ethereal and experimental all at once. But though I definitely dig their vibe, their songs never stick for me, and with so many other great bands at FYF this year, I just don't see them being a draw for any except their most ardent fans.
61. Honey Soundsystem (Outer Space, all day Sunday)
This San Francisco DJ collective serves up house, house and more house, and they're really, really good at it. Basically, unless FYF's new "Outer Space" stage is in Whittier, and you still have any dance moves left in the tank by Sunday, you should drop by for at least some of their 10-hour set.
60. Fatima Yamaha (The Woods, Saturday, 5 p.m.)
One of Dutch DJ/producer Bas Bron's many aliases, Fatima Yamaha is described in all "her" bios as "a young lady, born to a Japanese father and a Turkish mother." Bogus gender and backstory aside, Bron's original productions as Yamaha sound more like the work of the keyboardist from some forgotten '80s new wave band trying to reinvent himself as a techno producer and not quite being able to let go of all his old Korg and Fairlight synths. Whether you have a positive or negative reaction to that description is probably a good barometer of whether you should catch Bron's FYF set.
59. Julia Jacklin (The Club, Sunday, 3:15 p.m.)
This Australian singer-songwriter's debut album, last year's Don't Let the Kids Win, is full of promise, navigating nimbly between hushed confessionals ("Elizabeth") and more full-throated rockers ("Coming of Age"). Her songwriting doesn't always live up to her dynamic arrangements and appealingly twangy voice, but her talent is unmistakable.
58. Kehlani (The Trees, Sunday, 10:30 p.m.)
57. Kamaiyah (The Trees, Friday, 8:35 p.m.)
Oaktown represent! Both these artists bring plenty of East Bay swagger to their music and lyrics, but in different ways. Kehlani mixes pop instincts and tough-girl attitude over glittering, EDM-informed R&B in a way that recalls Rihanna; Kamaiyah, by contrast, is a West Coast hip-hop traditionalist, spitting and crooning over trunk-rattling G-funk.
56. The Faint (The Trees, Saturday, 10:25 p.m.)
Most fans probably associate this Omaha, Nebraska, group with the disco-punk craze of the early 2000s that also jump-started the careers of The Rapture and LCD Soundsystem. But Todd Fink and company have been dirtying up their synths since 1999's Blank-Wave Arcade and their most recent album, 2014's Doom Abuse, still finds them laying down infectious dance riffs with punk-rock urgency. At this point, no band this side of LCD do it better.
55. Nicolas Jaar (The Trees, Saturday, midnight)
I'm a fan of Chilean-American producer Jaar's studio work, especially his luminous 2011 debut album, Space Is Only Noise. But I'm not gonna lie: I thought most of his set at Coachella earlier this year was really boring. Still, I'm hopeful he'll bring more energy to a later time slot at FYF.
54. Omar-S (The Woods, Sunday, 7 p.m.)
Keepers of the Detroit techno flame don't get much realer than Motor City native Omar-S, who keeps his music stripped-down and sleek and his public profile low. The bare-bones website for his label, FXHE Records, pretty much sums up his whole aesthetic — old-school, unfussy and uninterested in appealing to anyone except the true believers.
53. MGMT (main stage, Saturday, 6:30 p.m.)
It's probably telling (I'm telling myself) that I accidentally omitted these mid-2000s indie-rock survivors when I first put together this list. Although their debut, Oracular Spectacular, remains an influential classic, they've seemed a little lost ever since. Still, it's hard to name a better festival anthem of the past 10 years than "Time to Pretend."
52. 6lack (The Trees, Sunday, 9:10 p.m.)
My favorite song by this Baltimore singer-rapper is "Luving U," on which he lets a jealous girlfriend scroll through his texts, leading to the immortal exchange, "Who's this bitch?" "Girl, that's my mom." Not all of his tracks are as lyrically memorable, but he's a master of vibe, with a ear for moody productions that would've fit right in at Low End Theory circa 2010.
51. King Krule (The Lawn, Saturday, 7:30 p.m.)
As King Krule, Archy Marshall comes on like a millennial Billy Bragg, all working-class sneer and no-frills, busker's guitar riffs. His most recent album, A New Place 2 Drown, released under his own name, ditched the guitar for spacey, post-dubstep electronic music, but the fact that he's billed here as King Krule likely means he'll be back in full piss-and-vinegar mode, possibly with new songs in tow. Whichever Marshall shows up, he's a gifted songwriter with a lager lout's demeanor and a poet's heart.
50. Kirk Knight (The Trees, Friday, 6:30 p.m.)
Even though he's kicking off the festival Friday, it's possible that this hip-hop/future bass producer may have a special guest or two; among his best tracks is "Best Friends," which features Noname and Thundercat, both of whom are also on the FYF lineup. His purely instrumental stuff, as showcased on this year's Black Noise, is pretty great, too.
49. Mac DeMarco (The Trees, Sunday, 6:20 p.m.)
I described this guy as "Jason Mraz for stoners" when I ranked every 2017 Coachella act, but after catching some of his set, I'd like to amend that slightly. I'd now describe him as "Jason Mraz for Steely Dan fans."
48. Princess Nokia (The Club, Saturday, 12:30 a.m.)
Rapper-singer Destiny Nicole Frasqueri's alter ego, Princess Nokia, is a shape-shifter, both in sound and attitude, delivering everything from atmospheric drum 'n' bass ("Dragons") to sexy R&B come-ons ("Apple Pie") to swaggering declarations of sexual independence and body positivity ("Tomboy"). Her latest track is called "G.O.A.T." and while it might be premature for her to claim that title, she's got the skills to make a run for it.
47. Perfume Genius (The Club, Saturday, 7:20 p.m.)
My favorite track by Mike Hadreas, the Seattle singer-producer behind Perfume Genius, is "Fool," from his 2014 album Too Bright. Midway through a heartfelt but fairly straightforward synth-pop ballad, the beat drops out like a trap door, and we're plunged into a neon-lit chapel where Hadreas wails an unintelligible hymn over swirling, celestial synths. The music of Perfume Genius frequently reaches for such moments of transcendence, and though it doesn't always get there, the act of reaching can be fascinating in and of itself.
46. Cherry Glazerr (The Lawn, Sunday, 3:15 p.m.)
"My carpet smells like beer forever," croons Clementine Creevy on "Trash People," just one of several funny, smart, hooky tracks from her band's excellent (and excellently titled) third album, Apocalipstick. Creevy and her bandmates build party music around massive guitar riffs and whip-smart lyrics; they're kindred spirits with Deap Vally, Bleached and Ty Segall but bring an irreverence to L.A. garage-rock that's wholly their own.
45. Hundred Waters (The Club, Friday, 8:05 p.m.)
This Florida-bred, L.A.-based trio make music so ethereal, it almost feels untouched by human hands, even when Nicole Miglis' celestial vocals float over the proceedings like an elfin call to prayer. At this point, they're more famous as the brains behind Form Arcosanti, the anti-festival held each year in an experimental "arcology" (architecture + ecology) town in Arizona, than they are for their music — but that likely will change soon, especially with recent, more pop-minded singles such as "Particle."
44. Andy Shauf (The Lawn, Sunday, 4:25 p.m.)
Canadian singer-songwriter Shauf's 2009 debut album, Darker Days, remains one of my favorite folk records from that era when it became weirdly trendy to throw a banjo on everything. It was a concept album, repeating the title phrase and related imagery on multiple tracks, without getting overly precious about it. Since then, he's evolved into a master of the kind of throwback, melancholy soft rock practiced by Josh Rouse and The Silver Seas — beautiful, fine-grained music for broken hearts, rainy days and getting stoned in a shag-carpeted basement rec room in 1976. His latest album is the saddest record titled The Party ever released, and I mean that in the best possible way.
43. Whitney (The Trees, Sunday, 3:45 p.m.)
I'll just repeat what I wrote about these guys when they played Coachella, because it holds true: I never really cared for the jangly retro-rock of Smith Westerns. But Whitney, the newish group featuring that band's Max Kakacek and Julien Ehrlich, adds a wood-paneled, countrified tinge to the proceedings that I can't get enough of. Whitney's debut album, Light Upon the Lake, is arguably even more self-consciously '70s-obsessed than anything Smith Westerns ever did, but Kakacek, Ehrlich and their new bandmates sound like they're having a blast channeling their inner Flying Burrito Brothers.
42. Ty Segall (The Lawn, Sunday, 5:30 p.m.)
41. Thee Oh Sees (The Club, Friday, 12:15 a.m.)
Two of the West Coast's greatest living practitioners of heavy, guitar-freakout-filled, psychedelic rock on the same bill? Yes, please. Both Segall and Thee Oh Sees' John Dwyer, in their various bands and solo incarnations, play L.A. all the time, so it's hard to rank them any higher. But both are well worth catching a few songs of if you miss the good ol' days when rock acts wrote tart, three-minute pop songs and then stretched them out live into eight-minute epics of screaming, shredding, feedback-soaked awesomeness.
40. John Talabot (The Woods, Friday, 9:30 p.m.)
39. Talaboman (The Club, Sunday, 10:45 p.m.)
Barcelona producer John Talabot emerged in 2012 as the heir apparent to Caribou and Four Tet with his excellent debut album, Fin. He returned this year with a new project, a collaboration with fellow producer Axel Boman called Talaboman. Their album, The Night Land, builds beautifully on Talabot's mix of fragile synths and sturdy beats that flit between synth-pop's crisp midtempos and house music's deeper, darker pulse. Both incarnations of Talabot are in the FYF lineup: He'll do a four-hour Friday night DJ set and a Sunday night live set with Boman.
38. Mitski (The Trees, Saturday, 5:10 p.m.)
I still kinda wish more of this New York singer-songwriter's catalog sounded like "My Body's Made of Crushed Little Star," an acoustic punk outburst even better than its title. But even in her quieter moments, Mitski's voice and guitar demand attention.
37. Jonathan Richman (The Club, Saturday, 3:30 p.m.)
At any other festival, an appearance by the legendarily sardonic singer-songwriter of The Modern Lovers and There's Something About Mary fame would be a major highlight — but at FYF, Richman's appearance feels like more of an outlier, a token nod to however many fans bought tickets mainly because Iggy Pop is on the bill. Still, here's hoping a few Father John Misty fans stumble onto his set and discover that it's possible to write highly literate, acridly witty folk-rock without being kind of a dick about it.
36. Slowdive (The Trees, Friday, 10:20 p.m.)
It's practically not a Goldenvoice-produced festival without at least one reunited shoegaze band. But unlike so many of their peers, who dust off their guitar pedals and rehash past glories, British quintet Slowdive returned earlier this year with a brand-new, self-titled album that's way better than it has any business being, considering it's the group's first in 22 years. Credit Slowdive mastermind Neil Halstead for finding a way to capture his band's original sound (especially on guitar pile-ons such as the epic "Star Roving") without letting the songs themselves devolve into pure nostalgia.
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