European festival season may have only reached its halfway point, yet that doesn’t mean that the best is still to come. Last month, the likes of Pinkpop, Best Kept Secret and Down the Rabbit Hole all came and went in a flash, leading into a significantly quieter July. Everything picks up again towards the end of August, in particular on Dutch and Belgian soil. The latter nation’s city of Hasselt hosts the massive Pukkelpop Festival every year, and we’ve decided to go through the full line-up (part of which you can view below) and give you our eight recommendations for the weekend. Read on for more.
The stratospheric rise of Leeds trio Alt J is one which would’ve only been made possible by the huge amount of festivals that backed Joe Newman, Gus Unger-Hamilton and Thom Green. Sophomore record This Is All Yours has helped the minimal indie threesome sell out bigger venues than ever before, including an upcoming arena tour through Europe. Whether or not their music will translate well into massive arenas remains to be seen, yet the upcoming busy festival season is sure to help the band prepare. Pukkelpop will be one of their last festival shows of the summer, and it’s sure to be one which helps bring This Is All Yours to justice. Newfound festival anthems Breezeblocks and Left Hand Free are just two examples of songs which stand out in Alt J’s live set, one which is made increasingly powerful by its fantastic light show. Prepare to be blown away by Alt J.
Scottish electro-pop trio Chvrches have been hard at work in the studio for the best part of a year now, having officially finished the recording process at the end of June. Debut album The Bones of What You Believe fully blew critics and punters away back in 2013 as its infectious synthesizer pop graced airwaves worldwide. The upbeat Gun and anthemic The Mother We Share both became instant classics of their time, receiving massive reactions at live shows. Lauren Mayberry’s sickly sweet vocals contrast perfectly with Iain Cook and Martin Doherty’s instrumentals, combining to create a sound which is equal parts brooding and danceable. You can more than likely expect new songs to pop up in Hasselt this year, which will make their set even more special.
Australian alt-psych lords Pond are probably one of the most unpredictable acts on the whole Pukkelpop line-up this year. New album Man it Feels Like Space Again has already been hailed as one of the finest albums of the year, its dreamy psychedelics and raw emotion seamlessly intertwining alongside Nick Allbrook’s vocals. Album highlight Waiting Around for Grace is a stomping glam rock banger which, live, morphs into an anthem complete with marijuana smoke wafting out of the front rows. There’s no denying that Pond, who share members with Tame Impala, are one of the hottest bands of the year, and Pukkelpop will only enhance this claim further.
Genreless boundary abusers Enter Shikari have been going from strength to strength with each and every record they put out. Fourth record The Mindsweep, which was released in January, combined elements from across all three preceding Shikari records in order to give birth to one of 2015’s best records. Heavier tracks such as There’s a Price on Your Head and Anaesthetist are paired up exquisitely with the likes of stadium-ready Torn Apart and the twinkling Dear Future Historians…, so much so that Rou Reynolds and co. have become a force to be reckoned with. Next year, the St Albans quartet will play their biggest ever headline show to date at London’s Alexandra Palace, the final show on a short stint of arena’s which proves exactly why years of hard work have finally paid off. Expect plenty of crowdsurfing, stagediving and circle pits in Hasselt this August, as Enter Shikari show up to tear shit down.
Swedish tribal voodoo rockers Goat are one of the only bands around today who really make you question your own sanity once you’ve experienced them live. The anonymous collective, who dress in vintage tribal clothing, spend a majority of the live show in obscurity as two anonymous frontwomen jump, stomp and wail their way through the likes of standout tracks Run To Your Mama and Words. Although Goat isn’t the kind of band who you would voluntarily listen to on record (unless you’re on drugs; in which case, be my guest), they’re definitely the kind of band who you’ll never forget once you see them live. It’s almost hypnotic watching them perform, which means that their set at Pukkelpop will leave you mesmerised.
Tame Impala’s third studio album, Currents, isn’t even out yet and it’s already been hailed as the best album of the year. Whether or not it’ll eventually live up to those expectations remains to be seen, especially as Kevin Parker and co. currently face stiff competition from Muse, Enter Shikari and fellow Aussies Pond. Comeback track Let it Happen was exactly what we wanted to hear from Parker – an 8-minute long, synthesizer-centric hybrid of electro, psych and trance. It may have been a world away from the ‘rockier’ Lonerism, yet it still showed that Kevin Parker is nothing short of an actual genius. Follow-up tracks ‘Cause I’m a Man, Disciples and Eventually all showed different sides to the upcoming record (out July 17 via Modular People), keeping the anticipation high and the quality even higher. Get there early in Hasselt, because Tame Impala might just attract one of the biggest crowds of the weekend.
Scot/Brit art rockers Django Django are just one of the many bands on this list who have put out a stellar album in 2015. A couple of months ago they unleashed Born Under Saturn upon us all, garnering an All Things Loud rating of 9.5/10. Its standout track, the Caribbean-flecked Shot Down, is just one of the many highlights on a record which was ultimately made for festival stages and summer days out. Album opener Giant and the catchy Reflections further reinforce Born Under Saturn’s subtle groove, something which Pukkelpop audiences will definitely lap up. Django Django are on the brink of taking over the world, one step at a time.
UK metalcore outfit Architects are currently on top of their game, having released the manic Lost Forever // Lost Together at the beginning of 2014. In and amongst its distorted guitar drops, pounding drums and gnarly vocals (courtesy of the extremely talented Sam Carter) were a newfound sense of maturity and power. Architects are no longer just a gritty little metal band from the UK; rather, they’re an undeniable force to be reckoned with. Their live shows are packed with punch, energy and dynamic lighting, enough to rattle even the toughest skull. Architects are your ideal dose of all things heavy in Hasselt.
If these eight recommendations aren’t enough for you, then we’ve got another article coming up soon with another fine musical selection.