Category Archives: Music

Drop Everything: Taylor Swift Released A New Song Overnight And It’s Spectacular

1. Last night, while you were sleeping, Taylor Swift blessed us with a brand new song from her upcoming album, 1989.

iTunes

2. Titled “Out of the Woods” and co-written by Jack Antonoff, the song manages the nifty trick of being just like every other Taylor Swift song in existence without sounding like any of them.

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The song documents the ups and downs of one of Swift’s tumultuous relationships but here’s the kicker: Instead of being set to strummy guitars, there’s a drum machine.

3. Of course, the internet has already started on the project of determining who the song is ~really~ about, but there’ll be plenty of time for gossipmongering later.

Plus, the answer is ~obviously~ Harry Styles.

4. For now, let’s focus on what really matters: that distorted opening vocal, those drums, and that bridge.

 

5. If you find your chill has gone missing after listening to it, don’t worry — you’re not alone.

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10. “Out of the Woods” is available for download exclusively on iTunes.

She’s Holla-BACK: Gwen Stefani Has Finally Blessed Us With A New Song

1. The majestic and ageless and perfect-package-of-a-specimen Gwen Stefani is back.

2. Eight years since she last released solo material, Gwen’s returned with a brand new track called “Baby Don’t Lie.” It’s the bouncy, bright, and synthy Gwen we’ve come to love and expect.

Daniel Sannwald

The song was produced by a troika of pop maestros, including Benny Blanco, Ryan Tedder and Noel Zancanella.

3. Listen below, and prepare to seat-dance.

Why J. Cole Isn’t Crazy To Go Up Against “Yeezus”

Johnny Nunez / WireImage / Getty Images

When I say that I’m the greatest, I ain’t talking about later
I’mma drop the album the same day as Kanye
Just to show the boys the man now like Wanyá
And I don’t mean no disrespect, I praise legends
But this what next the boy sick, can’t disinfect

– J. Cole, “Forbidden Fruit”

J. Cole’s decision to intentionally release Born Sinner, his second official album, on the same day as Kanye West’s Yeezus is bold and a little bit crazy. J. Cole is projected to sell around 150,000 copies in his first week, and most other weeks, that would guarantee him a No. 1 debut. But West is projected to sell more than three times as many records, and there’s just no competing with the hype machine behind his album. On paper, this looks like an incredibly dumb move, but it’s actually a stroke of genius.

For one thing, Cole gets to position himself as a scrappy underdog with fans; the David to Kanye’s Goliath. Like West, he’s a rapper-producer auteur, and hungry to prove himself as a major figure in hip-hop. By going up against the biggest, most acclaimed artist in rap, he forces himself into the conversation at a time when he might otherwise go completely ignored outside the niche of mainstream hip-hop.

More importantly, Cole’s music — classic backpacker hip-hop in the vein of West’s own early albums — is ideal counter programming to the aggressive and abrasive electro sound of Yeezus. Born Sinner could benefit from feeling safe and familiar in the way that Coldplay’s career surged when Radiohead went full-on arty with Kid A and left millions of people jonesing for another “Fake Plastic Trees.”

This isn’t to say that Cole’s record is some drab or boring thing. He’s not only just a pretty-good rapper, but a very gifted producer with an ear for warm, lived-in samples. He’s clearly a major rap nerd, and that’s both a blessing and a curse for his own music — Born Sinner has the same tame, oddly academic tone as a lot of albums by the similarly obsessive musicians in The Roots. In contrast to Yeezus, which mainly draws inspiration outside of hip-hop culture, Born Sinner is a rich stew of references to the rap canon — Cole loops a clip of Biggie Smalls’s voice, shares samples with classics by Outkast and A Tribe Called Quest, and includes lyrics that pay homage to Nas, 2Pac, Jay-Z, and his friend Kendrick Lamar. It’s as reverential as a rap record can be, to the point that Cole’s most emotional performance is on a song about feeling incredibly distressed about disappointing Nas, his favorite emcee.

“Let Nas Down” is heart-warming, but also an extremely rare thing: a hip-hop song in which the emcee basically grovels for the approval of another rapper. West actually has a very similar song, “Big Brother,” about his relationship with Jay-Z, and Cole directly references it. But Kanye is a long way from the humility and vulnerability he displayed on his first three albums, and Born Sinner comes off as the polar opposite of Yeezus. How much further from “I Am A God” can you get than “Let Nas Down”? Cole’s music may be conservative, but it’s also recognizably down to earth and relatable in a way that Yeezus is not. Kanye West may be a genius and far more influential as an artist and star, but who can root for him now? Cole is primed to be the little guy you want to see take it to the next level, just like Kanye not so long ago.

10 Underrated But Excellent Bands

As a follow up to the list of most overrated bands, this list has been composed to illuminate the names of bands that should be better recognized but somehow missed their chance at the spotlight. If you are anything like me and spend hours scouring the net for new bands to listen to, give some of these a try – especially if you have never heard of them – you may be pleasantly surprised.

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Wolfsheim were a Hamburg, Germany industrial-pop band that took their name from a character in The Great Gatsby. They rose to fame in their native country in 1991 with “The Sparrows and the Nightingales,” and soon became MTV Germany mainstays with their song “Dream of You.” Their music was a hypnotic blend of Darkwave and synthpop. Thanks to such momentous tracks as “Find You’re Gone” and “Kunstliche Welten,” they remain a great impact on European industrial music.

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Since their formation in 1998, South has become one of England’s most prominent alternative bands, their music encompassing everything from folk to hard rock to, at times, what could pass for Coke jingles, and are able to make it all come together. Each member is a multi-instrumentalist and are fond of trading instruments in order to change the flow of each song.

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David Tibet conceived Current 93 in the early 80s and transformed it over time into a protean amalgam of folk and Coil-influenced dark ambient. Their subject matter accumulates mythology, religion, the occult, and British horror films. Though Tibet has been the only constant member of the band, his apocalyptic folk has developed enough over time for his songwriting abilities to take chameleon shifts.

Man-Man

Man Man are a primal rant-vaudeville act hailing from Philadelphia who gained cult status for their bizarre and supercharged live shows, in which band members dressed in war paint and white leotards, frantically playing horns, guitar and Ragtime piano. Thanks to the success of their performance at Lollapalooza, songs like “Feathers” and “Top Drawer” have affected almost everyone who heard them, and their stint on the main stage at the Voodoo Festival all but cemented their burgeoning rise as an underrated band. There really is no other band in the same category as this one.

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Echo and the Bunnymen should have been recognized as the most seminal post-punk band band of the 80s, but instead were ignored thanks to the success of such bands as U2, Depeche Mode and The Cure. Thus, they are more popularly known in the American mainstream for contributing songs to the soundtracks of films like Pretty in Pink and The Lost Boys. Truth be told, Echo are a ferocious incarnation of Television’s guitar power and the Pixies’ breathtaking melodies, as songs like “Silver” and “Rescue” so clearly implicate; they are also one of many unsung influences on modern underground rock. Their one moment of mainstream success was a series of UK Top 10 hits in the early 80s, and then a gradual fade from the limelight, though they continue recording to the present day.

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Before there was Grinderman, before there was Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, there was this haunting troupe of perverted, bleak and uncannily enjoyable misfits, fronted by Australia’s esoteric, quintessential frontman Nick Cave. Their songs could go at a slow ambient pace, build up to a tense ruckus of soundscapes, and then burn out in a mushroom cloud of distortion at breakneck speed. Every track was an assault, whether it crept up on you and bludgeoned you from behind or smashed into your conscious with full force. Another seminal influence on the goth/punk genres that deserve a wider fan base.

Pavement

Although they are hailed as the most popular American indie band of the 90s, Pavement’s music still refuses to merge with the cultural masses despite such phenomenal and groundbreaking albums as Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain and Wowee Zowee. They were the acme of slacker rock, rivaling only the Sex Pistols in terms of, can they really play their instruments or is this a very imaginative sham? This genre-defying band demands the same mass recognition that critics have realized since the band’s conception.

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The grandfathers of goth rock are still mainly credited for contributing the song “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” to the David Bowie film The Hunger. What most people don’t know is that the band had more than a handful of compositions that came close to outmatching that timeless track. Songs like “Burning From the Inside” vitalized the engine of black-on-black punk, while B-Sides like the incendiary “Boys” showed that as a lyricist, Peter Murphy was a bitingly satirical writer and didn’t always have to rely on funereal imagery to make a memorable tune.

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Long hailed as Norway’s answer to Nine Inch Nails, Stephan Groth has been recording under the Berzerk moniker since 1989, creating a wicked and catchy combination of synth groove and industrial metal, turning out dance-ready songs like “Kathy’s Song,” slow ethereal ballads like “Nearer,” and the hard-rocking futurepop classic “Tuning to the Frequency of Your Soul.” His instrumental range is rather limited on the outset, but the styles that Groth usurps, he has perfected.

Manic Street Preachers

Following the success of outstanding albums like The Holy Bible and Everything Must Go, Manics were on their way to North America and instant stardom when core songwriter and troubled genius Richey James Edwards suddenly went missing in 1995. Since then, the Manics transformed themselves into something of a supertrio, churning out powerpop and indie-oriented compositions that made them heroes in their native Wales and darlings of the European media. Yet they never captured the dark, biting brilliance of those first four albums thanks to Edwards’ brooding confessional stream-of-consciousness around which the band was challenged to make the most phenomenal music of their career so far; thus a broader appreciation continues to elude them, without the writer of such timeless songs as “Yes” and “Faster” to keep them inspired to greater, more innovative peaks.

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The new kings of New York goth-pop have been getting shortended since their conception for emulating bands like Joy Division and the Chameleons. What critics don’t see under the simulacra is a Fab Four in the making, creating atmospheres in their songs like no other band today. Their debut album, Turn On the Bright Lights, is unrecognized as a modern masterpiece of Velvet Underground/New Wave counterculture. Songs such as “Leif Erikson,” “The Lighthouse” and “Pace is the Trick” reinforce the necessity of emotion lacking in today’s corporate concoctions, while almost every other song from their first three albums deserved to be a hit single. Some may call the band formulaic and tedious. Only to those who aren’t listening.

Contributor: F. McClure

25 Pop Records That Made Everyone’s Life Better In 2013

25. Katy Perry, “Roar”

Hooky as all hell without ever being intrusive, Katy Perry makes the best treadmill music. “Roar” is her signature gym song. It’s got “Survivor”-inspired lyrics and a chorus that makes you want to run for an extra five minutes. And yeah, it sounds like other songs, like the equally perfect “Brave” by Sara Bareilles and Robbie Williams’ “Something Beautiful.” Put them all on a playlist and you’ll never hate working out again. —Myles Tanzer

24. Charli XCX, True Romance

Charli XCX’s moody, glitchy indie-pop sophomore album has been years in the making (opening track “Nuclear Season” was released in 2011 and featured in a 2012 episode of Gossip Girl), but its timing was perfect for a year with its fair share of uninspiring pop. Songs like “You – Ha Ha Ha” and “Take My Hand” exhibit the kind of optimistic bounce you’d expect from the co-writer of and featured artist on Icona Pop’s “I Love It,” while “Stay Away” and “How Can I” are darker, like a goth Ellie Goulding meets Marina and the Diamonds. —Hunter Schwarz

23. Jason Derulo featuring 2 Chainz, “Talk Dirty”

In a year when the popularity of futuristic EDM pop continues to wane, Jason Derulo smartly looks to the past on “Talk Dirty.” The hook employs horns that are downright klezmer. The brassy beat is perfect for 2 Chainz to confidently bark, “Sold-out arenas, you can suck my penis.” The beat is the key here, though, because it makes you want to grind like you’re at an eighth-grade dance. —M.T.

22. Betty Who, The Movement

Australian-born, New York–based Betty Who makes irresistible, subtly wistful pop music. There’s something of Katy Perry’s yearning earnestness in her vocal delivery, but the music on The Movement is more slyly delivered. With its tasteful electro flourishes, songs like “High Society” are somehow simultaneously propulsive, weepy, and incredibly fun. —Alex Naidus

21. Britney Spears, Britney Jean

Despite the sexed-up music video for lead single “Work Bitch,” Britney Jean finds Spears moving away from her racy temptress persona. There are still plenty of traditional Britney dance jams — if Abba had dubstep, they’d make music like “Til It’s Gone,” and the video game bleeps of “Tik Tik Boom” would have fit well on Femme Fatale. But quasi-spiritual songs like “Alien,” “Passenger,” and bonus track “Now That I Found You” are a reminder that the woman dusting off the catsuit for a Las Vegas residency is also a churchgoing mother of two. She touted the record as one of her most personal, and she delivered. —H.S.

20. Sophie, “Bipp”

Not a lot is known about this British producer, but Sophie’s debut single is one of the most fascinating and nearly unclassifiable pop singles of the year. “Bipp” is essentially a super-catchy R&B pop tune, but the arrangement is unusual, with every sound seeming as though it’s being stretched and bounced like it’s all made of rubber. —Matthew Perpetua

19. Pink featuring Nate Ruess, “Just Give Me a Reason”

Pink and Fun. singer Nate Ruess’ teamed up to give us “Just Me a Reason,” a truly great pop ballad in a time when those are few and far between. It’s basically like a cross between something from an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical and Celine Dion at her finest, and is exactly the sort of tune that always sounds best when you’re hearing it randomly at a supermarket or just flipping through the dial on a car radio. It just feels better as a surprise somehow. —M.P.

18. Brown Eyed Girls, Black Box

While our airwaves were obsessing over JT’s 20/20 or Miley’s Bangerz, we blinked right past K-Pop’s Brown Eyed Girls’ Black Box. The fifth studio effort from the South Korean girl group received roaring global attention for its genre-bending sound. Black Box pulls unlikely references from Quentin Tarantino (found on its obvious lead single, “Kill Bill”), tight punch line rap, and familiar Top 40 riffs, making it one creative collapse of pop culture. —Tanya Chen

17. Coco O.’s “Where the Wind Blows” from The Great Gatsby

The soundtrack for Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby is overflowing with big-name artists and producers, but the best track on it is something of a dark horse. “Where the Wind Blows” is written and produced by veteran R&B songwriter Andrea Martin and sung by Coco O., the vocalist from the Danish R&B group Quadron. It’s a deceptively simple song, with Coco singing a neatly linked chain of hooks built around a snippet of jazz-age piano. That sample is our tether to the setting of the film, but also a tip-off that our singer is yearning for a sort of glamour and excitement that mostly exists in books, movies, or the past. —M.P.

16. Ciara, Ciara

Aside from being a stellar dance album with cuts like “I’m Out” and “Overdose,” Ciara is 2013’s best album about love. “Body Party,” her slinky Ghost Town DJs–infused banger, is without question the most romantic song of the year. Her breathy delivery alongside her fiancé Future’s Auto-Tuned soft coos conjures visions of two mermaids swimming in perfect swirling harmony. When she earnestly sings “I’m having so much fun with you,” with a little extra oomph put on the word “fun,” you simply have to just smile back at her. This is Aphrodite slyly killing the game — all hail Ciara. —M.T.

15. G-Dragon “MichiGO”

What a year it’s been for K-Pop’s pretty tastemaker G-Dragon. His Western-crossover hit “MichiGO” proved his image was as malleable as his sound. In the M/V, GD spits over heavy bass claps as his sleek bob rides a pink elephant. It’s official: GD has michigone out of his beautiful mind. —T.C.

14. Janelle Monaé, The Electric Lady

The Electric Lady, Janelle Monae’s second album, succeeds because the music is finally as brilliant as the project’s concept. Monae has never had trouble getting people excited about her Afro-futuristic aesthetic but, as was the case with 2010’s ArchAndroid, her cinematic vision often inhibits her songs’ ability to stand on their own. Not anymore, though. “Givin Em What They Love” with Prince scintillates, “We Were Rock & Roll” just might make your eyes shine, “What an Experience” is exquisite, and if “Q.U.E.E.N” doesn’t make you get up and dance, you just might be a cyborg after all. —Saeed Jones

13. Daft Punk, “Get Lucky”

This song is not that annoying. The reason it was played to death at every barbecue, Bar Mitzvah, and baseball game of this summer is because it is an undeniably great song. Just try not to at least tap your foot to that earworming Nile Rodgers riff. Oh, and Pharrell’s voice is also pure disco perfection. Now that everyone is sick of this song, it’s the time to go back in. Disco wasn’t made to live forever, so put that record on one more time before the ball drops. —M.T.

12. Robin Thicke featuring Pharrell and T.I., “Blurred Lines”

With one of the funkiest bass lines of all time, Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up” is the ideal party song. Its spiritual cousin can’t hold a candle, but it can certainly be added to the birthday playlist. The song has taken a lot of heat for its misogynistic lyrics, but it’s undeniably catchy. Plus, T.I. delivers one of his liveliest verses in recent memory. No need to figure out what rhymes with “hug me,” just dance it out. —M.T.

11. One Direction, Midnight Memories

I know what you are thinking — that One Direction and this album can only be enjoyed if you are a 16-year-old girl, but I am here to tell you that you are wrong and to go sit in a corner. This is the kind of album you play from start to finish on your morning commute every day (I know this because I do just that) and enjoy every one of its songs. The boys have matured and are showing their musical abilities both with lyrics (“my hands / your hands / tied up like two ships” — awwwwww) and melodies. Try to not enjoy “Happily” or “Why Don’t We Go There”: They will make you want to play air instruments and belt out loud throughout. Also, I like to imagine Harry passionately singing the bridges, and feel emo about how adorable the guys are when they sing about their moms. IT’S SO GOOD. —Lauren Yapalater

10. Lady Gaga, ARTPOP

For all that Gaga is promoting the hell out of ARTPOP, parading it around town with elaborate “artraves” and “flying dress” demonstrations and aligning herself with some of the biggest names in the art world, the album really is just a feel-good, straightforward pop record. And it’s a welcome change; where Born This Way had its grand manifesto of accepting yourself for who you are and throwback ’80s rock influences, ARTPOP is slinkier, cheekier, and more R&B-influenced. From the brilliant duet with R. Kelly (“Do What You Want”) to the bouncy “Sexxx Dreams” and the ecstatic “Applause,” it just sounds like she’s finally having fun. —A.Z.

9. Tegan and Sara, Heartthrob

The bleak days of January have cycled through to the almost snowy weeks before Christmas, but Heartthrob is as breezy and delightful, lovelorn and wistful as it was upon first listen in those early days of 2013. From the staccato promise to get a little bit “close-er!” to the thudding dismay of “Shock to Your System,” Tegan and Sara’s seventh album is a synth-pop addiction. —Erica Futterman

8. Sky Ferreira, “I Blame Myself”

Sky Ferreira’s “I Blame Myself” somehow manages to be defiant, defensive, self-recriminating, and triumphant all at once. It doesn’t quite add up in that way, but the contradictions are exactly what make it so fascinating and emotionally powerful. Sky is specifically dealing with a very low level of fame — not big enough to be a real celebrity, but famous enough to have a reputation that gets in the way of how people perceive you. Though she sings specifically about her experience, the sentiment of this song — “I blame myself for my reputation” — is something that pretty much anyone can relate to, even if it’s just being the subject of school or workplace gossip. —M.P.

7. Haim, Days Are Gone

The California sisters proved their buzz true with a debut album full of intricately crafted tunes that draw on the laid-back vibe of their home state, paired with an affinity for ’70s and ’80s pop sounds. “Running If You Call My Name” and “Go Slow” gut-punch you with heartbreak, while “My Song 5” and “Let Me Go” come at you full force with aggressive drums and guitar and lyrics that punctuate the attitude in the lyrics, and “The Wire” was a late-breaking contender for song of the summer. By the time these 11 songs are through, you’ve run the gamut of a relationship — but you’re all the better for it. —E.F.

6. Icona Pop, This Is…Icona Pop

Try listening to This Is…Icona Pop without imagining yourself in the middle of a glistening dance floor, bumping against a crowd of hot, shirtless men covered in glittery paint, everybody’s throats burning from shots of vodka, the crowd parting to reveal a glittery runway, you gliding down it, glistening yourself in nothing but eight-inch heels, the shirtless men cheering you on, GIVING YOU LIFE, lifting you up on their shoulders as you reach the end of your runway walk, fireworks exploding, lights flashing, lions roaring in the distance, a unicorn getting its wings and flying above your head, brushing your outstretched hands with the tips of its bright, magical wings. Try listening to Icona Pop without imagining that. You can’t. —Matt Bellassai

5. Justin Timberlake, The 20/20 Experience 1 & 2

JT didn’t have to make an album this good. 20/20 could have been a complete train wreck and it would still have sold many thousands of copies. But these two albums mark a departure for the former teenybopper heartthrob, one that has him all suit-and-tied up, on his Frank Sinatra tip. Vol. 1 showcases Timberlake in full-on crooner mode, wooing us with throwback jams like “Pusher Love Girl” and the doo-wop-inspired “That Girl,” in addition to his grown-man anthem with Jay Z. Vol. 2 is closer to what most people would have come to expect from the man who once brought us an album called Futuresex/LoveSounds — more uptempo beats, more of Timbaland’s signature zany sounds and touches. It’s hard to live up to the kind of hype the public set him up for after he decided to take a break from music, but he did an excellent job in reinventing himself. And by operating outside the need to be relevant to current trends, he’s ensuring the longevity of his brand and widening his appeal — so that even Jessica Biel’s grandparents will want to bump his music around the house. —A.Z.

4. Chvrches, The Bones of What You Believe

The Scottish trio Chvrches come out of an indie, blog-centric scene, but their music is pure, undiluted, and utterly unapologetic electro-pop. The Bones of What You Believe is a relentlessly catchy record that only gets better with repeated listens, with hooks that sink deeper into your mind all the time. The main attraction here is singer Lauren Mayberry, who somehow delivers every song with a tone that is both youthful and authoritative. There’s a toughness and sensitivity in the very best cuts, like “Gun” and “The Mother We Share,” and it never feels like some kind of contradiction. —M.P.

3. Ariana Grande, Yours Truly

Before this year, Ariana Grande was best known for her role on the Nickelodeon show Victorious, but with this astonishingly confident debut album, she’s revealed herself to be the second coming of Mariah Carey. Yours Truly is basically the best Mariah album since the mid-’90s, and it delivers the sort of euphoric, innocent pop tunes the real deal has mostly abandoned as she’s progressed through her career. The hit singles “Baby I” and “The Way” are fantastic, but the song you absolutely need to hear is “Honeymoon Avenue,” a showstopping ballad with slightly off-kilter production, clever lyrics full of extended driving metaphors, and a truly heartbreaking vocal by Grande that proves that she’s a worthy successor to Mariah’s crown. —M.P.

2. Lorde, Pure Heroine

Lorde went from total unknown to cult favorite to chart-dominating pop star in the span of about eight months this year. A lot of her succ

11 Coachella 2013 Performances You Need To See

1. Tegan and Sara’s new songs totally killed it on Friday night, especially “Closer” at the very end of their set.

2. Earl Sweatshirt was joined by Flying Lotus; Tyler, the Creator; and others for his set on Friday night.

3. Yeah Yeah Yeahs went all out on Friday night.

4. Blur on Friday night. This was their first performance in the United States since 2003, and their first with guitarist Graham Coxon since 1999.

5. Surely you must be curious what it looked like when Baauer dropped “Harlem Shake” at Coachella, right?

6. Major Lazer basically crushed it on Saturday afternoon.

7. The xx on Saturday. Fast forward to 18:37 if you want to see them play Aaliyah’s “Hot Like Fire” with Solange.

8. The Postal Service performed “Such Great Heights” on Saturday. This was the first show of their reunion tour.

9. Phoenix played one of the biggest gigs of their career when they headlined on Saturday. If you just want to see them do a mashup of “Ignition Remix” and “1901” with R. Kelly, go to 51:41.

10. James Blake managed to make subtle, chill quasi-soul music work on the big stage on Sunday afternoon.

11. Red Hot Chili Peppers brought the festival to a close on Sunday night.