As we all keep our fingers crossed that the groundhog’s prediction will keep its promise and foreshadow an early deliverance of spring air, the annual music festivals spanning between both U.S. seaboards are just within distant visibility. Although only a small portion of the fests have served yearly-goers with lineup announcements, there is no doubt that this will be another memorable season of live music spanning over long weekends. If you haven’t already plotted your travel arrangements, at least try and finish this mixtape before you start rolling up your sleeping bags, counting your tent stakes and sending in your festival volunteer requests.
— Alexandra Johnson
Arcade Fire — “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”
Already slated to perform at Coachella and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival this year, Arcade Fire has spent the last year continuing to prove their well-deserved position among the ranks of rock n’ roll. With the steady pick up of their third studio record, The Suburbs, the band of seven has reached commercial success through album sales and critical accolade with two Grammy noms and supremacy in last year’s album-of-the-year lists. Their track “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” is my stand-out choice from their latest LP — one that I am sure will sound bounds tighter blaring out of festival speakers.
The Black Keys — “Everlasting Light”
Now, with the recent suicide of The White Stripes, The Black Keys are stepping up to be the duo-rock frontrunners in shoes they’ve already filled to the point of busted laces. Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney spent all of 2010 turning heads, drawing crowds and outdoing the best rockers on the bill. Side by side, the two have proven that their shadow can cover a lot more ground than their bodies, and sound doesn’t need to be produced by more than a set of drums and a six-string to bring down a house. Their Grammy-nominated album, Brothers, is packed with enough replayable tracks to take you from your driveway to Coachella, but “Everlasting Light” has me hoping that they’ll be headlining a few more stops on the 2011 festival bracket.
Mumford & Sons — “White Blank Page”
Rooted across the Atlantic, Mumford & Sons wasted very little time getting the States on board with the folksy twangs of their banjos. Their haunting arrangements and lyrical depth sparked intercontinental interest in their debut album Sigh No More, so much that Coachella, Jazz Fest and Wakarusa went through the motions and secured their talent to headline this year’s bills. The track “White Blank Page” masters the embodiment of this band of musicians and will only lay the groundwork for what they can do with it when they line the stage and perform it live for each festival crowd.
Ben Harper & Relentless7 — “Number With No Name”
Ben Harper has enough light in his voice to summon the sun well before its rising time, so it’s fitting to call upon Harper & Relentless7 to pull us out of these dark times before the hitting of festival season. Harper’s take on American rock has made him a festival staple for the passing years and this year is no different. “Number With No Name” showcases the voice that makes Harper irreplaceable and axe work that heeds him as a live spectacle. Already ticketed to headline Wakarusa in the early summer, Harper will bring it hard this season with some more lineup announcements hopefully coming soon.
The Strokes — “Under Cover Of Darkness”
Okay, okay, so technically you cannot give this song a full listen for another 48 hours, but even the promise of its release has me counting down the minutes until I’ll be seeing Julian Casablancas and Albert Hammond, Jr. take over the Jazz Festival grounds in New Orleans this May. Everybody knows that The Strokes have proven their rock n’ roll stature tri-fold, so it goes without saying that five years without new Strokes music has taken its toll on a good number of us. With the much-awaited album set to be released on March 22, the first single, “Under Cover Of Darkness,” will be streaming on the band’s website on Feb. 9. The upbeat, signature-sounding track has the same bright melodies and popping vocals that are sure to lure spring our way even faster if we play it loud enough.