Justice, Tame Impala, and the State of FestivalCore in 2024

Justice, Tame Impala, and the State of FestivalCore in 2024

This feels inevitable.

Justice, the electronic duo who emboldened French Touch/nu-disco tropes with leather jackets and arena rock ambitions in the mid-2000s, have tipped off their comeback with a lob pass to Kevin Parker, the Aussie psych-cum-pop auteur who has admired big-tent dance music since day one.

With their triumphant 2007 debut, , Justice fully realized the heavier, "guitar" (in quotes because it was mostly achieved with synths)-laden dreams of their native forebears Daft Punk's underwhelming 2005 album, Human After All. With 2015's Currents, Parker's Tame Impala made good on his aspirations to meld his one-man fuzz-rock with the wider range of tones offered by electronic rigs. Since then, both acts have dutifully slid towards the logical mean of hi-fi '70/'80s AOR sheen. Can you say "collision course?"

New collaborative single "One Night/All Night" plays out as expected. Justice slunk through the 2010s with two lower-profile albums that dulled the more sinister edges of their debut, so of course their first new music in eight years begins with icier synth textures that announce, We're back, and we're dangerous again. From there, I believe the duo describe it best: "We wanted this track to sound as if a dark/techno iteration of Justice had found a sample of a disco iteration of Kevin Parker." They give Parker the same Frankenstein'd Studio 54 treatment as they did with Michael Jackson quotes and an interpolation of Britney Spears and Madonna's "Me Against The Music" on their hit '07 single "D.A.N.C.E.," rendering new vocal tracks as relics from a more distant past.

I don't think "One Night/All Night" is great, but I might have in 2007, or even 2015. Something about the 2020s thus far makes this feel like overly low-hanging fruit. The seeds were there before COVID, but since the inauspicious start of this decade, nostalgic fan service is treated as the only sure bet in music, much as it is in the film industry.


Very, very broadly, I'd put both Justice and Tame Impala under the umbrella of "FestivalCore."

The modern iteration of multi-day American music fests rose out of the ashes of Lollapalooza's traveling '90s era, and was galvanized by the early 2000s successes of Coachella and Bonnaroo. Each began with something of a distinct identity—'Roo had the jam bands, Coachella was always more in touch with electronic music—but compared to the smaller, more genre-focused fests around the country, this new era of megafest prided itself on eclecticism. You could see a mainstream rapper, then a classic rocker, then a reunited cult act, and then a shit-hot DJ all back-to-back on the same stage. It was awesome. I'll never forget the day at my beloved, sadly deceased festival of choice, Sasquatch, in 2010 when I stayed in the pit for something like eight hours to catch They Might Be Giants, Kid Cudi, Tegan and Sara, LCD Soundsystem, Pavement, and Massive Attack all in a row.

It's a chicken-and-egg question of who inspired what, but eventually we began to see a ton of acts that were like microcosms of this desire for eclecticism, embodying the spirit of crossover appeal. It's a bit similar to the bizarro pair-ups I discussed in the BrandCore newsletter last Fall, and it happened around the same time, but unlike that short-lived phase, FestivalCore's reverberations are still palpable today.

A convenient place to start, especially considering the two artists in focus today, is Daft Punk's legendary 2006 Coachella set. This was the debut of their pyramid-shaped stage and the career-spanning set that would form the backbone of their Alive 2007 tour and live album. It wasn't revolutionary in that it blended genres—it was more about the French duo presenting themselves as larger-than-life, dare-I-say rockstars. This was electronic music for people who didn't like electronic music. Not only did this set/tour/album directly kick-start the EDM boom of the 2010s, it made many a rock kid want to incorporate electronics into their music. A few years ago, for the 20th anniversary of Daft Punk's Discovery, I interviewed many of those rockers-turned-DJs/producers, including Kevin Parker.

Artists that define FestivalCore don't often have as much built-in goodwill as Daft Punk, but they aren't necessarily "you have to see them live to get it"-style acts like jam bands either—it's more *swings pocketwatch in front of face* "you will stream them after seeing them live." It's not just "x for people who don't like x," oftentimes it's "xy for people who love x and y," or even more often, just something that's for lack of a better word, vibier than other music in its genre.

Here's the point when I have to start naming names unless I want to disappear up my own theoretical ass. I poked around recently announced festival lineups, and here's a loose summation of some bastions of FestivalCore in 2024 with explanations in parentheses:

-Young The Giant and Miike Snow (2010s indie rock for people who either don't like indie rock, or else enjoy seeing it imbued with precision pop songwriting)

-Khruangbin ("world music" for people who still see nothing wrong with the term "world music")

-Thundercat and BADBADNOTGOOD (jazz for people who don't like jazz)

-Portugal. The Man ("we are capable of playing pretty much any genre but have settled on vibey pop-rock")

-Jungle, Anderson .Paak, and Leon Bridges ("I wish all the great R&B/soul albums from the '70s were vibier and actually slapped")

-Young Fathers (hip hop for people who don't like hip hop, a genre ruled by Run The Jewels)

I know those descriptions are flip, and I do enjoy a few of those artists, but here's what I'm trying to get at: If you are at a festival to see a few specific artists you like, or if you are dragged to a festival by friends and don't even have an agenda of artists that you'd like to see, odds are that none of the above are going to be objectionable or abrasive enough to make you leave their set. In fact, you might even be swayed to look them up when you get home. There is no barrier to entry. You will not, for instance, be as confused and repulsed as I was when I saw The Mars Volta perform at my first Sasquatch at age 17 (Note: I eventually grew to love The Mars Volta).

In pursuit of appealing to everyone ages 18-28 who can afford to attend multi-day concerts, I think festivals have directly popularized acts that also attempt to do so (or at least attempt to sand some edges off of their diverse influences in order to make them fit together more neatly). That seems natural, if not a tad depressing. The bigger problem is when every festival lineup starts to look the same because of this pursuit, and it might finally be starting to bite them in the ass.

We're now left with a landscape of festivals with lineups that either look identically personality-less, algorithm-generated, or like Disney Adult-level, "remember being a teenager? wasn't music just better back then?" fodder. They're all infuriating, but it's the last one that sticks in my craw. Look, we all know that the average person stops listening to new music at age 33 (side note: that means it's over for me in just about two months!), but c'mon y'all. If you're hype about a festival whose headliners' biggest albums were all released when you were in high school, god bless. We millennials may never financially be able to retire, but mentally, we're already there.


When Coachella announced their lineup on social media earlier this month, they did so with a Justice reference ("D.A.N.C.E.") despite the fact that Justice appears mid-second-line underneath Lana Del Rey on the first day. I don't think the Coachella lineup neatly fits into any of the three categories I outlined above, but it's certainly closer to personality-less and algorithm-generated than it is to nostalgia porn. Oddly enough though, its two most noteworthy reunions/comebacks, Justice and No Doubt, were awarded eye-catching real estate.

Honestly, if I had to rank the artists I'd be most excited to see at Coachella (semi-jokingly manifesting an Inbox Infinity press pass here), Justice would be near the top. I've never seen them, and they've always seemed like a great live act (Woman Worldwide, the Alive 2007-style "tour setlist" album they released in 2018, markedly improves the songs included from their later albums, and is a fun listen). As far as Tame Impala's concerned, I've seen them live six(?) times. So believe me when I tell you that I'm right in the target demographic for "One Night/All Night" (I'm also a noted fan of the guy who directed the song's weird "music video") .

You should be able to tell by this point in the essay, but there's nothing I dislike quite as much as the feeling that I'm being pandered to, that I'm able to be reduced to the on-paper facts of who I am, that everything else about my life is a direct result of or reaction to those circumstances. I am deluded in the belief that I am in any way unique, but please just don't make it so obvious to me! Give me some semblance of an illusion of self-determination, I beg you. This Justice/Tame Impala single just yells, "SOOOOOEEEEEYYYY! Eat up your slop, pigboy! We know you love it!"

Justice's other new single, the Kevin Parker-less "Generator," is fine, I guess.

BOI (Best of Inbox) #15

Carpool Feat. CLIFFDIVER - "Open Container Blues"

Genre: power pop-punk // RIYL: the first Charly Bliss album, Militarie Gun covering the first Rentals album

Carpool, man—what a band. If you've never heard their delightfully belligerent 2020 album Erotic Summer Nightmare, change that now. The emo-adjacent Rochester band are a shimmering example of the type of overly earnest artist you hear once and think, This is too much, and then re-listen and fully get it (see also: Lil Peep, Cheem, Glass Beach). This duet with CLIFFDIVER's Briana Wright adds a nice taste of synthy-ness to their sound. My Life in Subtitles is out 3/22.

Church Chords Feat. Kristin Slipp - "Alone Under The Water"

Genre: dirge pop // RIYL: Fever Ray covering NIN's "Hurt"

Steven Buono is an LA-based producer/musician who records under the moniker Church Chords, and he's racked up quite an impressive lineup of guests for his upcoming album. So far, singles have featured jazz guitarist Jeff Parker, Knower singer Genieve Artadi, Wilco guitarist Nels Cline, and now Dirty Projectors' Kristin Slipp. "Alone Under The Water" has a lot of murk and skronk to it, despite being fairly downtempo, and it inescapably reminds me of Fever Ray's classic "If I Had a Heart." The incredibly titled elvis, he was Schlager is out 2/23.

Ellis - "obliterate me"

Genre: anthemic bedroom pop-rock // RIYL: '90s torch songs

There's a pang of songs like Lifehouse's "Hanging By a Moment" and Aerosmith's "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" in "obliterate me," but on a much gentler scale. This Canadian singer-songwriter has a clear knack for seizing onto obvious melodies but deploying them in more muted, textured ways, and in this climate of open-hearted, pop-adjacent-but-not-willing-to-admit-it singer-songwriters, that's refreshing. no place that feels like is out 4/26.

Gulfer - "Too Slow"

Genre: emo // RIYL: Nai Harvest, Glocca Morra

For just over a minute, "Too Slow" is an all-out assault of an emo banger, delivering only the essentials: verse, a tapping-laden pre-chorus, and a hook. Then it goes glitch-tronica? For a second while listening to this playlist on shuffle this week, I thought I'd accidentally skipped ahead to what ended up being the track of the week. Nope, Gulfer are just that cool! Third Wind is out 2/28.

Hulder - "Hearken The End"

Genre: atmospheric black metal // RIYL: Mesarthim, Woods of Desolation, Luces Lejanas

Man, I'm so bummed! As I mentioned in a previous newsletter, one of the only 2024 shows I've bought tickets for is Project Pat on March 9th, and here comes Hulder and previous BOI alums WORM announcing a show on the same night. The nerve! Anyway, Hulder gets into the whole mystical, woodsy black metal that is rare for Americans—except those from the Pacific Northwest, which makes sense as sole member Marz Riesterer was born in Belgium but relocated to the PNW in recent years. Not heavy so much as moody, "Hearken The End" is to die for. Verses In Oath is out 2/9.

Morbid Stench - "Macabre Introspection"

Genre: death/doom // RIYL: Saturnus, Asphyx

Ok, so this isn't technically new, as Morbid Stench's album The Rotting Ways of Doom was released in Fall 2022, but it just got its first North American release via Carbonized Records. This Central American trio, who all have amazing stage names (Morbid, Purulent, and The Master Butcher), offer a pristine blend of doom and death metals. 10/10, no notes.

Rosie Tucker - "All My Exes Live In Vortexes"

Genre: emo-tinged alt-rock // RIYL: hooks, lyrics

Here at Inbox Infinity, we strive to bring you a wide variety of music, which means that there's usually a loose "no repeat artists" policy. But goddamn, there's no way I'm not gonna include my second Rosie Tucker song in 2.5 months. It was over as soon as I heard the opening lyrics: "I hope no one had to piss in a bottle at work to get me the thing I ordered on the internet/But I am no responsible party, Im just a middle-sized fish in a pile of plastic wider than Texas." UTOPIA NOW! is out 3/22.

VIAL - "Falling Short"

Genre: indie punk // RIYL: That Dog., tantrums

Sometimes you just need a 90-second jolt of catchy pop-punk. VIAL are a Minneapolis three-piece who get right to the point with no lollygagging, rendering "Falling Short" an all-killer-no-filler DGAF statement. I wanna be 16 again blasting this in my room after arguing with my parents. Burnout is out 3/29.

Zara Larsson - "You Love Who You Love"

Genre: personality-free Swedish pop // RIYL: Sigrid, Rihanna's "Disturbia"

I genuinely have no idea why I get a zillion PR blasts a year about Swedish pop star Zara Larsson, but hey, not mad at it! This is why it pays to click on every email! "You Love Who You Love" is exactly the type of zero-friction banger we've come to expect from the great nation of pop savants that is Sweden—words are secondary, melody is everything. Venus is out 2/9.

Track of the Week

Joy Orbison - "flight fm"

Genre: deep house // RIYL: Four Tet, Daphni

My friend Spencer recently offered the definitive description of this song on Twitter: "how does it sound like that." Most of what I know about UK producer Joy Orbison comes from the hype that Pitchfork slathered on his debut single "Hyph Mngo" in 2009 (that writeup may have been the first place I read the word "dubstep"), but I clearly should get more acquainted. "flight fm" is nothing short of audio-tonal porn, and I need to hear it played loud as hell on the finest sound system within a 10-mile radius, STAT.

All Inbox Infinity picks are available in playlist form via Apple Music and Spotify.

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Jamie Larson