MACROCK singer

MACROCK performer sings in front of an audience.

Harrisonburg's annual DIY music festival, MACROCK, is only a few days away. In anticipation of the festival, I want to talk about a few of the artists I'm most excited to see take the stage this weekend.

Alex Cameron

Australian art-pop extraordinaire Alex Cameron is making his first appearance in Virginia this Friday for MACROCK 2017.

Cameron has made music with the electronica band Seekae since 2008, but didn’t begin his solo career until 2013 when he released his debut album “Jumping the Shark” on his website for free.

Cameron didn't garner much attention at the beginning of his solo career, but caught a big break when popular psych-rock group Foxygen saw him play a show in Paris and took a liking to him. This connection eventually helped him score opening spots for artists like Mac Demarco and Unknown Mortal Orchestra, propelling his career forward at a swift pace.

The record label Secretly Canadian reissued “Jumping the Shark” in 2016, and the album was met with high praise by music critics and casual listeners alike. However, it didn’t produce huge waves in the music industry and only amassed a niche fanbase of dedicated fans.

This is understandable because Cameron’s genius isn't easy to grasp from one causal listen.

Cameron has a unique approach to lyricism that isn't often seen in today’s music. In a world saturated with success stories and lyrics boasting personal prosperity, Cameron decides to embrace the less luxurious side of showmanship with his words. In “Jumping the Shark,” Cameron adopts the persona of a failed entertainer that doesn't know when to quit.

His melancholic lyrical approach is often masked by inspirative instrumentals, making the weight of his words less obvious.

While Cameron's lyrics can be dark, they can also be oddly encouraging. His persona possesses a level of endearing optimism and sincerity throughout the album that sometimes feels delusional, yet also moving.

This can be felt in the song “Happy Ending,” when Cameron sings, ”If you won't take me back, baby/ I'm going to Chinatown/ I'm gonna get my happy ending.”

Elysia Crampton

Elysia Crampton is an experimental electronic producer that currently resides in Weyers Cave, VA.

Crampton has only released two full-length albums under her own name, but thev’ve been enough to propel her into national fame within her genre. She was reviewed positively by sites like NPR and was even included in Pitchfork's list of the 20 Best Experimental Albums of 2016.

That being said, putting the blanket term “experimental” over Elysia Crampton’s music feels like a gross simplification.

In “Elysia Crampton Presents: Demon City,” Crampton and her peers effortlessly sew a myriad of influences together to form their own sonic Frankenstein’s monster. Each song has its own distinct identity, but the album’s continual foreboding aura works as a glue that binds these songs together into one incessant fever dream.

Crampton describes this album as a “musical epic poem” inspired by Bartolina Sisa, an Aymara heroine who was brutally executed for starting an uprising against the Spanish in Bolivia.

In songs like “After Woman (for Bartolina Sisa),” Crampton showcases her ability to tell a story without using any intelligible lyrics. The diving sub-bass and perpetual, menacing synth line paint a picture of violent war, while the wicked laughs superimpose a semblance of death.

Crampton is truly a master of her craft, and she’ll certainly prove this when she takes the stage this Friday at Court Square Theater.

Kraus

Kraus is the noise-rock project of 23-year-old Bushwick, Brooklyn musician Will Kraus.

While attending school at the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University, Kraus decided he was going to start recording music on his own.

After years of refining his craft, Kraus’s efforts finally culminated in his 2016 debut album, “End Tomorrow.”

Kraus began sending his work to record labels and music journalists. Within two weeks, he received a reply from Brian Justie of Brooklyn-based record label Terrible Records. Justie was enthralled by Kraus’s work and decided to sign him.

It’s not hard to see why Justie was so fond of Kraus. “End Tommorow” is an album pouring with raw passion and emotion. Kraus completely exposes his inward feelings and anxieties, allowing listeners to enter into an incredibly intimate part of his world.

“End Tomorrow” begins with a calming intro, but then immediately kicks into the unrelenting song “Owon” that sets the pace for the entire album. Pounding drums, raucous guitars, and soaring vocals are present from beginning to end, creating a jubilant cacophony of sound that completely engulfs the listener.

The emotions that materialize while listening to “End Tomorrow” are similar to the ones that materialize while taking off in an airplane for the first time, watching objects on the ground shrink as the plane rapidly ascends. Both evoke feelings of slight distress and euphoria so overwhelming that no assortment of words could truly describe it.

Kraus’s music is unpolished and imperfect by normal music industry standards, but this makes his songs feel profoundly human. He shows the beauty in having flaws, and how flaws can be used to create something sincerely beautiful.

Contact Kevin Painter at painterkm@dukes.jmu.edu.