The Culture Collide festival is an annual staple in Los Angeles, living up to its name by bringing dozens of musical acts from all over the world to the hipster enclave of Echo Park. This year, the festival expands to San Francisco's Mission District, bringing headliners Cloud Nothings and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, while also offering its trademark global discovery: 36 bands from a whopping 15 different countries, many of whom have never played a note on American soil before.
Seem overwhelming? It can be, we admit. That's why we've scoured the entire lineup for you, and picked the top five international acts that you won't want to miss in the Mission this week.
Nominated for a 2104 ARIA Award in her native country, Helen Croome proves there's more to the ladies of Australia than the hip-hop Xerox paper-jam Iggy Azalea. With her band Gossling, Croome this year released a shimmering new album Harvest of Gold, whose title track is one of those perfectly imperfect pop songs, gliding over unconventional structure with a rigid eighth-note monotone that blossoms into a melody that won't leave your head for days. Another Gossling song to hope for at Culture Collide is “Never Expire,” with unexpected blasts of white noise in the verse which propel the minor-key, four-on-the-floor boiler to its empowering chorus. Playing Wednesday at the Chapel; 8:30pm.
Alphabetics (Costa Rica)
Hailing from the other San Jose, Alphabetics are everything you wanted the Strokes to morph into after Is This It: high-powered and energized with new ideas, instead of sluggishly strumming a Stratocaster and recovering from the night before. With the Costa Rican quartet, you get dance beats, math-rock riffs, ominous backup vocals, massive drum breaks, pitch-perfect harmonies, processed effects, South American percussion, synthesizer melodies and handclaps—and that's just in the course of one song! Led by Alejandro Pacheco, the dance-punk band is known to give it their all live and on stage. Playing Tuesday at the Elbo Room; 10pm.
American indie audiences likely most closely associate Tel Aviv with Monotonix, the no-holds-barred fuzz-rock duo that sometimes seemed more like an exercise in look-at-those-wacky-Middle-Easterners performance art. On the musical and ideological spectrum's complete opposite is Skyroads, a synth-pop outfit searching for the perfect beat—and consistently finding it. The full-body wobble of the perfect-hit-song “Synthetic” is bound to rattle in a live setting, and “Beyond the Doors” has such era-specific 1988 production, you'll think you've discovered the lost B-side to Jermaine Stewart's “We Don't Have to Take Our Clothes Off.” Playing Tuesday at the Chapel; 9:30pm.
Love X Stereo (South Korea)
As a former punk band that's gone electro, Love X Stereo brings a glossy form of confrontation to their music; whether “Free Ass” is an invitation or a threat, with its skronky guitar blasts and declaration “I wanna have sex with Americans,” is anyone's guess. Elsewhere in the band's vast catalog, straight-ahead jangle pop songs like “Soul City (Seoul City)” contrast with saturated '90s jams like “Storm” and electro collaborations like “Bu-kkeu-reo-wo-yo.” The real treat to seeing them live? Lead singer Annie Ko, who spent six years in L.A. as a child, is as strong a frontwoman you'll find from Korea; she works the stage like a firebrand. Playing Tuesday at Mission Workshop; 7:30pm.
Level & Tyson (Norway)
Here in California, we live for the sunshine. But way up in Oslo, the sun can bathe the city for nearly 18 hours a day. That extended illumination infuses Level & Tyson's bright, bouncy pop songs like "Calling Me Up"—but remember it can stay dark for hours and hours up there, too. Nighttime atmospherics permeate other songs, like "That's What You Said to Me," which undulates rhythmically in a sort of musical Aurora Borealis. Playing Wednesday at the Chapel; 7:30pm.