It’s SXSW season y’all! You know what that means: I’m going Austin in a week along with every other music industry person in the world and about nine million corporate sponsors eager to give us all free Doritos tacos, energy drinks, and lukewarm beer. Psyched as I am about all the swag, I’m even more psyched about seeing a bunch of artists that I love and am really excited about doing big things this year. Whether you’re coming with me or you’re going to spend the week streaming live video from all the shows (and don’t worry, there will be plenty), here are some artists I’m definitely going to make a point to check out, the Sound of SXSW 2013, if you will.
Kithkin’s percussive energy, unabashed howling, effortless singalong lyrics, and ritualistic vibe make them seem like a somewhat poppier version of Feels-era Animal Collective except with more drums – every member of the Seattle quartet is equipped with at least two during their live shows, which are just about as loud as they are fun. They’ll release their debut LP in 2013, and their irresistible weird-pop is sure to wow SXSW, so keep an eye out.
Merchandise frontman Carson Cox has the vocabulary palette of Belle and Sebastian’s Stewart Murdoch, thoroughly unexpected from the frontman of a Tampa industrial band – in excellent new single “Anxiety’s Door” he sings about “drinking the perfumed air” over a smoldering musical backdrop eerily reminiscent of any number of indie tracks from the 1980s that evoke driving into the sunset in your boat of a car, angrily smoking cigarettes, hating the lover who jilted you. The band’s finally got a touring drummer, and we’re psyched to see them reproduce their sound live at one of the countless shows they’re playing at SXSW.
08 NAOMI PUNK
Naomi Punk is listed on SXSW’s website with the scant accompanying information “……” where most bands have a press bio. We do know: the band is a recent signee of the tastemaking Brooklyn label Captured Tracks, though they are from Olympia, Washington, and they have released a single, brilliant, heavy, gorgeous record called The Feeling that mostly sounds like distant thunder and/or summoning demons: it’s frustrated, frustrating, brutal, brutalized guitar pop like nothing else you’ve ever heard. Add to this their live show – loud, fierce, utterly mesmerizing – and you’ve got the potential to be one of SXSW’s breakout acts.
Savages is like a four-girl Joy Division, and if that doesn’t convince you to follow their every move, I don’t know what will. Consider the effortless motorik groove drummer Faye Milton and bassist Ayse Hassan cultivate on track after track, consider guitarist Gemma Thompson’s smart, angular, intensely distorted post-punk riffs, consider frontwoman Jehnny Beth’s sharp barks and shouts, her disturbing, disorienting musings on love, sex, pain, and death, consider the whole band’s vaguely unsettling, absolutely captivating stage presence and then tell me you don’t want to follow Savages all around Austin this week.
06 EMPRESS OF
Empress Of made her live debut at CMJ and in the subsequent five months has poised herself to do big things. Soaring, melismatic vocals, bubbly instrumentals, woozy guitar loops – it’s like she melded the most accessible parts of Dirty Projectors songs with some of Grimes’ deep bass tones. She’s only released sides A and B of her first 7” single, “Champagne” and “Don’t Tell Me,” and an incredible new single called “Hat Trick” that’s part of an EP Terrible Records will drop soon, but we have enough confidence in her weird-pop genius to conclude she’ll probably be one of the acts to catch this week.
We were utterly knocked over by Torres’ heart-rendering breakout single “Honey” (it still brings a tear, or, like, a million to our eyes) and we’re big fans of her self-titled debut record too, so obviously we can’t wait to see Mackenzie Scott and her Gibson guitar in person. Early reports of her live shows in New York have been more than positive, and we think her big sound, echoey guitar, and emotional, personal lyrics will sound even more special under the Texan sky.
Waxahatchee is the solo project of Alabama native Katie Crutchfield, who used to be in a brilliantly named punk band called P.S. Eliot and is now doing her own thing, ie. making beautiful and very sad records you might be able to call “acoustic folk” were it not for her taste for big, distorted guitars and deceptively calm vocals that sometimes recall the pent-up, endlessly frustrated muted aggression of the Kills’ Allison Mosshart. Crutchfield’s new record Cerulean Salt is one of the best of the year so far thanks to her singular, compelling voice and songwriting, and she’s finally got a full live band to back her up – trust us, this is going to be her year.
03 VAMPIRE WEEKEND
We’re mostly jazzed to see Vampire Weekend premiere new tracks from Modern Vampires of the City, and to see what #menswear looks they’re rocking, but it’s important to remember that over the past 6 years they’ve been in the limelight they’ve become one of the most consistently engaging live bands out there, and we’re psyched to see some of their first live performances since the summer of 2012.
02 AUTRE NE VEUT
You already know that we have some serious Feelings (capital F) for Autre Ne Veut’s sophomore release Anxiety – part of the record’s appeal is its perfect building on the legacy of confessional, arty R&B that’s been making waves lately; the other part of its appeal is its feeling almost too intimate to listen to. On tracks like “Counting” and “Play By Play,” mastermind Arthur Ashin beseeches a lover (“I said, baaaaaby!!!”) over intricate, maximalist instrumentals, and you feel like you’re reading his sonic diary. Basically, we can’t wait to see his live take on the record.
We don’t know much about the mysterious MØ – she’s a 23-year-old Dane who’s released maybe five songs total (including remixes) since CMJ, where she made a pretty substantial splash. It just happens that those songs are good enough that we have complete faith in her to do big things this year, especially at SXSW. MØ’s dreamy, effervescent vocals and the maximalist, layered instrumentals of songs like “Maiden” are sometimes reminiscent of fellow one-woman electronic projects like Grimes or Laurel Halo, but MØ’s doing a thing all her own that’s sure to blow minds.