25 artists we’re excited to see at SXSW
by Andrew Sacher and Bill Pearis
The music part of SXSW starts today with approximately 43,000 artists playing over the next five days. We’ve gone through every last one of those and have picked 25 that we’re especially pumped to see this week, including some of the biggest names at the fest and some you may have never heard before. Some of them we so didn’t want to miss, we booked them at our three free day parties at Cheer Up Charlies on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. But they’re not all playing our shows.
Check out our list (in alphabetical order), as well as a companion Spotify playlist, below.
BrooklynVegan’s 25 Bands We’re Excited to see at SXSW playlist:
Young Memphis singer/songwriter Julien Baker seemed to come out of nowhere with last year’s debut album that landed on some year-end lists, including our own. The first time she won me over was in a live setting — she was opening for Wye Oak and EL VY and I still remember her set more vividly than theirs. (No offense Wye Oak and EL VY!) It’s just her and a guitar, and she silenced the crowd at a show that sold out before she was even added to it. One of the shows you can catch her at is the free BrooklynVegan Saturday day party at Cheer Up Charlies. (AS)
Beach Slang introduced themselves to the world less than two years ago, and it was clear from just a four-song EP and their first-ever live shows that the band — which formed with members of Weston, Ex Friends and more — was not one to ignore. Now they’ve got a full length album out on the label that brought us American Football and Japandroids, and their live shows only get wilder and wilder. For the uninitiated, they sound like a mix of Jawbreaker and The Replacements, and they might cover those bands in Austin this week. They sing about listening to records and how big all the tiny moments feel. They’re all about sincerity, big hooks, and putting on some of the most life-affirming rock shows around. (AS)
Montreal’s Chocolat may seem initially to be merely a better-than-most psych-garage band but are soon defying pigeonholing with every song. There are delicate harmonies, motorik krautrock rhythms, and proggy chord changes. They are also crazy loud. And crazy good. (BP)
The term “alt-R&B” has basically become shorthand for the kind of atmospheric, downtempo R&B that’s gotten trendier and trendier since artists like James Blake, How to Dress Well and The Weeknd hit the scene. But if Beyonce, Rihanna and Justin Timberlake are all now making music that sounds like that, what is it really the “alternative” to? One artist who can undoubtedly be called alternative, though, is Dawn Richard (aka D∆WN). She’s in the midst of a trilogy that began with 2013’s GoldenHeart and hit its peak (so far) with last year’s BlackHeart, an album that can bring Bjork and Brandy fans together. She’s set to complete it with RED*emp*tion, and judging by the singles, she’s now putting her strange spin on EDM with help from forward-thinking producers like Machinedrum. (AS)
Toronto crushers Dilly Dally put out their debut album on Partisan last year, an album of raw, unfiltered melodic aggression that really hit the spot for anyone who digs The Breeders, the Pixies and Nirvana. It’s a fun record to listen to, but their live shows really solidify this band’s appeal. They’re especially good on the kinds of showcases you see at SXSW. At the BV CMJ show a few months ago, the mood in the room instantly changed the second they took the stage. They were one of the loudest, tightest bands we had seen all day. (AS)
German singer Anika made a splash with her 2011 icy postpunk debut album. Her new project is Exploded View, conceived in Mexico City and based around the chemistry of her and the band (which includes Martin of Los Fancy Free). The songs were all based on improvisation and were all and recorded in one take. We are very curious as to what this will be like live. (BP)
Girls Names were once, basically, the Irish equivalent of Crystal Stilts but have grown into their own sound. Last year’s Arms Around a Vision was a big leap for them; still drawing from post-punk influences but they really make it their own here. Equal parts snarl and despair, the LP is also tuneful, with inventive arrangements and a big beating heart. Their SXSW appearances include our Saturday day party. (BP)
You may remember Gwenno Saunders from kitschy UK group The Pipettes. Having gone solo under her first name, Gwenno released her debut album, Y DYDD OLAF, which is light years away from her old band’s girl group sounds. A concept album inspired by an obscure 1970s Welsh language sci-fi novel, the LP is lush, earthy synthpop with serious prog and krautrock influences. She’ll play our free Saturday day party amongst her SXSW appearances. (BP)
Into It. Over It.
Into It. Over It. is the project of Evan Weiss, who’s been in too many great bands to count. The first truly great record he was a part of was The Progress’ 2005 debut Merit, which was doing the ’90s-emo revival thing long before the thinkpieces, and the new Into It. Over It. record is quite possibly his best release since. He made it with producer John Vanderslice, and it’s indie rock with hints of (John’s collaborator) Ben Gibbard and (Evan’s collaborator) Mike Kinsella. It’s also got insane drumming, courtesy of Josh Sparks. One of the shows you can catch IIOI at is the free BrooklynVegan Saturday day party at Cheer Up Charlies. (AS)
LA R&B trio KING recently put out a great debut album which feels equally indebted to ’70s quiet storm, ’90s slow jams, and modern-day neo-soul. It feels instantly nostalgic but manages to sound futuristic too. Their record release show in NYC proved they already know how to command a crowd too. One of the shows you can catch them at is the free BrooklynVegan Friday day party at Cheer Up Charlies. (AS)
We put a couple artists on this list who owe a thing or two to ’60s/’70s country (Margo Price and Kacey Musgraves), but it’s also worth mentioning that you can see an actual artist from that era at SXSW this year. 83 year old country legend Loretta Lynn has been putting out records for over 50 years, and she just dropped her first new LP since 2004, which is a genuinely good album. Her official show is at 8:15 PM at Stubb’s on Thursday. She’s on first, right before 2016 buzz band Sunflower Bean (followed by mindie pop singer Lapsley, British MC Stormzy, and folk singer Jake Bugg). (AS)
Kacey Musgraves may exist in the world of major label, chart-topping country, but she’s shaking things up in that world. Whether she’s covering Gnarls Barkley, collaborating with Brian Wilson, or opening for Neil Young, it’s clear that she has no intention of being pigeonholed. Most importantly though, her stuff just sounds good. Last year’s Pageant Material was an effortlessly enjoyable album, one you could just throw on at any point. She’s getting bigger and bigger, so take the chance to catch her before her only SXSW appearance is headlining a show at Stubb’s or something. (AS)
Oxnard, CA’s Anderson .Paak bridges the gap between soul, funk and rap. He can truly sing and truly rap and truly drum. He’s gained comparisons to Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper and James Brown, and that only begins to give you an idea of what he sounds like. After getting a serious profile rise from appearing on the new Dr. Dre album, he put out his own new LP Malibu that easily lived up to its expectations. As you can see for yourself at SXSW, he’s even better live. (AS)
Pinegrove have a familiar story. They’re a young indie rock band who don’t live too far from New York City and built up a small local following off the strength of a ton of songs on bandcamp before signing to a larger label. Don’t let that fool you into thinking they’re just another dime-a-dozen indie rock band though. Their new LP Cardinal (on Run For Cover) is equal parts scrappy indie rock and twangy alt-country, and Evan Stephens Hall has one of the more memorable voices to come out of this scene lately. One of the shows you can catch them at is the free BrooklynVegan Friday day party at Cheer Up Charlies. (AS)
Surely no one reading this list needs to be recommended Iggy Pop, but it’s worth reminding that he’ll be back at SXSW, and with a killer lineup. His current band includes Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme and Dean Fertita, and Arctic Monkeys‘ Matt Helders (the lineup he made his new record with), plus QOTSA’s Troy Van Leeuwen and Chavez’s Matt Sweeney. The new album is a good one, recalling his late ’70s collaborations with David Bowie. They’re sure to play us some classics too, and Iggy still delivers those old songs with more energy than… well, most musicians. (AS)
Nashville country singer Margo Price’s debut album doesn’t come out until the week after SXSW (on Jack White’s Third Man Records), but even just going by the two singles she’s released, it’s clear she’s someone to be excited about. First single “Hurtin’ (On the Bottle)” is a rollicking song that sounds like a fresh update on mid-’60s country, and “Hands of Time” is a much more melancholic song that proves Margo is an expert storyteller. She’s got a hell of a voice too. One of the shows you can catch her at is the free BrooklynVegan Saturday day party at Cheer Up Charlies. (AS)
Sisters Taraka Larson and Nimai Larson have been making “Now Age” pop as Prince Rama since the late ’00s, but the Brooklyn duo blossomed with the just released Xtreme Now, which puts serious hooks into their glittery parallel universe. Prince Rama are always fun live and are prone to audience participation. When did you last aerobicize? Catch them right before CocoRosie at our Friday day party. (BP)
The last time Detroit’s Protomartyr played a BV SXSW party was in 2014 where they played an early slot. Two great albums later, Protomartyr have further honed their wry, dystopic vision and will headline our Saturday day party at Cheer Up Charlies. It’s one of only four shows they’re doing in Austin, catch them wherever you can. (BP)
Montreal’s Sheer Agony are students of the classics: The Kinks, dB’s and Sloan, making quirky guitar pop that tracks frontman Jackson Macintosh’s travails through day jobs, social circles and dating. Their sound is is almost entirely out of step with what is currently going on in the musical zeitgeist which is probably exactly where they want to be. Last year’s Masterpiece was one of 2015’s most underrated albums and Sheer Agony are a tight, punchy live band too, just like you’d want with this sound. (BP)
Liverpool, UK band Stealing Sheep don’t sound like anyone else, mixing faery folk and synthpop into an utterly original sound. They band’s live show — a mix of coordinated costumes, killer harmonies, and a kitchen-sink approach to recreating the album’s sounds — really won us over at CMJ. SXSW can be a haze, but you’ll remember seeing Stealing Sheep. (BP)
Seatlle’s Tacocat court a fun image — their name is a palindrome, their lyrics often winking or pop culture referencing or both — but they’ve always used it to highlight serious issues. The band get tad more serious (and a little mad) on new album Lost Time, while still delivering big riffs and anthemic choruses. (They also wrote the theme song for the new Powerpuff Girls series.) We’re looking forward to seeing them at our Saturday day party. (BP)
Brooklyn’s TEEN, featuring sisters Teeny, Katherine and Lizzie Lieberson, just released their third album, Love Yes. With it, they have found the sweet spot between their arty, proggy first album and the nu-R&B of their second, making for what is easily their best record yet. The Liebersons are a musical family, and the harmonies and musicianship is evident at their live shows.
White Lung put out one of the best albums of 2014 with Deep Fantasy (I’d argue it was the best album), and from the sounds of new single “Hungry” their forthcoming followup will continue to push the envelope. They make punk rock that’s as melodic as it is aggressive, as complex as it is no-frills. With a singer who’s as commanding on stage as artists who play arenas, it’s tough to see this band and not feel something. (AS)
When Smith Westerns broke up at the end of 2015, singer Cullen Omori went solo, while members Julien Ehrlich and Max Kakacek formed Whitney. Both will be at SXSW this year, but we’re most excited for Whitney whose current “No Woman,” is a gorgeous post-Velvets countryfied ballad, that makes a very tasty appetizer for the band’s full-length debut, due out later this year via Secretly Canadian. Lets hope they play some songs of that album at our Friday day party. (BP)
Working with Loop’s Robert Hampton at Geoff Barrow’s Invada Studios, UK band Younhusband made 2015’s Dissolver, a wonderful, lightly psychedelic record that owes debt to early Brian Eno, VU, the C-86 scene, ’90s shoegaze…and yet doesn’t really sound like any of those things, specifically. Main man Euan Hinshelwood keeps things understated with melody in focus always, making for a perfect Sunday morning record to drift along with. SXSW will be Younghusband’s first full-band shows. (BP)