33 artists we’re excited to see at SXSW 2018
by Andrew Sacher, Amanda Hatfield and Bill Pearis
SXSW is already underway, and the music portion officially starts this Monday (3/12). BrooklynVegan is throwing FIVE shows, including two official night shows (badge or wristband required) and three FREE day parties (RSVP), and we hope to see you at those. We're looking forward to everybody we booked (or we wouldn't have booked them), but of course we couldn't book everyone we're excited about. This list includes 33 artists that we're especially looking forward to, some of which are playing BV shows and some of which are not. Read on for the list, in no particular order...
As many of today's young indie rock bands grew up on '90s / '00s pop punk and emo, a bunch of bands from that scene have recently been re-evaluated within indie rock circles. One of the very best was Say Anything, who had already been railing against the indie rock cool club in their lyrics for years, all while always deserving to be part of it. There really isn't another band in the world who fucked with pop punk's formula to the point of making a record as uniquely ambitious as ...Is A Real Boy. And there really isn't another band who can say they've collaborated with members of Rainer Maria, Paramore, Braid, blink-182, Los Campesinos!, Touche Amore, mewithoutYou, The Front Bottoms, Japanese Breakfast, The Hotelier and That Dog (among so many others) throughout their career. Their live show still rips today, and you can see it for yourself when they headline the BrooklynVegan/Dine Alone/Buzz Records showcase on Wednesday night at Swan Dive. They play right after Trail of Dead.
After years of making arty, warped, socially conscious pop mostly with samples, Meg Remy switched up her M.O. for new U.S. Girls album In a Poem Unlimited. She brought in eight-piece Toronto supergroup The Cosmic Range to giver her songs more of a human touch. She’s still pulling from ‘60s girl groups and R&B, but theres a real ‘70s vibe this time out, adding glam, glitter, disco and funk to her arty mix. The difference really becomes apparent with her current live show which has the big band (with a tiny saxophone) bringing U.S. Girls to electric life. Among their shows this week: the first of BrooklynVegan's three day parties at Cheer Up Charlies.
Becca Mancari is one third of Bermuda Triangle with with Alabama Shakes frontwoman Brittany Howard and Jesse Lafser, and she's also a great solo artist who released her debut album Good Woman last year. The album got some much-deserved praise in country music circles, but it went sadly overlooked in indie rock circles, where it also deserves attention. Becca's a very strong songwriter, and her songs have as much in common with Sharon Van Etten, Angel Olsen and Big Thief as they do with country music. If you're into those artists and haven't checked out Becca yet, don't leave SXSW without checking her out. One of the places you can see her is the Thursday of our Lost Weekend 2 day parties at Cheer Up Charlies. Listen to Good Woman on Spotify.
Hop Along are gearing up to release Bark Your Head Off, Dog, the follow up to their excellent 2015 album Painted Shut. Of the songs we've heard so far, "How Simple" and "Not Abel", are any indication, we're in for another great album from the band. Live they're a force, with Frances Quinlan's ferocious, one of a kind voice cutting through any amount of clamor, and we're looking forward to catching them, and hearing more songs from their new album, on the Friday of our Lost Weekend 2 Day Parties at Cheer Up Charlies.
Punk-feminist collective Pussy Riot are heading to America for a "live music performance art tour," and given what we know of the group, it'll be a must see. Known for their political activism, including incarceration for "hooliganism" following their protest of Putin's re-election as President of Russia, Pussy Riot's balaclava-clad members also deliver charged electro-pop. And if any of it makes you uncomfortable, like their latest song with Dave Sitek, "Bad Apples," that's part of the point. "Hope you are not going to like our new track, since it's dedicated to really disgusting things," they say. "Hope you will turn it off, go out and act."
Common Holly is the project of Montreal musician Brigitte Naggar, whose great debut album Playing House came out in the US last year. She makes a dark blend of folk, jazz and pop that has gained her a few comparisons to fellow Canadian artist Feist, but Common Holly is really a force of her own. We named her one of the best new artists of 2017 off the strength of her quickly unmistakable style. Stream her album on Bandcamp and catch her at the Thursday of our Lost Weekend 2 day parties at Cheer Up Charlies.
We’ve been fans of UK band Girl Ray for a couple years now, having first caught our attention opening for Chastity Belt in London in 2015, and they kept us interested with a series of charming singles. Their 2017 debut album, Earl Grey, was worth the wait: tales of teenage romance and heartbreak set to verdant indie-pop that recalls Cate Le Bon and Gorkys Zygotic Mynci by way of Brill Building era Carole King. Girl Ray stop in SXSW in the midst of their first North American tour (opening for Porches), and will play BrooklynVegan's Thursday day party at Cheer Up Charlies.
Sacramento rapper Mozzy has been at it for a while, but he's really been taking off lately. He landed a spot on Kendrick Lamar's Black Panther soundtrack, and he's been putting out several of his own releases every year, all of which seem to get more attention than the last. As an MC, he's the real deal, and I have a feeling he'll have no problem holding crowds' attention at SXSW. Stream his new EP.
Melbourne band RVG basically don’t sound like anything that’s going on currently in that city or anywhere else in Australia. They do, however, recall much of the country’s strident melodic alt-rock of the ’80s — part Before Hollywood-era Go-Betweens, part The Triffids’ sweeping scope, with some of Crime & The City Solution’s gritty romanticism and Hunters & Collectors’ anthemic tendencies. The force behind RVG is singer/guitarist/songwriter Romy Vager whose confessional lyrics — with subjects including love, death, substance abuse, and the isolation of being trans — go hand in hand with her impassioned delivery. RVG’s debut album, A Quality of Mercy, is strikingly assured and we're anxious to see what they're like live. They play the BrooklynVegan day party on Saturday at Cheer Up Charlies.
Brooklyn’s Bodega have been around for a while, having grown out of the band Bodega Bay, shortening their name and condensing, morphing into a more focused sound that draws from situationist post-punk with a strong anti-consumerism streak. Their forthcoming debut album, out this summer via What's Yr Rupture?, was produced by Parquet Courts' Austin Brown. The first single "How Did This Happen?" is a good example of what they do. Powered by a driving beat, it's crammed with hooks, soundbite-friendly lyrically barbs, and manages to get in and out in three minutes. Catch their charged, very fun live show at the official BrooklynVegan SXSW showcase at Scoot Inn on Thursday night (with Ted Leo, Wye Oak, and Bully), among many other shows during the fest. [B.P.]
Max Clarke is a man out of time, seeming to have drifted in from a lonesome town where sodas are still a nickel, rotary phones are the communication method of choice, and The Everly Brothers and Ricky Nelson are all over the AM radio. Moving from Chicago to New York, Clarke made most of his debut album with Foxygen's Jonathan Rado who captured the wistful quality of the songs without letting things slip into pastiche. Max is a real charmer live, too, whether he's being backed by an ipod (complete with canned applause and laughs) or his band (which often features members of Woods).
After a promising 2015 EP, Zoe Reynolds got some new musicians together to record her debut album as Kississippi, and going by lead single "Cut Yr Teeth," we're already anticipating that it's gonna be a great one. We're probably not the only ones who are excited, as she was picked to open the Dashboard Confessional / Beach Slang tour. She'll be a good match for that tour, and will also appeal to fans of stuff like Waxahatchee and Modern Baseball. If you dig those bands, check out "Cut Yr Teeth" here. Catch Kississippi on the Friday of our Lost Weekend 2 day parties at Cheer Up Charlies.
You might recognize Leikeli47 as the rapper who always wears a mask, and you might have heard her music on HBO's awesome Insecure, but if you haven't heard her awesome 2017 album Wash & Set, that's worth changing. She sings and raps and has a genre-defying approach to hip hop that's gained her a few comparisons to M.I.A. but, while those two artists may share an approach, Leikeli's sound is all her own. Watch her new "Attitude" video here.
Rising Portland, OR singer-songwriter Haley Heynderickx just released her very good debut album, I Need To Start a Garden. On it, she showcases vocals that are at times reminiscent of Angel Olsen, and guitar stylings that range from gentle folk to rock to doo woo-inspired sounds. She's an engaging live performer, too, as we learned firsthand when we caught her debut NYC show. Catch Haley on the Saturday of our Lost Weekend 2 day parties at Cheer Up Charlies.
COURTNEY MARIE ANDREWS
Alt-country/folk singer Courtney Marie Andrews has notably collaborated with Will Oldham, Damien Jurado, and Jimmy Eat World, and it's no surprise why respected veteran artists like those would want to work with her. The title track/lead single off her upcoming album May Your Kindness Remain (due 3/23 via Fat Possum/Mama Bird) combines Joni Mitchell-esque folk with gospel harmonies, and it's really a next-level song for this kind of stuff. Listen to it here and hear more of her stuff at SXSW, including the Saturday of our Lost Weekend 2 day parties at Cheer Up Charlies.
Seattle indie rockers Special Explosion won us over with their 2014 EP and then went pretty quiet, but finally returned late last year with their first proper full-length album, To Infinity, on Topshelf Records. It's a really great, really ambitious indie rock record that takes influence from hometown-area heroes like Death Cab For Cutie and Modest Mouse, but really brings that sound into the present. The record has gone pretty overlooked so far, but that deserves to change. Catch Special Explosion at the BrooklynVegan/Dine Alone/Buzz Records showcase on Wednesday night at Swan Dive with Say Anything, Trail of Dead, and more.
Kool Keith, Dan the Automator and DJ Qbert released the psychedelic rap classic Dr. Octagonecologyst back in 1996, and they're only just now giving it a proper followup (the "Dr. Octagon" music released between then and now is of questionable validity). Seeing them live is still pretty rare, so it's worth taking the chance if you can catch them at SXSW. Especially since the new songs sound great.
South Central LA rapper G Perico released some of the best G-Funk revival in recent memory with last year's All Blue, and he followed it with 2 Tha Left that proved he's no one trick pony. Perico continues to rise and it seems very likely that he'll be a household name soon enough. Catch him now so you can say you did.
Singer-songwriter Stella Donnelly signed to Secretly Canadian after releasing her debut EP, Thrush Metal and earning praise for her live shows in her native Australia. The EP, which she re-released with a bonus track, is a mostly minimal affair of guitars and vocals, but Stella's voice makes each song stand out. It's reminiscent at times of Courtney Barnett, at others of Fiona Apple, and her earnest, sometimes jazzy delivery makes it entirely her own. We're looking forward to catching Stella on her first US tour, which includes the Thursday of our Lost Weekend 2 day parties at Cheer Up Charlies.
Maxo Kream's Punken just may be the most fun rap album of 2018 so far. He's got the appeal of trap-pop, but he really raps in a way that trap-pop artists rarely do (and he knows it: "Remember back when music had content and metaphors / Way before the mumble nonsense and poppin' handlebars," he raps on Punken highlight "Roaches"). It's not every day that an artist can bring together serious lyricism and impressive delivery, and still make it sound ready for parties and the radio, but Maxo Kream does it.
Lucy Dacus, who we named one of the best new(ish) rock acts of 2016, just released her sophomore album and first for Matador, Historian. It picks up where her debut No Burden left off and expands on her sound, adding string arrangements and horns, but all without losing focus on her quiet wit or her warm, enveloping voice. Lucy is great live too, with a tight, keyed in band, and after having her play our parties in 2016 we're very happy to have her back this year on the Saturday of our Lost Weekend 2 day parties at Cheer Up Charlies.
Princess Nokia is one of New York's fastest rising rappers, and it's no surprise that she's been catching on. She's got the rhymes and the charisma, her own unique style, and her live shows are nuts. She's also a true hero. She recently signed to Rough Trade Records, who gave a deluxe reissue to her great 1992 mixtape and the new expanded version is very worth hearing.
Rapsody is the kind of artist where, even if you aren't into her, your favorite rapper probably is. Especially if your favorite rapper is Kendrick Lamar, who's collaborated with her several times, always to great results. Her Laila's Wisdom LP was one of 2017's best albums, and despite not being that popular, it somehow got nominated for a Grammy. (It didn't win, but still impressive.) Rapsody is a true master of the form, taking cues from greats like Lauryn Hill and Mos Def and making it all her own. Her lyrics are socially conscious, and her delivery is breathtaking. Listen.
Soccer Mommy's Fat Possum debut, Clean, adds tighter production to the laid back mood of Sophie Allison's Bandcamp EPs. The result is the best thing they've done yet, an instantly listenable album that invites listen after listen to soak in its slightly fuzzy melancholy. Soccer Mommy have spent some time on the road with similar-minded acts like Mitski and Phoebe Bridgers, both of whom they pair well with. Catch them at SXSW when they play the Friday of our Lost Weekend day parties at Cheer Up Charlies.
18-year-old Alabama rapper YBN Nahmir had one of the most effortlessly enjoyable rap songs of 2018 with "Rubbin Off The Paint." It's simple and lighthearted but the hook is undeniable, and it's very exciting to watch him rise up in the world. He's released a handful of other songs since "Rubbin Off The Paint," and even if none have been quite on that level, they've all been fun and all prove that he's worth keeping an eye on. Something tells us that he'll be a lot more famous by next year's SXSW.
SOB X RBE
Vallejo rap group SOB x RBE were among the artists chosen to be on Kendrick Lamar's Black Panther soundtrack, and it's so easy to see why he likes them. Like him, they've got equal interest in the veteran rappers who paved the way decades ago, and the sounds you hear on the radio today. Their awesome new album Gangin has some songs that sound like early NWA, and others that go for a modern, auto-tune-heavy sound. Whichever mode they're in, they kill it. Watch their recent "Carpoolin'" video.
There's almost no metal at SXSW this year, and most of the very few good metal bands aren't playing official shows. But as far as metal bands on officials go, your best bet might be Spirit Adrift. They do a similar trad-doom revival to bands like Pallbearer and Elder, and last year's Curse of Conception is a great example of this. Whether you're especially into metal or not, it's really just a record that any rock fan could like.
We haven't seen any SXSW shows announced for Young Dolph yet, but he's on the schedule so hopefully one is TBA. If he is indeed playing, we highly recommend catching him. He's been prolific for a while now, and one of his finest efforts is last fall's Thinking Out Loud. It's ten songs, all of which are bangers, and Dolph's simple-but-effective delivery sticks with you instantly. For a taste, check out "What's the Deal."
Montreal’s Corridor have built an entirely new car out of old parts. Guitars jangle like early R.E.M. or The Feelies, and parry and dodge like XTC, with lush harmonies and the occasional odd time signature. Not exactly new kids on the block (they formed in 2013 or so), their sound came into full bloom on 2017's joyfully electric Supermercado. They’re even better live and you might not even notice when you see them -- like at the BV day party on Thursday (in partnership with M for Montreal) -- that all their songs are in French.
Oakland G-Funk revivalist Kamaiyah's 2016 debut mixtape A Good Night in the Ghetto was one of the most enjoyable albums of 2016 thanks to Kamaiyah's addictive melodic rapping style and her ability to make a 16-song project with wall-to-wall jams. Her Interscope debut has been delayed, but she continues to drop singles left and right so hopefully it's coming soon. Here's one of the best ones:
Metalcore/metallic hardcore/whatever you wanna call it probably wouldn't exist without Integrity, whose 1995 sophomore LP Systems Overload is a definitive album of the genre. Integrity are still going strong today, and last year they released the killer Howling, For The Nightmare Shall Consume. They don't tend to go on lengthy tours, so any chance to see them is pretty special. They aren't playing any official SXSW showcases, but you can catch them at Thrasher Death Match.
NOLA sludge vets Eyehategod continue to be one of the genre's most furious bands -- they are certifiable legends but also a relevant, fresh-sounding band. They recently got back with frontman Mike IX after he underwent a successful liver transplant, so it's even better news than usual that they're playing. They aren't playing any official SXSW showcases, but you can catch them at Thrasher Death Match.