100 Great Bands to See at SXSW 2013
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To celebrate the festival’s music section, which kicks off tomorrow, we’ve compiled a list of our 100 favorite acts heading out to Austin this week. Read about and listen to them all below.
Josh Ritter & The Royal City Band
Seven years ago, we declared Josh Ritter to be one of the 100 Best Living Songwriters, and with every album, he’s making us look better for that early declaration. His latest, The Beast In Its Tracks, is full of both heartbreak and that difficult path back to healing—all packed with clever wordplay and honest emotion. And even when the songs are sad, he has too much fun onstage for the moment to feel anything less than triumphant—the music seems to heal his wounds and yours.—Josh Jackson
Maybe it’s because he’s traveled so much since his childhood. Or maybe it’s his soothing, soft and light voice. But since his debut in the late 90s, Josh Rouse’s music with its earthiness and easy vocals is evocative of traveling troubadours: moving from one small town to the next, taking each destination’s stories with them and expertly weaving each story into their own folksy musical interpretation of the human experience.
And with the The Happiness Waltz, the part of the human experience that Rouse has decided to share with his fans this time around is his experience of being a family man while at the same time being a singer-songwriter, according to Rouse’s artist page on Pledgemusic.com.
The Happiness Waltz is Josh Rouse’s tenth full-length album and will be released March 19, 2013.—Anita George
You can watch an introductory video about The Happiness Waltz below.
If you didn’t have Kelly Hogan’s I Like To Keep Myself In Pain on your radar in 2012, you missed out. The album, which made our Best of 2012 list, is filled with piercing lyrics and powerful vocals and boasts standout tracks like “Dusty Groove” and “We Can’t Have Nice Things.” She’s worked with everyone from Neko Case and Jakob Dylan to Andrew Bird and The Indigo Girls, so there’s no doubt that Hogan’s performance of her own material at Stage on Sixth will be one to remember.—Dacey Orr
It used to be that Mike’s strangely lopsided catalog kept the prodigal talent out of Hottest MCs contention. But on his latest album, R.A.P. Music, he crosses the qualification threshold. Even putting aside his berserk, imagination-defying technical skill—he stays deep enough in the pocket to get lost there—there’s not a wasted breath on R.A.P. Music. After the lyrical blackout “Go!” and pulverizing breakbeat medley “JoJo’s Chillin’,” Mike offers words of caution on “Ghetto Gospel” and “Willie Burke Sherwood,” a children’s story told with the sensitivity and insight of Slick Rick.
If these tracks lament how people of color “get lapped by them guys selling lies for them white men,” then “Don’t Die” violently externalizes that feeling of disenfranchisement. “Back to the scene, goin’ wild in the bedroom/Grabbed the cop’s gun, left from leaking with a head wound,” Mike raps. The cop’s partner meets a similar fate: “Yelling ‘fuck em’ as I buck a 45 at his fillings/Trying to knock his brain through the motherfucking ceiling.”—MT Richards
“There’s nothin’ better than alone and stoned,” Kyle Thomas sings on the second song of his self-titled sophomore album. “Listenin’ to music on your headphones,” he continues the line, and it might as well be the modus operandi of his Sub Pop debut as King Tuff. Used to be, the man with a penchant for glammed-out, lo-fi pop perfection played his should-be hits for a select few; now, Thomas has a legit producer and a much-bigger set of songs to show for his efforts. The results, especially when they give equal time to his natural charm and knob-twiddler Bobby Harlow’s clearly natural talent (“Keep On Movin’”), are nothing short of spectacular.—Austin L. Ray
Thad Cockrell’s music as a singer/songwriter is, well, leagues away from LEAGUES. He spent years plying his trade in the alt-country trenches before joining with guitarist Tyler Burkham and drummer Jeremy Lutito and creating LEAGUES’ danceable rock. If you look back, though, the infectious melodies were always there; they’ve just been freed to move a little more. Cockrell, too, is no longer trapped behind an acoustic guitar. He leads the new band with only a mic in his hand, leading the dance party by example.—Josh Jackson
We declared her to be the Best of What’s Next way back in 2010, and we’re thrilled to welcome Lissie back to the Paste party at SXSW once again. The Midwestern singer/songwriter always brings with her a certain heartiness and willingness to dive into her songs full-force—and yes, probably a few stellar covers—that make her live show something not to be missed.—Bonnie Stiernberg
Check out her cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way” below.
From the same class of Kurt Vile’s forward-thinking takes on classic rock comes Mac DeMarco, a cigarette-loving slack rocker with a taste for jangly guitars and loose riffs. Although it wasn’t an easy path, the songwriter just released his second album, titled 2 last year and has been turning heads of critics and music fans ever since.—Tyler Kane
From the spastic shred-rock school of Don Caballero and Hella comes Marnie Stern, a virtuosic, two-finger tapper of a guitarist who’s got just as much pull with words, humor, melody and song structure as she does on a six-string. And while it’s easy to release a guitar-heavy album that lacks personality, Stern masterfully showcased technical skill on top of heaping piles of songwriting quirks on 2010’s self-titled release; She’s the kind of technical musician that young guitar heroes should be plastering all over their walls.
With her brand new album due out soon—with a hilariously tongue-in-cheek title, The Chronicles of Marnia, no less—there’s no better time to check out this rare talent. Don’t believe us? Take a look at this CMJ profile of the artist below.