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.
This Canadian indie rock band formed in 2004. Members include John MacPhee, David Cyrus MacDonald, Colin Buchanan, Rob MacPhee . Their simple sound fuses pop and rock backgrounds with vocalist MacPhee’s sweet voice laying perfectly over tracks. They released their debut full-length album, Colour in 2006 and garnered much-deserved attention when they won the 2006 East Coast Music Awards for their EP, 6 Pack. —Krystle Drew
Matthew Houck has released six LPs under the moniker Phosphorescent over the past ten years, so this will not be his first performance marathon in Austin. The big difference now is that his imminent release, Muchacho, finds a genuine buzz surrounding his recording project, with the 18 months spent supporing Here’s To Taking It Easy having turned a number of heads. Houck brings a country-trained backing band with him usually, but the real treat comes when he goes it alone with just his guitar and a looping pedal.
Here’s a group of newcomers to keep an eye on. Just weeks ago, PHOX released a stellar group of tracks titled Confetti, which takes tired song arrangements and turns them upside down. The proof is in opener “Slow Motion,” a headphone-enhanced track that swaps instruments like the average SXSW attendee does business cards, spiraling through electronic blips and fingerpicked notes. It’s an expansive aural treat taking cues from Sufjan Stevens’ Age of Adz.—Tyler Kane
Seattle’s Pickwick has indie-rock roots (vibes player Kory Kruckenberg produced J. Tillman), and a love for both the garage rock of The Sonics and the soul of masters like Sam Cooke and Curtis Mayfield. None of that would matter, though, if frontman Galen Disston didn’t have the vocal chops to make that combination work. I caught the band at the Telluride Blues & Brews Festival in Colorado and invited them to play our SXSW party right there on the spot. We expect them to make a similar impression in Austin next week.—Josh Jackson
For Quiet Company, SXSW is just a walk in their own back yard, hailing from Austin itself. The band recently released its third album, We Are All Where We Belong, and if you haven’t caught on to the group’s brand of piano-driven pop and rock, now’s a good time. Although they might have lost some fanbase with a vocal shift in faith, Quiet Company’s proving to the masses that they’re only getting better with time, and there’s still space for deep thoughts inside irresistible hooks.
Ra Ra Riot
In pop music, consistency is a fickle bitch: Fans love swooning over a signature sound, yet no self-respecting band aims to write the same album twice.
That musical dilemma has defined Ra Ra Riot’s career thus far. Forming around Syracuse University’s campus scene in 2006, their trademark style was already fully realized: They blended the chilly art-rock romanticism of early Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel with the kind of polite, high-brow indie-pop Vampire Weekend exploded with just a year prior. The first Ra Ra Riot album, 2008’s The Rhumb Line, defined modern-day thinking man’s pop: sophisticated grooves, Wes Miles’ expressive tenor, the tense push-pull of Rebecca Zeller’s violin and Alexandra Lawn’s cello. But after 2010’s The Orchard, the band had grown frustrated with their own sound, boxed-in by their pre-set instrumental roles.
Finally freed from the “Ra Ra Riot Machine,” Wes Miles and company are invigorated, trying to push themselves forward as musicians and as people with their new album, Beta Love.
“Formerly, we’d probably be too afraid to try anything crazy,” Miles says. “But this whole record was sort of about letting go, having fun, and not over-thinking things.”
Take a listen to the new album below.
Handpicked by The Civil Wars as the opener for their 2011 sold-out tour, Rayland Baxter epitomizes genuine Americana folk music. With his southern-bred name and a father who has worked with the likes of Bob Dylan and Steve Earle, Baxter’s enticing vocals and acoustic-strumming easily allow the Nashville singer-songwriter to fully embrace and even stand-out in the currently widespread genre. After self-releasing his first EP, Baxter released his first full-length album feathers & fishHooks in August 2012 via ATO Records. With ample opportunities to catch the classic indie-folk musician’s set, Baxter will be featured at a slew of SXSW parties between Wednesday and Sunday. —Stephanie Sharp
With as many different instruments as Red Baraat features in its eight-piece band, it should sound like a chaotic mess. It shouldn’t work, but it does.
There’s a charismatic unity that flows over those energetic bhangra beats that gets everyone on their feet, even the usually reserved Al Gore.
And that sense of unity, paired with an intensely upbeat mix of bhangra, jazz, brass funk, hip-hop and go-go music, is definitely on purpose according to lead member Sunny Jain in Red Baraat’s website bio:
“We are simple creatures that desire community. If we can unite people of all backgrounds and ethnicities to partake in the exuberance of life through the universal language of music, then life is that much sweeter.”—Anita George
You can listen to the title track from Shruggy Ji below.
Perhaps most well-known for penning “Secret Heart,” a tune covered by both Rod Stewart and Feist, Ron Sexsmith began his rise to popularity with the release of his self-titled album in 1995. A prolific songwriter and tireless worker, Sexsmith has released 11 albums in the years since, including this year’s Forever Endeavour, released in February via Cooking Vinyl.
The singer-songwriter’s music is almost always catchy, even at its darkest, owing to melodic harmony that has been compared to Paul McCartney and Elton John. His lyrics are often brooding and introspective, but his insights into himself and the world surrounding truly set Sexsmith apart from the rest.
His emotional expression has become increasingly poignant with each subsequent release, and ‘Forever Endeavour,’ although not as poppy as the singer’s other records, represents the pinnacle of the Sexsmith’s efforts. “Nowhere to Go” and “Me, Myself and Wine” give lighthearted articulation to feeling lonely and useless, while “Snake Road” is a fun track about looking back on life and realizing not to make the same mistake twice.—Tyler Bowden
Shout Out Louds
Since 2003, it’s been a long, steady rise for Sweden’s Shout Out Louds, a band who has released four LPs, four EPs and countless singles over the course of a decade. And although it’s been three years since their last LP, their latest effort—Optica, set for a Feb. 26 release on Merge—is another stacked dose of their introspective dance-pop. It’s an album, as Bebban Stenborg wrote, that’s inspired by two things: time and light.
“Time,” Stenborg wrote, “because although we have been known to take our fair share of it between releases, this became the album where we made a conscious decision not to let time be anything but an anonymous passer-by.”
Wth a late February release of Optica, here’s one of your first chances to catch the Shout Out Louds’ new material on the road. You can take a listen to one of the new cuts “Walking in Your Footsteps” below.—Tyler Kane
So Many Wizards
Formed in 2009, So Many Wizards started as a solo project by Nima Kazerouni that changed course in all the right ways. Erik Felix and Warren Woodward joined Kazerouni and the trio began to play around Southern California. Upon Woodward’s departure in 2011, Geoff Geis and Melody Carillo joined and the band released Warm Nothing in 2012. At Paste, we called it “breezy, tuneful, dreamy and ultimately pedestrian” and pleasantly what you’d expect from an L.A. band.—Krystle Drew