Another week, another collection of highlights from Operation Every Band
Operation Every Band: OEB’s 5 SXSW Qs. Simply put, we ask five questions, a few of which will be specifically about SXSW, to get the artist’s perspective on what playing the conference this year means for them as well as to get some insight into their music and songwriting processes. After sending out requests to our favorite showcasing artists this year, the response has been overwhelming, which means we’ll have plenty of artist interviews all the way through March.
It’s incredible to see these artists young and old put so much thought into expressing themselves through words and I for one am excited to read up on this new, exclusive content. I’m particularly excited to see OEB take some next steps to becoming a key resource for music fans and industry descending upon SXSW this year…one small step at a time.
As always, I have some key recommendations queued up for the SXSW Baby! followers.
I wonder what I was listening to when I rated High Highs a “4” in 2011. Shortly afterwards, this Brooklyn via Australia indie pop band released their self-titled debut EP, a wondrous, albeit too short, journey through clean, shoegaze pop. High Highs is about to release their debut LP and judging from a KEXP performance from this year’s CMJ Conference, High Highs have become an excellent band over the past two years. First off, I don’t know any other artists out there that are combining folk-based song structures with electronic experimentation to the degree that High Highs has succeeded. This music is hypnotic, interesting and surprisingly accessible. For a duo, High Highs delivers a sound that is knowingly sparse, but there is zero sense of anything missing. Lastly, singer/guitarist Jack Milan has discovered a wonderful voice, recalling a young Thom Yorke when he jumps into his upper registers. I predict a big year for High Highs if their debut LP expectedly holds up and it can reach enough ears.
Hemsworth is a producer and remixer. He makes beats. Hemsworth leads the charge of Canadian beat makers, weaving together strands drawn from various points on the American pop and rap timelines. His setlists are littered with his own remix and bootleg work.
Healthy doses of hip hop, some up-tempo dancey tracks. Samples and synthesizer chords. Hemsworth’s original works are usually instrumentals that can stand on their own (that is, instead of a rapper sullying the already strong product). I appreciate Hemsworth’s versatility. Scrolling through a handful of his works, each piece accomplishes something new, but certain consistencies of the production tie disparate works together (such consistencies, for instance, the tight, tappy high hat; certain distorted synth effects; fidelity to the downbeat). Hemsworth is exemplary of a true “beats” genre. Not hip hop, not electronic, not dance. Beats. He will find friends in Austin, which is home to a small but very well-nourished beats community.
Hemsworth is finishing up what appears to have been a somewhat breakout year. Amid the original production including his Last Words EP, Hemsworth has put together a number of exciting, sample-heavy mixed sets. The notoriety has not stopped him from generously sharing tunes with fans. His Facebook page includes a link to a downloadable collection of every mixed set of 2012. That’s a solid move by this promising beat maker.
Humans! They’re here! Humans! Humans are shadowy shouts of breath. Humans are kick drum beating hearts, pounding away at the cellar door, and together we heave and clutch up toward that blinding sliver of light, and together we will join them.
In a young yet already too comfortable world of drum machines and synths, the gene pool has quickly saturated itself with casual players that tend to wield their new tools indiscriminately. But out there, myth has it, are Humans. It’s a bleak, noisy world. Do not fret, though, because electronic music has leaders, and they are Humans.
Humans are evolved. Humans do not run screaming toward the enemy. They ponder and plan, they orchestrate the approach, they sit peacefully and practice design. Humans are adaptive. Humans have harnessed their newfound tools and through creative industry, produced genuine, exciting throbbing pieces of music. Their music fills a room without overwhelming the sonic spectrum. You can identify the discrete elements buzzing, beating, island steel, metallic clinks and leathery thuds, organs and faint strings, chants and claps. Humans co-opt the tools of the assembly line and produce artisan sounds.
Take these gifts and care for them the way they care for you. Humans.
Houndmouth have only been gigging for about a year, which is a surprise considering their mature, alt country sound. The band masterfully employs two singer-songwriters, playing Matt Myers’ gritty croon against Katie Toupin’s smoky, country-tinged vocal. Though there is only a four-track EP to go by at this point, Houndmouth bleeds some strong potential to breakout at SXSW. This all comes down to their impressive musicianship, dipping into slow country rock grooves with the upmost grace. Lastly, Houndmouth is a storytelling band. Their lyrics draw back to the olden days, noted with song titles including the words “Penitentiary” and “Big Oil”. Obviously, the band inspired by The Band has some more material available for their SXSW run and hopefully there is a proper record in the works for next year.
The dreamy pop sounds of Highasakite are as unique as they are engaging. The Norwegian band released their debut record All That Floats Will Rain overseas last year and it is truly a triumphant effort. The songs range from the epic majesty of “My Soldier” to the uplifting sentiment of “Indian Summer”. This is the summer hit that never was (or just “hasn’t yet”). Not only does Highasakite possess a full musical palette, their sound oozes passion and confidence. Album closer, “The Heron”, even pulls in hints of Sigur Ros, layering soprano melodies over wave of harmonic chording. Highasakite are as exciting as they get for this project, a relative unknown with unlimited potential. Amazing stuff…