Operation Every Band’s weekly round-up of the best of SXSW Music
This week has been a short reprieve on the listening front over at Operation Every Band as the team just finished off with the bands from the second batch of announced showcases. I’m hoping SXSW Music will launch the third and largest band list in the near future, but until then I’m taking a chance to listen back and reflect on some trends in the rock, folk and pop categories.
The folk-rock genre continues to be one of the strongest and most well-represented groupings at SXSW, with many acts taking on the quiet and rambunctious corners of the field. In terms of pop music, artists have generally gotten more dark and experimental with their sound. Even Charlotte Church, an artist who once lived in the widest range of appeal, is now exploring introverted, grey ballads. The futuristic take on R&B that Frank Ocean has so well captured is also an important tenet of 2013, infiltrating the sound of so many young, experimental artists. The last observation is the growing number of bands fronted by female artists, best represented by recent BBC darlings Haim.
These early trends are normally not only an indication of what we’ll be hearing at SXSW, but also the music community in 2013 in general. I’ll be sure to keep a close ear as the project continues – we still don’t at least half the artists who will be showcasing down in Austin.
Time for this week’s set, For more, keep following along at Operation Every Band for tunes and SXSW Baby! for your latest conference news. Enjoy!
There is much to be encouraged by in Desert Noises’ debut 2011 LP and this year’s follow up EP I Won’t See You. First, there is the laid back alt-country demeanor, finding pop hooks and energy in a traditional backdrop. Maybe you’re grabbed by their natural lyrics or is it the bluesy guitar riffs? For me, the most interesting element of Desert Noises’ music are the complex rhythmic elements that jump out throughout their catalog, from the staggered beats of “Highway Cars” or the tribal patterns of “Oak Tree”. The band carries a driving energy that I’m sure translates awesomely to stage, so maybe this will be a bit of a breakout year for this young rock outfit.
Fossil Collective are a refreshing entrant into the British folk rock movement that’s swelled as of late, mainly because they don’t try to sound like they’re from the 1850s. Though Fossil Collective’s sound is based off of clean, acoustic instrumentation, the band takes some intelligent cues from indie pop peers. If you turned the feedback up, these songs could fit into a mainstream playlist. Not to say that Fossil Collective is cheery, their tone actually has a layer of sadness over the course of two 2012 EPs. There are even points when Fossil Collective sound like they could go into a dreamy, post rock mode, highlighted on the excellent “Everything But You Was Facing North”. Overall, everything about Fossil Collective is beautifully executed, especially for such a young band.
It took a little bit, but I started to get genuinely moved by Foxygen’s music once I got where they were going. There are tons of different 60s rock influences that play into Foxygen’s music (Stones, Beatles, Doors, etc.), but the true inventiveness in their work is how quickly they are able to jump back and forth between these seemingly disparate sounds. Those changes are so intriguing and a great way of updating such a classic sound. Within twenty-second segments, you’d think this came from a B-side of a seminal rock record. When listened to as a whole, it somehow becomes totally unique. Foxygen are a really intriguing new act and could make some waves if enough people give it enough time to lose themselves in this incredibly eclectic listen.
Astute OEB listeners may already recognize Jenn Grant’s voice from her work with rapper Buck 65 on “Paper Airplanes”, highlighted just a couple days ago. Just the idea that Grant finds creative middle ground with a talent like Buck 65 is telling and translates directly to Grant’s music. She’s a bit of chameleon throughout her catalog, exploring upbeat pop, minimalist folk and every tone in between. Her latest, 2012’s The Beautiful Wild, is a decidedly inward-facing album, drawing from the darker corners of Americana. This is actually my favorite side of Grant’s personality, especially compared to the pop tone of 2011’s Honeymoon Punch. The commitment to allowing space and room for the songs to breathe allow Grant to shine at the top of her game.
Pacific Northwest singer-songwriter Noah Gundersen carries a great deal of power both with his lyrics and his voice. There’s a pained edge that coats Gundersen’s melodies. Musically, this is best described as dark, acoustic folk. It’s a minimal presentation as often only accompanied by his sister Abby on violin and backing vocals. That’s about it on record, but some live videos reveal a full band in tow. This simple backbone allows Gundersen to go into full storytelling mode and allows the listener to really focus on the words. Gundersen draws influence from the folk greats of the 60s, finding simple and effective rhyming patterns to present his introspective lyrics. I’m pretty enamored track-by-track as I’ve been listening and would love to spend a set at SXSW taking in the quiet presence of Noah Gundersen.
We’ll have more next week from Kevin and his team next week, or you can head over to Operation Every Band.