Another musical selectionbox from Operation Every Band
This week has been all about the numbers as the band list grows (and shrinks) on a daily basis. In fact, hundreds of artists will end up dropping off the roster after spending some time as an official SXSW artist. There have already been some huge names that won’t end up heading to Austin this year (Alex Clare, Alt-J, Aloe Blacc, Amon Tobin…and that is just in A’s) as well as many of our favorite under-the-radar artists.
When it comes to “the fallen”, stories range from financing issues, visa disputes and scheduling conflicts, but it does seem that artists post “with a heavy heart” when they need to announce that they will not be able to join in the fray. So we don’t lose the recommendation, you can find most of the former SXSW showcasers on The Spreadsheet coded in grey.
On the other hand, excellent artists are being added daily without the hint of an announcement. The Operation Every Band crew has been diligently adding the latest additions to our own spreadsheet, so we’ll consistently have a running count available. At this point, we can confidently say over 75% of the roster has been announced, but historically many of the bigger names don’t make their way onto the roster until pretty late in the game.
By the end of the month, 99% of the roster will be locked in and OEB is setting their listening and rating deadline for then. By beating the clock by about two weeks, we’ll be able to provide some additional insight and reflection on what the story of SXSW 2013 will be before it is written.
For now, I have some ripe OEB recommendations from pop, rock and folk fields. Be on lookout for all five of these artists to break out internationally in varying degrees — this is one of our strongest highlights yet.
Much like Mark Blankenship, I had a hard time figuring out whether The Mowgli’s are a grand indie pop band or an over-the-top sugary tidal wave. It was then that I was taken back almost exactly a year ago to a review I wrote about discovering fun., when I thought the same exact thing. While there are parallels between both bands’ sounds – strong hooks, crazy vocal abilities, walls of harmony in the chorus – The Mowgli’s have some really special moments throughout their debut EP Love’s Not Dead. While “San Francisco” seriously has the ability to be a hit single if it can catch a wave, the whole EP has something to offer and really fleshes out the sound of what I believe is one of the next great indie pop bands. The rustic folk energy of “Time” and “Carry Your Will” is a perfect counterweight to the handclaps and sunshine of “San Francisco” and “The Great Divide”. I’m selfishly hope that The Mowgli’s can stay under-the-radar nifor another month-and-a-half, but I have the feeling they may already be in the process of blowing up.
One of the brilliant things about the folk rock genre is the opportunity a minimal base allows for dynamics. Nashville band Night Beds takes full advantage of that opening on their first two singles from their upcoming debut record, “Ramona” and “Even If We Try”. Country Sleep is due in a little over a week, but for now it’s easy to see that Night Beds has a nicely defined sound right out of the gate. Their instrumentation is consistently lush, whether they are in the pocket of country grooves or in the midst of a string quartet. In fact, the rock energy of “Ramona” is most realized as a counterbalance to the solemn beauty of “Even If We Try”. Night Bed’s also released the EP Every Fire; Every Joy, which is a more restrained sound than what Country Sleep is gearing up to be. I think there may be something special at play here…
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.
Palma Violets somehow find some middle ground between garage rock and shoegaze pop on their debut double-single “Best of Friends”/”Last of the Summer Wine”. “Friends” is easily the stronger of the two, feeling like the teenage anthem of 2012. Palma Violets may be an unknown name here, but they’ve already scored decent success off the single in the UK, which is a great setup for their debut LP, 180, set for release this February. In fact, the band recently scored a nod from the BBC (Sound of 2013 Longlist) and NME (#1 track of the year). The merging of genres that emanates throughout the tracks – psychedelic rock, catchy pop, sweeping melodies – is truly a wonder, especially for such a young band. It should be an interesting 2013 for Palma Violets, so their SXSW sets are going to be high on the priority list.
UK buzz band Peace have already built some steam overseas and is yet another SXSW act honored on the coveted BBC Sound of 2013 Longlist. The best way to describe Peace’s sound is through the multitude of influences that reside through their early tracks. “California Daze” features complex harmonies amongst a dazed, beachside pace. “Bloodshake” drives with intense, danceable rhythms and catchy hooks. Their strongest track is also their latest, the epic “Wraith” which deviates splendidly in and out of the base song. These breakdowns in a way recall the mentality of an EDM artist and are a wonderfully unique addition to the British rock sound. Be sure to stick around to the end; I love the way the track plays itself out with a whisper. Hell, the beginning riff could pass for a melody of a later-era Dave Matthews Band song. Above all, Peace are an incredibly tight and inventive band considering they’ve only been giggling a little over a year. Look for a hot SXSW set as the band hopefully has their eyes set on a debut LP in 2013.