Getting Excited About SXSW Music? Here are some more recommendations!
Music Schedule, which means the Operation Every Band crew is hard at work digging through numbers to figure out the best showcases night by night.
While searching and typing, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that the overall quality of artists this year is the best I’ve seen since starting this project informally four years ago. Even last year, there would be review runs with little to nothing drawing any real interest for bands on end, but that truly isn’t the case this year. ”Lo Fi” has taken a backseat this year to make way for clean and accessible production, a result both on changing tides in the indie music landscape and the increasing ability to record solid tracks with little more than a laptop, a microphone and a mind for inventiveness.
This communal discovery going on to incorporate hooky pop tones into all sorts of genres, from electronic experimentations to Americana roots rock, is a wellspring of sonic opportunity. Creativity without creating distance between band and audience, this trend should make for an exciting 2013. The great thing about accessible pop/rock music is that it translates wonderfully to the stage, so look for an overflow of highlights pouring out of SXSW come March.
Speaking of highlights, I’ve queued up some tops of the pops recommendations for the SXSW Baby readers, ranging all across the sonic spectrum. Be on the lookout for waves of day show announcements and more showcases throughout the next couple weeks, so now is the perfect time to get your artist research in.
Roadkill Ghost Choir
Roadkill Ghost Choir emerged out of Florida late last year with the release of their debut EP, Quiet Light. This five-track introduction is pretty revelatory as the band melds Americana, indie rock and spaced out pop into a really engaging sound. With the exception of the driving rock piece “Drifter”, Roadkill Ghost Choir keep the pace relatively slow, sometimes borderline hypnotic. While they capture a strong overall sound, Roadkill Ghost Choir also has some excellent sonic touches throughout the EP. The consistent banjo line provides the track for “Beggar’s Child” to steam forward while “Tarot Youth” pulls some melodies right from the Thom Yorke playbook. There’s been a little bit of groundswell in 2012, so SXSW provides a great opportunity to get in front of more ears for this eager, new band.
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.
While I pretty much knew this would be something I’d enjoy when I read the descriptor “Icelandic melodic folk”, the music of Ásgeir Trausti impressed beyond my expectations. Trausti’s soulful vocals recall Jeff Buckley, emoting nuanced intonations that rip right for the heart. There are a few ways to take Trausti’s debut Dýrð í dauðaþögn, which comes across both as a minimal moment of beauty and dense and engaging layering of folk-based instrumentation. Both sides are executed strongly, but I’m a sucker when Trausti breaks everything down, so I have my fingers crossed for some solo performances at SXSW. While songs in Icelandic probably aren’t heading towards the American mainstream, there is definitely a crowd who will adore this, so look for Trausti to generate a good deal of buzz as he gigs through Austin in March.
With just a two-song demo available online, to call Tallows under-the-radar would be an understatement, but that doesn’t take away from the indie pop success they achieve with “Soft Water” and “Small Talk”. Built with deep percussion, Tallows moves forward with a layered approach from effects-laden instrumentation. This sound falls right in between ambience and driving rock, a dynamic approach that displays a great deal of maturity from a band that has been in formation for only around a year. While one might expect combining sound upon sound would yield a dense environ, most of the time Tallows presents itself through laid back, hypnotic lens, nicely breaking down to one or two channels as a way of breathing in before exploding through an unexpected chorus. If this is just a demo, the real thing could be a real game-changer as Tallows heads into 2013.
Add Tom Odell to the list of English singer-songwriter wunderkinds at SXSW this year, an artist who completely has the ability to break out off the release of his upcoming debut LP, due in late March. Lead single “Hold Me” is a tender piece with a huge chorus, a great vehicle to highlight Odell’s innate vocal talent, striking tones from the ghosts of Jeff Buckley, but with more anthemic pop leanings. There are a few other Odell tracks from a 2012 UK EP that extend the emotional timbre displayed on “Hold Me”. “Another Love”, a soft piano ballad, embraces soft ambience before a choir segues the track into a pulsing, indie rock stanza. “Sense” is even starker and his arguably his strongest early performance, a mournful croon that comes off as well beyond his years. While this might too far onto the pop spectrum for some, I have a really good feeling about this record and look forward to trying to sneak a preview at this year’s SXSW.