Operation Every Band’s SXSW Baby! Music Picks – 2 Weeks To Go
You read that right, we a couple weeks away from the start of SXSW Music and the Operation Every Band accelerator is fully pressed until the first notes are played that Tuesday evening. Continuing in tradition, I have some of top discoveries this week amongst an extensive list of talented and ambitious artists. Today’s SXSW Baby! set includes immediate rock band The Strypes, majestic songwriter Sivu, inventive sonic creators San Fermin, industrial dream rock band Roman Remains and ambient soul songwriter RAJ.
The Strypes – “Hard to Say No”
Pairs Well With… Arctic Monkeys, Jake Bugg, Nirvana
A first listen through The Stypes’ run of 2013 introductory singles has yielded one of the most immediate impacts amongst the 1000+ artists covered already. Raw rock and roll and passionate everything, this music is so believable and demanding. There’s a heavy 70s rock influence here, drawing from established roots in terms of a baseline sound, but the youth relevance is really what shines. Even a cover of “Come Together”, which I figured would be some throwback tribute, is pure power and impossible to turn away from. This may be the freshest sound I’ve heard all year. The band, whom are still at high school age (!!), have already had a huge impact overseas, but it seems like this may be one of their first trips to the US and I imagine they will do no less than bowl over all audiences. A true must-see.
Sivu – “I Lost Myself”
Pairs Well With…The Shins, Franz Ferdinand, Bon Iver
Listening through Sivu’s recent singles and EPs, it seems like there are two distinct sides of this promising singer-songwriter. Take his latest track “Can’t Stop Now”, a jangly rock song that feels like an evolution of The Strokes into some indie pop soundscapes. Mirror that against the minimal, ethereal “Communicate”, a stunning crooner that builds with orchestral majesty. The fact that this can come out of the same songwriter, especially this early in his career, is telling that Sivu is an easy artist to watch through 2014 and beyond. The song that seems to fall right in the middle is “I Lost Myself”, a strong introduction of Sivu’s mix of introspection and pounding electronic rock tones.
San Fermin – “Daedalus (What We Have)”
Pairs Well With…The National, The Dirty Projectors, Sufjan Stevens
When checking out San Fermin, be sure to dig beyond a single or two, as chief songwriter Ellis Ludwig-Leone reveals himself like a slow peel, a skilled composer in a range of emotional genres. In fact, my first though upon hearing lead single “Sonsick” was how much it sounded like Lucius (spoiler alert: it’s Lucius), a couple of the twenty-two musicians that make up San Fermin’s wildly ambitious debut. It’s a remarkable effort, equaled in execution as intent. Ludwig-Leone employs a third primary vocalist as part of San Fermin’s conversation – Allen Tate carries a rich baritone that sounds on the verge of tears at times, somehow matching the emotive power of San Fermin’s pastoral and ethereal landscapes. I know we all have a lot of bands to listen to, but a complete run of San Fermin’s debut is now required listening for all OEB devotees. It’s a perfect record and is an easy must-see at SXSW 2014.
Roman Remains – “This Stone Is Starting To Bleed”
Pairs Well With…Sleigh Bells, Nine Inch Nails, Beach House
There’s a fusion element with Roman Remains’ music that somehow allows the electro-pop duo to stand out as wholly unique on a 2,000-plus artist roster. While there’s a baseline of dream pop that is so familiar in the electronic pop/rock soundsphere, it’s the industrial rhythms and harmonies that propel Roman Remains forward. It’s utterly demanding and intelligently placed, not overpowering yet it feels like the force of a thousand drums. Even the softer numbers – “Sweet Dreaming” and “True Nature” – have their moments of abrupt intensity. Roman Remains is an offshoot of UK rock band The Duke Spirit (Liela Moss and Toby Butler), but this might turn into a primary focus if their expected full-length this year follows in the epic trail of “This Stone Is Starting To Bleed”.
RAJ – “Let Me Love You”
Pairs Well With…James Blake, Twin Shadow, Frank Ocean
RAJ’s music lies under a cloak of mystery, musically pairing experimental bass tones and emotional guitar/piano chords for an already heartbreaking tone on latest single “Let Me Love You”. RAJ’s painstaking vocal shares his story with a natural honesty, a necessary counterbalance to the coldness of his music. “Let me love you ‘til it hurts.” RAJ is a newcomer with his first single “Ghost” debuting just towards the end of last year, a song that concentrates fully on the build. In fact, it isn’t until about three minutes in until RAJ opens the sonic gates with patient success. At only 20, it’s easy to see a bright (well, maybe that’s not the right word given RAJ’s emotional density) future for this emotive powerhouse.