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Operation Every Band’s SXSW Baby! Music Picks – 4 Weeks To Go

We are a month away from SXSW. It snuck up this year, right? As expected the past few years, Operation Every Band is teaming with SXSW Baby! to share the cream of the crop of emerging SXSW artists. Operation Every Band’s yearly mission is to review every band showcasing on the SXSW roster. This ends up being about 2,300 artists over the course a few months, a passion project demanding dedication and hopefully a relatively object set of ears. I do the bulk of the reviewing along with Nate Headden on hip hop/R&B, Lucas Holl helping out with EDM and Alison McStravick keeping us all in check.

The payoff comes from discovering countless bands of every genre imaginable in the purest sense – simply listening, feeling, and frankly, judging to give the artists we need to tell the world about an outlet. Primarily, Operation Every Band feeds through Tumblr (~34,000 followers), but check us out on Twitter, Facebook or the ole’ world wide web.

If you’re falling in love already, check out our OEB SXSW 2014 Donator Packages for the real deal, including a series of guides to the best parties, showcases and one-offs going down in Austin.

For SXSW Baby!, I’ll be sharing the top picks on the list, a taste of what is to come down on 6th Street and beyond next month. Today’s pick cover the beginning of the alphabet and features the inventive folk rock of Ages and Ages, London’s melancholy rock band Arthur Beatrice, the expansive Boy and Bear, down-tempo electro-R&B outfit DEMS and anthemic indie pop band Eliza and the Bear.

Read on for the videos and our thoughts….

Ages and Ages – “Divisionary (Do The Right Thing)”

Pairs Well With…Lord Huron, Typhoon, Hey Marseilles

Folk-pop band Ages and Ages’ latest single is one of the most pleasant surprises of this year’s SXSW project. “Divisionary (Do The Right Thing)” is a track that starts with a whispered mantra, a lone strumming voice walking life’s highway. One by one his band joins in – drums, piano, handclaps, harmonies. A minute-thirty in, “Divisionary” turns into an orchestral folk anthem, an album’s worth of adventuring in the blink of an eye. Here’s to a breakout year for Ages and Ages, be on the lookout for their sophomore full-length, also titled Divisionary, this March.

Arthur Beatrice – “Carter”

Pairs Well With…The Naked and Famous, The National, The xx

It seems British rock artists Arthur Beatrice didn’t quite peak my interest through SXSW 2011, but the band’s earlier material has taken the path that should be taken with the sporadic tracks that have been released since then. There are two distinct sides to Arthur Beatrice represented by their dual lead singers. Orlando Leopard takes influence from new wave and delivers his lyric in a dramatic baritone. Ella Girardot is all pop, looping around catchy hook after catchy hook in a sweet, depth-fueled melody. This mix gives Arthur Beatrice a well-rounded edge, distinguishing them from the many introspective indie rock bands they’ll be sharing stages with at SXSW. Look for their debut LP, Working Out, early next year.

Boy & Bear – “Three Headed Woman”

Pairs Well With…Lord Huron, My Morning Jacket, Dawes

Australian folk rock band Boy & Bear followed up their 2011 debut this summer with Harlequin Dream, a mature record that lives off of road-worn tightness. These guys are really good at what they do, catchy rock songs with an eye towards the past, this is more The Band than it is The Mumfords. It’s with a pacing energy that Boy & Bear succeed bass, falling into driving grooves instead of trying to explode into some might chorus. It’s a great choice and shows how far Boy & Bear have come since first catching our ears at SXSW over three years ago. Honestly, this record deserves a full listen as the Aussie’s have already figured out – Harlequin Dream debuted over there at number one. 200 bands in, OEB delivers it’s 2nd “10” and it is well deserved, truly a perfect record for the sound Boy & Bear were looking to achieve.

Dems – “Canvas World” (ft. Claudie)

Pairs Well With…The xx, Crystal Castles, King Krule

It’s rare to see this much restraint in pop music, let alone something parented from electronic dance music. British trio Dems’ finely detailed tracks pull back at just the right moment, leaving ears to free-float for just a few seconds before a clever melody gently guides you back into a verse. Dems stick mostly in the down-tempo throughout their series of singles over the past two years (five songs and a cover so far), but there are moments to groove to – this is a heady listen, but far from a sleepy one. Top that with some really inventive production, rhythmically and melodically, and Dems is set up for a head-turning SXSW if this aural beauty translates to the stage. Lastly, Dems feature some stunning vocals (guest vocals aside), influenced as much in soul and R&B as traditional synth-pop.

Eliza and the Bear – “It Gets Cold”

Pairs Well With…fun., Of Monsters and Men, Walk the Moon

Eliza and the Bear are a group of UK newcomers, but look for a breakout year for the energetic popsters based on the strength of these early singles. Eliza and the Bear’s sound is huge, a party-in-a-box loaded with melodies, percussion and joyful vocal harmonies. The denseness of these songs is really remarkable given the introductory nature of one-by-one singles you tend to hear from a new band. When choruses explode with angelic horns like on tracks “Brother’s Boat” and key single “Friends”, it’s hard to not give into the natural goose bumps of such a joyous run through indie pop. If Eliza and the Bear are just getting started, then there’s plenty of incentive to catch a small-gig show at SXSW. I may even be too late by then…

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