SXSW Overflow: Day Eleven (SPORTS, Brown Shoe, Sofia Talvik, Each Other, Jack of Hearts, & More)
Yep, it’s Monday, March 19th, and here we are, back again with Day Eleven(!) of this year’s SXSW Overflow Fest — as always, hosted over at Super Happy Fun Land, otherwise known as the quirkiest/neatest venue in town…
There’s a damn good lineup tonight, and hey, I’m actually not late, for once. Yay! Alrighty, enough of that — here we go:
SPORTS: Whoa. Alright, so imagine what The Hold Steady might sound like if it weren’t fronted by Craig Finn but by Okkervil River main man Will Sheff; that’s the image I can’t get out of my head while I’m listening to SPORTS — the Rochester band’s music is rootsy and careworn, touching on old-school boogie, workingman’s bluesy rock, and thumping, garage-y punk, all with Ian Proper‘s adenoidal growl, a nice, nice organ sound, yell-along backup vocals, and a sharp, smart post-punk sensibility.
Get there early to see these folks, seriously. Here’s a player for last year’s self-titled debut:
LITTLE SPOON: I hate to say it, but Little Spoon is making my headache worse. It’s mostly a matter of timing, really — my head’s been hurting all day to begin with, and then I’m adding this band’s clanking, thumping percussion to the mix…gah.
That said, I’m attempting to fight through the pain, because what’s beyond it is interesting, all washes of distantly-heard voices, somber rhythms, and an almost church hymn-like feel to the whole thing. I’m told the band’s “slumbergaze,” but while that definitely captures the somnolent nature of their sound, it doesn’t really capture it for me — this is more ambient than anything else, with the vocals so buried they’re nearly pointless, just little added elements of sound flittering in the background.
Listen and bliss out (unless you’ve got a headache, apparently):
BROWN SHOE: Swooping, swooning indie-rock that’s atmospheric as hell but still somewhat rootsy at the same time, Brown Shoe comes off like a cross between the high-pitched gorgeousness of Sun Kil Moon and the thundering grandiosity of Coldplay. It’s beautiful and yearning, with arena-filling, thundering drums, fragile beds of keys, and Verve-sounding, soaring vocals, and yeah, it’s sucked me in pretty completely, kneejerk skeptic though I was at the start. (I mean, c’mon — does everybody in the band have to have a mustache? Really?)
Just take a listen to full-length The Gift Horse, and you’ll see what I mean:
And hey, you can download the seriously Coldplay-esque “Late Nights” for free, too:
SOFIA TALVIK: I’ll admit to being somewhat biased towards Swedish musicians, these days; few other countries crank out that many crystalline-perfect pop songwriters, year after year and decade after decade (think Abba, Peter Bjorn and John, Miike Snow, The Cardigans, Jens Lekman, Jose Gonzalez, etc., not to mention less-pop folks like The Knife or The Hives).
And happily, Swede Sofia Talvik doesn’t shatter my illusions, delivering an impeccably-crafted set of songs that draws on gentle country-folk and fey indie-pop, somewhere in between the mysterious beauty of Eisley (or maybe Tori Amos) and the floating folkiness of Hem. It’s good stuff.
Oh, and if you do miss seeing Talvik tonight, you’re not completely out of luck — she’ll be in the H-town area for the next couple of days, playing Tues., March 20th at Dunn Bros. Coffee in Katy and Wed., March 21st at Dunn Bros. Coffee in Spring. Listen here first:
EACH OTHER: Wide-grinning, sharp-edged almost-pop from Montreal, Each Other are remarkably addictive despite the inherent “broken”-ness of their sound; the songs jump and start, scraping and stabbing when you’d think they would be carving out a melody or something. Instead, the guitars do things they sound like they really probably shouldn’t, but holy shit, it all fits together somehow, like a really weird, improbably jigsaw puzzle.
If you need a comparison, I keep coming back to The Minutemen, although these guys are way, way cheerier and less frantic — think the seminal punk band mashed together with the sunshiny, who-cares? pop of, say, Surfer Blood or even Vampire Weekend, and you’ll get the idea. Check out last year’s Taking Trips EP, right here:
JACK OF HEARTS: There’s a very cool murkiness to this Atlanta band, one that takes what could be fairly basic, low-key indie-rock and makes it a whole lot more intense and mysterious. Jack of Hearts play like a darkened-alleyway younger sibling to The Arcade Fire, the one who gets in trouble for sneaking out to head into the city and do questionable things in the early hours of the morning. They step along slowly but smoothly, projecting a confident cool that’s pretty damn impressive.
I’m liking this one a heck of a lot, seriously. Check out full-length Hard Feelings:
GUN PARTY: Yet another crew of Atlantans — did y’all all drive to SouthBy together or something? — and again, Gun Party are somewhat on the “dark” side of things. It’s a bit more overt here, mind you, with the band diving sideways into rolling, snarling gothabilly at points and making me wonder if the “Gun Party” moniker’s not intentionally close to The Gun Club, after all…
Then they shift gears, though, and segue straight into more retro-cool ’50s pop that sounds like it could’ve danced its way off the Grease soundtrack…and then they do it again, switching into dramatic, desperate, skittering rock. There’s an odd theatricality to the whole thing, but that just makes it more intriguing. Here you go:
KINGDOM OF SHARKS: Alright, so first things first — I’m a sucker for band names, and I can’t help but like Kingdom of Sharks based on that alone. That said, remember that headache I mentioned? Yeah, it’s worse now. KoS are full-on noise, essentially layers and layers of frantic, ear-destroying static, weird moaning sounds, and occasional nonsensical ranting. Not my thing, honestly, but hey, if it happens to be yours…
Enjoy some eardrum destruction from KoS’s 2009 release, Diary of Lynch:
DEGOLLADO: Can’t find a whole lot by fellow Virginians Degollado, unfortunately, but they seem to share not only a geographic kinship with Kingdom of Sharks but a bit of a sonic one — the bits I’ve heard so far are noisy (although not always as abrasive as KoS), low-end-heavy sludge-rock, reminiscent of early proto-drone metal band Earth, or maybe newer stuff like ISIS, but with sporadic blasts of speaker-shredding feedback.
Again, not strictly my thing, although the non-static parts are pretty dang cool. Listen to the little bit they’ve got online, right here:
Alright, y’all — heading into the home stretch, here. Unless the SHFL schedule’s changed dramatically since the last time I looked, there’re only two nights left of SXSW Overflow; get over there while you can.