SXSW 2014 Preview: Thirteen Bands/Musicians We’re Psyched To See This Year
Welcome to my “Baker’s Dozen of Must See (Relatively) New Acts at SXSW 2014” Blog, if you’re heading to Austin this week…and why wouldn’t you be? I mean, we’re all teachers who get Spring Break off, right?
1. Syd Arthur
The first thing that struck me upon hearing Canturbury, England’s Syd Arthur (and it’s a band name, not a person’s name, so please don’t ask “Which one’s Syd?!”) was a musical resemblance to a friend of mine’s amazing band from the early 2000s called ALAN. Of course that’s no help to you, but like ALAN, the band is progressive in their use of multiple time signatures and a violin player. Also like ALAN, they have a tenor with an angelic voice for a singer. Unlike ALAN, their violin player is the nephew of Kate Bush. Also unlike ALAN, they wander a little into Dave Matthews acoustic guitar finger-picking land on occasion, but I’ll forgive that (hopefully I catch them playing electric). I nearly overlooked Syd Arthur due to their name. I fully expected a folk singer named Syd with a guitar; now they are one of the bands I’m most looking forward to seeing!
Chicago’s Bonzie (the stage name of singer/songwriter Nina Ferraro) comes to me courtesy of my favorite folk duo, The Milk Carton Kids. Joey Ryan of TMCK sang on a song, and Kenneth Pattengale played guitar on “Felix” on her debut album, so I checked out the rest of her music. I’m sure thanks to a similar age and hairstyle she is probably getting comparisons to Lorde, but musically she seems influenced by Jeff Buckley, Radiohead, and perhaps Chrissie Hynde. It doesn’t hurt that she’s absolutely stunning.
3. The Crookes
Funny; I’m doing these in alphabetical order, but I’m already sensing a trend toward ’90s-style Britpop. Not a surprise, I guess, considering that next to ’60s Britpop, ’90s Britpop is my favorite rock genre… I saw The Crookes last year at SXSW, so they’re not as “new” as some of the other bands on the list, but they still need a push of publicity, so here I am to provide it. One of my favorite ’90s bands was called Gene, with their singer Martin Rossiter. Most critics naturally compared Rossiter to Morrissey, and it was a pretty obvious comparison. Now there’s George Waite of The Crookes, who has a certain Morrissey tint to his voice, but much more resembles Rossiter. The rest of the band follows suit, with rocking power-pop songs that owe a debt to The Housemartins, Supergrass, and The Jam. When I saw them last year, it was a highlight. Can’t wait to catch up with them and their new songs.
4. The Darcys
The Darcys of Toronto, Canada, are my “most regretted band I didn’t get to see at SXSW 2013.” Well, I wish I’d seen HAIM, too, but at least I got to see HAIM later on at ACL Fest. This year I’m going to remedy last year’s mistake. The Darcys dwell in Radiohead and Jeff Buckley territory without getting too much into the technology that Radiohead has been spending the last few years perfecting. It’s interesting to note that The Darcys put an album of their own renditions of Steely Dan’s AJA, although I much prefer their original songs.
Drenge, a band from Central England (Derbyshire, for you geography buffs) are the first of two punk/rock duos on my list. The band consists of two brothers, Eoin (guitar/vocals) and Rory Loveless (drums). It says a lot that a band makes this list without a bass player. And certainly in this bassist’s opinion, Drenge could benefit from a great bassist, but even without the low end (though I think Eoin uses an octave pedal sometimes to get some low end), the songs are solid. And here’s another Morrissey-esque voice for you. Throw in some Nirvana grunge-style guitar and catchy riffs, and you get the idea. I’ve been digging these guys from afar for about six months now, so I’m stoked to finally see them.
Hozier hails from the east coast of Ireland. He plays gorgeous, folk-tinged soul music. I’ve got a Rhapsody playlist with three songs each from about 100 bands playing SXSW this year, and I never skip his. I listen to “Take Me to Church” and “Like Real People Do” every time it shows up on the shuffle. As part of the trend I seem to be following (well, it’s my musical tastes, right!?), he sounds quite a bit like Jeff Buckley, but with a slightly deeper, more soul-influenced voice. Perhaps Nick Drake is another good comparison.
I think if I had heard Brighton, England’s Kins‘ self-titled debut album last year, it would have made my top 25. With swirling synthesizers, clean jangly guitars, and plaintive tenor vocals, one can’t help but think of Animal Collective and Local Natives as cycled through a decidedly British band (think Thom Yorke singing for Grizzly Bear, with occasional My Bloody Valentine tendencies). This band should surprise a lot of people at SXSW. They have less than 3000 fans on Facebook, but that’ll change if they get the right exposure, and it looks like they are. After all, this Texan found them, and now so have you.
Misterwives, out of New York City, make me want to dance and have fun. Another great thing about them is that singer Mandy Lee‘s vocals are big and full. She’s the type you’d expect to see in the top 10 of American Idol (with the pretty face to match). Thank goodness she hasn’t (as far as I know) taken that route, because those talent shows seem to take the most amazing voices and homogenize them into crap. The rest of the band aren’t slouches, either. They make music that fans of MuteMath and Ke$ha alike should enjoy. I’m hearing this type of music a lot in my research of bands going to SXSW, and Misterwives does it as well as or better than all the other bands I’ve heard.
9. Moon Honey
If you know me, you know I’ve been raving about this Baton Rouge band for about five months now, ever since I got my hands on their new album, Hand-Painted Dream Photographs, last October. Their progressive, operatic, seemingly stream-of-consciousness music draws me in and doesn’t let go until I’ve shaken my head free of it with another band’s music. Maybe that sounds like a bad thing, but believe me, it’s not. Since those five months have gone by, I saw them back in early December, and they were supposed to play another gig in Houston in January but had to cancel due to the slippery streets across east Texas and Louisiana. Man, am I looking forward to getting my fix at SXSW!
10. Morning Parade
I’ve got four more bands left, and they’re all from “across the pond.” I must admit, I’ve been giving special weight to British/Irish/European bands this year, because it’s more unlikely I’ll ever get to see them again than the American acts. Morning Parade are very commercial-sounding. Funny thing about me and bands that sound a little too commercial is that if I feel like I’ve found out about them before they really hit, then it’s not as tough for me to like them. But if they get famous before I start liking them, then I probably won’t latch on to them. Fresh off their tour with Biffy Clyro, Morning Parade will turn a lot of heads at SXSW this year, so get in on it with me before they’re all over The Buzz and we have to cut them loose.
11. Royal Blood
The second of the two punk/rock duos on my list, Royal Blood from Brighton, England, were one of the few (if not the only) rock band on the BBC’s “Sound of 2014” poll list. That piqued my attention, and listening to them made me realize why they were on the list. ROCK AIN’T DEAD! Think Sabbath, Zeppelin, White Stripes, Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age. And get this, instead of guitar and drums like Drenge, who I covered earlier, the singer plays bass with effects on it to make it sound more guitar-like. Yeah, I think I can go for that.
12. The Strypes
Speaking of bands that will remind you that ROCK LIVES, Ireland’s teenage band The Strypes (probably the worst-named band I’ve heard in a long long time) take rock and roll back to its roots. If you were able to go back in time, naturally you would go back to The Cavern Club in Liverpool in 1962. And there you’d hear a dozen bands just like The Strypes. If you throw a little Arctic Monkeys in with the sound of the supergroup band that did the soundtrack to the Beatles movie Backbeat, you’d pretty much have their sound nailed. Here’s The Strypes:
And here’s the Backbeat band, because you really should see it:
I go way back. Not all the way back to the ’60s, but way back. And if it came from the ’60s, I have probably bought it at some point. England’s Temples worship ’60s psych, just like Olivia Tremor Control did, and so you get a very similar sound (of course, OTC is a little more lo-fi, four-track-sounding). I can’t listen to Temples without thinking Olivia Tremor Control — the melodies are OTC. The harmonies are OTC. The drums are OTC. But nothing is original, and it’s okay, because I do love OTC and can always find room for more of it in my life. These guys are going to be on everyone’s top 20 lists come year-end, so get out and see them now.
Finally, here’s a list of twenty more bands I’m hoping to catch at SXSW 2014. Some of them are more established acts I didn’t think needed the publicity that the above acts do. Some are just bubbling under the surface and didn’t quite make the top 13. Enjoy!
American Sharks, Atlanter, Band of Skulls, Boy & Bear, Circa Zero, Cotton Mather, Lee Fields and the Expressions, The Haden Triplets, Holy Esque, The Kooks, Latasha Lee and the Black Ties, Lily and the Parlor Tricks, Lucius, Matrimony, Jessica Lea Mayfield, Paper Lions, Sleeper Agent, The Soft White Sixties, The Tontons, The Wytches, and The Whigs. END