Different people listen to music for different reasons. Our connection to music is personal, albeit in varying degrees from person to person—we can’t always relate to each other, but we can all relate to a good song.
With this in mind, The Music Bloggers Guide To SXSW is something that’s here for everyone. I’d like to give a huge thanks to all of our contributing bloggers for sharing their favorite up-and-coming artists from this year’s festival to give us all a little direction in connecting with this year’s amazing lineup—each of us in our own way.
Head of SXSW Music Festival
Montreal, Canada Electronic
Geneviève Ryan Martel, the producer, singer, songwriter, and DJ behind the project known as RYAN Playground, is the epitome of versatility and talent. The self-taught musical artist from Montreal, who’s also an accomplished fashion model, released a well-received debut album last year on Ryan Hemsworth’s label, Secret Songs. Geneviève handles all aspects of her music. She crafts her sophisticated songs out of a stirring mixture of pop, electronica, and hip hop. With effervescent bubblers like “I Won’t Sleep On You” and diaphanous haunting arias like “Are You Mad”, RYAN Playground immerses us in a world ethereal and surreal. Yet, the gentle push and pull of her finespun music are both intimate and familiar to the heart.
We Found New Music
WE FOUND NEW MUSIC is an artist discovery platform dedicated to introducing exceptional artists to music industry leaders and organizations. In the past 4 years, we have helped introduce over 300 artists through performance & interview sessions, blogs, radio shows, Concerts & DJ sets with today’s most relevant artists, including FRENSHIP, The Aces, Bishop Briggs, and Billie Eilish. This will be WFNM’s third time presenting an official showcase at SXSW. Learn more at WEFOUNDNEWMUSIC.COM.
Melbourne, Australia Electronic
The talents of Melbourne musician Oscar Key Sung seem to be unbounded. The Australian artist trades in sensual and layered compositions, fusing elements of R&B, pop and soulful vocals into intricate electronic soundscapes. He seems restless with his own ambition too, consistently pushing boundaries with his various projects (see the 2016 self-titled debut album from lossless, his collaboration with former high school rival HTMLflowers) whilst making certain each song he touches maintains its dance floor credentials. His music is both futuristic and reflective of a time gone by. Drenched in complex emotions, but still, undoubtedly, danceable. You could almost call it therapeutic in that ‘dance away your tears’ kind of sense.
Toronto, Canada Pop
Art rock kind of took a backseat to the indie scenes of the early 2000’s, thought it had endured the lull in some sense. We covered their addictive tune “Coocoo”, the playful and poignant call to understanding between two people. The band got cozy behind NPR’s Tiny Desk series and joined the ranks of KEXP alumni. Their conspicuously subtle experimentation contrasts the relentless earworms they’ve created. This kind of cool shouldn’t be taken for granted, so don’t miss them and their self-titled record out now.
All Things Go
Justin is a photographer and music journalist from Rancho Cucamonga, CA. As a photographer, he splits his time between Guatemala and the U.S., documenting music scenes in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and Antigua. As an editor at All Things Go, he curates innovative and unexpected new music. He loves travel, music and documenting that untold local history.
Glasgow, UK-Scotland Electronic
A Glasgow-based duo in thrall to minimalist Euro disco, who sing in French and are huge in the Russian underground scene, sounds like some sort of hideous hipster fantasy. But Happy Meals are very much real, and very good. Having met at high school, it was eight years before Suzanne Rodden and Lewis Cook started formulating ideas that would become Happy Meals—ice cold synths and smooth grooves, all built around abstract ideas rather than pre-determined structures. Since then, acclaim has come quickly—they’ve not only found themselves playing to delighted Moscow clubbers, but debut mini-album Apéro was nominated for Scottish Album of the Year. Their sultry synthpop and cosmic take on Italo is sure to bring them wider recognition in 2017 though, so watch out for one of electronic music’s best-kept secrets tearing up a dance floor or a party near you soon.
Drowned in Sound
Norwich, UK-ENGLAND Pop
Let’s do what? This British teen duo of childhood friends Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth is, fittingly, named after a common grammar joke. They’re a precocious pair, though—their latest album I, Gemini (2016) has been making waves for its well-done mix of ‘80s pop and something called “ethereal wave.” The headline here is their fabulously weird vocals—the girls always sing in tandem, high and dry in the mix, often breaking the melody to drop science like a hip-hop PSA in the school auditorium. Seriously, the effect is like Royal Trux but with Neil Hagerty and Jennifer Herrema replaced by dual Björks. There’s a sense of innocence and danger here, like a comfy old house in the woods with a wolf at the door. The old gag goes that “Lets eat Grandma!” and “Let’s eat, Grandma!” are separated by one tiny comma, and Walton and Hollingworth make music that sounds like endocannibalism is just as possible as tucking into some chicken casserole.
Nashville, TN Rock
Savoy Motel have roots in the garage rock scene–founder Jeffrey Novak was once roommates with Jay Reatard–but you wouldn’t necessarily know that off the bat when listening to the Nashville band’s self-titled debut LP. The record is more rooted in funk and freak rock than anything else, with a swirling, curious groove firmly holding together the smoky atmosphere throughout. But that said, it is something of a guitar record, just in a way that hasn’t really been en vogue since about 1978 (the year that their namesake, the Savoy Hotel, was demolished). Fittingly, at least several members of the quartet wear bell bottoms—and they all look like they know how to rollerskate.
Nate Rogers is an associate editor at FLOOD Magazine. He lives in Los Angeles, where he was born and raised—and will truthfully likely die. He is the magazine’s foremost expert on Nicolas Cage and Guided by Voices, as well as the frequent, understated intersection of the two. He is skeptical of any celebrity Twitter account that is actually funny. He still hasn’t seen Joan Didion in person but he looks for her everyday.
Reading, PA Metal
Reading, PA outfit Rivers of Nihil perfectly mix old-school Morbid Angel / Cannibal Corpse stomp and groove with new-school technicality, injecting a healthy dose of atmospherics into the mix for a truly unique blend of modern death metal. They’re one of the fastest rising stars in the DM world, and their captivating live shows will leave you mesmerized.
Boone, NC Rock
Let this North Carolina quintet teach you a lesson about judging a band by their name. Rainbow Kitten Surprise sounds nothing like the meme you are envisioning. Their alternative indie-pop noise is deliberate and sincere, framed by easy harmonies, introspective poetry, and the occasional hand clap. Fans of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, Stop Light Observations, and Boy & Bear will relish RSK. The band formed in early 2013 when Sam Melo and Darrick “Bozzy” Keller met in college. Their first EP was pieced together in an old Appalachian State University dorm, but needed more. Enter Ethan Goodpaster (lead guitar), Jess Haney (bass), and Charlie Holt (drums). RSK has released two albums to date and is working on new music in 2017. Memorize “Cocaine Jesus” and “Devil Like Me” before you catch them at SXSW.
Montreal, Canada Pop
With only an EP to her name, Charlotte Cardin has already proved to be one of the more interesting emerging voices in the indie-pop sphere. Her casual delivery and mixture of electro, pop and jazz sensibilities moves her music from being simply another sultry voice to something refreshing and new. A veteran of both reality TV and modeling, she eschews the expectations of a budding pop star, opting instead for complex songs with a mélange of production styles. Still, it’s her voice that carries the songs—vulnerable and strong at the same time, it’s the kind of voice that serves the music she makes perfectly. Cardin is an example of a popstar in the making who is stubbornly doing things her own way, and thank god for that.
The Wild Honey Pie
Hannah Angst is a former record store clerk turned editor of The Wild Honey Pie. In addition, she runs digital marketing for the label and management services division of Girlie Action. She enjoys talking about John Wick, learning the dances in K Pop music videos and struggling to finish crossword puzzles.
Austin, TX Electronic
Did any Austin artist have a better year than S U R V I V E? The synth collective not only landed global appreciation with their stellar soundtrack work on the surprise Netflix hit Stranger Things, they also caught the ear of the most elite of tastemakers with RR7349, a landmark album that may lack the immediate gratification of their soundtrack efforts but makes a better argument for the group as the most important synth artists of their era with its epically ambitious suites and casually cool pre-dystopic aesthetic. S U R V I V E made music for the year we all hoped 2017 could have been rather than the hamfisted, dad rock bloat it’s ended up being so far, and while we all are currently suffering living the effects of what appears to be an upside down reality, S U R V I V E persist as a beacon of art in a moronic wasteland.
Morgan Davis sells bootleg queso on the streets of Austin in order to fund Loser City, the multimedia collective he co-runs. When he isn’t doing that, he gets complimented and/or threatened by Austin’s musical community for stuff he writes at Ovrld, which he is the Managing Editor of.
Austin, TX Folk
An angelic voice awaits you all down in Austin, courtesy of one of the most significant songwriters you might not have on your radar. Adam Torres clearly knows the history of the songwriter’s canon, crafting intimate folk-inspired tunes akin to Nick Drake or Van Morrison. His recordings, such as those on Pearls to Swine, have an intimate quality that sets you inside the room with Torres, comforting you with a voice that has no comparison. For my two cents, these tunes elicit a spirit of wonderment, an abandonment of mundane activities in search of life’s great journeys. You’ll be grateful that Adam is here to provide you some solace, some comfort from a bleak world; mostly, you’ll be grateful that music like this still exists in small corners of the world, awaiting your discovery.
Austin Town Hall
Bloomington, IN Rock
It’s somewhat fitting that Hoops’ namesake is a hoop style greenhouse: the Indiana-based group, which started out as a solo project, specializes in summery, sweltering garage-pop (er, greenhouse-pop?). Last year they released an eponymous EP, as well as the aptly (if unimaginatively) named Tape #2 and Tape #3, all of which share a well-crafted atmosphere of lo-fi lethargy. The combination of languid guitar and lyrics that wander between existential boredom and breakup malaise is certainly calming, even if it doesn’t really say much: as frontman Drew Auscherman sings on “Give it Time,” “Give it time and I’ll be / Exactly where I used to be.”
All Things Go
A recent graduate of Davidson College, Peter Bowman is a filmmaker and writer based in Charlotte, NC, working on everything from shorts to music videos to commercials. He’s also a contributing writer for All Things Go and curates playlists for Let Me Get Music. He loves mopey French films, hates biopics, and wishes more people would listen to Jóhann Jóhannsson’s recent LP Orphée.
Seoul, South Korea Rock
As SXSW 2011 alumni, Galaxy Express made an impact by changing minds of audiences who only thought Kpop existed within the confines of South Korea. They proved that music goes beyond language boundaries and can communicate strictly through music. Galaxy Express is also one of the only bands to perform an extended US tour—the Wild Live 2013 tour saw the band play 26 times in a month. Galaxy Express are a rock band. However their albums hide the energy and intensity of a live show. The three-piece are seasoned performers and know exactly how to grab the audience’s attention with a single verse. If you want to see one of the best live shows possible, Galaxy Express is the band that can do it.
Brooklyn, NY Rock
Over the course of three albums that saw them rise from SUNY Purchase campus favorites to world-renowned Sub Pop signees, LVL UP have proven to be some of Earth’s most reliably excellent practitioners of indie rock in the classic, guitar-powered sense. Cribbing notes from an underground songbook that includes Calvin Johnson, Jeff Mangum, and Elliott Smith among others, the group’s talented trio of singer-songwriters peers into personal and metaphysical questions with piercing insight. For every unshakeable hook, there is a memorable turn of phrase to match, whether it’s Dave Benton chafing against divine interference (“God is peeking, softly speaking/ Fucking everything ’til I see”) or Mike Caridi bitterly wishing a dark future upon an ex-lover: “I hope you’re cold/ I hope you grow old/ And never find love”, may they continue converting their darkest anxieties into anthems indefinitely.
Chris DeVille is Senior News Editor at Stereogum, where he writes a weekly column called The Week In Pop and has penned cover stories on Run The Jewels, Tame Impala, DIIV, Future, Spoon, and the emo revival. He has written for a number of other publications including The Ringer, Deadspin, The Verge, Spin, The A.V. Club, Rolling Stone, and Columbus Monthly. He lives in Columbus, Ohio with his wife and daughter.
Denver, CO Metal
Formed in 2014, Necropanther offer up heaping helpings of melodic death metal. The Denver, Colorado based four-piece incorporates elements of Scandinavian-influenced extreme metal, Teutonic thrash and all-around technical guitar prowess into their repertoire. Self-described on their Facebook page as “Short thrashy death metal songs from a dystopian future” and now partnered with Sailor Records, Necropanther self-released their debut self titled full-length album this past August in digital format via Bandcamp and have been named by Westword.com as “one of the ten best metal bands in Denver.” Necropanther should be one of the more exciting metal discoveries headbangers come across this festival season.
Robert Williams is a Senior Staff Writer for Metal-Rules and Bulldozer Magazine. In addition to heavy metal journalism, you might catch Robert playing lead guitar for WITCHES MARK or as the rhythm guitarist in IGNITOR. He eats, breaths and sleeps Heavy Metal. One could argue that Heavy Metal is his whole world, well… besides fast girls and fast cars, anyway. His favorite metal bands include Accept, Angel Witch, Destruction, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Kreator, Manowar, Yngwie Malmsteen, RIOT, Twisted Tower Dire & Venom. Robert enjoys consuming copious amounts of cheap beer & malt liquor, worshiping his meticulously alphabetically organized CD collection & petting dogs.
La Coruña, Spain Latin Rock
Since they released their first disc in 2007, Triángulo de Amor Bizarro became a hit. They are from Coruña, Spain and their explosion of shoegaze/garage rock paired with lyrics about mysticism and Greek mythology, has taken them to perform in different festivals around the world. They have a style full of power, plagued with details and secrets in reverb. They name themselves after the song “Bizarre Love Triangle” of New Order. The trio comes from a rural environment and so they became a new venture that produced a different color for Spanish rock since their inception. They are influenced by bands such as The Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine or even a bit of kraut and noise by Germans such as Can and Neu! They have four studio albums: and eponymous 2007 LP,, Año Santo from 2010, Victoria Mística from 2013 and last year’s Salve Discordia, an album that reflects the consistency of genres with which they have grown since their debut.
We are Almendra Hernández, Aaron Cortés and Abraham Huitrón from Mexico City. The really peculiar and young music team at Sopitas.com. Our thing is to write a little bit of everything. We try to be very selective and careful with the content, videos, releases, concerts and band proposals. We support national talent #HechoEnMexico.
Seoul, South Korea K-Pop
Half brass and sass, half sultry sophistication, Red Velvet blends sugar, spice, and everything nice about Kpop into one five member girl group. After debuting in 2014 with their eclectic yet infectious single “Happiness,” Red Velvet has made a name for themselves as one of Kpop’s more experimental groups with a string of other off-kilter chart toppers, including their childlike yet cheeky “Ice Cream Cake,” their bold banger “Dumb Dumb,” and most recently a coquettish yet brassy single entitled “Rookie.” Red Velvet’s duality allows them to embrace conflicting concepts and sounds that make the group dynamic in a genre oversaturated with cookie-cutter Kpop. If you’re looking for a truly fun and colorful pop act this SXSW, come for the bold and brazen Red, and stay for the sensual, soft Velvet.
Hannah was born in Austin and raised on live music, later attending the University of Texas where she wrote an award-winning thesis on the rise of Kpop. After graduation, Hannah wrote for Billboard Korea before continuing her studies of Music Business at NYU in New York City. There, Hannah achieved her Master’s degree by publishing another Kpop dissertation, this time on the power of super fans in Korea. While at NYU, Hannah founded moonROK Media, Inc., the world’s premier English source of Kpop news and entertainment. She now works full-time as Editor-in-Chief at moonROK, and recently moved to Seoul to open up the company’s offices there.
Los Angeles, CA Rock
The first time I heard DYAN’s self-released debut album Looking For Knives was also in the same sitting as the second and third time. From the rowdy grooves of “Days Upon Days” to the ripping guitar solo on “St James” to the spine-tingling saxophone work that closes out the title track, it is the kind of beautifully layered and emotional work that doesn’t just reward consecutive listens, it demands it. It is the most stunning record I’ve heard in a long time. Perhaps the only thing finer than the record itself is watching the three musicians behind it play the songs live. No surprise that two thirds of the band write music for film and TV, since their ability to convey feeling and story in their songs is quite powerful. For me, a DYAN show is exactly the kind of moving and transportive experience that live music is supposed to be.
The Burning Ear
Hicksville, NY Rock
The first time you see The Lemon Twigs live you may ask yourself “where did these guys come from?” The technical answer is Long Island, but the real question is how uber-talented brothers Michael and Brian D’Addario, who are barely out of high school and have been playing music together most of their lives, came to a sound that owes more to Todd Rundgren, Bowie and The Raspberries than to anything from the last 30 years? The Lemon Twigs’s debut for 4AD would stand out in any decade, though, with their combo of sharp melodic skills, adept arrangements and serious musical chops. It’s live though, when you realize the band can nail those harmonies (and that Brian and Michael are both terrific guitarists AND drummers), that you realize they’re something else, and just getting started.
A lifelong music geek, Bill has been writing for BrooklynVegan for nearly 10 years, having lived through shitgaze, chillwave, seapunk and and other scenes he only sort of remembers. He is currently a Senior Editor at BrooklynVegan.
Los Angeles, CA Pop
You may think of Bridgit Mendler as the little girl who starred in Disney Channel’s Good Luck Charlie, but she has officially grown up. Now making her own solo music (and killing it) as an independent recording artist, Mendler recently released the Nemesis EP, which features the Imogen Heap-tinged track “Atlantis” and the stunning break-up anthem “Do You Miss Me At All”. Her voice is without a doubt a force to be reckoned with on its own, but her blend of alternative pop and R&B makes her a real gem. She is evolving, and her sound is getting fresher and glossier by the minute.
Kirsten Spruch is the current Managing Editor at music media site Baeble Music. After graduating from high school, she knew exactly what field she wanted to work in: music. On a whim, she decided to apply for an internship at Baeble, where she was hired as the social media coordinator after only one month. One year later and she is still at Baeble, but now as Managing Editor, where she manages a team of writers, interviews artists, reviews music, handles their social media, and hosts several on-camera segments such as The Writer’s Block, The Dive, and more. When she’s not at the office, she’s at her apartment in Greenpoint, Brooklyn working on her own music, which she writes and self produces.
Miami, FL Hip-Hop / Rap
The new generation of Miami rappers is here rattling the city. Yung Gordon is among them and is poised to break out. Hailing from the Opa-locka area of Miami, Yung Gordon shakes listeners with grimy bass and flowing raps underpinning a clear confidence. He even crafts new, unique dances for each of his tracks. It’s easy to see why he’s already captivated the Miami area. Yung Gordon has already received Internet success and local radio play from 99 JAMZ. What’s next for him is taking over the United States and SXSW is the place to start!
Woodbury, MN Rock
In 2017, it’s harder than ever for bright, buoyant indie rock to break through. The sounds of early Vampire Weekend and Young the Giant already feel passé in the cultural milieu—while those bands have earned the cred to keep carrying the banner, it’s increasingly rare to discover a new outfit worthy of following their footsteps. Consider Hippo Campus the exception. The young Minnesota four-piece has found the formula for relevant indie–equal parts harmonies, heart, and wisely rationed energy–and delivered it to the masses with their debut full-length, February’s Landmark. But don’t sleep on their earlier material, as the South and Bashful Creatures EPs earned them opening spots for the likes of My Morning Jacket, Modest Mouse, and The Mowgli’s. Fewer and fewer acts are able to make a true impact in pure indie rock; Hippo Campus are bound to be one of the few.
Consequence of Sound
Ben Kaye is News Editor for Consequence of Sound, a leading online magazine covering the latest in music, film, and television. Raised just outside Boston, educated on Long Island (Hofstra University), and living in Brooklyn, Ben has been covering music for some seven years now. In addition to helping run CoS’ daily news section, he contributes heavily to live coverage and features with both his pen and his camera. He has also worked in comic book journalism and owns what some would call an obscene amount of comics and memorabilia.
Los Angeles, CA Rock
Warbly Jets are an LA band that doesn’t want to sound like an LA band, which is probably why they look, sound and feel like Americanized Brit rock. “Alive”, their first and only single so far, is a sonic statement of intent, bucking the trend of overly nostalgic and fearful-of-modernity psych rock scene to explore the future of a technologically integrated and forward-looking rock music scene.
Seoul, SOUTH KOREA Hip-Hop / Rap
Consisting of Kim-Ximya and FRNK, XXX made a huge introduction with their song “Yves” being featured on Maison Kitsuné Hot Stream Channel. Kim-Ximya was a featured artist on E-Sens’ Korean Music Awards 2016 Album of the Year The Anecdote. FRNK is a known producer who has a remix of f(x)’s “4 Walls” reviewed by Pitchfork and produced E-Sens’ “Sleep Tight.” XXX’s debut EP Kyomi combined rap and electronic music into an addictive hybrid. The music video for ‘Flight Attendant” by French Illustrator Mattis Dovier was picked up by international media and resulted in a Best Animation nomination at the Ibiza Music Video Festival. Their inclusion at SXSW 2017 will show off one of the best upcoming talents in Korean music.
London, UK-England Rock
Decked out with customary garish shirts and an all-you-can-eat super-buffet of killer melodies, The Big Moon are quickly establishing themselves as the most addictive rabble in town. One bite of their sherbet-edged wares is all it takes to get hooked, and live, this lot enter a whole new realm. There’s a great deal of skill involved in nailing each riff with polished Guitar Hero precision while hopping one-legged around a low-ceilinged stage – while wearing a holographic cape, no less – but The Big Moon are out of this world. Their debut album ‘Love in the 4th Dimension’ is produced by desk-manning whizz Catherine Marks (Wolf Alice, Foals) and comes out later this year. Catch them live now before they take off to another planet.
El Hunt is Features Editor and resident pop enthusiast at DIY. She’s also been published in The Observer and London’s Evening Standard. El’s career highlight remains her small yet pivotal role in #didowatch – DIY’s definitely-not accidental forecasting of Dido’s surprise Reading appearance a few years ago. When she’s not jotting words about music, El enjoys listening to Whitney Houston’s debut album on repeat, supporting her local football heroes Dulwich Hamlet, and trying to replicate Christine and The Queens’ wardrobe.
Stockholm, Sweden Pop
Swedish songbirds tend to conquer many hearts, a fact that’s no different with Skott. Signed to Chess Club (MØ, Jungle, MS MR) she quickly rose to fame thanks to a series of stellar singles like “Porcelain” and “Amelia”. Her latest track “Glitter & Gloss” lives up to its name and feels somewhat more pop, with everything else pointing in 2017 pop star direction as well. It’s early days, but we’re calling it: Skott is about to beam up.
Montreal, Canada Rock
That Co/ntry opened for Psychic TV during POP Montreal 2016 ought to clue you in to the fact they are unapologetically weird. With chunky synth lines, urgent guitar riffs, and the odd sax solo all filtered through ‘80s cop movie soundtracks watched on acid, the duo prides itself on keeping it sleazy. Live, you may see the members in drag, donning gothic military looks or surrounded by unsettling props like mannequins. This mixture of glam and grit in their visuals pairs with the frosty tones and red hot delivery of their music like a handful of Doritos washed down with absinthe. It’s gross, it doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it sure as hell works.
Reading, UK-England Rock
In Sundara Karma’s androgynous frontman Oscar Pollock, you’ll find 2017’s next indie superstar. Though only just of US legal drinking age, Pollack’s wry worldview, evident lofty ambition and way with a radio-baiting anthem have catapulted him and his band into the upper echelons of indie’s young vanguard, already nipping at the heels of arena-slaying acts such as Two Door Cinema Club,who they recently supported on tour. From Oscar Wilde and French artist Edouard Manet to Buddhism and Plato, Sundara Karma’s lyrical influences are as obscure as their hooks are direct. On recent debut LP Youth Is Only Ever Fun In Retrospect, the Reading quartet have intertwined both into the kind of bold opening gambit that refuses to be ignored.
Lisa Wright is a London-based music journalist and gig promoter. Having written for NME between the years of 2009-2015, she now works as a staff writer for UK indie magazine DIY with additional bylines in the likes of Time Out, Noisey, The Guardian, The Independent and more. She also works for UK live promoter Rockfeedback who look after the London shows for artists including Father John Misty, Flume and Foxygen, and runs independent club night Antidotes – which has put on early shows from the likes of Wolf Alice, Slaves and more. She could do with a nap, tbh.
Melbourne, Australia Electronic
There are many different creative worlds occupied by Melbourne artist Becky Sui Zhen. One is the sonic realm, evolving from the ethereal techno-pop on previous EPs Female Basic and Body Reset to the pastel-tinged candy pop on her 2016 album Secretly Susan, an album that trips through even more genres as diverse as lounge, bossanova and Japanese indie pop. Then there’s the visual realm, where Susan, the namesake of the record, is brought to life in the film clips produced, edited and directed by Zhen herself, her avatar inspired by the way we portray ourselves online. It could prove heavy-handed to operate all the levers in these worlds simultaneously, but Sui Zhen approaches her art with enough wit and whimsy that you can’t help but feel compelled to suspend your own reality and enter hers for a while.
Tijuana, Mexico Rock
Big things seem to follow Mint Field whenever they go. The trio-turned-duo of Amor Amezcua and Estrella Sánchez started turning heads online and onstage not long after their Primeras Salidas tape was released in 2015. That success led them to the stages of Coachella in 2016. With their rickety, melodic goth balladry and freeform dream pop escapades, Mint Field have a habit of pricking listeners’ ears, inviting them to soar across the room or fantasize in blissful melancholy. Their long-promised LP Pasar De Las Luces might have been pushed back because of their nonstop touring, but their steady singles keep fans on their feet, as each release takes a step into lusher and more sophisticated territory.
Taos, NM Rock
I’ve never been to the Lone Star State, but Texas seems to harbor a certain slightly zonked genius unique to rock ‘n’ roll regionalism. Awesome psych-rockers Mirror Travel should be welcomed into that club with Blind Lemon Jefferson, The 13th Floor Elevators, True Widow, and the rest, where everyone’s screws are a little loose thanks to the relentless heat, the lysergia, or both. Check out the band’s most recent album, Cruise Deal (2016), which has grown their profile ever since their signing to Modern Outsider Records. The songs sit on odd chords, zig-zag into curious transitions, or just beautifully linger, like you’re wearily beholding twin suns from your moisture farm on Tatooine. If you can rock with The Velvet Underground’s dronier side, scoop up the awesome Cruise Deal and see this crew live immediately.
Adelaide, Australia Hip-Hop / Rap
Tkay Maidza is a fire-starter. The Zimbabwe-born, Australia-raised MC stopped onto the scene with crushing colossal jam “Brontosaurus”, and with it forever staked her claim as the new face of Australian hip hop. It wasn’t long before she started making a name for herself outside Australia too, last year claiming a nomination for BET’s “Viewers’ Choice: Best New Interactional Act” award. Maidza spits rhymes with undeniable energy and unbridled joy, verses flowing over pop-perfect melodies and club-ready bass thumps. Fierce, quick-fire raps are effortlessly woven with sweetly-sung melodies, all of which are given new life when witnessed live. Make time to see her, it’s a treat.
Newtown, CT Rock
In spring of 2015, Ovlov’s Steve Hartlett swore his lo-fi cult project, Ovlov, had come to an end. He then moved on to perform under a new moniker, Stove, and release an LP under that name (is Stupider, released that same year). Now, two years later, it appears that Ovlov has been resurrected, complete with tour dates and cryptic references to a second album (“If you want to hear what our new album’s gonna sound like, you should probably try to make it to one of these shows,” came a tweet last September.) The band’s (presumed) return is a welcome one, and it only takes one spin of their excellent 2013 record, am, to know it. Thick with eardrum-busting discord and atonal, Mascis-mirroring vocals, Ovlov’s only long play sounds rough enough to project an image of the band playing in the dankest of basements, but promising enough to portend a bright future. Their SXSW sets will no doubt be part of it.
Rachel Brodsky is a music and culture writer and editor. Her writing has been featured in SPIN, Rolling Stone, Stereogum, Paste, CLRVYNT, MTV, the New York Observer, LA Weekly and others. She’s been on staff as a Staff Music Writer with Paste Magazine since October 2016. Prior to that, she was an editor at SPIN.com for two years. She lives in Queens with her fiancee and two cats, one of whom is named Jones for Sigourney Weaver’s tabby in Alien. Despite writing about music for a living, she generally prefers to be in bed before 11 p.m. with her laptop and a bowl of snacks.
Dallas, TX Hip-Hop / Rap
Proud of their Texas roots, the three founding members of The Outfit, TX make no bones about it, their Dallas connection is a bond that cannot be broken. Taking inspiration from their Lone Star state, the group is made up of emcees Dorian, JayHawk, and Mel, two of whom happen to be producers. This unique hip-hop band focuses on building a sound that hasn’t been heard before, creating a specific brand of alternative hip-hop that is truly their own. The crew has released several self-produced projects, for which they received many awards. The Houston Press even named one of their works among Houston’s “Best Underground Rap Tapes”. Having completed two sold-out tours, they are amped and ready to bring their acclaimed live show to the captivated audiences of Austin!
Los Angeles, CA Rock
Clementine Creevy is the everywoman for our dire climate, built of a DIY ethos with enough pop sensibility to appeal to the masses. Musically, her band Cherry Glazerr is loud and seductive, offering huge walls of distorted guitars and melodic hooks that leave any music fan salivating. Having worked with heralded labels Suicide Squeeze and Burger Records, 2017 sees the band releasing Apocalipstick via Secretly Canadian, which should be in your collection as you read this. This release offers huge riffs tearing through your speaker, yet we find solace in the way the band brandishes anthemic choruses you’ll want to scream at the top of your lungs. Breakout artists are few and far between, but if you’re looking to discover something truly impactful you couldn’t find a better way to begin your SXSW.
Austin Town Hall
Brooklyn, NY Pop
Salt Cathedral have been around in some form since 2011, self-releasing singles and EPs to steadily more acclaim and recognition. As two Colombians living in Brooklyn, Nicolas Losada and Juliana Ronderos fill their band’s music sounds and influences beyond just their geographic spread. Just last year they released the delicate lovesick crooner “No Ordinary Man” followed by the combo of hyper dance jam “Lift Me Up” and trip-hop infused “Homage”. They closed out 2016 with the bouncy island vibes of “Unraveling” which feature Matisyahu. It is a broad range for a band boldly focused on making music their way and inviting us along for the ride. I’m eagerly awaiting their first full length LP but I think seeing their live set in Austin will be a great taste of the collection to come.
The Burning Ear
Melbourne, Australia Electronic
Gab Strum began making music with the Japanese Wallpaper moniker at the over-the-hill age of 15, and in a few years has gone on to achieve more before his final school exams than most of us will in the sum of our careers. I don’t want to be a downer, but it’s true. From making music in his bedroom, Strum has conquered coveted festival sets, nabbed a Zach Braff movie soundtrack spot and released a debut EP filled with delicate, jubilant and effervescent electro pop tunes mastered with impressive artistic restraint. Whether he’s collaborating with some of Australia’s most exciting young vocalists or traversing new frontiers with his own warm voice, you get the feeling Japanese Wallpaper has only just scratched the surfaces of his talents.
Goiânia, Brazil Rock
Boogarins hail from the central Brazilian city of Goiâna, a day’s drive from the cultural capitals of Rio and São Paulo. But like the tropicalistas before them, the quartet have used their relative remoteness to form a sound that’s deeply influenced by their country’s musical history while taking it in thrilling new directions. Manual, Boogarins’s 2015 release, finds them performing tight rhythmic turns, lightly proggish verses giving way to foggy psychedelic vistas at once reminiscent of Os Mutantes and It Still Moves–era My Morning Jacket. Singer Dinho Almeida is blessed with impeccable melodic sense, and even when the music gets spacey, Ynaiã Benthroldo’s shifty drumming keeps them grounded.
Marty Sartini Garner is editor in chief of FLOOD Magazine. He lives in Los Angeles, where he pretends like he’s not impressed by celebrity culture and is doing his best to become a Dodgers fan. He’s also contributed to Aquarium Drunkard, Pitchfork, Grantland, and FILTER. He’s interviewed Thom Yorke, Randy Newman, and Jonathan Lethem, but he’s certain that the only subject who would leave him starstruck would be Verne Lundquist. He is an ardent follower of LSU football and the Montreal Canadiens, as anyone who has ever sat next to him at a party knows all too well.
Austin, TX Electronic
Through all the wisping synths and bellowing bass lines, there seems to be an underlying theme of love running throughout most of CAPYAC’s productions. No matter whatever mood you’re in, you can put on any CAPYAC record and be immediately jettisoned to warmer pastures. Whether it’s the varying tempos or broad selection of instruments and samples used, the Austin natives have created a truly dynamic sonic identity. Their self-named “Balloonwave” style fuses elements of house, future-bass, glitch, chillwave, and French touch. Tracks like “Disco Muse” and “All Your Life” respectively feature immensely articulate sax and guitar pieces. I dare you to listen to “James Shuffle” or “Falling In Love” without abruptly stopping what you’re doing to get up and dance. Be on the lookout for CAPYAC as they’ll be one of the can’t-miss electronic acts this year.
Control + Alt + Delight
Reese Hayward is a LA-based, happy-go-lucky writer with an appreciation for both the underground and the more topical music realms. When writing Reese tries to set the scene for the reader to make them feel as though they are right there with him at the event. Hip-hop and electronic music are his main focuses but he also has a strong affinity for classics like Queen and CCR. On weekends you can find him at one of the many great Los Angeles speakeasies or causing permanent damage to his eardrums at a litany of fine music venues across Tinseltown.
Oakland, CA Rock
The music project of 22-year-old songwriter Melinda Duterte, Jay Som is buzzed on the sounds of many terse, multi-instrumentalist pop wizards past—a bit of Ira Kaplan here, some Kevin Drew there. This is truly DIY music—not in the co-ops-and-ukuleles way, but more literally defined, as Duterte composed all her lush, poppy songs herself in her Oakland apartment and played every single instrument. The result is so polished, it’s like if The Wrecking Crew took a lunch break during the Pet Sounds sessions and Brian Wilson had to run around learning all the cellos and flugelhorns. But the sound is just great, kick-the-tires indie rock. If I’ve gotta play a game of comparisons, my mind goes to old Sonic Youth and Chastity Belt. Highly recommended.
Brooklyn, NY Rock
It can be tough breaking through in Brooklyn’s crowded, churning music scene, but Big Thief quickly made a mark, thanks in no small part to Adrianne Lenker’s thoughtful lyrical style, chill-inducing voice and expressive guitar work. Big Thief is a real group effort, though, aided greatly with guitarist Buck Meek, and the rhythm section of Max Oleartchik and James Krivchenia. Honing their warm blanket sound on the road (with the likes of Kevin Morby, Yuck, Here We Go Magic and others), Big Thief’s inviting debut album Masterpiece made good on their early promise with great songwriting throughout and engaging arrangements. Also, that voice.
London, UK-England Jazz
Sarathy Korwar is a percussionist and composer who brings his multifaceted background (born in the US, raised in India and now based in London) to life in a spectrum of color and sound. Having graduated from the London School of Oriental and African Studies, he takes classical Indian rhythms and adapts them for modern percussion instruments. Sarathy has performed and collaborated with jazz music legends Karl Berger and Ingrid Sertso, award-winning instrumentalists Arun Ghosh, Shabaka Hutchings and many Indian classical musicians. In 2015, he was invited to perform for the Dalai Lama at the Royal Opera House in London. His first album Day To Day was released on Ninja Tune (8 July 2016) and features field recordings of Sidi musicians, who are descendants of African migrants in India. Stepping outside the typical jazz fusion arena, Sarathy Korwar explores a cultural blend of identities and rhythms which build into magical and mesmeric soundscapes.
Marco Gandolfi is the longstanding editor of Music-News.com and a voting panel member of BRITS and BBC Music Awards, and a BBC News contributor. Music-News.com is a leading independent publisher featuring news, reviews, interviews, competitions, the latest releases and all the gossip from the worldwide music scene.Launched in October 2003 Music-News.com has a dedicated team of over 250 contributors providing breaking news 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
London, UK-England Hip-Hop / Rap
Although barely 22 years old, Ché Moran A.K.A AJ Tracey became one of the main artists followed by media such as NME and the BBC in 2017. Why? What has he done to be so noticed? He has pure attitude, and a lot of it. AJ Tracey has a London flow full of pop culture references that go from Dragon Ball Z to soccer players. He has an unparalleled ability to create fast rhymes, which he alternates with dark street scratches and drum and bass beats, loads of dub full of deep and grim bass. He showed up on the North American radar thanks to his collaboration in “Be Somebody”, a Clams Casino remix, in which he worked closely with A$AP Rocky and Lil B. Nas is his favourite rapper of all time, and with whom he’d love to work in the future. In 2015 he released two EPs, which were ‘greatly welcomed by critics. He has a great future, with fans clamouring for a debut LP. AJ Tracey says that he will release it when it is ready.
Florence, Italy Pop
That 19 year old Italian Alice Bisi already has one SXSW under her belt is remarkable enough. But the self-assuredness of her debut album, last year’s slow-burning Born In The Woods, only served to highlight the talent and maturity the musician and producer already has at her disposal. Claiming that BIRTHH represents her “dark alter-ego”, her down-tempo take on minimalist synthpop borrows elements from London Grammar, the xx, and hints of folk, swirling them all into an atmospheric mix of troubled lyrics and glacial beats. Elegant, ambient soundscapes and wispy vocals pull back the curtain on her inner demons and add depth to her semi-autobiographical tales of a troubled adolescence. It’s not all doom and gloom, though—there’s a rich magnificence to her music, best experienced by closing your eyes and just letting it wash right over you.
Drowned in Sound
Austin, TX Pop
SXSW veteran and Austin’s own Walker Lukens has once again been hand-selected to steal your attention and break your heart this March. Lukens, a soulful and sexy alt-pop exhibitionist, has drawn comparisons to Spoon, Tom Waits, and the Black Keys. He’s rarely alone or standing still, touring extensively with his talented band, The Side Arms, and crafting mesmerizing music videos for your viewing pleasure. Lukens’ delicious tenor vocals have been highlighted by NPR’s All Songs Considered, MTV, and Billboard. He released a new EP, Never Understood, in October. Produced by fellow Austinite Jim Eno at his Public Hi-Fi studio, the EP contains four hypnotizing gems that demand to be heard. (Start with “Lifted.”) Lukens’ full length album, Devoted, is also worthy of your attention. If you crave bombastic performances by brazen musicians, Walker Lukens and The Side Arms deserve your ears for as long as you can spare them.
Athens, GA Rock
Within the musical hotbed of Athens, Georgia lurks Eureka California. For the last decade the core duo of Marie Uhler and Jake Ward have been crafting clever slacker-pop with an indifference to the indie rock populace. They offer playful lyrical content spun around concepts of a disillusioned America, where everyone is fighting for their piece of the ever-shrinking pie. Musically speaking, the band have grown more boisterous since their inception, turning up the volume to make an emphatic statement on their most recent album Versus. It’s filled with pounding rhythms and huge riffs that would make even your most “metal” friend afraid of the noise. Those of you crowding the streets looking for a band to offer up energetic rock with an appropriate dosage of self-deprecation won’t need to look any further than this duo.
Austin Town Hall
Sydney, Australia Rock
In Sydney-based Middle Kids’ music lies a sense of youthful maturity steeped in not-quite-pop indie folk and rock ballads. It’s hard to not get caught up in the catchiness of guitarist Tim Fitz’s piercing riffs, the rolling passion of Harry Day’s drums, and the enrapturing vocals of lead singer Hannah Joy. With only three tracks under their belt, they’ve already made quite a name for themselves with their forlorn yet hopeful lyricism about the foils of life. 2017 will see their debut album circulated in already well-thrilled and properly-piqued ears. And if scoring a world tour off only a few publicly released tracks can serve as any indication, it is bound to be a kicking-off point for stardom on the level of Arcade Fire or Florence + The Machine.
Control + Alt + Delight
Joshua Chiang’s music appreciation runs the gamut. The uniqueness of any and all sounds finds a place within his ears. He is, however, more inclined to the gloomier, moodier, and darker corners of music. As a writer, photographer, and underground promoter, he spends much of his time keeping his eyes and ears on the next big thing as well as what has been under everyone’s noses the whole time.
Liphook, UK-England Rock
They say you have your whole life to make your debut album and, while Hampshire trio Blaenavon may still be in the formative stages of theirs (singer Ben Gregory, bassist Frank Wright and drummer Harris McMillan are all only just 20), they’ve taken the slow and steady route to this year’s ironically-titled opening statement “That’s Your Lot”. Originally piquing interest back in 2012, the trio instead took a step back to finish their studies, steadily building an army of fans at their sweaty, intense live shows along the way. Cut to 2017, however, and this is a band that are finally, unequivocally ready. The spiky, incessant hooks and barbed poetry of recent singles “Orthodox Man” and ”I Will Be The World” mark Gregory out as a songwriter of considerable heft, while the trio have become one of UK indie’s most visceral new live bands. It may have taken a while, but now is Blaenavon’s time.
Austin, TX Rock
Guitar pop is all about execution, the combination of melody and distortion, and Austin’s Moving Panoramas have perfected the formula. Utilizing dreamy guitar chords and bubbling bass, then wrapping it all around the powerful voice of singer Leslie Sisson, their album One is filled with songs that sound huge, with a sense that they’re meant for bigger things. Moving Panoramas have managed to channel that into a precision live set that’s captivated audiences in tiny clubs and huge festivals, exuding greater confidence with each new performance. This last year has seen some line-up changes and additions, bringing in keyboards to add further depth to their dreamgaze sound. You’ll be captivated from the first note that rings out, grateful that people are still writing memorable pop music that dares to be loud.
Austin Town Hall
Boston, MA Rock
To say that Boston DIY kings Pile have a lot of hometown love is a bit of an understatement — Beantown locals are so besotted with them that the now-defunct grunge-pop outfit Krill named a whole EP after their favorites in 2014. But lead singer Rick Maguire actually left the Northeast and decamped to Georgia to write the material for Pile’s fifth LP, Hairshirt of Purpose (out on March 31 via Exploding in Sound), and they’ve already released a couple of auspicious singles: There’s the nodulus “Texas,” which commands your attention with thrashing percussion and dizzying guitar. On the fingerpicked “Dogs,” Maguire moans against a cacophony of shuddering cymbals and doleful strings. And with Maguire performing his SXSW sets solo (just the way he did for a recent Southern-states tour), his trademark plaintive style should come across as even more intimate.
Houston, TX Funk
Visiting from Space City is Thai rock/funk trio Khruangbin. While their name may test your tongue, their sound will soothe your weary ears with blurry seaside bass and tranquilizing soundscapes. Khruangbin is painfully cool. The story goes that Laura Lee (bass), Mark Speer (guitar), and Donald Johnson (drums) polished their surf-rock in a barn in the small town of Burton, Texas. It is there, away from the big city’s distractions, that Khruangbin concoct their magic melodies. Fans of Maribou State, Rhye, and even Bonobo will take to their effortless and refreshing instrumentals. The trio has released an impressive number of EPs, but start with their 2015 album, The Universe Smiles Upon You. “Mr. White” and “Two Fish and an Elephant” are two earworms I can no longer live without.
Brooklyn, NY Dance
Sofi Tukker are the New York-based duo of Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern. The two operate stylistically in modern pop informed by an especially expansive spectrum of sounds particularly from Brazil and beyond in South America–from outside indie pop’s more trafficked palettes of influence. Sofi Tukker’s debut Soft Animals EP, which has racked up stream counts in the tens of millions, was nominated for a Grammy this year, sharing the Best Dance Recording Category with artists like Flume and The Chainsmokers. As an introduction, start with the cuica-driven club sound of “Hey Lion” and the riff-heavy hit “Drinkee”.
Troy Meyer is the co-founder of B3SCI, a California-based music blog (blahblahblahscience.com), record label (B3SCI Records), and concert promoter (B3SCI Presents) featuring the best new talent worldwide. B3SCI Records has released music from Jungle, Moses Sumney, Zella Day, Marian Hill, SKOTT, and POWERS amongst others; and B3SCI Presents has curated and promoted early performances from The 1975, Tove Lo, Gallant, and many more. His ten years of industry experience includes label management and development and blog management and editing.
Cardiff, UK-Wales Rock
The death of punk and new wave dealt a blow to the UK music scene, the aftermath of which is still being sifted through today. Chain of Flowers have sprung out of the darkness and decay as one of the most exciting bands in recent memory. After spending years performing on the UK circuit, their debut self-titled album cemented their vital role in the new musical landscape. According to the band, Chain of Flowers was recorded in just four days, which might explain the record’s underlying urgency and intense throbbing. The album, like their band name (see: “Chain of Flowers” by the Cure), has hints of the goth-pop and post-punk sound that the album is built on. Chain of Flowers make it their own by filtering the record through an ambient noise, shoegaze take on the Wall of Sound while creating a world of religious and morbid imagery (“Nail Me To Your Cross,” “Bury My Love (Beyond The Sun)” etc). If the world is ending, Chain of Flowers is giving the sermon welcoming the end of days.
London, UK-England Electronic
The perfect marriage of artful panache and the voice of a god exists and is embodied in Jamie Isaac. Hailing from London, Jamie lays his soulful verses over deep downtempo electronic beats to create a neo-R&B style you have to hear to believe. In 2016 the 21-year-old released his debut album Couch Baby. The 12-track LP was Jamie’s manifesto as he properly introduced the world to his signature vocal musings and thoroughly melancholy melodies that accompany each record. With an LP, a remix album, and a mixtape already under his belt, Jamie Isaac is equipped to take on 2017 at full force. This year the London native will be doing a full US tour to bring his soulful noir stylings across the pond. Do yourself a favor and experience the this man in person. He’s a voice and a talent truly on the rise.
Control + Alt + Delight
Bergen, Norway Rock
Although Chain Wallet hail from Bergen, Norway, their dream-pop indie sound feels both universal and timeless, as if they could have existed on any continent and in any recent decade. Songs like “Muted Colors” and “Faded Flight” are so instantly catchy and comforting that I found myself wanting to sing along at first listen. The trio released their fantastic debut self-titled album last year on the great Norwegian label Jansen Plateproduksjon and it has garnered solid support from NYLON, Spotify, KEXP, and more. They continue to represent Norway’s music scene as they quickly take over the world with a visit to the US for SXSW and a few other select dates. Catch them live while you can and if you like what you see, buy them a round of light-roast coffee (their favorite).
The Burning Ear
Glasgow, UK-Scotland Punk
PAWS have come a long way since lurching onto the scene in with the two and half minutes of beautiful noise that was the DIY tape-released “Lekker”. Now signed to Fat Cat Records, the Glasgow punk trio enlisted Blink-182’s Mark Hoppus to produce their latest album, No Grace, and together they have managed to capture the anthemic energy and wild punches of their live shows on record.
The Blue Walrus
Vancouver, Canada Pop
Supermoon is a bummed-out pop band signed to Nardwuar’s Mint Records out of Vancouver, BC. Their instantly memorable riffs ooze the blissful tones of jangle-pop while maintaining the angular grit of post-punk. As much as they can soothe and charm, the ladies of Supermoon are still a wrecking crew when they want to be. You might catch a hit of fuzz pedal or a severe downward chord change mid-hum, so you’re going to want to keep on your toes. They’ve been lovingly covered by Consequence of Sound, Noisey, Exclaim! and others for their ability to balance bright tunes with often downcast lyrical subject matter. Bonus fact: the group is also expert in the art of yo-yo.
Brooklyn, NY Pop
Who are we to judge if Pharrell has “zero notes” on a song? Maggie Rogers went viral with a snippet of “Alaska” and sold out a UK and European tour off the back of that song a few weeks later. Follow-up tracks “Dog Years” and “On + Off” confirmed she was no one-hit wonder. Her kind of pop serves as a breath of fresh air through the landscape of glossy synths, EDM breakdowns and rap features. Drawing inspiration from a world trip she did a few years ago, Maggie feels like one of the most personal pop stars around.
Philadelphia, PA Folk
Drummer Eric Slick (of Pennsylvania’s Dr. Dog and Lithuania) spent a year in the woods of Asheville, North Carolina, meditating, studying tarot cards and practicing Jungian dream therapy to craft his very first solo album, Palisades (out April 2017). The result is an appropriately freeform album — Slick recorded several tracks after meditation sessions and kept the results — featuring mysterious mind-wanders like the title track “Palisades” and atmospheric ambles like “Evergreen” and “Into the Void.” The whole thing was eventually recorded at Phil Elverum’s (Mount Eerie) studio in Anacortes, Washington, as deer wandered by in the fog. Slick’s solo work is a definite departure from the goofy humor he exhibits on Twitter (and in the pieces he’s penned for Talkhouse) —a vital look into how an artist’s evolution.
Brenna Ehrlich is the Editor-in-Chief of the Talkhouse Music. She previously served as the Senior Pop Editor at MTV News, Senior Editor at the O Music Awards, and Associate Editor of Media and Entertainment at Mashable — and has contributed to Rolling Stone, CNN, Nylon, Bandcamp and several other publications. She’s also the author of humor blog and book Stuff Hipsters Hate: A Field Guide to the Passionate Opinions of the Indifferent and YA book Placid Girl — plus she plays drums and sings in the band Medium Mystic.
Tel Aviv, Israel Electronic
Operating from Tel Aviv, Noga Erez will quickly become Israeli royalty thanks to her stomping pop sound that’s messing with its borders. Messing with bits of rap, trap and grime, her beats (made with partner in crime Ori Roussa) are marked amongst the most compelling productions around nowadays. Topped off with a very confident voice she sounds like a young M.I.A., heating up a pack of dancers to her tunes “Dance While You Shoot” and “Pity”.
Denver, CO Metal
Halfway between grindcore and Entombed HM-2 worship lie Call of the Void, whose hardcore foundation leaves only one choice to those attending their shows: mosh! Their furious and frenzied but balanced and technical approach is impossible to resist—you’ll be hooked from the moment they play their first note.
Los Angeles, CA Americana
It’s not every day that you’ll discover great new music from Petosky, Michigan. More than just an awesome band name, Michigan Rattlers are comprised of Graham Young and Adam Reed, who offer up a fresh breath of americana on their recent and debut self-titled EP. The duo have a distinct delivery with harmonized vocals, guitar and upright bass in tow. Their song “Sweet Diane” tells us a story with the right balance of musical and lyrical simplicity and complexity, while “Illinois Sky” resonates like a textbook road trip anthem. With an artist like Sturgill Simpson earning his place in the music mainstream–with 2 Grammys under his belt, including this year’s Best Country Album)–the road seems paved for up-and-comers like Michigan Rattlers who go against the grain of what many generalize as ‘Country’ music.
Mike Clemenza is the co-founder of B3SCI, a California-based music blog (blahblahblahscience.com), record label (B3SCI Records), and concert promoter (B3SCI Presents) featuring the best new talent worldwide. B3SCI Records has released music from Jungle, Moses Sumney, Zella Day, Marian Hill, SKOTT, and POWERS amongst others; and B3SCI Presents has curated and promoted early performances from The 1975, Tove Lo, Gallant, and many more. His ten years of industry experience includes label management and development and blog managment and editing.
New York, NY Rock
It’s summertime all the time in the world of High Waisted, the energetic group of Brooklyn friends who have kept surf rock well and alive in their own unique way. They’ve made their mark on the New York live music scene with high energy shows that usually end with frontwoman Jessica crowd surfing, climbing on something, or even smashing her guitar. Every summer they take over a boat for one night for their High Waisted At Sea performance, where they rock out along with other local bands, as the drunk party boat cruises past historical landmarks on the river like the Statue Of Liberty. They have a natural ability to be the center of attention at any party, making them the ultimate destination for a festival such as SXSW.
We All Want Someone To Shout For
Will Oliver started We All Want Someone To Shout For in the summer of 2008 as a way to keep showing his friends what new music he was listening to before leaving for college. It turned into something much more than he could ever imagine. What started as a mp3 blog whose job it was to find the freshest new sounds, it’s now turned its eye to the live music scene. Will has since found a passion for concert photography, photographing acts at the smallest DIY rooms in Brooklyn, to the big time stages such as MSG. He keeps hoping to find new ways to keep his passion going.
Oakland, CA Rock
Back when they were innocent college babes at the University of California, Santa Cruz Babewatch were known as West Night Core—named for a campus bus route so windy that it was less a means of getting around so much as it was a state of mind. The band’s name changed when they moved to Oakland but the winding perspective remained, and they’ve become a staple of the East Bay’s DIY/BYOB scene ever since. Following 2015’s Guys Hanging Out EP, the quartet released their debut LP Wasted Time in September of 2016, bringing together their joint influences of surf and city life—in other words, equal parts Beach Boys and Pavement, basically. In the past, they’ve opened for the likes of King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, La Luz, and Lord Huron, but they’ll be hitting Austin on the center stage, crate of Hamm’s in tow.
Minneapolis, MN Hip-Hop / Rap
Minneapolis has long bred some of the best alternative hip-hop artists in the game, and Lizzo is the latest hitmaker in that venerable line. With a touch of soul and a completely infectious confidence, the singer/rapper born Melissa Jefferson brings a pop edge to inescapably likable tracks like “Good As Hell” and “Worship”. Both those songs are off her recent Coconut Oil EP, but she’s been dropping fire since 2013’s Lizzobangers. On the heels of 2015’s Big Grrrl Small World, however, last year saw Lizzo really break through into national headlines and collaborations with everyone from Speedy Ortiz’s Sadie Dupuis to The Griswolds. There’s a pure and instinctive goodness to her music–and, truly, her being–that has attracted crowds from Boston Calling to Bonnaroo. Rap music with this sort of positivity is more valuable than ever these days, and Lizzo is bringing the best of the breed.
Consequence of Sound
Washington, DC Rock
“Trust me,” Katie Alice Greer intones on Priests’ Nothing Feels Natural, “things could be much, much worse.” The DC band’s debut album was recorded before Donald Trump’s election, so Greer’s words feel like prophecy now, and her message of resistance has become more relevant than ever. It seems especially meaningful that one of the most vital forces in punk is emerging from our nation’s capital at this particular time, especially since they’re subverting sounds from the same post-war era this administration has in mind when it promises to Make America Great Again. Priests’ deconstruction of ’50s rock ‘n’ roll makes every gig feel like a radicalized sock hop, Greer howling atop the ruckus with such inspiring conviction that you can’t help but feel some hope along with your rage.
Chicago, IL Rock
There are bands that put out albums every five years, bands that put out albums every year and then there’s White Mystery. Underneath a mountain of red curls, the brother and sister duo behind White Mystery, Miss Alex White and Francis Scott Key White, have created their own artistic world that contains an endless stream of 7 inches, records and even full length movies. If there was any doubt, White Mystery perform with the same fervour with which they release music. They’re ecstatic, frantic and full of uncontainable energy as they riff on and create their own version of contemporary punk rock built on the foundations of their musical idols (think the MC5, Cheetah Chrome, The Cramps).
Buenos Aires, Argentina Rock
Hailing from Buenos Aires, Argentina, Las Kellies have been making charismatic post-punk for over a decade. With last year’s Friends and Lovers, they delivered what might be their defining statement. Mixing dub-heavy bass, angular yet funky rhythms, trebly guitars and effortless vocals, the band cues influences from post-punk and new wave–The Slits’ punky reggae party-stoppers, P.I.L.-on-molly atmospheres, ESG’s sample-ready fun, and Big Boys’ pocket funk freneticism. Those influences converge into an emotional rollercoaster that, track by track, hits hard. Although they no longer make it a point to dress up in eccentric costumes for their shows, their grooves will power any and all venues they pull up to.
Brighton, UK-England Folk
If you’re coming to Texas to attend SXSW, it’s imperative you get a dose of country music. You’ll be in attendance with a fellow outsider, the sweet-singing Brit, Holly Macve (pronounced Mac-Vee). Don’t let her nationality fool you—Holly will dose you up ten times over with her authentic country sound, straight out of a June Carter Cash/Dolly Parton whirlwind. Sporting Lolita-esque sunglasses in her videos, Holly Macve is coming to kick ass and take names. The Bella Union artist whipped up a batch of singles that will break your heart and then mend it, from the somber slide guitars of “Heartbreak Blues,” to the poppy jangle, “No One Has the Answers.” The tracks are only a corner of her debut album Golden Eagle, which premiered March 2017.
Will Collins spends his time thinking about food but writes about music and movies. He’s a firm believer that North Carolina pulled pork is the reigning king of BBQ.
Copenhagen, Denmark Singer-Songwriter
Ghosts haunt Agnes Obel’s excellent third record Citizen of Glass and not the hidden sort—a descending sweep of strings introduces the surprisingly experimental album as a clear statement that she is ready to take her sound deeper in the recesses of head and heart. While still based in piano melodies, the electronic pop journeys across ten diverse tracks changing her story from drama in front of a curtain to futuristic solitude, plucky melodies of light and love. Emotional power comes musically and lyrically, an introspective record falling in between abstract and natural honesty. I’ve been through this record front to back a few times and details continue to expand even in Obel’s sparsest moments. Just beautiful.
Operation Every Band
Kevin McStravick started Operation Every Band in 2010 with a blank spreadsheet and a mission: to listen to, rate and review every band playing the 2,000+ artists on the SXSW lineup.The opportunity allows discovery in all genres and to share recommendations for attendees, both in Austin and in spirit, every March. Kevin has participated in SXSW as a panelist, writer and lover of music every year and hopes to continue to do so until his legs finally give out from shimmying and shaking for a week straight. Kevin lives outside of Denton, Texas with his wife, two dogs and a new baby ready to take on her first SXSW in 2017.
New York, NY Punk
Brooklyn’s Hiccup is so goddamn cool it would be easy to hate them if they weren’t also so goddamn fun. Vocalists Hallie Bulleit (The Unloveables) and Alex Clute met when they started playing together in the house band of the ultimate TV haven for weirdos and outcasts, The Chris Gethard Show, adding drummer Piyal Basu into the mix as Hiccup took shape. The result is a pop/power punk dance party in every show. Their debut album, Imaginary Enemies, comes out in March via Father Daughter Records and should be scooped up immediately unless you want to be the real enemy of having a good time.
Marfa, TX Americana
R.F. Shannon creates sonic landscapes that encapsulate the placid mystique of rural Texas. Nestled within these not-so-sleepy towns are vibrant artistic communities that thrive among the arid terrain. Towns like Marfa, Alpine, and the artist’s place of residence, Lockhart. Dreamy reverberations and meditative vocals on songs like “Had A Revelation” and “Banshee Canyon” call to modern-day Don Quixotes traversing either the open road or exploring the portals of the mind. “Had A Revelation” sets the tone for discovery, as lead vocalist Shane Renfro sings, “On a desert highway, with the fire in your brain / out of sight, out of mind.” Leave your worries behind and head the call of R.F. Shannon. R.F. Shannon released their debut EP Other Trails in October of last year, and reveals the LP, Jaguar Place, on March 31st.
Gillian Driscoll is a music tastemaker with a penchant for pop colors, pop music, and Prince. You’ll find Gillian sharing her flavors of the week on her music blog Sound Dessert, which features the best emerging artists that deserve to be heard. When she’s not writing about bands, she’s working with them via her artist development company, Sound Dessert Consulting. Gillian moved to Austin, by way of NYC, in early 2013 after having the time of her life at SXSW. She looks forward to discovering new music at the festival each year.
London, UK-England Electronic
Even before she dropped her debut album—last year’s critically gushed-over Varmints—Anna Meredith’s pedigree was without question. A graduate of the Royal College of Music, the North London born composer and performer showcased at the prestigious Last Night of the Proms before taking up a role as the composer-in-residence for the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. Predictably, her approach to electronic music—in both writing and performing—is far from standard. She is one of a few notables expanding beyond the limitations of the genre and reinventing it in her own singular way. Ambition is key to everything Meredith does and Varmints—brilliant though it may be—reveals a new pioneer in modern electronic music just starting out.
The Line of Best Fit
Austin, TX Rock
When Austin’s The Dead Space went on hiatus, Quin Galavis retreated back into his life to welcome a child and ponder what would come next. It ended with a brilliant collection of twenty songs, My Life in Steel and Concrete. You’ll find it an exhilarating bit of introspective rock, listening carefully as Quin confronts his demons and finds acceptance in the world surrounding him. Musically, the songs move between abrasive rockers and quiet numbers with ornate orchestration. You can spend your whole week at SXSW looking for the perfect balance between quiet and loud, but you’ll only find one true artist that lets the two bleed into one another. His songs give us a glimpse into the man and his search for answers, leaving you with a great sense of hope.
Austin Town Hall
Louisville, KY Rock
White Reaper make you feel like you’re in a Camaro blazing down the highway, aviator sunglasses on, maybe a handlebar mustache, with a buxom blonde in the passenger seat. A crunchy blast of dad rock and fuzz punk, this Louisville, Kentucky band slows down for nothing. If you need to show off your new denim vest, the White Reaper show is the place to do it. They’ll for sure be showing off their new album, which isn’t officially out until April. The first single, “Judy French” is crystalline prog-rock with a sprinkle of summertime angst. Though the band have gone from a cheap-beer vibe to a more cheap-mojito vibe in recent times, the music is no less fun. It’s got those polished solos, syncopated drum intervals, and building piano pairings that make Van Halen say, “Damn, wish we’d done that.”
Philadelphia, PA World
Psych-rockers Ecstatic Vision are no newcomers to the scene despite just now getting ready to release their sophomore album: band mastermind Doug Sabolick spent a decade as the guitarist and chief-songwriter in technical metal outfit A Life Once Lost. His new project is markedly different, exploring the psychedelic, jammier side of the spectrum with tripped out vibes and extended musical interludes.
Paris, France Pop
Jain is one of the rarest breeds in pop music today – something completely unique. Her sound draws from all parts of the physical and sonic world–African rhythmic patterns, European techno, hip hop, acoustic singer-songwriters–all in way that lands infectiously. Rhythm is the key—Jain finds ways to make her songs pop through multi-layered electronic and organic percussion, erupting what could be killer coffeeshop material into melodic earworms uncommon this side of the Atlantic. From another angle, Jain’s music is straight dance floor, disco forms constantly popping their heads up throughout her debut full-length Zanaka. Jain’s vocals are notably complex too, measured but quickly piercing notes with sly control. Everything here is performed and produced at an expert level—a must-listen on the early SXSW artist announcements.
Operation Every Band
Bergen, Norway Pop
With a name that is even more difficult to spell as it is to say, Norway’s Kakkmaddafakka (which means “party animals” in a slang language from their hometown of Bergen) are famed for their live shows that can see as many as ten musicians take the stage, including a horn section and dancing choirboys. Made up of classically-trained musicians Axel and Pål Vindenes together with school friends Jonas Nielsen and Stian Sævig, the band’s sound sits somewhere strangely between pop and indie garage rock’n’roll—but that is to be expected from a band formed in the scene that produced the likes Kings Of Convenience, Röyksopp, and Casiokids.
The Blue Walrus
Edinburgh, UK-Scotland Pop
There’s nothing shy or retiring about the Scottish-born, London-based singer Elle Exxe. Pop is her lingua franca, but there’s way more strings to her bow than Radio Friendly bangers; she paints in broad, brash strokes that as are bold as her tunes, unafraid to dip into rock, punk, and gritty soul. It’s no small task to attempt to illustrate the thin line between love and hate with muscular, bright electro pop, but slick production and a cheerful bounce elevate her music above the other chart-chasing hoards. But it’s not all grinding beats and bombastic choruses; she’s equally adept at slowing the pace and ramping up the emotion, baring her soul and dropping breathy, spoken word verses. All in all, she’s a giddy, sugar rush rainbow of fun, and one of the leading lights of modern pop’s renaissance.
Drowned in Sound
Baltimore, MD Singer-Songwriter
Snail Mail is disarming and comforting. Their languorous strumming lo-fi rock and earthy jangling indie pop feels honest yet assured. Last summer, the trio from Baltimore garnered critical acclaim with their debut EP Habit, from which wafts a steady stream of deeply affecting nostalgia. Its sandblasted songs were written in the quiet intimacy of a bedroom by young singer and guitarist Lindsey Jordan, who was later joined by bassist Ryan Viera and drummer Shawn Durham to record the EP. Songs like “Thinning” and title track “Habit” evoke the frayed charm of early Best Coast and the unpretentious disquietude of Slothrust. Lindsey Jordan’s music can be simultaneously sweet and acerbic.The rapport Snail Mail achieves with listeners is rooted in the audience’s own faded dreams and tattered recollections. This surely translates into a moving live experience.
We Found New Music
Melbourne, Australia Rock
Alex Lahey hails from Melbourne and makes melodic guitar rock with clever, funny, relatable lyrics, and a wordy, speak-sung delivery. This has gotten her some comparisons to Courtney Barnett, but it feels like Alex is too unique and too talented to be bogged down by comparisons for very long. Her great 2016 debut EP B-Grade University is five songs and just about any of them could be the single (there are actually videos for four of them, so maybe almost all of them are singles). But if you’re looking to start somewhere, the ultra-catchy “You Don’t Think You Like People Like Me” is pretty hard to resist. She just signed to Dead Oceans and re-released the EP in the US. Dead Oceans is coming off of a year where they released breakthrough albums by Mitski and Kevin Morby, and it doesn’t seem crazy to think they’ll do the same for Alex Lahey in the near future.
Andrew Sacher has been writing about music at BrooklynVegan since 2010, but he’s been obsessing over it since hearing The Beach Boys at age 6. In addition to writing, he’s helped curate events and playlists. He has represented BrooklynVegan at SXSW for the past five years, as well as at music festivals like Firefly and Lockn’, and on BBC Radio 1. He is currently a senior editor at BV and living in New York City.
Montreal, Canada Electronic
Grimes deserves every critical accolade that comes her way but her greatest achievement might actually be the wave of devotees that have emerged in her wake. French Canadian Mozart’s Sister in particular stands out as one of the most notable of the bunch, merging the casual charm of the Blow with Grimes’ more arty and ambitious elements. It probably doesn’t hurt that, as much as Mozart’s Sister displays a healthy Grimes appreciation, she also seems as well versed in late ’80s and ’90s R&B, whether it be the cartoon seduction of Paula Abdul or the dreamy beauty of Mariah Carey’s first foray into the charts. Grimes exists as a display of the potential of every weirdo in every otherwise unremarkable art class you ever took. Mozart’s Sister extends that to the dance classes you audited.
Chicago, IL Hip-Hop / Rap
Open Mike Eagle has been striving against rap normativity ever since his career began in 2010. His music, which he self-defines as “art rap” or “conscious hip-hop,” does just this. With albums like Hella Personal Film Festival and Dark Comedy, Open Mike delves into a nihilistic sensibility typically relegated to the angst of indie rock—it is no surprise, in that case, to find interpolations of TV on the Radio and Broken Social Scene songs littered throughout his discography. This emotional framework is used to channel a biting narrative on culture and maturity, and as hip-hop moves ever closer to the mainstream, Open Mike maintains his footing in the underground. His latest collaboration with producer Paul White (noted collaborator of Danny Brown) proves to be Mike Eagle’s most culturally chiseled work thus far, and continues to establish his presence as an emerging force of the 21st Century.
Julian Bridges is a writer, filmmaker and musician living in New York City. He graduated from the University of Michigan with Highest Honors in May, where he received degrees in Jazz and Classical Performance and was named the Presser Foundation Undergraduate Scholar. Bridges has performed at venues including The Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, The Detroit Jazz Festival and Lincoln Center, has studied at the National Conservatory of Paris, and is currently a contributor at mxdwn.com.
Copenhagen, Denmark R & B
Danish sad-disco trio CHINAH – singer Fine Glindvad and two Simons (Kjær and Andersson) – make pop songs touched with brilliance. The band came together almost three years ago, quickly ditching their initial folk-hybrid sound ahead of debut single “Away From Me” which laid out a straightforward musical agenda: slow-burning, quality downbeat cuts that drip equal parts regret and euphoria. 2016 saw the release of their debut EP Once The Lights Are On and they kicked off this year with “Even Love”, a teaser from their second EP and their most sophisticated song yet. They might just be the ones to follow MØ’s footsteps and give Denmark its next sophisticated pop breakout.
The Line of Best Fit
Los Angeles, CA Rock
morgxn is a bit of a mystery. But despite our lack of knowledge on this particular artist, there are a few things we can definitely confirm: he was born in Nashville and is now based in Los Angeles, his singles “home,” “hard pill to swallow”, and “love you with the lights on” have over 3 million streams on Spotify, and he recently announced his debut EP vital which is set to finally drop later this year via wxnderlost records. His indie electronic-pop songs are sultry and sensual with intimate lyrics and production. He makes pop songs for the bedroom, and he collaborates with artists like Joywave and LEFTI who then turn them into pop songs for the dancefloor. “Take me back home, there’s nothing like it,” morgxn sings in his heart-warming yet danceable single, “home”. So yeah, we don’t know too much about morgxn, but judging by how infectious these singles are, we have a feeling he’ll be rising quickly.
Seattle, WA Rock
While the male-dominated indie landscape has become increasingly open to women, Robin Edwards aims to break down those barriers all on her own – armed with nothing more than her voice, a guitar and an old drum machine. Her Lisa Prank project is a one-woman phenomenon, blasting out the catchiest, scuzziest make-out hits you’ll hear in Austin this week. She released Adult Teen in 2016 to rave reviews, adding to the catalog of extensive hitmakers on Father Daughter Records (home to Diet Cig, PWR BTTM). With such a simple setup, I have a sneaking suspicion that you’ll be rocking out to Lisa Prank on the corner of one of Austin’s streets, never knowing the woman you just tipped $5 has a huge collection of hits just waiting to be consumed by the masses.
Austin Town Hall
Toronto, Canada Hip-Hop / Rap
Tasha the Amazon is poised to be the next chart-topping rapper out of Toronto. Don’t get confused though – Drake, she is not. Tasha would be just as at home soundtracking a Hood By Air runway show in an abandoned warehouse as she is roaming the Everglades, like in her arresting video for “Cry of the Warrior.” She mixes raw confidence in a variety of mean-mugging flows with deep bass and wavy vocal manipulations. The world is beginning to catch on: in addition to SXSW, she just locked down a slot at Festival NRML and secured a JUNO (the Canadian Grammys) nomination for Rap Recording of the Year.
Brooklyn, NY Pop
Adrian Gavin, one half of the indie folk duo Yellerkin, is now Yoke Lore. Last year’s Far Shore is only four songs long but feels far more expansive, with wailing vocals, big drum hits, and reverberating guitar. The lyrics, featuring snatches of biblical allusions and sexual encounters, are cryptic but intimate: “But I’m for you / Like Noah walking through in twos in my priestly collars / I will yell all the ways you won me.” Yoke Lore, much like Yellerkin, still indulges in indie clichés (“You’re scared and I know why / ‘Cause I’m the one that feels right”), but rarely seems disingenuous. The music video for “Hold Me Down,” for instance, is about as unironic as a video of someone rollerblading around at night can be. All four songs of the extended play follow more or less the same themes: grounding the self in human contact, and all the misery and splendor of learning to be close to someone, and express them in more or less the same way; emphatic percussion and soaring vocals—but this isn’t necessarily a weakness. As Yoke Lore, Gavin clearly has something to say, and he says it ecstatically.
All Things Go
Houston, TX Hip-Hop / Rap
Hailing from Houston, Texas, Trill Sammy has launched a ton of freestyles, remixes and videos making sure that you won’t forget his face, name or flow. Dropping off a ton of WORLDSTARHIPHOP exclusives in the process, Sammy has worked with the likes of Soulja Boy, Famous Dex, Ugly God, RiFF RaFF and partner in crime, Dice Soho. His social media following has constantly been on the rise since some of his leisurely freestyles were turned into memes. Nonetheless, Trill Sammy aims to stay a formidable face on Houston’s music rap radar.
Originally from The Bronx, my name is Austin but most people call me Aus for short and my fianceé calls me papí (insert smirk emoji here). Allen Iverson is the greatest player to player basketball and don’t argue with me, I won’t listen anyway. I’m pretty confident I can out shoot J.R. Smith when it comes to Hennessey but hey, who knows. I hold a ton of influences such as Stone Cold Steve Austin, Swaggy P and others, but I won’t list all of them. I have a small obsession with sneakers, which makes my role as an Associate Editor at HYPEBEAST a match made in heaven. When I have time I make music on my couch and imagine what it would be like to perform on a grand stage one day. Other than that, I just might be the most laid back person you’ve met.
Los Angeles, CA Rock
The Regrettes are newcomers to the rock scene, releasing their first album Feel Your Feelings Fool! this year, and their exciting brand of punk-pop has already managed to grab ears. Perhaps this allure is partially due to the fact that all members are under the age of 20! At 16, singer Lydia Night leads the crew. Despite her age, she’s actually a seasoned songwriter and performer: she toured with her two-piece Pretty Little Demons, and contributed to Ryan Gosling and Zach Shields’s Dead Man’s Bones as a member of the youth choir. She brings raw, honest lyricism and earsplitting power-chord riffage to the Regrettes, establishing a unique sound teetering somewhere between punk rock and teen pop. Guitarist Genessa Gariano, bassist Sage Nicole and drummer Maxx Morando round out the quartet and instill the music with unabashed rhythmic intensity. This dynamic combo will continue to make waves in the coming years—or even months.
Fell in love with music as a freshman back in high school and never looked back once since that day. Pursued an arts degree for four years at the University of Virginia before graduating and pursuing a life as a starving artist. Avid music listener, journalist and teacher who performs and composes his own work under the moniker of Sundaug. Currently serving as Managing Editor and Experimental Reviewer with mxdwn.com.
Brooklyn, NY Rock
Jilian Medford began IAN SWEET as a solo project in 2013, scrappily recording demos straight from her guitar into her laptop while studying at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Last year, with a full band made up of drummer Tim Cheney and bassist Damien Scalise in tow, they released their debut album, Shapeshifter, in which the trio ambitiously realize Medford’s isolationist vision with a palpable chemistry. They make teetering and visceral anxiety anthems centered around a gripping narrative of rebirth and reinvention in the face of a bitterly one-sided relationship. Their live shows cater to extremes, showcasing both their tightly-controlled chaos and arrestingly intimate moments. It’s a combination that’s not to be missed.
James Rettig is a staff writer at Stereogum, and has been contributing there in some capacity or another since 2013. Before that, he interned at Billboard and worked at WTSR, the radio station at The College Of New Jersey. Since he doesn’t know what else to write for this 100 word count bio, he’s encouraging you to donate to Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Sacred Stone Legal Defense Fund, or any local organizations that need help in our fight against fascism. Resist!
London, UK-England Punk
South London’s Shame is already causing quite the stir in England. The tight-knit five piece has already been heralded as one of the most exciting live bands in the UK before hitting the age of 20 and releasing their debut album. “We enjoy playing live, and we want it to be, for whoever comes down, a memorable experience and the best it can be,” frontman Charlie Steen said to Dork. Featuring meaty basslines coupled with jangly guitar licks and Steen’s deadpan delivery, Shame is ready to unleash their frenzy-fueled post-punk brand on SXSW after a heralded performance at the Eurosonic Noorderslag festival in The Netherlands earlier in the year.
Nick Gerts is a Soundfriend contributor. By day, he works as a sports page designer and editor. By night, his works with music include Dissension Records, RedRacer and Queen Kwong.
London, UK-England Rock
South London has long been a hub for some of the best urban and dance music around, but it’s taken a while for guitar bands to re-stake their claim south of the river—SWEAT could well be the ones to finally put it back on the map. Their hyper-intelligent sound pulses with massive grooves and nods heavily to when songs made with six strings and a synth made you dance like there was no tomorrow. The five-piece made one of 2016’s best under-the-radar classics with “Acid Rainbow” and ended the year playing a packed club show where Lady Gaga dropped in to play a few songs to their fans. They’re carving out a path of their own making in British music and it’s very, very different from everything else around them.
The Line of Best Fit
Montclair, NJ Rock
In the opening lines of Forth Wanderers’ 2014 debut, Tough Love, Ava Trilling sings, “I wanna be known as the girl who’s stone cold / Wears her heart on her sleeve for everyone to need.” That balance between cynicism and sincerity speaks to the heart of the seasick feeling that the New Jersey-based band evokes, and on last year’s fantastic Slop EP, they crystallize that disparity in sharp and emotionally dextrous songs that sound borderline country in the way that Trilling’s twang and lyricism lay out a story. The band operates as a close-knit unit live, and that connective tissue is sure to show up on their sophomore album which they’re working on now.
Berlin, Germany Rock
Hailing from Berlin, OUM SHATT blend Arabic and Turkish influences into their sound. A little bit surf rock, a little bit psychedelic, Oum Shatt is a true original. Lead singer Jonas Poppe sings with a matter-of-fact tonality reminiscent of David Bowie or Franz Ferdinand. Poppe was inspired to add world music elements into the band’s sound as a result of spinning Arabic and Turkish records in Berlin clubs. Try to resist the intriguing rhythms and cheeky lyrics that span politics and relationships on tracks like “Power to the Women of the Morning Shift” and “Madame O. (Black Friday)”. Oum Shatt refers to their sound as, “A bit of Ricky Nelson with a moustache. Or Ian Curtis, naked in Cairo, half past three in the morning.” If that doesn’t leave an impression, I don’t know what does.
London, UK-England Pop
It has been a tumultuous few years for Mt. Wolf, but now firmly consolidated as a formidable three-piece with singer and producer Sebastian Fox, guitarist Stevie McMinn, and drummer Alex Mitchell, the band will finally release their much anticipated debut album in 2017. With the lineup change now behind them and a brace of critically acclaimed EPs under their belt, the time is right for the London-based band’s delicate and ethereal electronica to help people escape an ever more agitated world.
The Blue Walrus
London, UK-England Jazz
Jazz is in a good place. Starting arguably with the release of Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly, which highlighted both the digi-skitter of Flying Lotus and the cosmic vibes of Kamasi Washington, the genre has experienced a popular resurgence. On their 2016 debut Black Focus, Yussef Kamaal—the London duo comprising drummer Yussef Dayes and keyboards Kamaal Williams—manage to synthesize much of what makes jazz exciting in 2017, combining the cut-up rhythms of FlyLo, the fluidity of Thundercat, and the spaciness of Kamasi with a wash of Herbie Hancock synths and horn charts that could’ve been ripped from The Sea and Cake (of all places). It’s a sound they make their own, and it was strong enough to convince Gilles Peterson to sign them to Brownswood after hearing a single twenty-minute set.
London, UK-England Electronic
There is a dark chill associated with their style. With the charm of electro bass and similarly projected vocals by Amber Bain they paint some strange pictures, though we’re not looking away. It’s not hard to say this may be where shoegaze might have ended up if the genre hadn’t just Frankensteined altogether, with the Clean EP setting an irreversible tone that took us back, but only for a while. The Japanese House is the next step in the evolution of not only the introspective droning that reverbs deep into your soul, but is the future of pop music altogether.
All Things Go
Uijeongbu, South Korea Hip-Hop / Rap
For anyone interested in Korean hip-hop, the name Drunken Tiger should be well known. Started in 1999, Drunken Tiger redefined the genre over eight albums. Even though controversial by Korean standards, each release by the group helped inspire and influence new Hip-hop artists. While announced that a final Drunken Tiger album will be released in 2017, Tiger JK continues making music with Yoon Mi Rae and Bizzy in their project group MFBTY. Yoon Mi Rae, in her own right, is as influential a figure in hip-hop. From her early days as a part of Uptown to her solo work, she worked against the stigma of being half Korean and half African-American and has since proven to be a significant figure in the Korean music industry. Along with her Tiger JK, her husband, and Bizzy, the project group MFBTY creates waves any time new music is released.
New York, NY Singer-Songwriter
Vagabon (aka Lætitia Tamko) has been a staple of the NYC music scene since releasing her impressive Persian Garden EP back in 2014, and she continues to grow. She’s won over artists like Crying, whose debut album she raps on. and Sadie of Speedy Ortiz. who she’s opened for several times. Now Vagabon is finally releasing her debut album, Infinite Worlds, just before SXSW, and it’s a clear step up from the EP. She makes unpolished, powerful indie rock with a folky element to the songwriting that Speedy Ortiz and Hop Along fans would probably like. What sets Vagabon apart from any similar artists though is Lætitia’s truly strong voice. She really belts it, even during the quietest moments.
Philadelphia, PA Pop
Speedy Ortiz mastermind Sadie Dupuis’ latest project–Sad13 –borrows its name from her (hilarious) Twitter account, and specializes in glitter soaked pop. Giving knowing sonic hat-doffs in the direction of No Doubt, The Cardigans, and Garbage, Sadie’s debut solo album pairs wonky, house-of-mirrors fun with vital lyrical dialogue surrounding consent, empowerment, self-care, and communication. ‘Slugger’ stands as a middle finger to certain areas in pop’s landscape; the songs which place mysterious glances and those ‘Blurred Lines’ on a pedestal. Putting forth her remedy–an off-kilter muddle of horoscope references, fast-quipping one liners, and a bumper dose of bullshit busting–Sad13 is fighting back. Sadie’s diamond-sharp songwriting mind is fully evident in Speedy Ortiz, and Sad13 shows yet another side to one of the brightest talents around right now.
Seattle, WA Hip-Hop / Rap
Hailed as the reigning prince of Seattle Rap, this young hip-hop prodigy has made a name for himself since the release of his EP NightFall. His unique style of lyrical storytelling is beyond personal—it transports his listeners to a different time and place, giving them an insight into the trials of his youth, the struggles of the streets, and endearing his audience through the turmoil of his past. Backed by the Sub Pop team, Ray brings a serious dose of introspection, reflection, and nostalgia for days gone by. With his silky-smooth melodies, intermittent croons, and fierce lyrical savvy, this young gun has positioned himself in the spotlight, ready and poised to command some well-earned attention for his future endeavors. From soulful rhythm to hard hitting dubs, he is sure to satisfy any itch you’re looking to scratch, and we can’t wait to see what he comes up with next!
Los Angeles, CA Rock
Mondo Cozmo may have emerged less than a year ago but frontman Joshua Ostrander is no stranger to making music, nor the spotlight. Ostrander is a veteran of two separate major labels in his previous bands (Laguardia and Eastern Conference Champions) and the depth of his experience shows through on all four of Mondo Cozmo’s songs released so far. From the Americana and gospel infused “Shine” to the punk rock energy of “Sixes and Sevens”, Mondo Cozmo has quickly established itself as one of the most promising acts of 2017. Did I mention the live show yet? I caught them at Los Angeles’ School Night showcase a few month ago and they absolutely brought the house down. Ostrander is a force to be reckoned with.
The Burning Ear
Melbourne, Australia Rock
Australian guitar pop has been a part of the indie music scene for some time, but perhaps none have risen to such acclaim as quickly as the lads in RBCF. Headed by a three-pronged guitar assault, they channel the melodic tunes of New Jersey outfit Real Estate while still bringing in the appropriate dosage of jangling notes popularized in the Oceanic region. There’s a precision to their songwriting, never missing a note or a beat; they choose instead to focus on the crisp harmonies that come naturally to their earnest pop endeavors. Having already made waves with Talk Tight, 2017 will up the ante with an EP release via the revered folks at Sub Pop. If you want guitar pop done the right way, then you’ve found your new favorite band right here.
Austin Town Hall
Flint, MI R & B
Tunde Olaniran, hailing from Flint, Michigan, is a musical chameleon, changing hats from R&B singer to underground rapper to pop performer, often in the same song. Each style he transitions into is perfectly paired with inventive shifts in his dynamic production. This ability to pivot from genre to genre with ease gives his 2015 debut album Transgressor an energy that keeps you captivated and guessing what’s around each sonic corner. From the opening track, “Transgressor,” which blends tribal-jazz rhythms with sparse, punchy backing drums, to the bold, anthemic closer “24KT”, Tunde introduces himself as an artist who speaks truth to power wanting to explore every creative outlet possible. Check out the shape-shifting single “Namesake” for a glimpse into Tunde’s vast musical universe.
Operation Every Band
Nathan Headden is a freelance photographer and music writer; having written for a number of online and print publications over the past decade. In 2010, he and Kevin McStravick started Operation Every Band, a Tumblr-based music blog that focuses on reviewing music festival lineups, most notably every artist that officially plays SXSW each year. During SXSW 2015, using a borrowed camera in the photo pit at Chance the Rapper’s “Free the People” Showcase, he caught the music photography bug, and has been photographing musicians at shows and festivals in his hometown of Dallas ever since.
New York, NY Soul
The French-Colombian singer and multi-instrumentalist is redefining what it means to be smooth, one soulful song at a time. Gabriel Garzón-Montano’s mother was a mezzo-soprano who played a huge selection of musical instruments, sang at Manhattan’s All Saints Church, and hung out with the likes of Meredith Monk and Theo Bleckmann. His deeply personal music blends ‘70s soul with a modern flourish, and his charismatic voice takes center stage without breaking a sweat. It earned him a contract with the legendary Stones Throw imprint and made fans of Mayer Hawthorne, Zöe and Lenny Kravitz, and Drake, who sampled Garzón-Montano’s “6 8” on If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late.
Melbourne, Australia Electronic
Australian producer Running Touch is something of an enigma. His identity, while not exactly hidden—go to a show and you’ll see his face—it’s not his central focus and that’s because it’s not a static thing, at least musically speaking. With each project and song the 22-year-old shows a whole new facet of himself: whether it’s via his soulful vocals, euphoric productions, funk-infused club bangers (see ”Aubrey”), designing his own artwork, producing his own videos or as a studio member of Australian hardcore band Ocean Grove. There’s a prolific quality to his output, sure, but what really sets Running Touch apart from his contemporaries is his fearlessness in innovation, experimentation and artistry. It’s exciting to witness.
Perth, Australia Rock
Best known as the bassist of Tame Impala, Cameron Avery is already making a name for himself on his own. Last year he spent a good chunk on tour with The Last Shadow Puppets, opening up for their sold-out performances and getting plenty of solo experience under his belt. While there are elements of the Tame Impala sound hidden in the depths of his music, Avery’s sound is something more of a mix between retro soul and alt-country, a smoky cool that’s both sexy and ultra cool. It’s a good thing Tame Impala are between albums, as you can expect him to make a big splash this year with the release of his debut solo album Ripe Dreams, Pipe Dreams, out on March 10 via Anti- Records.
We All Want Someone To Shout For
Evanston, IL Hip-Hop / Rap
The crowded field of Chicago-based artists that have become household names and hip-hop fan favorites forces rising stars to create a unique lane and pushes them to innovate out of the gate. With his 2016 album Nat Love, Kweku Collins proves to be one such standout. The album is ambitious in its scope and masterfully ties seemingly disparate styles together. It is packed with tracks that display Collins’ many sides and his unique takes on genres. Highlight tracks include “Vanilla Skies” (feat. Taylor Bennett) which features a fun, slightly hazy twist on classic pop, and the oddCouple-produced “Death of a Salesman” that finds Collins poetically rapping about the death of black people at the hands of police, and the government that fails to protect them from systematic abuse of power. Across Nat Love, Collins proves time and again that he has the talent and artistic depth to demand attention in the Windy City and beyond.
Operation Every Band