SXSW: Austin is awesome!

Telekinesis provided power-pop sing-alongs.

For four days in March of every year, more musical notes fill the air in Austin, Texas, than any other place on the planet. This theory about the SXSW Music Conference may not be scientifically proven, but it feels like reliable enough wisdom. The music does blast from every single speaker available; here are the first night highlights.

It’s difficult to refer to this Seattle-based trio without putting the prefix “power” before any other adjective. They feel like a power trio that play power pop. That could be because the frontman, Michael Benjamin Lerner, is the drummer — and he punishes his kit with walloping fills in between singing hooks so catchy that you’ll find yourself singing along by the second chorus, even if you’ve never heard the song before.

Sharon Van Etten
Lights on the floor projected larger-than-life shadows on the clean, white curtain behind Sharon Van Etten and the rhythm section duo that backed her. There couldn’t be a more fitting metaphor for the big and effortless voice that comes out of Van Etten’s small body. It is a true joy to watch an audience finding a singer just as that singer is finding her voice. And though the songs from “Epic” — the album she released last fall — demon­strated an absolute command over that voice, it was a new song that provided the goosebumps. Van Etten sang, “We all make mistakes.” The phrase may be true in her life, but there are no mistakes in her songwriting.

This London band seeps into the senses through their similarities to sights and sounds you already know. The drummer looks like the drum­mer from the band Boston. The bass player looks like a cross between Karen O. and “Ramona Quimby Age 8.” The singer sounds like he would have a hard time picking between Teenage Fan­club and the Gin Blossoms at karaoke, and the guitarist borrows the recipe for guitar soup from Yo La Tengo. But this just means Yuck has good taste. (Excuse the pun.) These elements melded into some­thing uniquely Yuck. 

James Blake
James Blake, another Londoner, seems ready to poke through the blogosphere and into the mainstream with the tricks he borrows from Aaron Neville and dubstep. The result of these dissimilar sounds is haunting. He sits still at a key­board, across from another keyboard player, with a drummer between them. They create a sound full of spaces and beauty. There is, however, a chance that it is only so moving because the enormous bass sound the other key­boardist plays shakes your insides and quite literally forces you to feel some­thing. Where songs traditionally have used a hook to shake your heart, Blake has mechanically engineered his songs to do so. Is it cheating? Maybe. Does it work? Yes.

Follow Pat Healy on Twitter at @metrousmusic.


Florida man charged with murdering son to play…

A Florida man annoyed that his 16-month-old crying son was preventing him from playing video games suffocated the toddler, police said on Friday.


Powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake rattles Mexico

A powerful earthquake struck Mexico Friday, shaking buildings and sending people running into the street, although there were no reports of major damage.


OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…


Oval oasis: Summer of fun kicks off this…

A bold partnership between the Fairmount Park Conservancy and the city's Parks and Recreation Department is kicking off this weekend with family activities re-activating this unused public space.


Whoopi Goldberg makes her debut as marijuana columnist

"It helps my head stop hurting, and with glaucoma your eyes ache, and she takes the ache out. It's wonderful," she said.

The Word

Kate Middleton made fun of Prince William's bald…

Kate Middleton and Prince William are in Sydney, Australia, right now, and it sounds like that brash Aussie sense of humor might be rubbing off.

The Word

Is Tom Cruise dating Laura Prepon?

"Mission: Impossible" star Cruise is said to be dating Laura Prepon, star of "Orange is the New Black."


'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…


Jimmy Rollins is key to Phillies success

When John Kruk was asked about what the Phillies need to contend for a playoff berth, the ESPN analyst said Jimmy Rollins needs to play like a MVP again.


Ben Revere lifts Phillies to avoid sweep

Ben Revere came through with a two-out RBI single against Atlanta’s tough lefthander Alex Wood.


Season wrap: 76ers make the grade

The 76ers opened the 2013-14 season with a victory over the Miami Heat. The Sixers closed the season with a win at Miami.


Fantasy basketball: Finding next year's NBA studs

Before we put the 2013-14 fantasy basketball season to bed, it’s worth thinking about next year’s breakouts while they’re fresh in our mind.


How to parent without gender stereotypes in a…

Christia Spears Brown, Phd. author of "Parenting beyond Pink & Blue" gives advice on raising kids free of gender stereotypes.


VIDEO: 'Vein-scanning' may become the future of paying

Designed to make transactions quicker and easier, the technology works by scanning the unique vein patterns in each person's palm.


#FollowFriday: 10 of the smartest Twitter accounts

Spending lots of time on Twitter? You might as well learn something. Here are some of the smartest accounts to follow.


Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.