The SXSW Music Conference in Austin, Texas officially started yesterday, but today is the day that the thousands of artists from all over the world really begin to pour in, and subsequently plug in, and rock out. Today is also the day that I touch down in Texas, with an itinerary that includes a dozen in-person interviews with some of the fest’s most promising acts and a concert calendar that will forever shift based on the buzz that these acts generate. But for now, here is who I’m eager to hear.
Everything about this Brit singer screams retro. Well, maybe not scream it as much as delicately sing it. He’s definitely tapped into the same strain of soul and folk (can I call that “soulk”?) that Marvin Gaye was tapped into on “What’s Going On.” But where Kiwanuka’s sound and appearance are throwbacks, his talent is timeless.
A reggae artist from Jamaica who has been recording since the ’60s with some of the most legendary producers on the island? That sounds a lot like Jimmy Cliff, right? While JC will be there, and I’m psyched to see him, let me just tell you why Little Roy is a must-see. His latest reggae album, “Battle For Seattle,” is all Nirvana covers! Smells like irie spirit!
Speaking of Nirvana, remember in the ’90s when everybody tried to sound like them, but mostly just focused on their moody side, and totally ignored Kurt Cobain’s passion for pop melodies? Cloud Nothings are here to fix that. This Cleveland combo combine the aforementioned moodiness with the aforementioned pop and a whole lotta racket that makes for a blistering rock set. Additionally, singer Dylan Baldi may have one of the best yells I have heard in years, possibly since that aforementioned Kurt Cobain guy.
Trevor Powers records quiet electronic bedroom music. I’m not dubbing it this because it sounds like he records it in his bedroom (although it does) or because it seems like you might put on his debut, “The Year of Hibernation” when you are about to get busy in the bedroom (although this isn’t a bad idea either) but I’m calling it bedroom music because it’s made of the same blissful moods and melodies that the best dreams are made of.
Imagine if the Ramones were really related... and there were only two of them... and they were girls! That’s kind of going on with sisters Jessica and Jennifer Clavin. These L.A. women, who formerly played in a band called Mika Miko, write melodic punk tunes with an eye toward ’60s pop song structures, as evidenced in their tellingly titled awesome single, “Searching Through the Past.”
Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band
This young upstart from Jersey shows some real promise. His latest album, “Wrecking Ball,” owes some debt to the Dropkick Murphys and Arcade Fire, but … wait, I just Wikied this guy. Apparently this is his 17th album? What’s he doing at a conference for artists who haven’t broken out yet? What he’s doing is giving the conference’s keynote speech, playing an exclusive gig at an as of yet unannounced small club tomorrow night and if I know the Boss — which I definitely do, just disregard the beginning of this entry — he’ll probably pop up on a few other stages, sitting in with friends or other young bands he digs.
You don’t really need a link to a Springsteen song, do you?
This Canadian electronic duo has been featured in Metro before, but because of the exposure that SXSW provides, this trip down South will be a big one for them and that weird hand-made instrument they lug around with them that looks like a twisted row of bar taps. And if you’re looking for another Canadian electronic act that you’re sure to read a lot about after this week, look no further than Grimes.
J Roddy Walston and the Business
Is it that the leader of this band’s name is Roddy that just tempts me to use the word “rowdy” to describe these Baltimore boys? Nope. It’s the singer’s raw voice blended with crunchy guitars and soulful keyboard playing, delivering songs that feel like they’re going to come unhinged at any moment and fall apart.