Ah, South by Southwest – What a glorious, messy, magical music festival. It’s held in Austin, Texas, but don’t let the big T deter you (sorry, Tejas). Austin is a funky town full of friendly folks, tattooed cyclists, glorious BBQ, breakfast tacos, a plethora of music fests, and a lot of innovative startups. Austin is a strange cross between Portland and San Francisco, with some hot sauce on top.
I attended my very first SXSW last year (not ashamed to admit I hadn’t been up until then; you gotta start somewhere), and while people love to exclaim that it’s “not what it used to be,” that it’s become “too corporate,” and it’s “way too big now,” all of these points are probably very valid, it has been around since 1987, after all. However, you can still have a good time. Why? Because more than 2,000+ bands flock to the city to play for everyone, each other, and everywhere. Plus, there are usually free tacos and beer. No complaints! You can also rock out to a Finnish goth band in a burger joint, see your guilty pleasure Danish bubblegum pop princess perform in laundry mat, mosh your way around a bridge at 3 am to the most hype-worthy of punk bands and meet a lot of interesting people. I did all of the above last year and it was perfect, despite the moans of what SXSW “used” to be.
This year? I opted to travel to Iceland and London instead and had merely 3 hours of vacation left by the time SXSW planning came about (a good 4-6 months in advance). Alas, it just wasn’t gonna happen. Am I moping? A bit, but that doesn’t mean I can’t jump on the SXSW bandwagon and write about the latest and greatest bands I hope those who are attending, have the chance to see. If you haven’t seen your Facebook and Twitter feeds blow up with SXSW updates yet, you will soon. The music portion of the fest is going on now (March 11-16th). So, whether you’re in the thick of the madness or listening from the sidelines, here are some of this year’s SXSW 2014 must-see (or listen to) bands.
p.s. Did you know that Coco Stereo is on da radio? You do now! “Cuckoo for Coco’s Pop Underground” airs on BFF.fm every Sunday, 11 am – noon PST. I played a special SXSW must-see bands edition last week. Here it is in all its gloriousness + a handful more I couldn’t cram in one hour.
Tei Shi – M&Ms
Black Atlass – Blossom
Cherry Glazerr – All My Friends
Quilt – Arctic Shark
Chance The Rapper – Cocoa Butter Kisses (ft. Vic Mensa & Twista)
Mutual Benefit – Golden Wake
FKA Twigs – Water Me
Glass Animals – Gooey
Sophie – Bipp (*update* It’s been discovered at South By that Sophie is a HE. Ah, the joys of SXSW)
Speedy Ortiz – Everything’s Bigger
Wet – Bad Idea
Cate Le Bon – Are You with Me Now?
Diane Coffee – Hymn
Hundred Waters – Cavity
Ex Hex – Hot and Cold
Must-See SXSW Bands Pt. 2:
Angel Olsen – High & Wild
Trust – Joyland
Sylvan Esso – Coffee
St. Vincent – Prince Johnny
Timber Timbre – Hot Dreams
Banks – Brain
Warpaint – Biggy
Julie Byrne – Young Wife
Kelela – Do it Again
No Joy – Hare Tarot Lies
Phox – Slow Motion
You know that late 80s jam, “Nothing Compares 2 U” written by Prince and sung by Sinéad O’Connor? Well, it perfectly conveys how I feel about Hundred Waters. Nothing compares to them. Their undeniable talent, riveting live performances and eclectic sound is unlike any other: Hauntingly beautiful, captivating, goose bump-inducing, and lead singer Nicole Miglis’s fragile voice is seemingly out of this world.
The Gainesville, Florida-hailing group, whose name is a play off of, and an ode to the influential European painter, Friedensreich Hundertwasser, started playing music together while students at the University of Florida. In October of 2011, they officially became Hundred Waters. Since then, the group has seen a whirlwind of success, and rightly so. After initially releasing their debut, self-titled album in February of 2012 via Elestial Sound, the group’s stunning and unique music wowed and wooed many. They were immediately picked up and signed to Skrillex’s label, OWSLA, who then re-released their album in September of 2012. They’ve since played festivals including CMJ, South by Southwest, Austin City Limits, and have toured with the likes of Julia Holter, Grimes, Braids, The xx, etc.
In all of Hundred Water‘s glorious success, they’ve also still managed to continue writing and producing magnificence, as they announced today their forthcoming sophomore album is due out May 27th. And luckily, Hundred Waters hasn’t left us crying alone in a fancy restaurant along with Sinéad O’Connor. They’ve given us two brand new tracks: “Down from the Rafters” and “Cavity,” both of which are as captivating as ever. In an interview with NPR, Nicole Miglis stated that, “‘Cavity’ is like watering a field but so much it becomes muddy, or filling a bathtub with so much water it just floods the house.” Even their track descriptions are ethereal. Nothing compares to you, Hundred Waters. Enjoy:
Hundred Waters – Down from the Rafters
Hundred Waters – Cavity
Damn, Denmark, you’ve done it again. There must be something in the water, ‘cus Copenhagen continuously and consistently pumps out ferociously catchy alt/electro-pop artists. This is where Kill J comes in. She’s a new Danish act who excited the ears of many back in June of 2013 with her debut and hypnotic jam, “Phoenix.” Luckily, Kill J has surfaced once again in full force with a slammin’ new single, “Bullet.” On the semi-mysterious artist’s Soundcloud page, she’s fiercely stated that “Bullet” is…
“…dedicated to the victims of other peoples bullshit convictions. People who act sinful, hateful and ungodly in the name of their God.”
Kill J – Bullet
Kill J – Phoenix
The moment Mt. Royal‘s jam, “Missing Reward” hit my ears, I immediately became obsessed. Since then, I’ve repeatedly listened to the group during my commute, while at work in between editing sessions, and I find any excuse to pop my headphones in for one more listen.
Who is Mt. Royal? They’re a new “vintage psychedelia” pop 5-piece out of Baltimore, Maryland (who took their name from a street in their hometown) fronted by the magnetic and soulful, Katrina Ford of Celebration. The group released their self-titled debut EP on January 27th via Bella Union and have hopes for an album release this spring/summer.
Though no tours are listed for Mt. Royal, aside from a show here and there listed in Brooklyn, keep your eyes and ears open. In the mean time, listen to Mt. Royal on Spotify (you can find the full EP here), give them a follow on Facebook and Twitter, and watch their glittery, glamorous video for “Missing Reward.”
A year ago, the day before Valentine’s Day, I went to an Unknown Mortal Orchestra show and fell in love. Not with the band though, I already loved them long before. I fell in love with the guy who happened to be standing next to me. As strangers standing in the crowded, smoke-soaked venue, we found ourselves both happily singing and dancing to our favorite Unknown Mortal Orchestra song, “So Good at Being in Trouble.” Little did I know, this song would become the preface for our entire relationship… or should I say, him.
“Hey, what’s your name?” he turned to ask me. I smiled, debated his age and narrowly eyed his thick mustache and Hawaiian shirt. I laughed, entirely intrigued. “Did you catch Wampire before this?” I replied. “I was running late and missed them.” “No,” he said, as he bobbed up and down to the music, vigorously shaking his shaggy hair. “I was outside chugging Tecate.”
From that moment on, we shared an endless number of laughs, adventures, learning experiences, “I love yous,” and unfortunately more frustration, heartache and tears than should’ve ever appeared, especially in less than one year. Our relationship ebbs and flows went from timid reluctance, to comforting companionship, overwhelming highs and hope that falling in love can invoke, to disappointment, hollowing sadness and the heart-wrenching discovery of some incredibly damaging lies. Who could use a Tecate now (or five)?
A year ago, I made a Valentine’s Day Mixtape full of (you guessed it) Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Rhye, How to Dress Well, Sean Nicholas Savage, Blue Hawaii and more. Much has happened in life and music since then, so to keep the tradition alive, I bring to you yet another sinfully sweet Valentine’s Day mixtape. Let’s just say, Unknown Mortal Orchestra didn’t make the cut, and probably won’t for a very long time. However, yesterday, the day before Valentine’s Day, I went to another show (Sónar Music Festival to be exact) and once again, stood next to someone I love — This time, a very dear friend, fellow nomad, and former housemate from Ireland who met me in Iceland to help soothe my wounds with majestic scenery, the Northern Lights, a blue lagoon, expensive booze and of course, new tunes. So here’s to another year of love, or your attempt to heal from it:
It’s refreshing to hear that Trust aka Robert Alfons, the insanely talented Toronto-hailing goth synth-pop God can consistently keep up with his dark, seductive, drug-sick lurching-like music producing ways. Since the release of his stunning debut album, TRST, back in 2012, Alfons has been on what seems like a never-ending tour, but he’s back to making new music and blowing everyone’s minds and ears, per usual.
Trust‘s sophomore album, Joyland, described as “an eruption of guts, feels, and joy,” is due out March 4 via Arts & Crafts. He’ll also be embarking on tour with none other than the amazing electro-pop Queen, Mozart’s Sister. Could this get any better!? Have a listen to “Capitol” and “Rescue, Mister,” two new tracks off of Joyland, then commence to weep black tears of synth-pop joy:
Trust – Capitol
Trust – Rescue, Mister
Everyone could use more sexy, bouncin’, electro-hinged R&B music in his/her life – Thank you Black Atlass for fulfilling this! Alex Fleming aka Black Atlass is a 19-year-old Montreal-hailing experimental R&B producer with smooth vibes and a talent for producing sultry songs. Autre Ne Veut fans rejoice!
The singer-songwriter made waves back in 2012 with his sultry, atmospheric debut single, “Paris” which was plucked up and featured in a Louis Vuitton + Marc Jacobs Ad. Now back from his whirlwind 2013 Euro tour with Woodkid, Black Atlass has recently released an insanely addictive tune, “Blossom.” The track can found on his 6-track EP, Young Bloods, due out February 18th, via Fool’s Gold Records. If you’re headed to Austin all too soon, keep Black Atlass on your SXSW radar. Enjoy:
Black Atlass – Blossom
Black Atlass – Paris
There’s nothing quite like listening to depressing music when you’re utterly depressed, am I right? Sometimes you just need to brood deep down in the depths of your sadness and certain music allows you drift, soak and immerse yourself in those dark murky waters to the point where you feel strangely comforted. Now Ricky Eat Acid‘s recently released LP, Three Love Songs (via Orchid Tapes) isn’t all sobs and sorrow. It’s beautiful, calming, intriguing, alluring, unique but certainly swirls around topics like heartbreak and loss – the perfect melancholic music.
In a recent interview with Vice, Maryland-hailing Sam Ray, the 22-year-old behind the moniker Ricky Eat Acid, had quite a lot to say about who he thought would/should be listening to his music, “I would hope that cool, chill people listen to it, but I guess we’ll see. Maybe like, alt dads. Or really fucking depressed single moms.” Regardless, the album is an interesting journey from each song to the next. Songs like, “it will draw me over to it like it always does,” grow and progress into immensely beautiful compilations filling your need for tracks to ache to. psst… there’s a free download of the whole thing, too! Now, that’s not so sad. Enjoy:
You’re familiar with Burger Records, right? They’re the Orange County-based independent record label that loves to write EVERYTHING IN CAPS and use an inordinate amount exclamation points!!! That, and their charming, eccentric and eclectic, grungy/punk/garage/power pop rock artists also make them the quirkiest record label out there. LA Times said it best by stating the label focuses on “Trashy punk with a bubble gum streak.”
Sean Bohrman and Lee Rickard, members of the power pop band, Thee Makeout Party, formed Burger Records back in 2007 and have since transformed it into a blooming, audacious label, record store, and various punk rock music fests. That said, they’ve just announced the sweetest lineup for their 2-day Burgerama III music fest, March 22-23rd. The only downside? It’s in Orange County. Whomp whomp (Sorry, OC folks). If you’re in the mood for sunshine, freeways and outdoor malls, a road trip may be in order. Otherwise, I’m bringing a lil bit of Burgerama to you:
Mac DeMarco is everyone’s favorite goofy crooner. The fun-loving, Viceroy smokin’, ripped jeans wearin’, guitar slingin’ Canadian has been on what seems like a never-ending whirl-wind tour since the release of his second album, Marc DeMarco 2, back in October 2012. As hoped for, the dude’s got some new tunes that are due out in April of this year and he gave CKUA a glimpse into his forthcoming album with three lovely new tracks, “Treat Her Better” (song below starts a 4:13), “Salad Days” (starts at 8:18), and “Let Her Go” (listen at 11:30). Enjoy:
Mac DeMarco – Treat Her Better, Salad Days & Let Her Go live at CKUA
Topping Burgerama’s bill is the infamous 4 piece Atlanta-based rock group of misfits, Black Lips. Their forthcoming album, Underneath the Rainbow, was recorded with the Black Keys’ Patrick Carney, and is due out March 18 via Vice. According to bassist Jared Swilley, “it’s roots music.” Here’s a glimpse with the release of one track, “Boys in the Wood” and it’s as smooth as ever. They’ll be “extensively touring all six inhabited continents in support of the new record” including the SXSW circuit this year, as well as Austin psych-fest in May (okay, now let’s discuss a road trip!)
Black Lips – Boys in the Wood
There’s no way I could talk about Burgerama and not include a Hunx and His Punx jam – the epitome of punk and bubblegum. They’re the San Francisco-based “Queercore” garage punk rock group made up of Seth Bogart (formerly of the gay pop group Gravy Train!!!!), Shannon Shaw (from my faves: Shannon and The Clams) and Erin Emslie. They released their 4th album, Street Punk back in July of 2013 and it’s rippin! Sadly, the entire album is under 20 minutes long (I suppose you can only scream for so long), but it’s filled with quickie 30 second raging gems like, “Everyone’s a Pussy (Fuck You Dude)” and “Don’t Call Me Fabulous.” Listen to up your punk cred:
Hunx and His Punx – You Think You’re Tough
Hunx and His Punx – Bad Skin
If you didn’t see part one of this post, you may be sleeping on more than just bands. Wake up, my friend! But, hey, I’ll give you an out… this time. This series (which could be endless, really) covers various new and amazing bands you may not have given a listen at first sign of momentum, ‘cus you know, you were listening to other amazing bands and stuff. Anyway, ain’t no thang, you’re here now. So let’s get listening:
Say, you’re a fan of the beloved Bay Area “garage punk prodigy” Ty Segall? Well, lucky you, he has a rockin’ psychedelic project called, FUZZ, alongside his guitarist Charlie Moothart and Roland Cosio. FUZZ is loud, yet dreamy, and feeds your need for some serious rock and guitar riffs. Plus, you get to experience Segall on drums, and he’s unsurprisingly good. Apparently the trio tried to remain anonymous, yet Segall’s recognizable vocals, and a mention in a SPIN Magazine interview linked Segall and FUZZ to the masses. They released a self-titled debut album this year via Trouble in Mind Records, which received an agreeable review from Pitchfork.
FUZZ – What’s in My Head?
FUZZ – FUZZ’s Fourth Dream
Wow, Melt Yourself Down takes music to a righteous level. It’s an explosion of sounds, beats and genres of music that somehow work perfectly together. The London, UK-based group combines, Jazz, punk, Afrobeats, heavy brass, and some seriously fiery funk that makes you wanna get up and dance for days. The group released their first single in 2012 and have picked up major momentum in 2013 while releasing a fun and infectious self-titled debut album. Have a listen:
Melt Yourself Down – We Are Enough
SALES is a new Orlando, Florida-based project composed of Jordan Shih and Lauren Morgan. Sales’ sound is a fusion of wistful lo-fi and indie-folk, all of which can be found on a 7″ they released this year. The duo, particularly with their addicting and beautiful track, “Renee,” has charmed music lovers thus far and people are eager to hear more. Enjoy:
SALES – Renee
Jamaican Queens is an interesting “trap-pop” four-piece out of Detroit, MI. They self-released a debut album, Wormfood this year, which is composed of catchy pop hooks, dancey hip-hop beats and brutal lyrics, all of which makes them so intriguing. Looking forward to hearing more from this eclectic group:
Jamaican Queens – Water