SXSW hosts one of the, if not THE, largest music event in the world. Taking place in Austin, Texas, from March 12-18, the city is engulfed in the sounds of every music genre imaginable. Currently, over 1000 acts are slated to make their way to Austin to play official SXSW shows, but that number is expected to hit upwards of 2,000 when you take into account every surprise sideshow that will pop up throughout the city. So, how do you go about deciding what shows you absolutely can’t miss out on when the entire music world is seemingly on display here?
To do a bit of quick math, assuming the average song length is three minutes and thirty seconds, it would take 100 hours, or just over four days, for you to listen to one song by every artist bound to play an official SXSW showcase. No matter the level of your music obsession, holing up for four days to discover the definitive acts to catch may not exactly be the best use of your time. But no need to fret, as that’s our job. We did the busy work for you and narrowed it down to some of the must-see acts at this year’s SXSW. Here are fifteen Ones To Catch at SXSW 2018, including a handy playlist to pump you up.
Nilüfer Yanya is an artist with talent well beyond her years. The 22-year-old Londoner gives life to music that exists beyond any fixed point in time, crafting songs that are reverential to their jazz and blues influences yet at the same time continuously pushes forward to deliver something entirely new unto itself. Truly, Yanya’s approach to music is uses the very core essence of the foundations of music history to bring forth something that manages to resonate on a grand scale. This seemingly magical effect is only amplified during Yanya’s live set, where she has the superb ability to seemingly remove all the air from the room solely with her powerful voice and virtuoso-like guitar prowess.
SUPERORGANISM make the sort of music that would soundtrack the most colorful of your Wes Anderson–directed daydreams. The eight-piece quirky art-pop supergroup first made a stir with their single, “Something for your M.I.N.D.,” after it made an appearance on Frank Ocean’s Blonded radio. Since then, the supergroup has signed with Domino Recordings, released the undeniably charming single “Everybody Wants to Be Famous,” and locked themselves together in a London apartment to craft their bubbly and beautiful self-titled debut album, Superorganism. It’s safe to say that this unconventional band will feel right at home in a city whose unofficial motto is “Keep Austin Weird.”
There’s an immediately captivating quality about the strumming of acoustic guitar that proliferates Lola Marsh’s music. Comprised of vocalist Yael Shoshana Cohen and multi-instrumentalist Gil Landau, the duo makes indie-pop that transports the listener to some far-off land. The duo’s debut record, 2017’s Remember Roses, received widespread acclaim, and it’s easy to see why after a single listen. The way in which Cohen’s enchanting and thoughtful lyricism floats beautifully alongside Landau’s varied instrumentation is a match made in heaven. The entirety of it all captures a dual sense of melancholy and hope, a sort of universal musical message perfect for any listener.
Pharrell Williams may just be one of today’s most important figures in the worlds of pop and hip-hop, and Buddy is further evidence that no one knows the future of hip-hop quite like Pharrell. Simmie Sims, more popularly known as Buddy, is a spitfire rapper from Compton with a relaxed demeanor who is poised to join the upper echelons of the hip-hop world. And it’s only a matter of time until he does so, with collaborations from Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper, Wiz Khalifa, A$AP Rocky, and a debut EP produced by KAYTRANADA, 2017’s Ocean & Montana, making up this rising star’s already impressive list of achievements. To make matters even better, Buddy is certainly not an artist who disappoints live, as we bore witness to during his All Eyes On performance.
Joji is an artist of many names and talents. George Miller, the Osaka, Japan-born singer and producer behind Joji, has captured a rabid fanbase throughout the internet and critics as well with his unique entrancing brand of production. Informed by his time growing up in Japan, as well as influences ranging from James Blake to Donald Glover, Joji’s music is a wonderfully intricate blend of trip-hop and lo-fi production. The James Blake comparison and influence can be felt in the way Joji approaches his tracks, opting to utilize a sense of profound minimalism and downtempo sense of melancholia to convey a powerful surge of emotion.
Zoology’s debut EP, Bloom, arrived earlier and the name fits all too well. Bloom seems to both describe Zoology’s sound as a band and their certain future in the music world, an act on the verge of producing something natural and beautiful to wide-reaching acclaim. Comprised of Emily Krueger and multi-instrumentalist Beau Diakowicz, the duo creates songs that make the saying “giving songs life” feel like anything but hyperbole. With looping electric guitars, Krueger’s soulful vocals, and thematic imagery of the natural world, Zoology has fashioned a veritable dream of a soundscape for the listener to explore. And trust us, as live witnesses to Zoology at one of our previous Bańo Flaco showcases, this is a soundscape you undoubtedly want to explore.
On Cuco’s most popular track to date, “Lo Que Siento” he sings, “Kick it with me, I don’t care if the sun is gone.” Upon hearing Cuco’s music, there’s nothing else in the world I’d rather do. The 18-year-old from South Los Angeles crafts beautiful dreamlike bedroom pop that incorporates a multicultural approach, which for whatever reason is sorely lacking to a popular degree within the genre. The approach has certainly worked for Cuco, who in a matter of just over a short year has developed a rabid fanbase and numerous write-ups across a range of publications. And who could be all that surprised? After all, Cuco is a social media master who plays six instruments and double-tracks his vocals to wonderful effect.
Pale Waves’ aesthetic takes from ‘80s acts like Siouxsie and the Banshees and The Cure, which may at first seem like an odd pairing for a band discovered and produced by the 1975, but one listen will dispel any passing semblance of doubt about the band’s authenticity. The Manchester-based quartet without a doubt takes inspiration from some of the most prominent bands in the realm of ‘80s dark pop, crafting their own dreamier versions of guitar-laden dark-pop numbers, with an air of acts like the Cure and Cocteau Twins to wonderful effect. However, don’t be fooled, this is no mere passing imitation either. Pale Waves are an act clearly influenced by the aesthetic and sound of the ‘80s new wave movement, albeit with a spin on the genre that couldn’t have been achieved any other time but today.
Ireland is often portrayed with its beautiful and expansive rolling hills of lush greenery in film and television, and when it comes to bringing this beautiful setting to life in sonic form, Dermot Kennedy succeeds exceptionally well. The singer-songwriter’s picturesque lyricism is beautifully matched by his powerful and soulful vocal stylings. It’s not terribly surprising then that Kennedy lists both Drake and Bon Iver as musical influences, as the emotive lyricism found on Kennedy’s work is indicative of Drake’s emotional-laden style of hip-hop, while the instrumentation and narrative-structure takes cues from Bon Iver’s most stunning of works. So, if being enraptured by the moving hills of Ireland, courtesy of Kennedy’s moving voice, sounds like your definition of a good time at SXSW, then this is an artist not to miss.
Jade Bird recently took us backstage in her tour diary, which only served to provide further evidence that the British folk singer-songwriter is a highly personable new voice in the world of music. Armed with an acoustic guitar and impressive lyricism that she’s been honing since she was a teenager, Bird’s sound is evocative of the sharp-witted and emotionally-vulnerable singer-songwriters that historically have captured the feelings of generations before them. And she’s very much poised to do the same, with her debut EP, Something American, serving as a showcase of the young artist’s talent for giving life experiences sonic form. “Lottery,” her single following the release of Something American, expands upon this innate talent for folksy narrative songwriting to a wonderful degree, and will likely be a hit at this year’s SXSW.
Music is a shapeless thing. We often use nebulous terms such as vibe or ambiance in the hopes of explaining even a fraction of the unexplainable. The Marías’ music abounds with that undefinable vibe. The psychedelic-soul band consists of Los Angeles-natives Josh Conway and Jesse Perlman, Canadian-born Carter Lee, Edward James, and Puerto Rican-bred, Atlanta-raised María. Together, the group make music that transports you to another time and place. In an attempt to describe the indescribable, the hypnotic guitar riffs, María’s multilingual velvety vocals, and the nostalgic horns draw from the best parts of the worlds of jazz, psychedelic rock, and funk. Yet, not even that does it justice, so I suppose you’ll just have to see exactly what I mean during their set at SXSW.
When we first presented R.LUM.R at our Saja Sessions, it would be no misgiving to say the emerging star had us completely entranced under his spell. Reginald Lamar Williams Jr., who adopted the stage name R.LUM.R, found nearly immediate success with his breakout hit single, “Frustrated.” The track has since been streamed on Spotify over 31-million-times and it’s no mystery as to why, as it encompasses all the best aspects from the artist’s repertoire. From R.LUM.R’s impressive and powerful vocal chops to instrumentation that continuously swells with unmatched intensity, it’s a small yet commanding sample of the natural talent this artist has for creating pure works of magic.
The Oxfordshire musician has been playing guitar since the young age of thirteen but his musical influences go back decades. Rhys Lewis’ found his way to his soulful and moving voice with assistance from such classics as Bill Withers, Eric Clapton, and Led Zepplin. Despite the classic influences that form the basis of Lewis’ influences and inspiration, his music is hardly stuck in the last generation. On every one of Lewis’ tracks, he succeeds wildly at delivering touching and intimate portrayals of the human experience without any superfluous elements that would otherwise cloud his raw and real messages. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say one listen and you could tell Rhys Lewis was destined for greatness.
slenderbodies’ music contains an intangible mythical quality. The California-based duo met while attending University together recorded their debut album, sotto voce, over the period of one month and the span of 380 miles, and there’s a lingering presence of this distinctive recording experience permeating slenderbodies’ work. The soft falsetto vocals paired with the intricate and airy guitars bring forth a profound range of emotion and beautiful expansive imagery. This is music that is timeless–it’s refreshing in its inventiveness yet the sonic form given to the experiences making it all up seem to expand back to the earliest moments of time. There’s nothing quite like it and it would be a shame to miss the chance to experience such a thing live.
The Los Angeles-based trio of Cole Preston, Braeden Lemasters, and Dylan Minnette make up a band that stays wholly true to its namesake, delivering a lush blend of indie and alternative rock that you can’t help but indulge yourself in. Wallows’ unrestrained brand of indie alt-rock arrives at the perfect intersection between admiration for the alternative ‘90s music scene and newfound heartfelt indie rock for a mixture that’s not quite like anything else. Chances are one listen will have you hooked but if you need even more convincing, SXSW will serve as the culmination of the Wallows’ North American Winter tour, so this is a show not to miss.