Awesome New Republic (ANR)
Much hype is being made about TV on the Radio playing a bunch of shows throughout the week, which is cool, but that's not what SXSW is all about. It's discovering the next TVOTR before they're famous. ANR is that band. With so many boastful layers to each track it is hard to believe the Miami-based band is the creation of only two people, but when a touch of trumpets perfectly accents "It's Around You" you don't really care how they made it, just as long as you get to sip your Lone Star and enjoy it.
Amanda Warner, better known as synth junkie MNDR, was my favorite act of sxsw 2010. The dubious honor kicked off a tour of publicity that included her single "I Go Away" being named best new music by Pitchfork and continues with her prominent role on the Mark Ronson/Q-Tip track "Bang Bang Bang." With her untitled debut LP just around the corner she's on the cusp of being a super-duper-megastar, check her out while you can.
I love s'mores - graham cracker, mallow and chocolate are great on their own and when combined get even better. You could say the same about Voxhaul Broadcast, a quartet that mixes psychedelic, rock and soul into one perfect pitch. Their debut LP, Timing is Everything, comes out March 22 (the Tuesday after sxsw) and couldn't be more aptly named because when you're little sister is raving about 'this new band called Voxhaul Broadcast' you can say 'that is so last week.'
Some bands sound great in the studio, others sound good live; only really good bands can do both. Consider: (1) Wye Oak's new album, Civilian, is excellent on headphones (2) leading lady Jenn Wasner told the Onion's AV Club "Sometimes it's really important to explode with huge amounts of volume. Whether it's out of a creative impulse, or just an angry one where it's like, 'Hey everyone, look over here!'....It's fun to absolutely dominate a room for a couple of seconds." Therefore I'm willing to bet Wye Oak is a really good band.
Sometimes you hear the name of a band and you know that no matter what kind of music they play, you're going to like it. AaRON, doesn't instill that kind of a reaction, but Artificial animal Riding on Neverland does, which is what the acronym stands for. The band's first album went double platinum but remained in relative obscurity thanks to their Parisian roots. The last time a previously-established band from France released a catchy new indie album the country was swept with "Lisztomania." You've been warned.
If you haven't heard the band's ubiquitous smash single "Go Outside" you've probably been living under a rock next to the guys in the Geico commercial and need to heed this song's advice. Disappointingly difficult to track down on the interwebs, the band is releasing its first LP in May, and since none if their music is available online the live shows will be our first glimpse at finding out if they are a one hit wonder or the real deal. Unless they just play "Go Outside" on repeat, which I would actually be okay with.
Chances are you've heard Mr. Stetson before, and probably even seen him perform a couple times. His resume is highlighted by stints as a backup saxophone man for Arcade Fire, Tom Waits, TV on the Radio, Bon Iver, LCD Soundsystem and more. But now he's breaking out all on his own with his second LP - New History Warfare 2: Judges. If anybody mentions the guy with the giant saxophone, they're talking about him. Seriously, watch this video, and tell me you wouldn't clap your hands with delight after seeing somebody do things you didn't know possible with a saxophone that large.
Hooray for Earth
With a song called "Surrounded by your Friends" and a name like Hooray for Earth, isn't this the quintessential sxsw moment we all strive for? I'll just leave it at that.
Mellow enough that it won't aggravate that hangover from the night before but heady enough that it will make you want to get back on the hooch. The band's debut album, Twin-Hands Movement, came out in mid-2010 and never really took off despite positive reviews, but expect that to change over time. Seek out the Lower Dens in the early afternoon when you're not quite sure if you're ready for more live music and they will remind you why you came to SXSW in the first place.
As an Austinite, I would be remiss if I didn't include a hometown band on this list. Incumbent Okkervil River was running on a strong platform built around their impending May release, I am Very Far, which is set to make them a household name, but in the end I had to give it to the underdog: Agent Ribbons. These ladies can jam in a Quintin Tarantino Pulp Fiction kind of a way and do well to capture that druggy haze with simple strumming of the guitar and delicate, playful lyrics. (honorable mention: Mother Falcon, high schoolers with classical instruments who are genuinely happy to play music, and are damn good at it too)
Michigan beach music. No, really, go get a map, there is a huge beach in Michigan, the state is surrounded by Lake Huron after all. See? You just wouldn't expect a place like Michigan to have a beach, kind of like you wouldn't expect a folk band tugging on the coat tails of established indie rockers to play music that sticks to your bones so much. With a touch of reverb on the vocals, a smidgeon of Caribbean-influence and just a skosh of unpretentious avant garde, Lord Huron is its own creation and a wonderful delight.