You should be listening to Alabama Shakes and Cloud Nothings if you’re not already.
SXSW 2012 had a lot of well-known artists I caught who ruled: Bruce Springsteen — who was joined by members of Arcade Fire, Jimmy Cliff and Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello — Jack White, Santigold and Fiona Apple. And there were surprise pop-ins from Rick Ross and Eminem, too. But one of my favorite things about the music festival is stuffing my face with Tex-Mex and BBQ the chance to discover and check out up-and-coming bands to keep on the radar. Some have already been making waves, and some are just about to, but all are Buzzworthy bands you need to know.
Here are, in no particular order, 15 bands from SXSW you need to know:
Alabama Shakes: Holy ish, these guys and gal are fantastic! The group drew long lines and crowds during their multi-show appearances. Brittany Howard’s powerhouse, gritty voice conjured Janis Joplin, and the band’s Southern soulful, bluesy stomp was as intoxicating as an Alabama Slammer (with all the fun, and zero hangover). Listen: “Hold On,” Watch: “You Ain’t Alone”
Howler: Talented? Check. Cute? Check. Hilarious? Check! The Midwestern (Minnesota) quartet are an indie rock band for retro-leaning melodies and a young zeal. There was plenty of silly boy banter onstage about tour antics, which added to their already-adorbs charm. Watch: “Back of Your Neck”
Of Monsters And Men: I first saw the Icelandic band at Iceland Airwaves music fest in October, and in five months they’ve grown their fanbase exponentially, playing to a full house at the larger Stubb’s venue. Their song “Little Talks” is getting radio airplay love and due to their appealing orchestral-tipped, rousing folk style (fans of Arcade Fire will approve) and lovely male-female vocal interplay, they garnered a deal with Universal Records. Watch: “Little Talks”
Check out more SXSW bands you need to know after the jump.
The Balconies: Toronto, Canada trio The Balconies mines hook-laden pop-rock and singer Jacquie Neville’s arena-worthy, Hayley Williams-esque vocals and bigger-than-the-stage presence (which included scissor kicks, half-splits and all-out rocking about) were as ballsy as she is hot. Listen: “Kill Count”
2:54: Yes, this U.K. band played at the exact time slot as their namesake at Fader Fort, but they’re far from gimmicky. The quartet includes two sisters, Collette and Hannah Thurlow, whose axes provide the shoegazy undertone that pleasingly juxtaposed against Collette’s hazy vocals. Listen: “Scarlet”
Penguin Prison: I wandered into the dark ND venue in the middle of a Texas sunshine day, and Penguin Prison (aka Chris Glover) transported me into thinking it was 4 a.m. at some Ibiza nightclub, in a good way, natch. The crowded room was in a dance frenzy from his funkified beats and nü disco-to-glistening-’80s vibe. Listen: “Don’t F*** With My Money.”
Cloud Nothings: Every so often I caught a glimpse through the crowd of the bespectacled Dylan Baldi frantically propelling himself about the small stage at the ridic packed 512 Rooftop venue. More important, though, was being able to hear his frenetic melodies, which grew into growling anthems. Watch: “No Future/No Past”
The Drums: There’s something distinctly British sounding about The Drums, which is odd given they’re Brooklynites by way of Florida. It does make sense that they made a big splash in the U.K., though with their Brit-poppish guitars and rhythms. There’s also something buoyant about them; even the song they introduced by saying “This song’s about my dead best friend” was upbeat. Think a less dark, more flamboyant Interpol. Watch “Best Friend (Live)”
Sharon Van Etten: Her melancholic compositions combined with her clear, pretty vocals and straight-to-the-heart confessional lyrics were spellbinding when I caught her set at Stubb’s. Anyone who can get a mostly drunk, sold-out crowd to shut up and listen is a superhero in our book. Watch “Magic Chords (Live)”
Nneka: The Nigerian-born, Germany-dwelling singer has a bevy of influences to match her multicultural experiences: From hip-hop to funk, reggae to Afro-beat, the music is all pulled together with her soulful vocal stylings. Also, it is petty of us to mention that we’d seriously want her hair? Watch: “Camouflage (Live)”
The War On Drugs: I don’t advocate drugs, just like this band’s name implies, but I’d fathom to guess stoners would find them just as compelling as we straight-laced folks do. They have a sprawling Americana vibe, which detours into psychedelia and features ringing guitars, while singer Adam Granduciel delivers lyrics in a strutty cool Lou Reedish/Bob Dylan way. Listen: “Baby Missiles”
Night Moves: These Minnesotans were hot, both in looks and from the Austin heat when I caught their day showcase. The Domino Records act occupies that space between psych-rock, dance and country. Be sure not to confuse them with the 1970s detective movie of the same name. Listen: “Headlights”
Kimbra: New Zealand by way of Australia’s Kimbra has style — a bevy of it, actually. I saw her at Austin Music Hall, where she was working a ’50s-styled outfit and traversed a diverse musical array of pop, soul and jazzy scat during her rambunctious set. The all-over-the-musical-map approach would appeal to the ADD set and to those who value eclecticism over singular focus. Watch: “Settle Down (Live)“
GIVERS: This Louisiana group (and former MTV PUSH artist), who have performed on the outdoor stage for “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” were a helluva a lot of fun, with whimsical ukele, boundless energy and peppy beats. Smiles abounded on stage and were contagious audience-wide. Watch: “Up, Up, Up”
G-Side: Alabama was well-represented both on the Alabama Shakes rock side, and with rap talent from G-Side. The crew, who hail from hard knocks to make good with thoughtful flow and lyrics, killed it on the side stage of last summer’s Pitchfork Music Festival, easily one of the best acts I caught there. The rap duo played a couple of times during SXSW to rave reviews. Listen: The ONE…COHESIVE album.