March means the South by Southwest festival is just around the corner. There’s really no other festival quite like it. Hundreds of bands converge on the Austin, Texas area to play in a plethora of venues. While it’s impossible to take in everything SXSW has to offer, we’ve compiled a list of ten great acts to check out if you get the chance. Of course, if you can’t make it to Austin, check them out online! We’ve tried to find something for every taste, so take a look. You may just find your next favorite band.
This band definitely delivers on what its name promises. They are simultaneously classic and fresh, with a hot sound, soulful vocals, and thoughtful lyrics that all combine to make some great music. If you like throwback sound, you’ll love Vintage Trouble. Check out ‘Nobody Told Me’ and ‘Nancy Lee’ to get a good taste of their style. If you want something nice and heavy in subject matter, give ‘Not Alright by Me’ a listen. Oh yeah, and you might recognize them from their commercial appearance. They’ve also opened for The Who, who I believe are actually the current definition of vintage trouble…
With the look of traveling poets from the mid 1900s, Falls are part of the burgeoning folk rebirth that’s taking place around the world. Their vocals are full of power, which is unsurprising as their lyrics are based largely on Mel and Simon’s real-life relationship troubles. Hailing from Sydney, the duo expertly blends harmonies on each track, their voices intertwining almost seamlessly. They’ll be playing at Stephen F’s Bar on Tuesday March 11th from 12:00 am to 12:40am.
Hozier has a dark, brooding sound that combines blues and soul in a rich and moving manner. He hails from County Wicklow, Ireland, and follows in the footsteps of many an Irish songsmith that came before him. His guitar work is excellent and his voice can range from deep and swelling to slight and melodic, but he always executes it perfectly. ‘The Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene’ provides a great example of his style, but make sure you listen to ‘Cherry Wine’ to get both sides of the story!
Lyrically strong, melodically sound, and technically proficient, Fictionist is one of the better alt rock bands on the scene right now. The guitar work is absolutely fabulous, employing a variety of effects backed up by serious dexterity and creativity. Each song is well written. The music and melodies combine perfectly with the lyrics to make a complete song every time. If it sounds like I’m being super stuffy about this description, don’t be fooled. It’s just my way of saying that Fictionist is objectively excellent on an academic level as well just purely going by ear. ‘Treasure These Moments’ is an outstanding rock piece and ‘Strangers in the Dark’ rocks, too. But if you want to get a look at the softer side of Fictionist, might I suggest their original Christmas song, ‘This Christmas’ or ‘The Well-Made Shadow’? Sound good, don’t they?
Grace Weber’s strength is in her voice. That’s not to say she’s not a competent songwriter as well, but her strong, soulful voice is definitely the first thing you’ll notice when listening to her. Here she his performing Stevie Wonder’s ‘Isn’t She Lovely?’ along with a pretty outstanding guitar accompaniment (don’t know who that fellow is, but I hope he tours with her). Also check out ‘Leave the Light On’, which was written by Grace and is quite a moving piece. Grace has a new album coming out in 2014, the first single of which, Perfect Stranger, is out now.
I’m not usually a huge punk guy, but I’m very excited about Save Your Breath. Honestly, they sound a bit like they’re straight out of 1998, but I mean that in the best way possible. To get a taste of their solid punk sound, check out ‘Whole’ on their Tumblr. It’s a little bit Offspring, but maybe I’m just associating them with other punk bands I liked. Also check out ‘Harrow Road’ for a deeper listen.
If spacey, melodic music is your thing, you’ll love The Soil and the Sun. They have a slight Of Monsters and Men feel, which is a pretty high compliment in my opinion. Hailing from Grand Rapids, MI, the band started as a two-person set and grew into the seven member symphony they are today. “Are You?” and “Spirit of Memory” are two great examples of what this band does. They call it alternative experiential music and, honestly, I can’t think of a better way to put it.
Their sound? Fuzzy blues rock with shrill, at times metal-esque vocals often rising in powerful chorus. Their look? ZZ Top, Jr. As far as album art, I guess some kind of Magical Mystery tour thing going on. Buffalo Killers are a little hard to pin down at first, but their music is absolutely worth taking the time to get to know. Check out ‘Baptized’ for a first look and then I would suggest jumping into ‘Get Together Now Today’. They are working on their sixth studio album hot on the trail of three consecutive years of releases. Their second album, Let it Ride, was produced by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys in 2008, so that should give you a good idea of their sound if you’re not already encouraged to check them out!
Ok, I’m tipping my hand a little on my personal tastes, but Leftover Cuties are about as adorable as their name suggests. There’s a vintage class to so much of their music that I find it irresistible. Leftover Cuties are a mix of folky Ingrid Michaelson sound and sweet big-band jazz. They’re not new to the scene, not really anyway. ‘Smile Big’ was featured in commercials for the last Summer Olympics and they wrote and performed the theme song for the Showtime series The Big ‘C’. Their latest album, The Spark and the Fire, is available now at their webpage, and they have a great collection of original songs and covers on their Soundcloud page.
Let’s wrap it up with the metal you’ve all been waiting for. Black Tusk shreds it about as hard as anyone. We were there to see them at the 2012 Orion Festival and they really tore it up, so they’ll definitely be worth seeing at SXSW this year. If you’re into general bad-assery you’ll love songs like ‘In Days of Woe’ and ‘Truth Untold’. They’re not the most eclectic band in the world, but they do what they do and they do it well. Also, hard. They also do it hard.
So who are you most looking forward to seeing? Let us know if your favorite band is going!