By now, you’ve already heard about how thousands of acts hit Austin, TX each March for South by Southwest. This is just a known thing. And while most of the head turners are established acts performing rare, once-in-a-lifetime concerts within intimate venues (y’know, like Bruce or Jack), it’s really about the young, budding artists showcasing “what they’ve got.”
We saw those, too. We saw plenty.
That’s why each CoS writer who hit the streets of Austin last week came back with two new favorite acts. These were ones that stuck to their shoes, their hearts, and now their iPods. We call ’em “CoSigns” because we’re all willing to “co-sign” on all of the talent here. Get it?
Figured it was clever enough. Anyways, now that you’ve got all the necessary context, go ahead and check out what could be your next favorite new act. We’ve got 10 in all.
Photo by Heather Kaplan
Mea culpa, guys. I really like Chairlift. So much that I saw them three times (two and a half, really) during South by Southwest instead of trying to discover a hot, new band. Why? Because Chairlift is that band. The band’s tight, lush, and bass-heavy live sound, signing with Columbia for its latest LP Something, and gigging themselves to the bone at SXSW (slap together Chairlift’s SXSW tweets together with Patrick Wimberly and Caroline Polachek’s individual ones, it reads like reports from a death march of alcohol, hangovers, and sleep-deprived exhaustion) could and should really get the band places. At each show I went to, “Amanaemonesia” got the industry-heavy crowd noticeably more hyped. Every time Polachek twirled herself around during the joyful “I Belong in Your Arms”, some of the crowd swooned with her. The band, and its music, belong in your arms. -Paul de Revere
“I Belong In Your Arms”:
Photo by Chris Coplan
London’s Clock Opera work within a pretty standard musical framework: synthpop with a side of varying samples, working in tandem to create anthemic, slightly ambient pop tunes. There is, however, a slew of X-factors regarding frontman Guy Connelly and company that make their sound far more transcendent than any of their counterparts. The cohesion of the unit is undeniable, with the four lads working like a seamless, well-oiled machine, crafting these songs live with lethal efficiency. And that unity is mesmerizing, a kind of silent wave of energy that pours over into the crowd, uniting hipster and bro alike in a round of rhythmic shaking and emotionally-charged chanting. It may also be Connelly’s gorgeous beard, their tendency toward Peter Gabriel-esque fusion of profound thoughts and quirkier instrumentation, or the band’s constant use of old silverware as ramshackle instruments. Whatever the reason, Clock Opera have established themselves as true synthpop sensations. -Chris Coplan
The band’s debut album, Ways To Forget, hits stores on April 24th via Moshi Moshi/Island Records.
“Once and For All”:
Photo by Jeremy D. Larson
That feeling when you connect with another human about something you think might be obtuse, or pastiche, or strange, but with Conveyor it was unobstructed joy. This intimate, acoustic set at the We Listen For You party was the only thing I could catch from the Brooklyn pop experimentalists, but they had me transfixed from note one until they shuffled off the stage. It’s the kind of band that wouldn’t surprise you if they kept a master score for each of their songs so that they could give it to a symphony conductor if the situation ever presented itself. Conveyor comes with time signatures that dart around songs, dense four-part harmonies that stretch around the guitar, and fully-formed ideas rush in and out of their indie-experimental songs (borrowing from my earlier write-up, “Grizzly Bear Collective” is an OK reference point). The glut of ideas that spark during a simple Conveyor acoustic set could fill out three entire LPs, and these guys only have a wonderful 7″ out so far. -Jeremy D. Larson
Photo by Michael Roffman
Depending on the light, Fort Lean’s vocalist Keenan Mitchell shares the same hair with Sammy Hagar or Buzz Osborne. It’s enigmatic, it’s reckless, and it’s just the right style for the Brooklyn rockers. Crafting indelible indie alternative, Mitchell and the gang swing between cruise control shoegaze and mainstream indie rock, though with a tad more edge. At the sweltering Karma on Friday night, the photo-ready quartet chummed up murky ballads like “Dreams (Never Come True)” or sunny shades of poppy brilliance via “Beach Holiday”, which turned even the drunkest of heads at the nearby bar. There’s still some fine tuning to be had, but leave their future garage sessions to smooth that over. Right now, however, they’re working with something that could very well be an exciting flavor at a festival near you. In sum, if you want to listen to Kings of Leon without actually listening to Kings of Leon, here’s a band that takes that sound, runs it through the gutter, and tries to clean it back up for you. Enjoy. -Michael Roffman
Hanni El Khatib
Photo by Harley Brown
You dont want to pick a fight with Los Angeles blues thrasher Hanni El Khatib, and thats not just because he cites knife fights and train wrecks as his influences. When the heavily tatted, black-clad Palestinian/Filipino singer-songwriter (but if you called him that, hed at least give you a dirty look and more likely punch you in the face) growled, You need to fix this, in response to feedback problems at his showcase at 512, I was a little worried for the sound engineer. Fueled by continually double-fisted beers, El Khatib and drummer Nicky Fleming-Yaryan yowled through the taut, sinewy rockabilly of songs like Fuck It. You Win. and Dead Wrong, whose Jack White-inspired guitar screeches fit the 512s shotgun layout to a model T. It would almost be cliche if they weren’t so damn good. -Harley Brown
“Fuck It. You Win.”:
Something clicked as soon as Jacques Greene got on the decks at the Lustre Pearl on Wednesday night. Suddenly this rap show that heretofore had movement restricted to the head and hands now got me moving my whole body. He traffics in that jungle UK remix style of R&B songs (Cassie’s “Must Be Love” got the treatment, as did a Kelly Rowland and an Aaliyah song) but that’s only the surface of Jacques Greene’s flair. It’s hard to strike that balance between pleasing headphone-wearing crate-digging electronica nerds and those dance-rats just looking to get down, but Greene brings all flavors to the plate. His set had two things that are very important to me: samples, drops, and groove shifts that surprise the shit out of me so I say “Ohhhh!” to let people know I’m smart enough to know what the samples and style is. The second thing, which more than balances that out, is making me move it like an idiot with reckless abandon. -Jeremy D. Larson
“Arrow” (feat. Koreless)
Photo by Harley Brown
The northeastern UKs fertile deep disco scene has a new addition to the likes of Friendly Fires and Ladyhawke. Newcastle tropical pop trio Polarsets cowbells, ebullient rhythms, and wistful lyrics about cocaine and driving around with that special someone have already gotten the attention of The BBC. Now, Polarsets have charmed American audiences with an enthusiastic performance and reciprocal reception at the Clive Bar on Saturday. They replicated their club beats with multiple drum sets and vocalist Rob Howes guitar that almost as big as he was, which freshened sounds that could otherwise sound canned in cloudy daylight. The as yet unsigned actwhich hopefully wont be the case for longkept SXSW-weary audiences dancing after Policas hard act to follow, which is no small feat. -Harley Brown
Photo by Paul de Revere
Texas gets a bad rap, justifiably or not: cavalier, strident, chip-on-shoulder (“Don’t mess with Texas!”)– but whatever its disposition, there’s a reason Austin is a growing, desirable city for musicians and Texas is staunchly prideful. One of those reasons has to be Denton, T.X.’s Seryn. So it only makes sense that the quintet played a Friday party for Texas Music Monthly just outside the SXSW hullabaloo. As soon as you hear the Explosions in the Sky-like intro of “River Song” or the swell of acapella vocal harmonies at the end of “We Will All Be Changed”, you realize that Seryn is a perfect fit, and that its sound could have only come from the Lone Star State. Seryn’s music feels endless, fiercely ambitious, and sonically independent from virtually any other band, not just at SXSW but anywhere. The band played outdoors at the end of a rare clear afternoon during SXSW’s music conference, light peeking out from behind clouds of a Texas sky that seems larger, somehow, than other place’s skies. I don’t know if everything, including the sky, really is bigger in Texas. But Seryn’s sound sure is. -Paul de Revere
“We Will All Be Changed”:
My SXSW experience with avant R&B duo THEESatisfaction was not unlike your common baptism. The church was the tightly-packed floors of Red 7. Meanwhile, the holy water was the sweat that poured down my head. Regardless of the minor, surface differences, an existential experience was had nonetheless. That profound sense of awakening wasn’t facilitated with words from a book; rather, it was the gallons of charisma effervescently released into the atmosphere with every cutting lyric or sly wink of the eye. And rather than raising their hands to some deity above, the pair called upon the spirits of musical justice with a mesmerizing routine of stomps and spins. When all was said and done, this member of the convocation was left with the aftermath of something larger, more meaningful than himself rooting around in his belly. If that’s not worthy of a spirited “Amen!” or two, then the souls of music fans won’t find salvation anywhere.
The duo’s debut album, awE NaturalE, hits stores on March 27th via Sub Pop.
Photo by Heather Kaplan
For the past three years, Toronto’s Zeus has been crafting throwback rock ‘n’ roll, wowing audiences and the likes of Arts & Crafts, which issue their LPs. At their label’s showcase early Friday night at the stuffy-even-though-it’s-outside 512 Rooftop, the highly talented Canucks powered through a number of tracks off their forthcoming sophomore LP, Busting Visions. (Ahem, the follow up to their 2010 Polaris Prize-nominated debut, Say Us.) Drummer Rob Drake kept the beat pounding as the remaining three multi-instrumentalists – Mike O’Brien, Carlin Nicholson and Neil Quin – shuffled to and from the guitar, bass, organ, or vocals, coupling dusty ’60s psychedelia with ’70s American Legion rock. The three of them can sing, nail solos (both on keys and on strings), and exude a stage presence that conjures up the greatest moments from The Who’s The Kids Are Alright. Tracks like “Bright Brown Opus” or “Love In A Game” proved to be wonderful exercises in molding or destroying energy, and that cover of Genesis’ “That’s All” hinted at a more cynical, humorous side to the fairly serious quartet. Basically, they can be your favorite new rock band if you let them. -Michael Roffman
Zeus’ sophomore LP, Busting Visions, hits stores on March 27th via Arts & Crafts.
“Anything You Want Dear”: