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SXSW 2016

30 Must-See Artists at SXSW 2016

From Scandinavian techno to Spanish-language political punk to K-Pop to throaty hardcore to slacker indie rock, here are the acts you can't afford to miss at the Austin festival

1 / 30

Anderson .Paak

If you're unfamiliar with the name Anderson .Paak, that's about to change. The singer/rapper is Dr. Dre's latest protege, a promising talent from California whose music is both polite and sumptuous. He manages to combine genres effortlessly in a way that's both modern and futuristic. His career is only going to skyrocket from here; it's best to get on board now.

2 / 30

Rae Sremmurd

It's hard to think of teen hip-hop prodigies as promising as Rae Sremmurd. There really should be no argument for it, based on last year's incredible SremmLife. did you know Swae Lee of the dynamic duo co-wrote Beyoncé's "Formation"? Fingers crossed Bey makes a surprise appearance at the Austin fest...

3 / 30

John Legend

There aren't too many huge pop stars swinging by SXSW this year (that is, if you're excluding the President and his wife). John Legend fills that A-list void by headlining Spin Magazine's showcase. It'll be cool to see a massive artist at the convention dedicated to music discovery, and who knows? Maybe Legend will pull some lucky up-and-comer on stage!

4 / 30

AlunaGeorge

If you're an avid consumer of new music, you've probably read the words "Electronic music duo from London" far too many times. It's a musical structure that is done time and time again (hello, Disclosure) but rarely well...which is why we look to AlunaGeorge. If you're unfamiliar, start with "I'm In Control" above.

5 / 30

Lavender Country

Lavender Country is by no means a new artist, but perhaps one of the most important acts in the whole of SXSW. The band's self-titled 1973 album was the first widely distributed openly gay country release, informing generations to come about the power and importance of open sexuality. We're so lucky they're playing shows again!

6 / 30

Wall

The most exciting band to come out of New York City in a minute is Wharf Cat Records’ WALL. Where everyone else experiments with post-punk sound at one point or another, the mysterious four-piece own it with new, modern intensity. 

7 / 30

Warehouse

Atlanta has always had a diverse and interesting music scene, but when Warehouse first appeared a few years ago, the town garnered the attention of industry professionals everywhere. The band combines the best bits of post-punk indie with really dense math-rock riffage. It's complicated music, but melodic nonetheless.

8 / 30

Naps

Don't let the name fool you: There's nothing sleepy about Tallahassee band Naps. When you feel yourself craving smart songwriting delivered in a hazy, lo-fi garage pop package, listen to their EP You Will Live in a Cool Box. If "Jean Skirt Mystique" doesn't inspire you, nothing will. 

9 / 30

Turnover

When emo, indie rock and shoegaze mix for a collection of tenderness and aggression, you get Turnover. The Virginia Beach band isn't one to give into genre limitations (we're not even sure they know what they are), and the result is captivating.

10 / 30

Mercury Girls

Jangly dreampop and indie rock will always go hand-in-hand. The reason is part C86 revivalism (folks obsessed with England in the ‘80s know what we’re talking about), but also part political statement. By making it in a DIY fashion, pop music becomes for the populous. Philly’s Mercury Girls are pros at this.

11 / 30

Beach Slang

Do you have all the feelings? So does Beach Slang. Enjoy.

12 / 30

Dilly Dally

Toronto has always been something of an epicenter for music (you've heard of our pal Drake before, right?) but Dilly Dally is bringing its focus to a different, grungier place. Their debut album, Sore, felt like something straight out of the Pixies catalog, if the Pixies played to more classically punk influence.

13 / 30

The Spook School

The Spook School write queer love songs, a specific space in indie pop that's been vacant for too long. Sure, their sound recalls a certain vintage rock sweetness, but its investment in direct sexuality makes 'em stand out. Plus, the songs are damn catchy.

14 / 30

Låpsey

If you're a pop music fan, you should probably get smart to Låpsey now, because her world takeover is imminent. The U.K. teen is signed to XL already (for those out of the loop, that's Adele's label!!), and really took everyone by storm with "Hurt Me." It's as heartbreaking as the title suggests. Listen to it above.

15 / 30

Julien Baker

On the other end of the sad-song spectrum is Julien Baker. Her pop writing is built around simple, somber guitar riffs. The importance is placed on songwriting more than musicianship: You could probably cover these songs, but few could write something similar. Her future is bright.

16 / 30

Tacocat

Tacocat hail from Seattle and bring with them an excitable, unique, feminist energy. They're all about fun, but with purpose: They remade the current Powerpuff Girls theme song for the reboot and currently, their lead single is called "I Hate the Weekend," a critique on the mundanity of 9-to-5 life. We can't help but agree (and dance to it).

17 / 30

All Dogs

Fans of Waxahatchee, Swearin and all other projects by twins Allison and Katie Crutchfield will fall for All Dogs. The Ohio band is steeped in the '90s indie rock tradition its home state supports, but writes catchier power-pop from a place of real sincerity. 

18 / 30

Big Ups

You know of post-hardcore in bands like Pierce the Veil and Bring Me The Horizon, but what about the other kind? You know, the stuff inspired by bands like Moss Icon? We give you New York's own Big Ups. As we wait for their sophomore LP, Before a Million Universes, check out the speak-singing single "National Parks." It sounds destructive, but it's much more innocent: The song is actually about lyricist/vocalist Joe Galarraga's mother.

19 / 30

White Lung

Vancouver is an expensive city, and in that economy, punk manages to thrive. The ultimate success story is that of White Lung. Now gearing up for its third full-length, they've continued to develop and change the shape of punk to come...it's fearless and true to themselves. Frontwoman Mish Way's voice might get comparisons to Courtney Love, but this is something new, and vital.

20 / 30

Yung

Right now, Denmark has a pretty ferocious hardcore community. It wasn't that long ago a band called Iceage would be on this list, later to change the course of indie rock into this punk-leaning scene. Yung hail from Copenhagen, but take their heavy tunes in a slightly different direction: power pop-punk. 

21 / 30

Car Seat Headrest

When Car Seat Headrest first came on the scene, it would've been easy to compare the band to Cloud Nothings (especially with a distinct frontman who calls all the shots), but there's one real difference. Later-in-life CN start to recall bands like Sunny Day Real Estate, where Car Seat Headrest exists in the '90s indie camp, but with real nuance. 

22 / 30

Sorority Noise

Sorority Noise's Joy, Departed album last year did the unthinkable: It made emo appear cool in indie rock audiences without removing any level of earnestness. Songs like "Art School Wannabe" prove it, while highlighting frontman Cam Boucher battle with mental difference. It's a fun rock record, but also an introspective one.

23 / 30

Mamamoo

The fourth annual K-Pop's Night Out is back on Wednesday, March 16, and the lineup is stacked. We'll let you check out that one here, but know that K-Stop faves Mamamoo will be making an appearance...you really can't miss it. 

24 / 30

Beverly

For all of your lo-fi, garage indiepop needs, we say skip Bleached and catch Beverly. Sunshine never sounded so sad (but, like, in the best way).

25 / 30

PWR BTTM

PWR BTTM (yes, literally "power bottom") seem to be everyone's favorite live band these days. The dynamic duo writes fun-loving, self-critical, queer punk songs about, well, being fun-loving, self-critical queer individuals. Their very existence feels like a political move, and they're having a better time than anyone else while doing it.

26 / 30

Fear of Men

Fear of Men's music is like liquid, both on its surface and underneath it. The band makes references to water in most of its songs (it's well-documented), and the smooth, soft musicality reflects it. They'll serve as a calming presence at SXSW this year. 

27 / 30

Lust For Youth

Want some techno at SXSW? We've got you covered. Scandinavian trio Lust For Youth are equal parts '80s post-punk and deep darkwave. You'll dance, dance, dance to the radio.

28 / 30

Wildhoney

Baltimore's best! Some might give the title to Teen Suicide (justifiably... have you heard that band before?), but our favorite Maryland-born indie group right now is Wildhoney. They're as sweet as their name. Truly.

29 / 30

PUP

Toronto punks PUP really stepped up their game with "DVP," a ferocious song about love gone awry via louder-than-life drums and a line about being fucked up because of drinking too much "Hawaiian red fruit punch." It's as fun as it is angsty.

30 / 30

Downtown Boys

Recently dubbed America's Most Exciting Punk Band by Rolling Stone, Providence bilingual band Downtown Boys live up to their title. Their performances are rowdy and raucous, but attendees leave educated with the injustices of the corporate, capitalist, patriarchal society that surrounds them. It's rare that a buzz band becomes anything more than that, but Downtown Boys deliver with necessary messages.

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