Oregon and blues music don't exactly go hand-in-hand, but ZZ Ward has us thinking otherwise. The influence from her idols Etta James, Tina Turner and Big Mama Thornton take center stage on the soul singer's debut album, 2012's Til the Casket Drops. How is this girl only 24?
Toro Y Moi
Remember chillwave? That sub-genre of dreamy, reverb-y synth sounds that nodded to 1980s nostalgia and 8-bit video game themes? Well, it's no longer a sub-genre, it's a full-fledged thing, and Toro Y Moi mastermind Chazwick Bundick has become its defacto leader. You'll find him on the dance floor with his latest album, the ambitious and sample-laden 'Anything In Return,' which finds him turning up the volume and diving into oblivion.
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Singer Chloe Chaidez was 15 when her band started out three years ago, and now they're opening for Paramore’s upcoming tour. Which is hugely impressive, but a bit misleading, since Kitten's musical style has more in common with Canadian indie pop quartet Metric. Kitten’s '80s-heavy mix of angular guitars and reverby “ooh-ahhs” are impressive on their own but doubly so given her age. See them at a SXSW hole in the wall before they blow up.
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Proving Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number, 18-year-old Joey Bada$$ is one of the most promising rappers of 2013. A member of Brooklyn’s rap crew Pro Era,' Joey’s buzz has been building ever since his '1999' mixtape dropped in 2012. This might be your last chance to see Pro Era in concert before they really blow up to Odd Future levels of popularity.
This Portland, OR-based punk trio are no newcomers; frontman Hutch Harris and bassist Kathy Foster, the band's songwriting core, have released five albums of sharp n' snappy punk with buoyant melodies that are more fun than driving bumper cars. Their new sixth album 'Desperate Ground' (out April 16) explores "violent" and "scary" imagery and was coincidentally recorded in Hoboken, NJ, as Superstorm Sandy flooded the streets.
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Imagine if the Ramones weren't long-haired Republican brothers from Queens, but two sun-kissed twenty-something sisters from Los Angeles. That's Jennifer and Jessica Clavin, the towheaded founders of Bleached, a gritty, Best Coast-ish SoCal punk outfit, whose much-anticipated debut, 'Ride Your Heart,' drops this spring.
Widowspeak become The Brooklyn Band de rigueur with their self-titled 2011 debut and its bright, dreamy indie rock that nodded to Mazzy Star, Cat Power and Fleetwood Mac. The band explore more pastoral, vintage sounds with their latest album, 'Almanac.'
Scottish synthpop trio Chvrches—pronounced, as you'd expect, Churches—pen gorgeous tracks that alternate between melancholic and bouncy. PIcture M83 with a female singer and you're off to a good start.
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Like the 1961 Elvis movie of the same name, Montreal duo Blue Hawaii's tropical music evokes crystalline-blue, bath-temp ocean water and beaches that stretch forever and ever. Their debut EP dropped in 2010, but this spring their debut full-length, 'Untogether,' finally arrive, taking their sound from the beach to the starry skies overhead, too.
Which is why "Try To Be," the second track off their forthcoming full-length debut Untogether,
Foxygen are proof that lo-fi can be as much fun as any shiny studio pop production. This California duo create shambling bedroom rock n’ roll that brings to mind Of Montreal circa ‘Cherry Peel,’ but with a lot more Mick Jagger in the voice and ELO in the melodies. Intricate craftsmen who still sound off the cuff while they’re playing, Foxygen could turn into one of SXSW’s breakout bands.
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After making a huge splash in her native Australia with singles "Jungle" and "BOY," singer-songwriter Emma Louise is heading stateside for the festival circuit. Her debut album is set to drop in early 2013.
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Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs
‘Trouble’ from TEED was one of the best sleeper albums of 2012—a dance-rock record that kept you interested throughout while still giving your feet plenty to dance to. Think Cut Copy circa ‘In Ghost Colors’—listen to “Tapes & Money” for proof.
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Unknown Mortal Orchestra
New Zealand/American trio Unknown Mortal Orchestra blend crisp, hip hop-influenced percussion with insanely catchy, fuzzed-out guitar riffs and Motown. The trio find the sweet spot between Mayer Hawthorne's croon and Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach's world-weary melancholia.
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You might have seen Le1f's booty-shaking, Pokemon-humping "Wut" video on the Internet and thought the same thing yourself: Uhh… what? But being hella confusing is the New York rapper's schitck. After all, he's the one behind the beat on Das Racist's "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell," and we all know that song makes absolutely no sense.
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Like Wavves? Then check out King Tuff, aka punk songwriter Kyle Thomas, ASAP. It's a THC-thwacked gem, but the pop melodies, anthemic choruses and production trickery are even sharper than his lo-fi punk counterparts. Listen to "Alone and Stoned" right now.
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The Nashville sextet might not take themselves seriously (see: their name), but their music is not to be messed with. Their sound has been described as "The Ramones holding Van Halen hostage," and there's enough reverb at their live shows to keep your ears buzzing for days.
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An all-female k-pop quintet named after math shorthand for function, f(x) are a fitting South Korean import to SXSW. The band melds their girl group “na na na”s with shades of hip hop and electro-pop, making them a k-pop outfit with some serious crossover potential.
Charli XCX is yet another shining example of ladies from across the pond who are dominating the indietronica game. Garnering comparisons from Marina & the Diamonds, Lykke Li and Zola Jesus, Charli's second much-anticipated EP, 'True Romance,' hits shelves in April.
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One of the hardest-charging punk bands out there, Pennsylvania’s Pissed Jeans just dropped a tough-as-hell record which is deceptively titled ‘Honeys.’ Warn your eardrums ahead of time to get ready for the savage assault.
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You know that one scene in 'Girls' when Hannah does a bunch of [illegal drug] and dances her ass off to that amazing song at a warehouse party? It's Icona Pop's "I Love It," and everyone is loving it right now. The song reached the top ten on charts around the world, and Rolling Stone named it one of the best 50 tracks of 2012.
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Last May, Mad Decent's Baauer was a rising, but relatively obscure, DJ/producer whose track "Harlem Shake" was being bumped by dance music heads but not many others. Yeah. That didn't last long.
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2011's debut 'Year of Hibernation' made Trevor Powers, the Boise, ID-based songwriter behind Youth Lagoon, a darling of the blog community with its swelling epics that seemed laser-pointed on the heart. But with his follow-up 'Wondrous Bughouse,' Powers is going straight for the cerebral cortex with deeply psychedelic sound samples and other boggling production.
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The collaboration between Canadian electronic producer/vocalist/cellist Mike Milosh and Robin Hannibal (the brainchild behind Danish soul-pop group Quadron), Rhye blend bedroom funk with soul, earning them Sade comparisons along the way. The group's morose, yet hypnotic tracks could soundtrack both getting the girl and losing her.
Brooklyn singer-songwriter Doe Paoro will be the only SXSW act to blend pop and soul with Tibetan folk. Groups like these are what festivals are for.
Australian beatmaker Flume may only be 21, but dude's already released one sick album with his recently released eponymous debut. Praying at the alter of J Dilla and Flying Lotus, the hip hop producer approaches beats from a bedroom soul worldview, keeping everything smooth and woozy.
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As a synth-pop singer-songwriter, Diamonds Rings doesn’t have many contemporaries in his age bracket. As popular as the '80s aesthetic is, there aren't too many people who bother writing confessional yet dancefloor ready pop gems, and even fewer who can successfully straddle that line between self-expression and libidinous hip-shaking. This guy is one of them, and it’s worth showing up to his concerts just to watch his dance moves.
Trapper Schoepp & The Shades
This Wisconsin outfit–lead by one of two brothers—are as capable of kicking roots rock ass as they are delivering introspective Gram Parsons-tinged tunes. And check out the band’s incredible description of their latest song, “The Ballad of Olaf Johnson”: “It’s a new song that Trapper wrote about his great-great-grandfather and how he managed to endure a long South Dakota winter after his wagon busted.” That’s Midwest pride FTW.
Pictureplane is the stage name of Denver’s Travis Egedy (which itself should be a stage name), and he makes dance music equally suited to the home or a live performance. Melding early nineties dance rhythms with breathy, dreamy vocals, Pictureplane mines a vein similar to Grimes but with more attention paid to the audience’s feet. Plus, you gotta love song titles like “Trancegender” and “Sex Mechanism.”
Haim sisters Este, Danielle and Alana have thankfully filled that Fleetwood Mac-meets-En Vogue void the music world didn't know it was missing. Check out the trio at SXSW before they hit up the Governors Ball and Bonnaroo later this summer.
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Last time we caught the retro-soul singer, he was commanding us to hug the person next to us and turning the entire main stage crowd into two giant 'Soul Train' dance lines. Blacc's blend of funk, soul and pop is always a festival highlight and the perfect accompaniment to a sunny afternoon.