Aloe Blacc– “Wake Me Up (Acoustic)”
Pairs Well With… Exile, Avicii, Bill Withers
Soul singer Aloe Blacc is one of the most entertaining and musically diverse artists in soul and hip hop. He has had the most success with his solo soul releases and his recent collaboration with Avicii on last year’s Wake me Up! He released an EP with the same title that features a slowed down acoustic version of the song.
2013 Review: I covered Aloe Blacc back when he played ACL in 2011 when he was touring in support of his most recent album, the soulful album Good Things (2010). The album found Aloe establishing himself as an old school R&B singer. Recently the Stonesthrow crooner took time from touring to support Malaria No More UK and their work in Ghana. Hopefully Aloe Blacc coming to SXSW means a new album is coming out soon. He should draw a big crowd down in Austin so get to his sets early.
2011 ACL review: Aloe Blacc came to prominence as one half of the criminally slept on hip hop group Emanon. Aloe’s solo style though has more of a throwback style, similar to Mayer Hawthorne or Raphael Saadiq. Fans can instantly sing along to the contagious single “I Need a Dollar.” He also has a fondness for covers, his versions of “A Change is Going to Come,” “Billie Jean,” and “Dark End of the Street” are all fantastic. If you’ve only heard “I Need a Dollar”, and liked it, you owe it to yourself to check out Aloe Blacc & The Grand Scheme.
Emanon– “Forgive Us”
Pairs Well With… Blu, Fashawn, J-Live
Hip Hop duo Emanon is Aloe Blacc with producer Exile on the beats. Their 2005 album The Waiting Room is one of the best West Coast hip hop albums of the last decade. With both artists busy release schedule SXSW presents a rare opportunity to see the two together. They’re part of the amazing Okayplayer showcase line-up on Friday evening.
The Chicharones– “Breaking Point”
Pairs Well With… Sweatshop Union, Living Legends, Sandpeople
The Chicharones are rapper and singer Josh Martinez and rapper Sleep out of Portland. Josh Martinez switches between singing and rapping while Sleep laces the track with blistering intricate flows. The two excel at writing both personal introspective tracks and slapstick comedy and fun party tracks.
2013 Review: The Chicharones are rapid fire rapper Sleep from the group Oldominion and the hilarious and heartfelt solo singer and rapper Josh Martinez who hooked up at SXSW in 2001. Both have released solid solo albums throughout the years as they’ve continued to release as The Chicharones. Their contrasting deliveries and shared sense of humor are what have made them such a consistently solid albeit underrated group. They mix in so many different styles that the group is tough to compare to other groups in hip hop. Their newest album, Swine Flew, has everything from doo wop elements to electronic beats as well as their trademark humorous tracks. The group’s history with SXSW helps them build some of the most solid showcases for indie rap fans.
Tyler, the Creator– “Tamale”
Pairs Well With… Kanye West, Earl Sweatshirt, Casey Veggies
Tyler, the Creator is the leader and co-founder of the hip hop collective Odd Future. He’s probably best known for his shocking antics and his fuck-it-all attitude, which is still in full effect. He pulled double duty on his newest album Wolf, producing 17 of the 18 tracks. The album is Tyler’s best to date, featuring his most focused, though still gleefully all over the place, writing to date and the production is layered and energetic. He’s not for the easily offended, but listeners with a sense of humor will find Tyler’s music some of the most creative among rappers known for outrageous lyrics.
Agnes Obel – “The Curse”
Pairs Well With…Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, Joanna Newsom
Agnes Obel’s Aventine is a beautiful album with a unique element that completely stands out – intricate and inventive string arrangements, assisted by Timber Timbre’s Mika Posen. These aren’t just sweeping theatrics, rather the tense plucking of “Aventine” and the circular build of “The Curse” take Obel’s piano-based ballads several notches up. Even though there is a focus on creating beautiful music, Aventine is hugely heavy both in lyric and tone. Obel’s official showcase kicks things off in a perfect venue for her sound – the cavernous Central Presbyterian Church on Tuesday night.
2011 Review: a folk singer songwriter from Berlin. Agnes Obel’s music is pretty dark, mostly accompanied by gentle piano melodies. She has a really nice voice, like a airy Tori Amos. The songs are often dramatic and serious, creating a beautiful and powerful mood throughout. She’s a nice counterpoint to her energetic peers at SXSW. Good stuff.
Archie Powell & The Exports – “The High Road”
Pairs Well With…The Hold Steady, Built to Spill, Smashing Pumpkins
It’s interesting how under-the-radar Chicago rock band has been over the last few years given how driven, accessible and still experimental the band’s records have been. There’s definitely a 90s grunge-pop throwback at play here, ready to break with their upcoming LP Back in Black. Check the thick overdrive of “Scary Dream” for three-minutes of punk noise amid a pop-rock song. Flip that against “The High Road”, a blues rock number with a hook-laden chorus. This range is what Archie Powell & The Exports stand out within a genre that has continued to thrive two decades later.