Pairs Well With…Sharon Van Etten, Waxahatchee, Angel Olsen
Your Friend is singer-songwriter Taryn Miller, a minimal artist with immediate emotional heft.Your Friend’s songs often start with a minimal electric guitar line and Miller’s rich alto, a lonely yet powerful tone.It’s a soft presence, one that layers in alt rock instrumentation to swell above a tender pulse.Your Friend’s debut record Jekyll/Hyde holds up as a cohesive story, a personal collection of pained reflections.Miller’s production, alongside Hospital Ships’ Jordan Geiger, draws visions of dimly lit basements, pin-drop concrete to lay an open soul.The best moments on Jekyll/Hyde are the ones that peer over a bursting, rock and roll cliff, only to catch grip right before a drop into the musical abyss.The Kansas native has a few local gigs lined up for late summer, but hopefully Jekyll/Hyde draws a national presence and expanded reach to the deserved, emerging artist.
Producer Tropics covers a wide range on his latest Home and Consonance.Though the trance jams of “Fleeting Haunt” doesn’t strike too many heart-tones, the slinky, electronic R&B of the title track and “Courage” are steeped in inventive programming and songwriting.In fact, when Tropics goes for a more traditional song-form, he succeeds the best – the experimental elements stand out even more.This is soul music at its core, though Tropics is quick to detour into lounge pop and watery reverb.The jazz juxtapositions in “Courage” and “Don’t You Know” are especially promising – it’s something unique yet sonically grounded.This is a change in direction from Tropics’ earlier dance-oriented tracks (the producer is about five years into his released career), a move that completely works and hopefully translates organically right to the stage.
Pairs Well With…fun., The Neighbourhood, MyNameIsJohnMichael
Tysson has been gigging for only about a half-year, but dual singles “Bigger” and “Lost” have established what could be a forebearer to a future mainstream hit.Regal percussion, harmonized vocals and anthemic peaks are the concrete of Tysson’s sound.While Tysson is a new band, songwriter John Michael Rouchell has laid a healthy, rock groundwork from his previous unit MyNameIsJohnMichael.The New Orleans songwriter’s pop sensibility is pretty remarkable on both songs – everything falls so nicely in its handcrafted home.The builds and handclaps seem to amalgamate so naturally – I’m betting Rouchell took in some buzzing bands on prior years’ festival runs to influence this new direction.Tysson’s next date is at Halloween weekend’s Voodoo Experience festival, so keep an ear out for new music from Tysson this fall in anticipation.
In a twist to the normal SXSW story, I actually wasn’t too drawn in from a chance set with Zella Day during an early afternoon day party this year, but a listen to her introductory tracks released since has presented a pleasant change of mind.Day’s sound is one of minor melodrama.Pop-focused production elevates bangers like “East of Eden” and “Sweet Ophelia”, a mainstream sound that could fool a hipster into becoming a fan.Latest track “Compass” takes an opposite approach, a true-to-form piano ballad of one-on-one introspection.Day has a beautiful tone to match, pretty and naturally melancholic.Every one of Zella Day’s songs are a little different (four originals – a de facto debut EP is glued together), a good sign for what’s to come in that each is strong and relevant in its own way.
Wayne Kramer (6) – The latest from the MC5 frontman is a dense, prog/jazz-rock adventure alongside the Lexington Arts Ensemble.The heaviness of the guitar (though don’t sleep on the meditative solo on “13th Hour) counterpoints free horn solos throughout the fiercely eclectic record – an impressive feat for the storied artist.
X (6) – Influential punk rock band X has continued to make the festival rounds almost thirty-five years after their hallmark debut Los Angeles, including a stop at SXSW this year for an eclectic lineup alongside Tyler the Creator, Les Claypool and +++ (Crosses).It’s been over twenty years since X’s last release, so the nostalgia will be strong anytime the reunited band hits the stage.
Young Magic (6) – Young Magic continues to improve on their sound with their latest dream pop effort Breathing Statues.It’s a spacious and mannered record that bubbles electronic and vocal harmonies in a conjoining manner.
Pairs Well With…Lykke Li, David Byrne, Sleigh Bells
St. Vincent’s 2014 self-titled record will hold up as one of the best from any artist all year.Industrial stamps and flowing electronic rock intermingle in African dances and mini-feedback freak-outs throughout St. Vincent.Front to back, St. Vincent is coherent, inventive and forthright – a major accomplishment for a talent who isn’t scared the blow the roofs off, albeit in a controlled, future-class way.Every song here is a single, though some are charting in a parallel universe somewhere where people dress like Elizabeth Banks in the Hunger Games.Wildly, if you peel back all the sonic goodness, St. Vincent’s tracks are classic rock/pop songs, an unbreakable core for all of forty minutes.St. Vincent’s live show, one that has somehow eluded this listener all year, has received rave reviews, mixing choreography and rock jams for something artistically new and unique.St. Vincent is on a world tour that continues all the way through December, so no excuses from here on out – check this one out at the top of her game.
Hip hop, R&B and down-tempo electronica – all elements of emerging producer STwo’s impressive concoctions.STwo is a beatmaker and remixer by trade, but his tracks are so well rounded that they work as complete pieces without accompaniment.His music is easy on the ears, minimizing body-shaking intentions for massaged melodies and understated rhythmic anchors.Latest track “Aura”, released just this week, is perhaps STwo’s most spacious yet.While this follows in STwo’s mostly instrumental foundation, be sure to give a listen to “Lovin U” for a fully formed, down-tempo R&B-pop song.At just twenty years old, STwo is overflowing with potential – keep an ear out for this early streak of strength to continue into the next few years.
Sweater Beats – “Where You Are” (w/ Vindata and Bella Hunter)
Pairs Well With…Ryan Hemsworth, Esta, STwo
Some more pop music from the future comes from Sweater Beats, another strong entry into the world of R&B electronica.Sweater Beats’ music is often accompanied by sexy, mysterious vocals as complete tracks, but the intricacies of his intricate production is what makes these tunes so warm.Whether going for punch or patience, Sweater Beats puts his own spin on the open genre.Melodies are unique and come from left field, understanding that the beat is just the start of the music experience.Some songs are full-on dance numbers (“Where You Are”, “MLLN DLLR”) and are complemented by minimal tracks, a yin-yang counterpoint without losing some pop accessibility.2013 EP That Feel has already been followed up by some choice collaborations and remixes, a sign of things to come for sure from this promising NYC producer.
An album-of-the-year candidate and a pair of R&B-infused beatmakers top this hypnotic and striking Friday night Post-SXSW set. Highlights:
St. Vincent (10) - Industrial stamps and flowing electronic rock intermingle in African dances and mini-feedback freak-outs throughout St. Vincent. Front to back, St. Vincent is coherent, inventive and forthright – a major accomplishment for a talent who isn’t scared the blow the roofs off, albeit in a controlled, future-class way.
STwo (8) - His music is easy on the ears, minimizing body-shaking intentions for massaged melodies and understated rhythmic anchors. Latest track “Aura”, released just this week, is perhaps STwo’s most spacious yet.
Sweater Beats (7) - Sweater Beats’ music is often accompanied by sexy, mysterious vocals as complete tracks, but the intricacies of his intricate production is what makes these tunes so warm. Whether going for punch or patience, Sweater Beats puts his own spin on the open genre.
Teen Flirt (6) – Teen Flirt’s latest EP Welcome Home is a down-tempo mini-gem, a melding of R&B rhythms and snappy dance beats. Check out “Her Fake Name Is Sofia” for a multi-faceted glance into Teen Flirt’s music in under three minutes.
Tacocat (5) – Seattle’s Tacocat play with a mix of rock, punk and power pop on their pleasantly diverse full-length NVM. The band definitely has a West Coast beach vibe, summery but dressed in black.
Toadies (5) – Growing up in the Northeast, Toadies didn’t twist my radar back in the 90s with their hallmark post-grunge record Rubberneck beyond “Possum Kingdom”, but I’m the exception apparently with the reception the band still warrants around Texas twenty years later. The band has been touring the record in full this year including SXSW – a chance to relive your teenage breakups all over again.
Pairs Well With…Ryan Hemsworth, Nosaj Thing, Flying Lotus
Orbital waves and bubbling beats underscore producer Shlohmo’s music, a beautiful current to take on R&B and hip hop scores.Shlohmo’s recent efforts, including remixes, originals and collaborations, are spot on, full without overflowing.This is not necessarily dance music - rather beats and melodies play right for the head.Haunted bass rumbles and unexpected rhythms are also tenets Shlohmo’s sound, one that transforms with his latest work with R&B artist Jeremih.The No More EP is sexy, moody and hazily transparent.Each note and beat is wide and purposeful, a hallmark of the maturity the young LA producer has reached at this point in his career.Shlohmo is spending this month on the European festival circuit, running through six countries in nine days to well-earned larger stages.
Pairs Well With…Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, Nirvana
Since Soundgarden’s stop at SXSW this year was fully in support of Superunknown’s twenty-year reissue, it’s a bit hard to go new-band-discovery style with this one.I grew up in the 90s, so Superunknown is heavy on the nostalgia scale, but listening back the record does hold up.The production is definitely of the time, but Cornell and gang’s dark and moody songwriting is current as ever.In an age where guitar music is taking a backseat, the power of Soundgarden’s music resonates.Who knew that alternative/grunge rock would become such a timeless sound?Soundgarden is touring this year with fellow 90s warriors Nine Inch Nails on a well-received shed tour that happens to be swinging through Austin on Thursday.
In what might be the most sinister track to grab an OEB spotlight, Sophie’s “Lemonade” is two minutes of spoken madness amid twisting and unpredictable beats.The trick is that its also one of the catchiest.The English producer is following up a string of singles in the same vein, including the space-Pong rumble of “Bipp” and relatively traditional trance rhythms of “Nothing More To Say”.It’s a quick evolution one and certainly a fearless one – “Lemonade” and “Hard” both are sonically piercing and rhythmically complex.The acid house/drum and bass leanings seem to take queues from warped acts like Squarepusher, catalyzed by chippy K-Pop samples for something wholly unique.Even though technicians will dig into the nuances here, Sophie certainly isn’t demanding serious stares with his music, so don’t worry about shimmying in your office chair to this one.
Shlohmo (8) - This is not necessarily dance music - rather beats and melodies play right for the head.Haunted bass rumbles and unexpected rhythms are also tenets Shlohmo’s sound, one that transforms with his latest work with R&B artist Jeremih.
Soundgarden (8) - The production is definitely of the time, but Cornell and gang’s dark and moody songwriting is current as ever.In an age where guitar music is taking a backseat, the power of Soundgarden’s music resonates.
Sophie (7) - In what might be the most sinister track to grab an OEB spotlight, Sophie’s “Lemonade” is two minutes of spoken madness amid twisting and unpredictable beats.The trick is that its also one of the catchiest.
SicksentZ (5) – Brooklyn producer SicksentZ hides in dark corners of the hip hop sonicsphere, mingling spaced out backbeats with shaded synth melodies.Even recent psyched-out banger “Rachet” finds a way to expand in depth with a simple Danny Brown sample.
Slowtrain (5) – A barroom blues band from Austin, Slowtrain stands out a bit for some inventive songwriting, taking pop forms from the 60s and 70s and melding them on top of an expected, alt country landscape.Check out “Not the Only One” for one of the best results, a detour well worth the trip.
Sober (5) – DJ Sober has been clearing a path for himself in Dallas hip hop and dance scenes the past few years on is taste reputation and performance technique.Sober took on SXSW solo this year, but he also full-time gigged with A.Dd+ and is half of the production duo Booty Fade, staying busy morning to night.
Pairs Well With…James Blake, Mount Kimbie, How To Dress Well
It’s only a matter of time that the Australian invasion of this decade is officially declared.Dubstep remnants and ethereal tones channeled through Seekae’s inventive prism become unnatural yet warm.Technically, the building blocks of Seekae’s music are EDM, but the human sadness that comes through the often-disjointed rhythms opens up multiple layers unknown.It’s as if Seekae builds a complete R&B song, plays it backwards, only to start from the top in an abyssal journey of self-reflection.Experimental and often lounge-ready, this is brain music with blinders on.The Sydney group has been at it for years, now ramping up the release of their third, The Worry, due September 12.Early singles “Another” and “Test and Recognize” are the tightest of Seekae’s catalog, a sign that a possible autumnal breakout is right around the corner.
Down-tempo indie dance-pop artists Rufus Du Sol (the “Du Sol” was recently added to their moniker) have released a few singles leading up their debut full-length Atlas (due Stateside August 25), a record that will seemingly live in an ether between the dancefloor and the stage.This intermingling of genres is certainly top-of-mind in many music circles and Rufus Du Sol belongs squarely in the conversation.Musically, the Australian group is both spacey and edgy, sharp and soulful.While these sounds are electronically constructed, Tyrone Lindqvist’s vocals are airy and pure.Highlight track “Desert Night” is cleanly and smartly produced (Classixx and Casino Gold traded off on production duties for Atlas), a nice show of patience in what could easily have turned into abrasive pop.“Sundream” carries even more of an indie soul vibe, aided by the most pronounced beat of Rufus Du Sol’s early tracks.Atlas has already achieved success in Australia, so it’ll interesting to see how their comforting tracks are received across the globe.