SXSW 2014 Spreadsheet 102
A rare “10” shows up this morning from one of the strongest rock and roll sounds I’ve heard in years. Seriously. Highlights:
The Strypes (10) – Raw rock and roll and passionate everything, this music is so believable and demanding. There’s a heavy 70s rock influence here, drawing from established roots in terms of a baseline sound, but the youth relevance is really what shines.
Step Rockets (8) - Step Rockets are a new synth rock quartet out of Minneapolis, but it’s evident from step one that these guys know how to write a killer pop song. This is more indie than mainstream along the pop-o-meter, but lead single “Kisser” is made up of carefully stacked hooks.
Sunbears! (8) - The early tracks from Sunbears!’ Future Sounds are a nice preview, complementing the mid-tempo, psych pop of “Overspritualized” with the extraverted “He’s a Lie! He’s Not Real!”, perhaps the bounciest pop number in the band’s catalog. Should be a good one – Sunbears!’ last record, 2011’s You Will Live Forever, proves this band’s music holds up well even through a few years.
Stop Light Observations (7) - Rambling rock songs like “Come on Down” (the strongest track on record) and the introductory punch of “When the Sun Rises” is when the band sounds best – the more they throw in the better. There’s a few slower tempo tracks (see the epic builder “Circadian Rhythms (Dusk)”, but that’s also where the band is the most daring.
Stepdad (6) – Stepdad are pretty much what you think of when you hear ‘synth rock band’, focused on upbeat hooks and paying heavy debt to the melodies and harmonies of the 80s. Their more dance oriented tracks like recent single “Running (Does That Mean You Care?)” are where it’s at for Stepdad, especially when they embrace little experimental detours.
Summer Twins (6) – Summer Twins are full of breezy pop songs across their catalog, like a melding of She & Him and Best Coast. Their music is consistently laid back and right in the pocket, should make for a fine SXSW set under a warm, Austin night.
Steve Gunn (5) – Steve Gunn will likely pulling double duty at his Thursday night showcase prior to Kurt Vile, whom he plays guitar for as part of The Violators. Gunn’s solo catalog is naturally guitar-heavy and is tellingly complex. Gunn draws from folk traditions as much as rock, so look for mix of acoustic and electric at SXSW.