The Rising Music Stars of SXSW 2014
The Music portion of SXSW kicked off Tuesday with muddy streets, teeming crowds, and the promise of performances by major acts like Coldplay, Imagine Dragons, Lady Gaga, Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Ludacris in the coming days. But the best part about the festival is the ability to squeeze into tiny venues all over town and discover talented musicians currently flying under the radar. Here are some of the artists you should know.
Danish beauty Agnes Obel writes playful, otherworldly piano ballads with soaring string arrangements and crystal-clear vocals. Crowds were completely silent during her Tuesday night set at the Central Presbyterian Church in Austin – not an easy feat, by any means – as echoey cello, violin, and vocal harmonies erupted into goosebump-inducing soundscapes from her second and most recent album, Aventine. For fans of: Joanna Newsom, Emilíana Torrini, and Feist.
If you like introspective folk-rock with catchy choruses, twangy and layered vocals, and thoughtful lyrics, check out the Columbus, Ohio band Saintseneca. They’ve been on a spree performing sets all over Austin to promote their forthcoming album Dark Arc, which drops April 1. Check out lead single “Happy Alone,” a deceptively upbeat-sounding pop ditty about the aftermath of a break-up. For fans of: Neutral Milk Hotel and The Tallest Man On Earth.
Portland-based eleven-member music collective Typhoon makes epic, sprawling orchestral rock anthems that are simultaneously pleasant and poignant, featuring violin, percussion, xylophone, horns, percussion, and more. Many of the band’s lyrics were inspired by frontman Kyle Morton’s struggles with Lyme disease, which he contracted after a tick bite as a child. He experienced a series of organ failures, and when he was 16, his father donated a kidney to save his life. Themes of mortality and transcendence abound as Morton describes the childhood he never had. In the song “Young Fathers,” from Typhoon’s latest album, White Lighter, he sings, “I was born in September. And like everything else I can’t remember. I replace it with scenes from a film that I will never make.” For fans of: Arcade Fire, Wolf Parade, Sufjan Stevens.
We caught a surprise set by Jason Anderson at an unofficial show in east Austin on Wednesday, and were blown away by the intimate, charismatic, and sheer soulfulness of his performance. Although the setup was just him and an acoustic guitar, Anderson invited the audience to gather round in a circle and contribute harmonies campfire-style as he sang of messy break-up, fears of growing older, and the courage needed to truly connect with others. For fans of: Glen Hansard and Conor Oberst.
Sylvan Esso is the latest side project for ethereal Mountain Man singer Amelia Meath, pairing her with Megafaun bassist and electronic producer Nick Sanborn. It all started when Meath asked Sanborn to remix one of her songs, and the duo realized that they could write songs together. Their tunes are simple but sophisticated, recalling both Appalachian folk songs and muted electro-pop with layers of handclaps, harmonies, and pulsing bass. The pair’s self-titled debut album comes out May 13. For fans of: Paul Simon and Belle and Sebastian.