SXSW can be overwhelming, we know. That’s why we’ve done our due diligence and did the heavy lifting for you, narrowing down a list of 10 acts you absolutely cannot miss in Austin when music week kicks off Monday. There’s a wide range of genres represented, from pop and country to folk and R&B.
You’re going to want to see these acts because I have a feeling many of them will be household names before the end of the year. I remember seeing Anderson Paak at SXSW in 2016 just a few months after his awesome album Malibu dropped. He played an NPR showcase and I remember going home and telling all my friends to not miss him at Coachella that next month. I dragged my friends into the tent he played at both weekends and brought out Dr. Dre, Kendrick Lamar, T.I., and Gary Clark Jr. – truly career-making performances. SXSW is what gave me the knowledge to check him out at Coachella – and that’s what SXSW is really all about. Finding those gems before others do. So if you are hitting Austin for SXSW, do yourself a favor and don’t be afraid of discovering something new by taking chances.
Their song “Tailwhip” came up in my Spotify Discover Weekly about a month ago and I’ve played it every day since. The song reminds me so much of Zero 7’s song “In the Waiting Line” with Sia (you know, the song when Zach Braff’s character in Garden State takes ecstasy and it time lapses) as Men I Trust singer Emmanuelle Proulx’s voice really sounds like that early Sia sound. The bass lines in all their songs are groovy as hell and they always move at a fun tempo.
Few pop artists have the ceiling of this teenage singer. She’s a bit Lana del Rey meets MØ, and has been crafting some excellent pop songs over the last year or so since putting the enchanting “Ocean Eyes” on SoundCloud. She’s already got a Vince Staples collab under her belt and has been selling out tours lightning fast, which means this will probably be the last chance to catch her in small venues before she blows up big time.
The Philly-bred, Los Angeles-based indie folk band reminds me of The Head & The Heart, but if the main dude from Cold War Kids fronted them instead. Mt. Joy vocalist Matt Quinn has a similarly unique voice and their debut album that just dropped is chockfull of clap and stomp anthems that will surely popping up in major ad campaigns for years to come. And damn they’re just fun to sing along to.
This garage rock trio has shades of the Pretenders (singer Julia Cumming has a Chrissie Hynde quality to her) and they’ll be releasing their sophomore album Twentytwo in Blue just a week after SXSW. I’ve been listening to my advance copy for about a month straight, it has the perfect mix of bangers and ballads. Cumming can go from howling to a sweet falsetto and back in no time at all and you can feel their angst when watching them perform.
The Aussie singer-songwriter released her debut EP last year and has already been selling out shows in North America. Her voice is completely her own, as she knows just how to transfer all of the emotion to the listener. She’s garnering a lot of praise and Bleachers frontman and popular producer Jack Antonoff has tabbed her as a collaborator in the future. She’s got a lot going for her and the live performance chops to back it up.
A big void was left in soul music with the tragic passing of Charles Bradley last year, but this is one band that’s helped fill that hole for me in his absence. Jones has an incredible and big voice and this band gives me goosebumps the same way seeing Bradley perform used to. Listen to “Make a Change” and tell me you don’t feel something and I’ll tell you that you don’t have a soul.
I remember seeing Kelela at FYF Fest and that feels like a whole lifetime ago. The singer finally released her long-awaited debut album last year and has just been crushing the alt R&B genre with her stoner bedroom jams. There’s so much mystique to her and I really consider her one of R&B’s future stars – she just seems to know exactly who she is. Her music is just so easy to connect to on a spiritual level.
I actually have a hard time classifying Prass into one genre after hearing the lead single from her upcoming sophomore album. Though her debut record was a gorgeous mostly folk-based offering, new song “Short Court Style” has a very ’90s Janet Jackson feel to it. It’s no surprise given I remember seeing Prass cover Janet’s “Any Time Any Place” when she performed live, and she’s obviously influenced by that sound. If she’s planning a full-fledged jump into that pop/R&B sound, the new song revealed she’s definitely armed with the tools to do so.
Few acts are as buzzy as the rising UK country star who has just one EP to her name so far. She’s got such a throwback country sound, a robust voice and excellent songwriting chops. I catch some serious Bonnie Raitt vibes from her newest song “Lottery” and I think the 20-year-old is poised for a big year.
I’ve seen a ton of free residency shows in Los Angeles, but few have lit things up as well as this band did when I saw them last year. The band opened for Liam Gallagher recently and it makes sense because they’re a perfect fit for those that miss the big-time rock sound of Oasis. They have a sound that should be soundtracking every EA Sports game from now until the end of time.