The Best of the Rest at SXSW

For a recent job, I was tasked with trawling through all the acts at this year’s SXSW. With hundreds of bands and artists performing at SXSW this was quite a daunting task, but I’m glad to say that I discovered some real gems. For those who don’t know, SXSW (pronounced ‘South by South West’) is the world’s biggest music industry showcase and takes place over the next seven days. It takes place in Austin, TX in the States every March and has time and time again thrown a spotlight on future independent music stars.

As always many will be checking out the more well-known new acts who have appeared on the BBC Sound of 2013 list and other numerous ‘Ones to Watch’ lists. This year’s crop in that category include Palma Violets and Chvrches who I have blogged about before. And with SXSW primarily celebrating new music; even Lianne La Havas, who only released her debut album in July, seems like somewhat of a veteran performer at SXSW 2013. But besides the ‘veterans’ like Lianne and the well-touted newbies, who are the best of the little-known acts. The kind of acts that have a few hundred fans on Facebook and you think “my mate’s band’s got more fans than them!”. These are the best of the rest, the real gems to be found at the chaos that will be SXSW 2013. Having listened to every band and artist for this year, here are some of my favourites…

1. Cayucas
Like many little known bands they haven’t been around for long (since 2012!) and so have very few songs out there. I could only find two songs online of Cayucas’ but it doesn’t matter as their single High School Lover should be listened to over and over in any case. Better known in their native California, these guys should be welcomed on this side of the pond, and soon.

2. DENA
Dena also has only a small handful of songs under her belt, though she has also been a guest vocalist on two The Whitest Boy Alive albums. It seems a bit dangerous to hype her on such little evidence, and particularly when the acoustic version of her biggest single turns out to be a bit rubbish. But forget that, here is the original of Cash, Diamond Rings, Swimming Pools in all its glory – along with it’s equally fantastic video. Dena, you’re fuckin’ cool.

3. Deep Sea Diver
Picky guitar with lots of reverb, female lead vocal screeches, funky drumming worthy of James Brown; You Go Running is a great song from Deep Sea Diver – the brainchild of Jessica Dobson. Dobson has performed with several bands and musicians such as Beck, Spoon, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs; and is possibly best known as The Shins’ guitarist. She now fronts her own Deep Sea Diver, who released their debut History Speaks last year on Bandcamp. Great name, great look, great singer; you’ll be hearing more from Deep Sea Diver if they continue to write songs like You Go…

4. The Coathangers
This all female rock band feel like a cooler dirtier version of the Runaways, though that may seem an obvious comparison. Listening to their tunes you can hear other traces of sixties girl groups, the Stones, and the Ramones. The Ramones are likely a big influence as the Coathangers seem to have taken their personal name sakes from them; with the band members listed as Minnie Coathanger, Rusty Coathanger, BeBe Coathanger and Crook Kid Coathanger. It’s simple rock ‘n’ roll but it’s tight and dirty and makes you want it to be Friday night.

5. The Rassle
Hmmm not sure about the band name of these guys, I was weary at first that The Rassle were another ‘indie darlings’ band. In other words, four white men circa thirty years old pretending they’re a modern fun-loving-but-still-rock’n’roll version of the Beatles. So… I was glad to find out that they’re not. They’re from New York rather than New Cross so that’s a good start. And the imagery they use in their gig posters in particular is really attractive, artwork very reminiscent of fifties’ diners and hotrod B-movies. Fuck the name, this is their song ‘Celebrate the Days’ and it is fun times. I take pants off and party now.

6. Ratking
Calling all lovers of backpack hip hop, The Pharcyde, Odd Future, Tyler the Creator… this is, Ratking. Four kids (literally, 18 years old) from NYC pushing the envelope with an intelligent gritty hip hop sound. Consisting of two producers and two MCs, Wiki and Hak; it’s particularly the high-pitched nasal flow of Wiki that is grabbing people’s attention. The fact that he is open about his Irish/Puerto-Rican background as well as his upper middle-class upbringing makes him and Ratking all the more interesting. Oh yeah, and these kids are still at school. Enough to make you sick isn’t it! 🙂

All schedule details for SXSW 2013 can be found at www.sxsw.com

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The Best of the Rest at SXSW

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