9 Personal Picks for SXSW 2016

sxswUndoubtedly, a SXSW preview list of artists will be driven to some extent by the writer’s own interest. However, it’s hard to imagine that aspects like press agents’ persistence, buzz surrounding an artist, diversifying the styles represented play no role whatsoever. And they should, if they’re to reflect industry trends and accurately report on the music industry. But for this post, we’re forgetting about all of that. I combed the SXSW schedule of events, and compiled a list of the bands I’m personally the most excited (and committed) to seeing at SXSW 2016. With one exception: none are bands I’ve seen before. Rest assured, there are many bands I hope to and am excited to see, but if I had seen them before, they weren’t eligible for this list. The list makes no claim on the biggest, best, or most likely to do anything. I am my own barometer. If that’s agreeable, proceed, dear reader.

Japanese Breakfast
Michelle Zauner’s bedroom pop project reminds me of so much simultaneously but still feels enjoyably fresh. Sounding reminiscent of Smashing Pumpkins or Yo La Tengo voiced by sweetly slurred vocals, the project still surprises with flourishes like the strings on songs like “In Heaven.”

Whitney
Whitney contains members of several successful indie bands: Smith Westerns and Unknown Mortal Orchestra. With tender brass, lilting folk refrains, strings, and noodley guitar lines, it feels like Secretly Canadian might stumble into some of the same magic their sister label Jagjaguwar found with Bon Iver.

Sheer Mag
Roughly hewn garage pop with simple yet undeniable riffs and rhythms, Sheer Mag’s songs excite that same place in my brain that early Strokes or Yeah Yeah Yeahs does. As I’ve recommended them over the past few days, it’s hard to slow down enough to articulate it to friends instead of just insisting emphatically again, “Sheer Mag!”

Seratones
Even if Seratones weren’t from Shreveport, Louisiana, only a short hop from my small East Texas hometown of Longview, I’d still love them. Their southern soul garage-pop featuring crunchy riffs and the dynamic vocals of AJ Haynes is simply too addicting.

Car Seat Headrest
Named after the time he spent hiding out in his parent’s minivan working on songs while just 17 years old, Will Toledo’s project Car Seat Headrest consists of compelling, carefully developed indie rock songs.

Anderson .Paak
Anderson .Paak is perhaps the one artist on this list I want to see simply because he’s such a buzz artist at the moment. Make no mistake, his smooth R&B infused hip-hop is irresistible, but there’s also just something so exciting about seeing an artist at this stage when it seems so obvious that they’re on the cusp of stardom.

Downtown Boys
A political punk band with saxophone as a driving force. Who else has done that? A few, I supposed. Notably, Supreme Cool Beings come to mind. And if you know my love for all things Northwest Music, Downtown Boys’ place on this list isn’t surprising.

Pill
Okay, so maybe there are two politically minded punk bands who use sax in a row on this list. And maybe that’s becoming a trend. But at least it’s not a trend that tired yet. With an EP out a year ago on small punk label Dull Tools, Pill is going strong, and I’m excited to see what’s next for the band.

Faith Healer
Faith Healer reminds me of Television’s intricate guitar picking lines mixed with lighter-than-air indie pop. It’s delicious and arresting, and they’re easily one of the fest’s hidden gems. I’m going to see them, and so should you.

About author
Bryan Parker is a writer and photographer living and working in Austin, TX. He is the founder of blog Pop Press International and print journal True Sincerity and recently released his first book, a volume on Beat Happening in the 33 1/3 series.

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