11 bands you shouldn't miss at SXSW 2014

by Mark Teo

March 11, 2014






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For a few weeks every March, the world converges on Austin, TX for SXSW. As we’ve previously asserted, it’s wouldn’t be crazy to call it the world’s most important music festival. Even as its expansion produces stars in the tech and film spaces and it gets increasing heat for its ever-growing corporate sponsorships, at its core, SXSW is about the music first. It’s why we trek to Texas for an equally energizing and exhausting week of tracking trends, fun, free food and beer, and what feels like hundreds of millions of live shows.

Every year, SXSW’s legacy of producing breakout acts looms large—last year, we looked back at the past 10 years and how those new generations of so-called stars fared. Typically, an act is already on the brink; having the world’s music media at SXSW watching you for a week doesn’t hurt.

So who’s set to make noise this year? Some acts are bigger guarantees than others and we’ve got our money on a select few; as forecasted, ScHoolboy Q’s hugely anticipated Oxymoron just debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, and he’s getting added to more bills in Austin by the day; R&B cult hero Ty Dolla $ign is sure to ride his most recent Beach House EP and Billboard hit “Paranoid”’s momentum and have everyone’s eyes, while Syracuse, NY noise punks Perfect Pussy couldn’t be more hyped. Here’s who we believe will have a monumental SXSW in 2014.


Ty Dolla $ign

The singer/producer/R&B cult hero recently met the masses with Billboard hit “Paranoid,” a subtle, glitchy track featuring Ty’s typically crass lines and deceivingly smooth delivery.

Ty Dolla $ign—born Tyrone Griffin—first flirted with mainstream success when L.A. rapper YG’s “Toot It and Boot It” blew up in 2010—it was penned and produced by Ty. He’s since been signed to Atlantic Records and Wiz Khalifa’s Taylor Gang label, and recently followed a stellar run of the Beach House mixtapes series with his major label debut, the—you guessed it—Beach House EP. His moves have been small, and smart, and even with a commercial hit on his hands, Ty is at no risk of being a one-hit wonder.


Bob Moses

While they currently count themselves as members of Brooklyn’s electronic underground, Bob Moses—made up of producers Jimmy Valance and Tom Howie—originally hail from Vancouver. As one of the few signings on forward-thinking boutique label Scissor + Thread (the imprint founded by avant-techno whiz Francis Harris), the duo trades in lush deep house that feels too intimate—and perhaps introverted—for the dancefloor. Their excellent Far From the Tree EP takes a moment to lock into a groove, but it’s immensely rewarding to immerse yourself in their autobahn-ready rhythms, glazed-over vocals and opulent synths. Plus, “Winter Song” is an instant classic.



By now, Merchandise should need no introduction. After releasing a stone-cold classic in 2012’s Children of Desire, these pop experimentalists—led by crooner Carson Cox, who many have erroneously compared to Morrissey—categorically have been destroying every category placed upon them. Desire cemented them as a post-punk act, sure, but its sprawling follow-up EP, Totale Nite, had the band pushing their songcraft into impossibly huge sonic ideas—it start with a harmonica, crushes with roaming soundscapes, and employs impossibly hard-charging drum machines. They’re currently holed up recording their next album (for the first time, for 4AD) and, should it drop this year, should be one of 2014’s most-anticipated.


Peach Kelli Pop

Allie Hanlon, a.k.a. Peach Kelli Pop, hails from the punk incubator that is Ottawa, ON—and in her time in Bytown, she played with power pop institution White Wires. Since then, she’s branched off into the California-based PKP project, which, through two albums, unveiled her ability to craft heart-eye adora-pop, layering Hanlone’s Chipmunk-esque vocals atop minimal guitars, bubblegum harmonies, and the occasional xylophone. Her cassette, II, is undoubtedly for lovers.



Philly-based shoegaze outfit Nothing announced their arrival in the most peculiar of ways: By shit-talking Neil Halstead, the dude behind genre legends Slowdive. After a brief Twitter back-and-forth, the two bands reconciled, but the Internet beef was surely a throwback to the band’s musical origins—Nothing’s members came up through the hardcore scene (and undoubtedly spent time on punk shit-talk vortexes like the B9 message board), playing in beloved amazingcore acts like Horrorshow. Still, their coreman roots—and the fact that metal label Relapse put out their LP—betray their sound: Swooning, volume-obsessed and with a pop penchant, Nothing are one of the best current shoegaze bands on the planet. Slowdive included.


Youth Code

While plenty of over-it hardcore kids have moved onto Hitler Youth haircuts, runic tattoos, and dubiously racist neo-folk (here’s to you, Death in June), Ryan George—the notorious cocaine-snorting singer of Carry On—is getting down with Hitler Youth haircuts, runic tattoos, and real-deal industrial. The result? His new band, Youth Coke…. uh, Youth Code. Pairing with his girlfriend, Sara Taylor, George bangs out impossibly aggressive power electronics, built on vitriolic, hateful vocals, ice-cold synthesizers, and ultraviolent drum machines. Their eponymous LP could’ve easily fit in the Wax Trax! Discography—and we expect that their live show is every bit as explosive as their recorded fare.



Few producers are as in-demand as Dam-Funk, a.k.a. Damon Riddick. After spending years performing as a session player for rap acts, Riddick decided to pursue his true love: Electro-tinged boogie punk. Soon after being scooped up by Peanut Butter Wolf’s Stones Throw imprint, he cut the modern funk classic Toeachizown—and since then, he hasn’t looked back. Indie rock bands—think Ariel Pink, Grizzly Bear, and more—have sought his remixes, and his star continues to shine: He closed out last year with back-to-back collaboration albums with funk legend Steve Arrington and Snoop Dogg. Also: PB Wolf’s in Austin, too, so we’d wager that they’ll collaborate on something. Something good.


Chance the Rapper

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that Chance the Rapper made this list; if you’re planning on seeing him at SXSW, expect to weather giant lineups a la Odd Future in 2010. Of course, his 2013 breakthrough mixtape, Acid Rap, is essential listening—it was arguably one of the best hip-hop releases in a year littered with them—and the smooth rapper is currently in the midst of a label bidding war. (Because yes, he’s still an independent.) But amidst the collabs with Justin Bieber and Kanye, he’s also preparing to hit the summer circuit—so expect him to preview new material on captive SXSW audiences.


Jerome LOL

While the LOL Boys sadly called it quits in 2012—the wonderful, scatterbrained Changes EP was the production duo’s swan song—their L.A. based member, Jerome LOL, continues to craft mind-expanding songs by his lonesome. His Tumblr-friendly work is the template for his wonderful Body High label, who, like Jerome, specializes in chopped-up house. Start with last year’s Deleted / Fool EP, a delectable slice of R&B laced with pulsating techno and swooning synthesizers. Like all of his work, it’s less of an exercise in throwback, more an act of curation.


Young Thug

Don’t be confused by this Atlanta rapper’s mostly forgettable moniker; Young Thug is one of the best—and flat-out weirdest—risers of the new year. After unveiling the hilariously titled Black Portland mixtape, the elastic-voiced rapper wowed the world by taking trap and Southern rap to new, bizarre heights. As if the mixtape wasn’t enough, too, Birdman gifted him with a giant GTV chain, signifying that Young Thug might be the newest member of ever-hyped YMCMB team. Catch him on the up-and-up—and start with his massive single, “Danny Glover.”


The Pizza Underground

Macaulay Culkin’s Velvet Underground / pizza-themed band is, indeed, a real thing. They revealed that they’re playing Toronto’s NXNE Festival in June, but before that, they’ll be taking the act to SXSW. Are they a joke? Are they completely straight-faced? Will they be serving pizza at the shows? Will Culkin be too strung out to perform? All these questions will be answered at SXSW.

Tags: Music, News, bob moses, Chance The Rapper, Merchandise, Peach Kelli Pop, sxsw 2014, Ty Dolla $ign, young thug






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