Avant Pop to Punk Rap: The Best New Sounds of SXSW 2017

SXSW COVER PHOTOWritten for The Famous Company 19/03/2017

SXSW is now over and the wake of the week-long festival we are gifted with a wealth of new sounds in which to indulge. For music fans this can feel somewhat akin to being a child let loose in a sweet shop, with your strangely generous mother entrusting you with her credit card. With the sheer volume of previously unknown artists emerging from the depths during the turbulent week it can become an overwhelming feast for the ears, so in order to make things a little more digestible, here are just a few of the acts drawing a real buzz from those who followed and attended SXSW 2017.

Lizzo

Lizzo’s onstage charismatic confidence is matched only by the impressive control she has over her vocal chords, jumping from a full, zesty singing register, into rap verses dripping with attitude. Her Wednesday performance feels celebratory, with a party-like atmosphere as she addresses the crowd in down to earth exchanges. It’s always great to see artists who are truly able to channel a sense of fun and share that with the audience. Lizzo embodies this with a natural ease that is undeniable!

 

Ho99o9

New Jersey industrial rap punk group, Ho99o9, have developed a sound that crudely tears influence from hardcore punk, and electronic music, finding a spot between contemporaries such as Death Grips and Clipping. The group, who formed amongst crowds at underground punk shows in Brooklyn, drew attention after their set on Wednesday was cut short only two songs in, after a mosh pit got out of hand. The alluring scent of danger apparently drew in numerous thrill-seeking music fans looking to witness the band carve out their space on the stage. It’s a space they certainly earn, typically through thrashing in violent, barely controlled outbursts, interspersed with crushing heavy noise filled rap verses.

 

Beach Slang *Selected by Scott Seabridge

Anthemic Pittsburgh punk rockers Beach Slang performed a variety of sets at SXSW, including sets at the Pitchfork, Spin and Brooklyn Vinyl parties and their record labels, Polyvinyl, showcase. Beach Slang have earned a cult following performing heart on your sleeve anthems about love, life and everything else in between. Taking a sound made popular by many of the college radio acts from the 80’s and 90’s, such as REM and The Replacements, and bringing it to a modern audience –  a Beach Slang live performance is always full of energy and passion and never disappoints.

 

Let’s Eat Grandma

Featuring on NPR’s superb ‘South X Lullaby’ series, Norwich art-pop experimental duo the, Let’s Eat Grandma, played a haunting rendition of their song, Deep Six Textbook, from their 2016 debut, I,Gemini. The duo who at first glance appear no older than high school kids young transform, as they begin playing their sound feels refined and melancholic as the two girl’s heads hang loosely lurching with the beat. The duo’s ghostly vocal delivery creates a beautiful, uneasy atmosphere. The performance ends with a saxophone accompaniment that sings through lumbering Lo-fi beats.

 

Bash & Pop *Selected by Scott Seabridge

Bash & Pop feature ‘Replacements’ Tommy Stinson as their primary songwriter, guitarist and singer. With songs full of energy and unabashed rock and roll spirit, Bash & Pop are a throwback to the raucous rock & roll of ‘Sticky Fingers’ era Rolling Stones. Stinson just released the first Bash & Pop album in 24 years, titled ‘Anything Could Happen’, and has reached the point in his career where he can simply enjoy playing music, although that didn’t stop him complaining! “We’ve been here all week, and we’re playing 30 minutes? My ass!”

 

Hello Nico

Taiwanese alternative rock band, Hello Nico, characterised by the powerful and distinctive quivering vocal performances of their vocalist Yu-Ting Chan drew interest this year. The band’s sound which crosses boundaries between pop, rock and electronic music brings soaring choruses amid tender, sometimes sombre verses supported by layered synths and distorted guitar leads. Yu-Ting Chan’s emotive onstage presence is captivating as the singer uses her whole self as a vehicle for each phrase, channelling the intensity of the music through interpretive body language and graceful gestures.

 

Jealous of the Birds

Jealous of the Birds, were another act that found time in the spotlight through the ‘South X Lullaby’ series. The act is solo project of Irish singer and multi-instrumentalist, Naomi Hamilton, who’s sound at times meanders through the realms of post-punk and alternative rock but is rooted in sweet folky sentiments. This stripped back performance of Goji Berry Sunset, featuring backing singer, Hannah McConnell, evokes a dreamy reflective atmosphere that wants to lull listeners into thoughtful relaxation.

 

Anna Meredith

Avant-pop composer, Anna Meredith carefully crafts rich, textured and vibrant sound tapestries that deliver a transcendent, elevating experience. NPR’s Bob Boilen called Meredith’s Friday performance “mind boggling”, claiming it was one of the top 20 gigs’ he had ever experienced. Channelling and bringing up to date sounds from minimalist greats such as Phillip Glass and Steve Reich, Anna Meredith is a sonically electrifying musician to behold.

 

As expected, SXSW 2017 brought a hefty load of exciting new artists squarely into the spotlight for us all to enjoy! Hopefully this article has helped you find some fresh sounds to keep you going as we continue our ceaseless sonic voyage sailing into the spring season. These are just a few of the artists that have stood out to me during my browsing and discussions with other music fans, yet there is without a doubt many more I could have mentioned here. Who were your favourite artists from this year’s festival? Let us know in the comments!

Oscar Henderson

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