Here are 10 acts at Austin’s annual bands-and-BBQ extravaganza that will have attendees buzzing – from acclaimed indie rockers to U.K jazz to R&B up-and-comers and more.
Richmond-based singer-songwriter Lucy Dacus’ just-released Historian builds on the promise of her 2017 debut with personal and politically minded songs that showcase her sharp wit and deeply felt emotions (or, as she puts it on lead single “Next of Kin,” those feelings that are “too deep inside my head/Too far outside my skin”). Her packed Austin schedule includes a set at the storied Waterloo Records.
London’s vibrant jazz scene is ready for its crossover moment, and saxophonist Nubya Garcia is one of its most compelling stars, tearing through compositions that draw inspiration from Afrofuturism, grime, hip-hop and other genres that hovered around her club-kid youth. On the well-received scene-report comp We Out Here, the giddy “Once” shows off her fluid, yet urgent playing style as well as her on-a-dime bandleading skills. Her new EP, When We Are adds electronics to the mix. She’ll perform at a showcase of British jazz sponsored by U.K. promoters Jazz Re:Freshed.
A North London twee trio
whose far-reaching definition of “pop” includes Carole King-style
weepers and Elephant 6-echoing psych explorations, Girl Ray showed off their
velvety vocals and gently insistent hooks on their 2017 album Earl Grey – one of our 20 Best Pop Albums of 2017. Their SXSW schedule includes
a set at the “British Music Embassy,” a venue given over to showcases
presented by the BBC’s various music-focused branches and other U.K. promoters.
This masked Bed-Stuy MC, whose fast-talking, wiry boast “Attitude” was one of Insecure‘s second-season musical highlights, is coming into Austin on an upswing. In January she was part of an all-star crew paying Grammy-week homage to her idol Missy Elliott, and earlier this month she performed at a Women’s History Month celebration thrown by her hometown borough’s Brooklyn Museum. Her SXSW itinerary includes an opening slot for R&B sensation Khalid.
This D.C.-born singer-songwriter crafts future-thinking R&B – her most recent video channels the virtual-humanity video game The Sims – and is, perhaps appropriately, being showcased at SXSW by decidedly online properties like the streaming service Pandora and the microblogging outlet Tumblr. Last year’s Take Me Apart was one of 2017’s standout R&B records, melding electro and soul into songs that time-warp into the future.
Chloe Chaidez is a ball of energy who can take on shoegaze-y pop, longing freestyle and punchy New Wave with equal aplomb. Her band Kitten’s latest single “I Did It!” (from their second album, scheduled for release later this year) combines sequin-coated riffing and storming bass into a closing-credits-ready anthem led by Chaidez’s impassioned vocal. Their many SXSW shows include a set at the Austin Convention Center presented by local alt-rock station 101X.
Estrella Sanchez and Amor Amezcua’s hazy, heavy songs combine dreampop, sludge, krautrock and more. On the just-released Pasar de Las Luces, the Mexico-based duo luxuriate in gauzy melancholia, which will no doubt be a fantastic alternative for those tiring of Austin’s margs-and-sunshine cheeriness. After their SXSW sets, they’ll embark on a mini-tour of the West Coast.
In September this Colombian-Canadian musician and curator won the illustrious Polaris Prize for her triumphant 2016 album La Papessa (“High Priestess”), beating out the Canadian-born likes of Feist and Leonard Cohen and becoming the first artist to win the award with an album sung in Spanish. The Toronto-dwelling Pimienta’s intense, groove-heavy music – which she writes and produces – takes on bodies politic with nerve and joy. Her live sets are all stunners, but the most uniquely situated one in Austin might be her Empire Garage show on March 12: The Santa Fe interactive-art collective Meow Wolf is presenting her showcase as well as the “immersive playground” Fractallage.
Last summer, this 10 New Artists You Need to Know alumni lit up Spotify with “Frustrated,” a wobbly showcase for his searing falsetto that proved to be catnip for listeners in search of woozy R&B – it’s at 33.5 million streams and counting thanks to its inclusion on playlists like Souled Coffee and Chilled R&B. On his new EP Alterimage, he goes back to his roots in a sense: The longtime fan of John Mayer, Sufjan Stevens and Fleet Foxes strips away the heady vibes of his last EP’s songs, reinventing them with single-take recordings that bring piano and strings into the mix.
Lindsey Jordan is an indie-rock prodigy – the Ellicott City, Maryland native started learning classical guitar at age five, and she began her current band, Snail Mail, when she was only 15. Habit, Snail Mail’s 2016 EP, is gnarly and riveting, with fuzzed-out rock providing a launchpad for Jordan’s spiral-scribbled poetry (“Oh garden slug/What would you give to live like one of us?/Or would you rather wait in the shade?/Just the same as every day,” she wails on “Slug”). Last September Snail Mail, now based in Brooklyn, signed to venerable indie Matador Records, which will release its debut full-length later this year.