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SXSW 2015: 30 Artists You Need to See

Legendary rockers, emerging rappers, underground sensations and more to catch in Austin

Natalie Prass and Sam Hunt

Rick Diamond/Getty Images for DirecTV; Gaelle Beri/Redferns/Getty

The 2015 edition of Austin's annual music conference, South by South West, is set to kick off on March 17th. Once again they have a formidable lineup that includes everyone from Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominees the Zombies to emerging bedroom singer Alex G. We searched the lineup for the year's biggest stories, boldest victory laps, most awaited reunions, most buzzed-about Internet sensations and some stuff we just like. 

Sam Hunt

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 28: Singer/songwriter Sam Hunt performs onstage at the HGTV Lodge during Day 1 of the DirecTV Super Fan Festival at Pendergast Family Farm on January 28, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for DirecTV)

Rick Diamond/Getty Images for DirecTV

Sam Hunt

Status: Blowing Up

Why You Should Pay Attention: Country's hottest Drake fan is going to spend his summer opening for Lady Antebellum, but he's closing winter with a Wednesday set that will place first-rate Nashville storytelling over a seamless combination of twang, synth and even occasional scratching. The sound will turn heads —maybe even make them nod — and the empathetic lyrics would steal hearts even if they weren't being delivered by a six-foot-four former college quarterback. Last year's Country Albums chart-topping Montevallo was one of our 40 Best Country Albums of 2014.

JEFF the Brotherhood

INDIO, CA - APRIL 14: Musician Jake Orrall of JEFF the Brotherhood performs onstage during day 3 of the 2013 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Club on April 14, 2013 in Indio, California (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Coachella)

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Coachella

JEFF the Brotherhood

Status: Back

Why You Should Pay Attention: Warner Bros. recently dropped the garage-rock duo, who've had a steady presence on festivals ranging from Bonnaroo to SXSW over the past few years, so the prolific duo are releasing their upcoming LP, Wasted on the Dream, on their own bustling label, Infinity Cat. The two singles they've released so far, including "Coat Check Girl," sound catchier than anything they've released on Warner. They will prove their muscle on some upcoming festival dates alongside Mumford and Sons and the Flaming Lips.

Marina and the Diamonds

CHICAGO, IL - MAY 20: Marina Lambrini Diamandis of Marina and The Diamonds performs on stage at Riviera Theatre on May 20, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Redferns via Getty Images)

Daniel Boczarski/Redferns via Getty Images

Marina and the Diamonds

Status: Back

Why You Should Pay Attention: Pop's reigning queen of Eighties subversion is back and feeling a little less dark than her circa-2012 Electra Heart era. With the upcoming Froot, Marina Diamand is a little less "Primadonna" than the last time she was in the spotlight, celebrating her happiness and embracing her ability to create massive, arena-ready anthems. The album is due the Friday before she hits Austin and she will be stopping at Coachella, Lollapalooza, New York's Governor's Ball, England's V Festival and more later this year.

Laura Marling

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 03: Laura Marling performs at York Hall on October 3, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Rob Ball/WireImage)

Rob Ball/WireImage

Laura Marling

Status: Back

Why You Should Pay Attention: The last three studio albums Laura Marling has released have all have been critically beloved and Top 10 smashes in the U.K. — not bad for a 25-year-old. Her name is a welcome addition to any lineup because her wispy, lilting folk is in a songwriting category of its own. Her fifth LP, Short Movie, comes out March 23 — just one day after the final day of SXSW.

Migos

Bennett Raglin/BET/Getty

Migos

Status: Blowing Up

Why You Should Pay Attention: Rambunctious Atlanta trio Migos are one of the most influential crews in contemporary hip-hop — they turned the triplet flows of Memphis rap into a sound that everyone wants to borrow, they've helped make Quality Control one of the hottest underground collectives in the country, they've turned dope adlibs into a calling card that makes them a must for guest spots (Justin Bieber, Lil Wayne and Usher have all used 'em). Not bad for a group that hasn't even released an official studio album. That day is supposedly coming this year.

Mitski

Kenneth Bachor

Mitski

Status: Emerging

Why You Should Pay Attention: Mitski made one of the most brilliant under-the-radar records of 2014 with Bury Me at Makeout Creek, which mixed retro-feeling melodies, metallic guitar and fashionably lo-fi production into a wrenching, exhilarating whirlwind. Now the Japanese-born, everywhere-raised musician is starting to get the recognition she deserves: She just signed to Don Giovanni and is doing a handful of dates with Screaming Females.

Machel Montano

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 06: Soca singer Machel Montano performs at the "Setting The Stage - 2015 And Beyond" global all-star summer concert at the United Nations on June 6, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images)

Mike Coppola/Getty Images

Machel Montano

Status: Back

Why You Should Pay Attention: Legendary Trinidadian soca singer Machel Montano has effortlessly splashed together Caribbean carnival spirit and pop sensibilities for decades. Along the way, his forceful mic play has netted collaborations with Wyclef Jean, Busta Rhymes and Pitbull, but the happiest man alive has, of late, lent his voice to Major Lazer's global domination.

Sophie

Masha Mel

The PC Music Showcase

Status: Emerging

Why You Should Pay Attention: Will "PC Music" be this year's "chillwave"? This show is going to be the epicenter for insular Internet chatter, if for no other reason than illuminating some of the questions surrounding a UK electronica collective marked by their sugary beats and the hidden identities of most of its members. An illustrative representative of this group could be (non-label signee) Sophie, a faceless musician that may or may not be a man with his voice warped to sound like a cutesy cartoon girl, who co-produced the earwormy single "Hey QT," which claims to be hawking a heretofore un-purchase-able energy elixir. It's all very high-concept, and even if it ends up being mostly concept, seeing the group live in its entirety — with Hannah Diamond, GFOTY, A. G. Cook, easyFun and others — for the first time should give attendees bragging rights for at least a few months.

Natalie Prass

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 27: Natalie Prass performs on stage at The Lexington on January 27, 2015 in London, United Kingdom (Photo by Gaelle Beri/Redferns via Getty Images)

Gaelle Beri/Redferns/Getty

Natalie Prass

Status: Blowing Up

Why You Should Pay Attention: Prass is a singer-songwriter with a beguiling voice and refined taste in Sixties and Seventies soul. She fled Nashville for Richmond, Virginia, where she did a tour of duty in Jenny Lewis' band and made a lush debut that's easily one of the most critically acclaimed albums of 2015. Lately she's been opening shows for (and occasionally duetting with) major fan Ryan Adams. 

Rae Sremmurd

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 04: Rae Sremmurd performs during the REVOLVE Pop-Up Launch Party at The Grove on November 4, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by John Sciulli/Getty Images for REVOLVE)

John Sciulli/Getty Images for REVOLVE

Rae Sremmurd

Status: Victory Lap

Why You Should Pay Attention: At last year's festival, Rae Sremmurd were a pair of newbies, Tupelo brothers who stuck close to Mike Will and left a trail of spilled drinks in their wake. "I told them at SXSW," the Future/Lil Wayne/Miley Cyrus producer remembers, "I was like, 'I'm telling you, y'all are about to take off like a torpedo.'" They've since released two platinum, off-the-wall, Top 40 singles ("No Flex Zone" and "No Type") and the most exuberant hip-hop album of 2015.

The Residents

BERLIN, GERMANY - MAY 23: Singer Randy Rose of The Residents performs live during a concert at the Babylon on May 23, 2013 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Frank Hoensch/Redferns via Getty Images)

Frank Hoensch/Redferns via Getty Images

The Residents

Status: Back

Why You Should Pay Attention: SXSW 2015 will feature the world premiere of Theory of Obscurity: A Film About The Residents, a career-spanning documentary which features famous fans (The Simpsons creator Matt Groening, Primus leader Les Claypool, illusionist Penn Jillette, Dean Ween and more) explaining how the anonymous crew made their unique mark on pop culture — from Ke$ha to the MoMA — over four decades. In addition, there will be a performance of Shadowland, where the "World's Best Residents Cover Band" will play the final installment of three 40th anniversary tours. The perennial oddballs are still one of the weirdest things going. 

Tanya Tagaq

WILTSHIRE, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 24: Tanya Tagaq performs on stage during the second day of Womad Festival at Charlton Park on July 24, 2010 in Wiltshire, England. (Photo by David Corio/Redferns)

David Corio/Redferns/Getty

Tanya Tagaq

Status: Blowing Up

Why You Should Pay Attention: Tanya Tagaq has been wowing audiences for years with her intimate, emotionally charged take on Inuit throat singing. But her latest album — Animism, released this year in the U.S. — and recent performances have found her blending her technique into a bold avant-rock trio. The result has been a critical sensation: the 2014 Polaris Music Prize, three Juno nominations, props from Grimes and a spot on this year's Bonnaroo. 

Title Fight

Gaelle Beri/Redferns via Getty Images

Title Fight

Status: Blowing Up

Why You Should Pay Attention: With their third album, Hyperview, 12-year-old melodic hardcore outfit Title Fight finally consummated their slow-burning flirtation with shoegaze. If the band's older, more aggro songs were steeped in the blood and sweat of full-contact battle, their latest tunes are punch-drunk post-victory fever dreams, awash in gauzy, lens-flaring guitars and drifting, detached vocals. Everyone from NPR and Vogue to Pitchfork and NME has showered the evolutionary leap with praise, and now Title Fight get to celebrate a big win with dynamic live shows that could define the phrase "study in contrasts."

Torres

Andy Sheppard/Redferns via Getty Images

Torres

Status: Emerging

Why You Should Pay Attention: Backed by PJ Harvey associates Rob Ellis and Ian Oliver, 23-year-old Brooklynite Mackenzie Scott might remind you of a young Polly Jean on her debut, alternating soft-spoken declamations with ferocious howls over grunge-storm guitars. A force to be reckoned with.  

Tove Lo

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - SEPTEMBER 21: Singer Tove Lo performs during day 2 of the Sunset Strip Music Festival on September 21, 2014 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Chelsea Lauren/WireImage)

Chelsea Lauren/WireImage

Tove Lo

Status: Victory Lap

Why You Should Pay Attention: The Swedish singer's debut Queen of the Clouds was last year's most psychologically uncloaked pop LP, a relationship-post-game wrap-up hinging on her slow-burn Number Three hit "Habits (Stay High)," a dissolute ode to sex clubs and other dubious self-medication strategies. Its latest single, "Talking Body," makes the memorable offer "If you love me ri-i-ight, we fuck for li-i-ife." Shaking off the shadow of spotlight-stealers like Taylor Swift and Charli XCX, this could be Lo's year. 

Vic Mensa

AUSTIN, TX - OCTOBER 05: Vic Mensa performs during the Austin City Limits Music Festival at Zilker Park on October 5, 2014 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)

Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

Vic Mensa

Status: Blowing Up

Why You Should Pay Attention: Twenty-one-year-old Chicagoan Vic Mensa has been on the verge for years, but with a recent co-sign from Kanye West, the "Down On My Luck" singer and rapper may finally take it to the next level. With roots in the Chicago-based hip-hop collective SaveMoney alongside Chance the Rapper, Mensa's enthusiastic flow and diverse set of musical influences (across hip-hop, dance and rock), helped drive his INNANETAPE mixtape to more than 100,000 downloads. Now, he's set to provide guest vocals and writing assistance to multiple tracks on 2015's most anticipated album: Kanye West's So Help Me God.

The Zombies

AUSTIN, TX - SEPTEMBER 22: (L - R) Musicians Jim Rodford, Colin Blunstone, and Tom Toomey of The Zombies perform on stage as part of ALL ATX Presents: British Invasion! at ACL Live on September 22, 2014 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Rick Kern/WireImage)

Rick Kern/WireImage

The Zombies

Status: Back

Why You Should Pay Attention: Of course, a band called the Zombies had to come back to life. One of the leading groups of the British Invasion, the chart-topping pop-rockers broke up in 1968 on the brink of their biggest success, the smash single "Time of the Season." Their 1967 album, Odessey and Oracle is Rolling Stone's 100th greatest album of all time. Having influenced the likes of Nick Cave, R.E.M. and Foo Fighters, they're riding the wave of a heralded comeback album (2011's Breathe Out, Breathe In), and chomping into a new generation of brains with their time-tested earworms.

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