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SXSW 2016: 25 Artists You Need to See

Country legends, underground rock sensations and more to catch in Austin

BJ the Chicago Kid, Into It. Over It. and Charli XCX

BJ the Chicago Kid, Into It. Over It. and Charli XCX will be at SXSW 2016

The 2016 edition of Austin's annual music conference South by South West is set to kick off on March 15th. Once again they have a formidable lineup that includes everyone from country icon Loretta Lynn to Afrobeats ambassador Davido to emerging punks Sheer Mag. We searched the lineup for the year's biggest stories, boldest victory laps, most buzzed-about Internet sensations and some stuff we just like. 

SXSW; 25 Artist to See

BARCELONA, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 23: Bombino performs in concert during day 6 of BAM Festival on September 23, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Xavi Torrent/WireImage)

Xavi Torrent/Getty


Status: Back
Why You Should Pay Attention: Desert-blues guitar virtuoso Omara "Bombino" Moctar has had no problem attracting high-profile rock fans who want to help him get his remarkable music out to the world. In 2013, Rolling Stone dubbed Bombino an Artist to Watch even before the release of Nomad, the album he travelled to Nashville to record with the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach. His follow-up, Azel, was recorded in Woodstock with the Dirty Projectors' Dave Longstreth and will be released next month. A member of the nomadic Tuareg people, Bombino had already journeyed a long way from Agadez, Niger before coming to the U.S. to record – guitars were banned and musicians were executed in the country of his birth, and he was forced to migrate to North Africa. But as dramatic as Bombino's life story is, his guitar work, influenced by Hendrix and Dire Straits but rooted in the rolling, circular patterns of West Africa, speaks for itself.

BJ the Chicago Kid

HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 13: Singer-songwriter BJ The Chicago Kid performs at the BET Music Matters Grammy Showcase at W Hollywood on February 13, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Earl Gibson III/Getty Images for BET)

Earl Gibson III/Getty

BJ the Chicago Kid

Bryan James Sledge's government name even sounds like that of an R&B star. He's not an overnight success, but with the rise of the gospel-infused single "Church" — featuring fellow Chicagoan Chance the Rapper — and his record for Schoolboy Q, "Studio," BJ has been making waves. His recently released Motown debut, In My Mind is classic R&B in an un-classic time and BJ is unafraid to go against the grain. He told Rolling Stone: "Cupid is very much busy in the club, rolling up weed, and smoking, and drinking cognac at the bar like everybody else. He's not doing his job like he used to. So I'll call myself the New Cupid."

SXSW; 25 Artist to See

Big Ups

Status: Emerging
Why You Should Pay Attention: Big Ups are mainstays in the DIY haunts of their native Brooklyn. But the quartet – who meld post-punk and post-hardcore into a wiry, thrilling affair – are making universal points about consumerism, isolation and too much information. As the band thrashes through SXSW, keep a close eye on frontman Joe Galarraga: Don't be surprised if, in mid-throttle, he wraps the microphone's long cord around himself, and then you too.

SXSW; 25 Artist to See

AUSTIN, TX - NOVEMBER 09: Roger Sellers performs during Fun Fun Fun Fest at Auditorium Shores on November 9, 2013 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Gary Miller/FilmMagic)

Gary Miller/Getty


Status: Emerging
Why You Should Pay Attention: SXSW will be a homecoming for Bayonne, the one-man Animal Collective currently touring his quivering electro-pop across the northern U.S. His show is as exciting as his music. Onstage alone, the real-life Rogers Sellers layers loop upon loop, then lets them corrode as he beats old-fashioned tom-toms and snare drums. The setup traces back to a perhaps unlikely source: Phil Collins, his childhood hero. "I was always trying to imitate somebody at some point," Sellers told Rolling Stone, "and my Phil Collins obsession was how I learned to play the drums."

SXSW; 25 Artist to See

PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 10: Aurora Aksnes from Aurora performs at La Boule Noire on June 10, 2015 in Paris, France. (Photo by David Wolff - Patrick/Redferns via Getty Images)

David Wolff - Patrick/Getty


Status: Blowing Up
Why You Should Pay Attention: Norwegian Aurora Aksnes' folk-enhanced, synthy pop racked up millions of YouTube views and has perked up the ears of Katy Perry and Of Monsters and Men. Singles "Murder Song (5, 4, 3, 2, 1)" and "Running With the Wolves" glimmer and cut. "Lots of songs aren't even from my experiences, but they're about accepting … the dark things about yourself," Aksnes told Rolling Stone. The Glassnote signee's debut album, All My Demons Greeting Me as a Friend, arrived just in time to be the talk of Texas.

SXSW; 25 Artist to See

Mauricio Santana/Getty


Status: Back
Why You Should Pay Attention: The London duo – singer Aluna Francis and instrumentalist George Reid – refitted R&B with indie electronics on their 2013 debut, but they've since been experimenting with EDM. A DJ Snake remix toughened up the understated "You Know You Like It," giving them the biggest hit of their career, and new single "I'm in Control" grooves to the kind of light synth riff you'd hear on a Major Lazer album. Expect to hear more from their upcoming I Remember, due April 29.

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