25 Must-See Bands at SXSW 2013

Wondering Sound Staff

By Wondering Sound Staff

on 03.07.13 in Collections

Do we even need the preamble? You know what next week is and, like any right-thinking person, you’ve probably put off working out a schedule until the very last second. So as you start to hammer out your crazymaking week — probably on the plane, probably an hour or so before touching down — here are our picks for the 25 must-sees in Austin next week.

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Pissed Jeans

Snarling and spitting, growling and kicking, Honeys won't surprise those who love the Allentown, Pennsylvania-based Jesus (Lizard) freaks Pissed Jeans, nor is it likely to attract those that deplore the band. "Write what you know," as they say, and Pissed Jeans knows pummeling, antisocial punk. When lead yeller Matt Korvette isn't "in the hallway screaming" (that's from riotous opener "Bathroom Laughter"), he can often be found smirking. You'd think four dudes who all recently became fathers would be tamer than this. — Austin L. Ray

Marnie Stern

Marnie Stern

Marnie Stern

In years past, Marnie Stern's shorthand description usually involved the words "guitar" and "shredding," but the New Yorker has grown equally adept over her career at revealing just how big her heart is. Stern's frenetic fingertapping and the bonkers drumming of Kid Millions illustrate the way that the best response to bone-crushing sadness is, sometimes, a pealing laugh. Confidence and the lack thereof are also common lyrical themes, although the bravado with which Stern wields both her guitar and her anguished voice masks those facts on first listen. — Maura Johnston


Cerulean Salt


As Waxahatchee, Katie Crutchfield uses her brief tracks to paint a very specific but familiar portrait of 20-something American youth, first on the deeply personal, lo-fi acoustic guitar-filled American Weekend, and now on the plugged-in Cerulean Salt, in which her subtle gut-punches translate just as powerfully once the volume's been dialed up. — Carrie Battan

Charles Bradley

It's time to put to bed, once and for all, Charles Bradley's oft-repeated origin story as a James Brown impersonator. The Screaming Eagle of Soul, The Original Black Swan and, most recently, The Victim of Love, Bradley is at this point a performer fully his own, possessing boundless charisma, gallons of passion and the kind of unstudied, unadulterated joy that SXSW — a week fully fucking lousy with marketing and branding and consumer-facing outreach opportunities — desperately needs. To stand in the presence of Charles Bradley is to be basked in 100 percent pure love — so completely unsullied and unpolluted you feel yourself choking up before the first song ever hits the chorus. To put it another way: if James Brown were alive today, he'd be impersonating Charles. — J. Edward Keyes


On their debut album, Canadian trio METZ has delivered a sound that's reasonably scarce in 2012: post-hardcore, pre-grunge, noise-addled punk rock. You can hear the influence of the Jesus Lizard in particular everywhere: in Alex Edkins's strained screams; in Hayden Menzies's crashing drum assault; in their relentless wave of screeching guitars, in the frenzied pace of "Wet Blanket," in the sludgy industrial instrumental "Nausea," and in their grim, dour lyrics. But the sheer volume and force of the music don't take away from their musicianship. — Evan Minsker


Torres's songs feel as if they were bound to come crawling out of singer-songwriter Mackenzie Scott's body no matter what she did or where she was. Dominated by the wavery tones of her Gibson 355 electric, the songs explore the fragile architecture of human relationships, often finding Scott standing amid a steaming pile of rubble, wondering not about what caused the house to fall but what to do, now, with all the shattered pieces left behind. — Rachael Maddux

Parquet Courts

On Light Up Gold, the irresistible debut from Brooklyn band Parquet Courts, the principal songwriters Andrew Savage and Austin Brown cast a jaundiced eye on our troubled times with a series of infinitely quotable bon mots: On regional cuisine? "As for Texas: Donuts Only. You cannot find bagels here." On the value of wisdom? "Socrates died in the fucking gutter." These nuggets are dropped between jagged guitar lines that sound like they were lifted from Wire's 154 — bent-coathanger leads that teeter on the steep incline between punk and post-punk. — J. Edward Keyes

Matthew E. White

Big Inner

Matthew E. White

Richmond, Virginia-reared singer/songwriter/arranger Matthew E. White emerges on Big Inner fully steeped in the nuanced, vigilant and incisive songcraft of the likes of totemic American tunesmiths like Newman, Allen Toussaint and Lambchop's Kurt Wagner. And while such debuts are usually tinged by youthful exuberance and metabolism, there's such patience in White's delivery and his backing band's pacing that belie their years. — Andy Beta

Roc Marciano

Roc Marciano's music exists to remind you what NYC rap sounds like in the idealized bubble of your memory, and he's frighteningly good at it. He's so good, in fact, that after awhile you forget that his music is a kind of Civil War reenactment, one in which Swizz Beatz plays General Sherman and the Battle of Five Forks is the moment he started fooling with a Casio. Marciano's rap world exists before all of that, a vanished kingdom of urban despair, gnarled street slang, and unglamorous night shifts conducted out in front of public housing. — Jayson Greene

Mac DeMarco


Mac Demarco

Mac DeMarco's solo debut, Rock & Roll Night Club, painted the Montreal singer as a breathy, unnaturally deep-voiced, unwholesome creep. On his follow-up, 2, DeMarco leaves that caricature behind for a more reasonable vocal register, a jangling guitar and a set of breezy love songs. Here, DeMarco embarks on a yacht-rock voyage, offering pop songs that are easy, carefree and romantic. — Evan Minsker




Sure, Solange is the sister of R&B/pop princess Beyoncé — a fact that will probably never be omitted from her CV. But while her musical means (a soaring soprano; wisely chosen collaborators) are similar to the elder Knowles, the ends are significantly different. For her 2012 EP True, she enlisted production help from Blood Orange's Dev Hynes and ended up with a candy-coated, left-of-center R&B playground. — Laura Studarus

The Coup

Sorry To Bother You

The Coup

Boots Riley has had a few other things to do than rap for Oakland collective the Coup as of late — appearing at the forefront of the Occupy movement, for one. But for their seventh album in 20 years, Riley's loose sense of humor remains intact in much the way as his taste for lyrics that spell out rebellion. — Michaelangelo Matos

Samantha Crain

Oklahoma singer-songwriter Samantha Crain has always sounded like an old soul, her dusty alto worn down by restless thoughts and free-floating anxiety. On her latest LP Kid Face, she comes into her own as a lyricist, using the songs to examine her place in the world. — Annie Zaleski

Autre Ne Veut


Autre Ne Veut

Arthur Ashin typically spends the duration of his performances as Autre Ne Veut curled up on the ground like a potato bug. So if you go to see him at SXSW, you should kind of prepare for the fact that you might not actually see him. That's OK, though: His music is more about feeling than seeing. If Terence Trent D'Arby returned from self-imposed exile and pulled off the perfect comeback record, it might sound a lot like Ashin's recently-released Anxiety: supple, R&B-informed vocal lines glide over stormy-sea synthesizers, the tensions perfectly mirroring the existential unease in his lyrics. Case in point? His most beautiful song, the slinky "Counting," is about his terror that his grandmother was going to die. How can you expect a man to have the strength to stand upright while singing about things like that? — J. Edward Keyes

Maria Minerva

Maria Minerva, a somewhat mysterious artist from Estonia, has a playfulness that's alternately cerebral and coy, and a lightness of touch at the controls. She sings too, with a voice that stretches out and rises up from deep pools of echo. On her latest effort, Will Happiness Finds Me?, she plays with different sounds and different tempos, with a mind toward both vintage club music and futuristic pop at once. — Andy Battaglia

My Gold Mask

Chicago duo My Gold Mask amplify the effects of a breakup album on their debut, Leave Me At Mightnight. They don't skimp on dramatics, with Gretta Rochelle's pleading vocals, Jack Armondo's spiraling guitar riffs, and lyrics that grapple with psychosis and reference Gothic literature and Italo horror flicks. The result achieves a spellbinding emotional intensity that's easy to inhabit. — Marissa G. Muller


Hands-down the most fun you will ever have a metal show, period, Skeletonwitch combine blasphemous guitar firepower with a self-aware sense of humor without ever tipping once into icky archness or loathsome, smirking heavy meta. It helps that they're an astonishingly tight band, whipping from one burst of split-second riffery to the next with all the frenzy and fury of a speed-of-sound rollercoaster car desperately hugging the curves. Who knew unabashed Satanism could be so uplifting? — J. Edward Keyes

Icona Pop

Iconic EP

Icona Pop

Here is Swedish duo Icona Pop summed up in six words: "I don't care! I love it!" That refrain — cribbed from last year's giddiest breakup song — perfectly captures Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo's exuberance and reckless abandon. Their songs are straight-up sugar shots, firework synths and hollered vocals and drum machines that wallop and squelch like medicine balls full of purple Kool-Aid. It's the sound of pure joy — a nonstop barrage of leaping neon exclamation points. — J. Edward Keyes

Pearl and the Beard

Pearl and the Beard are a trio of loud and goofy Brooklyn songwriters, their songs a mix of acoustic folk and jazzy cabaret via a soft-voiced guitarist (Jeremy Styles) and a cellist and percussionist (Emily Hope Price and Jocelyn Mackenzie) who seamlessly switch between brassy wails and Disney-princess croons. — Laura Leebove

Chelle Rose

Even Satan knows better than to fuck with Chelle Rose. That's the truism she lays out in the center of the slow-moseying, creepy-as-hell "Leona Barrett," seething, "I don't know who I trouble more: The mean ol' devil or the good ol' Lord." Need further proof? It's all over the brooding, beautiful Ghost of Browder Holler, a record that takes the same sinister spirit found in bands like Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds and transplants it to ragged booze-bucket country music. Rose's voice is a wonder, a smartass sneer that jabs like a hundred middle fingers. Her pronunciation drips with delicious contempt: she shrugs off a louse of a lover by drawling, "My skin ain't sowft enuff, my kisses would not douww." She dispenses with him like she's flecking a fly from the lip of her MGD. — J. Edward Keyes

Night Beats

Night Beats

Night Beats

Here's the ideal environment for enjoying the music of gloomy garage ghouls Night Beats: It's 4 a.m. and you've ended up, after a long night of boozing and carousing, at some sparsely-attended party in a barely-furnished loft apartment in some remote part of the city, and a band is bashing out sneering numbers that sound like Nuggets with an upset stomach while a movie projector beams lava-lamp-like images on to their swaying bodies. Also, it's 1967 and you're in an instructional film about the hazards of LSD. Failing that, a stage in the sunlight in Austin, Texas, is the next best thing. — J. Edward Keyes

Dana Falconberry


Dana Falconberry

Dana Falconberry writes delicate orchestral-folk songs; her airy mezzo accompanied by plucked strings, fingerpicked guitar and gentle rim clicks. Though she's now based in Austin, her debut LP is an ode to her childhood spent in northern Michigan's lush Leelanau peninsula. — Laura Leebove

Royal Thunder


Royal Thunder

One of last year's best new bands by a long sight, Royal Thunder's greatest asset is the unsettling, purple-blue bellow of frontwoman Mini Parsonz. Over a bevy of murky, churning chordage, she serenades the undead, sings of ancient family curses and groans out the very kind of infernal incantations those old Christian anti-rock 'n' roll videos used to warn against. That the songs are so tuneful is a sly infernal trick: the best way to get people to sing the praises of the devil is to make that praise hooky as hell. — J. Edward Keyes

Holydrug Couple

In case the name didn't clue you in: This is heavy-lidded, slow-moving, psyched-out, pinwheel-eyed bliss. The Chilean duo Holydrug Couple imagines what might happen if you put a brick on the turntable while you were playing old Byrds records. A loose netting of guitars drifts down slowly, drums thud and shudder and vocal lines — keening and melodic — expand like echoes in the Grand Canyon. In the midst of the hyperactive Austin chaos, Holydrug Couple provide a grinning, dreamy respite. — J. Edward Keyes

Jacco Gardner

Cabinet of Curiosities

Jacco Gardner

Indie rock's own Little Prince, Jacco Gardner's music is magic and precious, sumptuous orchestral pop that summons the spirits of The Zombies and The Left Banke while sounding openly derivative of neither. In fact, it's Gardner's own assured gift for melody that makes Cabinet of Curiosities such a wonder — even more than the swirling, meringue-like strings. His vocal lines dart off at odd acute angles, poking rude holes in the tissue-paper orchestration. Witness opener "Clear the Air": xylophones and mellotrons and violins pirouette like tiny ceramic music box ballerinas; but then Gardner's weirdo trapezoidal voice spirals in, making what was once simply soothing seem suddenly ominous and mysterious. It's like the unadulterated versions of Aesop's Fables, where childlike fantasy often gives way to moments of genuine, thrilling danger. — J. Edward Keyes