Between March 17 and 22, over 2,000 musical acts will perform at SXSW. From synthesized pop to indie rock to hip-hop to old school soul, we've handpicked ten for you to look out for. Chances are you'll be hearing from these emerging acts not just in Austin, Texas, this month, but when year-end best-of lists turn up in December.
Massachusetts indie rockers Speedy Ortiz semi-broke out behind their 2013 debut LP Major Arcana, but expect to hear much more about them once new album Foil Deer (due April 21 via Carpark) makes its rounds. The quartet has always been game at concocting memorable hooks out of disjointed Dinosaur Jr.-ish guitars, but new album samplings reveal their tightest songwriting yet.
Summer Moonhas played only one show to date, but they're worth a spot on your radar. Why? The quartet features Strokes bassist Nikolai Fraiture on vocals along with The Like’s Tennessee Thomas on drums, Au Revoir Simone’sErika Spring on keys, and Lewis Lazar on guitar. Hear all that cool translated into music in the one-minute teaser for the song "With You Tonight."
Long Beach-via-Compton rapper Boogie dedicated his awesome 2014 mixtape Thirst 48 to the perils of coming off too thirsty. “I hate how every L.A. rapper try to make a song like YG” and “I hate when ni**as roll up weak blunts just to take a selfie” he spits on “Bitter Raps.” Too preachy or funny and self-aware enough to pull it off? Decide for yourself at his SXSW dates: March 18 at Stubb’s and the 20th at the Roosevelt Room.
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Nashville-based singer-songwriter Natalie Prass spent much of 2014 touring in Jenny Lewis’ backing band, so it’s not surprising that her 2015 self-titled debut brings to mind the Rilo Kiley front woman’s elegant, Americana-tinged love songs. Natalie Prass came out this January to rave reviews, so expect to see this up-and-comer (who just wrapped a European tour with Ryan Adams) playing bigger festival stages soon.
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The past few years have been friendly to emerging folk artists, as well as new artists hailing from the United Kingdom. James Bay has both points working for him, along with a pair of killer singles in “Hold Back the River” and “Let it Go,” which have both broken into Billboard’s Adult Alternative Songs chart. Once his debut album Chaos and the Calm drops March 24, this London-area native could be a star.
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If Speedy Ortiz piques your interest, you’re going to want to check out Courtney Barnett, another one of indie rock’s wittiest lyricists of late, who titled one of her best songs “Avant Gardener.” Her first proper LP Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, drops March 21 in the United States, just in time to follow the SXSW buzz.
Miss the days when Haim was a relatively unknown band you could turn your friends on to and look cool? That’s where London’s JUCE is now, but they probably won’t be there for long. The trio introduced itself via November 2014’s Taste the JUCE! EP, brandishing a sound that’s a little like early Haim, only less folksy, with a more bass-heavy R&B feel. The vibe is familiar, but the sound is unlike anything that’s popular right now.
Years & Years
The English trio Years & Years has been toughing it out for, well, half a decade, and we think they’re very close to a true breakout moment. House-inspired synth-pop tracks like “Desire” and “King” have graced Billboard’s Real Time Charts, and they sound just radio-friendly enough to impact the Hot 100 next.
Even without a drummer, the Philadelphia-by-way-of-Los Angeles duo Girlpool works DIY rhythms as tight as their friendship. Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad have won over fans recently at 2014’s CMJ Music Marathon and February 2015’s Indie Pop Prom in Brooklyn. They’ve got six official SXSW gigs planned as they ready their debut album Before the World Was Big. It’s out in June 2015 on Wichita Recordings, the label that released the first Waxahatchee album.
SXSW attendees have five chances to catch Sony Music newcomer Leon Bridges, who’s poised to be the best singer and sharpest-dressed man in the crowd at each gig. His debut album is still on the way, but his dead-on recreation of early ‘60s soul and R&B on tracks like “Better Man” and “Coming Home” gives us reason to believe he could give us a killer LP later this year.