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By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 28th February 2017 at 11:00 am
There’s an embarrassment of riches in the form of the Scandinavian artists scheduled to descend on SXSW 2017 next month. Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland collectively will be sending over 30 acts to Austin, an amazing critical mass of acts for a combined population on the same order of the number of people in the state of Texas. Maybe we shouldn’t be so surprised about the musicians from a region known for their long winters? You know what they say about Manchester and Seattle bands: when the weather outside is awful, more time indoors to perfect your art, am I right?
There are some established, or at least famous names that will be familiar to most readers. Prolific Danish singer/songwriter Agnes Obel, who now calls Berlin home, released her latest album ‘Citizen of Glass’ last autumn and will be making the trip to Austin. You can read my review of her latest single ‘Stretch Your Eyes’ here. No strangers to either controversy or media attention for their previous provocative moniker, Norwegian feminist-leaning pop punks Slotface are sure to be another hot ticket during the week, having already laid waste to the UK on their own short headline tour earlier this month. Jakob Bjørn-Hansen, better known as Norwegian electronic artist and producer Bearson, has been poking around for a few years now with his own brand of tropical house, as well as his remix talents.
Shows by Swedish alt-pop band Simian Ghost, who already have three albums to their name and are working on their fourth, are sure to attract plenty of punters. The EP-only synthpop band Kite have enjoyed enormous success in their home country of Sweden and graced industrial nights around the world. Satellite Stories are the true epitome of the Nordic success story, as in Europe, they’re the best known indie band from Finland.
In today’s installment of the TGTF Guide to SXSW 2017, I introduce you to the acts I think are the best representatives of their part of the world. Please note: all information we bring you about SXSW 2017 is to the best of our knowledge when it posts and artists and bands scheduled to appear may be subject to change. To learn when your favourite artist is playing in Austin, we recommend you first consult the official SXSW schedule, then stop by the artist’s Facebook and official Web site for details of any non-official SXSW appearances. As of today’s writing, we know of Music Norway’s plans to put on a Sounds from Norway showcase on Thursday 16 March at Lucille on Rainey Street, if that floats your boat.
Anna von Hausswolf – goth pop / rock / Gothenburg, Sweden
Is the world ready for a Swedish Kate Bush? Too late, she’s already here. With her operatic, far-reaching vocals and the shadowy but pounding chords of her organ, the sound of Anna von Hausswolf and her band is arresting. This might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for those looking for something a bit darker in a sunny clime like Austin’s, step into these shadows.
Ask Carol – punk / Oslo
With a name that sounds more like the title of an advice column than the hard rock act they are, Ask Carol make an emphatic case, urging listeners to be assertive. Influenced by acts as disparate as Wilco to Lauryn Hill, but bolstered by the hard edginess of The Clash and Led Zeppelin, they’ll be a fun, high octane proposition live.
Chain Wallet – pop / rock / Bergen, Norway
Stian Iversen, Christian Line and Frode Boris are the principal members of Chain Wallet (pictured at top), occupying that nebulous area between lo-fi psych, dream pop and dance. Already drawing comparisons to Twin Shadow and DIIV, the lightness of their sound is sure to go over well among the chill crowds at SXSW.
CHINAH – pop / r&b / electronic / Copenhagen
Fine Glindvad fronts CHINAH, a Copenhagen trio specialising in that now-popular smooth blend of minimalist beat, upbeat guitar-filled, soulful xx-type sound. Hard to believe that in their current incarnation where they sound reminiscent of London Grammar that they were previously a folk outfit.
Darling West – folk / Oslo
We’re not taking anything away from them, but it’s time to take those blinders off that the only folks from the Nordic countries who can do country well are First Aid Kit. Darling West, a tight-knit trio led by the dulcet tones of Mari Sandvær Kreken, are about to get the Soderburg sisters a run for their money. Simple, yet stunning harmonies and instrumentation.
One Week Wonder – electronic / dream pop / Reykjavik
One Week Wonder comprises keyboardists Árni Guðjónsson and Magnús Benedikt Sigurðsson and Helgi Kristjánsson on drums. Despite a clear leaning towards today’s technology in their choice of instruments, Guðjónsson says he favours what he considers the more natural way of recording on tape, which is unusual for electronic artists. The surprising result: a remarkably smoother, less cluttered recording and a gorgeous, unparalleled atmosphere.
Rainbrother – folk rock / Copenhagen
While we’re waiting on the supposed return of Fleet Foxes, we can occupy ourselves with Danes Rainbrother, who just released their debut album at the start of February. On ‘Tales from the Drought’, Bjarke Bendtsen’s latest rock group conjure up the folky, hazy side of Bon Iver with the lonesome mountain sound of Robin Pecknold’s hugely popular band. Why bother waiting on either of them to release new material if you can catch Rainbrother in the flesh in Austin?
Tuvaband – lo-fi / dream pop / singer/songwriter / Oslo, Norway
Can SXSW take another lo-fi band? Of course. Named for singer/songwriter Tuva Hellum Marschhäuser, the ethereal, dream pop quality of Tuvaband is sure to win you over. And forget about those unwashed lo-fi dudes with long hair…
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 28th February 2017 at 10:00 am
Diet Cig are no strangers to SXSW: they made a series of appearances last year in Austin, including DIY Presents showcase at Hype Hotel the opening night Tuesday during the 2016 event. Building off the hype and attention of last year, the New Paltz, New York duo are pleased to announce their debut album ‘Swear I’m Good at This’, which is scheduled to drop on the 7th of April on Frenchkiss Records. ‘Tummy Ache’, an early taster to the forthcoming LP reviewed by Carrie back here, now has an accompanying music video ahead of their return to Austin for SXSW 2017.
Unlike the promo we posted yesterday from fellow New Yorkers Hiccup for ‘Teasin” that showed the shenanigans of adults working in an office, Diet Cig’s video chronicles young girl musicians and the trials they face on the way to a gig. Sure, theirs are first world problems, but the video has a more important message, emblazoned on the pennants the girls lovingly crafted ahead of getting to the show. Watch the video for ‘Tummy Ache’ below. For more on Diet Cig on TGTF, follow this link.
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 27th February 2017 at 6:00 pm
Ahead of their appearance at SXSW 2017, Carrie reviewed New York City’s Hiccup‘s single ‘Teasin”. You can read her review through this link. It’s an exciting time for the trio from the Big Apple, as their debut album ‘Imaginary Enemies’ is due out the 24th of March on Father/Daughter Records, just after SXSW. ‘Teasin”, which will appear on the upcoming LP, now has its own music video. Their visual ode to pencil pushers stuck in their nondescript workplaces, the band rock out between crazy scenes in an office where the mundaneness of the workday are broken up by misbehaving employees. Watch it below. Hiccup are scheduled to perform in Austin Tuesday night, the 14th of March, at the Sidewinder inside stage. To read all of our coverage of Hiccup, go here.
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 27th February 2017 at 11:00 am
Australia and her neighbour New Zealand will be sending over 30 acts to SXSW 2017. The list includes artists we covered at previous SXSWs, including Demi Louise, Hamish Anderson and Mansionair. In this post, I introduce you to the Australian acts I think are the cream of the crop from down under, representing the various genres of pop, rock, electronic and folk. Please note: all information we bring you about SXSW 2017 is to the best of our knowledge when it posts and artists and bands scheduled to appear may be subject to change. To learn when your favourite artist is playing in Austin, we recommend you first consult the official SXSW schedule, then stop by the artist’s Facebook and official Web site for details of any non-official SXSW appearances.
Alex Lahey – pop / rock / Melbourne
Alex Lahey would be my pick for the next big Australian global superstar. The world is ready for another strong young woman to follow in the footsteps of Avril Lavigne, Kelly Clarkson and Gaga, and with this kick in the arse, upbeat pop/rock sound, Lahey owns it. On this side of the Pacific with her own American tour to follow SXSW, plus even earlier this month, when Lahey supported Tegan and Sara on their UK winter tour, the interest in this young Aussie singer/songwriter is clear. There’s nowhere to go but up, up, up for her.
All Our Exes Live in Texas – Sydney / folk
The band with the name most appropriate for coming to Austin to perform, All Our Exes Live in Texas (pictured at top) take their cues from the greats of country and folk. The incredible melding of the talents of four individually brilliant musicians is the true success of this folk group, who take full advantage of the beautiful four-part harmonies they can achieve and their charismatic live shows, which have already left Sydneysiders breathless. They might still be some ways off from the Grand Ole Opry when they showcase at SXSW 2017, but something tells me they’ll get an invite soon.
Cameron Avery – rock / Perth
Are we allowed to call a 28-year old a Renaissance man? Sod it, we are when it comes to Cameron “Cam” Avery. From the capital of Western Australia, Perth, the singer/songwriter is probably best known outside of Oz for being a member of indie favourites Pond and Tame Impala, the latter of which he plays bass for. But this time in Austin, Avery will be playing for and promoting himself and his debut album ‘Ripe Dreams, Pipe Dreams’, which will be out on the 10th of March on Anti- Records and Spinning Top. As a solo artist, Cameron Avery’s music is as far as you can get from the psychedelia of Tame Impala: his is straightforward songwriting with a rich voice evocative of his Anti- labelmate Cass McCombs.
Castlecomer – pop/rock / Sydney
Remember when Two Door Cinema Club’s music felt like a guilty pleasure, in the ‘Tourist History’ era well before their meltdowns? That’s what Castlecomer’s new single ‘If I Could Be Like You’: high energy, infectious guitar pop with a driving rhythm that can get tail feathers shaking at a music festival. While it’s a formula overused in the last few years because of the success of bands just like Two Door, Castlecomer’s success in the form of 2 million streams on Spotify for their 2016 EP ‘All of the Noise’ bodes well for their future. Hey Glassnote Records, are you looking for an Australian Two Door?
Food Court – garage punk / Sydney
I’ll never understand why bands choose a name that will always produce unhelpful Google results. But it hasn’t prevented Food Court, from the neighbourhood of Glebe in Sydney, from already becoming a bit of an internet sensation. It’s kind a no-brainer: their scuzzy, fuzzy, garage punk style follows in the style of the Ramones and the Clash and has plenty of admirers. We hear their debut album will be out in March, which seems more than simply fortuitous serendipity, given their SXSW 2017 shout.
The Heart Collectors – folk / Murwillumbah
The kind of band the Cambridge Folk Festival would give their right arm to book? The Heart Collectors, originally from the rural village of Tyalgum in New South Wales. I’m going to venture that this is like bluegrass country in America or the remote regions of Western Ireland, where a healthy reliance on harmonies conveying emotional themes, guitars and simple percussion is de rigueur. And sometimes simple is best.
Middle Kids – alt-rock / Sydney
Fronted by Hannah Joy, alt-rock group Middle Kids fill the place that was never really adequately filled after Melissa Etheridge: guitar pop with a slight country twang still palatable to the masses, yet able to show female vulnerability through the lyrics. Already introduced 2 weeks ago to the American public by getting the chance to perform on Conan O’Brien’s late night show – on Valentine’s Day no less – and with a brand new, eponymous EP to show off, Austin is for Middle Kids’ taking.
Oscar Key Sung – r&b / electronic / Melbourne
Some people are surprised to see the marriage of r&b and electronic music, but ultimately both are rooted in the beat being the driving force of a song. Oscar Key Sung embraces both r&b and hip-hop in the electronic music he creates, intended for clubs and with a focus on fluidity and movement. The Australian’s approach is likely more brainier than the average dance producer (there’s a longer exposition here on his methodology and what makes him tick) but one does wonder if Oscar Key Sung could get SOHN out of his hoodie and on the dance floor. I’d say yes.
Throttle – DJ / Melbourne
Already a big deal in the dance world, Australian DJ Throttle is a self-described ‘dirty disco music’ maker. He’s remixed AlunaGeorge https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4LvWzwxMpuw and taken on Michael Buble’s vocals https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQDVj3o_dnQ (I’m assuming without his permission). He’s a badass. Don’t fight it.
Woodes – pop / electronic / Melbourne
Elle Graham aka Woodes is a triple threat: she’s a young singer, songwriter and producer. The young Australian talent previously collaborated with fellow Aussies Atticus Beats, Golden Vessel and Ellkle. from her early solo singles ‘The Thaw’ and ‘Knives and Daggers’, she’s ready for her close-up. With an expansive vocal laying on top of a dancey, yet minimalist electronic beat reminiscent of the xx, her sound is reminiscent of a more pop Lykke Li. She wowed me at CMW 2016 last May in Toronto, and I’m sure she’ll slay in Austin.
To read more of our coverage on Woodes here on TGTF, go here.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 24th February 2017 at 6:00 pm
Brighton rockers Tall Ships will be releasing their second album ‘Impressions’ next month on FatCat Records. (It was previously announced for a release on the 10th of February and but its release date was moved to the 31st of March on the same label.) ‘Petrichor’ is an early taster from the upcoming release, and it demonstrates the brash instrumentation the band have been known for showing off on record and in live shows. In the promo video for the song, you might recognise the actor, who also appeared in their video last year for ‘Meditations on Loss’. Like that video, this one is also directed by the band’s frontman’s brother Ben Phethean. This one is a bit motion sickness inducing, just saying. Watch it at your own risk below. Catch the band on tour in the UK starting next Tuesday in Cambridge; all the tour dates are listed here. For more of our coverage here on TGTF on Tall Ships, go here.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 24th February 2017 at 11:00 am
As I’m sure you imagined, London wins the prize among all British cities for sending the largest number of artists to SXSW 2017. Today, we introduce you to acts from London of the hip-hop, grime and r&b genres. To be perfectly honest, while we have covered r&b artists here on TGTF, we’ve never really given hip-hop a lot of space, because none of us writers were experts on the genre. With Ray BLK winning the BBC Sound of 2017 in January, we can’t ignore rappers any longer and will strive to do better, starting with this post. The below summaries are written by Rebecca Clayton, except where noted. Please note: all information we bring you about SXSW 2017 is to the best of our knowledge when it posts and artists and bands scheduled to appear may be subject to change. To learn when your favourite artist is playing in Austin, we recommend you first consult the official SXSW schedule, then stop by the artist’s Facebook and official Web site for details of any non-official SXSW appearances.
808INK are producer 808Charmer and rapper Mumblez Black Ink of South ‘LUNDUN’. Musically, they’re not easy to pigeonhole and don’t quite fit with their grime or hip-hop contemporaries, and instead describe themselves as an “alternative music duo” on their Facebook page. Drum-heavy and packed tight with creative beats and synth rhythms, their sound is certainly something that stands alone. Creating music together since 2013, 808INK are looking to step away from their day jobs and producing music in 808Charmer’s garage and step up to the main stage.
AJ Tracey (pictured at top) is the stage name of West London-born Che Wolton Grant, the up-and-coming grime MC. Grant studied criminology at London Metropolitan University before he dropped out to pursue music, first performing as “Looney” before adopting his current moniker.
He released his debut EP in mid-2015, ‘The Front’, then quickly followed this up with a second EP in December of the same year, titled ‘Alex Moran’. His latest EP, 2016’s ‘Lil Tracey’, features popular tracks ‘Buster Cannon’ and ‘Pasta’. AJ Tracey’s sound is tightly constructed lyrics over subtle, electronic beats. Tracey’s voice and message is front and centre, delivered with the young grime artist’s crisp, heavy-hitting tongue. Along with Dave directly below, he was longlisted for the BBC Sound of 2017, which ultimately went to Ray BLK (at the bottom of this list of hip-hop artists).
From the BBC Sound of 2017 longlist on the London hip-hop shout list is 18-year old South Londoner titling himself simply as Dave. Despite receiving a number of offers from record companies, classically trained Dave made the decision to stay independent, working on his music whilst studying at college. Last year, Dave released his debut EP ‘Six Paths’, made his festival debut at Bestival, and even drew the attention of Drake, who remixed a track from the EP, ‘Wanna Know’.
If you’re familiar with the UK grime scene, then you might already be aware of Frisco. He’s most known for being a part of the London-based collective and record label Boy Better Know, members who also include brothers JME and Skepta, who won the 2016 Mercury Prize. Frisco has been with BBK since 2005, pretty much since grime’s conception, and released his latest project last year, the LP ‘System Killer’. Known for his quick tongue and battle finesse, Frisco is one of the lesser known members of BBK, but with his latest release and appearance at SXSW, this might be about to change.
Ghetts, known to his mum as Justin Clarke, is a name that will no doubt ring a bell with those big on grime. The East London MC released his debut mixtape following his release from prison back in 2005. He then went on to carve out a name for himself as a passionate player in contemporary British hip-hop and grime. It wasn’t until 2014 that he released his debut album, ‘Rebel With a Cause’. Prior to that, he shared six projects that he released through the internet. His latest single ‘Know My Ting’ was released earlier this month, and features the MOBO-nominated Shakka whilst rhythmically drawing on Caribbean influences.
No, not a solo artist. Hugh are actually an electronic quartet and sound as smooth as silk. With some pop elements entwined with blissful r&b, it’s pleasing and seductive all in one. Still on the way up, Hugh are gaining attention from fellow artists such as Diplo and others of that ilk. Try not to fall in love with their sound. We dare you. (Steven Loftin)
Kano, or Kane Robinson, is considered to be one of the forefathers of grime and rose to prominence in the underground scene through his connection to the London grime crew N.A.S.T.Y., and following his debut single ‘Ps and Qs’. He’s released 5 studio albums, a bunch of mixtapes and is featured in a long list of singles.
Kano’s 5th studio album ‘Made in the Manor ‘was released early 2016. It featured on the Best of 2016 lists from The Guardian, NME and The Independent, ultimately winning Best Album at the 2016 MOBO awards. Single ‘3 Wheel-ups’, featuring Giggs, puts full focus on his smooth, rapid vocals and razor sharp lyrics.
Lady Leshurr, known to her friends as Melesha O’Garro and originally from Birmingham, is a British hip hop/grime rapper and singer. Despite a relatively humble start, Lady Leshurr has drawn the attention of star-maker Timbaland (he’s previously worked with one of O’Garro’s big influences, Missy Elliott) and has been spending time in the U.S. performing and working on her debut album.
Her freestyle series, ‘Queen’s Speech’ drew the MC a lot of attention, and she released her first official single, which will appear on her debut album last year. ‘Where Are You Now?’ features grime legend Wiley and sees Lady Leshurr showing off her talents against an upbeat and lively track.
It seems rather appropriate that we end our week of coverage on London SXSW 2017 acts with the reigning queen of the BBC Sound of 2017. Ray BLK, from the South East London district of Catford, has already been dubbed the Lauryn Hill of the UK. The Nigerian-born Rita Ekwere began sharpening her music-making chops at the tender age of 13 when first given a chance as part of a group under the tutelage of MNEK. Although the group never went anywhere, it laid the groundwork in Ekwere’s mind that success was possible. While she only has a mini-album ‘Durt’ under her belt at the moment, we imagine a debut album is not far in the horizon. (Mary Chang)
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