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[dropcap]E[/dropcap]very March, tens of thousands of music fans and self-proclaimed tastemakers descend on Austin, Texas, with a list of bands they absolutely must see while at South By Southwest. And by the time they hail a cab into town from Austin–Bergstrom International Airport, that list becomes completely useless. SXSW is a shitshow of the grandest proportions, and the best plan going into the music portion of the week is to not have a plan at all. You really never know what you’ll run into or who you’ll end up seeing — one year, Carl Lavin of Bowery Boston saw Surfer Blood 1,039 times over four days — so it’s best to keep a loose idea of bands you hope to experience in a live setting as you follow the trail of free tacos and heavy-poured screwdrivers.
As Vanyaland prepares to ghost Boston and spend the rest of the week in the glorious, delirious clutches of SXSW, here are the 20 bands we hope are playing music in one of the many venues we’ll eventually stumble into. Head’s up: We left off the 10 bands performing at our Boston & Beyond party with Berklee College of Music at Brush Square Park on March 19, because that endorsement should be obvious. Get all the details on those bands here.
The blossoming Toronto indie-pop band wrote one of the best songs of 2014 in “Archie, Marry Me,” a sugar-sweet bit of haze-pop that wouldn’t have been out of place in any decade of the past 40 years. A bit like the East Coast version of Best Coast, which means addictive songs with 100% less California. The best thing to come out of Toronto since the Blue Jays back went to their World Series-era uniforms (we may have said that about METZ recently, too, though).
Broncho’s 2014 LP Just Enough Hip To Be Woman was a bit all over the place, but right in the center was “Class Historian,” which sounds like early-2000s-era Strokes sung by Ric Ocasek with a stuttering problem. There’s something so engaging and on-point about “Class Historian” it’s almost unnerving. We wouldn’t trust this band to babysit our cats, but cat-sitting is only one aspect of rock and roll in 2015.
“Pedestrian At Best” is the best song of 2015 and everyone else has less than nine months to prove otherwise. Advantage: Barnett. The girl most likely to become a full-fledged star by summertime, when coincidentally, the heralded Australian songwriter and lyricist performs at Newport Folk Festival.
We’re not sure what point in the day or night it would be best to experience Dark Waves, the Los Angeles-based electronic pop project of Nick Long. The songs have a romantic, personal quality that will be played for hordes possessing the complete opposite. But Dark Waves is our pick for one of the best anticipated discoveries this week; people will hear it, file it away, drunkenly download the self-titled EP in their hotel rooms, then listen to it on repeat during their flights back from where they came.
Elle King is not fucking around. The Los Angeles-born, Ohio-raised, and now Brooklyn-based singer has enough twang to get the cowboys’ attention, and enough pop music street smarts to keep up the guard of the jorts-n-plaid crowd. Her new EP, Love Stuff, is so infectious it’s probably playing in the waiting room of Atlanta’s Center for Disease Control. Oh and her dad is actor Rob Schneider. This is not a copy.
Sometime last year Northern Ireland alt-pop quartet Go Wolf crashed the VanyaRadio playlists with “One More Night,” a track destined for peak spins at indie dance nights across the globe if indie dance nights were still actually a thing. They took a sleeker approach to electronic pop with “Slow Burn,” the moody purple to the hot pink of “One More Night” and the latest from the band’s upcoming EP Running, out today on Ooh La La Records. There’s even some saxophone involved on the latter, and it might be the best bit of synth-pop sax since M83’s “Midnight City.” But “One More Night” still hasn’t reached its peak saturation point, and it’s the sound of SXSW late-night gone bonkers.
It’s easy to call Jack Garratt the pop version of James Blake, but the London singer appears to have a few tricks up his sleeve to dodge any fickle comparisons. His sound shape shifts with ease, making it tough to peg just which circles he’ll blow up in. Bet on most of them.