With SXSW fast approaching (9 days left! REGISTER TODAY!), there isn’t much time to catalogue every band you should listen to or seek out, en route to the Live Music Capital of the World turning into the Live Music Capital of the Universe. And, without a doubt, there are discovery acts and under-the-radar finds that you should keep tabs on. A true mixtape, however, maybe only introduces a few such artists, while delivering messages with a bevy of favorite tunes.Some places we love, like Do512.com and npr.com have compiled exhaustive lists of hundreds of artists to pay attention to, but we’d like to make it consumable foe you. So, instead of exhausting you, we’ve culled the announcements of bands appearing to be seen at SXSW 2016 so far, and have put together a mixtape (realizing, of course, that tapes were long retired to hipster treasures some years ago) for your listening pleasure. Enjoy!
[CLICK ON THE NAME TO HEAR THE CHOSEN SONG]
Ra Ra Riot – Just off the mainstream, Ra Ra Riot’s latest release is paving the way for a much more successful assault on the radio world, thanks to the help of former Vampire Weekend mainstay Rostam. We dare you to listen to “Water” and not have the chorus ringing happily in your ear all day.
Alex Winston – Last year’s SXSW saw Alex Winston (pictured at right) emerge from relative indie darling onto the pop dance scene. Her set for the Samsung studio was nothing short of legendary and a pixie of a girl held a stage as well as Iggy Azalea did, the following night. And Winston had the entire venue dancing, which no other artist we saw had accomplished. If that sounds like exaggeration, please note that even a security guard began swaying to her melodies.
The Strumbellas – This is one of those bands/songs that a radio station plays as almost a rebellion, slotting in the tune amid a slew of Adult Alternative spins that are guaranteed to be recognized…and then it catches hold (just like it did to us this morning – thanks, KGSR!). There’s no reason not to like the harmonies in the chorus or the simplicity of the chant/beat/rhythm. And, then, without warning, the bridge attacks and you’re ready to join in with them, singing “I just want to be alive while I’m here…”
Sun Club – In our investigation, there is a lot of time devoted to sifting through “maybes,” “unknowns” and “I don’t speak that languages.” You’re listening in the car, in the office and, occasionally, while training for the walking, biking and standing that are the trademark of every SXSW. That is when Sun Club grabbed us. Somewhere on the elliptical or on mile number seven, this tune kept appearing in the playlist and not only motivated more from our workout, but got us excited for the prospect of being invited to join in singing with their infectious island sound live.
Roxy Roca – Oh, Roxy! Well before the emergence of such bands as St. Paul and the Broken Bones or even Alabama Shakes, both of whom have brought soul back to the forefront of radio and sales charts, Roxy Roca was tuning a horn section within an inch of being James Brown’s backing band and growling into a mic with an insistence that the crowd move, sway and fall in love. It’s been working in Texas for years, and we’re hopeful that this year will see him break onto the national scene.
Lissie – In late 2009, a goosebumps-inspiring voice arrived on the SXSW landscape. Not quite ready for a showcase, an Illinois-born girl who brought the power of the Mississippi to her performances was making noise in the industry as a voice to watch. And, in March of 2010, she was appearing…behind the alley of the Paste Magazine stages. She was warming up for her showcase debut at SXSW and made more than a few heads turn her direction as she effortlessly sang notes of impossible power. She blew our minds with her performance and we were lucky enough to buy the young woman a beer. Six years later, she’s had more than a few hits, covered a popular rap anthem and risen to a level where she can produce and distribute her own albums. Her lyrics and vocal power are still unmatched and we can’t wait to see her once more – and maybe buy her another Shiner.
ROZES – A few years ago, Lorde, Sia and Ellie Goulding all forged a niche for powerful beats accompanying lilting and soaring female voices in the world, catapulting them to superstardom. Fresh on their heels is ROZES, who is so well versed at all forms of music that she not only plays piano and guitar, but violin, flute and trumpet. But, it’s her voice that steals the show here, and on the verge of a national debut, she’s 2016’s act to watch.
Erykah Badu – There isn’t enough we can say about this Dallas native who single handedly re-introduced the sexy to mainstream radio. There isn’t a voice, a sass or an attitude like her, and even SXSW super-alum, Janelle Monae, has paid homage at the feet of music royalty, including her in the hit, Q.U.E.E.N. – a nod to their pioneering spirits. Ms. Badu, as we’ve been bidden to call her, is coming to SXSW for real, and no stoic mood is safe. With her soulful sound, there won’t be a still body in any venue she plays, and we’re ready to sway in her spell.
Signy – Take two independent songstresses, add the social media of the late 1990s and early 2000s, send them scattering and reunite them in the Live Music Capital of the World, and you’ll get the incredible harmonizing voices of Amy Arani and Delaney Gibson – known as Sígny. Rather than remix their own voices for complimentary vocals, the two play off of one another’s melodic gifts with relative ease and comfort. On the precipice of an EP release, this is the definitive SXSW discovery – a hometown band that barely exists, with enough talent to be signed at any moment and fill radio airwaves for decades to come.
Juan Zelada – As with any mixtape, we’ve saved the best for last…and so has he. For almost half a decade, Juan Zelada has been plying his trade and honing his craft – a voice that rivals Mayer Hawthorne, Michael Bublé, Leon Bridges and St. Paul and the Broken Bones, all at the same time, while also channeling the tones and beats of Ray Charles and Sam Cooke (yes, we said that and meant it all). He’s been doing it in American music obscurity, spending all of his time in Spain, making quiet hits for audiences hungry to consume blues and soul in hefty amounts. This year, Zelada caught our ear and would not let go, and we hope he’ll be on your watch list, too. (Juan, we’re SO SORRY it took us so long to discover you. We felt ashamed it took 5 years to find this song.)