In two weeks, I’ll be in Austin for the annual excursion to the buzz band paradise of South by Southwest. This means it’s crunch time. I’m cramming as much as I can to prepare for my trip by digging into the promos and press surrounding this year’s batch of hopefuls. Who will emerge from the frenzy on a word of mouth wave? Who will have to return next year to try again? And will any bands withstand the test of the annual metric of “being better than Oh Sees”? This week and next, I’ll be selecting six bands each that have me thrilled about my annual trip to Texas.
Black Belt Eagle Scout: “Soft Stud”
Mother of My Children, the as-yet-underappreciated 2018 debut album from queer indigenous songwriter Katherine Paul, aka Black Belt Eagle Scout, is far from just “a promising debut.” I feel like she’s one of the surest bets this week, and she’s got a killer album to back up the buzz. “Soft Stud” is my early favorite from the collection, which packs a wallop with its varying takes on themes of grief and longing.
Tierra Whack: “Only Child”
Philadelphia rapper/singer Tierra Whack — creator of the 15-minute-long Album of the Year (not mine, mind you) — has released a new single with the relatively Godspeed You! Black Emperor-length runtime of… four minutes. Wow! Is it a victory lap or a proper introduction? Let’s find out!
Fontaines D.C.: “Big”
This band of Dublin punks has been around for a minute, but they’re currently preparing to release a debut album in April. Their newest tracks have me thinking about how good Shame were at SXSW last year. There’s gotta be a “sweatiest new favorite band” for me in Austin every year, and I think the next such award could go to Fontaines D.C. As a bonus, this video is an instant classic: a single-take “Grown Up” on a Dublin street.
Julia Jacklin: “Pressure to Party”
Has Julia Jacklin already “made it” too much to have a big year at SXSW? No! Her new second album, Crushing, rules and it’s gonna translate so well to the afternoon patio show environment in a way a lot of stuff frankly doesn’t.
You may have first heard Sasami Ashworth without realizing it, as a band member of the punk act Cherry Glazerr. Since then, you may have seen her opening for another of your current indie faves or heard her on various Spotify playlists. SASAMI’s debut album will be released on March 9. That is as “riding the SXSW wave” as an album announce date can get. But even so, I still think people this year would be paying a lot of attention to the melodic, only sometimes eerie mood-pop of SASAMI.
Madeline Kenney: “Cut Me Off”
Madeline Kenney writes the kind of songs that make me eager to see how she uses guitar pedals in her live show. “Cut Me Off,” which gets almost Battles-y with its rhythmic guitars, is so crisp and sonically adventurous. I love an interlude that takes as much of a departure as the one on this song does! Madeline’s sophomore album, Perfect Shapes, was released in October, but don’t think that doesn’t mean she won’t be one of the (or at least my) breakout favorites this year.