SXSW Music 2014: 20 acts to see

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The annual South By Southwest festival/conference/conventio-con is underway, with the music getting started in earnest on Tuesday and rolling headlong through Saturday night.

This year’s event has its share of big name visitors: Lady Gaga will be delivering the keynote address and performing, and the likes of Coldplay, Kendrick Lamar, Soundgarden, and Pitbull will be headlining a series of shows as part of the iTunes Festival.

But SXSW was originally designed as a showcase for new music, a place where baby bands could get their first big taste of exposure and where those artists who were about to break finally actually broke. EW will be on the ground covering acts both big and small, including these 20 on-the-cusp artists we’re going out of our way to check out.

Temples: Throwback psychedelia is hard to do, but this British quartet blends just the right amount of crushing beauty and off-kilter left turns.

Angel Olsen: In the grand tradition of PJ Harvey, Olsen marries muscular guitar with her delicate warble for blow-away blasts of folk-rock and power blues.

Perfect Pussy: Despite their censor-baiting name (and what honestly seems like a pretty standard-issue fuzz-punk sound), there’s a lot of buzz on this Syracuse foursome.

Sleepy Kitty: For fans of Sleigh Bells — but sub in post-grunge jangle for noisecore.

Cloud Nothings: Noisy Cleveland-based anarchists nearly made it big with their exceptional 2012 album Attack on Memory. Could the bigger, badder, forthcoming Here and Nowhere Else put them over the top?

Vertical Scratchers: Ultra-fuzzy indie jangle care of a pair of blissed out Californians.

SKATERS: Four New Yorkers who split the difference between driving punk surges and carefully-curated sonic tapestries, all wrapped in a whatever-man sneer.

ScHoolboy Q: Sure, he topped the charts with his latest album OxyMoron, but the top lieutenant in Kendrick Lamar’s army is ready to take the next step into household name-ness.

Chet Faker: The Australian’s downtempo bedroom R&B that would swerve dangerously into the cheese lane were it not for bearded mastermind Nick Murphy’s convincingly syrupy baritone.

You Blew It!: Don’t look now, but an emo revival is about to kick into gear, and this Orlando-based combo are the finest purveyors of the new pollution.

Oh Honey: Nothing but positive jams for this strummy, soulful Brooklyn duo. Like Matt & Kim with better production values.

The Chain Gang of 1974: Glorious computer rock from Los Angeles DJ Kamtin Mohager.

Meg Myers: Indie-electro drama buoyed by Myers’ breathy, mysteriously shape-shifting pipes.

Future Islands: Baltimore’s finest synthesists are looking to capitalize on their press-stopping, meme-inducing performance on Letterman and build buzz for their excellent new album Singles. 

Big Data: The latest occupiers at the glitchy computer rock/indie soul crossroads.

Radkey: Three teen brothers from Missouri make dark, unrelenting, sinewy goth punk, buoyed by frontman Dee Radke’s gorgeously sepulchral vocals.

The Pains of Being Pure At Heart: Another indie underdog combo who have slowly gained ground with each release; their upcoming Days of Abandon, will likely put them one movie trailer placement away from ubiquity.

The Last Internationale: Rabble-rousing post-modern blues rock craft the catchiest, most incendiary tracks about unions this side of Rage Against the Machine.

Lydia Loveless: Because sometimes, when you’re in Texas, you just want a good old-fashioned honky-tonk stomp care of a take-no-prisoners country-punk genre hopper.

Preatures: Haim blew up with a combination of classic rock song craft, girl group poses, and modern technology. Welcome to the next level.

Be sure to stay tuned to the Music Mix all week and through the weekend for updates and recaps, and follow the minute-by-minute action on the ground in Austin by following Kyle Anderson, Ray Rahman, and James Hibberd on Twitter. You can also follow the action on EW’s official Instagram page. Options!


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