One of the best parts of my spring break trip to SXSW in Austin was the chance to see a bunch of new acts that I had never heard before. Apart from apparent similarities in style, I recognized another interesting trend: many of the bands I found most intriguing were from Canada. Memoryhouse, GOBBLE GOBBLE, Two Bicycles, and BRAIDS were just a few that had come down from the wintery north to play the festival. This week’s review will take a look at several releases from the aforementioned groups.
BRAIDS – Native Speaker: Clean, shimmery instruments match singer Raphaelle Standell-Preston’s soft-yet-potent voice throughout this 7-track record. Album opener “Lemonade” uses tap-delayed guitar to build into beautiful and catchy chorus. Title track “Native Speaker” is the other stand-out song with more soft piano and subtle electronic features.
GOBBLE GOBBLE – Lawn Knives 7”: Probably the wildest set I saw at SXSW, GOBBLE GOBBLE is known for their energetic live show. “Lawn Knives” and B-side “End of Days” are recorded proof of this group’s energy. A cacophony of electronic blips, beats, and vocals keeps this single bouncing along with a vigor that demands a replay.
Memoryhouse – Caregiver 7”: While the A-side to this single is good, it was B-side “Heirloom” that got me in to Memoryhouse in the first place. A mix of 80’s pop sensibility, modern shoegaze, and strong female vocals show up on nearly every Memoryhouse song in a way that is both haunting and beautiful. Also check out Memoryhouse’s EP titled The Years.
Two Bicycles – The Ocean: An instrumental record from the Teen Daze side-project Two Bicycles, The Ocean is an hour of music that sounds like it could be the soundtrack to a great indie-film. “I’m Not Afraid To Wait For You” breaks from the ambient nature of the record to focus on warm guitar and layering that build into a semi-crescendo.
South By South-West (SXSW) was two weeks ago, and I have only now found time to write down some of my thoughts. Life has been busy, but this post is better late than never. Without further ado: The Best and Worst of SXSW 2011
Showcase: Impose Magazine (3/18 at the Long Branch Inn)
Baths and his impressive digital skills
The heart of SXSW is discovery. I stumbled upon this showcase after a day of hanging out with FLASHLIGHTS and the crew from Speaker Snacks and I stayed after they left for the evening. Impose‘s lineup was the kind which could be a festival all its own- featuring GOBBLE GOBBLE, Braids, Baths, Weekend, Cloud Nothings, and No Joy. An eclectic mix of dance, electronic, punk, and lo-fi kept me intrigued and waiting for the next act. See more photos here.
Sets: The Strokes (3/17 at Auditorium Shores) & Memoryhouse (3/17 at Swan Dive)
The packed crowd at The Strokes
There were so many great sets during the week that I couldn’t choose just one to feature. The Strokes, those mainstream, larger-than-life rock stars showed their gusto by headlining the Auditorium Shores stage (one of the largest at SXSW) and cemented their spot with a full fireworks display during their finale.
Canadian chill-group Memoryhouse bathed in blue light
One group that I made an effort to see was Memoryhouse. After being taken with their recent 7″ a few months ago, I determined that I wanted to see them live. Turns out they’re even better live than on the recordings. Their set at the excellent Brooklyn Vegan showcase allowed me to cool off from the heat of the day and bask in the soothing music.
Place to park: East of I-35
The neighborhoods surrounding the historic French Legation Museum had some prime parking spots. Being east of I-35 ensured that the typical downtown traffic was less and the relative lack of “no parking” signs was encouraging. Furthermore, our car never got towed, ticketed, or broken in to. Last, but not least, from the museum it was only a short walk to get to 6th downtown, or any number of spots on the east side (including the Long Branch Inn, Cheer Up Charlie’s, and the Fader Fort). Only complaint: you had to get there early to snatch a spot
Free booze: New Belgium Fat Tire beer at SpokesBuzz party
Fort Collins’ian Danielle Ate The Sandwich at the beer-lover’s favorite party
Maybe it’s because I grew up in Fort Collins, maybe it’s because they make a damn good beer; in either case the free Fat Tire from New Belgium hit the spot at the SpokesBuzz party. There were also some great Colorado-local acts there (including blog-favorite Danielle Ate The Sandwich). Next year, when I’m living in Austin, I will go to any party that has free Fat Tire.
Free food: Rachael Ray’s party
Rachel Ray’s party had a marked lack of hipsters
Where to start… perhaps the fajitas, or the chili, or the burgers, or any number of other fantastic snacks made food-personality Rachael Ray my favorite person on our last day in Austin. While the music was not quite up to my tastes, the food certainly was. Add free Blue Moon and margaritas to the mix and it was all worth it.
Way to spend your time: Standing in line for Purevolume House & Fader Fort
Toro Y Moi played the Fader Fort… although waiting in line sucked
We got in to Austin on the Monday of SXSW. We spent Tuesday standing in lines. For 5 hours we waited to get wristbands to the “super-exclusive” (read: over-rated) parties thrown by Fader and Purevolume. The worst part: We didn’t even go to any of the mediocre showcases at Purevolume and I only went to Fader once for Toro Y Moi.
Mode of transportation: Walking
So many sore legs
Being on your feet for an entire day is one thing, walking around on the concrete for 6 days is just masochistic. If it weren’t for the logistical nightmare, we would have all been riding bicycles and saving our energy for more important things (read: drinking). I suppose walking wasn’t the absolute worst mode of transport, I saw some pretty dorky looking people riding Segways.
Decision of the week: No sunscreen on the first day
Charlie Sheen called, he wants his look back
That’s me after our week in Austin and 16 hour car ride home. Do I look burnt out? Sure I do! The entire week would have been much more pleasant if I hadn’t gotten sunburned the first day while waiting in endless lines. Be safe kids, wear sunscreen at SXSW. Note to future companies who want my respect/business at SXSW: In addition to giving away free booze, give out some sunscreen too.
Hangover: The day after the Sony party
Technology giant Sony threw a party to show off their fancy TVs and computers, we showed up just because they had one of the best open bars at all of SXSW. Unfortunately it was a little too good and the next day felt terrible. It reminded me that drinking in moderation is important, and having a designated driver is even more important (I didn’t drive home that night).
Maybe it’s the snowy weather, maybe it’s popular trends, maybe it’s just the fact that I’ve been introduced to so much good gaze in the last few months. In any case, here are three bands gaze/ambient/dreampop/experimental acts for your consideration.
This duo from Toronto, Ontario (that’s in Canada, for those of you who never took geography) combines ethereal melody with a certain 80′s pop sensibility. I recall first seeing the video for “Heirloom” (embedded below) and being swept away by the beautiful visuals and healthy dose of reverb. Memoryhouse is currently in studio recording a debut full length and has released several singles and EPs. For more information and demo recordings, visit the group’s tumblr page.
2. Heinali and Matt Finney
A mix of spoken-word and layered ambient music, the music of Heinali and Matt Finney sounds a bit like My Bloody Valentine mixed with introspective voice-overs from an art film. To understand the full cinematic nature of this group, watch “Under God’s Heaven” (embedded below). Heinali is from the Ukraine and Matt Finney calls Alabama home; the two are currently working on a new record.
3. The Kevin Costner Suicide Pact
Disclaimer: My tape label, the Buckingham Pie Group, is releasing the new KCSP record on Tuesday. I will not post a purchase link for my label (due to the conflict of interest), rather all links will take you to the band’s pages.
As a side-project of local group Fellow Citizens, the Kevin Costner Suicide Pact focuses more experimental, ambient, and improvisational music. Songs take shape from repeating loops, a plethora of effects pedals, samples, and live instrumentation. In its live form KCSP ebbs and flows from one musical thought to the next. In recorded form layers of sound build to peaks and sink into white-noise. Decay, the newest record from KCSP drops tomorrow (1/11/11).
Bonus: Tellus Audio Cassette Magazine