SXSW 2012 Music Standouts

Guards

Guards are a band that I have been following since SXSW 2011, but this year they seemed to be running in high gear. The group led by Richie James Follin have a sound that could be classified alongside other throwback alt-pop bands, but doing so would be selling them short. While Guards does have a vintage feel, the power behind the music and the lyrics rise above any fly-by-night genre.

Their debut EP aptly titled Guards is a must add to your record collection and at the high stakes price of free it’s a wonder why you haven’t already picked it up from their bandcamp site. Guards is an album that hasn’t left my iPod since I first discovered it, but now I’m running into an issue, as the album isn’t comparable to the band live. Songs like “Sail it Slow” just don’t have the same kick as they do echoing off a beer-drenched floor. This problem could also be related to the fact that every time I see Guards live the show seems to get better and better. When I caught them at this year’s SXSW the band was in high spirits and as Richie announced, they were ready to rock.

Jumping from the bass drum and back to a commanding presence at the mic, Richie was showing the crowd at the ND in Austin that his songs were about more that shoe-gazing. The lost art of showmanship that can be found in Guards make it impossible not to enjoy songs like “Resolution of One” when witnessing the passion in its performance. That is why Guards is one of my SXSW standouts.

Bear Hands

The four piece band from Brooklyn, New York may surprise you with their sound ranging from rock to electronic, all infused with a bit of reggae flair. The band’s latest album Burning Bush Supper Club is one that shouldn’t be missed. Tracks like “Crime Pays” and “What a Drag” stay planted in your head for days and all of this translates beautifully live. The energy of Dylan Rau inspires you to get off your feet and dance, and while the crowd at Bat Bar wasn’t necessarily swelling to capacity, the band was still having a good time.

While I saw the band early in my SXSW experience the show stuck with me and Bear Hands remains one of my favorites of SX. While I was disappointed that I didn’t hear “High Society” during their performance at Bat Bar, it is giving me that much more of a reason to seek the band out live again. Even now writing this weeks after seeing the band I’m still filled with excitement when listing to Burning Bush Supper Club.

Visiting the band’s website is a must as it’s filled with music videos and a lacking list of tour dates. I, for one, will be watching closely to see if that magical list appears on http://www.bearhandsband.com/ telling me that the band will be arriving in my town. Until then the memories of a great SXSW performance will keep me hungry for more.

Walk the Moon

The Walk the Moon performance at this year’s mtvU Woodies Awards Festival was exactly what you look for when traveling to SXSW. Every year I attend the fest I’m looking for that band that just side-swipes me and this year Walk the Moon was that band. The Cincinnati group emerged on the scene with the track “Anna Sun” and took the world by storm. The pop rock anthem quickly hit the air waves and landed the group a contract with RCA Records, this kind of news never seems to impress me, but after seeing band live I see now what the big deal was.

While at first glance you make take Walk the Moon as another Killers rip off, it’s their live show that will change your mind. The band has an energy that forces a smile and may leave you with face paint if you wander too close to the stage. It’s this positive sound that drew me into the band making me realize that this band won’t remain a secret for long. Like last year’s SXSW artist Foster the People, Walk the Moon has the potential to explode on to tween bedroom walls all over the United States. While a statement like that may dissuade most indie-rock purists, I urge you to give Walk the Moon a chance.

Yes, when attending shows you will be forced to stand next to drunken bro-dudes, but by the end of the show you won’t care and may end up sharing a beer bong with a new sleeveless friend. I know the risks of such an idea may scare you, but isn’t a great band worth the risk?

Kimbra

Okay, I know what you’re thinking: “what a cop-out, Kimbra is on everyone’s list.” Well it’s that way for a reason, she is just that good. For most of you Kimbra is just that girl in the Gotye music video. I’m here to tell you that this year all of that will change and after hearing Kimbra live the roles may be reversed in that musical relationship.

Before arriving at SXSW I made sure that I was familiar with Kimbra’s debut album, Vows and when listening I was intrigued, but remained skeptical due to the album’s pop sensibilities. The record has the perfect mix of indie flair and pop radio power, that kind of perfect mix that sends you looking for the manufacture’s tag on the back of an artist’s neck. Even after hearing rants of praise from colleagues at SXSW I still remained skeptical before seeing Kimbra live. I think that is why I was so shocked by Kimbra’s live show; she is another artist that knows how to work a crowd and doesn’t know the meaning of disappointment.  Kimbra is the total package and her song “Settle Down” has the perfect mix of modern and vintage creating a sound that is like nothing I’ve ever heard before.

If you can’t find something to like about Kimbra’s album Vows then I have to wonder if you have ever been moved by a sound. For Kimbra, all the hype is real and deservingly so. When watching her perform you can’t help but smile and get lost in the beat. If you can, catch Kimbra now, so you can jump on the “I saw her when” bandwagon and look snarkingly arrogant in front of all your friends.

SXSW was overflowing this year with great music and larger than life acts. As I say every year it’s going to be hard to top next year, and year after year I’m proven wrong. While most think SXSW has out grown its “true meaning” they just are not looking in the right places. All the break through acts are still there and SXSW still has the potential to sky-rocket that little band from Portland into the megasphere. One thing is for sure, that festival in Austin TX does shape the state of music for the year to come. So here is to seeing you at next year’s SXSW and hopefully at great shows though out the rest of 2012.

Story by Ryan Davis

Photos by Angela Davis

I saw them run through the back door of the club, someone heard Sam say that he wanted to see the movie Trollhunter. I wish they would have just asked to borrow my Blu-Ray copy. It really is a great movie.  If you’re stuck you could always ask @lostinreviews on twitter or here on Facebook.

About Ryan Davis

Ryan is the Founder of Lost in Reviews, a member of The Kansas City Film Critic's Circle, and a key component in the movement to digitally restore the 1986 classic film The Gate. Ryan is also the co-host of Blu Monday a DVD and Blu Ray review show which Lost in Reviews co-founder Angela Davis also appears. While he may be a film and music snob, that doesn't mean you can't be friends. Well it could if you don't like the same bands or films he does, overall it might be best to avoid the subject all together.

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