There’s something to be said about a dynamic duo. Most rock bands are traditionally four pieces, which helps achieve a full sound. Pop acts tend to feature just one star. But duos? They’re unique and they don’t fit into a stereotype. Members in a musical duo have a lot of responsibility riding on their shoulders — not only do they have to develop a full sound in the absence of additional musicians, but each member has to find a balance and harmonious relationship with their partner. So when perusing the list of acts set to appear both officially and unofficially at this year’s SXSW, the duos stand out.
Since scientists haven’t solved that whole being in multiple places at once thing, it is unfortunately impossible to see all the amazing acts that SXSW has lined up for 2013. That’s why Lost in Reviews is helping you to narrow down your list of must-see acts; and in this case, we’re focusing on the duos.
In no particular order, here are the 16 music duos that are must-sees at the 2013 SXSW Music Festival:
Tegan and Sara – teganandsara.com
Tegan & Sara are a Canadian indie rock band formed by identical twin sisters. They’re one of this year’s more established bands performing at SXSW; they’ve had a fairly prolific career and just released their 7th studio album, Heartthrob. The first single from that record, “Closer,” is a catchy, synth-heavy tune that’s been receiving frequent radio play.
Icona Pop – iconapop.com
This girl pop duo is still somewhat of an underground act, but they won’t be for long. Recently, their infectious tune, “I Love It” was featured on the HBO series “Girls.” The Swedish dance pop duo’s show is a guaranteed dance party, but if you can, we recommend you catch them at the Warner Music party. Icona Pop collaborator and friend, Charli XCX will also be performing at this showcase. Fingers crossed for Charli XCX to join them on stage for “I Love It.”
Black Violin – blackviolin.net
Violins are usually the last instrument people associate with hip hop, but Florida duo Kev Marcus (violin) and Wil B. (viola) have been crafting original hip hop pieces on their stringed instruments and even adapting a few of the classics for a hip hop generation. If you’re looking for a fresh, fun sound, these guys have you covered.
Capital Cities – capitalcitiesmusic.com
A lot of SXSW bands debuting this year spawned out of internet successes, but one of the better stories is that of California’s Capital Cities. The duo met through Craigslist and have gone on to release several EPs featuring the best electronica pop rock dance hits of the last few years. Though the duo is formed around Ryan Merchant and Sebu Simonian, they do perform with a 5-piece set for their live shows.
Carousel – carouselmusicpage.com
Carousel is an electro-pop duo that you may have encountered on sites like Hype Machine where they’re frequently highlighted as one of the most popular acts based on play counts. The Berklee College of Music grads play melodic dance jams and are a party not to miss at SXSW.
Boy – listentoboy.com
Boy is sure to be one of the most talked about acts at this year’s SXSW. The Swiss/German duo sings beautiful, toe-tapping songs (and yes, they do sing in English). Boy is a female duo and vocally, they’re a little reminiscent of Leslie Feist. If the drumming style on their record seems a little familiar it’s because Phoenix’s Thomas Hedlund lent a hand to their recordings.
AroarA – aroara.com
AroarA is one of the more eclectic duos on this list, so if you’re looking for something truly different, this is your act. They’re a duo playing unusual instruments and singing about unusual material. They’re described as performing “faux-folk,” and if you want to know what exactly that means, we suggest you watch the video below. The band is made up of Broken Social Scene’s Andrew Whiteman and Ariel Engle. The duo is performing songs off their album, In the Pines, which is based on a book of poems by Alice Notley about a woman taking the cure for hepC and traveling to the other side.
Bestfriends – thisisbestfriends.com
Bestfriends make us wish that we were friends with this duo. Their free-spirited, bike riding video and disco-light songs are a perfect welcome to the warmer weather of spring and summer. Nick Scalise and Gregory Shanahan are a Chicago-based duo and have been friends since preschool.
Foxygen – foxygen.bandcamp.com
A lot of the duos on this list have sort of fairy tale origin stories. The story of Foxygen is one of those once upon a times with a happily ever after. Almost two years ago, the duo mixed and recorded a disc in one evening and handed off the burned copy to producer Richard Swift after attending Swift’s show that very evening. The disc could have very easily ended up in the trash, but Swift gave it a listen and picked the band up. Swift describes the duo’s sound by saying, “It’s like listening to The Kinks on acid.”
Generationals – generationals.com
Generationals are New Orleans pop rock duo. They have two solid albums under their belts and are supporting their third new record at SXSW.
Iamdynamite – iamdynamite.com
Admittedly, it was the band name that first attracted my attention for Iamdynamite; the band borrows it from the works of Nietzsche. But it’s for their sound that it is worth sticking around. True to the band name, the duo has an explosive energy. They’re loud, rock and drive home some riffs that will get stuck in your head all day.
Kisses – blowkisses.info
There’s not really a whole lot of information about Kisses available yet, so here’s a great chance to be on the cutting edge of music discovery. Kisses is Jesse Kivel and Zinzi Edmundson of Los Angeles. They have a sort of vintage, summery sound that’s sure to be the perfect soundtrack to the Austin, TX weather.
PYYRAMIDS – pyyramids.com
In a story much like something out of a Meg Ryan/Tom Hanks movie, PYYRAMIDS came together over an email back-and-forth. At first the chatter was about a mutual love of British post-punk before moving forward with the development of their own band. The two then began emailing ideas and music clips. PYYRAMIDS is the collaboration of OK Go’s Tim Nordwind and He Say/She Say’s Drea Smith. Together, they’ve crafted stripped back, dark pop music with a retro feel.
Middle Class Rut – mcrut.com
Middle Class Rut is the duo that makes listeners take a step back and say, “wow, there are only two people making that much sound?” Zack Lopez and Sean Stockham are in fact only two, even if their raw, energetic music sounds like it was made by so much more than just them. The vocal back-and-forth contributions while drumming definitely help fill out that full sound. These guys, to put it simply, rock.
Paul McDonald and Nikki Reed – thepaulmcdonald.com
The names Paul McDonald & Nikki Reed are probably familiar to you even if you don’t know a thing about their music. Paul competed on American Idol a few years ago and Nikki is better known as Rosalie from the Twilight series. But even if you’re not on the Twilight or American Idol bandwagons, you might still give this husband wife/duo a chance. Their Americana duets are perfect to fill the void that the Civil Wars abrupt breakup with each other and with music left behind. Plus, once you hear Nikki’s voice, you may even wonder why she even bothered with the acting thing and didn’t go straight into music in the first place.
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis – macklemore.com
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are a hip hop/producer duo from Seattle, Washington. They’ve been around for a few years, but really hit it big this year with the hipster anthem “Thrift Shop.” With the crazy momentum that they’ve been receiving as one of YouTube’s most viewed artists, they’re also one of SXSW’s must-see duos. But arrive early if you want to see them as their sets are sure to reach capacity.
Did we miss your favorite 2013 SXSW Music duo? Comment and let us know what pair you’re most looking forward to seeing this year.