South by Southwest: New bands you need to hear


The Wave Pictures 

Be prepared for these East-Londoners to play Texas with their lo-fi basement ballads like “I Love You Like a Madman” and “Leave The Scene Behind.” It’s questionable whether The Wave Pictures even exist in this decade at all, or if they’re permanently stuck in the awkward teenage years of the late ’80s and early ’90s. Whenever they’re from, the resulting sound is oh-so-cute and kissable! The clumsy romanticism of their simple guitar strums and cheerful vocals bring memories of summer porches and bittersweet reunions with old friends. Their latest album to hit stores is the buzz-worthy “If You Leave it Alone.” Support these guys in the states, but if you do, please do so on audiocassette and listen in an old car on a warm night. They even manage to pull off a Sam Cooke cover, and you get the feeling they wrote his lyrics in a journal lots of garages ago.


Finally, an American playing Texas. And he’s probably the most talented MC you’ve never heard of. His hip-hop style is like no other, but it is tied to a line of sound streaming from the best and freshest – the Midwest. XV is from Wichita, Kansas, a largely-ignored music city housing a too-ignored young rapper. Like Kid Cudi did for Cleveland, XV will put Kansas on the radar, as he showcases his intelligent and innovative musical abilities at SXSW this week. 

In 2009 he released “Everybody’s Nobody,” a mixtape that proved him capable to rhyme with the brightest out there. I hope he gets the exposure he deserves during the fest, and sets the stage for new creations and collaborations by this cleverer than everer MC. His forthcoming album is titled “The Kid with the Green Backpack,” a salute to his high school days, where kids only knew him as the quiet kid with the crazy backpacks.

VV Brown 

Texas better be bracing itself for the next British invasion. In the spirit, VV Brown is a serious popthrowback to the sound, even if she’s more Ronettes than anything. Her solo act is decked out in bright polka dots and blessed with her signature retro, flipped under flat-top. 

In the train of Britain’s Lily Allen, Adele and Kate Nash, VV is another go-lucky soul goldmine that gives new twists to that vintage crooner sound and style. Named as the UK newspaper The Independent’s “artist to watch in 2009,” VV originally sang backup for Madonna and The Pussycat Dolls, but don’t associate the three. 

VV is an original sweetheart, who is a lot cooler in my playlist, with songs like the offbeat swing stomp “Crying Blood” and big band “Game Over” of her “The Attic EP.” If the “Mashed Potato” was still cool, VV would be the girl leading the stage — her persona and energy radiates whimsy, but serious retro talent.


Shoegaze has never been, nor will it probably ever be a commonly-used term when it comes to describing a band’s sound. It’s been around since the late ’80s, and how many times have you used it or heard it? Well, it’s ambient dreamy pop, played while “gazing at their shoes.”

Still, it’s making its introspective comeback on the alternative airwaves in new bands like Bat for Lashes, and at South by Southwest, in the form of LoveLikeFire. Like the genre stimulates, LoveLikeFire’s music is good to turn on and drop out — in a good way — and lose yourself in a steady, pop equilibrium. 

The San Francisco quartet’s debut full-length album “Tear Ourselves Away” is a mesmerizing reverie of original work, taking up where electronic daze bands The Organ and Broadcast left off. Each song flows seamlessly into the next, a seductive record to drive around at night or chill out to — real laid back thinking sort of stuff.

Cate Le Bon

“Shoeing the Bones” is one of the most striking and original-sounding songs I’ve heard this year. Granted, it’s only March, but I guarantee she grabs a whole new audience in 2010. 

Her album “Me Oh My” is light in tone, with a folkish psychadelic air to it, with occasionally dark and droll lyrics. It sets her apart from some of the other forgettable female folk that’s been releasing lately. It may be reaching to compare her to folk legends Vashti Bunyan or Donovan, but her Welsh heritage lends nostalgia to the thoughtful listener. Le Bon’s also been described as a Welsh Nico. 

Although she’s heavy in old influence, she’s definitely modern, representing the present shift in folk convention, as she multilayers synth and ghostly, almost French-accented vocals and mixes them with organic acoustic character.

Frightened Rabbit

Hailing from Selkirk, Scotland, Frightened Rabbit first caught our hearts with the lyric “It takes more than fucking someone to keep yourself warm.” They’re more upbeat, but still in the same musical ranks of Bon Iver. In Iver’s same style you feel cozy and pensive, like you’re traveling the Scottish countryside. Their sound is intimate and acoustic-based, sitting on the tail-end of winter when spring first sings. The lead vocalist has a deeply personal tone, like that of a frightened rabbit, a rare combination of elusiveness and intimacy. Their band name stems from a nickname given by singer Scott Hutchinson’s mom who  likened his shyness to a “frightened rabbit.”

Listen to the track “Swim Until You Can’t See Land.”