What do Best Coast, Boba Fett, Beach Fossils and street yogis have in common? They were among the many artists and fans who came for the first day of South by Southwest. See a gallery of photos by Adam Kissick here and follow us on Flickr for much, much more.
The All Songs Considered gang has made their way to Austin, Texas for this year's South By Southwest music festival. The five day event, which showcases performances by over 1500 bands and artists, takes over the city, and this year officially starts one day earlier than in the past — Tuesday night.
It's that time of year again! All Songs Considered is headed on another musical trek to Austin for this year's South By Southwest festival. Before hitting the road we listened to songs from more than a thousand bands scheduled to play the festival, in search of some great new discoveries. On this edition of the show hosts Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton, NPR Music editor Stephen Thompson and NPR Music critic Ann Powers come together to share some of what they found, and talk about the bands they're most excited to see.
There's a statement of intent in the sequence of an album's opening one-two punch. There's Harvey Milk's The Pleaser, a title reversal of set 'em up ("Down") and knock 'em down ("Get It Up & Get It On").
In a way, singer Julianna Barwick's ethereal voice and seemingly shapeless songs are a form of abstract art: colorful and curious, with lines that drift and flow in unexpected but beautiful directions. For her latest video, and a new song called "Offing," Barwick finds commonality in architect Philip Johnson's Glass House and a strange sculpture from artist Ken Price. Barwick performs alongside the sculpture for a live audience, filling the Glass House with layers of her sublime voice.
For a party-friendly metal-punk band like Kvelertak, "Spring fra Livet" sure is a curveball. The stomping, AC/DC-style intro? That's a party-starter. But 20 seconds in, there's a twangy, melodic riff that sounds like an Allman Brothers-indebted '90s alt-rock band, like Better Than Ezra or Toad the Wet Sprocket or maybe just the Empire Records soundtrack — if the Empire Records soundtrack were about to lay into a blast-beaten chorus. Respectfully, Kvelertak, just what is going on here?
Originally published on Wed March 6, 2013 11:03 am
Get some earplugs and a case of your favorite caffeinated beverage ready: The annual sensory-overload-joy-fest known as South by Southwest is almost here. Bob Boilen, Ann Powers, Stephen Thompson and I, along with a small army of other NPR Music peeps, will be there next week for the whole thing. Whether you'll be in Austin for the festival, or watching and listening on our website, we hope you'll join us for these events:
After 10 years of gleefully dismantling genres and challenging audiences to submit to its avant-prog-jazz-drone-noise-whatever hypnosis, the New York City band Zs promptly dismantled itself last summer. Only founding member and saxophonist Sam Hillmer remains, joined now by guitarist Patrick Higgins and drummer Greg Fox (Guardian Alien, ex-Liturgy). So it's only fitting that Grain, the first taste of new Zs material, features unreleased leftovers of previous line-ups completely dismantled.
In "Escape Artist," the new video from Canadian pop duo The Zolas, the band plays around with audience expectations about race, culture and sexuality. As frontman Zach Gray sings about his mysterious alter ego, a group of kids kick around their neighborhood, playing basketball, chatting up girls and passing the hours. One of them clearly feels like an outsider.
Originally published on Fri February 22, 2013 3:39 pm
At some point, a long string of colorful adjectives doesn't accomplish much for any band. "Hypnogogic math-pop," "blackened uber-popadelica," "avant seapunk-rap" — it all gets a little silly. Metal, or at least the folks who describe it, often falls into this trap, present company included. Exhibit A: the second album from Richmond's Inter Arma. Sky Burial ingests several forms of metal, but the goal is demonstrable heft. Maybe you should just listen to its opening track first; it's called "The Survival Fires."
[This story originally ran on Feb. 22, 2013, but still applies today.]
We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the Valentine's Day cards that got returned with no forwarding address is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, how music fans could and should approach SXSW, the gigantic music festival held every March in Austin, Texas.
I first saw Cat Martino at the best concert of my life. It was the summer of 2011 and Sufjan Stevens was performing at Celebrate Brooklyn. But within the spectacle -– a troupe of maybe a dozen performers on stage — was a singer and dancer named Cat Martino. I know that because a number of my friends at the show knew Cat and were screaming her name at the top of their lungs.
Originally published on Sat February 23, 2013 4:08 pm
Every year around this time, all four members of the All Songs Considered roundtable gang (Bob Boilen, Robin Hilton, Ann Powers and me) each dredge through more than 1,000 MP3s by bands playing the SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas. We base our coverage and festival schedules on the music we've researched in advance — and have found some of our favorite artists, like Kishi Bashi in 2012, as part of these blind pre-fest taste tests — and this year, we want to be sure we're considering yours.
Guitarist and singer Chris Porterfield has done a lot of soul searching since his previous band, DeYarmond Edison, broke up in 2006. Other guys in the group went on to start their own projects — Justin Vernon formed Bon Iver, while some of the other members formed Megafaun. Porterfield, meanwhile, hung back in his native Milwaukee and took a job as a student union administrator at Marquette Univeristy.
Originally published on Wed February 20, 2013 7:24 pm
NPR Music will present and webcast a "First Listen Live" concert from Josh Ritter and the Royal City Band on Monday, March 4, beginning at 8 p.m. ET in the intimate New York City venue (Le) Poisson Rouge. Josh Ritter and his band will play most of his new album, The Beast in Its Tracks.
Originally published on Tue February 19, 2013 2:54 pm
Kishi Bashi (who's real name is K Ishibashi) is known for his thrilling live performances, looping and layering his violin and voice to create a symphony of sound. But when he decided to cover "A Sunday Smile," one of his favorite songs by the band Beirut, K went for "real" musicians, captured in this live-in-studio video.
This week All Songs Considered is brought to you in part by the letter "B." Robin Hilton starts it off with Louisiana natives Brass Bed and the song "Cold Chicory." Then Bob Boilen shares a new cut from the artist Bombino from Niger.
Originally published on Fri February 15, 2013 2:43 pm
In its quest to become the world's most brutal, ugly and offensive death-metal act, a young band should ask itself three questions: "How fast can the drummer blast-beat?" "How many unspeakable acts can we cram into three minutes, lyrically speaking?" "Are the riffs-per-second an accurate measure of how brutal we truly are?" I'm only sort of kidding. These exercises in ridiculousness are par for the course, though their excess is not unrewarded. Enter Wormed.
Originally published on Fri February 15, 2013 8:58 am
The English rock group Depeche Mode owned a chunk of the '80s and '90s with glossy electro-rock hits like "People Are People" and "Personal Jesus." These days the band doesn't have much to prove, and its members, who appear in this new video for the song "Heaven," seem to find themselves at peace, bathed in the radiant glow of light and love.
Originally published on Wed February 13, 2013 2:02 pm
We're thrilled to announce that the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have been added to the bill for our official South by Southwest showcase on March 13. The band joins Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds for the concert, which will be broadcast on NPR stations across the country and streamed live as a video webcast here from Stubb's in Austin, Texas. The concert will also appear in the NPR Music apps.
Originally published on Wed February 13, 2013 9:25 am
The deeply disturbed character who appears in the latest Maps & Atlases video, for the song "Fever," may not live to see tomorrow. As the Chicago-based band sings about holding on in our darkest hours, "The Man" slowly wastes away, addicted to a mysterious drug.