Buzz Bands to Watch at SXSW

By | March 9, 2007 at 9:20 AM

Among the legions of acts booked for this year’s South by Southwest Music and Media Conference and Festival March 14-18 in Austin, here are 10 that people will be talking about.


Sure, the Pipettes revel in the ’60s girl group sounds of the Ronettes and the Shangri-Las. And yes, they even conjure up cool memories of British sister-in-song, the beehived Mari
Wilson, who covered similar musical ground in the ’80s.

Still, the trio, who hail from the British seaside town of
Brighton, manage to make songs like “Pull Shapes,” “Your Kisses
Are Wasted on Me” and “Dirty Mind” sound positively modern.

In fact, this of-the-day sensibility permeates “We Are the
Pipettes” (Memphis Industries), due for a U.S. release on
Interscope imprint Cherrytree Records.


At 25, Gregg Gillis has become the hipster party soundtrack du jour as Girl Talk, whose albums, particularly last year’s
“Night Ripper,” and live shows are stitched together with hundreds of samples from all corners of pop music’s recent past.

Girl Talk concerts inevitably become a mass of sweaty, half-naked bodies, a place where Beyonce, Wu-Tang Clan and
Biggie collide joyously with the Pixies, Kansas and Wings.

The samples on the Gillis’ releases aren’t cleared by copyright owners, but that hasn’t stopped this Pittsburgh artist from continually reaching a wider audience.


Montreal’s post-Arcade Fire music scene remains red hot thanks to bands like Malajube. The group’s latest Day to Care album, “Trompe-l’Oeil,” crowns intense yet supremely melodic tracks with singer Julien Mineau’s French-only lamentations.

“After Arcade Fire, a lot of Montreal bands got the idea that they, too, could make it big outside Quebec,” Mineau recently told Billboard, “but thought the only way of doing it was by singing in English. That’s lame.”

The group’s South by Southwest stop comes as part of a
26-date North American tour.


This Indianapolis-reared, eight-piece outfit pricked up ears with its 2005 indie label debut, “The Dust of Retreat,” which was then picked up and resequenced last year by Artemis.

However, the group is now a free agent in the wake of
Artemis’ dissolution and will head to Austin on the back of a short Midwest tour.

References to Neutral Milk Hotel and the Decemberists seep through the crannies of Margot’s evocative chamber pop, brought home by frontman Richard Edwards’ rich voice.


The twin sisters brought a dose of Southern soul to last year’s elegant solo debut from Jenny Lewis, “Rabbit Fur Coat.”

Now they’re striking it out on their own, bringing some
California twang and twilight melodies to their transfixing harmonies.

Still unsigned, the Los Angeles-based duo has been too busy backing up their pal Lewis to settle on a label deal.


Expect a blast of hard-rocking Britpop from these newcomers from Southern England.

If an early EP is any indication, arena-prepped guitars crisscross their way around swanky piano melodies, all of it building to giant vocal cord-straining choruses.

Air Traffic will release its debut on EMI U.K. imprint Tiny
Consumer later this year, a label headed by electronic DJ David
Kosten, a.k.a. Faultline.


The Portland, Ore.-based act’s recent debut for Barsuk,

“Friend & Foe,” is a collection of enticingly oddball arrangements, brimming with melodies drawn from a wild assortment of noises and tape loops.

At times, Menomena sounds like a younger Flaming Lips, with scatterbrain rhythms, gospel crescendos and all sorts of indefinable sounds.

Live, the band is a must-see, swapping instruments and pasting together samples to reconstruct songs from the ground up.


To catch a glimpse of what pure exuberance looks and sounds like, head to see Brooklyn, N.Y., indie duo Matt & Kim.

Drummer Kim Schifino is all smiles as she hammers her way through geeky yet danceable power-pop ditties.

Her giddy rhythms chase the frenetic, videogame-worthy keyboard melodies etched out by her beau Matt Johnson, and the kids don’t know whether to find a partner or throw their fists in the air.


Austin’s own Ghostland Observatory has one foot planted in dingy rock clubs and the other firmly on the dancefloor.

The duo of Aaron Behrens and Thomas Ross Turner has kept the indie kids up and moving with its 2006 album “Paparazzi
Lightning,” released on Turner’s own Trashy Moped Recordings imprint.

Songs like “Sad Sad City” and “Piano Man” revel in retro synth leads, programmed beats and Behrens’ yelped vocals, an addictive blend that is even more invigorating live.


Bastida is a former member of pioneering ’90s punk group
Tijuana No and currently a keyboardist and backup singer in
Mexican alt-pop star Julieta Venegas’ band.

Now she strikes her own musical path as a solo artist, collaborating on demos with producer Jason Roberts (Plastilina
Mosh, Control Machete) and Ozomatli bassist Wil-Dog Abers, among others.

Bastida’s brainy grooves layer vocals, keyboards, electronic samples, acoustic and synthetic percussion in a modern kind of folk that traverses language and borders.

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