The 30th annual South by Southwest music conference and festival begins Tuesday, kicking off five days of nonstop music in Austin.
As always, this year promises to be a whirlwind of discovery, as many on-the-verge musicians are descending upon Central Texas in a bid to break out and have a big 2016.
Here are 10 of the can’t-miss artists.
Born Brandon Anderson in California, the singer-rapper-producer better known as Anderson .Paak is arguably one of the buzziest artists heading into this year’s SXSW. He released his sophomore album, Malibu, in January, and critics flipped for it: “.Paak’s quicksilver flow on Your Prime feels teleported in directly from [Kendrick Lamar’s] To Pimp a Butterfly as the music flows expansively from creamy soul harmonies to trap cadences,” gushed Pitchfork.
Another California rapper poised to have a very successful SXSW, Vince Staples released his debut, Summertime ‘06, last year to much acclaim — XXL magazine called the record “one of the best rap debuts of the year” — and with a full slate of performances on deck for this week in Austin, Staples stands poised to move to the front ranks of hip-hop.
The Arlington-born singer-songwriter is gearing up to have the kind of year Leon Bridges enjoyed in 2015. Her full-length major-label debut, Hero, drops June 3, the same day she’ll hit the road as an opening act for country superstar Keith Urban. (That tour stops in DFW this fall.) Expect many attending SXSW to leave knowing what North Texas has long understood: Morris is a powerhouse talent.
Everything about Margo Price’s debut, Midwest Farmer’s Daughter (out March 25), screams legitimacy. The Nashville-based singer, who cut her record live to tape at Memphis’ iconic Sun Studio (and mixed it at another legendary Memphis spot, Ardent Studio), signed to Jack White’s Third Man Records, as its first country act. None of this would matter if the songs didn’t hit as hard as they do: lead single Hurtin’ (On the Bottle) aches like a fresh scrape.
Virginia indie rock outfit Car Seat Headrest began as a solitary pursuit — Will Toledo recorded many of the dozen albums the project released on Bandcamp in the back seat of his car, hence the name — but has since expanded greatly, with Toledo adding three other members, and signing with Matador Records, which will release Car Seat Headrest’s Teens of Denial (recorded in a studio) later this spring.
It was, perhaps, inevitable that Aubrie Sellers would pursue a career in music — after all, her parents are Lee Ann Womack and Jason Sellers. Nevertheless, Sellers is making a vivid impression with her debut album, New City Blues, and its grungy country aesthetic (single Light of Day is a wonderfully swampy slice of country-rock), and will doubtless dazzle the SXSW faithful.
This Oklahoma troubadour first turned heads with his self-titled 2014 record and is building up steam ahead of the release of his second long-player, The Very Last Day, out March 25 (featuring cameos from Aoife O’Donovan, Sarah Jarosz and Sara Watkins). The 22-year-old Millsap’s electrifying blend of folk, blues and gospel makes his live performances unforgettable, a sonic cleansing of the soul.
There’s more than a little whiff of throwback with Kentucky foursome White Reaper, garage punk aficionados who keep tongues firmly in cheek throughout their sophomore effort, White Reaper Does It Again, released last year. On the strength of irresistible singles like Pills, it’s tough not to lose yourself in the feedback and distortion and bounce around without a care in the world.
In the hyper-competitive world of R&B divas, Kehlani, a multi-ethnic Oakland, Calif., native, is making her way to the front of the pack in a hurry. Her visibility is thanks to a pair of mix tapes that have earned her praise, including last year’s You Should Be Here. Kehlani didn’t stop there, releasing a string of well-received singles, including the tart, sultry Did I, which evokes ’90s hip-hop by way of ’00s indie rock.
Madrid-based lo-fi rock quartet Hinds (originally known as Deers before threatened legal action necessitated a change) has made a sizable impression in five years, earning praise for its debut, Leave Me Alone. The gossamer melodies and wistful atmosphere of tracks like Garden are tailor-made for a breezy spring afternoon, soaking up these sounds on a crowded patio in the heart of Austin.
South by Southwest
- Through Sunday
- Various venues, Austin