Each year Austin, Texas’ SXSW uncovers the new crop of artists that will lead the way in the year ahead and while we can’t all make the trip there, we’ve gone through every bootleg vid and excited tweet to pull together a list of the ten artists that made the most waves at SXSW. Here are the ten South By South-Best artists.
In case you haven’t heard Dua Lipa is the world’s brightest popstar-in-waiting and she proved exactly why last week at SXSW. She performed at a bunch of showcases including a set at the coveted Fader Fort, injecting a little pop into a week that so often be about uncovering the next unsuspecting garage band. She impressed Spin with her “huge, huge voice” and they also called her the most likely to go onto “bigger things”. Her last two singles Be The One and Last Dance suggest she’s got the goods to fulfill that prediction.
Charli XCX is in between albums at the moment and experimenting with her PC Music-flavoured, SOPHIE-produced tunes. As such, she turned up to SXSW with a very different soundscape to the one that permeated her last record Sucker. Dressed in black latex, she brought her off-kilter pop songs to the stages like Hyper Machine’s Hype Hotel and dropped Vroom Vroom tracks as well as some newies. She’s setting herself up to destroy the pop game this year and after seeing her at SXSW, NME reckon she might be right when she says that her new material could “change the sound of pop music”.
As much as SXSW is about uncovering new artists it’s also about celebrating innovative artists at the top of their game and Santigold very much fits in that box. Her latest album 99c is her most ambitious yet and by all accounts her SXSW shows proved she’s still as relevant as ever. She combined new tracks with remixes of old tracks. Spin reckons that she was responsible for one of the best moments of SXSW when she started “an impromptu dance party” for Creator, getting as many people as possible on stage. Who can we call to set up a party with Santigold?
Californian soul singer Anderosn .Paak has been around for a while but after a spot on Dr. Dre’s Compton album and an excellent record of his own this year Malibu, it feels like he’s the most hyped artist around right now. “If he were to be positioned in a Venn diagram of what you need to be a breakout star he’d be right in the middle,” The Guardian wrote after seeing him perform at The Fader Fort and also said that he’s going to be “massive”. He’s without a doubt one of the most capable artists around right now and he’s got stellar songs to boot. If you haven’t already, hit play on Malibu.
You may recognise a Desiigner song even if you don’t know the GOOD Music-signee by name. His track Panda is used on Kanye’s Father Stretch My Hands and he’s drawing-up plenty comparisons to rapper-of-the-moment Future. He took to the Fader Fort at SXSW backed by a guy in a panda head and performed the hit as well as the Kanye track. He also performed a new track Pluto proving he’s got more in the cannon. Pigeons & Planes called the new track “wildly energetic”. Let’s just hope he can get past those Future comparisons.
Last year at SXSW people were queuing around the block to see our very own Courtney Barnett and it seems Gold Class have emerged as the most-hyped Aussies from this year’s event. NME said that they have elements of Depeche Mode, Royal Headache, At The Drive In and early Interpol within their sound and also said “there's something compelling about the band”. We haven’t heard a lot about the Melbourne post punk group here in Aus yet but given the attention they’re garnering overseas, it won’t be long before they’re tearing up local festivals.
Public Access TV
Every year people go to SXSW looking for the next big alt-rock band. Another Arctic Monkeys or The Strokes is usually the goal and it looks like they might’ve found them. Public Access TV are an NYC band making woozy but melodic rock songs and are conjuring an ever-growing following. They impressed many at SXSW but none more than NME who said they brought a “sizzling swagger” to their show and also declared them the winner’s of day four. They’re the type of band that triple j audiences would eat up and a summer festival slot here in Oz would suit them just fine.
He “made every single person at The Fader Fort want to fuck him in the middle of the afternoon,” Noisey said about Gallant’s set at SXSW which we’re going to assume is a good thing. The US artist is making super soulful tunes with choruses that’ll melt your heart and it’s unsurprising that he was one of the most talked about names this year. His track Weight In Gold is a pop monster just waiting to be all over the radio, but it’s good to see that he’s also a charismatic performer. He climbed on speakers and howled through his set which included a guest spot from Jhene Aiko. It was almost enough to outshine the day’s surprise guest, Drake. Almost. Look out for his debut album Ology due in April.
R&B/soul singer Kehlani was nominated for a Grammy off the back of a mixtape so it’s no secret that she’s going to be a massive force to reckon with this year. Complete with back-up dancers she made Hype Machine’s Hype Hotel sizzle with that unbelievably smooth voice. Vogue called her the “coolest girl at SXSW” and we’re just going to go right ahead and scratch girl from that sentence and replace it with person. She’s about to pop up on Zayn’s debut LP out tomorrow which will introduce her to a much-deserved wider audience. She has the chops to do some huge things this year.
Bibi Bourelly is a new artist but she’s already written some huge songs for Rihanna like Bitch Better Have My Money and ANTI-highlight Higher. Now she’s giving her own tunes a whirl and is showing off a husky, classic voice. “In her, perhaps, lies R&B's chill as hell future in the post-Rihanna era," Noisey said of her performance at SXSW and the videos prove it too. She may be chill but there’s something really powerful about that raspy voice singing over organic instruments. Just watch the backyard performance she did for Pigeons & Planes and get acquainted with the future of R&B.
Words & Illustrations by the interns' Sam Murphy & Bianca Bosso