2012 SXSW: Best Bands to Watch

2012 Light of Day Concert Series "New Jersey" Singer/songwriter Bruce Springsteen performs during the 2012 Light of Day Concert Series "New Jersey" at the Paramount Theatre on January 14, 2012 in Asbury Park, New Jersey. (Getty Images)more pics » Bruce Springsteen is arguably the biggest name set to play SXSW 2012. But he's far from the only artist headed to Texas. (Getty Images) SXSW 2012 welcomes thousands of bands to Austin for the city's annual music festival. From mainstream rock legends like Bruce Springsteen to upstart indie darlings like Grimes, there's no shortage of talent.

If anything, there's simply too many musicians to keep track of. With well over 2,000 acts scheduled to play from March 13-18, trying to keep tabs on what's great and what's worth missing can leave you with a serious headache. But don't worry, that's where we come in.

Rather than become completely overwhelmed in your search for the best bands of SXSW 2012, we've put together a severely abridged list for you to hold on to. Print it out. Memorize it. And go see these acts in Austin. Or, if you won't be making it to Texas, stream their stuff online, buy it in a store, or on iTunes, and then brag to your friends that you know way more about cool tunes than they do. Trust us, that always goes over well at a party.

Alas, without further ado, here's our list of the Best Bands of SXSW 2012.

Band: Grimes
The brainchild of Canadian artist Claire Boucher, Grimes is the latest musical achievement to come out of Montreal. PItchfork lauded her album Visions, writing: "This thing is so compulsively listenable it's hard to come away from it wanting much more," wrote PItchfork in its review of Grimes' 2012 album Visions.

Band: Givers
Givers, an indie pop band from Louisiana, is set to play Coachella in 2012, but not before they take the stage in Austin. Video game fans may have heard the group's incredibly catchy song "Up Up Up" in EA Sports' FIFA 12.


Band:
Delta Spirit

If the cast of Stomp, Oscar the Grouch, and Credence Clear Water Revival had a lovechild, it would turn out something like Delta Spirit. This San Diego-based band combines trash can lids and strong bass lines to create spiritually themed songs that leave you feeling refreshed and upbeat. It's like doing yoga, without any of the weird bending.

Band: Kasabian
English rockers Kasabian have been pleasing British music fans since 1997. But for whatever reason, this indie-electronica band hasn't created much of a foothold in America. And that's a pity, because they're bloody brilliant. 


Artist: Skrillex
In 2010, Skrillex released My Name is Skrillex for free on his MySpace page. A year later, he won three Grammys and was named MTV's EDM Artist of the year. Today, you can hear his track "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites" on the radio, or on YouTube, where it currently has 67 million views. Yeah, we'd say he's made a name for himself.

Artist: Kimbra
Kimbra was born in New Zealand, lives in Australia, and has already conquered American airwaves -- sort of. Her collaborative effort with Goyte, "Somebody That I Used to Know" has been picked up by rock stations across the nation. Only problem: Her name rarely gets attached to the song. But just give her time.


Band: My Jerusalem
Though their name suggests otherwise, My Jersualem are not from Israel. No, these rockers hail from New Orleans, which could explain why they conduct their interviews in such perfect English. NPR and the BBC love them, and when you hear their uplifting, hippy pop sound, you will too.


Artist: Charlie XCX
Take some disturbingly sexy lyrics, mix it in with an old school dance sound, and you've got Charli XCX. If indie synth pop hopes to remain something more than a fad, it can look to this 19-year-old keyboardist from London for inspiration. Her latest singles "Stay Away" and "Nuclear Seasons" should add some instant zest to any boring house party.

Band: T-Bird and the Breaks
Led by Tim Crane, this Austin-based group brings a serious breath of fresh air to the R&B scene. Their funky blend of drums, bass, horns, and high-octane vocals pack enough funk to put any crowd in a fun-loving mood. With playful tracks like "Stand Up" and "Blackberry Brandy," T-Bird and Co. are arguably the most vibrant, soulful band to hit Austin this year.

Artist: Flux Pavillion
If you've used Pandora in the past year, and like electronica music, chances are you've hard Flux Pavilion at some point. The DJ's remix of the song "Cracks" has over 12 million views on YouTube, which isn't too shabby for a guy who just turned 22-years-old in January.


Band: The Shins
Yes, we realize the The Shins have been around for years now. But seeing as they're set to release their first album in five years March 16, we like to think of 2012 as the rebirth of Zach Braff's favorite indie darling. Eager to jump back into the spotlight, the indie outfit will follow up their show at SXSW with a performance at Coachella Music Festival in April.


Band: fun.
Would the world have fell in love with fun had the band's song "We Are Young" not been covered on Glee? Given their talent, probably. But after the single for the show's version went to No. 1 on iTunes, it was only a matter of months before the indie pop group was being heard on radio stations around the nation. At SXSW, they're set to perform at MTV's Woodies Festival which highlights the "best" new acts as voted by college students around the country.


Band: Class Actress
If the perm ever makes a comeback, thank Elizabeth Harper. The lead singer of Class Actress can play guitar, rock the keyboard, and sing like a more spastic version of Debbie Gibson. Don't look to this band for deep lyrics and spiritual songwriting. Do look to their single "Weekend" for one of most underappreciated electro pop tracks to hit the music world in recent memory.


Band: Hood Internet
Even if you swore you would never listen to Foster the People's "Pumped Up Kicks" again, you owe it to yourself to listen to Hood Internet's remix of the overplayed sleeper hit. Like Girl Talk, these two DJs combine indie and hip-hop tracks into fast-paced, dance floor ready mash-ups. Unlike Girl Talk, many of their tracks take on new life, or as the duo explained to Paste magazine in 2009, become "cohesive tracks that are thoroughly recognizable."


Band: Eyes Lips Eyes
Arguably the most exciting thing to come out of Utah since John Stockton's short shorts, Eyes Lip Eyes describe their high-flying sound as "disco-punk." With guitar riffs that could come off a Strokes album, and the energy of OK Go, the band sounds like the caffeine-induced, uplifting version of The Smiths. And we like that.


Artist: Theophilus London
Microsoft used the band's song "Humdrum Town" in a Bing ad. Then millions of people went on Google to find the music video on Youtube. Ironic industry humor aside, we're just happy to see the Brooklyn-based rapper getting the recognition he deserves. Growing up in the same town as Jay-Z, the guy has giant shoes to fill. But for now, it appears the 25-year-old is off to the right foot.

Band: Tennis
Most people associate tennis with Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, and unnecessary grunting. But if that's not for you, then you should take a listen to Denver-based indie pop band Tennis. You probably won't burn as many calories dancing to their songs than you would running around a court smacking balls. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't try.

Band: G-Side
This hip-hop duo out of Athens (Georgia, not Greece) have given us some of the more melodic, inspired rap we've heard since Lupe Fiasco gave us Food & Liquor back in 2006. Combining string instruments and piano, G-Side haven't hit the mainstream – yet. But with catchy rhymes and Outkast-like melodies, we don't see why they shouldn't end up in your rotation sooner than later.

Artist: College
The only thing more surprising than the amount of gore in Drive was how fantastic the film's soundtrack was. Among the many standout artists fueling the dark film: French composer David Grellier, better known as College. His hypnotizing song "A Real Hero" was one of the more uplifting highlights in this otherwise grim but enthralling art house film.

Band: Bright Moments

There's something warmly familiar about Bright Moments' Natives, a painstakingly arranged debut album recorded almost exclusively by multi-instrumentalist Kelly Pratt in his New York City apartment. It may be that Pratt's trumpet punctuated some of Beirut's most romantic tunes, or the myriad "found sounds" woven together in his sweet, lovely pop songs.

Band: Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears
Esquire named this blues outfit one of their "Ten Bands Set to Break Out at 2009's SXSW Festival." Three years later, and Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears haven't exactly become a household name. But it's certainly not because of a lack of talent, as this group packs enough soul and horn blasts to get the devil up and dancing.

Band: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.
From Al Green to Eminem to The White Stripes, Detroit has consistently pumped out fantastic music. The latest slice of greatness to come out of Motor City: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., an indie pop band known for their exhilarating live performances and the NASCAR fire suits they wear on stage. Standout tracks include “Simple Girl" and "Skeletons."

Band: Alabama Shakes
Alabama Shakes doesn't need to build buzz at SXSW: The Athens, Alabama natives have already blown up, although their debut album Boys & Girls won't drop until a month after the festivities. The blitzkrieg success is largely owed to frontwoman Brittany Howard's defiantly joyful vocal stylings.

Band: Bear Hands
Brooklyn's Bear Hands can't and won't escape comparisons to MGMT, given their particular brand of keyboard-heavy psych-rock, as well as the fact they went to school with Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden (and, years later, opened for them). We'd argue they're odder and therefore cooler, but equally danceable.

Artist: Ximena Sariñana
Singer-songwriter Ximena Sariñana's voice is so refreshingly clear and unaffected, it's hard to believe that she kicked off her performing career in telenovelas at the tender age of 11. Already a star in her native Mexico, the intimate pop confections on Sariñana's English-language debut are bound to win over fans of songstresses like Lily Allen and Kate Nash.

Band: Girl in a Coma
NPR darlings Girl in a Coma are the pride and joy of the San Antonio, Texas rock community. With ten years of tireless touring behind them, including opening gigs for Morrissey and The Go-Go's, the band still resides in the city they've often referred to as a primary inspiration. We happen to find Nina Diaz's inimitable voice inspirational.

Band: Quilt
Take a little Jefferson Airplane, mix it in with some Velvet Underground, and what do you get? Well, if you're four young musicians from Boston who dabble in the psychadelic, the answer is Quilt: the best '60s nostaglic act since Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Take a listen to this quartet singing "Penobska Oakwalk" and you'll understand why your parents can't remember their childhood.

Band: Niki & the Dove
Aside from extremely good looking people, affordable furniture you don't want to build, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the only thing Sweden gives the world is good music. The latest example: Niki and the Dove, an electro-pop group led by Malin Dahlström on vocals. More uplifting than The Knife, but not nearly as childish as Abba, this is one Scandinavian act to keep an eye on.

Artist: Waters
After the break-up of his much-loved Bay Area band Port O'Brien, Van Pierszalowski moved to Oslo, Norway, eventually reemerging with Waters, a notably harder, noisier project than his previous efforts, but just as well-crafted and pleasantly strange.


Band: Guards
Guards is the latest project led by Richie James Follin, a.k.a. The Willowz's frontman and brother to Cults' Madeline Follin. The band stormed the blogs last year with a 7-song EP released on Bandcamp, including the darkly catchy doo-wop of "Resolution of One." It's truly sticky stuff.



I'm a former Associate Editor at Zimbio.
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