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10 SXSW 2014 breakout bands to watch

Quiet Company
Quiet Company
Quiet Company via Facebook

South by Southwest (SXSW) closed with a bang Saturday despite drizzly weather that put a damper on outdoor shows during the day. We saw sets by Snoop Dogg, Gary Numan and Phantogram among others. Snoop was fun. Gary Numan could teach a few young artists a thing or two about stage presence. Phantogram (sounds like a start-up app) were good too. But what we are really excited about are the breakout bands we saw perform for the first time during the festival; Desert Noises, July Talk, Future Islands, Bearcubbin, Lucius and Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real. Our list includes top tier Austin bands, Quiet Company, White Denim, Not in the Face and Residual Kid because these locals (and lots more) are as good (or better) as the best the rest of the country has to offer. While we have seen all three of these acts prior to SXSW, we feel they warrant a mention here.

Editorial limitations prevent us from including all the Austin bands we would like to. Here are of some of our favorite Austin acts to check out, listed in no particular order:

Click through to our 2014 SXSW recommendations and tell us what you think. Did you discover the next big thing and we missed it? Let us know by commenting below.

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Quiet Company
Quiet Company Quiet Company via Facebook

Quiet Company

Two years ago Quiet Company won a record 10 Austin Music Awards (AMA). This year they won Best Rock Band simply because they are one of the best rock bands in America, let alone Austin. Their most recent album, "We Are Where We All Belong" (2011) is the record that led their unprecedented AMA sweep. The album garnered critical acclaim from the likes of NPR, Consequence of Sound and the Austin Chronicle. Since then the band has gained fans nationally and internationally.

Led by exceptional lyricist, Taylor Muse, Quiet Company's star has steadily risen since forming the nucleus of Muse, Tommy Blank (guitar, keys), Jeff Weathers (drums) and Matt Parmenter (bass). Cody Ackors (horns) joined the band in 2009 to round out the current roster.

Just after winning the AMA on Wednesday, Muse told Examiner that Quiet Company decided to the record their fifth album, "TRANSGRESSOR" live in an effort to capture the energy of the exceptional performances the band is known for. The album is being produced by Blue October's Matt Novesky at his brand new studio, Orb. Muse is excited about new material and the live recording approach. The band is aiming at releasing the new record this summer. We are betting on more critical acclaim and awards.

Grab a copy of "We Are All Where We Belong" from the Quiet Company store . We are sure it will become one of your frequently listened albums in short order. If you live in Texas you can catch the band on an eight-city tour next month.

Desert Noises
Desert Noises Greg Ackerman

Desert Noises

There were only two bands we saw twice during SXSW and Desert Noises is one of them. The band has been making a buzz since last year when they released their second album, "Mountain Sea". The first time we caught the foursome from Utah at the Do 512 Lounge on Wednesday we were sold from the start of their killer five song set. The group was so good we hauled our sore, tired body off the couch after SXSW ended and saw them Sunday at a Balcony TV taping. Despite being exhausted, Desert Noises made us forget how tired we were during their set yesterday at Joe's Crab Shack.

Their sound is vaguely bluesy with a dash of Americana. But Desert Noises is primarily a psych rock band, complete with mind blowing riffs, great vocals and a driving rhythm section. The first time we saw Delta Spirit came to mind when we caught frontman Kyle Henderson and the band perform.

We chatted with drummer, Brennan Allen after their first taping. He told Examiner the band had been working with the current roster for over two years. Allen, who plays brilliantly, mentioned that he felt most at home on the road. That is a good thing because the band will play 27 dates before the end of April all over the U.S.

Desert Noises will undoubtedly be making many more new fans as they continue to tour next month. Their newest album, "27 Ways" is due out March 25. Fans can pre-order the album or pick up the four singles already released on iTunes.

Bearcubbin Do512 via Flickr


Bearcubbin is a three-piece math/progressive rock band anchored by one of America's best young drummers, Mike Byrne (Smashing Pumpkins). While the story of Byrne going from working at McDonald's to working for Billy Corgan is amazing, the music he makes with childhood friends, Chris Scott (guitar, keys) and Pat Dougherty (bass) is mind bending.

Byrne claims the genius of the group is Scott who loops weird noises and guitar riffs while playing another guitar or keyboard part over the just created loops. The result is Bearcubbin creates a sonic wonderland for fans to revel in.

Examiner caught a bit of their set during Strange Brew III early in the music week but we tore ourselves away to head to an earlier commitment, promising ourselves we would catch the band again during SXSW if possible. That opportunity came when our friends at Do512 hosted a Lounge Session taping featuring Bearcubbin. Not only was the band great live, but they looked like they were truly enjoying the experience. We know we did.

Be amazed by track, "Carpet Needs a Drink Too" then grab a copy of their latest, "Girls with Fun Haircuts".

Bearcubbin return to Portland after stops in Boise and Missoula, Montana this month.

Residual Kid
Residual Kid Residual Kid via Facebook

Residual Kid

Each time Examiner has seen Residual Kid an older musician ends up remarking how inadequate they feel watching three teenaged musicians from Austin tear it up on stage. They feel inadequate because these kids have been playing since they were toddlers and the experience shows. The sentiment is understandable because Residual Kid rocks the stage with both abandon and skill that belies their age.

What might be a novelty is much more than that as the garage rockers have proved. Just ask guitarist and producer, J. Mascis (Dinosaur Jr.) who invited the trio to record at his studio in Massachusetts earlier in the year. Or listen to their SXSW 2014 sampler and become a new fan.

Better yet, watch the official video for their song "Friends" and see why we think this power trio comprised of Ben Redman (drums), Deven Ivy (guitar) and Max Redman (bass) has just scratched the surface of rock stardom. We are looking forward with eager ears to hearing what their sessions with J. Mascis sound like.

July Talk
July Talk Do512 via Flickr

July Talk

Toronto's July Talk was easily the wildest band we watched perform at SXSW. Vocalists Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay cavorted on the outdoor stage at the Palm Door on Sixth for Do512's The Big One singing what amounted to an amalgam of indie rock, folk and punk while slamming booze and sharing what we can only assume was marijuana honey with each other and fans.

Just formed two years ago, July Talk has already generated a fair amount of buzz at home where they were nominated for a Juno Award (Canada's Grammys) for Best Breakout Band this year. We loved their high-energy, rollicking set and stage histrionics.

Watch live video of their song, "Guns and Ammunition" from their JunoTV sessions.

We will be keeping track of those crazy Canadian rockers who make some great music that translates well to the stage.

Not in the Face
Not in the Face Greg Ackerman

Not in the Face

Quartet Not in the Face (NITF) began as a joke between founders Jonathan Terrel (vocals, guitar) and Wes Cargal (drums) who thought it would be funny to form a duo that put a heavier spin on cover tunes. After a surprising positive response from Austin music fans, Terrel and Cargal added lead guitarist Michael Anthony Gibson to the lineup in 2012 following the recording of EP "Walk." Last year NITF completed the circle with bassist, Ross Dubois.

The raw energy NITF generates on stage is enough to make them fun to watch as Examiner did at the Strange Brew III party at Hotel Vegas last week. But do not take our word for it. The band has a new, five song, self-titled EP out that will make you a believer. If you are in Austin it is available at Waterloo Records or get it on iTunes.

Lucius Suzanne Cordeiro


We touched on how good Brooklyn indie-pop band Lucius is in our previous post on the Heartbreaker Banquet (HBB) last week. Founded just two years ago by Berklee College of Music graduates, Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, who added Dan Molad, Peter Lalish and Andrew Burri after relocating to Brooklyn. Dan, Peter and Andrew amount to an indie-pop jam band behind the lush harmonies of the girls.

They may have been the least Americana band on the HBB bill and maybe that is why they stood out from the rest of the bands so much. Or it may be that they are a really great band. We are leaning toward the latter after watching the group mesmerize the crowd out at Willie's Luck, Texas ranch.

Lucius' debut album "Wildewoman" drops on March 31 just before the group heads off on an April European tour. On their return Lucius has been invited to play Sasquatch Festival, Firefly Festival and Governors Ball as well as sold-out shows with Tegan and Sara in D.C. The word is already out regarding this "buzz" band.

Stream a live version of their track, "Turn It Around" which they included in the setlist on Thursday. The band is taking preorders for the new album as well.

White Denim
White Denim Greg Ackerman

White Denim

We love psych rock. We love blues. Therefore, we love Austin's White Denim. Originally a trio that blossomed into a foursome, the group has been steadily climbing the rock and roll ladder since forming in 2006. Examiner saw the band perform early on as a trio and we were hooked by the energy put out by White Denim.

Guitarist and vocalist James Petralli is particularly entertaining during their performances. He is known for jumping off the stage and making a circuit around the venue when they play, "I Start to Run" one of our favorite White Denim songs.

The band was invited by Jimmy Kimmel Live to appear as the musical guest the first night of tapings in Austin during SXSW. They featured material from recently released, "Corsicana Lemonade." Several songs from their latest were produced by Jeff Tweedy (Wilco).

Watch White Denim perform "Pretty Green" on Jimmy Kimmel Live.

The band kicks off a national and European tour on April 3 at Stubb's BBQ. Tickets are still available.

Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real
Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real Suzanne Cordeiro

Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real

It is not surprising that several of Willie Nelson's children are good musicians. His daughter Amy Nelson is half of standout act, Folk Uke. Paula Nelson is a solid rocker. Lukas Nelson might be the most fun to watch. Nelson plays energetic rock and roll and displays exceptional guitar work. His band The Promise of the Real (POTR) are a fantastic backing band as well.

Photographer, Suzanne Cordeiro warned us not to miss his set and she was right. His live show is electric and left us wondering when we will have a chance to see him play again.

Check out this live version of the title track to his album "Wasted" (2012) from an appearance on Late Night with David Letterman.

Nelson is credited with co-writing "Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die" with Willie. The song has become a staple in Willie's live performances.

Speaking of shows, Lukas and POTR hit the road for a series of West Coast dates supporting Willie next month.

Nicole Atkins
Nicole Atkins Greg Ackerman

Nicole Atkins

Another act recommended to Examiner is Nicole Atkins. When we bumped into Austin writer Lauren Modery at the beginning of the SXSW Music week, she mentioned Atkins and suggested if there was an opportunity to see her, we should take advantage. The entire week went by and then we noticed the New Jersey singer was on the Balcony TV taping bill Sunday. Despite chilly weather (and being totally worn out) we hung out on the patio of Joe's Crab Shack to see her sing. Sure glad we did. Her voice has been likened to a female Roy Orbison which is about as apt a description as one could imagine.

Atkins is touring in support of her February release "Slow Phaser". Stream the title track (and lots more) at the artist's Soundcloud page. The album is available via iTunes and Google Play.

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