Oh My Rockness' SXSW 2008 Preview!

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Oh My Rockness' SXSW 2008 Preview!

February 18, 2008
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It's SXSW time yet again! Shows! Parties! BBQ! Beer! Thanks for checking out Oh My Rockness' special SXSW edition of our showlist site (for all of you who stumbled upon this a roundabout way, Oh My Rockness permanently lists shows for NYC, Chicago and Los Angeles with more cities coming soon. Check us out!) Like every year, there are a billion bands playing down here, and unless you're the Rocketeer, there's no way you're going to catch all of them play. So you'll have to be smart, synchronize your watches, and plan accordingly.

Below is a list of some of the bands we're definitely going to see. It's by no means all-inclusive (For a list of a WHOLE BUNCH MORE OF BANDS playing SXSW, go HERE!) , but we hope it helps you plan your attack during these five days of music debauchery.

White Williams - White Williams is the plugged-in pop project of Cleveland's Joe Williams. Double W's happy synths, good-natured bass thumps, and blissful laptop beats have been gaining steady acclaim, especially after he played a bunch of dates with his like-minded gadget peers, Girl Talk and Dan Deacon.

His peaceful, up-tempo jams remind me of Hawaiian surf songs meets Hot Chip (especially Williams' carefree tenor). There's a breezy quality to these machine-made sounds that make you feel well on your way towards becoming relaxed. Maybe you could call White Williams' "hammock-rock." He recently signed to the experimental-electric label Tigerbeat6 which will definitely help spread the word to those looking to get laid-back.

Headlights - If you like Stars, you'll like Headlights. You can also compare them to a less-annoying version of Mates of State (who were once on Headlights current label, Polyvinyl).

This very pleasant indie-pop band out of Champaign, IL (Bruce Weber Foreva!) composes three-minute songs that practically ooze with gooey toe-tapping melodies. Led by Erin Fein's fine (sorry) vocals and warm keyboard skills, along with Tristan Wraight's gentile guitar, Headlights certainly seek to soothe a listeners' pop sensibility.

And don't take this musical seduction to mean that Headlights' songs are downers; most of them are vibrantly upbeat. They're neatly constructed, so cordially that you can't help but cast your cares away when you hear them. There's no slop in this pop.

Shout Out Louds - Shout Out Louds are four lads and one lady from Sweden and they sound a whole lot like The Cure. Seriously. Singer Adam Olenius does a spot-on impersonation of Robert Smith at his most happy. And I guess that's the biggest difference between the two groups (besides, you know, millions and millions of album sales). Shout Out Louds don't reach for that anguished diary drama like The Cure often did.

This band instead opts for those fun, catchy cowbells and hyper-melodic choruses (more like "Friday, I'm in Love" maybe). Yee haw! And it's a good thing Olenius doesn't incessantly sing about hearbreak, because The Shout Out Louds don't have a whole lot to be sad about these days. I mean, they're on Merge Records, after all. Many people also like to compare Shout Out Louds to their compatriots, Peter Bjorn and John. But whatever, these guys are The Cure.

Los Campesinos - Los Campesinos! are seven young guns (four guys and three girls) from the U.K. that play unquestionably "fun" music that's full of resoundingly happy choruses. This is a group that just gives off a feeling of general delight. It's indie-pop with a little mischievous punk thrown in to keep the cheese factor at bay.

Los Campesinos! brings tons of guitars, strings, horns, chimes, keys and a glockenspiel (of course!) to the party, and they can be compared to The Go! Team meets The Unicorns meets Architecture in Helsinki meets the good humor of Art Brut.

If you go to their show, you'll most certainly leave grinning. And by writing songs accessible to pretty much all, Los Campesinos are most assuredly going to be smiling themselves... all the way to the bank.

Evangelicals - I still can't decide if Evangelicals' singer Josh Jones sounds like Alec Ounsworth (of Clap Your Hands) or Cass McCombs or Rufus Wainwright. Weird. Anyway this Oklahoma quartet (there are other bands there besides The Flaming Lips) plays crazy skewed pop that falls somewhat into psych territory, but really that's just because the songs are strange and sometimes they "jam."

A lot of the time though, this just sounds to me like good old-fashioned math-rock. There are lots of guitar noodlings over falsetto squeals (courtesy of Jones) that zigzag up and down over pretty straight-forward melodies. Call Evangelicals an accessible inaccessible band. And for a group that likes to get all insane with structure, it's comforting to know that Josh Jones can actually sing. His pipes keep the band's intentional musical misdirections from becoming a chore to listen to.

No Age - Los Angeles' lo-fi-garage-noise duo No Age has been compared to everyone from Lightning Bolt to Deerhunter to Built to Spill. And you can throw in some of the rudimentary recording elements of The Ramones into the mix, too.

This exceptional band is comprised of Dean Spunt and Randy Randall, both formerly of the LA beloved punk band, Wives. These two guys throw out all sorts of musical fastballs, curves and changes from the stage. Sometimes No Age engage in full-on rock freak-outs (Lightning Bolt), and at other times they get a little spacey, slow and hazy (Deerhunter). They also employ melodic guitar solos throughout (Built to Spill). There's no predictability here, other than a definite D.I.Y. vibe.

This Will Destroy You - San Marco, Texas band This Will Destroy You play big dramatic instrumental "post-rock" that sounds very similar to their state-mates, Explosions in the Sky. Their theatrical songs have the post-rock formula pretty much down: a clean, gentle strum of a guitar in the beginning of the song, which gradually picks up pace and becomes more aggressive strumming, which turns into feedback, which finally turns into EMOTION. That's post-rock. You know what we mean.

And, sure, even though we've all heard this sound before (Mogwai. Early Maserati. Saxon Shore. Mono. Tristeza. And on and on and on...), I'm still a sucker for it and probably always will be. This is inspirational music that inspires me in spite of myself. I know when this band's guitars go for that shimmering high note that This Will Destroy You wants me to feel the same pain and joy and nostalgia that they do. And you know, even though I know all this, it still works. Damn these guys.

For a list of a WHOLE BUNCH MORE OF BANDS playing SXSW, go HERE!

The 2008 SXSW Music Festival runs from Wednesday, March 12th, to Sunday, March 16th, in beautiful Austin, TX.

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