Saturday, March 8, 2014


charli XCX

SXSW is a music lover's dream - like a kid let loose in a candy store. And although SXSW has been going on since last week, the music portion of SXSW begins Tuesday and with over 700 bands calling Austin their home for a week  it could be overwhelming for a music lover to decide who is worth watching.  Picksysticks breaks down a short list of the bands you have to watch during SXSW 2014.

Charli XCX

Her talent of fusing melodies and beats was front and center, echoing the playful dance sounds of Spice Girls to the vocal pop deliveries of Madonna. 

Charli XCX's debut album True Romance might as well be called her greatest hits album.  It's filled with wall-to-wall hits, and almost every song has been remixed, mashed up and played in every club around the world making her  one of the most sought after artists around.  

Although her major label debut album True Romance last year, the mainstream's first introduction to her was through Icona Pop's breakthrough hit song "I Love It" which Charli XCX penned. 

Recently, Charli revealed that she's already working on writing songs for her sophomore album which she plans on recording in France.  She has already released Superlove the first song off that album which has fans salivating for more. Expect her to try out some new songs at this year's SXSW.

"SuperLove" by Charli XCX

Chloe Howl

As far as I can tell, SXSW will be Chloe Howl's first and only U.S. appearance.  So far, every single song Chloe Howl has released it's become an instant fan favorite. Her songs make me want to dance like no one's watching.  Three songs she previously released, "Rumors," "No Strings" and "Paper Heart," became instant hits, making Howl's upcoming album one of the most anticipated releases of 2014.

On top of that, the recently BRIT Award nominee and 18 year-old is currently on tour supporting  Ellie Goulding on her European Tour.  

"Paper Heart" by Chloe Howl

Betty Who

Jessica Anne Newham, better known as Betty Who, has been the talk of the music scene since she released her debut EP The Movement last year.  And because of that EP, she's made a lot of  those 'artists to watch in 2014' lists. Her name just kept popping up everywhere - blogs (Idolator) , websites (MTV), magazines (Elle, New York Magazine) a couple getting engaged on YouTube, etc... In fact, one of those lists actually came from Time magazine who listed Betty Who as one of the "Acts to Watch in 2014."   For this years' SXSW, she was just recently added to Perez Hilton's "One Night In Austin" SXSW party.  

Trust me, watching her live at a sold out Echo in Los Angeles, you couldn't take your eyes off her; her melodies echoing the pop-explosion sounds of the 80s with sparklets of R&B. Her songs, like herself was like watching a fireworks display and ooh-ing and ahhh-ing with each bursts of colorful melodies, watching the sparks shoot out every which way, marveling at trail of light fading softly away.  

After SXSW, Betty Who will head out on  a string of North American tour dates beginning March 22nd in Philadelphia and then making her way through Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston and finishing off in New York.  

"Heartbreak Dream" by Betty Who

Russian Red

Spain's indie darling is setting up for her American takeover with US tour dates with stops in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago.  Russian Red, has three shows at SXSW which I plan on going to all of them.  

During the last few years Russian Red (aka: Lourdes Hernandez)  has become one of the most renowned artists in the Spanish music scene with beautifully constructed songs carried by her fragile yet powerful vocals.   Lourdes Hernández, has an exceptional voice and an innate ability to communicate and captivate a variety of audiences.

"Casper" by Russian Red

London Grammar

In their first ever US tour, London Grammar played to a sold-out crowds.  Their album If You Wait, released on September 17th debuted at #2 on Billboard's UK chart is riding high off their hit singles "Strong" and "Wasting My Young Years."  

The London trio, consisting of Hannah Reid, Dan Rothman and Dot Major, weave moody, trance-like melodies that comes off hauntingly beautiful.   Add to that their deep and dark synth beats and Hannah's airy yet delicate vocals and you'll find yourself getting high yourself in their hypnotic and intoxicating world.  

"Strong" by London Grammar

Ivy Levan

Watching Ivy Levan is like being transported back into a 50s blues nightclub during the big band era.  With flashes of attitude overflowing with sexiness, Ivy Levan has people comparing her to the likes of Amy Winehouse and Gwen Stefani.  

Recently releasing her critically acclaimed EP Introducing the Dame, via Cherrytree Records, her music, dubbed as 'Swamp-Hop' is a mixuture of blues, pop and swing with a touch of soul and pop.  Supported by a masked backing band, Levan's exciting and electrifying sets are enough to guarantee a non-dancer to kick up their heels and dance to songs like "Hang Forever" and "Money," both of which you can find on her new debut EP Introducing the Dame. 

"Hand Forever" by Ivy Levan

Wolf Alice

Of all the bands at this year's SXSW, London's Wolf Alice is the one I'm most curious about - AND most excited about.  Led by frontwoman, Ellie Rowsell and consisting of Joel Amey, Joff Oddie and Theo Ellis, Wolf Alice reminds me of early 90s alternative, echoing the sugary sounds of Letters to Cleo, Belly with the moody, gungy melodies of Temple of the Dog.  Hmmm...should I pack my flannel? 

"Bros" by Wolf Alice

dum dum girls

Known for their hip, fuzzy, Mazzy Star meets Shangri-Las West Coast beach vibe, Dum Dum Girls are currently on tour promoting their most recent album Too True.  It's their third studo album from the group, offering a more mature sound with deeply personal songwriting from front-woman Dee Dee. 

"Too True to be Good" by Dum Dum Girls


"Batches & Cookies" was a breakout hit from Minneapolis artist Lizzo, the rapper/singer behind influential bands GRRL PRTY and The Chalice.  Now, Lizzo is giving it a go with her unique sound and  style as a solo artist with her  debut solo album LIZZOBANGERS. 

Topped with bad-girl attitude and catchy as hell lyrics,  Lizzo looks to lead a new wave of indie hip-hop artists with, what's sure to be her breakthrough album, LIZZOBANGERS.  

"Batches & Cookies" by Lizzo


Another set of LA cool cats to influence not only your record collection, but your wardrobe, too. Currently working on their second album, and follow up to 2010’s The Fool, these NME favorites do haunting indie rock better than most. - Marie Claire

cherry glazerr

Here are a group of talented teens, calling themselves collectively as Cherry Glazerr (Los Angeles). They look like an after school detention teen clique consisting of three girls and a guy. Cherry Glazerr has an unusual sound and feeling of pent-up teen energy stuck on a morphine drip.  There is a delightful frustration in the lead vocals of Clementine Creevy, sounding like children on a sugar high that just took a few of mommy's Vicodin pills to chill. The lyrics are simple yet endearing like a children's storybook, talking about cats, grilled cheese, trick or treat, a pizza monster, and an alien princess. Great ideas for late night doobie cartoon music videos, those cartoons with sketchy lines and seemingly bad artistic skills, but somehow hilarious. Hannah Uribe on drums is the quiet one with the loudest toy. Clementine can recently be seen on the new Amazon pilot "Transparent" starring Jeffrey Tambor where she plays (what else) an up-and-coming musician.

"White's Not My Color This Evening" by Cherry Glazerr


Wardell, made up of the brother/sister team of Sasha and Theo Spielberg, spool vintage, '60s tunes as though polyester and root beer floats was back in style.  With classic beach harmonies that float up to the heavens, Wardell feels like a blast from the past.  

They are the soundtrack to listen to while swinging high on a swing with toes drifting just above the sand. There is an uplifting feeling to Sasha Spielberg's vocals like green grass and sunflowers on the horizon as the girl on the swing in the floral summer dress floats high, to and fro, enjoying the simple exhilarant body rush, then letting free, and landing bare feet back in the sand box. 

"Opossum" by Wardell

Deap Vally

The only band I'd want to be listening to as I attack that lonely desert straightaway to Vegas is Deap Vally.  Dirty guitars and scowling vocals that act as an adrenaline rush as you pass Barstow towards Sin City.  

Deap Vally are Lindsey Troy and Julie Edwards, the LA duo gaining critical acclaim for their non-apologetic and attitude-laced rock.  Oh, and they also have a debut album Sistrionix that makes you believe in rock and roll again.

"Walk of Shame" by Deap Vally


They look like a '60's girl group. They sound like a melding of classic Americana and a church choir that's backed by a high school marching band. But once you hear this quintet, everything starts to make sense.   Their name is Lucius, hailing from Brooklyn but has roots in Los Angeles.   Their saturated textures of free-floating vocals backed by booming, soulful percussions evoke a simple era of country-folk that's infused with fresh, pop balladry that every generation will find appealing.  

Currently  promoting their  debut album "Wildewoman,"  Lucius has been generating a lot of buzz  since they released their EP getting shout-outs from music taste-makers like Time Magazine, New York Times, NPR and Rolling Stone while already playing at some of the most noteworthy music festivals like Bonnaroo, CMJ Music Fest and SXSW.

"Turn it Around" by Lucius


NONONO continues Sweden's knack of breeding bands that write infectious, mid-tempo songs that brings out your inner child and makes you remember what it was like when life was carefree and everything around you looked shiny and brand new.

NONONO are that shiny brand new toy that everyone in the music biz seems to want for Christmas. From CMJ to Perez Hilton, this Swedish trio is the talk of the town.  Blame it on their breakthrough single "Pumpin Blood," which spread like wild fire across music blogs along with getting heavy airplay on mainstream and college radio.  

"Hungry Eyes" by NONONO


Echosmith has been all the buzz since their summer sampler debuted last July, promising something not normally associated with a young, teeny band such as themselves -  a mature-pop-sound  one wouldn't expect from a band with an age range of 14-20.  Also surprising are their musical influences ranging from The Smiths, U2, Fleetwood Mac to Joy Division so imagine their sound when fused with '80s pop and the alternative attitude of the '90s. You get songs like the shoe-gazy, mysterious "Cool Kids" and the Breakfast Club inspired "Come Together."  

Echosmith are a natural performing on stage.  Their confident stage presence just highlights their electric show fueled by youthful songs that are smart and fresh - a complete 180 degrees from the Britney Spears' and Miley Cyrus' of the world.  This a band parents would love their kids to emulate.

"Cool Kids" by Echosmith