Tomorrow's Music Today
Photos by Ebet Roberts Molotov photo courtesy of Universal Looking through some past Austins: I told you 'bout punk-happy Donnas. You know the place where everything's Norah. . . . Yes, friends, if you've been reading my annual reports from Austin, Texas, on the South by Southwest Music & Media Conference, you've gotten the early word on some big names.
At SXSW 1999, the Donnas were still underground - and in many bars, still underage. Now they're on the cover of multiple music magazines, and when they spent the night on Saturday Night Live, we didn't sleep. At SXSW 2002, Norah Jones played Starbucks. Now, having swept the Grammys, she's playing a summer-long, nationwide tour, and the sold-out audiences are just a fraction of the 6-million-and-counting people who have gone away with her album.
So this year, like every year, I went back to the future, trawling the clubs of Austin for music that could eventually surface in your listening room. And as always, there was so much good music, I had to pick and choose what I could cover in the limited space here. Then there were the freebie CDs I happened to come across, like one by Housewives on Prozac, whose inspirational ditties include "Eat Your Damn Spaghetti." And then there was a certain band member I happened to meet. Even though Sandra Yee had banged up her leg playing soccer, she came to Austin in crutches to play SXSW. And this was a drummer, and that was her kick-drum leg. If Sandra and the band she's in, Garlic, can stay so determined, they should go places.
In the meantime, I may not have a crystal onion, but if you are indeed reading this to find out who's South by Southnext - well, here's a bunch of clues for you all.
|Kaito Norfolk, England www.kaito.co.uk If you missed the late great Pylon in the early 1980s, its marriage of B-52's pop and Gang of Four purge is revisited roughly in Kaito. And like Pylon (and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs), Kaito is fronted by a mantra-chanting singer, Niki Colk (left). This foursome's second album, Band Red (spinART), is tightly wound. Catch up with Kaito's summer tour for a bigger blast of its sunny/dark hooks and noise.|
|Kaki King New York www.kakiking.com She looks like a 13-year-old kid of Eddie Van Halen and Valerie Bertinelli. Listen to her fingerpicking guitar work, and you may think she sounds like their progeny, too. Kaki King actually sounds more like Michael Hedges or Leo Kottke, and she's actually 23. You can hear her gifts for both technique and melody on her debut album, Everybody Loves You (Velour).|
|Molotov Mexico City www.molotov.com.mx You're a Mexican band, and you've got a new song about border racism. Where do you launch your tour? In Texas, of course! The song is "Frijolero" ("Beaner") from Dance and Dense Denso (Surco/Universal Latin), and the band is Molotov. After its scorching set of much-more-than-just-rap-metal, I was ready to give the state right back to these guys. I may not have gotten all of the language, but I definitely got the fever.|
|Trachtenberg Family Slideshow Players New York www.slideshowplayers.com The dad, Jason, sings the songs, which he wrote to accompany slides bought at garage sales. The mom, Tina, runs the projector. Topics include "Mountain Trip to Japan, 1959" and the six-song rock opera Opnad Contribution Study Committee Report, June 1977, via Jason's Casio-style keyboards. But he isn't a one-man-band: the daughter, Rachel, is also a drummer, and she's 9. Whereas most Outsider Musicians are long gone, the Trachtenbergs are here and now, and they're the bee's knees.|
|Fuller New York www.fuller-nyc.com Full disclosure: bassist Michael Gelfand is an acquaintance. But that wouldn't stop me from dissing Fuller if the band was bad. Happily, it's great. It also proves that rock critics can play, because Gelfand, drummer Peter Catapano, and guitarist Mac Randall are all writers. Sounding like Discipline-era King Crimson, they cook on two self-released discs and boil over live.|
|Royston Langdon Leeds, England www.roystonlangdon.com True, he isn't new, having sung for Spacehog. But he came to SXSW to preview what could be a killer solo album. (Ten days later, he started a duo by marrying Liv Tyler. But that's another story for another magazine.)|
|Eisley Tyler, Texas www.eisley.com Not the Eisley Sisters, but the DuPrees: that's Stacy in stripes (age 14) and Sherri in red (age 19). They're joined by Chauntelle (a ripe old 21) plus a brother and a friend. And they've all got promise - especially if they keep saying they're influenced by Coldplay and Radiohead. Look for their debut EP, Laughing City (Warner Bros.).|
|Clouseaux Houston www.clouseaux.com The B-52's had to cancel their gig at SXSW - but who needs 'em when you've got the ten members of Clouseaux, complete with traveling tiki bar? The ten include a horn section, a big rhythm section, and two lovely ladies. It's exotica, to be sure, but with extra texture. How does Clouseaux keep coming up with music to dance for while changing rhythmic gears midgroove and occasionally featuring a guitarist who rockets from his bachelor pad? Beats the Esquivel outta me! The band's self-titled CD is available on (ahem) Air y Hola Records.|
|The Be Good Tanyas Vancouver www.begoodtanyas.com It's the B.C. Chicks - as in British Columbia, home of Frazey Ford, Samantha Parton, and Trish Klein. But these gals have their own way with mandolin, banjo, and guitar, sounding earthier than their Texas counterparts. Their vocal blend is more fragile, too, but attractively so. And in their low-key mix of old-time country, blues, folk, bluegrass, and gospel, the Tanyas come across more like the New Roches than the New Chicks. Their first album, Blue Horse, attracted attention; the follow-up, Chinatown (Nettwerk America), has traditionals and originals that will win you over.|
|Fooled by April Boston www.fooledbyapril.com Tired of power pop that loses its flavor on the bedpost overnight? Fooled by April starts fresh and stays fresh, whether dashing off originals like "Monsters of Rock" or nailing note-perfect covers like the Who's "I Can't Explain." Lead vocals are pure and easy - so, too, the harmonies. Think a retooled Cheap Trick, and remember that the sound of two guitars, bass, and drums can be much more than the bubblegum of its parts. Chew on the band's self-titled, self-released debut EP.|
|The Coral Hoylake, England www.thecoralusa.com Saturday night must have been Kids' Night on the stage outside Stubb's Bar-B-Q: after the young lasses of Eisley (see above) came the six young lads of the Coral, ages 18 to 21. Hoylake is a Merseyside town, but SXSWgoers who might have expected a Beatlesque band were surprised to hear rootsy, white-soul chanteys that channeled the Supremes circa "My World Is Empty Without You." The Coral's music is anything but empty in the epic swells of "Goodbye," a track from its self-titled CD (Deltasonic/Columbia).|