Editor’s note: This is the second post in a series covering the best talent at the fest. Listen to these artists-to-watch now, and get them on your festival schedule for March. This selection of must-see acts comes from @SXSWISLIFE.
James Bay is a British singer-songwriter from Hitchin in the United Kingdom. He just won the 2015 BRITs Critics Choice Award, his predecessors being Adele and Sam Smith. He marries bluesy vocals to emotive guitar ballads and is clearly one to watch this year.
Alvvays (pronounced Always) is a dream pop quintet based in Toronto, Canada, whose sound seems to come straight from the California shore. While Alvvays relies on the same reverb-heavy production that an entire generation of beach-obsessed indie pop bands has tended toward, they pass many of their peers by delivering inspired songs, with unexpected shifts and breakthrough moments.
Halsey (anagram of Ashley) is the musical alter ego of New Jersey singer songwriter Ashley Frangipane. She is Lana Del Ray-meets-Churches. “My music all strips down to the same acoustic stuff I’ve been doing all my life,” she says. “My melodies are very percussive… all my songs when they’re played acoustically could be Ed Sheeran songs.”
Misterwives, residents of NYC, got the inspiration for their name from TLC’s ‘Sister Wives’. Their sound has been described as indie-pop-soul. Think of The Lumineers’ stomp-clap-meets-Walk the Moon’s sparkling synth-pop hooks, thrown in with a dash of Mandy Lee Duffy’s sassy Aretha Franklin-like vocals.
Constantly compared to Azealia Banks, Australia’s own Tkay Maidza, has a glowing future. Tkay is an 18-year-old rapper from Adelaide, Australia (she moved there from Zimbabwe in 2001). If Maidza’s “U-Huh” video wasn’t enough to affirm that she’s worthy of our collective attention, her mixtape ‘Switch Tape’ seals the deal as she jumps around between rap, pop, electronic, and ’90s house.
Garrett Borns, aka BØRNS is a synth-pop artist from Michigan who now lives in the Eastern hills of LA in a treehouse. He is a dreamy blend of folk, glam and electro rock. His songs are about longing.
London singer Jack Garratt is one of those artists who sounds both singular and familiar. The 23-year-old musician and producer has a flexible, affecting voice and a way with electronics that will have him crowned the new James Blake.
Jacques Webster, aka Travi$ Scott, is a hip-hop artist from Houston, Texas. He is one of the more eccentric emcees currently in the rap game. He is currently signed to Kanye West’s label, GOOD Music as an in-house producer, with credits on ‘Cruel Summer’ and ‘Yeezus’.
Little Simz (real name Simbi Ajikawo), is an English rapper, musician, actress and singer. Though she’s only 20, she’s already got her own label, AGE 101. “I didn’t want to sign to anyone so I made Age 101 — that’s a boss move.” After releasing three mixtapes, her fourth, Blank Canvas, premiered on Jay Z’s ‘Life & Times’ website, and soon after she received acclaim across the industry.
Cathedrals is an electronic, pop/soul duo based out of San Francisco. Their debut release, Unbound, hit #1 on Hype Machine only four days after its release. If that song is an indication of the future of Cathedrals, their stay on the ground floor will be short.