This one has been percolating for a long, long time.  See, right around the time I really got into a stride with this little endeavor, I was listening to "All Songs Considered," and they were doing a review of South By Southwest musical acts.  Since I had found some really terrific music from a previous 'Best of SXSW' segment (Fitz and the Tantrums, Surfer Blood, Harlem), I felt duty-bound to download the whole damn thing.  All 100 (or so) songs, by 100 different artists.  As I've said before, it kinda stuffed me up.  Suddenly, the project seemed insurmountable.  Oh, and miserable.  Then I downloaded the 2013 version...100 more songs, 100 more artists...just to make myself more miserable.

Well, I made it through, and I've got another post coming shortly, but this is my original draft of the first group of songs.  Here goes.

Adam Arcuragi, "Presidents Song" - 2 stars.  Dump it.

Sort of an Americana backwoods thing.  Like the Avett Brothers, it seems self-conscious and affected.  It's not "bad," per se, it just doesn't do anything for me.  Pretty sure I can live without it.

Allen Stone, "Sleep" - 3 stars.  Hold it.

I found Allen Stone a few months ago through the following video:


As I tweeted / facebooked at the time, if you don't get chills at the 3:30 mark, well, I just don't want to know you.  Man, what a voice.

Which makes me really  disappointed by this particular song.  The call / response break between Stone and his backup singers at the midway point is just completely cringe-worthy.  But I'm keeping the song, completely on the basis of the video of the other song, until I hear otherwise.  He tours quite a bit, and I?m anxious to see him in concert.

Amy Bezunartea, "Doubles" - 4 stars.  Dig it.

It's interesting.  Amy Bezunartea and Adam Arcuragi are cut from the same cloth in some respects - retro, hipster-ish, possibly over-earnest - but where I find Arcuragi off-putting, Amy Bezunartea seems inviting.  It might be the quality of the voice, which is lovely.  It's also easy for me to imagine her doing this type of music whether or not it's popular - I don't have that same feeling for Arcuragi.  For that reason it seems more "genuine" to me - and i realize that my 'logic' is a complete and utter fabrication.  Whatever.  I like it.

Apparat, "Black Water" - 2 stars.  Dump it.

Again, not "bad," it just kinda lays there and doesn't grab me.

Bear in Heaven, "The Reflection of You" - 2 stars.  Dump it.

A shout-out to 80s Britpop - I could swear it's New Order, or Orchestral Manoevures in the Dark.  The thing is, while I liked those albums when I was 20, they really really don't do anything for me today.  Some of the songs, yes, but the albums really don't hold up.  This song would be the fourth song on side 2 - which means I would be looking through my stack and figuring out what the next album would be, wondering if I had the stamina to listen to this one all the way through.  Nope.

Ben Howard, "Old Pine" - 3 stars.  Hold it.

I had a feeling that, by listening to a mix from SXSW I would get a good sense of what's hot and what's not when it comes to the music scene of 2012.  Six songs in, it seems like earnest retro Americana is the thing.  This is the third song where we have some...oh, how should I say this...affected vocals with unusual phrasing, acoustic guitar, probably some artisanal amps (ooh, I like that phrase - gonna have to remember that).  Again, it's not bad, but I've heard it.  This one stays, just because I kinda like the guitar work and I wonder if he might turn into something.  But it's on a short leash.

Best Coast, "When I'm With You" - 5 stars.  Dig it.

...and just like that, all the hipsterism is washed out by a fab, straight-ahead power-pop girl group.  Reverb, a bit of feedback, the line "Yeah, when I'm with you I have fun," classic verse chorus verse chorus bridge verse chorus.  Terrific.

Big Deal, "Chair" - 4 stars.  Hold it.

...but then we veer back in to retro earnestness, boy-girl harmonizing a capella before we get a smear of scratchy guitar work.  The contrast between the elements is nice.

Black Tusk, "Set The Dial To Your Doom" - 0 stars.  Dump it.

I work with some college kids that sometimes listen to brutal, terrible, unlistenable, scream-at-the-top-of-your-lungs shit just like this, and I just.  Don't.  Get it.  Really, Junior?  This is enjoyable?  You make me sad.  If I wanted to get yelled at I'd go back with my ex-wife (ooh, that's another good line to remember).


And that's where it left off.  Stand by for the speed round...

AuthorMatthew Riegler