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SXSW 2013: 10 rising L.A. bands to look for in Austin

From Tokimonsta to Foxygen, these acts echo Los Angeles' complexity. Their appearances at South by Southwest should draw much attention.

March 12, 2013|By Randall Roberts, Los Angeles Times Pop Music Critic
  • Shlohmo will appear at this year's SXSW.
Shlohmo will appear at this year's SXSW. (Sus Boy )

Like ants to a sugar cube, so travel musical types to Austin, Texas, where the South by Southwest music festival begins Tuesday. The annual fete gathers in one place a vast collection of artists and the people who love (and profit from) them. Over six blissful barbecue- and beer-soaked days, bars, clubs, basements, concert halls, backyards and street corners become temples to organized noise.

This year high-profile professional acts include Ryan Bingham, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Leonard Cohen, Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks, Iggy and the Stooges, "Harlem Shake" producer Baauer, hip-hop producer Hit-Boy — and rumor has it, Justin Timberlake, Prince and Bruno Mars.

Los Angeles is in the midst of a musical renaissance, and the evidence lies in the list of prominent Angelenos represented in 2013. They include rapper Kendrick Lamar, avant beat-maker Flying Lotus, harmonious indie rock band Local Natives and Odd Future rapper Earl Sweatshirt, who will be teasing selections from his forthcoming major label debut. Thriving L.A.-based labels such as Innovative Leisure, Friends of Friends and Burger will offer showcases.

PHOTOS: The scene at SXSW 2013

Here are 10 rising Southern California-based artists — whose varied sounds echo the city's complexity and whose appearances should draw attention.

Tokimonsta. The artist born Jennifer Lee is from the South Bay; under her pseudonym Tokimonsta she's built a devoted following in the beat music scene. A regular guest DJ at the Low End Theory club in Lincoln Heights, she recently signed to the electronic music label Ultra, where she'll deliver a new album, "Half Shadows," in April. She's got good taste in rappers too. The eccentric genius Kool Keith guests on her "The Force."

The Bots. The Bots are two teenage brothers from Glendale who play tightly wound, exuberant rock 'n' roll. The wiry Mikaiah Lei at 19 is an onstage whirlwind, bopping around like a spring while banging out Jack White-suggestive chords. Anaiah is 15, and he's got an afro the size of a beach ball that bounces around when he hits the drums. When the band was recently invited by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs to open a gig in Pomona, the Bots nearly blew them off the stage, which is no small feat.

Las Cafeteras. Born at the Eastside Cafe, Las Cafeteras craft son jarocho-influenced music of a style born in Veracruz, but over the last few years they've evolved into a uniquely Angeleno mishmash of punk, hip-hop, beat music, cumbia and rock. Live, they're magnetic, half a dozen members strumming on jaranas, thumbing on a kalimba, offering dance-friendly beats and pure musical energy.

LINEUP: Coachella 2013

Shlohmo. As the lines have blurred among rap, R&B and electronic music, so has South by Southwest, and beat producer Shlohmo's work captures many aspects of the music's evolving sound. A buzzing artist whose new EP, "Laid Out," features four excellently unpredictable electronic tracks that mix instrumental R&B, high-hat heavy trap music and hip-hop-inspired, patiently paced beat music, Shlohmo (born Henry Laufer) understands restraint and the nuances that illustrate an appreciation of shape-shifting sound.

Papa. You want anthemic rock songs that don't sound overthought? Papa is an L.A. band that makes big rock with Springsteen-style piano melodies, a deep, brooding voice and an overall rock vibe that suggests a band swinging for the proverbial fences. Few emotions are locked away in Papa's sound; live, the band brings volume to match the sense of exuberance. Papa co-founders Darren Weiss and Daniel Present have just announced a tour with kindred spirits Lord Huron.

Superhumanoids: Recently signed to Innovative Leisure, Superhumanoids have been working L.A. clubs for the last couple years, doing the requisite residencies, opening for higher profile bands. They create a sound that conjures California harmonies and hand claps, filled with new wave flourishes and enough synthetic curlicues and hooks to perk the ears of retro enthusiasts.

Audacity. Audacity is four young men who have been chugging through Southern California since the late '00s, stealthily bombing backyard parties and gigging divey underground bars with solid, scream-along punk. Not the shiny Green Day kind, though, but the cliche-free brand as delivered by such bands as the Modern Lovers, the Replacements and the Descendents. Like Angeleno punkers FIDLAR, Audacity connects snotty fun and voluminous guitars to great effect.

Grace London. The singer-songwriter and guitarist whose affinity for the Black Keys and rougher tones is surprising coming from a pixie-ish teenager, though a mere 13, has been gigging at the festival since she was a tween, so she already has a confident voice in front of tough crowds. Her songs might be a little self-involved, but her instincts in crafting structurally sound and pleasantly cliche-free lyrics announce a promising young artist. Plus, she does an assured version of Led Zeppelin's "Bron-Y-Aur Stomp."

Baths. One of the best bedroom electronic debuts of the last few years was by Baths, the pseudonym of Will Wiesenfeld. Introspective and sweet, the music on his "Cerulean" earned a loyal, if muted, following when it was released in 2010. Baths will showcase music from his sophomore album for Anticon Records, "Obsidian," which comes out in late May.

Foxygen. Mentioning the Kinks' Ray Davies in the same sentence as Foxygen is probably ill-advised, but singer-songwriter Sam France knows his way around a lyric, and he touches a sweet falsetto with the same casual grace as Davies. The two-piece songwriting team also includes drummer Jonathan Rado, and their breakout record, "We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic," is instantly hummable.


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