SXSW’s Thursday lineup featured a variety of artists represented by the British Music Embassy, from pop and indie to those that simply cannot be pigeonholed into a single genre. Each artist delivered a deeper glimpse into their minds and personalities, expressing the growing pains of youth and growth through their own form of artistry.
Finn Askew lives in the falsetto range comfortably. For his intimate, raw set, he stood center stage, just himself and his guitar. On paper, his lyrics would read like a hip-hop track, but they’re sung with heartfelt lo-fi melodies. On “Peach,” his rhymes were paired with structureless soft strums: “My tangerine dream/ Dressed in Supreme/ Only nineteen/ You’re my vaccine/ Peach, girl, do what you do/ Do what you do, said do what you do.” “Roses,” written when he was 16, acted as a youthful time capsule of past love.
Olivia Dean’s set also centered around matters of the heart. The indie singer-songwriter preached on self-love while introducing her new track, “My Own Boyfriend,” to be released on streaming platforms soon. It’s obvious where Dean draws her inspiration—near the end of “Echo,” she transitioned into a verse from Erykah Badu’s famous “On & On” with the help of a simple drum beat. Her songs spoke of experience, going through the motions of life and loss. With soulful lengthy vibrato and originality on topics that often feel cliche, her talents set her apart.
If you’re a fan of Stereolab, Beach House or Broadcast, dream pop three-piece Drug Store Romeos might be added to your playlists. Even more heavenly live, Sarah Downey’s vocals bring a tinge of familiarity and comfort, while remaining atypical. Calculated key playing, electric guitar and thumping bass lines produced layers of dreamy cosmic soundscapes in their set. The smooth beat switches half-way through “Quotations for Locations” and “Now You’re Moving” exemplified their succinctness and added a fun kick.
Baby Queen fostered a relatable and transparent quality about her. Her style was reminiscent of early 2000s pop stars Avril Lavigne or P!nk: catchy with an edge of anguish. “These Drugs” broke down her struggle to attain happiness and the rises and falls of drug binges: “I’m high/ But I am not a sycophant for a good time/ I only wanted to escape my mind/ For one night, know what happiness feels like/ But the nightmare I’m ignoring is darker in the morning.” She made use of the stage by jumping up and down and twirling around as the band produced snappy melodic synth and guitar breakdowns.
Matilda Mann’s set flowed with a quirky and pleasant charm. Her witty, self-aware and slightly melancholic “Japan” spoke of growing maturity and reflection: “I think it’s time to begin and I thought in stories like these/ Somebody would call/ And beg me not to leave/ Why should I wait for you.” Her minimalism was refreshing—with instrumentals stripped back, her fingerpicking and profound vocals bordered on a sweet sense of escapism.
The ‘crowd’ in the comments was bursting with excitement for highly anticipated Sinead O’Brien, stepping out in a scarlet red Gucci dress. She painted abstract images of her own with the lyrics on “Most Modern Painting”: “Quiet whipping winds/ Whisper things/ As she passes/ Long summer grasses/ Blow curses to the wind/ As she sings/ Shows you things.” Her artistry was within the way she delivered her conceptual lyrics—poetic flows packed with a cohesive punch of punk energy.
Similar to O’Brien in poignant poetic vocals, but vastly different in overall energy, Black Country, New Road appeared for a short two-song set. Described as post-punk, avant-garde and experimental, the seven-piece group specializes in creating brooding build ups and waves of tangled sound. Featuring songs from their debut album For The First Time released last month, “Opus” and “Track X” took leaps and bounds from somber ambiance to organized catastrophe in a matter of minutes. Isaac Wood’s vocals possessed a wavering fragility with undertones of passionate ferocity. The band presented a manifold of instrumentals, featuring saxophone, violin, percussion, bass and keys overlaying in a mesmerising capacity. Each small detail contributed to the wheels and cogs that make up the mechanism that is Black Country, New Road.
The Hardest Part
My Own Boyfriend
Most Modern Painting
Taking On Time
Black Country, New Road: