First in a line of promising artists, UK singer/songwriter Anna B. Savage welcomed us into her tender embrace in an intimate SXSW showcase this evening. Weaving through tremendous highs and brutal lows, A Common Turn navigated the five years since Savage’s EP success. The rose-haired singer’s contralto vocals haunted “Dead Pursuits,” a track that navigates her personal struggles with tearing down and then rebuilding a sound following initial success. As if we’re reading an excerpt from her diary, Savage crooned, “Is anyone listening? Will I ever record this? I can’t do it. I can’t do it.”
But she did it, with a brave face and raw, forlorn vocals that mark Savage’s sound uniquely. “Corncrakes” blended acoustic guitar with electronic production and an orchestral, enveloping sound, noting the UK artist’s classical background. “One” loosened up a bit, with a baroque pop feel. Solo onstage, Savage managed difficult poetry with a vulnerable yet confident demeanor, proving that brightness always comes through from darker times. “I don’t know if this is even real. I don’t feel things as keenly as I used to,” she sang. No big metaphors, just a bold expression of the raw and fluctuating human experience.
Say Sue Me blended a delicious mix of alternative, shoegaze, indie pop and surf rock in their showcase, all from the laid-back setting of their living room. “I Know I’m Kind of Boring” is anything but, with layered production and overly-aware lyrics that offer a simple relatability. The four-piece South Korean band flows well together and guitarist/vocalist Choi Su-me’s airy voice has a groovy edge to it. “Your Book” is a lackadaisical track reminiscent of Yo La Tengo, decorated by distortion and a subtle nostalgia.
Choi’s vocals are quite delicate on “Still Here,” while drummer Changwon Kim ramped up the energy. Listening to Say Sue Me felt like travelling through a long history of alternative rock music, the kind that has lived eternally through influenced artists. They carried the chillaxed cool and clean production of bands like Nirvana and Sublime, without sounding too much like anyone but themselves. Say Sue Me aren’t trying to be the bands that inspired them — they’re making music to inspire others.
Otoboke Beaver weren’t for everyone, except anyone who likes hyper-specific situations that breed a title like “Dirty Old Fart is Waiting For My Reaction.” Vocalist Accorinrin is filled with raging, ear-bleeding fury and backed by her army. They left no room for melody, but their sound is enthralling and invigorating. It was a lot to take in, but once it was over you couldn’t help but want it back. They were blazing on “I Am Not Maternal,” with a passionate fervor that proved anger can be a beautiful art.
BOYO, fronted by LA musician Robert Tilden, has been through it all. In the music scene from age 15, Tilden has ended up with Me, Again — and, tonight, in a dimly-lit room that showcased sounds of surf rock and alternative indie, he looked the picture of a seasoned artist. “Ghost Noise” kicked off with clean electric guitar notes, before picking up with a subtle, progressive distortion and a bouncy drumbeat. Despite mastered production and a clean sound, BOYO kept things light, exuding a more advanced bedroom pop sound.
As if stumbling into her room accidentally, Indigo Sparke opened up her bedroom door to a virtual audience. The Sydney-based singer/songwriter glowed as she strummed her guitar to the soft tracks of “Bad Dreams” and “Wolf” in an airy tune in a deep register. Even the guitar playing was simple, made up of just a few simple chords and a variation of capo placements, but Sparke’s sound was inviting.
“You broke my ribs in a dream the other night,” Sparke laments in “Bad Dreams.” Some songs are intricate and complex, but Sparke’s music offered a means of communication. Her vocals were sensual, wrapping themselves around each lyric with a soft clutch.
Sparke left it all onstage — or, rather, on her bed — with a breathless, drained final note: “Am I all your dreams come true?”
Anna B Savage:
Say Sue Me:
“I Know I’m Kind of Boring”
“Love Is Short”
“Dirty Old Fart is Waiting For My Reaction”
“I Am Not Maternal”