SXSW Music 2022 is almost here and like every year, I have profiled 10 of the very best local artists!
After two years of cancelations and virtual showcases, the South by Southwest Conference and Festivals is back with a howling vengeance. On the music side of the fence, nearly 2,000 artists are about to descend upon our fair city, over 200 of them hailing from the ATX. A whirlwind of music and discovery, SXSW 2022 is primed to be one of the ages.
To celebrate SXSW’s triumphant return, I’ve compiled my yearly Top 10 Austin artists you simply must see at this year’s festival. As always, here’s the rules!
- This list is in alphabetical order.
- As always, I only pick bands and artists I’ve never featured in my yearly list or cover extensively on this site. You can read my yearly lists here: 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021
SXSW Music 2022 In Austin – Top 10 Local Artists
1/ Adam Ostrar
Upon first listen, you’d be tempted to label Adam Ostrar as a 60’s folk throwback. Give a few songs, and you’ll learn that’s only a piece of the puzzle. By combining Americana folk with a Texas twang, Ostrar’s sound is familiar as it is unique. “Take It Back” shuffles a groove though an urgent Dylan-esqe Bleecker Street bop while “Kansas City” is the sort of subtle storytelling that helped me fall in love with the genre. A wonderful artist worth exploring and enjoying at your earliest opportunity.
Ever since I saw Zeale perform at 3Ten ACL Live in 2017, I knew I’d follow him anywhere. Who knew, one year later, he’d join forces with flow-master Phranchyze and create one of Austin’s finest one-two punches. Their latest record, “Indigo Room” is chock full of bangers. “Like Me Tho” sways and swags along a minimalistic beat while “Viral” comments on our current state of social media obsession with style and flow. Don’t sleep on Blackillac, y’all. Should be toward the top of your SXSW schedule.
3/ Calliope Musicals
It’s an inexcusable crime Calliope Musicals hasn’t made a single SXSW list of mine (aside from superlatives). A nitro blast of color, power, and musical joy, Carrie Fussell’s band of renegade glam jammers is uniquely sensational. Let the dirty bass growl of “Color/Sweat” lead you into the maelstrom, swirl about via the string blasted groove of “That’s Why We Dance”. When ready, escape to relative normalcy with their latest single, “Dr. Pepper”. And see them live for heaven’s sake. You’ll thank me later.
4/ Jon Muq
Some artists connect the minute you hear their music. Other require a live setting before appreciation takes hold. For me, Jon Muq slots into the latter. All it took was two songs at the 2021 Black Fret Black Ball to turn me into an insta-fan. Cloying yet powerful, Muq’s unique vocals reach into untold emotional depths and return touching truths and vivid images. While originals like “Always Remember Us This Way” demonstrate the full range of Muq’s skills, his cover of “Skinny Love” by Birdy is inspiring. An artist I can’t wait to experience again on the SXSW stage.
5/ Kydd Jones
Austin hip hop is enjoying a long deserved Renaissance. And when you think about the MCs leading the charge, Kydd Jones deserves to be in the conversation. His latest record, “Onyx d’Or”, is a the musical equivalent to a collection of short stories. Of its 16 tracks, high marks go to the laid back bumper “Sprinter” and “Sam’s Club” a percussion specked chill track featuring the incomparable Jackie Venson. An MC of exquisite flow and rockstar chops, Kydd Jones continues to fuel the ATX hip hop revival with skill and swag.
SXSW Music 2022 In Austin – Top 10 Local Artists – Continued
By blending Motown, blues, funk, and nearly every other influence known to man, Micah Motenko’s sound is a joy to listen to. Tunes like the soulful “On Your Level” features Motenko’s trademark piano tickling while “The Thief” grooves through subtle drum work, mellow keys, and pointed lyrics of loss and regret. Another artist that begs to be experienced live, Motenko delivers a special brand of vibes that’s rare and special.
7/ Primo the Alien
Before seeing her live at the Black Fret Ball, I considered Primo the Alien a talented songwriter who crafts infectious pop tunes from a Crayola box of sounds and influences. After, she’s a primal force of nature. By using the backdrop of 80’s synth to create new and exciting music, Primo transcends the modern new wave genre. And the woman can belt like with the best in the ATX. One of my favorite artists to emerge in the last five years and a must see during SXSW 2022.
8/ Sir Woman
Make no mistake. Kelsey Wilson is an Austin music treasure. Once a side project of Wild Child, Sir Woman has grown into a powerhouse with their own groove and soul. Wilson’s effortless and playful vocals shine on the lovely “Highroad” while their latest release, “Get What You Want”, layers strings, jazz bar piano and sparse guitar to create a touching 70’s soul jam. I’ve been lucky to see Wilson perform numerous times, and each time isn’t just a new experience. It’s an evolution. Required listening and attending for SXSW attendees.
9/ Sun June
Indie pop is a wide and often strained genre. Built from a quilt of influences and styles, bands get lost in the label. Sun June stands out from the crowd with pointed lyrics and cloudy afternoon vibes. Vocalist Laura Colwell’s dreamy, evocative sighs and coos buoy subtle bops and beats. “Bad girl” tells a mournful short story about an escape to the Big Easy while “Everything I had” ups the tempo and emotional temperature in equal measure. Sweetly dour pillow pop well suited for wistful gazes from bedroom windows and contemplative moments. Absolutely adore.
10/ We Don’t Ride Llamas
Sometimes, you need a little growl in your day and this ferocious foursome delivers in a major way. “The Flies” transforms a nasty punk rift into a sonic head nodder while their latest single, “Venus & Mars”, is an infectious funk earworm complete with a hella tight guitar line and smooth as silk vocals. A band I predict great things for and can’t wait staying up late to check out during SXSW 2022.
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