Just moments before sitting down to write about the best and worst of the South By Southwest music festival of last week, I found out about the death of Jason Molina, the troubled genius behind folk-blues outfits like Songs/Ohia and Magnolia Electric Company. This news would have been unsettling and heartbreaking regardless of what I was about to embark on, but sitting here trying to write about my 10th year at the music festival, I can’t help but think back to my first year in attendance and how I got to see Magnolia Electric Company perform at The Parish.
A lot has changed since that night a decade ago when Molina first enchanted me with his fragile, somber voice. Over the years I’ve seen SXSW grow along with my understanding of the festival and all its nuances. I think back to those performances from the first few years and wonder where the festival’s one time luster has gone. Don’t get me wrong, I still had a great week, seeing dozens of bands each day, but along with the growth of social media, SXSW has become more about the hype and less about discovering unpolished gems like my friends and I did 10 years ago with Jason Molina and his band. Yes, Dave Grohl, Stevie Nicks, and John Fogerty played a surprise set together, as well as Prince and Green Day (badge only shows), but due to the influx of speculation and misinformation within the Twitter world, I was unable to see several shows I would have in years past due to the miles of sheep lined up in hopes of seeing MTV TRL darlings like of Usher and Justin Timberlake.
Yet as much as these moments of frustration tainted my week, I still relished my chance to see up-and-coming artists pour their hearts out on the stage. Within the past ten years I’ve seen unknown artists perform at SXSW that went on to big time success (Bon Iver, The Fleet Foxes, and TV On the Radio), and I expect that many of the artists seen this week will go on to do just the same. Who knows? Maybe in ten years folks will be lining up for miles to see some of my favorites from this past week while I roam 6th street, 10 years older and wiser, in search of that next great unearthed treasure.
In memory of Jason Molina, I present to you my list of the best and worst of SXSW 2013.
And the nominees are…
In this month’s episode we check out TONS of new music, including: Dinosaur Jr, Ty Segall, Thee Oh Sees, Two Gallants, How To Dress Well, Black Moth Super Rainbow, and Grizzly. And, as always, the show closes off with another classic from Bob Dylan.
Songs on this episode:
Dinosaur Jr “Almost Fare”
Ty Segall “The Hill”
Thee Oh Sees “Hang A Picture”
Two Gallants “Ride Away”
Black Moth Super Rainbow “We Burn”
How To Dress Well “Cold Nights”
Grizzly Bear “Yet Again”
Bob Dylan “Only A Pawn In Their Game”
Ty Segall Band
[In the Red; 2012]
I’m beginning to think Thee Oh See’s John Dwyer must be some sort of mentor for his younger fellow San Francisco friend Ty Segall. Many of the choices Segall has made, both carreer-wise and aesthetically, have followed in Thee Oh Sees path. One obvious lesson learned from Dwyer is hard work. Thee Oh Sees have released five albums in the past three years. Segall has followed suit, releasing four albums in the past two years, with reports that another album may make its way to shelves still this year. As a result of this constant flow of new material, I’ve felt that some of these albums have been hit-and-miss affairs. “Goodbye Bread,” although fun at times, came off as a bit silly, a little sleepy, and slightly sloppy. This year’s collaboration with White Fence took on the same carefree approach, and although I enjoy its psychedelic folk experimentation, a few tracks seemed like left-overs dressed up as the main course.
Here we are again. I’ve been writing this lists for so long that I can’t recall the first year I did it (2002?). At first it started as just being one album of the year, then it moved to 10 per year. It jumped to 20 once I moved my blogs over here to BDWPS.com, and of course last year it peaked at 40, the number I’m going with again this year. Although this may seem like a bit much, I can promise you that if it weren’t 40, I’d feel guilty for all the great albums that were left out. It’s a strange obsession, obviously, but I love music. If I can spread that love to others, it’s worth all the effort. And so it begins…
Julianna Barwick “The Magic Place”
Havok “Time is Up”
Paul Simon “So Beautiful Or So What”
Six Organs of Admittance “Asleep On the Floodplain”
Thurston Moore “Demolished Thoughts”
Times New Viking “Dancer Equired”
UV Race “Homo”
You are about to read through what I deem the top 60 tracks of 2011. Yes, 60. For some reason, lists need to fit within the confines of the top 100, top 50, top 40, Top 20, or Top 10. Any other number seems arbitrary. I had the same uncertainty with the number 60. When I first assembled my list it consisted of 87 songs. I had a decision to make: force 13 more songs onto the list and create another monolith like I did last year (it was a lot of work by the way), or attempt to whittle the list down to 50. I went with the latter, but when finished, I found I still had 67 songs. I struggled and struggled and eventually had it to the number we have now: 60. At this point, I couldn’t remove one more song. None of these songs could be tossed aside, each holding a special meaning, memory, or melody that helped me through another year.