On recommendation from a friend who knows more about music than me, I checked out NYC synth-pop duo Carousel. He told me that it was beautiful and peppy stuff, and those are two of my favorite words. The music was indeed both. The duo both played keys/synths, while one took care of vocals and the other handled an electric guitar. Their synth-pop sounded like the second album that MGMT should have made: all gentle treble hooks and catchy bass-synth beats, sung in feathery, whispery vocals. I found myself dancing through the entire set, and no more happily than when they broke out a cover of Robyn’s “Dancing in the Dark.”* Their set was an absolute blast to be a part of, and I thoroughly recommend checking them out for some catchy, peppy synth-pop tunes. It was a perfect way to open SXSW.
Later in the evening I ducked out of The 512 to catch Lord Buffalo‘s set. Having covered Lord Buffalo’s excellent debut EP, I was intrigued to see how it translated live. The answer: apocalyptically. The band’s sweeping, post-rock sound is made largely with acoustic instruments, but not in any way you would expect. The drummer stands throughout, pounding on toms and snare with huge mallets. There’s no kick drum, but it’s not necessary: the rest of the band stomps enough for two or three kick drums. The quintet were so forceful in their stamping, stomping and hollering that they kept knocking over one of their amps, which made even more noise crashing to the ground.
Building off the pounding drums and foot percussion, the melodic drone comes from an organ of sorts, repetitive acoustic guitar lines, and swooning violin. The howled vocals and dissonant electric guitar cap off the maelstrom, creating great walls of doom-laden sound. But this is no aesthete exercise; the band oozed energy, as if they couldn’t get their songs out of themselves fast enough. At one point the violinist and the vocalist faced the front of the stage away from the microphones and just screamed into the air, unleashing a torrent of musical anguish/triumph from the band. It was shiver-inducing. If you’re into post-rock or the act of having goosebumps, Lord Buffalo is for you.
*2017 edit: I don’t know if this was Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own” or Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark,” but it clearly wasn’t Robyn’s “Dancing in the Dark.”