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SXSW Thursday: Bastille / Charli XCX

On recommendation, I rolled out of bed and made it to Cedar Street for an early-start day show. Even with my (relatively) early start, I missed Olafur Arnalds’s set (!!). However, I showed up in time to watch Brit-poppers Bastille‘s piano-pop set. I unabashedly love Coldplay, OneRepublic and other bands of that stripe, so Bastille was right up my alley. Huge sung choruses supported by hammering piano, towering drums and arena rock moves like climbing the rafters are firmly within Bastille’s wheelhouse and my heart. The tenor vocalist did a great job of appropriating soaring vocals without getting yelpy, which was a blessing. The electronic touches that wove in and out of the sound were a credit to their sound as well. I expect to hear this band take over the radio within a year: “Pompeii” is simply too much of a feel-good anthem (despite its depressing lyrics; hey, if it worked for fun….) to pass up.

Charli XCX was up next on the same stage, so I stuck around. I heard of her through association with Swedish electro-pop michief makers Icona Pop, and Charli purveys a similar brand of electro-pop. Hers is less clubby hooks and huge synths and more Grimes-ian electro intricacies. At times it felt like I was listening to a pastiche of the last ten years of electro trends. This was largely a good thing: Charli’s pop sense was honed well enough to know where to cut off the trendy bits before they reached excess. At her best, she reached near the dancy pop bliss of Robyn’s work, although with a much hipper bent. It was a fun set to watch, if not exactly in my area of expertise (or in the right time and place, as it went down outside on a bright, sunburn-inducing Texas afternoon).