Heart On Their Sleeve
With acts like Olivia Rodrigio and Machine Gun Kelly bringing guitar-based pop music back to the charts and the announcement of the When We Were Young musical festival setting social media on fire, there seems to be an appetite for punk and emo-leaning pop music among teenagers and nostalgic millennials. If you’re looking to cathartically scratch that angsty itch at SXSW, here are some acts to check out.
Pom Pom Squad
Mia Berren leads this Brooklyn-based bubblegrunge outfit that mixes the theatrics of emo with the anthemic charge of the best early 2000s indie bands. If you were one of the millions rocking Olivia Rodrigio’s “Good 4 U” this summer, then Pom Pom Squad is a logical next step, offering something a bit more grown-up and sensual; if Rodrigo’s for the popular girls, Pom Pom Squad is for the ones getting drunk underneath the bleachers. Pom Pom Squad’s recent output also channels the bombast and cinematic qualities of ‘60s girl groups, adding an out-of-reach ethereal element to the band’s soaring hooks.
Stream this: “Head Cheerleader”
Experimental and emotionally purgative, ME REX are rightfully named after a sharp-toothed prehistoric creature, because their music will absolutely tear you up. The brainchild of South London singer-songwriter Myles McCabe, ME REX packs a musical punch with wordy, searching lyrics that sail to the rafters in an almost religious tone. Thematically their music seems centered on the constantly shifting nature of the human experience, and on their latest release /Megabear/, they lean into the theme with a 52-track album full of bite-sized songs meant to be consumed in random order. It’s a hell of a gimmick, and even more impressive, it works like gangbusters. Finding out how well it translates to a live setting seems too enticing to pass up.
Stream This: Megabear
One key factor that makes alternative rock so compelling is the accessibility; unlike classic rock virtuosos and studio wizards, the popular bands of the alternative rock world made picking up a guitar and bearing your heart seem like something that anyone could achieve. Pacific Northwest band Enumclaw embody that feeling better than any band at SXSW. Frontman Aramis Johnson had never played guitar and had no prior singing experience before forming the band, yet Enumclaw stand out with their mixture of reverby, prototypical Seattlian guitar lines and sticky pop hooks. The band cites both Oasis and Drake as big influences, and if that’s any indication, then these guys have world-conquering ambitions.