Hear the Concerts
Coming out of a post-punk world that had little tolerance for pop, R.E.M. has spent 25 years as the bastion of pop music with a weird glimmer in its eye. Hear the legendary rock band perform a full concert at SXSW, webcast live on NPR.org from Stubbs in Austin, Tex., on Wednesday, March 12.
With the band's 14th studio album (Accelerate) coming in April, many fans expect a return to form for R.E.M. After original drummer Bill Berry quit the band in 1997, R.E.M. experimented more in the studio, adding more textures to its songs while simultaneously stripping away the usual methods of crafting rock songs. The album's first single, "Supernatural Superserious," looks to the prime of R.E.M.'s '80s discography, while maintaining a modern sheen.
Both in name and in sound, Dead Confederate aims to further the cause of Southern rock. The Georgia band does indeed mix its Neil Young with its Lynyrd Skynyrd, but underneath all those heavy chords is a group of guys raised on Nirvana, Sonic Youth, and other titans of early-'90s alt-rock.
Fronted by Rain Phoenix (her brother is actor Joaquin), the Florida-based band Papercranes conjures images of pop bands such as The Cranberries and Belly, while drawing much of its atmosphere from Radiohead. Papercranes' music has already turned a few heads — including that of cult singer-songwriter Vic Chesnutt, who made a guest appearance on the band's 2006 debut, Vidalia. The group is currently working on its sophomore album.
When Washington, D.C., native Johnathan Rice graduated from high school, he opted out of college and headed straight for New York City. Rice struggled for a year, but just when he was heading back home, he received a call from the major record label that had spawned many of his influences: Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, and Lou Reed among them. Rice has since recorded two full-length albums. His latest, Further North, is a tribute to his new environs in Los Angeles. Appropriately enough, it takes on a laid-back pop and country-rock vibe, akin to the late-'60s records by his hero Neil Young, as well as The Byrds.
Summerbirds in the Cellar
Summerbirds in the Cellar shares members with the moody pop-rock band Now It's Overhead, and the two bands do share similar sounds. The group spends half its time in Athens, Ga., so R.E.M. comparisons are inevitable, but there's a bit more polish to R.E.M.'s ragtag jangle. Summerbirds' latest is With the Hands of the Hunter It All Becomes Dead, an album densely layered with pulsing synths, cooed vocals, and jagged guitars.