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Saturday, March 15, 2008

SXSW: Merge Records, as indie-licious as ever

Posted By on Sat, Mar 15, 2008 at 9:32 PM

Indie darlings and pro-noun obsessives M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel.
Merge Records is home to some of the planet’s hippest indie-rockers. Arcade Fire, Spoon, and Guided by Voices’ Robert Pollard all record for the label. So Friday night’s Merge Records showcase at the Parish was a six-hour marathon of a half-dozen of the company’s artists, and it was one of South by Southwest 2008’s most solid programs. ... The first three bands were hit (Portastic, actually a solo acoustic project from Superchunk’s Mac McCaughan) and miss (the Radar Bros.). But once Sweden’s Shout Out Louds came onstage around 11 p.m., there probably wasn’t a more consistent lineup of music anywhere in Austin Friday night. The five-piece Shout Out Louds inspired the showcase’s first clap-along with their sunny indie-pop. Most of their 40-minute set came from last year’s Our Ill Wills, with “Tonight I Have to Leave It” a highlight. Only bummer: The band closed with an off-key and tuneless cover of Chicago’s “If You Leave Me Now.” That Band of Horses’ Chicago cover I wrote about a few weeks ago was way better. She & Him featured super-cute actress Zooey Deschanel and indie-rock hipster M. Ward, plus a three-piece band. They played a bunch of songs from Volume One, which comes out on Tuesday. This was one of their first gigs, so they were a little creaky, but Deschanel’s charming voice -- go back to that scene in Elf where she and Will Ferrell did “Baby It’s Cold Outside” for proof that she indeed can sing -- and Ward’s plaintive guitar strums brought a calming hush over the audience. Highlights: the spare “Sentimental Heart,” and the bouncy “This Is Not a Test,” which deserves to be an indie-rock hit. Destroyer – the Canadian band led by the New Pornographers’ Dan Bejar – got a later-than-usual start after 1 a.m. Bejar was in full freak-out mode, stretching out and pulling apart syllables and entire words that seemed randomly chosen at times (yes, he’s the weird one in the Pornographers). Although they’ve been making records for a dozen years, most of Destroyer’s set was culled from 2006’s Destroyer’s Rubies and the new Trouble in Dreams, which comes out next week. Only problem: Bejar kept breaking the momentum of the show by fucking around with his guitar and taking forever between songs. At two in the morning, people really weren’t in the mood for someone who doesn’t have his shit together. -- Michael Gallucci


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