indie rock

Hotline TNT is helmed by Will Anderson (on the right), but the interplay between him and fellow guitarist Olivia Garner (second from right) has come to define the band’s massive, shoegaze-influenced wall of sound.

Photo by Wes Knoll

Will Anderson was teaching at a New York high school—until Jack White’s record label came knocking. Now, his band is shooting into the shoegaze stratosphere behind their second record, Cartwheel.

Hotline TNT singer and guitarist Will Anderson started writing songs as a way to work through personal relationships, so it’s no surprise that the New York band’s second LP, Cartwheel, encapsulates Anderson’s modern-day, bard-like quest for romance—for better and for worse—through heavy fuzz pedals, distorted guitars, and layered sonic textures that cascade over propulsive rhythms. Slick engineering from punk artist Ian Teeple and Aron Kobayashi Ritch lift the record into the sweeping shoegaze stratosphere, that bottomless niche of music where heartbreak and mammoth, verbed-out riffs cry on each other’s shoulders.

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In this concentrated land of musical overstimulation, it’d be impossible to give a rundown of every amazing player in Austin’s premier showcase. Here, we offer our discerning highlights.

South by Southwest is the festival whose “best-of” lists you should view with the most skepticism. More than 2,000 acts played its official events, and it’s impossible to tally how many more performances were staged in the warehouses, parks, and dives of East Austin. One could go on a live music bender and see bands play non-stop from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. (or later), Tuesday through Sunday, and miss 98 percent of them. So, this list acknowledges James Williamson, Rick Nielsen, and the thousands of other players unseen and unheard by many attendees.

It’s worth repeating that yes, it is actually possible to see bands play non-stop and around the clock for the entire week of SXSW. Perhaps not if you wanted to emerge with your feet, liver, ears, and brain intact, but you could do it. Or, you can remain unscathed, save your health, and just read about eight of the best players we saw this year.

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