We wish we were going to drink beer and jovially gather around barbecues in the hot Texas sunshine, but sadly, we're not, and I think I speak for the Motel when I say that I am exceedingly jealous. However, your editor's pecuniary exile in the UK has brought about something far more positive and productive than sitting and stewing reading every single tweet tagged #sxsw for the next week. Without further ado, Festival Mixtapes is back on the road for 2011. Here are some people who, if you are going, you should make sure that you see...
1. Kanye West - Power
Kanye West. Where do we start? Perhaps with the news that he apparently plans to make an appearance on Saturday at the VEVO Powerstation. His SNL performance of Power doesn't do all that much to promote positive attitudes to women in the 21st century, being, as they are, plentiful and subordinate to Mr West. However, it's a superb track. West said on a UStream broadcast that Power references Amazing and Jesus Walks, and the three are very obviously cut from the same DNA.
2. The Jim Jones Revue - High Horse
The Jim Jones Revue appeal to a number of Motel contributors thanks to their retro rock'n'roll stylings. You will find the following treats on High Horse, wild '50s piano mashing, tuneful screeching, high-octane guitar riffs and the long-overdue return of the middle eight. Enjoy. I did.
3. Queens of the Stone Age - The Lost Art Of Keeping A Secret
Speaking of songs where the guitar is king, step forward, Sir Josh of Homme and your merry men. The Lost Art of Keeping A Secret is eleven years old this summer, but still sounds as fresh as it did when your narrator was celebrating a crop of surprisingly good GCSE results and playing cider-fuelled games of rounders down the park during a particularly pleasant summer. And is it any wonder that Jools Holland keeps inviting them back when they're this bloody good live?
4. James Yuill - On Your Own
James Yuill's distinctive blend of ethereal folk-tinged vocals and cool electronic beats deserves to be recognised anywhere, never mind just Texas. Lead single On Your Own is easily the strongest song from James' second album Movement in a Storm. If there happens to be anyone responsible for soundtracking the next hit American network TV show (as long as it's not about a permanently chirpy glee club) then I would strongly recommend this man.
5. Casiokids - Verdens StÝrste Land
Casiokids' merry electropop is the kind that takes you by surprise when you've gone on a little walk and it crops up on shuffle on your mp3 player. Verdens StÝrste Land in particular is like a little musical carnival that goes off whenever you play it. If you see somebody burst into dance for no apparent reason at a bus stop, they are a) probably me and b) more likely than not having their own personal rave to this tune.
6. The Answering Machine - Emergency
The Motel's review of The Answering Machine's second album Lifeline is on the way, but in the meantime, please enjoy them on an earlier transatlantic visit, where they appear to have locked themselves out of a house. Those of you who know the band from previous SXSWs will be glad to know that Lifelife showcase a versatility that wasn't fully explored on their 2009 debut Another City, Another Sorry. They don't often play acoustic on record, but when they do, it's a pure pop treat.
7. Emmy The Great - The Easter Parade
According to recent tweets from the good lady herself, Emma-Lee Moss is currently recording the follow-up to her 2009 debut First Love, which is fine news indeed. In the meantime, The Easter Parade, a staple of her live set, will have to suffice. A fine example of how talented and accomplished types can paint pictures with words.
8. Noah and the Whale - Love of an Orchestra
When Noah and the Whale released their second album The First Days of Spring in 2009, it was accompanied by film footage. Love of an Orchestra is perhaps the record's most joyful moment. Every time that opening chorus kicks in, I swear that my serotonin levels go up a notch.
9. James Blake - Limit To Your Love
Now then. Unlike half of Manchester, I was hardly banging the door of Band on the Wall down when James Blake visited town last week. And most of the rest of his debut album is hard work, to put it bluntly. But Limit To Your Love is really something special. It might be the copious use of the bass register of a top-quality piano, the fragile yet soulful little voice or the metronomic beat. Whatever he's done, it works.
10. For A Minor Reflection - A Moll
The greatest discovery of last year's In The City music conference in Manchester, make sure you take the time to hunt this band down. Their four members may only have a combined age of eighty, but they're very well known in their native Iceland, their spine-tingling soundscapes are a force to be reckoned with. A Moll's piano-led rumblings are at the quieter end of the band's spectrum, but still offer an accurate portayal of what they're capable of.