The best of the best at South by Southwest

Rising stars from the stages of the Texas music fest

Forget the American Apparel Factory Flea Market , where gobbles of hipsters could score their favorite U.S.A.-made tank tops and hot pants. Forget the established acts, like The Decemberists and Grizzly Bear . Forget the fact that South by Southwest (SXSW from here on out) has become so hugely popular in the music world that even Tori Amos and the Indigo Girls were onboard this time (feminists represent!). JaneâÄôs Addiction was there, Metallica did a secret show and music bloggers went crazy over each band to hit the stage. All the hoopla aside, SXSW happens to be one of the biggest and brightest springboards for up-and-coming new artists, and since none of us got the chance to make it down to Austin, Texas, for the shows, hereâÄôs a recap of the artists worth keeping an eye on. Little Boot âÄî This United Kingdom darling is one part Blondie, one part Goldfrapp and one part disco queen. Mash all those up and what do you get? An electro-pop artist whoâÄôs totally danceable and worth spinning at any party. Recommended track: âÄúLove Kills,âÄù available on her MySpace Passion Pit âÄî Passion Pit hail from Cambridge, Mass., and have had their fair share of indie radio airplay with the frenetic sound explosion called âÄúSleepyhead.âÄù Passion PitâÄôs sound is almost impossible to explain, as their songs utilize a kaleidoscope of instruments that assault the ears with a whirligig of noise. Recommended track: âÄúSleepyheadâÄù Janelle Monae âÄî Gwen Stefani recruited Monae to join No Doubt on tour this summer, so thatâÄôs clearly the ultimate badge of coolness. And cool she is, from the tip of her jaunty pompadour to the hem of her skinny, tailored rockabilly suits. Monae calls to mind a chick Chuck Berry with a golden voice in the vein of âÄô60s girl groups crossed with âÄô70s tough-lady funk, and she comes with the glowing endorsements of both Big Boi and Andre 3000 of Outkast. Monae swings and sways like Shirley Bassey (thatâÄôs the woman who sings âÄúDiamonds are Forever,âÄù which Kanye sampled a few albums ago) but injects that soul with modern musicality. Recommended track: âÄúSincerely JaneâÄù KâÄôNAAN âÄî This Somali rapper has gotten a hefty chunk of press with the release of his album âÄúTroubadourâÄù and for good reason. Not only do his rhymes raise consciousness about the tumultuous homeland heâÄôs left behind, but heâÄôs fun to listen to. KâÄôNAAN sings and raps sort of like Kanye West, but a little less whiny. In âÄú15 Minutes Away,âÄù he cheekily rhymes about money woes, and havenâÄôt we all been there? Speaking of Kanye, Adam Levine from Maroon 5 makes an appearance on âÄúTroubadour,âÄù much like he did for Mr. West with âÄúTouch the Sky.âÄù Recommended track: âÄú15 Minutes AwayâÄù Blind Pilot âÄî Blind Pilot have found their niche in quietly-strummed, husky-voiced indie rock, and it works perfectly for the Oregon duo. They craft lovely, middle-of-the-night, moonlight-dancing tunes that would work quite well on a mixtape for a lady friend. If she loves it, theyâÄôll be at the 400 Bar on April 4. Recommended track: âÄú3 Rounds and a SoundâÄù Local bands and artists who took a turn on the SXSW stages included Haley Bonar, Romantica , Solid Gold and Jeremy Messersmith , and we canâÄôt forget to give them props for representing the Twin Cities at such a vibrant celebration of the musical world.