Thursday was the first chance I had to check out what amounts to SXSW’s headliners stage — the Auditorium Shores at Lady Bird Lake. The Strokes played what amounted to a trip through their first two records dotted by a few new cuts from their forthcoming album, Angles . The band has become really polished, but on the way, it has changed the band’s sound. It still sounds like them, but greater musicianship and deeper dimensions has outpaced their songwriting ability. The older songs still sound more urgent. Daptone Records soul discovery Charles Bradley was impressive at his set, chanelling James Brown’s soul side with a powerfully rough voice. He would drop to the ground with the microphone during songs, punctuating the emotional pinnacles of his songs. The Menahan Street Band ably backed him with a sweet soul swing. I also enjoyed the Cloud Nothings, but in a way that was different from how I enjoyed their record. While I heard messy power pop on the record, I didn’t catch the whiffs of post-Weezer snotty pop as much as I did live. They are traveling the same ground as Tokyo Police Club or Telekinesis, but with nods toward Hoboken, N.J.’s indie greats and acts like the Posies and Teenage Fanclub.


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