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A SXSW standout promises to heed a mother’s advice

In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing. 

South By Southwest offers an intimidating bounty of music, and each year, I promise I’m going to be better prepared for it. Yet each year I scramble, because that task may not be possible—I’m not even sure what “better prepared” means. How much more could I have crammed into my insane 2013 schedule?

Overplanning can also preclude happy accidents. I’ve discovered a few bands just walking down the street, or in the case of PAWS, watching bands at our party. The Scottish trio plays punk-inflected indie rock, which sounded more like straight-up punk by the time of our Saturday event, after PAWS’ numerous SXSW performances were starting to burn out its members. (The 82-degree temperatures—positively sweltering for guys from the far chillier land of Scotland—probably didn’t help.) 

One of the standout songs from PAWS’ set was “Catherine 1956,” which opens last year’s excellent Cokefloat! An ode to guitarist-vocalist Phillip Taylor’s deceased mother (presumably), it’s a catchy punch in the gut that sneaks heartbreaking sentiment into midtempo, Sebadoh-esque indie rock. There’s no ironic distance in its opening lyrics, “She wasn’t just my mother / She was my friend, a good friend / She had only just begun to live.” And anyone who’s lost a close loved one can also relate to “I would trade anything for one full day to just sit and hear her voice again.” But it isn’t a three-minute mope; PAWS anchors the song with a catchy chorus as Taylor sings, “Life goes on / You can’t live your life in fear” and promises to get out of his nothing town and make something of his life. Sitting backstage at our party, looking exhausted, voice shot, Taylor looked like he’d make good on that promise if it kills him.