A few years ago, in advance of attending SXSW, I went through the entire 1,200-plus-song torrent and weeded out all the riff-raff before posting a comprehensive list of tracks that piqued my interest.
Not since then have I been so prolific. I did download another year’s torrent, but I can’t even remember how far I made it.
This year, I am once again spending my March in the Midwest, wishing I could be in Austin. But that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy some of the best bands the festival has to offer.
As he has done for the past several years, NPR Music’s Stephen Thompson has compiled a playlist of 100 of the top acts playing at SXSW. The Austin 100 is a great mix of just about everything you’d want to hear or see throughout the week.
That being said, no one is going to agree with NPR’s recommendations 100 percent of the time. In fact, I only “favorited” 40 of the songs — but that doesn’t include songs by Alvvays and Courtney Barnett.
The nice thing about this year’s stream is that once you’ve made it through all 100 songs, you can switch over to Favorites mode and only play the songs you liked.
Below is a list of the acts/songs I picked out. Since the festival is already in full swing and I don’t have a ton of time, I’m just including the brief description that NPR wrote.
Now, go listen to the mix — you can also download it for a few more weeks — and discover some new favorite bands. I know I’m gonna be referring back to this list throughout the year for new bands to listen to.
- A. Sinclair – “Shiny Things” … A band that knows its way around dense, dramatic rock anthems.
- Amason – “Älgen” … The Swedish pop quintet sprawls in five directions at once.
- Charlie Belle – “Get To Know” … Three teenagers play pop with subtlety beyond their years.
- Chastity Belt – “Time To Go Home” … Smart, unpredictable, feminist indie-rock.
- Cheerleader – “Perfect Vision” … Bright, shimmery pop-rock, suitable for fist-pumping.
- Cold Mailman – “Moments” … Synth-y, boy-girl indie-pop that builds and builds.
- Colony House – “Silhouettes” … A band that knows its way around an alt-rock anthem.
- Count This Penny – “Shoebox Scene” … Graceful country-pop with gorgeous vocals and Appalachian roots.
- Donovan Wolfington – “Keef Ripper” … Speedball power-pop with a party-friendly vibe.
- Fatherson – “I Like Not Knowing” … Scottish-accented rock that builds from a whisper to a storm.
- Field Mouse – “Everyone But You” … A fizzily agreeable dream-pop charm offensive.
- Genevieve – “Colors” … Company Of Thieves’ frontwoman sings bouncy anthems of affirmation.
- Geographer – “I’m Ready” … Openhearted pop-rock, powered by a throbbing synthesizer.
- Hanne Kolstø – “We Don’t See Ourselves” … Toy-box pop that charms, clatters and soars.
- Hinds – “Bamboo” … Finds a way to make garage-rock primitivism shimmer.
- Houndmouth – “Sedona” … A Midwestern roots-rock band relocates its heart to the desert.
- Howard – “Falling” … Stormily percussive folk-pop that prioritizes atmospherics over uplift.
- Joan Shelley – “First Of August” … Weaponized melancholy, with tender beauty that soothes.
- Jukebox The Ghost – “The Great Unknown” … Piano-fueled pop, readier than ever for stardom.
- Kaleo – “All The Pretty Girls” … Falsetto-fueled balladry meets Icelandic grandiosity.
- Kevin Devine & The Goddamn Band – “Bubblegum” … An introspective singer sheds his quiet side, lets it rip.
- Knox Hamilton – “Work It Out” … Mile-wide pop-rock, suitable for radios everywhere.
- Kristin Diable – “Time Will Wait” … A rollicking bar-band throwback, but with maximum star power.
- La Luz – “Pink Slime” … Garage-rock that’s both playfully light and cavernously booming.
- The Last Year – “Mania” … Rockers explore synth-pop with sparkling results.
- The Lees Of Memory – “We Are Siamese” … Superdrag vets play shoegaze rock with an epic swirl of guitars.
- Makthaverskan – “Witness” … Garage-rock intensity, with enough drama to fill an arena.
- Moving Panoramas – “Radar” … Dreamy pop meets shoegaze rock to form what the trio calls “dream gaze.”
- Quiet Company – “Understand The Problem” … Songs about losing faith are rarely this hummable.
- San Fermin – “Jackrabbit” … Ellis Ludwig-Leone’s chamber-pop keeps getting bigger and busier.
- Screaming Females – “Ripe” … Scrappy hard rock with big guitar solos, bigger vocals. … Sidenote: this was actually the very first band I saw live upon arriving at SXSW in 2011.
- Skylar Spence – “Fiona Coyne” … Ludicrously catchy funk-pop from a guy who used to call himself Saint Pepsi.
- Spring King – “City” … Exactly as its name implies: rock ‘n’ roll for a sunny day.
- Sunny Sweeney – “Second Guessing” … Smart, salty country songs about figuring life out while we can.
- Title Fight – “Liars Love” … A punk band keeps smearing its sound into something prettier.
- Twerps – “Back To You” … Playful, almost primitive at times, and infectiously sweet.
- White Reaper – “Cool” … Ramones-y pop-punk that wastes few words or chords.
- Wild Party – “OutRight” … Sleek power-pop that reaches beyond the rafters, all the way to the stars.
- Young Buffalo – “Sykia” … Insistent, harmony-intensive power-pop with gigantic choruses.