Stephen Thompson

The Austin 100

Mar 1, 2018

In the middle of every March, the SXSW Music Festival fills Austin, Texas, with thousands of musicians from around the world. It's a marathon so daunting — it's a marathon and a sprint, really — that even longtime SXSW veterans need a hand winnowing the festival's countless discoveries down to digestible doses.

That's where The Austin 100 comes in. Handpicked from thousands of bands playing at this year's festival, these 100 songs highlight the best SXSW 2018 has to offer — songs from around the world, across a broad spectrum of genres, sounds and styles.

If you're a Spotify user, you can listen to most of this year's Austin 100 in our Spotify playlist. For a complete list of the musicians in our mixtape, visit npr.org/austin100.

Hometown: Nashville, Tennessee

Genre: Country / Pop

Hometown: New Orleans, Louisiana

Genre: Funk, R&B, Bounce Music

Why We're Excited: Winners of the third annual Tiny Desk Contest last spring, Tank and the Bangas' many members have spent the past year winning over the rest of the world. The band's brassily kinetic, genre-smashing energy absolutely must be witnessed live, but "Quick" shows that it's possible to contain Tank and the Bangas' immense allure on a recording, too.

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Hometown: Brooklyn, New York

Genre: Chamber Pop

Why We're Excited: Gracie Coates sings ominously but brightens the proceedings with soft, buoyant piano parts; Rachel Ruggles, for her part, plays swooping, hypnotic lines on the violin. It's a particular sound — at once sunny and dark, sad and sweet, gentle and intense. In "Only a Child," Gracie and Rachel place lives of anxiety and conflict in simple, refreshing context.

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Hometown: Los Angeles, California

Genre: Rock

Why We're Excited: Sego's "Whatever Forever" unpacks the inner monologue of a frenetic and frustrated mind: Bored and anxious, singer Spencer Petersen rambles and seethes over a throbbing bassline until it's time for a soaring chorus that feels both chaotic and cathartic.

Hometown: Seattle, Washington

Genre: Rock

Why We're Excited: Thunderpussy's chugging, blustery, feel-good stomp would really liven up the playlist at your old classic-rock station — that is, if its music had been made many years ago, by a band that wasn't called "Thunderpussy." As it is, it's an enormously appealing, sweat-flinging throwback that still finds a way to sound fresh.

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Hometown: Brooklyn, New York

Genre: Americana

Why We're Excited: Buck Meek is best known as the lead guitarist and cofounder of Big Thief, but he's also got a nice, low-key side gig going as a solo artist. On his own, he rambles and twangs through conversational, countrified, vividly detailed stories of wanderers, lost souls and dreamers.

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Hometown: Seattle, Washington

Genre: Rock

Why We're Excited: "Syml" is the Welsh word for "simple," which should provide a sense of the aesthetic at work in SYML's "Where's My Love." Brian Fennell writes straightforwardly heartwarming, sweetly engaging folk-pop songs, softening each with a voice that embodies comfort and kindness.

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Hometown: Melbourne, Australia

Genre: Rock

Why We're Excited: Australian singer-songwriter Jess Ribeiro got her start playing country music, but on 2015's Kill It Yourself, she steered toward a sparer, more haunting sound. On that album's tremendous title track, Ribeiro crafts a solemn bit of timeless country-noir that would have been perfectly suited to those Bang Bang Bar spots on the latest iteration of Twin Peaks.

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Hometown: New York, New York

Genre: Rock

Hometown: Brooklyn, New York

Genre: Indie Rock

Why We're Excited: Nassau's songs drift along with moody grace, propelled by clean, fluid guitar lines and an overarching vibe of calm contentment. But listen closely to "Whatever Brings You Peace of Mind," and you'll hear a note of melancholy and unrequited want — a bittersweet mix that haunts as it soothes. Fans of Noah and the Whale's The First Days of Spring, take note.

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Hometown: Henderson, Nevada

Genre: Bedroom Pop

Why We're Excited: Nick Rattigan sings and plays drums in the surf-rock band Surf Curse, but he's been doing more and more with the solo bedroom pop songs he writes under the name Current Joys. Propelled by sinewy guitar lines and sweeping synths, songs like "Fear" — from a new, self-directed "visual album" titled A Different Age — reflect on the underbelly of modern life without resorting to self-pity.

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