The annual South by Southwest festival starts this weekend, and the music lineup is massive as usual. To help you wade through the program (or just to give you a taste of it if you’re missing out this year), we’ve put together a playlist of some of the best tracks from the best artists set to rock the streets of Austin, Texas over the next week, including Tennis (pictured above) and Bruce Springsteen himself. Click the button below to listen to the full set on Made Man’s Spotify.
1. “Dead Wrong” by Hanni El Khatib
Los Angeles musician Hanni El Khatib is a rockabilly remnant transplanted into the modern age. His music is a raw, authentic style of rock and roll—often just drums and guitar—overlaid with sparse, reverb-heavy vocals that drip with attitude.
2. “Mornin’ ” by Star Slinger
Star Slinger came to the world’s attention last year by way of the web’s more with-it music blogs. The Manchester, UK-based deejay touches on an array of genres and sounds in his music, but his most notable work is heavily hip-hop influenced. Take “Mornin’ ” for examples, an upbeat number that fades in and builds up to an infectious beat sick enough to make Kanye green with envy.
“Mornin’” fades in and builds up to an infectious beat sick enough to make Kanye green with envy.
3. “Origins” by Tennis
Tennis is the criminally hip husband-wife duo of Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley. The pair delivers a style of music reminiscent of 1960s surf rock, with just enough pop overtone to make their little band a favorite among indie critics. “Origins” comes off Tennis’ latest album and marks a new maturity in the group’s songwriting style.
4. “You Are” by Built to Spill
Built to Spill front man Doug Martsch is one of modern rock’s most accomplished guitarists, and his talents are in full view on “You Are.” Most of the track consists of a single extended slide guitar solo that climbs and falls to the rhythm of a rolling snare drum. Listen to it with the volume up.
5. “Atlantic City” by Bruce Springsteen
The Boss is best known for his feel-good small town anthems, but it was his 1982 offering Nebraska that really showcased his skills as a songwriter. The album is intensely personal (Springsteen played all the instruments himself), and “Atlantic City” is no exception, as Springsteen paints a dark scene carried by acoustic guitar and a wailing harmonica.
Bird performing at SXSW 2009.
6. “Skin” by Andrew Bird
Andrew Bird has written an obscene amount of music, including seven full-length solo albums and a handful of EPs, and his style changes (often subtly) from work to work. “Skin” is a jazz-flavored track that harkens to smoke-filled lounges, infused with just enough weirdness to give it Bird’s signiature spin.
7. “Cha Cha Cha” by Las Guitarras De Espana
SXSW is filled with the indie and the avante garde, so it’s nice to see Las Guitarras De Espana make an appearance. The group sticks to time-tested sounds, dropping Spanish guitar (who would’ve guessed?) like no one’s business. “Cha Cha Cha” is slow and melodic, the perfect track for an afternoon drink by the pool or a late-night pint at a crowded Austin pub.
“Cha Cha Cha” is the perfect track for an afternoon drink by the pool or a late-night pint at a crowded Austin pub.
8. “Vincent O’Brien” by M. Ward
M. Ward is the chief purveyor of alternative folk rock, having thoroughly re-spun the genre to suit modern indie sensibilities. “Vincent O’Brien” comes off Ward’s third studio album and showcases his flair for decidedly cool, echoing guitar licks and unique vocal melodies.
9. “Furr” by Blitzen Trapper
Speaking of folk, Blitzen Trapper’s “Furr” is a clear homage to the back-country American folk artists of the 1930s. The song is basically just a kick drum, guitar and harmonica carrying the same rhythm for four minutes, but you better believe there’s a deep appeal in that simplicity.
10. “Estevez” by Javelin
Javelin falls somewhere between hip-hop and electronic, but the Brooklyn-based duo consistently defies all genres. Their latest release, Canyon Candy, is a short concept album set in the Wild West, complete with scratchy dialogue samples pulled from long-forgotten spaghetti Westerns. “Estevez” evokes images of a slow trek across a dusty desert, eventually leading the listener to a retro-futuristic boom town populated by solitary anti-heroes and guitar-playing robots. It’s the kind of album you need to hear from start to finish, so don’t stop at “Estevez.”