Pop, Rock And An Onslaught Of Rhythm: The Songs Of SXSW

Mar 11, 2018
Originally published on March 12, 2018 6:59 am

Sampling the thousands of bands playing South By Southwest each year is like trying to take a sip from a tidal wave: It's hard to find an entry point, and you're more than likely going to wind up flattened.

Next week, the annual music festival kicks off in Austin, Texas, so All Things Considered weekend host Michel Martin requested a digestible primer — five songs by artists worth hearing this year.

Drawn from The Austin 100, NPR Music's streamable and downloadable playlist of 100 songs by discoveries at this year's SXSW, these five tracks incorporate dreamy electro-pop (IDER's "Body Love"), ethereal R&B (Love Moor & Suaze's "Delete"), Weezer-style rock (Partner's "Comfort Zone"), hooky Aussie pop (G Flip's "About You") and a German duo whose singer raps in Portuguese over an onslaught of rhythm (Gato Preto's "Dia D").

Hear the full conversation with NPR's Michel Martin at the audio link.

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And now, as promised, to the music. Every year, thousands - and I mean thousands - of musicians and music lovers from around the world descend on Austin for the music portion of the South by Southwest festival. Also every year, NPR Music's Stephen Thompson sifts through the offerings of those artists to make us an awesome playlist of 100 songs which, in his view, highlights the best the music festival has to offer.

And Stephen is here with us now to share a curated list of the 100. And I'm just going to try to stifle my rage and envy that you get to go...


MARTIN: ...Back to South by Southwest. And I'll just sit here. I'll try to be civil.

THOMPSON: I appreciate that, Michel.

MARTIN: Try to be civil.

THOMPSON: (Laughter).

MARTIN: All right. So let's start with the music. The first artist is Love Moor from Birmingham, Ala. Do I have that right?


MARTIN: OK. And so here's her song, "Delete."


LOVE MOOR: (Singing) Number seven - oh, I'll dial before I go crazy or drive a mile over bridge - delete. Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh delete.

MARTIN: Gosh, don't you love the way tech terms are making it into music now?

THOMPSON: (Laughter).

MARTIN: It's so funny. I was wondering how long that was going to take to do that. So Love Moor - her real name is Erica Andrew - tell us a little bit more about her, if you would.

THOMPSON: Yeah. She makes this kind of cool, kind of neo-soul and R and B with kind of an ethereal quality to it. If you listen to that whole song, "Delete," it's not even two minutes long. And I love the way her music kind of breezes in and out, and I can't wait to see her live.

MARTIN: And next, we have Georgia Flipo, or G Flip, who hails from Melbourne, Australia. Tell me about her.

THOMPSON: Yeah - Australian pop singer. She's got a background as, like, a drummer and a rapper, but now she's got this music coming out that's just earworms - just really, really hooky, catchy pop. There's an enormous amount of buzz surrounding her and the many, many times she'll be playing the festival. Her first single ever, which has been getting tons and tons of attention, is called "About You."


G FLIP: (Singing) You're right there, and I'm right here thinking 'bout, here thinking about you, about you.

MARTIN: I can hear it. I can see it. So it's one song, but this is a good one to have, right?

THOMPSON: Yeah, exactly. If you're going to come out of the gates, come out of the gates strong.

MARTIN: And moving up north with this next artist, the rock pair Partner come from Canada. And we're going to hear "Comfort Zone."


PARTNER: (Singing) We don't lie. It's tough. Sometimes, when you've had enough, well, you need to take a break and rest your head.

MARTIN: So help me out here. It's Josee Caron?


MARTIN: Josee Caron and Lucy Niles, and they are Partner. Sounds of some throwback '90s rock - tell us a little bit more about them.

THOMPSON: Yeah. I think of this band almost like Lady Weezer (laughter). These arrangements...

MARTIN: (Laughter).

THOMPSON: ...The arrangements are so familiar and so incredibly pleasing. And then their lyrics are really, really funny. That song "Comfort Zone" is just about self care. And it's got - when you manage to fit into your chorus - frozen pizza, sweat pants on, loading up the next "Dance Moms."


PARTNER: (Singing) ...Loading up the next "Dance Moms." No one's calling me today, I won't answer anyway.

THOMPSON: They're just fun and funny, and I find them irresistible.

MARTIN: Have they been spying on me?

THOMPSON: (Laughter).

MARTIN: Wait, I don't - I just...

THOMPSON: They know my life.

MARTIN: They know my life.

THOMPSON: They've got a window into my life.

MARTIN: (Laughter) OK, switching it up a little bit, let's hear...


GATA MISTERIOSA: (Singing in Portuguese).

MARTIN: OK. Did you bone up on your Portuguese for this next one?

THOMPSON: (Laughter).

MARTIN: This song is "Dia D" and the artist is Gato Preto. OK. And let's see - it's Gata Misteriosa rapping in Portuguese, and the producer Lee Bass is from Germany? OK.

THOMPSON: Yeah. Just all around the world - just rhythms that are, like, traditional rhythms and electronic rhythms. I think of this song "Dia D" not as a song so much as an onslaught. You know, we were sitting in the studio while it was playing, and both of us were just, like, not only swaying, but just kind of, like, jerking around.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

THOMPSON: It's so incredibly - just layers and layers of rhythm and joy. I just - I could not resist this song.


MISTERIOSA: (Singing in Portuguese).

MARTIN: So we've got one more - the pop group IDER from London. And we're gonna hear "Body Love."


IDER: (Singing) Tell me what it's like to love me, tell me what went wrong. Lost in the way you crave me, how we carry on. Girl, won't you keep me happy, won't you make me strong?

MARTIN: And that's IDER, which is made up of Megan Markwick and Lily Somerville - nice, soft pop sound. Why did you choose this group?

THOMPSON: It's funny that - when you came out of that song, you were almost whispering. (Laughter) And I think that that ties into how - the delicacy of this music. At first, you know, I'm hearing the song, and I just think, this is very pretty kind of electro-pop - you know, nice voices. And then they get into the chorus, and they start layering and blending their harmonies in this way that I just - I found myself gasping.


IDER: (Singing) What's the best love in the world? My body love. Thank you for tripping me onto my body love. What's the best love in the world? My body love. Thank you for tripping me onto my body love.

THOMPSON: It's very interior music. It's headphone music. But every time I've listened to this song - and I will tell you, I have listened to the song a lot - I just keep kind of trying to tune out everything around me so that I can soak it in as much as possible.

MARTIN: That was NPR Music's Stephen Thompson sharing some of his 100 picks to look for at the South by Southwest festival, which starts tomorrow. You can download and listen to the full Austin 100 at Stephen, thank you.

THOMPSON: Thank you, Michel.


IDER: (Singing) What's the best love in the world? My body love. Thank you for tripping me onto my body love. What's the best love in the world? My body love. Thank you for tripping me onto my body love. What's the best love in the world? My body love. Thank you for tripping me onto my body love. What's the best love in the world? My body love. Thank you for tripping me onto my body love. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.