To Austin, With Love: Previewing The Songs Of SXSW NPR Music's Stephen Thompson plays highlights from The Austin 100, a downloadable mix of SXSW discoveries that includes Tribu Baharú, Jealous Of The Birds, Manu Delago, Tunde Olaniran and Weaves.

To Austin, With Love: Previewing The Songs Of SXSW

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And now it's time for our regular segment Words You'll Hear. That's where we take a word or phrase that will be in the news in the coming days and let you know what it's all about. And this week, those words are South By Southwest. It's a huge conference that draws thousands of people to Austin, Texas, every year. It begins Friday. This year, we thought we'd go check it out, too.

We'll be broadcasting from Austin during the closing weekend of South By Southwest on March 18 and 19. We'll be digging into all of the film and tech offerings we can handle while we're there, not to mention the barbecue. But right now we want to focus on some of the music that's going to be playing at the festival.


TRIBU BAHARU: (Singing in Spanish).

MARTIN: That was Tribu Baharu, a band from Colombia. They're one of the bands on the NPR Music's Austin 100 playlist. All of the songs are curated by NPR Music's own Stephen Thompson who explained to me how he put the list together.

STEPHEN THOMPSON, BYLINE: Well, I listened to more than 100 hours of songs - between 1,500 and 2,000 in all - to winnow everything down to 100. And why - what made me want to do this, it's what I would want someone to make for me going into South By Southwest.

South By Southwest is just music in bulk and anybody who can kind of help you sift and winnow through that to a more digestible package is really useful. And the fact of the matter is if you go to and click on it, you can download all 100 songs in one zip file and just carry them with you wherever you go. It's just six hours of free music.

MARTIN: You're like the boyfriend that made you the most awesome mixtape ever.

THOMPSON: But he expected you to listen to all six hours of it.

MARTIN: There is that.

THOMPSON: So it's kind of a bad boyfriend.


MARTIN: All right. Well, we're not going to do that just now, but let's hear another song from the playlist. This is "Tick" by the band Weaves.


WEAVES: (Singing) This is just the beginning of what I want to say. This is all the welcoming my secret hands could take. We are just the floating monocles of what is something left to see.

MARTIN: Why did this one make the cut? What stood out?

THOMPSON: Well, sort of like the Tribu Baharu song, there's so much motion in it. You know, with both of those songs we heard, we've kind of sat here jostling around to the music. The singer is this woman named Jasmyn Burke. I've seen them live. And there's this incredible energy. She has this great presence.

And you notice behind her there are just these like zingy kind of whiz bang guitars going off everywhere. So I just love the way there are just sparks flying off this band at all times.


WEAVES: (Singing) Tick tock.

MARTIN: So let's slow it down a little bit with this song by Jealous of the Birds. It's called "Goji Berry Sunset."


JEALOUS OF THE BIRDS: Goji berry sunset. That's how it all started. Sitting on the lakeside talking about old times. Arms laced with red thread. Forget the things that I said. Quote a line from Tennyson. Poetry is medicine.

MARTIN: It's kind of call and response in the same song. Now tell me why this one made the cut.

THOMPSON: Yeah. And when you get to the chorus, there's this beautiful blending of her voice. She sings in these layers.


JEALOUS OF THE BIRDS: (Singing) Your name fizzes on my tongue.

THOMPSON: And I just love how kind of blissful and hypnotic it is. It's a - just one woman, just a singer from Northern Ireland named Naomi Hamilton. And it's like a two - two-and-a-half-minute song. And I swear it's probably the song I listen to the most putting this project together.

MARTIN: Oh, OK. So tune it back up one more time just before we go. Who's next? And, again, we are just scratching the surface here. So one more?

THOMPSON: Yeah. A guy from Flint, Mich., named Tunde Olaniran - and this song - it's called "Namesake." And there's just so much intensity and so many ideas in this incredibly busy and infectious song that's just flying all over the place. This is "Namesake."


TUNDE OLANIRAN: (Rapping) See him flossing in that metal. The game's in a higher level. Dimensions, we into several. You see we get them together. D-I-Y fringe be swangin'. Bangers-bangers he slanging. Show on point, he slanging. He wasn't always this way...

MARTIN: Come on. Tell me more about this.

THOMPSON: (Laughter). It's from an album called "Transgressor," which (laughter) I just think tells you something right there. He's just a guy who is exploding with ideas, and that is - that's just something that I look for. You want somebody who was just bursting with creativity at all times because they're always going to surprise you.

MARTIN: Well, thank you so much for surprising us. Thank you for doing all that work - 1,500 songs?

THOMPSON: It took a few months. This project took a few months, but...

MARTIN: To get down to 100.

THOMPSON: But now it's in a nice, tidy six-hour package for everyone to download.

MARTIN: That was NPR music editor Stephen Thompson. You can download NPR Music's Austin 100 playlist by visiting


OLANIRAN: (Rapping) Now maybe there's a lesson I've been given or some wisdom from the stories that I need to tell. And everybody's hoping and scraping and wishing they could be something outside themselves. If I can be me, then you can be yourself. Might not be easy. It's like we're never satisfied.

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