Since 2005, something called the SXSW Bit Torrents have been released, featuring one song from most of the bands who are “officially” playing at what is generally considered the most important yearly music conference in the world. This year, the bit torrents were released in two parts, totaling 1,219 tracks and 7.52 gigabytes (and can be downloaded here). While this is a great crash course to prep for South by Southwest each year, or a fun side project for a music nerd to peruse between night classes and work shifts, most people don’t have the time to really dig into this.
Which is why I’ve taken it upon myself to list the best songs from the 2012 SXSW bit torrents, at least in what I consider to be my professional opinion. Below is a list of the 50 Top tracks from the 771 tracks included in Part 1 of this year’s bit torrents. I listened to every song once. Many were good. A fair number were terrible. 147 tracks were great enough to make my second round list, from which I whittled down the 50 you will see listed below, with brief descriptions as to why. I excluded certain excellent tracks for a variety of reasons: some were on the bit torrents last year—like the lovely “Clementine” from Sarah Jaffe or Apache Relay’s “Home is Not Places”—or tracks that have already had a lot of media play, like Chappo’s “Come Home,” which we’ve all now heard a thousand times in the most recent Apple commercial.
I also made my selections based on both quality and diversity of genre, so as to best reflect the well-rounded sound of music SxSW helps to launch. Full disclosure: I don’t understand, or am not evolved enough to understand, heavy metal; I am very picky when it comes to hip-hop and country; I purposefully limited singer songwriters who have play pretty, mournful songs with acoustic guitars—those songs begin to all sound the same. Also, keep in mind these are single songs from legions of incredibly talented musicians—the songs they released to the bit torrent may have not have been their best… or might be their only hit. Chances are, I missed a few gems and listed a few duds. Decide for yourself—this is just a guide to some good, new music. Regardless, I recommend you download all these songs here and make your own list of the best of what’s next in 2012.
The Top 30 from the 448 tracks in Part 2 of the 2012 SXSW bit torrents will be released next week, as the 2012 SXSW Music Conference is in full swing. Enjoy and follow me @tabloidfiction as I explore this year’s SXSW Conference.
Eli Kooris’s SXSW 2012 Bit Torrent Top 50 – Part 1 – In Alphabetical Order
1. “Hold On” – Alabama Shakes – Perhaps the purest Southern Soul Rock out there right now, other then The Black Keys, of course.
2. “In Your Body” –Ariane Moffatt – A dark little number, part Fiona Apple, part Bjork, part something else altogether.
3. “Blue Buildings” – Aunt Martha – Delicate and beautiful, in the tradition of The Shin’s “New Slang.”
4. “Wishing Well” – Cheyenne Marie Mize – Just Mize’s lovely voice and found items that are tapped and clapped are all she needs for this catchy, creative little song.
5. “K Le Pasa” – DJ Dus (aka El Dusty) – Self-described as a “zombie DJ that loves to party,” this pounding Latin-influenced dance track is a perfect mood booster.
6. “Good To Be a Man” – Elle King – Stark and mournful, Elle King and her banjo may be one of the best new acts of the year.
7. “Wake Bake Skate” – Fidlar – Just over a minute and a skater punk awesomeness.
8. “Maps” – The Front Bottoms – Indie, punk rock with an acoustic guitar and brilliant lyrics doesn’t get much better.
9. “Coney Island Winter” – Garland Jefferies – From the best soul-rock anthem writer you have probably never heard of, this will be the first of many that you will love.
10. “I’m the Night (See You Later)” – Go Back to the Zoo – The single from these Dutch Indie rockers makes you want to hear their new album.
11. “Easy Come Easy Go” – Great Lake Swimmers – Great folk rock is still alive and well and the Great Lake Swimmers prove it here.
12. “Oblivion” – Grimes – Grimes lives up to the hype in early 2012, at least with this ethereal electro pop track.
13. “I Slept with all Your Mothers” – Harriet – Rousing, powerful, thought-provoking, excellent—“Do you remember when the sky was green… like money… I like money… you know I do…” You’ll be screaming along by the end of your first listen.
14. “How’m I Gonna Get Back Home?” – He’s My Brother She’s My Sister – Just when you thought the male / female lead singer duo was done, this song comes along and changes your mind.
15. “For You and I” – The Hounds Below – Detroit Indie rock at it’s best, with tinges of the best rock from the 90’s.
16. “Cherry Blossom Tree” – Imaginary Cities – This won’t be all you will be hearing from one of the finest new bands from Canada.
17. “It’s Time” – Imagine Dragons – Pop Rock at it’s best and while you’ll probably be hearing this song on the radio constantly in the next year, it’s better then most of the mainstream music that is picked up by the machine.
18. “Huff + Puff” – Just a Band – Electro hip-hop with tinges of reggae and is undeniably catchy, even if you dislike all of those aforementioned genres.
19. “Here We Go” – Lowrider – Australian Indie hip-hop soul pop group Lowrider gives you a taste of how they groove, as they have been doing for years down under.
20. “Submarines” – The Lumineers – Bright and melodic, The Lumineers have memorable and moving lyrics, despite Vampire Weekend undertones.
21. “Promise Me a Rose Garden” – The M Machine – An excellent track from San Francisco’s best electronic group who few know about.
22. “Shadows of the City” – Marcus Foster – Snarling and passionate, Marcus Foster is the real deal.
23. “Between the Sheets” – Meiko – Cute and catchy, it’s a song to listen to alone as you contemplate your significant other or while staring deeply into their eyes.
24. “Seer” – Motopony – The best music still comes out of Seattle every so often and Motopony is a perfect example.
25. “Cumbion Del Sur” – Mr. Pauer – Latin Grammy nominated electron-influenced rapper Mr. Pauer is someone you may not have heard, but you undoubtedly should.
26. “Scarlet Eyes” – Mrs. Glass – A Katrina refugee from New Orleans leads this Austin-based triowith one of the most soulful blues songs you may have never heard.
27. “Every Which Way” – Musikanto – One of the finer folk singer / songwriters from Chicago is one to watch this year.
28. “She Like That (Dirty Dub Mix)” – Na Palm featuring Machine Gun Kelly – Dirty, sharp hip-hop over dub step beats works wonders on this track.
29. “Early Spring Till” – Nathaniel Rateliff – Rateliff has one of the more powerful voices of any up and coming singer / songwriter.
30. “Te Veo (featuring Sr. Mendez)” – Palenke Soultribe - Fantastic Peruvian tribal beats that will make even the most sedentary partiers want to stand up and dance.
31. “Calling” – Paula & Karol – Yet another brilliant male / female duo, this time out of Poland, warms you up with this sweet song.
32. “You’ll Be Mine” – The Pierces – Fleetwood Mac reincarnate The Pierces are a group you might become obsessed with.
33. “Passaway” – Pomegranates – Poppy, addicting and high-energy, Pomegranates might have a bright future ahead of them.
34. “Rasta Love featuring Ky-Mani Marley” – Protoje – A great, original Reggae song? You got it.
35. “IT” – Rich Aucoin – Canadian rocker Aucoin is known to bring it in his live performances and this track is just a taste.
36. “Deguello Motel” – Roger Alan Wade – Simple, brilliantly-written country song that is impossible to skip through.
37. “The Real Thing” – Sahara Smith – Smith may be one of the most exciting young, singer / songwriters out of the Austin, Texas music epicenter in years.
38. “Puzzle Pieces” – Saint Motel – Saint Motel seems to get better every year and this track may be their best one to date.
39. “Dots on Maps” – Say Hi – Eric Elbogen’s voice alone makes Say Hi stand apart from all the other alt acts out there.
40. “Serpents” –Sharon Van Etten – A track from what is already being called one of the best albums of the year.
41. “That’s What They Tell Me” – Signal Path – Some of the best electronic acts come from the Rocky Mountains and Signal Path of Missoula, Montana only adds to this legacy.
42. “Pretty Bones” – The Soldier Thread – Driving electro-pop rock and a catchy refrain make this track a favorite.
43. “Sons of Fathers” – Sons of Fathers – Despite being sued by Beck over their band name, they have also written an excellent song of the same name, most likely making the lawsuit even tougher.
44. “Mary” – Sparkadia – Singing songs about a girl is tough, as it better be good. Sparkadia pulls it off, with flying colors.
45. “Black Dunes” – This Will Destroy You – Dark, epic and almost terrifying, This Will Destroy You has the makings of Reznor and Ross’s Ghosts mixed with the stylings of Clint Mansell.
46. “Equestrian” – U.S. Royalty – One of the best Indie rock bands of the year with one of many great tracks in their repertoire.
47. “Ain’t It The Same” –Uncle Lucius – A killer bluesy rock track that is Southern to the core.
48. “Animalia” – Voltaire Twins – Another Aussie import from the West Coast of Perth who breathes fresh life into the New Wave sound.
49. “Broken Nerve” – Voxhaul Broadcast – One of the most promising bands at SxSW in 2011 is back this year without missing a beat.
50. “Chapel Song” – We Are Augustines – Brooklyn-based Indie rockers show how it’s done with this great track, making you want more.