Best of SXSW 2020

Ben Klemens
3 min readNov 22, 2020


I listened to all 1,025 songs from the SXSW festival (posted before the festival didn’t happen), and here are the twenty or so that stood out most to me. As one of the songs in the big, messy pile explained, you can be anybody in the world, all it takes is a mic and an Internet connection to make music. It feels good to witness that. Anyway, here are my faves, with some notes to let you know what you’re clicking through to.

Also, here’s the one from 2019 and the one from 2018. Due to time constraints, this may be the last time I do this.

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almost monday, parking lot view: The mix is just so bright. I’ve been thinking a lot about how it’s sometimes more the mix than the song itself that earns the thumbs-up or -down, and I wish it weren’t that way. But this one, you’ll be singing along by the second time the verse comes on.

Dan Bettridge, Hollywood Forever. I recommend listening to the song, then after the first play finding it on a map, then listening again.

Nané, “Always on my mind”. Verses have a good groove, chorus has a great voice.

China Bears, “Sunday”. UK . Has a plot, tho I don’t know what it is.

Raye Zaragosa, “American dream”. Thank you, Ms Zaragosa, for writing a heartfelt protest song. If you want more funk in your protest songs, go with GE Smith & LeRoy Bell, “America” See also the Mastersons, No time for love songs.

Guapdad, “Gucci pajamas”. A breakup song with a sense of humor. Compare with DAX, “She Cheated Again”, which is the most put-his-heart-and-soul-into-it song on this year’s list.

Sir Woman, “Highroad”. In the video she’s wearing rose-colored glasses.

Kool Keith aka Dr. Octagon, “Sex Style”. He is brilliantly creative, a rapping comic book. Listening to it now, this track is a little too urination-focused to be his best, so you’re going to have to keep going through his decades-long back catalogue to find more, maybe walk through this overview by Bandcamp.

Kiki Valera y su Son Cubano, “Mi Son”. Very self-descriptive.

Enrique Campos, “Luna Nueva”. Name-checks Gardel.

The Chairs, “Rollin’ On”. Nice, chill, 60s amps from Taiwan.

Georgel w/Kat Dahlia, “Que No Nos Importe”. “It’s better when we’re in LA.”

Fat Tony, “Magnifique”. The “Let’s throw a banger” genre is endless, but this is the first to acknowledge the logistics.

Kills Birds, “Volcano”. Self-descriptive.

Mexico City Blondes, “Addio”. I don’t know why they have MX City in their name when they’re such a perfect exemplar of the Bristol Sound.

Cromosapiens, “De Costa a Costa”. A fun “gettin’ jiggy with it” kinda song.

Young Mister, “What If I”. Summertime in the 70s.

ELLEVATOR, “New Survival”. Any day in the 80s.

Graham Reynolds and Golden Arm Trio, “Union Pacific”. Horns make everything better.

Maude Latour, “Superfruit”. Do I have to tell you it’s bubblegum pop?

SkyBlew, “Galaxy Walk”. He gets around.

Wiley from Atlanta “Pink Skies”. Because of the flow about standing in line outside the Pearly Gates.

The Bad Man, “Charlie’s Triumphant Return”. Like a Jon Langford production, but with horns.

KAYWHT, “11 30 Interlude” This year’s best in the soul category, though there’s some light autotuning.

Sofia Macchi, “Eres tu”. Ms Macchi has such a simple sound. I’m putting her girlfriend music here here at the end because she sort of reminds me of the first song I picked for the list back in 2007, by Ana Laan. She was early on the list, what with all those As, and charmed me immediately.

PS: some honorable mentions

The Dream Syndicate is back, sounding kinda like Morphine (this is a good thing).

Ohm-I, “Konami code love”: Honorable mention for best title.

Dwagie, “WHO”. Yes, a song about the World Health Organization and its handling of coronavirus. Posted to youtube 17 February 2020.

Snotty Nose Rez Kids, “Boujee Natives”. Honestly not my world at all. It’s fun to hear taunts about people I don’t know.

Peelander Z, “Bike Bike Bike”. Innocent fun. This may be hard to believe, but did you know there are people who don’t like bikes?



Ben Klemens

BK served as director of the FSF’s End Software Patents campaign, and is the lead author of Apophenia (, a statistics library.