Lars Gotrich

Nighttime is restless. Even in our sleep, we are moving in our dreams, or involuntarily flopping around the bed disturbing a loved one, be it a significant other, a dog. Lullabies are written to calm these restless minds, but maybe they should also recognize the motion of the day.

Nick Hakim begins with a bit of a fake-out — languorous strings like something out of a Stars Of The Lid record rumble from a sampler, somber and hesitant. But as he begins to sing in a heartbroken falsetto, surrounded by optical fibers hanging from the ceiling of SXSW's Optic Obscura installation by Raum Industries, the ambient intro morphs into a quiet, psychedelic croon.

With a reassuring voice that howled over an acoustic guitar, Jesy Fortino made records as Tiny Vipers about emptiness and absence that were severely intimate. She channeled both Neil Young and Stevie Nicks in "Landslide" — two songwriters who knew a thing or two about being bummed out, but would try to find something hopeful in the mess.

Lydia Ainsworth doesn't so much subvert pop music, but skates around its edges. You can hear that all over Darling Of The Afterglow, a surreal album that blurs melodies and rote formats with a sense of mystery.

Phoebe Bridgers was one of our top discoveries going into SXSW, a quiet and powerful voice in the loud din of the festival. After she performed at Central Presbyterian Church, a favorite venue among our staff, Bridgers and percussionist Marshall Vore came to Bob Boilen's hotel room just before midnight to play the striking "Smoke Signals."

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