Alice Merton Allie Crow Buckley Blaise Moore Broods Diet Cig Goth Babe half.alive HANNIE Hatchie Jack River Jade Bird Kate Bollinger Laureline Mallrat Pizzagirl Reaper Sampa the Great Snarky Puppy ST.MARTiiNS Stella Donnelly The Western Den Tom Speight Upstate Valley
Every year, we are amazed and humbled by the artists we discover. 2018 introduced us to so many fresh and exciting music makers whose incredible talents, stories, sounds, and voices made them impossible to ignore. Atwood Magazine is proud to present our staff-procured list of Artists to Watch in 2019 in alphabetical order (you can jump directly to an artist by clicking their name above). These are the standouts we’ll be keeping close eyes and ears on over the next twelve months in eager anticipation. With 2019 just beginning, we take a look at the artists who have caught our attention and earned a spot on our radar.
Mitch Mosk, Editor-in-Chief
Alice Merton is an easy favorite in 2019, having spent the past year attracting attention and excitement around her artistry and powerful storytelling abilities. Released on January 18, Merton’s debut album MINT is “a fresh burst of flavor radiating life, light, and passion. It’s the kind of record you can play on repeat – one whose songs never get old, but rather tend to grow on you like a familiar friend.” Her songs “No Roots” and “Lash Out” earned her considerable praise in 2018, but MINT‘s deeper cuts like “Homesick” and album opener “Learn to Live” are incredibly expressive, emotionally nuanced, and just as catchy as any of Merton’s singles.
In our interview, the 25-year-old explained how she doesn’t really know how she feels about something until she’s written a song about it. Music is a cathartic journey for her – one that’s as much about bringing the audience somwhere, as it is about her own growth and self-discovery. That is the mark of a true songwriter, and a tell-tale sign that Alice Merton is in this for the long haul. Now that MINT is finally out everywhere, Merton’s task is to bring those irresistible melodies and enchanting hooks everywhere she possibly can – and she’s definitely up for the challenge. Dive deeper into MINT for the full rush of Alice Merton’s music, and be sure to catch her if she’s playing nearby: It’s a roller-coaster worth riding. – Mitch Mosk
Allie Crow Buckley’s appeal is in the voice, which is powerful, classic, sensual like silk, and it’s in the airy electric guitars that accompany like a light breeze on a hot summer’s day. It is, to put it simply, blissfully transportive. The LA based singer-songwriter grew up living by oceans and her music is reflective of this, conjuring up images of sparkly pastel waves and the seemingly eternal dreaminess that comes with it. Lyrically, however, the songs are rooted in reality despite how distorted the real can become. “Captive,” with beach metaphors used throughout, is about the craving of escapism when in a suffocating relationship. “Cusco” is a long distance yearning, feeling close to somebody yet being so far apart, while “Cherry Stems” is a reminder of how easy it is to get caught up in the illusions and romances that come with being newly in love.
With vocals holding a distinctly ‘mature’ quality similar to that of Molly Burch and Anna Calvi and an Instagram page awash with Renaissance paintings, there’s an ethereal and luxurious spirit to Allie Crow Buckley. A six song EP entitled So Romantic comes out in February and it will be intriguing to discover where Buckley and her listeners head to as the year progresses. – Francesca Rose
With the release of the excellent Temporary Her EP at the end of last year, Blaise Moore reminded us of her terrific ability of composing sultry R&B with minimalistic production that gives the listener a lot of room to ponder over her music and fantasise over what comes next. With her confidence and “fuck it” attitude, accompanied by her lyrical transparency and willingness to address subjects that some might still consider taboo for women, Moore occupies a unique space in the rising class of artists who make music for a younger and bolder generation. The people want honesty, and she gives it to them in the most polished and visually stunning way. I can’t wait to see what she’ll treat us to in 2019 (debut album, perhaps?). – Nicole Almeida
2019 is the year of Broods‘ reinvention: The year that siblings Georgia and Caleb Nott forever redefine our understanding of their artistry through a majestic, exciting, thought-provoking, and timeless record. Their third album Don’t Feed the Pop Monster, released February 1, 2019, is emotionally enlightened and musically marvelous. It’s as full of pop hooks and energetic choruses, as it is emotional outpourings and moments of vulnerable humanity.
I’ve had so much to say about Broods already with regards to their lead single “Peach,” “Everything Goes (Wow)”, and “Hospitalized”. As a whole experience and on an individual song level, Don’t Feed the Pop Monster is phenomenal. Broods’ lyrics are nuanced and smart; they provoke honest discourse through songs like “Hospitalized” and “Too Proud,” which offer 100% raw takes on fragility and mental health. At the same time, these songs are so catchy that they’ll be stuck in your head for weeks; you’ll find yourself humming along to the Nott siblings’ songs, possibly without realizing their roots in depression or emotional instability, etc. Seldom do I find myself commending artists for their intelligence, mostly because I think it’s so hard to for that quality shine through music alone. Broods make it easy for this psych major to stop in my tracks, and quite frankly I’m still floored from our interview to say much more than that.
I think 2019 will be Broods’ biggest year yet, and I’m so excited to watch them spread their wings and fly. – Mitch Mosk
Following their 2017 debut album Swear I’m Good At This, Diet Cig have alluded to writing and recording new music on their social media accounts, and they have some tour dates lined up supporting Pup and Rubblebucket. The band writes spunky, relatable pop-punk that can be both funny and biting, and after fleshing out some of their songs with a four-piece lineup in late 2017, it should be interesting to see where they take their music on their sophomore album. – Jimmy Crowley
Tennessee based Griff Washburn has released a handful of singles under the name Goth Babe, and despite not having a prominent presence in the music scene, each single is a powerhouse that excels at getting listeners moving and showering them with positive energy. His music is infectious, and 2018 saw a fairly active year for the artist, giving the world some of his best music to date. With 2019, Washburn is starting off strong with “Weekend Friend,” an enthralling piece of synth-heavy bedroom-pop. Will there be an album this year? An EP? Who knows, but no matter what he releases, it will certainly enchant, so here’s to hoping 2018 will be the year of Goth Babe. – Adrian Vargas
Long Beach trio half•alive fittingly emerged on the scene like a comet with their 2017 EP, 3. With a sound reminiscent of Twenty One Pilots and composition teeming with electric guitar, 3 seemed to follow in the footsteps of the popular “pop punk meets grunge” persona. However, the band’s newer work has not only gained more popularity, but has also veered completely left in the most refreshing direction. In 2018, the band had released “still feel” a high concept track utilizing synth and falsetto vocals. “still feel.” currently has over 14 million views on youtube and bought the group their first Lyric Genius video. In their Lyric Genius video, all three members catalog and delve headfirst not just into their poetic lyrics, but also their breathtaking visuals. Both “still feel.” and half•alive’s most recent release, “arrow” videos include neon lighting, costume changes, impermanence, and most notably, carefully curated choreography. With a nearly sold out US tour, half•alive, running in the path of Solange, Mitski, and Pink Floyd, are reminding us how calculated and cumulative music can really be.
London’s Hannah Koppenburg and Annie Wagstaff have a knack for making insanely catchy pop hooks with exquisite electropop designs. From “Low Key” to their latest song “Drama,” HANNIE know how to excited audiences and make us dance. Equally noteworthy about HANNIE is their commitment to collaboration: They’ve worked with a mix of up-and-comers and lesser-known acts including Ralph, Carys Selvey, Hight, Isaiah Dreads and HICARI, which has so far given each of their five original releases a distinct flavor. You don’t always know what the next HANNIE song will look like, but it promises to move your feet and life your spirits – which is just a remarkable thing to know about an act. HANNIE have so much promise and potential; their future is bright, and we’re ready for them to shine! – Mitch Mosk
Australia’s Harriette Pillbeam — aka Hatchie — mastered turn-of-the-’90s dream-pop on last year’s Sugar & Spice EP, a feat that impressed even the most devout shoegaze fans. Though Hatchie evokes a certain Cranberries nostalgia, her work carves out her own distinct identity, one of wide-eyed romanticism and honeyed daydreams. Sugar & Spice is filled with a dreamy, head-in-the-clouds sensibility that could have been ripped straight from the soundtrack a 90s coming-of-age film, but still feels incredibly modern. Whether you’re shoegazing or stargazing, Hatchie’s stunning earworm melodies are the perfect addition to your moodiest nighttime playlist. Set a reminder — her full-length debut is expected to drop this summer via Double Double Whammy. – Meredith Nardino
Jack River makes the kind of ethereal dream-pop that seems fit for an ’80s movie soundtrack. She had a busy year in 2018, with the release of her debut album Sugar Mountain that earned her three ARIA nominations. Now she is opening for Florence + the Machine on the Australian leg of the High as Hope tour, allowing her to lift audience spirits with her catchy, retro tunes. She hasn’t gotten much recognition outside of her homeland of Australia, but 2019 is shaping up to be the year she makes her mark. I’m personally crossing my fingers that she’ll bring her sweet sounds overseas to North America before the year is out. In the meantime, her silky, synth-y song “Sugar” with Peking Duk is tiding me over until she decides to grace us with some more music. – Natalie Harmsen
A little bit country, a little big punk, and a whole lot of attitude, Jade Bird is like if a millennial Dolly Parton fronted The Clash. And, she’s going to be huge as a result.
The personal, pounding narrative of betrayed lovers and broken hearts she introduced us to on her “Something American” EP has been mastered on the singles from her upcoming 2019 record released so far: the scathing “Uh Huh” and the cynical, soul bearing “Love Has All Been Done Before.” With intelligent lyrics that ignite a fire in even the most content of souls and the powerful voice of someone who, in the grand tradition of country dames of yore, isn’t putting up with her ex’s crap anymore, Jade Bird is a name you’ll be hearing a lot this year.
With her self-titled debut album coming out on April 19th, the 21 year old should expect to see her name on billboards and festival cards all year.
For me, Kate Bollinger’s 2018 single “Tests” is reason enough to give her a place on 2019’s artists to watch list. It’s “the kind of song that turns an artist into an overnight sensation. Cool, laid-back, and utterly intoxicating, “Tests” is syrupy bedroom pop at its finest – a sweetly intimate, hypnotic daydream you can play on repeat all day (and all night) long.” These words I wrote in late December, and they continue to hold true today. Bollinger, a young 20-something based in Charlottesville, Virginia, stumbled upon a new minimalist R&B/indie pop sound with her collaborators John Trainum and John Wehmeyer; their first full embrace of this, “Tests,” has deservedly earned her considerable applause for its tantalizing use of emotional numbness and urgency as emotional weapons, almost. The song is a chilling, raw and vulnerable diary entry – and while I don’t necessarily expect every Kate Bollinger song from here on out to hit the same mark as “Tests,” I cannot wait to watch her continue to establish and explore herself. – Mitch Mosk
Laureline expertly fuse a singer-songwriter mentality with intoxicating melodies, heartfelt vocal duets and a penchant for stadium drums. Having just come on the scene in 2018, they originally caught my attention with their single “Nothing.” Featuring an easy tempo, bright, cascading guitar riffs, groovy bass and evocative vocals, it’s a catchy track that left me wanting more. It’s clear that Laureline have a keen sense of what it takes to create and elicit real emotions through music, and it’s lovely to hear. In a world where short attention spans and catchy hooks are king, Laureline is creating music for those looking to truly savor what they hear. Delicately crafted and undoubtedly romantic, their thoughtful work is sure to pull heartstrings in 2019. – Alex Killian
Mallrat’s slowly and surely cementing herself as one of the most exciting acts today, having supported Maggie Rogers and gnash on extensive US tours, supporting Rogers in her upcoming UK and Europe tour and selling out most of her upcoming headline tour in Australia (which was only announced a few weeks ago). She’s equally qualified in making you dance (check out “Uninvited”) and cry (“Texas” is the one for that) and writes in such a poignant way that you can’t help but relate to every word she’s saying, whether it’s about having a crush on someone or being an alien. She’s as cool as it can get, and her songs’ multi-layered structures allow for a multi-coloured listening experience. Here’s to hoping Mallrat will treat us to even more of her music and finish her world domination in 2019. – Nicole Almeida
If you’re feeling nostalgic for a more extravagant, colourful, and synthesisers-filled time, you have to look no further than Pizzagirl to quench your ‘80s thirst. Liam Brown, the man behind the moniker, was not alive during the ‘80s and yet manages to capture the unique feeling you get while watching John Hughes movies in song – if there’s any doubt about this just listen to songs like “Seabirds”, “Body Part”, and “blossom at my feet, flower”. Brown has already found success with his first two EPs, playing at Reading and Leeds and garnering almost 1 million streams on “Seabirds.” And when you consider that he does all this without leaving the comfort of his bedroom in Liverpool, it’s even more impressive. Pizzagirl is a uniquely original project, and one that’s bound to have even brighter and better times ahead. – Nicole Almeida
Little is known about the enigmatic Reaper. The alias of JJ Scheff, a musician of unknown background based in Los Angeles, the artist entered the music scene out of the blue in 2017 with the release of a self-titled EP. His sound quickly garnered hundreds of thousands of hits, lulling listeners with his intoxicating mix of psychedelia and melodrama. Now with the recent release of his sophomore album “heady,” Reaper’s sound continues to grow with more cutting lyrics, soaring electronics, and spell-binding falsettos. In the album’s title track, he guides listeners through an episode of blurry, modern romance only to find that he unable to emotionally commit: “I’m just sickened by the thought of it all.” Listen to his music and take a plunge down the rabbit hole. – James Meadows
Sampa the Great lives up to her name. The Zambian rapper, singer, and poet already has one impeccable album out (plus a mixtape), and it seems she’s primed to do it again. Her latest single, “Energy,” is an atmospheric, jazz tinged, dark beauty. I recently discovered her on the YouTube channel COLORS, and was immediately amazed by her musical flow that can sound both soft and menacing. She could be a huge breakout in hip-hop this year, and I’m so excited to see where she goes. – Mariel Fechik
Grammy award winning jazz-funk collective Snarky Puppy have begun to release their 12th studio album into our musiverse. “Xavi,” the first single off upcoming Immagrance comes alive with a Latin tinged brass KaPow, exploding into a psychedelic jazz adventure. It definitely whets the pallet for the world premier of Immagrance at the band’s GroundUP Music Festival in February.
According to bassist and founder, Michael League, “this record is largely informed by our travels, and we’re always trying to pass specific ideas through our filter and into our idiom without being disrespectful to the tradition at hand.” If “Xavi” is an indication of the sounds we’ll feel when Immagrance hits our ear-balls in February, we’re all in for a trip. – Ilana Kalish
ST.MARTiiNS sound like HONNE and Glass Animals had a baby with Anteros or Oh Wonder – and if you don’t get all the references in this sentence, please dive into each one of these artists as they are all worth your while! Hailing from Scotland, the duo of Katie Lynch and Mark Johnston caught us all off-guard last year with the song “ur so pretty,” a hypnotizing, suave and sultry blend of bedroom pop with psych and rock influences. Their music is provocative and intimate, but also incredibly relaxing; they’ve really nailed the chill vibe, but at the same time every song is different, with its own expressive identity. I have no idea what their plan is for 2019, but keep an eye on ST.MARTiiNS because they’re playing by their own rules, and winning! – Mitch Mosk
Stella Donnelly isn’t one to beat around the bush. Refreshingly snappy and erring on the side of twee, the budding Aussie singer-songwriter’s debut single “Old Man” depicts what just about any young woman of the #MeToo era is thinking these days. “Are you scared of me, old man?/ Or are you scared of what I’ll do?” Donnelly coyly serenades over a simple, driving guitar, letting her sharp-witted lyrics take center stage as she vanquishes the song’s titular villains in a swift, girl-power punch.
Donnelly’s debut album Beware of the Dogs arrives March 8 with a headlining world tour to accompany it. With a promising year ahead and plenty more spunky tracks to come, we advise hopping on the Donnelly bandwagon ASAP. – Abby Jones
The Western Den‘s debut album A Light Left On came out on February 1st, but it will likely take a few weeks for everyone to fully ingest the weight of the Boston duo’s emotional vulnerability. Deni Hlavinka and Chris West make the kind of intimate alt-folk music that tears even the strongest soul to pieces. Their debut single “I Still Remain” continues to be a pillar of breathtaking beauty, yet it’s just one of the many powerful moments waiting within A Light Left On. The Western Den have made clear on their debut that they will not be confined to one sound or style, but that they will always approach their songs with honest, ambition, and integrity. Their debut has an air of tenderness permeating throughout waves of loss, love, isolation, and connection; and whether the music is upbeat or brooding, driven by acoustic guitar or some ethereal piano, it always feels like a soul lurching out from the darkness, and reaching toward the light. – Mitch Mosk
British singer/songwriter Tom Speight might be my spirit animal from across the pond; his music is extremely emotional and overwhelmingly sincere, and he can have as much fun dwelling in euphoria as he can have a meaningful experience immersed in vulnerability and sorrow. In premiering his song “Want You” last August, I particularly admired how the anthemic ode to “the one” glowed with sweet melodies and sweeter sentiments; it was romantic, but not overly gushy, yet at the same time wrapped in complete and utter bliss.
This is balanced by more somber tracks like “Collide” and “Strangers Now,” the latter of which was co-written with Lisa Hannigan and Turin Brakes, and finds Speight and a female companion (or ex-companion) working through the bonds that connect them, as they drift further and further apart. It’s heartbreaking in the best way possible: Speight, physically alone, still feels like only one half of a whole, and continues to embrace that lingering missing piece despite its absence.
Don’t run away from me me
Give me the light I need
Won’t you talk to me?
I’ve been holding out
Now I need you now
Till the early hours
Won’t you smile at me?
Like you used to be
Are we strangers now?
Signing out, signing out, signing out
A brilliant and accomplished songwriter with years of experience and millions of streams to prove it, Tom Speight is an artist to watch this year because his debut album Collide, out April 12, will absolutely blow listeners away with its stirring depictions of love, grief, passion, self-doubt, connection, and the inspirational resolve of the human spirit. – Mitch Mosk
Formerly Upstate Rubdown, Upstate have a warm soul-tinged folk core, strong pop sensibilities, and a taste for gorgeous harmony. The New York band sealed the deal for me with songs like “Marietta” and “Who Knows,” the latter of which I had the honor of premiering last December. Like Lake Street Dive and Phox (who also broke genre molds), Upstate are trailblazing an awesome path for melodic modern folk – or alt-folk, or folk/pop. I don’t care what you call it; what I know for sure is that “Who Knows” challenges us to confront our own what if’s in life; that “Marrietta” is a vivid breakup letter full of color and charm. Upstate’s sophomore album Healing is out February 8, and its name pretty much summarizes what one might expect from an encounter with Upstate: Personal inspiration, emotional renewal, and physical rejuvination. – Mitch Mosk
Valley have been continually rising within the indie pop scene in the last few years. Most known for their classic indie-natured 2016 release “Swim,” their recent project MAYBE-Side A paves a new synth driven direction. A blend of classic sound with dreamy pop is reminiscent of The 1975 meets Bleachers. After touring briefly late last year, they are quickly becoming a captivating up-and-coming band. To complete their sophomore album release, MAYBE-Side B is expected to be released early this year. Keep an eye out for them, there’s only more to come from the group. – Kelsey Fitzgerald
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