The 20 Rising Australian Bands You Need to Know in 2019

The scenes in Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney and beyond are bursting at the seams with young acts. Here's who you should watch in 2019.

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The 20 Rising Australian Bands You Need to Know in 2019

There’s an indie-rock tradition that burns bright in Australia. The U.S., Canada, Britain and other countries where guitar music has played a big role in popular music have their own conventions, but Australia is almost methodical in its culmination of alternative scenes. Home to iconic rock groups like Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and The Birthday Party, the continental country now finds itself in a new era of alternative music, one where it’s producing some of the best indie-rock music anywhere. Young bands are springing up all over the place, leaping from their respective scenes in Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and beyond and shooting for nationwide (even worldwide) acclaim. After Courtney Barnett attracted global interest, we began to look to Australia for our next favorite rock artists. Breakout bands like Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever and The Goon Sax are already following in her footsteps, also taking cues from veteran alt-rockers like Twerps. After a slew of great Australian releases in 2018, we’re again looking Down Under for the next great crop of Sydney rockers, Melbourne guitar-pop players and Brisbane sceners. Here are the 20 Australian bands you need to know in 2019, listed in alphabetical order:

1. Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys

This Sydney band’s second full-length Rot came out in 2017, but didn’t really start to register overseas until 2018. Rot was released in America by the idiosyncratic indie What’s Your Rupture, and it fits in well with the general aesthetic of that label, which also released records by Love is All, Parquet Courts, Iceage, and fellow Australians Royal Headache. Rot is a lo-fi blast of classic pop songwriting with a slightly raw edge, with hooks and solos crashing into each other like drunks dancing at the local indie rock dive bar. —Garrett Martin

2. Camp Cope

The second album from Melbourne trio Camp Cope isn’t particularly interested in social niceties, despite its title (How To Socialise & Make Friends): From the LP’s peppy opening bass notes, vocalist/guitarist Georgia “Maq” McDonald, bassist Kelly-Dawn “Kelso” Hellmrich and drummer Sarah “Thomo” Thompson use their shaggy, accessible indie-rock to address everything from music-industry sexism (“The Opener”) and sexual assault (“The Face of God”) to relationships of all stripes (“UFO Lighter”). Georgia Maq’s voice is at the center of it all, the album’s single most powerful instrument: She’s unfailing in her raw honesty, whether thumbing her nose at mansplainers or remembering her beloved late father, spinning vital and emotionally charged art out of whatever life throws at her. —Scott Russell

3. Cool Sounds

With a band name that sounds like the title of a Spotify mood playlist, have Melbourne’s Cool Sounds figured out how to attract listeners in the streaming age? I would argue that, yes, Cool Sounds make immersive, chillaxed rock primed for playlists and coffee shops, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good. In fact, their 2018 LP, Cactus Country, is very good, and while it was a sleeper stateside, it appeared on several best-of-2018 lists in Australia.
Cool Sounds aren’t exactly a collective, but their lineup, usually toggling between six and seven musicians, is still larger than that of your average Aussie indie-rock band. —Ellen Johnson

4. Flowertruck

Sydney-based Flowertruck’s debut album, which was released in March 2018, is called Mostly Sunny, and there’s not a more perfect description for their ample, radiant synth-rock. Their sound, much like Phantastic Ferniture’s or Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever’s, is distinctly Aussie, with an emphasis on hooks and rock-solid melodies. The band says their album is “a valuable addition to any discerning motorist’s passenger-side seat or glove compartment,” and it is, but it’s also primed for beach-side boomboxes. As you sludge through a lousy North American winter, this record will conjure images of our friends in the Southern Hemisphere soaking up the sun. There’s enough darkness in the world—why not treat yourself to something light and easy? —Ellen Johnson

5. Jade Imagine

When on the hunt for hot new Australian bands, we figured Courtney Barnett’s own label, Milk! Records, might be a good place to start the search. There we stumbled upon Melbourne’s Jade Imagine, who combine the best of slacker-rock with a distinctly Aussie surf-pop sound. The band’s frontwoman, Jade McInally, has been on the Melbourne scene since the early 2000s, but it wasn’t until 2016 that she sent a pile of demos to Dave Mudie, Barnett’s drummer. From there, McInally formed Jade Imagine with several other vets of the Aussie indie realm: Liam “Snowy” Halliwell of The Ocean Party and Ciggie Witch, Tim Harvey of Real Feelings and James Harvey of Teeth and Tongue. Together, they’re Jade Imagine, and they’ve yet to release a full-length LP, which means 2019 could be their big year, if we’re lucky. —Ellen Johnson

6. Loose Tooth

Another Milk! Records signee, the mint rock trio Loose Tooth dropped their second LP, Keep Up in 2018. I must admit I was skeptical: How long can Melbourne really keep up the guitar-pop game? But Loose Tooth were a pleasant surprise. Their transcendent rock certainly takes cues from bands like The Cure and that classic Melbourne jangle, but it’s nevertheless some of the freshest sounds coming out of the Australian metropolis. Etta Curry, Luc Dawson and Nellie Jackson know a thing or two about hooks, and “Keep On” is especially infectious, like a pleasant nag. With Barnett on their side and plenty of catchy rock melodies in their heads, this Loose Tooth won’t fall out anytime soon. —Ellen Johnson

7. Moaning Lisa

Moaning Lisa are the missing piece from Australia’s thriving indie scene. In an arena flooded with sunny guitar pop and wistful lo-fi rock (which is all great—don’t get me wrong), Moaning Lisa serve a welcome slice of grunge. The band’s four members, Ellen, Hayley, Charlie and Hayden, met at school and are now based in Canberra, Australia’s capital city. So far, they’ve only released a handful of singles and an EP, 2018’s Do You Know Enough?, but that’s a good thing: If all signs point to yes, there’ll be an album on the way in 2019. In their song “Carrie (I Want a Girl),” they approach their queer identities with wit and smarts, and they salute their female music idols along the way, including Carrie Brownstein, Courtney Barnett and Kim Deal. If all goes right, Ellen, Hayley and Hayden will someday add their own names to that roster of badass lady rockers. —Ellen Johnson

8. Oh Pep!

When Melbourne duo Oh Pep! released their debut album Stadium Cake in 2016, they were quickly tagged “indie-folk,” a catchall phrase for acoustic music tinged with pop production, or just lo-fi folk-rock that’s not widely received. But indie-folk doesn’t feel like the right classification anymore. In fact, no one piecemeal subgenre feels applicable to Oh Pep!’s new record, I Wasn’t Only Thinking About You… (released in October via ATO), which is at once delicious pop music and bluegrass-adjacent folk. But, at the same time, it transcends both of those classifications. The opening ballad, “25,” is a string-reliant melody reminiscent of a classic Hollywood movie score. “Hurt Nobody” is a a deep-cutting emotional rendering, while album standout “What’s The Deal With David?” is the sonic equivalent of running through a glossily shelved candy store. I Wasn’t Only Thinking About You… is everything wonderful about good, crunchy pop music and everything marvelous about mindfully arranged folk compositions. —Ellen Johnson

9. Orion

Australia has been the center of the punk and indie rock world for the better part of a decade now. Orion has that same energy but with a goth fixation that unmistakably marks them as Cure devotees. Their 2017 LP on Melbourne’s Cool Death Records was a surprise treat that year, and a US tour last fall showed that their atmospheric, chorus-heavy pop songs might be even more powerful life. There was a band about a decade ago called Blank Dogs that drove all the record collectors crazy with their very lo-fi take on ‘80s 4AD; if Blank Dog had been less concerned with noise and willful obscurantism, they could’ve been as good as Orion. —Garrett Martin

10. Phantastic Ferniture

Everything about Phantastic Ferniture sounds like it’s meant to be temporary, and it’s hard not to find that concerning. Australian singer-songwriter Julia Jacklin is in the midst of releasing new songs and prepping for the release of her second full-length album Crushing, out in February, and the words “Phantastic Ferniture” appear only once on her Wikipedia entry as an “associated act.” The band’s official description, meanwhile, pegs it as a side project for all three people involved: “Phantastic Ferniture is the project of old friends Julia Jacklin, Elizabeth Hughes, and Ryan K. Brennan, who wanted to shake the shackles of their meticulously crafted solo work to experience a second, giddy adolescence.” That rather makes the band sound like a calculated escape from the individual careers they’ve been pouring their hearts and souls into for years, but not one with a lot of stakes or future—if their solo work is meant to be taken as “meticulously crafted,” Phantastic Ferniture’s songs are implied to be raw or spontaneous by comparison. But might we suggest that’s a good thing? The self-titled debut from the group is chock full of compelling songs, from the rhythmically intoxicating “Uncomfortable Teenager” to the soaring “Fuckin ‘n’ Rollin,” to the simplistic but devastatingly catchy “Dark Corner Dance Floor.” Jacklin’s silky voice is wonderfully applied to this particular brand of propulsive indie rock, while Hughes is the perfect complement in small flourishes that take each song to the next level. This may be a band that was assembled without concrete plans for the future, but we’re hoping the reaction Phantastic Ferniture has received thus far convinces them to re-invest in what could become rock’s next great three-piece. —Jim Vorel

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