In February 1964, four young lads from a port town called Liverpool flew to America from the U.K. to perform their happy-go-lucky pop songs, and America was never the same. There’s a certain romance when British musicians invade American shores for the first time with their starry-eyed ambitions and their fresh, new sounds. After Paste’s 2018 list of exciting new British bands, which featured acts like Shame and Honey Lung, Paste is ready to share our class of 2019. We listed 15 of our favorite new British acts below, in alphabetical order, that have us giddy with anticipation for their potential success this year in America and beyond.
1. Another Sky
South London four-piece Another Sky have a sound that just can’t be taught. Lead vocalist Catrin Vincent’s low, robust vocals ascend from the deepest pockets of her throat, resulting in a versatile vocal range that most female vocalists don’t possess. After their 2018 debut EP, Forget Yourself, and a string of recent singles (“Avalanche,” “Chillers” and “Apple Tree”), Another Sky have made a mark with their throaty, melodic indie-pop, spidery guitars and soaring choruses. They are set to appear at SXSW this year for their first American live shows.
After self-releasing his debut mixtape, Badkid, last year, Bakar has impressed audiences with his fervent, genre-bending sound. Bakar draws on the attitude of punk, utilizes a poetic, hip-hop vocal delivery and takes cues from the diverse sonics of alternative hip-hop, soul, indie rock and spoken-word. He initially made a name for himself on SoundCloud—recording his vocals over guitar riffs from acts like King Krule and Bombay Bicycle Club. On songs like “BADlands,” his style morphs mid-song from guitar-backed rap to neo-soul, and no matter where he finds himself on the stylistic map, he possesses an innate swagger, magnetic presence and perceived effortlessness.
3. Black Midi
Last year, I spent a significant amount of time trying to track down a decent live recording of a London band called Black Midi. Word was spreading like fire about the band’s live shows, despite not releasing any studio recordings and a nonexistent social media presence. Finally in April, there was a studio performance uploaded to YouTube, and their breakneck noise rock blew me away. Since that time, Black Midi released their debut single, signed to Rough Trade, recorded a KEXP session and released their first EP, Speedway. Their sullen mix of noise and math rock, marked by freakishly intricate guitars, will finally be on display in America with headlining dates in March and a SXSW appearance.
Nigerian-born and London-based MC Flohio spits bars with a scrappy, menacing force. With glaring beats and glitching synths inspired by techno, grime and hip-hop, Flohio’s recent singles and 2018 EP, Wild Yout, embody a raging energy. While her lyricism reflects an unwavering confidence in her talent (“Smash glass ceilings and I’ll take my cut”), it also underlies her shy outsider status (“I’m like this carpet, I’m faded / Feedin’ my ego, should wanna be famous”) and her embrace of her inner city upbringing (“Grenfell tower couldn’t burn me out”). Flohio will make an appearance at SXSW this March.
Brighton quartet Fur have been delivering ’50s and ’60s-influenced pop songs with a sanguine sheen and toe-tapping beat for a few years now. They’ve released six singles to date and their self-titled debut EP is coming out on Feb. 14 via Nice Swan Records. Paste recently highlighted their latest single, “Him & Her,” praising frontman Will Murray’s jaunty croon as well as the band’s rollicking guitars and infectious rosiness. Though retro pop and doo-wop are both at play here, their melodious songwriting could easily charm listeners from any decade.
6. Indoor Pets
Indoor Pets are both a throwback and firmly rooted in the present. The British quartet formerly known as Get Inuit, will check boxes for those who love classic Weezer but cringed at their recent attempts at relevance as well as those who prefer some extra sugar in their indie-rock tea. Indoor Pets are set to release their debut album, Be Content, on March 8 via Wichita Recordings. With vibrant guitars and frontman Jamie Glass’ high-pitched wails, tracks like “Hi” and “Being Strange,” prove they know their way around a syrupy pop hook.
Birmingham-based singer-songwriter and Atlantic Records signee Mahalia is taking the world by storm with her silky smooth vocals. A 2017 video of her debut single, “Sober” now boasts 25 million views on YouTube, and she already supported the likes of Ed Sheeran, Emeli Sandé and Jorja Smith, all without releasing a full-length album. Her self-described “psycho-acoustic soul” features squeaky clean production and hinges on her Erykah Badu-esque, mystical vocal superpower. After releasing her 2018 EP, Seasons, she released a new single this year (“Do Not Disturb”) and is currently working on her debut album.
8. Nilüfer Yanya
23-year-old Londoner Nilüfer Yanya has made waves with her eccentric, indie-rock-tinged soul and pop. Her debut album, Miss Universe, will drop on March 22 via ATO Records, and it’s filled with hard-hitting, glistening pop songs with a mature and one-of-a-kind artistic vision (the album is interwoven with spoken-word interludes from a fictional medical company “WE WORRY ABOUT YOUR HEALTH TM”). Paste featured her frantic new single, “In Your Head,” on our list of 15 Best Songs of January. Having previously opened for Interpol, Mitski and Broken Social Scene, Yanya is currently on tour with Sharon Van Etten in North America.
9. The Ninth Wave
Over the past couple of years, Glasgow’s The Ninth Wave has consistently released expertly-crafted pop songs with a pitch-black underbelly. With frontman Haydn Park-Pattersonheir at the helm via brooding, anthemic lead vocals, The Ninth Wave’s synth-driven dark wave reaches profound peaks of ecstasy, especially on recent singles like “Half Pure,” “Love You Till the End” and “Sometimes the Silence is Sweeter.” After releasing EPs like 2017’s Reformation and 2018’s Never Crave Attention, The Ninth Wave should have a special 2019, particularly if their latest release, “Half Pure” is anything to go by. They will perform at SXSW and New York City’s New Colossus Festival in March.
10. Our Girl
Brighton, U.K. trio Our Girl’s debut album, Stranger Today, is the perfect gift for the listener that loves a good musical dichotomy. Fronted by The Big Moon’s Soph Nathan, the band exudes the sweet-and-tender-meets-heavy-and-formidable sound of groups like the Pixies and My Bloody Valentine with their cathartic, thoughtful pop/rock and distorted shoegaze and grunge. As much as the term “grunge” has been thrown around to describe the band, it doesn’t fully account for the beauty and richness of Nathan’s songs and guitar playing. Paste recently featured Stranger Today on our list of 10 Great Albums You Might’ve Missed in 2018 and we also premiered their video for “Being Around.” Our Girl will perform at this year’s Pickathon Festival in Oregon.
South Londoners and Domino Records signees Sorry are currently on an impressive streak of single releases with their idiosyncratic, almost unclassifiable sound that melds indie-rock, electronic, noise and hip-hop. Singles like “Starstruck,” “Showgirl,” “Twinkle” and “2 Down 2 Dance” flutter and crumple with Asha Lorenz’s raw vocals and expressive storytelling. Sorry also released two visual mixtapes (2017’s Home Demo(ns) Vol. I and 2018’s Home Demo(ns) Vol. II), which feature even more dramatic ventures into unconventional artistry, lo-fi production and amorphous sonic reference points.
12. Sports Team
West London sextet Sports Team have only been around for a couple of years, but they have a lot to hang their hats on and big potential for the future. After their 2018 EP, Winter Nets, they released three singles—”M5,” “Kutcher” and “Margate”—each possessing a frisky, Britpop-indebted sound and a naughty punk spirit a la Iggy Pop. They’re the kind of witty, ramshackle British indie group that’s been tragically absent from the recent influx of new bands. Their forthcoming EP, Keep Walking!, is coming out on March 8 via the band’s own Holm Front imprint. They will make their American debut at SXSW in March.
After the release of their exceptional debut EP, What’s On Your Mind?, earlier this month, things are only looking up for Brighton four-piece Thyla. Singles like “Tell Each Other Lies” “Pristine Dream,” “Only Ever” and “Blue” cultivate a misty dream-pop wonderland with frontwoman Millie Duthie’s enigmatic lead vocals as their euphoric centerpiece. Then add a framework of palatial, lush guitars and a dash of moody post-punk for good measure, and you have all the bearings of a band worth obsessing over. Thyla will make their first trek over to the states for SXSW 2019.
Londoner Will Westerman, records mountainous synth-pop songs under the name Westerman. Before he met an electronic producer and decided to change course, he used to make folk music, but his songwriting has remained candid and hearty. His recent Ark EP as well as singles like “Easy Money,” “Edison” and “Confirmation” feature nimble production, reverb-laden guitars, spellbinding synths and rich vocals. Unlike other more danceable synth-pop, Westerman’s songs are meditative, transportive and introspective, and they exude a discernable, soothing wisdom. Westerman played his first U.S. shows last year and will make an appearance at SXSW next month.
After fronting Phantom Limb for several years, Bristol, U.K. singer-songwriter Yola decided to go solo. Her music draws on country, soul, gospel and Americana, resulting in a warm, rootsy sound. After releasing her debut EP Orphan Offering in 2016, she’s finally set to release her debut full-length Walk Through Fire, out on Feb. 22 via Easy Eye Sound. The album was produced by The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach and was recorded in his Nashville studio. Paste covered her recent single, “Faraway Look,” and highlighted her staggering vocal talent. The album features a traditional Americana setup of steel guitars and fiddle, but it’s adorned with orchestral strings, chorus vocals and Yola’s larger-than-life pipes—culminating in a heavy-hearted, cavernous listen for that perfect summer evening.