The 20 Best New Artists of 2019

Featuring black midi, Stella Donnelly, Yola and more

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The 20 Best New Artists of 2019

Discovering new artists, whether they’re buzzy or under the radar, is half the fun of being a music fan. Last year, our hearts were stolen by New Zealand guitar pop band The Beths, singer/songwriter supergroup boygenius and rapper Tierra Whack, among many others. This year brought an entire new class of musicians who made us weep, sway, dance and thrash. Some of these artists have one single to their name while others have one or two full-lengths under their belts, but all of them made an entrance that caught our attention. Bands like black midi and Empath made us rethink guitar music altogether while Yola and Orville Peck brought new perspectives to country music. Queer voices like Clairo, Sir Babygirl and King Princess established themselves as some of pop music’s heavy hitters while Pottery and Fontaines D.C. freshened up the post-punk scene with their subtle infusion of blues, surf and garage rock. From R&B and noise-pop to indie rock and rap, here are the 20 rising artists that blew us away in 2019, as voted on by the Paste staff.

Listen to our Best New Artists of 2019 playlist on Spotify right here.

20. Disq

There’s an aggressive purity to Disq’s music. The Madison outfit filters sincere, bittersweet songwriting through vast guitars, and the result is a whiplash of good-natured pop. The five-piece band, whose members range in age from 19 to 24, have generated noticeable buzz off the back of just one seven-inch single for Saddle Creek’s Document Series. Disq was formed by two Wisconsin teens, Isaac deBroux-Slone (vocals, guitar) and Raina Bock (bass, backing vocals), who self-released and self-recorded a mini LP, Disq I, in 2016, but their recent Saddle Creek single, “Communication” (backed with “Parallel”) is their debut label release and more representative of their current sound. Paste caught Disq’s set in Atlanta, where they matched the sonic magnitude of their sturdy SXSW showing. Their new live material is anything but monolithic—you’ll find traces of feverish psych-rock, lustrous jangle pop, noisy post-punk, and bouncy twee pop—though you’ll notice a consistently vociferous energy thanks to their propulsive guitar triple threat. —Lizzie Manno

19. Empath

Philadelphia four-piece Empath aren’t your everyday noise-pop band. They masterfully and curiously juggle bubblegum pop sweetness, ear-splitting noise guitar tornadoes, off-kilter synths and ambient nature sound effects. On last year’s cassette EP Liberating Guilt and Fear (which made Paste’s list of the 10 Best EPs of 2018), they intentionally overwhelm with discordant noise-punk rumbling, charm with tuneful pop melodies and baffle with experimental hues. Their highly-anticipated debut album, Active Listening: Night on Earth, released on DIY label Get Better Records (and later re-released on Fat Possum), is further proof that you can achieve the highest highs of pop via unconventional musical vehicles. It contains mystifying weirdo symphonies that defy all previously existing musical states of matter, and Empath are nothing if not for their ability to push sonic, musical and lyrical envelopes. The album is both a resplendent listen and an acquired taste. Not every listener will take pleasure in the band’s blustery dissonance, but those who do will be rewarded with dense pop riches and deeply poignant, poetic lyrics. —Lizzie Manno

18. Ducks Unlimited

It’s a shame Toronto-based quartet waited until the very end of November to release Get Bleak, an EP so perfectly suited for summer that it’s almost making me angry thinking about all of the rooftop parties and barbecues it could have soundtracked. A perfect combination of contemporary modern indie rock à la Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever and classic jangle pop bands like Belle & Sebastian or The Sundays, the four songs on Get Bleak are pure indie-pop bliss, filled to the brim with warm, swirling guitars. Lead singer Tom Mcgreevy leads the way with his calming but sure-handed vocals, singing songs about hopelessness that sound anything but. Sure, the band called this release Get Bleak, but there’s no chance you’ll feel any of the emotions they sing about throughout these four tracks—in fact, you’ll feel the exact opposite. —Steven Edelstone

17. Girl in Red

Few artists have garnered as much swift buzz as 20-year-old Norwegian singer/songwriter Marie Ulven (aka Girl in Red). With two EPs—chapter 1 and chapter 2—and a series of singles in hand, Ulven makes lo-fi pop for those who can’t get enough love-dovey heart flutters or photo booth strips with their significant others. Her bedroom pop aesthetics might lean towards breezy, lonesome wistfulness, but her live shows are boisterous romps—full of rainbow flags, bouncing and happy tears. Between older cuts like “summer depression” and “we fell in love in october” or new singles like “bad idea!” and “i’ll die anyway,” Ulven makes youthful restlessness and heartbreak feel blissful and less lonely. Ulven’s debut album is expected to drop in 2020, so make sure you keep your tissues fully stocked. —Lizzie Manno

16. Beach Bunny

Bright-eyed DIY band Beach Bunny, fronted by the very sharp 22-year-old singer/songwriter Lili Trifilio, don’t even have a full-length album out yet—that’s Honeymoon, arriving Feb. 14 via Mom + Pop (Courtney Barnett, Sunflower Bean, etc.). But they do have quite the shiny rack of singles, and hundreds of thousands of internet-bred fans (over 1 million on Spotify, to be exact) who have latched onto their vivid, emotional rock sound. There’s one song in particular that folks have fallen for hard: “Prom Queen,” from the band’s springy, five-song 2018 EP of the same name, gathered more than 70 million streams on Spotify. It’s a song of longing and personal exhaustion that faces impossible beauty standards head-on. “I’m no quick-curl barbie,” Trifilio sings. “I was never cut out for prom queen.” Maybe that’s because she’s cut out for something else: rock star. —Ellen Johnson

15. Pottery

After a solid performance at this year’s South By Southwest and tours opening for Parquet Courts, Viagra Boys, Oh Sees and Fontaines D.C., Montreal five-piece Pottery released their debut EP No. 1, recorded in just over two nights and cut live to tape. Crediting Orange Juice, Josef K and DEVO as influences, Pottery blend the whimsical, danceable and the arty leanings of some of pop and punk’s greatest groups. The instrumental “Smooth Operator” is a slinky opener, evolving from a cool and collected bluesy strut to an anxious punk freakout. Another somewhat rootsy tune “Hank Williams” is unexpected, but it’s one of the peppiest country-punk tracks since Iceage stomper “The Lord’s Favorite.” “The Craft” finds their eccentric post-punk at its sharpest and most cartoonish. Their wonky percussion, frisky vocal snarls and lyrics of life’s rat race result in freakish art-pop profundity. —Lizzie Manno

14. Queen of Jeans

Albums are hardly more compassionate than the retro pop-meets-indie rock of Queen of Jeans’ recent release if you’re not afraid, i’m not afraid. Following their 2018 debut Dig Yourself, the Philadelphia trio led by Miri Devora have returned with even more affecting, tuneful melodies and bittersweet shimmers on their second album. Devora’s lyrics seek to regain the territory that’s been taken from her, whether it’s social, political or emotional. Her ruminations on relationships, grief and space cut deeper and deeper with each listen. Their guitar work is equally emotionally piercing—ranging from twinkling echoes to grunge-pop earworms, Queen of Jeans nail the art of catchy pop subtlety. Their folk-tinged rock songs fold into each other beautifully like a luscious candy ribbon, and Devora’s sticky songwriting doesn’t leave any throwaway scraps. —Lizzie Manno

13. Sports Team

Seriously, when was the last time a British rock band came around that was this fun? Making Hay, a greatest hits release of sorts with the best of their 15 or so songs they’ve put out to date, doesn’t just make the case that Sports Team are the most exciting British band of the moment, but also that they’re one of the most exciting British bands in ages. With frenetic guitars à la Palma Violets and an energy that harkens back to the best of the British indie invasion of the ’00s, Sports Team are truly ready to take over the world. Few lead singers this decade have had anywhere close to as much charisma as frontman Alex Rice has, a face that you’ll surely see on an NME cover in 2020. Each song on Making Hay is anthemic as all hell, the kind of songs that have been tearing down stages across Europe and North America all year (and when I caught them at Brooklyn’s Baby’s All Right in October, members of Hinds were leading the mosh pit). Next year—or whenever their debut LP is released—will be a banner year for the London-based band, so get on board now before they’re playing your town’s biggest venue. —Steven Edelstone

12. Clairo

Clairo’s brilliance didn’t hit me until I spent a few weeks living with her debut album Immunity. Previous songs from the now 21-year old singer/songwriter Clarie Cottrill like “Flaming Hot Cheetos” and “Pretty Girl” were enjoyable, but didn’t necessarily stand out in the crowded bedroom pop and R&B market. But anyone who spends any amount of time wallowing or chilling with her Rostam-produced full-length record will become attached to her lush vocals and angsty, vulnerable pop perfectly suited for a night-out comedown. With songs about lust, regret, suicide and her arthritis, Clairo has a stark ability to rejuvenate and pull listeners close to her. She started her career plagued by industry plant accusations, but those charges are even more absurd now as Immunity has more than proven her vast talent and artistic integrity. Clairo is also one of many compelling queer voices in 2019, but anyone can find something of value in her rich, starry guitar pop. —Lizzie Manno

11. Sudan Archives

Athena, the striking debut album from singer/songwriter, producer and violinist Sudan Archives, doesn’t fit squarely into the trends of 2019. Following her 2017 self-titled EP and 2018 Sink EP, Cincinnati-born Sudan Archives has emerged as one of R&B’s true modern boundary pushers. Her roots as an avant-garde violinist and appreciation for ethnomusicology frequently surface on her first full-length album, which merges minimal electronic beats with breathy R&B, windy psychedelia and dynamic strings. Athena brings a worldly spirit with her vocal harmonies dancing around dazzling violin and percussion that keeps you guessing. Sudan Archives flies in the face of the R&B’s poppier and flashier sides and challenges listeners with her versatile string-laden soundscapes, but she also provides the plush soulfulness that you’ll crave from the genre. —Lizzie Manno

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