The 20 Artists We’re Most Excited to See at SXSW 2019

Music Lists South by Southwest
The 20 Artists We’re Most Excited to See at SXSW 2019

The most overwhelming, exciting, hectic week of the year is nearly upon us, which means more than 300,000 musicians, thinkers, artists, comedians and creative types of all stripes will soon flock to Austin, Texas for 10 days of music, panels, film and breakfast tacos. South By Southwest is the annual convergence of artists and industry folks that takes over Austin, and this year’s festival kicks off Friday, March 8, and continues on through Sunday, March 17. If you can’t make it to Texas this year, don’t fret: Paste will be there amid all the Lone Star consumption and 70-degree temperatures covering the action. We’re also relocating our NYC studio setup for the week to the Riverview Bungalow, where we’ll be live-streaming artist sessions straight to you from Austin. Subscribe to our YouTube channel and check back daily for all the best of SXSW 2019.

In addition to our live sessions, we’ll be scouring the artist showcases in search of great new music. Below, we’ve rounded up 20 of the many, many artists (listed in alphabetical order) we’re excited to see at this year’s SXSW. Carve out an hour or two and check them out—you might even find your new favorite band.

For the full lineup, check out the official SXSW schedule.

1. Bad Moves

Long live power-pop! I can’t get enough of that spry, shreddy sound, and Washington D.C.’s Bad Moves put their own superb punk spin on it. Their debut LP, Tell No One, is heaps of fun, even as these four friends sing about the mundanity of young adulthood, failed relationships and the long arm of childhood. But these part-time punks make it all sound like a hoopla as opposed to a drag, churning out the cathartic, jubilant kind of rock ‘n’ roll that never goes out of style. —Ellen Johnson

2. Black Belt Eagle Scout

As subgenres bloom and bloom, it seems a greater number of more diverse identities are being spotlighted than ever before. One of those storytellers is Portland-based Katherine Paul, who released her debut album, Mother of My Children, as Black Belt Eagle Scout in August. Paul has a knack for making very specific, personal anecdotes feel universal. She grew up on a tiny Indian reservation in Washington, and her indigenous identity is perhaps what informs her musings on nature and our relationship to it. Paul says something of the sort herself in a press note: “My music and my identity come from the same foundation of being a Native woman.” On album standout “Indians Never Die,” Paul begs us to look up and pay attention. “Do you ever notice what surrounds you?” she asks. And on lead-off track “Soft Stud” a marvelously fuzzed-out rock lean-in, Paul goes for the personal, singing “Need you, want you” over and over, perfectly summing up the desperate feelings surrounding new, perhaps forbidden, love. If the onslaught of new subgenres means we get to hear more voices like Paul’s, bring. them. on. —Ellen Johnson

3. Black Midi

A year ago, word was spreading like fire about the live shows of a London band called Black Midi, despite their lack of any studio recordings and a nonexistent social media presence. 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, is unparalleled—they make you rethink everything you thought you knew about guitar playing. —Lizzie Manno

4. Flohio

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”). —Lizzie Manno

5. Fontaines D.C.

Irish post-punk outfit Fontaines D.C. recently announced the details of their highly anticipated debut album, Dogrel, out April 12 via Partisan Records. With singles like “Too Real,” “Chequeless Reckless” and “Big,” Fontaines D.C. make brisk, snappy post-punk with the heart of a lion. You shouldn’t write off frontman Grian Chatten’s speak-sing vocals—he packs just as much gritty ardor into his impassioned, poetic proclamations as throaty punk howlers. —Lizzie Manno

6. Honey Lung

London four-piece Honey Lung have consistently churned out hyper-melodic rock with heart and bite, and it’s not a stretch to say they’re writing fiery, tender rock better than any young band out there today. Memory, their recent 12-inch release via Brooklyn’s Kanine Records, consists of eight well-crafted songs—half of them singles and half demos—each with mind-bogglingly dynamic hooks and punchy riffs. —Lizzie Manno

7. illuminati hotties

On their Facebook page, illuminati hotties’ “genre” description simply reads “post-naptime burrito-core.” To that end, the L.A. band’s jubilant rock would probably pair well with Mexican foods of all varieties, but not so much a midday nap. Jokes aside, illuminati hotties make extremely likeable indie-rock seeped in millennial joy and angst. The group, a relatively new project from longtime studio musician Sarah Tudzin, released Kiss Yr Frenemies, Tudzin’s first record under the moniker, in May of last year. Now, Tudzin and “a rotating selection of her bffs” (guitarist Nathaniel Noton-Freeman, bassist Dean Kiner and drummer Tim Kmet) are sharing bills with artists like Lucy Dacus and American Football. —Ellen Johnson

8. Laura Stevenson

Laura Stevenson is now in the business of making inquisitive, intimate folk music, a slight departure from the bigger sounds on her most recent album, 2015’s Cocksure. The tunes we’ve heard so far from her forthcoming LP, The Big Freeze, are delicate and searching, though not-at-all lacking. “Living Room, NY” is a beautiful, full-bodied pursuit of connection, enough to convince me of both her observational and instrumental intuition. I can’t wait to hear her voice fill up some small, crowded room in Austin. —Ellen Johnson

9. Matt Maltese

British singer/songwriter Matt Maltese’s piano-centric, self-described “Brexit pop” is both brutally relevant and playfully retro. His Jonathan Rado-produced debut album Bad Contestant is filled with failed nightclub romances, post-modern gripes and velvet-cloaked metaphors of apocalypse, all through the lens of sultry, retro pop and delivered with his baritone croon and distinctly British wit. —Lizzie Manno

10. Miya Folick

It’s not often that a singer has such a powerful voice that they transcend whatever genre they’re unwillingly lumped into. Los Angeles pop singer/songwriter Miya Folick is a rare, welcome example. Her 2018 debut album Premonitions showcases her ability to handcraft everyday situations into something angelic yet relatable and celebratory yet poignant. Her appeal extends well beyond the realms of pop as there’s a distinct, developed lyrical voice and a dynamic, extraordinary literal voice that makes 2018 feel much less scary and isolating and much more pure and magical. —Lizzie Manno

11. The Ophelias

Dream-pop and indie-rock are meeting up more and more frequently these days, but it’s rare to come across a band who pull off that combination so well and so distinctly. The members of this Ohio quartet, however, found the sweet spot. They joined forces in high school after respective stints as the standalone girl in boy bands, and thank goodness they found each other—their warm, resonant sound and soaring group melodies make teenagehood sound like fun again. —Ellen Johnson

12. Public Practice

Brooklyn’s Public Practice burst onto the punk scene last year and subsequently made one of our favorite EPs of 2018, the electric Distance is a Mirror. Comprised of ex-members of WALL and Beverly (two now defunct Bushwick bands), Public Practice make distorted, intoxicating rock, leading with the promise of a magnetic live show. —Ellen Johnson

13. Rosie Tucker

L.A. singer/songwriter Rosie Tucker is an earnest lyricist with a witty edge. From the sparkly safe haven of the sweetly observational “Gay Bar” to the more dark internal dialogue of “Habit” (which features a very badass spoken-word passage containing the rhyme “I woke up erect with no poetry left”), Tucker’s songs are fiery and delightfully droll. —Ellen Johnson


Sasami Ashworth, recent Domino Records signee and former keyboardist of Cherry Glazerr, records under the name SASAMI and is releasing her self-titled debut album on March 8. Tracks like “Jealousy,” “Not The Time” and “Callous” showcase her moody lo-fi pop and indie-rock, bursting with graceful, mystifying synths and emotionally transparent lyrics. SASAMI stopped by the Paste Studio in New York City earlier this year, and you can watch the full session below. —Lizzie Manno

15. Say Sue Me

If one thing’s for sure, it’s that South Korean rock four-piece Say Sue Me made one of the finest dream-pop albums in recent memory. The young quartet’s latest album, Where We Were Together, is brimming with bright, visceral jangle-pop tinted with moody post-punk, ’60s girl group pop and ’90s indie-rock. Say Sue Me don’t revolutionize the pop song structure, but while many dream-pop bands favor sonics and aesthetic over songwriting, Say Sue Me bring the focus back to those things that will keep you coming back for more—sugary melodies, immediate hooks and affecting lyrics. —Lizzie Manno

16. Sidney Gish

Sidney Gish is like most college students. A student at Northeastern University in Boston, she’s a hard-working music business major who landed an internship at Universal Music Group. Except when she goes home for winter break, she makes albums—not microwaveable mac ‘n’ cheese and misery. Her second release, the sharp, at-times hilarious painting of post-adolescence No Dogs Allowed, arrived on New Year’s Eve in 2017, and it’s some of the most refreshing, smart music I heard last year. Gish doesn’t take herself too seriously—she’s happy to mind her own business and retweet topical memes until the cows come home (her Twitter feed has become something of a hub for like-minded goofballs)—yet she might just be the most self-aware songwriter this side of Bandcamp. —Ellen Johnson

17. Sir Babygirl

Kelsie Hogue a.k.a. Sir Babygirl released her debut album Crush on Me via Father/Daughter Records earlier this year, and it’s hard not to imagine this LP sitting among the best pop releases of 2019. Her synth-laden, queer bubblegum pop mixed with rollicking guitars makes for an idiosyncratic and undeniably life-affirming listen. —Lizzie Manno

18. Thyla

After the release of their exceptional debut EP, What’s On Your Mind?, earlier this year, 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. —Lizzie Manno

19. Tierra Whack

Undoubtedly one of 2018’s rap breakouts, Philadelphia’s Tierra Whack is a master of the miniscule. Her debut album Whack World (one of the best hip-hop releases of the year) clocks in at all of 15 minutes with each song lasting only 60 seconds. But in each of those 15 minutes, Whack crafts an entire universe. It’s mind-blowing. In 2019, she’s opting for a more average length on her songs (like the catchy “Only Child”), and we can’t help but wonder if a longer project is on the way. New album or not, I can’t wait to see what the personable rapper does with her stage time at SXSW. —Ellen Johnson

20. Yola

Yola Carter is the self-proclaimed “queen of country soul”—and what a perfect title that is, indeed. The Bristol, U.K. native with a powerhouse voice soundtracked her childhood with Dolly Parton’s Jolene and then waded into the music industry as a backing vocalist and contributing songwriter with the eventual aim of achieving country acclaim. Now, she finally has her own record out, the stunning Walk Through Fire. She’s a rapidly rising singular voice in country music, and with a stacked SXSW schedule that includes a set at Willie Nelson’s Luck Reunion, she seems all but destined to have a magical week in Austin. —Ellen Johnson

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