Meet the next generation: 19 artists to watch in 2019
The future of Australian music has never been brighter, and here are 19 reasons why.
Over the past couple of years, we've named a handful of acts you should be watching in the year ahead. Our electronic-centric 2017 list included a bunch of names at the forefront of the dance music scene - Ninajirachi, MOZA and Nyxen among them - and in 2018, we predicted the rise of acts including Carla Geneve, Carmouflage Rose, Eilish Gilligan, Good Doogs and SŸDE with only a track or two under their respective belts at the time. Now, we enter 2019 with the most exciting next generation yet, a collection of 19 acts that we believe will make a killing in 2019, some of them already making their mark in the first week or two of the year.
Like the 2018 compilation, this year's ensemble of artists are spread across a range of genres and sounds, guaranteeing that there's gotta be something for everyone. On the electronic side of things are Future Classic signees and high school attendees Erthlings, Haiku Hands member Beatrice Lewis and her Beatrice solo project, WA producer-on-the-rise WYN and more, while hip-hop - a genre set to dominate 2019 - is well-represented through Perth's Toyotomi, rising name Xavier Mayne and Genesis Owusu, admittedly one of the bigger and more established names on the list, but one definitely set to put up a fight in 2019. The Gang of Youths-approved Charlie Collins is a more indie-leaning act to have your eyes on, while bands such as Wollongong duo Cry Club and Sydney group Sports Bra represent the heavier side of things with thrashing guitar riffs and powerful vocals.
Each connected by their promise and potential, these are 19 artists we genuinely believe will shape Australian music in 2019 and beyond, so introduce yourself to them all below:
NSW / ELECTRONIC
She's only put out one single thus far, it's but already obvious to see that Beatrice has a bright path ahead of her. Also known as a crucial member of the Haiku Hands ensemble and of indigenous group Kardajala Kirridarra, Beatrice is the solo project of Sydney musician Beatrice Lewis who, earlier last year, burst out the gates with Grid - a thumping slice of electronic that united a thick, Jon Hopkins-esque house pulse with waves of shimmering synth and vocal cuts. It's a single that marries the light and dark side of house music, with complex synth textures and intricate patterns swelling in what's a break-out single within our electronic world.
NSW / INDIE
She's a somewhat obvious choice for this collection of artists, but she deserves her spot. The Sydney-via-Tamworth storyteller emerged in 2018 as one of the country's most promising, with her debut single Wish You Were Here introducing us to a musician combining brilliant songwriting with soft indie instrumentals, something her triumphant second single Mexico - a personal favourite for 2018 - only solidified. She supported Gang of Youths on their national tour run and has fans in everyone from Courtney Barnett to Amy Shark, and with plenty more to come in 2019 and beyond, it wouldn't surprise me to see Collins grow just as big as these names in the future.
NSW / ROCK
When it comes to explosive Australian punk debuts, enter right of stage Cry Club. The Wollongong queer-punk-pop two-piece made one hell of an entrance with their debut single Walk Away mid-last year, combining the accessible and captivating vocals you'd expect from a slick pop release with a charging punk-rock instrumental that despite its short two-minute duration, still manages to pack a major punch. In a live setting, however, this fiery charge only becomes amplified, with their set at last year's BIGSOUND standing out among the rest thanks to its sheer power. They've managed to make an impact with only one song, so don't be surprised to see them get big when they release their next few this year.
Denise Le Menice
WA / POP
Perth musician Ali Flintoff is an artist that may very well be on your radar already, best known for fronting the always-incredible Perth punk band BOAT SHOW. Denise Le Menice is a new solo project for Flintoff that gives her an avenue to flesh out the pop sensibilities that often lay behind BOAT SHOW's razor-sharp vocals, taking on a dreamy, indie-pop-esque sound comparable to names like Hatchie thanks to its glistening guitar melodies and soft, accessible vocals. She only has two singles under her belt already - her debut Addiction and its stand-out follow-up Heart - but she's already become one of the country's most exciting - something a set at this year's SXSW Festival is sure to lock-in.
NSW / ELECTRONIC
From the second that slick bass guitar riff and punchy kick drum meet in the opening seconds of their debut single Bridges, it was clear that Erthlings have a bright, bright future ahead. The Sydney teen four-piece are an obvious shoo-in for this 'one to watch' category, with the recent Future Classic signees offering a genreless, mature sound beyond their years on their debut, which on Cuts & Bruises late-last year, only became truer - uniting a thick, house-pop-leaning bass line with catchy vocals and sun-soaked songwriting for a late contender of one of the year's best songs. Their BIGSOUND performance was one of the week's best too, "bringing stripped-back indie tunes and promising, pop-centric epics alike as they delivered one of the most densely-packed crowds to BIGSOUND in its second day."
NSW / INDIE
Over the last 24 months or so, Newcastle has become a coastal hot-spot for incredible music, pushed forward thanks to city flag-flyers along the lines of RAAVE TAPES, who you'll regularly see plugging local favourites. 18-year-old newcomer FRITZ is definitely one of these Novocastrian highlights, who with her single Biggest Fool in the World, gave us an introduction to a light-hearted and playful musician on-the-rise that you should definitely be across. They're fuzzy, DIY-shaded gems of surf-rock-pop and with Biggest Fool's late-2018 follow-up Summer Holiday only cementing her place as a one-to-watch, it won't surprise me to see FRITZ explode throughout the new year.
ACT / HIP-HOP
Although definitely one of the bigger and more established names on this list, I haven't been more excited for an Australian hip-hop act than I am for Genesis Owusu since the early rise of Sampa The Great. His 2017 single Sideways definitely put him on the map, but throughout 2018 he went from strength to strength to become one of our country's most important and exciting names, from the chilling awomen amen - an "an ode to the female in all of her grace, elegance, nastiness, power, rebellion, boldness and ferocity" - to the slick, Anderson .Paak-esque groove of his latest Wit' Da Team. Each single has been better and more impactful than the last, something that is definitely going to continue into 2019.
QLD / POP
Last year was a big one for home-grown pop newcomers, and a large part of that is Brisbane rising star Keelan Mak. Arriving with an infectious slice of Troye Sivan-esque pop confidence in Weigh You Down, the 20-year-old singer-songwriter/producer/writer has relentlessly teased an exciting future, with his second single, Flicker, only cementing this. "Immediately capturing your attention with a swelling, bass-driven production, Flicker maintains that bright and confident pop sound that Keelan Mak debuted with his first single but does so in a way that seems more emotive and personal," we said on the single's release. "It's a ripper song though that demonstrates a bit of versatility - something we're definitely keen to hear more of as he continues on an upward path into 2019."
NSW / R&B
Sydney master-of-all-trades Milan Ring has been in the game for a while, but in 2018, the musician truly set her foot forward. It began by a three-peat of sensational singles - Unbounded, 2063, Obscured - before she properly burst out the gates with Drifting, a unique, part-soul, part-R&B, part-electronic and part-indie mish-mash of genres that utilised her strengths in... well, everything. The next single, Green Light, only saw her grow, and she's got so much on the way that it would be dumb not to feature her on this list. She's worked with names including DRAM, The Social Experiment (Chance The Rapper's band) and Cosmo's Midnight and we'd expect this to continue in the future alongside her own music - she's gonna be everywhere.
VIC / INDIE
In mid-last year, we met Melbourne group murmurmur, and were immediately swept away by the promise and potential they held in their debut single, Cable Car. It was a single that combined the haunting vocal of frontman Will Fletcher, who on the single sings about "the fear of change and eventually learning to let go," with emotive, touching guitar melodies to form one of the year's most impressive debuts. In the time since they've only grown, teaming up with songwriting weapon Oscar Dawson (from Holy Holy) for a four-track collection of brilliant, diverse singles they're sure to build upon in 2019.
Rachel Maria Cox
NSW / INDIE
Another strong Australian artist to grow in 2018 was Rachel Maria Cox, the music project of the rising Newcastle singer-songwriter perhaps more recognised for their work leading Sad Grrls Club - a group trying to push for diversity, safety and inclusivity in the music industry through events and their record label, Sad Grrls Club Records. When it comes to music, RMC's brand combines mature and honest songwriting and lyricism with soft indie and pop sensibilities that together, create songs - such as last year's Time - that feels good on the ears while pulling at your heartstrings at the same time. They're a wonderful artist and one of the most important out there, and we can't wait to see them grow more in 2019.
VIC / INDIE
There's a lot to love about Ro. She was raised in the south-west of WA before relocating to Melbourne a while ago, and despite how long ago it was, this DIY-shaded, homegrown feeling that you'd expect from an artist growing up in regional WA is more than present in her music. F**ked Up Over You, her stand-out second single, combined this grassroots feeling with powerful songwriting and catchy melodies that you'll love if you adore artists like Jack River, bringing back poetry to lyricism without sacrificing catchiness or accessibility - which is a really, really hard feat to do. "F**ked Up Over You is the perfect entry point into a musician who, like the easily-comparable Jack River before her, could easily become one of the country's most-celebrated songwriters when her debut album rolls around - whenever that may be," we said when the single dropped, and we're looking forward to seeing her continue her rise to the top this year.
NSW / ROCK
You're not going to find an Australian band that works as hard as Sports Bra. When the Sydney-based alt-punk band aren't releasing their debut album – last year's Sports Bra – or a pair of brilliant, powerful singles in 2018 – Survival and Little Beast – they're more likely touring the country, something that's probably not going to be stopping anytime soon as they bound towards their second album later this year. The aforementioned singles act as the first taste of their second album and it showcases their growth and maturity as a band, mixing important lyrical themes on trans rights and resilience with emotive punk instrumentals shaded slightly with pop-centric songwriting. They're onto something very, very good, and I completely expect their second album to take them onto the next step – it was also created alongside Cry Club's Jonathon Tooke, and we've already explained why they're one to watch this year.
The Kid LAROI.
NSW / HIP-HOP
He's jumped up on stage with Manu Crook$ and Tkay Maidza, played shows with Juice WRLD and THEY., has collaborations on the way with 6LACK and Lil' Skies, and his latest single – Blessings / Boss Up – sits with around 830k plays on Spotify. Oh, and he's also only 15-years-old. By far the youngest person on this list, Sydney rapper The Kid LAROI is one of the most exciting names in the scene, with Blessings cementing this status thanks to its heaving, bass-fuelled production and LAROI's light-hearted, but quick-firing vocal pace. It's fun and catchy, yet contains the focus and precision that has seen some of hip-hop's biggest rise in 2018, and considering the strength of the genre even locally as we head into 2019, all eyes are on The Kid LAROI. to push his sound into the limelight this year.
VIC / ELECTRONIC
When we first met Melbourne producer Tobiahs, he was following the path of Christopher Port with the percussive garage-house of his first major single, Through to You, back in 2017. It was a single that although admittedly overlooked at the time, introduced to us an artist who, the year later, would find his prime in sun-soaked house-pop, something his 2018 success story Sculpted saw the producer refine and polish for a track that could easily be blasted over the radio for months. It's accessible and catchy with a brightness and heat matching the Australian summer, mixing pop-centric vocals and simplistic (yet effective) house-leaning productions for instantly-replayable gold. He kicked off his 2019 playing alongside Nicki Minaj and Mura Masa at FOMO Brisbane, but that's just the start - there's plenty more to come.
WA / HIP-HOP
One of the more unique acts on this list, Toyotomi is a Perth rapper who has become somewhat of a local staple over the last year thanks to his uncommon, hazier approach to hip-hop. In saying that, he's quickly going national, getting the applause of triple j Unearthed and Origin Fields - who added him to their two-day lineup, and singles including the MAX BLACK-featuring Wasted are gaining traction at a rapid pace thanks to its meeting of old-school boom-bap hip-hop instrumentals and forward-thinking flow, which sits somewhere closer to an Earl Sweatshirt-esque vibe with its dark and menacing feel. He's one we're closely watching on a local level this year, and he's definitely someone everyone else should be keeping an eye on too.
WA / ELECTRONIC
Rising out of the Feels-led WOMPP (Women in Music Production Perth) crew, WYN is a Perth-based artist we've been watching for a while now, with her first major single Never Be catching our eyes thanks to its warped experimentalism and genre-bounding feeling. It was a single that marked her entry into production after a long time DJing and it did it in great fashion, uniting the trip-hop bass of Mr Carmack with the intricacy and haziness of Clams Casino and Flying Lotus for a single that almost feels like it's crashing over each other, the waves of layers smashing together to create a sophisticated, swelling piece of electronic art we've had on repeat basically ever since. She's just played Origin Fields, like Toyotomi before her, but we can see her going heaps further in 2019.
QLD / HIP-HOP
Once a member of a couple of budding indie-rock projects, Xavier Mayne is a Far North Queensland rapper we're glad decided to move into hip-hop, with his two collaborative efforts thus far - Shleepin', featuring Chase Atlantic, and Understand It, featuring GOON DES GARCONS* and Jay Cooper - showing some major promise early on. They're both conjoined by Mayne's woozy, R&B feel comparative to acts like Frank Ocean or The Weeknd, the latter particularly feeling present as he unites this dripping vocal with genre-defying, varying productions. He's already toured through Europe and the UK and played shows with Carmouflage Rose but that's only the start - he's got a lot more to come in 2019.
NSW / POP
Any artist comparable to Robyn with their debut single is one worth celebrating. 20-year-old Byron Bay singer-songwriter Yorke did that exact thing with her first ever single First Light, a track that brought together the emotion and tenseness of the Swedish queen but with a more indie-leaning backing, melding together the worlds of pop, indie and electronica for a bittersweet debut that contrasts lyrics on self-care and love with a emotional tenderness. "It's the kind of song you’d imagine blasting in your car late at night," she said of the single on release and honestly, she's got the description down-pact, and we can't wait for many late-night drives accompanied by Yorke's music in 2019.