In the aftermath of the release of the major tip lists for 2019 (or pretty much every year for that matter), I see people online mourning the death of the band and guitar music. On the one hand I understand where they’re coming from, as it is a category that tends to be underrepresented when it comes to that kind of recognition. On the other hand though, when there are still artists like Liverpool-native Zuzu making music, I wholeheartedly disagree with that notion. I first came across Zuzu back in 2016 when she appeared on the pages of Breaking More Waves, one of my favorite new music blogs that is consistently ahead of the curve, when she released her debut song, “Get Off”. It’s a carefree romp of a track that serves as a perfect entry point for her brand of indie rock/pop. Following up, she had a pretty quiet 2017, only releasing “What You Want”, a personal favorite, in January of that year. She’s another artist who could’ve been on my list last year but I didn’t know what to do with her radio silence. Thankfully, she came roaring back in 2018 with a string of excellent singles and a brilliant debut EP, Made On Earth By Humans. She even gifted us with a Christmas tune in the last few weeks that hopefully will make it onto the blog before the year is up. While she does clearly inhabit the indie rock sound, across her discography she’s made it clear she’s up for taking risks musically and trying out new things. Zuzu is easily one of the artists I’m expecting the most from in 2019 and I can’t wait to see what she’s going to do. Check out a few of my favorite tracks below and be sure to stand by for what she has up her sleeve.
Start with: Dark Blue, What You Want (click HERE and HERE if you don’t have Spotify to check out the excellent music videos)
Miink is an artist that kind of came out of nowhere for me. I first heard about him through a feature in the Sunday Times right before the release of his debut mixtape, Small Clan. At the time he only had three tracks out, including my still favorite, “Yellow Dust”. Much like most of his music, it’s a track that’s extremely hard to categorize, with elements of hiphop, pop, R&B and more, all with an Eastern flair to it. Through all of it though, Miink’s vocals stand out. From his soulful croon to his arresting falsetto, Miink continuously proves he’s something special. On Small Clan, which honestly is at the level and scale of an impeccable debut album instead of a mixtape, Miink effortlessly floats between genres and sounds, from the soul-infused “All For You”, to the poppy “HBTU”, to the almost folk-y “Sheep Shackle” (another of my favorites). It’s an ambitious body of work that almost seems like it shouldn’t work, but does beautifully. Although it was released three months ago, it’s one I go back to constantly. I’m disappointed that Miink seems to be being overlooked for some of the big industry tip lists, but I’m entirely confident Miink is set for huge things in 2019 and I can’t wait to see what they’ll be. Be sure to check out a few of my favorites below and get on board now.
Start with: Yellow Dust, Sheep Shackle
Hatchie is another example of an artist who would’ve absolutely been on this list last year had I come across her earlier. I first heard her music right in the middle of publishing last year’s list and I knew I was listening to something very special. She only had two tracks out at the time, “Try” and “Sure”, and both are gorgeous guitar-led indie dreampop offerings that immediately had me hooked. She has a vibe that sounds totally unique but still somehow instantly classic. Since then, she’s had an absolutely incredible year, releasing an excellent EP, Sugar & Spice, and dropping a track, “Adored” through Adult Swim’s singles program. Every song she’s shared has been a hit so far, and has garnered her support from the likes of Pitchfork, among many others. Hatchie has racked up millions of plays on her track and it’s easy to see why. The Australian is very well set up to make a huge splash in 2019 and I can’t wait to be along for the ride. Be sure to check out a few of my favorite tracks below and get on board with Hatchie before she blows up.
Start with: Sure, Sleep (click HERE and HERE if you don’t have Spotify)
All year I’ve been talking about how great it’s been for debut tracks, and few are as strong as “Phone Light Up” by COTIS. It premiered back in April and on my first listen I knew it was something special. Its blend of rap and pop isn’t usually a style I tend towards, but there’s something about it that immediately had me hooked and it’s still one of my favorite tracks of the year. As soon as I heard it I knew COTIS would end up on this list, and his output since has only solidified that point. The Canadian artist has followed up with three more excellent tracks, “All Night”, “Ride”, and my personal favorite, “Feel Something Again”. Across the four tracks he’s released so far, he’s tried his hand at several different sounds with each one fitting him perfectly. From the nighttime groove of “Ride” to the danceable vibe of “Feel Something Again”, COTIS has consistently shown that he’s the real deal. COTIS is making music that feels very of the moment but still distinct from everything else. With new music slated for release in early 2019, it’s hopefully only a short while before we hear more from the rising star. Be sure to check out a few of my favorite of COTIS’s tracks below and get on board now.
Start with: Phone Light Up, Feel Something Again
Just about two years ago when I was publishing my first list of artists to watch, I included a relatively new, unknown artist, Bruno Major, who only had a handful of tracks out, but had such a penchant for writing beautiful songs, and an incredible voice to match, it was so clear that he was going to be a big deal. Now, with a full album and lots of touring under his belt, Major has over 100 million streams on Spotify and a sizable following on social media. I bring up Bruno Major not only because he has worked and toured with my next artist to watch, French singer/songwriter Eloise, but because I can easily see a similar trajectory for the rising talent. Eloise released her first track, “You, Dear” a few months back, and I instantly recognized it as one of the most beautiful tracks, let alone debut, of the year. On it, Eloise has an effortless delivery that expertly displays her impeccable songwriting and vocal performance. She has since followed it up with “TTCL”, another absolute beauty of a track, showing off a slightly more subdued side to her sound. I think Eloise has instant widespread appeal and I can easily see tons of people falling in love with her sound. With two incredible tracks under her belt and a sold out headlining show set for February, 2019 is Eloise’s for the taking and I can’t wait to see what she has in store. Check out her tracks out below and get on board.
Start with: You, Dear, TTCL
In case you didn’t believe me that I was going to have a strong rapper contingency on this year’s list of Artists to Watch, here’s the third! But to classify London-based artist Kojey Radical simply as a rapper would be a disservice as he’s much more than that. Radical is an artist in the truest sense of the word; not only does he obviously rap, but he’s a poet and a visual artist as well, whose vision is beautifully realized in his music videos. Kojey Radical has been around for a little while now; he’s released three EPs and was nominated for two MOBO awards a few years back, but it really seems like moving into 2019 he’s poised to make an even bigger impact. This year alone he’s released a handful of incredible tracks, including my personal favorites, the Mahalia-featuring “Water” and “If Only”, both of which Radical released in a short film tied together by his poetry recited by actress Michaela Coel. It’s probably my favorite video of the year and you should definitely check it out HERE if you haven’t seen it. Listening across Radical’s discography, it’s clear that he’s not afraid to take musical risks and try his hand at different sounds. From the smooth groove of “Water” to the more aggressive sound of “If Only”, he succeeds at everything he does. I can’t wait to see what Kojey Radical is going to do in the coming year, but in the meantime make sure you check out a sampling of his tracks below.
Start with: Water, If Only (click HERE and HERE if you don’t have Spotify)
I mentioned in the preview to my Artists to Watch that some categories of artists are more competitive than others, and this is definitely one of the most. There are so many incredible female pop singers breaking through at the moment, I could pretty much have a whole list made up of just them. However, this year I very intentionally tried to diversify the list, and because of that, my favorite of that group, Norwegian artist Amanda Tenfjord is taking that spot. I’ve said it multiple times on the blog, but I am continuously impressed by the music coming out of Norway, and Tenfjord represents a huge cohort of rising stars that I’m expecting big things from in the coming year.
Tenfjord debuted earlier this year with the aptly titled “First Impression”, a punchy pop track reminiscent of her compatriot Sigrid, that gained traction online and garnered lots of attention for the Norwegian. She followed it up with a string of excellent tracks, including my favorite, “No Thanks”, that culminated in her debut EP, named after her debut track. Across the four tracks, Tenfjord shows great range in style, while still remaining totally accessible. From the dancehall-infused “No Thanks” to the much more subdued “Pick A Card”, Amanda shows that she’s the real deal. I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for her as I’m sure it’s going to be bright. Check out a few of my favorite tracks below and get on board with Amanda Tenfjord now, before she blows up.
Start with: No Thanks, First Impression