In the Spotlight: 50 Bands You Need to Hear in 2019 (Part Two)

In the Spotlight (Part 2)

Yesterday we brought you part one of our annual In the Spotlight feature, and today I’m excited to bring you part two.

You’ll find the second group of 25 artists, along with blurbs, recommended songs, and sounds like comparisons, below. Tomorrow we’ll share a playlist of songs from the included artists.

Origami Angel

by Jason Tate

Origami Angel are a two-piece emo rock band from Washington, D.C., and I originally checked them out because I liked their song titles. I know, it’s weird, but when a song is titled “ROM Hack” I am just drawn to it. The band has a clever way of mixing their catchy melodies with cool guitar parts and lyrics that range from dealing with depression, growing up, love, and Pokémon.

Recommended Track: “ROM Hack

RIYL: World’s Greatest Dad, Free Throw, air-guitaring

Elizabeth Colour Wheel

by Drew Beringer

What happens when you mix black metal with shoegaze and just a bit of Siamese Dream wailing? You get perhaps the most exhilarating band to emerge from The Flenser’s decorated roster. This may be the first time you’re hearing of Elizabeth Colour Wheel but trust me this won’t be the last, as their debut album Nocebo unleashes some of the most layered and ferocious songs from the heavy music underground in years.

The towering highs and crushing lows on Nocebo are paced by vocalist Lane Shi’s unmistakable howl – pulverizing tracks like “Pink Palm” and “23” are prime examples. Elizabeth Colour Wheel makes music that’s harrowing and emotionally draining and yet they’ll leave you begging for more.

Recommended Track: “23


by Mia Hughes

Proper. (who changed their name from Great Wight this year) play emo in the vein of Modern Baseball – heartfelt, catchy and danceable (or moshable, depending on your preference). But though it’s easy for an emo band to not draw on much further than crushes, relationships and breakups, Proper. have a lot more to say. On their 2017 debut The Suburbs Have Ruined My Life, frontman Erik Garlington deals with religion, politics, racism and homophobia within the backdrop of life in the Midwestern suburbs. In a genre that can find itself in danger of homogeneity, his voice is a refreshing one.

Recommended Track: “Curtain’s Up! It’s Showtime

RIYL: Modern Baseball, The Front Bottoms, Mom Jeans

No Stranger

by Zac Djamoos

No Stranger is Philly’s latest emo export, and might be their best in years. In Tangible Company showcases a softer, lighter emo sound than many of their contemporaries that makes for a soothing listen, and it’s aided by Jonathan Cooney’s voice. He might’ve turned in the best vocal performance of 2018. Don’t believe me? Listen to “Fairhill” and try to tell me with a straight face the song’s second chorus isn’t absolutely gorgeous. I’ll wait.

Recommended Track: “Fairhill

RIYL: American Football, Into It Over It, Annabel

Never Loved

by Adam Grundy

Having recently inked a new deal with Equal Vision Records, Never Loved are more than ready for their moment in the limelight. Their debut self-titled EP, featuring the single “Dead Inside,” the three-piece punk band from Florida have caught some major interest from fans and critics alike. Produced by veteran producer Matt Squire, this EP is bound to be in your rotation for quite some time.

RIYL: Saves the Day, Waterparks, Circa Survive

Tenille Townes

by Craig Manning

Nashville usually likes to introduce its latest, brightest talents with big, heavily-produced singles geared toward radio success. With Tenille Townes, though, Columbia Nashville played things differently. A year ago, Townes released The LivingRoom Worktapes, a four-song EP with nothing but voice and acoustic guitar. The EP put the spotlight on the songs and the voice, and both are remarkable. Townes’ voice has a quirky lilt to it, to the point where she doesn’t quite sound like anyone else. She’s equally adept at selling the big, anthemic choruses (see the starry-eyed love song “Where You Are”) and the quieter moments of thoughtful reflection (“Jersey on the Wall,” about a teenage basketball star whose story was cut short by a fatal car crash). But it’s the songs that make Townes an undeniable talent to watch. Just listen to the acoustic version of “Somebody’s Daughter,” which confronts the difficult topic of homelessness with empathy, compassion, and massive emotional weight. The (inferior) full-band version of “Somebody’s Daughter” is currently climbing the country charts, and Townes’ debut album is coming this year. She’s already one of the buzziest artists in country music, having opened for titans like Miranda Lambert and Dierks Bentley. When her album finally arrives, she’s bound to be both a critic’s darling and a superstar.

Recommended Track: “Somebody’s Daughter

RIYL: Kacey Musgraves, Noah Gundersen, Brandi Carlile

Formerly Bodies

by Jason Tate

Formerly Bodies is the brainchild of singer/songwriter Hannah Weir. The music reminds me a little of Julien Baker and Soccer Mommy; it’s emotional, and the vocals and storytelling are the main drivers. I’ve been told new music is coming out sometime this year.

Recommended Track: “Comfy Cozy Song

RIYL: Julien Baker, lyrically driven emotional round kicks to the head.

Ali Barter

by Mary Varvaris

Ali Barter is low-key one of the coolest artists in Australia. In December 2016, she penned the op-ed, “It’s About Fucking Time We Gave Female Musicians The Credit They Deserve” for Australian pop-culture and news website, Junkee. Yoko Ono retweeted the article, leaving Barter speechless. Barter’s voice is clear and blissfully sweet. When that unmistakable voice is contrasted with piercing words about the expectations placed on women (“Girlie Bits”), or exploring generational trauma (“Ur A Piece Of Shit”), the results are simply magnificent. “Ur A Piece Of Shit” is Barter’s latest single, a damn good one at that. It’s simply Ali: supremely relatable, and so catchy that you won’t be forgetting about it any time soon. The guitars and drums surge powerfully around her pure vocals. Ali Barter just screams classic pop punk. Just think of the way you felt when you first heard Bleed American – Ali Barter captures that sense of wonder, the feeling of falling in love with the sensation of music all over again.

Recommended Track: “Ur A Piece Of Shit

Kid Bookie

by Tommy Monroe

Kid Bookie is a rapper from South East, London who has been on the radar of a few people like myself. So far this year, he has released two music videos and a single with Slipknot frontman, Corey Taylor. His most recent release, “Stuck In My Ways” (Featuring Corey Taylor) is a well-orchestrated fusion of rock and hip-hop. In the past, he’s found himself at the border of fame through appearances on BBC Radio and co-signs from stars like Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and Christie. However, progressing from being an underrated independent artist to a mainstream act is what he deserves. With the momentum he’s built this year (so far), he is sure to get there in no time.

Recommended Track: “Stuck In My Ways

RIYL: Eminem, Slipknot, Mike Shinoda


by Adam Grundy

LPX is the stage name for Lizzy Plapinger, whom once fronted electric pop-rock band MS MR and she takes no prisoners on her quest for world domination. Her latest EP, Junk of the Heart, features some eclectic styles of pop from the breakout single, “Might Not Make It Home” that tells a tale of navigating through a wild time in New York City, to the tender and emotive moments found on “Falling to Fall,” LPX’s latest EP is pure ear candy. With a blazing and high-energy live show, LPX is on the cusp of being at the tip of everyone’s tongue when artists to watch are mentioned.

RIYL: MS MR, Madonna, Maggie Rogers

Pool Kids

by Zac Djamoos

Fresh off an endorsement from Hayley Williams, Pool Kids are poised to have a big 2019. Don’t be fooled, though; Pool Kids’ twinkly math rock is a far cry from Paramore’s catchy pop-punk. It’s just as good, though, and I can see Pool Kids having the same kind of longevity Paramore has. But while I don’t know if they’ll be the next Paramore, I’m sure they’ll be the first Pool Kids.

Recommended Track: “I Know It’s Only Fair

RIYL: Origami Angel, Nervous Dater, Brave Bird, Everyone Everywhere

Loyle Carner

by Trevor Graham

Some might say that by the time you’ve become a Mercury award nominated musician, you might no longer belong on a list of artists that need a spotlight. But even with as much as London based rapper Benjamin Coyle-Larner (stage name Loyle Carner – a reference to his diagnosed dyslexia) has accomplished at 24, the genuine heart put into his two full length albums is enough promise to show that he’s just getting started. Specializing in emotionally vulnerable hip hop, he frequently utilizes jazzy beats to soften the blow of profoundly confessional lyrics. Following up his 2017 breakout debut, Coyle-Larner’s sophomore effort Not Waving But Drowning was released less than a month ago, and includes features from Sampha, Jorja Smith, and Tom Misch. With more bars than hooks, he breaks down his mental health, toxic masculinity, and the loss of family — overall making for perfect background and deep introspective listens alike.

Recommended Track: “Still

RIYL: om Misch, Rejjie Snow, King Krule


by Jason Tate

Sigrid is a 22-year old singer and songwriter from Norway, and her debut full-length is one of my favorite pop albums of the year. It’s a perfect cocktail of hooks mixed with introspective emoting that moves the listener effortlessly between dancing and holding back tears. From the ridiculously catchy “Strangers” to the stripped back “In Vain,” this album is about as good as you can do this style of music.

Recommended Track: “Strangers

RIYL: Carly Rae Jepsen, CHVRCHES, being annoyed at twenty-something-year-olds being ridiculously talented.

Shady Bug

by Adam Grundy

Shady Bug are from St. Louis, MO and they’re made up of vocalist/guitarist Hannah Rainey, guitarist Tom Krenniing, drummer Aaron O’Neill, and bassist Chris Chartrand. On their latest release, Lemon Lime, the band have carved out a solid sound of 90’s-influenced rock. Their newest record features some great mood changes and masters the soft/loud contrasts.

RIYL: Soccer Mommy, Stove, Speedy Ortiz

Catherine McGrath

by Craig Manning

Ever since Taylor Swift went full pop, the country music world has been looking for her heir apparent. The most obvious candidates are artists like Kelsea Ballerini and Maren Morris, who have already shown pop-country chops and big crossover potential. But Catherine McGrath, a 21-year-old country singer/songwriter from Ireland, might actually capture the most of what made Swift’s early records so compelling. McGrath’s debut, last year’s Talk of This Town, has more twang than most modern pop-country, but still packs huge hooks into nearly every track. Her songs tread a lot of the same ground that Swift did on Fearless: the butterflies of first love; the hurt of first heartbreak; the excitement and fear that come with heading out on your own for the first time. But McGrath finds ways to explore these well-worn topics in new ways. Case-in-point is “Wild,” where she accompanies a crush to a Coldplay concert—because he had a spare ticket initially meant for his cheating girlfriend. The hook alone is worthy of the song’s stadium-rock-concert setting, but it’s the emotional whirlwind at the center of the story that sells the song.

Recommended Track: “Wild

RIYL: Taylor Swift, Kelsea Ballerini, Cassadee Pope

Fenne Lily

by Trevor Graham

They say you’ve got your whole life to write your first album — boy, did Fenne Lily take that to heart. In the two years leading up to her breathtaking 2018 debut record, the Bristol based singer-songwriter periodically released a total of seven singles to indie rock fans across the globe with their ears close enough to the ground to notice. With all seven songs and a few new additions in tow, she unleashed On Hold to the world last April — an album that effortlessly earned its descriptor of “worth the wait”. Despite her emotionally resonant lyrics and somber instrumentation across the board, Lily insisted in an interview surrounding the album’s release that the songs “aren’t just sad ballads about boys fucking me over. It’s more like making something good out of something shit!” Even still, it’s hard to do anything but feel an unnerving sense of absence while she gently sings lines like “You tell me it’s good for now / I’ll heal but I don’t know how / Safe in the way we touch / But it hurts to feel this much”, over her guitar and a deep, looming synth. Most of the album subscribes to this sentiment of loneliness and unrequited codependency, while the tunes themselves are delivered so intimately that it almost feels wrong to listen with somebody else in the room. Having recently wrapped up a national tour opening for 2018 breakout artist (and previous In The Spotlight feature!) Lucy Dacus, you can rest assured that Fenne Lily is most certainly a name that you’ll want to become familiar with sooner rather than later.

Recommended Track: “Three Oh Nine

RIYL: Lucy Dacus, Daughter, Lucy Rose

Big Nothing

by Adam Grundy

Big Nothing are from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and all originally bonded over jamming out some Against Me! Cover songs until they found a sound of their own. Their debut record, Chris, explores the feelings of emptiness as well as the journey to finding one’s own purpose. They recently released the first single, “Real Name” and will be on tour this Spring with Radiator Hospital. In a world filled with many bands looking for their footing, Big Nothing stand apart as an artist well on their way.

RIYL: The Replacements, Against Me!, Superchunk

Small Talks

by Zac Djamoos

Small Talks’ latest A Conversation Between Us bounces fluidly between dark synth-pop and emotive pop rock, and both feel just as crucial to the record. I wasn’t the least bit surprised to find out the band hails from Myrtle Beach, SC – A Conversation Between Us feels like 2019’s perfect summertime drive record.

Recommended Track: “Oceans

RIYL: Now Now, Jimmy Eat World, The 1975

La Bouquet

by Jason Tate

La Bouquet do that soaring synth thing that sounds destined to soundtrack every John Hughes-esque moment of your life. The bad features Bryan Sammis, formerly of The Neighbourhood and Olivver the Kid, and Jake Lopez and Drew Bruchs. Their songs walk between catchy and heartfelt led by strong vocals that move seamlessly from croon to falsetto.

Recommended Track: “Names Like Songs

RIYL: Bad Suns, LANY, synth-y soaring tunes.


by Craig Manning

A mix of Laurel Canyon folk, contemporary Americana, and classic ‘60s girl-group pop, Yola’s 2019 debut Walk Through Fire is one of the great pleasures of the year so far. With a big, smooth, soulful voice and songs that are more than worthy of it—see the rafter-shaking choruses of tracks like “Lonely the Night” and “Faraway Look”—Yola is an undeniable talent from the very first note. It doesn’t hurt that her album is immaculately produced by The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, or that she brought in some of the best session players in Nashville to make an album that is as well-orchestrated as it is sung. It sounds like a vintage piece of vinyl: warm and expansive and lush in all the best ways. If you haven’t heard it yet, rush it right to the top of your list.

Recommended Track: “Lonely the Night

Dusty Springfield, Alabama Shakes, Leon Bridges

An Horse

by Adam Grundy

After a six-year hiatus, An Horse are back feeling refreshed and re-focused. Their unique brand of guitar-driven indie rock is incredibly infectious, and their working-man ethic comes through the speakers earnestly and direct. With a sound in the realm of many established alternative rocks artists such as Cage the Elephant, An Horse feel energized with this new opportunity for demanding our attention. Modern Air will be released on Lame-O Records on May 3rd.

RIYL: Silversun Pickups, Death Cab For Cutie, Cage the Elephant


by Zac Djamoos

Nonfiction’s debut Same Pain has got to be one of my most-played albums of the year by now. The band’s moody alt rock isn’t particularly groundbreaking, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t great. Moments like the frenzied refrain of “Get Off” or the bridge of “The Lake” demonstrate the band’s ability to rock out when they need to, but the real showstopper here is the ballad “Minesweeper.” It’ll be exciting to see how the Philly four-piece grow with their next LP, because Same Pain is one hell of an introduction.

Recommended Track: “Minesweeper

RIYL: Manchester Orchestra, Citizen, Balance and Composure

You can find a playlist of all the recommended tracks on Spotify or Apple Music.