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

In the Spotlight (Part 1)

Today I’m excited to launch the third version of our In the Spotlight feature. This is the annual feature that continues the tradition of the “Absolute 100” and hopes to introduce you to a whole bunch of new music that should be on your radar.

Just like years past we’ve compiled a list of 50 artists we think are worth your time. Some of the artists recently released their debut albums and some have been around for a while now. However, the one thing they all have in common is that we think they should be in the spotlight and are worthy of your ears. You’ll find the first group of 25, along with blurbs, recommended songs, and sounds like comparisons, below. We’ll release the second batch tomorrow and a playlist of songs from the included artists on Wednesday.

Scott Sellers

by Jason Tate

Scott Sellers is a riffy-pop-punk-writing-machine. The former lead singer of Rufio and Mercy Street has put out four, yes, four albums since 2018. The latest, Being Strange, was released in February of this year and the songs don’t stray that far from what he’s best known for. They’re mostly fast, guitar driven, catchy pop-punk songs that sound best on a sunny day with no place to be.

Recommended Track: “Apology

RIYL: Rufio, Slick Shoes, fast guitar and catchy choruses.

Shannen Moser

by Mia Hughes

Though Philadelphia’s Shannen Moser came up playing basements in the Philly DIY scene, a famous mecca of punk and emo, she is one of a growing crop of artists within the DIY community whose songs are rooted in folk and country. Her latest record, 2018’s I’ll Sing, is full of warm, shimmering songwriting and vivid storytelling that feels like it came from folk music long past. Moser’s main talent is in teleportation, her songs taking you inside of them and making you feel at home. When the record’s over, you feel the cold all of a sudden.

Recommended Track: “Every Town

RIYL: Hop Along, Field Medic, Slaughter Beach Dog

Truth Club

by Drew Beringer

There is something enrapturing about Truth Club – impossible to pigeonhole into just one style of music, the Raleigh, NC quartet’s record Not An Exit is one of the most distinct debuts released from the distinguished Tiny Engines label. The meandering is intentional, luring the listener into a false sense of comfort before exploding within your cerebellum a la Ought and early Interpol. Vocalist Travis Harrington commands the space of each track perfectly, balancing the minimal with the excessive centered around each tracks needs, as Yvonne Chazal’s accompanying vocals offer a blissful counterbalance. Tracks like “No Planned Sequel” and “Tethering,” the latter existing within a harrowing glitchy space before soaking in the surrounding dissonant grunge. Not An Exit is incredibly intoxicating while allowing Truth Club to travel beyond even the most expansive sonic boundaries.

Recommended Track: “Student Housing

Lauren Jenkins

by Craig Manning

Lauren Jenkins left her native Texas behind at 15 to move to Nashville and chase her dream of music stardom. She’s spent much of the 12 years since breaking the rules (and laws) of the establishment, whether by using a fake ID to get into bars so that she could play or by pushing her label to let her be herself on her debut album. The resulting record, called No Saint, is one of this year’s best and most versatile LPs. Jenkins can do the modern country ballad as well as just about anyone (see No Saint’s title track), but she can also bring out foot-tapping slices of scuzzy bar band rock ‘n’ roll (the fittingly titled “My Bar”), or pull off something that sounds like it was culled directly from Sheryl Crow’s Tuesday Night Music Club (the ‘90s rewind that is “All Good Things”). It’s a remarkably confident and fully-formed debut—the kind of album you could only make with a solid decade of hustle, late nights, and smoky bars under your belt.

Recommended Track: “No Saint

RIYL: Sheryl Crow, Miranda Lambert, Logan Brill

Save Face

by Zac Djamoos

It’s hard to pin Save Face down. Equal parts post-hardcore and pop-punk, they’re somehow nowhere near as corny as that description makes them out to be. They’re more akin to early Microwave than A Day to Remember, although in honesty Save Face’s sound is entirely their own. The band sounds totally comfortable in both modes, and their stripped-down rendition of their Folly EP proves they can nail a softer sound too. I’ve yet to hear a misstep from Save Face, and something tells me I’ll be waiting a while.

Recommended Track: “Plans

RIYL: Microwave, Free Throw, Taking Back Sunday

Personal Best

by Mary Vavaris

I first heard of Personal Best at a Mitski concert. It was the first time I’d seen her live. She closed an already emotional, phenomenal concert with a cover of one of her favourite songs, the remarkable Personal Best song, “This Is What We Look Like”. Like most great pop songs, Personal Best gloriously sing about falling in love, falling out of love, or being afraid of love. Their newest single, “Baby”, taken from their upcoming sophomore album, What You At contrasts soaring power-pop with an inevitable childlike reaction to the fear of confrontation. With the band’s increasingly clever songwriters at the helm, What You At is sure to be an outstanding album packed with blissful massive riffs and all-too-relatable subject matter.

Recommended Track: “Baby


by Trevor Graham

Philadelphia quartet Caracara came out swinging in 2017 with their brooding, distorted emo-rock debut LP, Summer Megalith. Having recorded the album without ever playing a show, production ties to Jacob Ewald of Modern Baseball assisted in propelling the band into the public eye, allowing instant classics like “Apotheosis” and the explosive “Revelatory” to make the waves they deserved to. In 2018, the band committed to a modern day emo rite of passage by entering Studio 4, home to Philly mega producer Will Yip, to record a brand new EP and expand on their most notable qualities. Three songs in its entirety, the Better EP takes lyrical and sonic cues from contemporaries like Pianos Become The Teeth, and combines them with the structural and melodic pop sensibilities of every infectiously catchy indie rock band that you definitely think should be bigger. The result is a 12 minute sucker punch of heartstring-tugging hooks that you won’t be able to help but let sit on repeat. The title track is a 6-minute epic in which lead vocalist William Lindsay reflects on the town he lives in, addressing his concerns for an ongoing opioid crisis and asserting his place as more than just an onlooking citizen.

Recommended Track: “Better

RIYL: Pianos Become The Teeth, The Hotelier, The Appleseed Cast

KayCee Shakur

by Tommy Monroe

KayCee Shakur is the type of singer that can snatch the soul of any listener after one listen. The Chicago based artist is an embodiment of Hip Hop, Soul and culture. Beyond music, she is a creative genius who mixes everything she puts out with pints of creativity. Although she only began pursuing music in 2018, she has used her prowess to write compelling tunes and sing her way into the ears of over 200 thousand listeners. Earning over 500K streams with her debut project, Divination, one can easily predict she’s a singer with a bright future.

Recommended Track: “GGI

RIYL: SZA, Khalid, Ella Mai


by Adam Grundy

Houses is comprised of the dynamic duo of Dexter Tortoriello and Megan Messina, and they hail from Chicago, Illinois. Their unique style of electro-pop is in the same vein of Beach House, while still creating enough moments to stand on their own merit. Their latest single, “Fast Talk” is already climbing the Alternative Rock songs chart and showcases Houses staying power.

RIYL: The New Division, Slowdive, Panda Bear


by Eric Wilson

Back in the fall of 2014, I remember waiting to see Relient K play a show in Knoxville, TN. Opening for them was a band called Golden Youth, fronted by Stephanie Lauren. I instantly fell in love with their indie/alternative sound, playing their EP The Cabin on repeat for days. Now under the moniker Ladysse, Stephanie Lauren is bringing her own twist to the current indie pop scene. Her 2018 EP Not the One showcased her ability to write catchy, atmospheric pop anthems for this generation. Her most recent single, “Heartbreak Hollywood,” is pure 80s throwback, where Lauren sings about the allures and struggles of the Hollywood lifestyle. I’m truly excited to hear what’s next on the horizon for Ladysse. If Lauren’s latest single is any indication, we’re in for a good ride.

Recommended Track: “Heartbreak Hollywood

RIYL: CHVRCHES, Carly Rae Jepsen, The 1975

Parachute Day

by Jason Tate

I think of Parachute Day as an instrumental emo band. These are songs have that little twinkly fun sound we all love but often go in exciting instrumental directions as well. I’m sure they’ve been asked thousands of times when they’re going to add a vocalist to the band, but I don’t think the songs need that at all. To the contrary, I love listening to instrumental music when I am trying to focus on something because then I’m not instinctively drawn to the words, and having this kind of sound in that vein has been a great way to spice up my regular instrumental listening habits.

Recommended Track: “Wheelie

RIYL: Vasudeva, Turnover, guitar noodling without vocals.


by Zac Djamoos

I haven’t been much into metalcore lately, but I can’t stop listening to Greyhaven’s latest Empty Black. The band brings a passion I haven’t heard from a new band in the genre in years; it reminds me a lot of the first time I heard letlive’s Fake History. It’s got that same energy, that same unpredictability. But if there’s one thing I can predict, it’s that Greyhaven are going to have a big 2019.

Recommended Track: “Ten Dogs – Red Heaven

RIYL: Norma Jean, letlive, Every Time I Die, Glassjaw


by Trevor Graham

Hodera are a four piece band out of New Jersey that deliver folk-tinged emo rock tunes with the refined quality of groups many years their senior. November 2018 saw the release of their fourth official effort, an immersive 6-track EP cleverly titled Besides. While the name verifiably alludes to these songs being a collection of tunes previously left on the cutting room floor, Besides offers no further evidence of being anything less than a fully realized effort. “Imagine if we stayed together / Imagine if my problems passed like the winter”, vocalist Matthew Smith opens up on a track about separation, and the pitfalls of compromise. “Would you have gave everything up to move back to New Jersey? / I wouldn’t have let you even if you tried to”. In opening the doors to such tender parts of his heart, Smith finds a way to vividly pen lyrics that make the listener nostalgic for memories that aren’t even necessarily theirs. Meanwhile, his bandmates concoct a refreshing cocktail of modern day alternative-emo with an Americana twist that helps set Hodera apart from their more straightforward contemporaries.

Recommended Track: “Kicking The Dirt

RIYL: Mansions, Slow And Steady, All Get Out

Prince Daddy & The Hyena

by Drew Beringer

Prince Daddy and the Hyena have never been shy of wearing their emotions and aspirations on their multi-genre sleeves. The Albany, New York quartet is poised to release their hotly-anticipated second record Cosmic Thrill Seekers this summer and its fourteen tracks showcase an ambitious odyssey through the best and worst of times. An album in three acts (The Heart/The Brain/The Roar) and the strangest yet most honest interpretation of The Wizard of Oz yet, frontperson Kory Gregory opens up about the constant struggle between recovery and relapse. Prince Daddy and the Hyena’s unique take on what it’s like to be a punk rock band today is equally thrilling and challenging, placing the band in a position to be 2019’s breakout act.

Recommended Track: “Lauren (Track 2)


by Mia Hughes

Fresh’s name is an apt enough description of their music; it’s bright, sunny, feels like stepping outside on an unexpectedly nice spring day. They play indie-punk that is relentlessly energetic and dance-in-your-bedroom fun. There’s a feeling of camaraderie in the music alone, drums and bass and guitar and vocals bouncing off of each other so naturally; it makes you want to be in the room with them, singing along loud, feeling at home.

Recommended Track: “Going To Brighton

RIYL: Camp Cope, Cayetana, Martha

Emily Scott Robinson

by Craig Manning

There’s a song on Emily Scott Robinson’s 2019 album Traveling Mercies called “The Dress” that is, for my money, the best song of the year so far. Robinson, a rape survivor, wrote the song over the course of several years following her assault. In it, she talks about finding the dress she was wearing on the night of her assault. “I could have sworn that I threw that thing away back in June/Snuck out to the alley and buried it under the trash one afternoon,” she sings, before adding one of the most gutting knife twists I’ve ever heard in a song: “I can’t trust my memory anymore.” Robinson says it took her several years to write “The Dress,” which is candid and honest in such a bare and devastating way that it will surely break your heart. It’s the centerpiece to Traveling Mercies, a remarkable and understated album filled with the ghosts of past hurt. In terms of pure songwriting, there has been no stronger release this year.

Recommended Track: “The Dress

RIYL: Patty Griffin, Lori McKenna, The Civil Wars


by Mary Varvaris

Overpower are the latest in a crop of underground bands to shake up Melbourne’s heavy music scene. After undergoing multiple line-up changes, the band finally released their highly anticipated debut EP, One Mind, One Prison last year. The band impeccably cross between thrash and death metal, their bio maintaining that they like it “fast and psycho” but also “slow and heavy as fuck”. Having already toured with Perth bands Make Them Suffer and Cursed Earth, Overpower tour hard and play even harder. Mikey McCracken Wilson’s guttural vocal is just as commanding in studio as it is live. Bursting with potential, their upcoming material is the most exciting the five-piece outfit has sounded thus far. Drawing from different influences like Megadeth and Death this time around, lead guitarist Dylan Atkins lets rip. He’s grown disinterested in breakdowns, now opting for timeless riffs and solos. If Overpower’s relentlessly hard-working attitude and ferocious live shows are anything to go by, 2019 is their year.

Recommended Track: “Endless Suffering

Sad Cops

by Jason Tate

Sad Cops have a quirky quality to their music that gives me a little bit of that Front Bottoms or Hippo Campus vibe bookended with quality songwriting and relatable lyrics. I like the moody atmosphere they create on “Honey” and think this is a band to keep an eye on.

Recommended Track: “Honey

RIYL: Modern Baseball, late night headphone and alcohol music.


by Adam Grundy

Hailing from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the four-piece melodic punk rock band Nightmarathons are embracing the throwback, no-frills punk rock that was a mainstay on radio in the 90’s and early 00’s. Their debut LP Missing Parts features several great songs about navigating through tough times and living to tell the tale. By showcasing their love of melodic punk rock, Nightmarathons’ music is incredibly infectious at the first listen.

RIYL: Anti-Flag, The Bouncing Souls, The Explosion

Fire Is Motion

by Trevor Graham

Adrian Amador is a New Jersey native with a knack for practicing genuine introspection behind the veil of toe-tapping indie folk tunes. With their debut EP, he and his band explore a range of techniques to add extra layers of depth to their instrumentation — doing so convincingly, as Still, I Try maintains a level of cohesion that sounds fluid without ever reaching outright predictability. While tracks like “Ringside” and “Smile, It Makes This Easier” share group harmonies and acoustic guitars, one utilizes heavy distortion on the vocals for a lo-fi effect while the other crescendos into a a bouncy horn section. Standout track “Who Knows” employs a delicate glockenspiel behind clean electric guitars and booming drums, offering up a dynamic that wouldn’t sound out of place on those early, beloved records from bands like Foxing or Bon Iver. Packing this much of a punch in just 15-20 minutes, Fire Is Motion have most certainly proven themselves to be an act to keep on your watch list.

Recommended Track: “Who Knows

RIYL: Foxing, From Indian Lakes, Owen


by Jason Tate

Emerson reminds me of a band that would have been signed to The Militia Group or Tooth and Nail in the early 2000s. It’s pop-rock with a focus on the pop sensibilities and a vocalist able to pull it off. Tracks like “Waves” carry a positive vibe that begs your fingers to turn up the volume just a little louder. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that one of their members is a frequent poster in our forum community.

Recommended Track: “Waves

RIYL: Cartel, Mae, sing-a-long music for a drive to the beach.

Indoor Pets

by Adam Grundy

This British quartet, formerly known as Get Inuit, have re-branded themselves as Indoor Pets and come armed with a love of classic-era Weezer and guitar-driven pop hooks. Their debut album, Be Content, was released on March 8th and could end up gaining momentum as their name makes their way around the Indie Rock scene. The record is filled with loud and dynamic guitars, all mixed with the high-pitched vocals from frontman Jamie Glass.

RIYL: Weezer, Hippo Campus, Rooney

Becca Mancari

by Mia Hughes

Nashville is of course known for its rich history in country music. But more recently, the indie rock scene around the city has come into its own too, led by artists like Julien Baker and Soccer Mommy. Nashville singer-songwriter Becca Mancari combines elements of both on her 2017 debut Good Woman, summer-sunset songs that ride the line between twangy country and hazy indie rock. From the haunting, somber “Golden” to the bouncing, exuberant “Summertime Mama,” her songwriting contains a southern charm that’s impossible to resist.

Recommended Track: “Summertime Mama

boygenius, Jason Isbell, Jenny Lewis

Better Love

by Jason Tate

Better Love are a four piece out of Chicago, IL and they play upbeat indie-rock that reminds me a little bit of the mid-2000’s phase where a bunch of pop-punk bands started getting better at their instruments and released some of their more interesting albums.

Recommended Track: “Ghost in the Passenger Seat

The Early November, Grayscale, Drive-Thru Records adjacent music.

Gaby G

by Tommy Monroe

Gaby G is a Los Angeles based alternative singer who is most known for tracks like, “City on Fire”, “Say My Name”, and “Numb”. When she isn’t experimenting with different genres, she’s creating striking visuals that inspire other females. One striking thing about Gaby is her freedom to express herself through the lyrics in her music. Whether it’s love, sex, heartbreak or drugs, she keeps it real while using her life as a mirror for listeners to be able to relate to her words.

Recommended Track: “City on Fire

RIYL: Becky G, Camila Cabello, Noah Cyrus

Part two can be found here.

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