The members of the Beths all studied jazz in college, and yet they play with all the giddy gusto of a group of teenagers who just heard the Blue Album for the first time. —Jim Vorel, Read Paste’s list of 15 Bands That Kickass Despite Awful Band Names, Lindsey Jordan’s first EP as Snail Mail in 2016 won over critics and fans with its subdued power and studied melancholy, revealing a songwriter well beyond her 16 years. So far, their discography consists of a string of increasingly sturdy singles and two rock mixtapes that are an intoxicating blend of breathy vocals and hazy thoughts, rendered in sharp pop hooks. Australian singer-songwriter Julia Jacklin is in the midst of releasing new songs and prepping for the release of her second full-length album Crushing, out in February 2019, and the words “Phantastic Ferniture” appear only once on her Wikipedia entry as an “associated act.” The band’s official description, meanwhile, pegs it as a side project for all three people involved: “Phantastic Ferniture is the project of old friends Julia Jacklin, Elizabeth Hughes, and Ryan K. Brennan, who wanted to shake the shackles of their meticulously crafted solo work to experience a second, giddy adolescence.” That rather makes the band sound like a calculated escape from the individual careers they’ve been pouring their hearts and souls into for years, but not one with a lot of stakes or future—if their solo work is meant to be taken as “meticulously crafted,” Phantastic Ferniture’s songs are implied to be raw or spontaneous by comparison. Neighbor Lady, also consisting of Jack Blauvelt, Merideth Hanscom and Andrew McFarland, have the power to bring honor to both the steel guitar and the reverb pedal. “They don’t love you, do they?” she asks during the magic-hour-esque “Intro,” her clear and comfortingly relatable voice singing the first of many questions she poses throughout the album. –Peter, An album is like a garden in a way: all these little creations grown from seed, carefully tended until they bloom together into a collective whole more beautiful than the sum of its parts. But the Jamaican-born, Virginia-raised Masego and his “trap house jazz” do this well. Her debut album, At Weddings, is made up of 10 personal ceremonies, quiet hymns of introspection. But the three core rappers in the YBN Crew come from Alabama, Texas, and Maryland. It’s a motorik grind, the bass and drums locking into a fast and tense lockstep while jittery and molten riffage erupts from the guitar and frontwoman Ali Carter talks her shit: “Your false authority is dreadfully boring to me.” The band’s debut album can’t come soon enough. Her music is a direct reflection of her upbringing, and she describes the songwriting process as a kind of therapy. Best New Bands October 29, 2018 10:02 AM By Stereogum This fall, an artist found her voice. More please. –Tom Breihan, Anna Burch isn’t exactly new. The album’s title has a double meaning, both in that Hendricks got his start in music while serving abroad in Japan and that, in 2018, he’s fucking tired and over all this shit. Each concern carries the same weight and godliness in her “church.” –Julia, There’s not much good in the highest reaches of our nation’s capital these days, but it’s never faltered as a hotbed of great music. The bittersweet confusion of early adulthood plays out in the harmonious tension between her sarcastic realism and tender twee. All you have to do is sing, “Havana, ooh na-na,” and whoever’s in your vicinity will respond, “Half of my heart is is Havana ooh na-na.” That song is inescapable, the single that made Cabello’s departure from Fifth Harmony suddenly seem like an excellent career move, and her debut solo album Camila is chock-full of hooks. They’ve each released a critically-adored solo LP in the last year or so and have thusly been swamped with promotional duties and live performances. –James, Camila Cabello put out one of the catchiest and most memorable Top 40 pop songs in recent memory. Words like “angry,” “energetic” and “explosive” have been thrown around in discussions of their debut album Songs of Praise, but the adjectives don’t really do them justice. Whenever the band manages to cook up a proper debut album, it’s sure to be a knockout, and until then they’ve left a beguiling collection of songs in the meantime. Their debut is tremendous fun, and it truly doesn’t sound like anything else happening in music today. She’s a natural, with an impressive sense of restraint, placing points of tension and release right where they need to be. —Steven Edelstone, Yet another Australian band made one of the year’s finest records. After more than a year of musical experimentation via Skype, they signed with Domino last September, eventually resulting in one of 2018’s most bizarre and fun records. There’s a sing-song quality to the music she makes as Lala Lala, an intentional silliness that belies the distress beneath. Old Ghost features a bounty of taut, deceptively robust arrangements that mix airy synths with bursts of guitar and Zeiguer’s voice, which is a perfect balance between sweetness and sinew. Her music is laid-back, gently hooky, and complements the poetic vagueness of her lyrics. Of course, there are a few caveats: “New” is a relative term — a lot of these acts have been cutting their teeth for years. Each member contributes vocals—guitarist Taylor Mulitz (formerly of Priests) is playful and self-assured, bassist Danny Saperstein’s vocals are snotty and eccentric and drummer Emma Baker lends gorgeous vocal harmonies. Simultaneously self-deprecating and profound, Maltese wrote a record detailing life as a 21-year-old girl-obsessed Brit attempting to find love as the world collapses via Trump and Brexit—and it’s one of the most enjoyable debut releases of the year. The multi-talented flair has been bubbling since his viral hit “Tadow,” with FKJ, and it’s Masego’s ability to craft jazz-tinged tunes that fit into multiple prevailing “moments” in music happening around us that make the 25-year-old’s presence distinguished, exciting and intriguing. Her full-length debut, which came out earlier this year, is packed with sonic ideas that each evolve in three minutes or less. –James, Many Rooms’ debut album is called There Is A Presence Here, and it sure sounds that way. “I am never anywhere / Anywhere I go,” they sing in unison. The Control Top of “Type A” have a new lineup and a new sound, and the result is two and a half minutes of the most feverish and cathartic music we’ve heard all year. —Eric R. Danton, Read Paste’s 2018 interview with Renata Zeiguer, Veteran producer and engineer Sarah Tudzin has worked on albums for major players like Slowdive, Amen Dunes and Macklemore (oh, and the Hamilton soundtrack, nbd). It’s rugged. 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. But on Will This Do?, the project’s full-length full-band debut, she’s looking outward for answers — from the cosmos, from her ancestry and hometown, from her friends and potential partners. —Ellen Johnson, Watch Illuminati Hotties’ 2018 Daytrotter session, Atlanta-based Neighbor Lady quietly released one of the most charming, earnestly good indie-rock debuts of the year. It’s a promising start for a band predestined to turn heads. New faces—some of whom had never even dropped a single prior to January—made some of the best records of the year. It takes art to another level, and in a lot of ways, it was the most unpredictable and incredible 15 minutes of the year. That unique charisma runs through his Simi mixtape. Many of the songs lack choruses, but the verses are delivered with flowing beauty and genuine conviction. If you revisit our lists from 2017, 2016, 2015, 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010, you’ll find that we’ve been pretty on-point. Here are the freshest, most exciting new artists from the year, as voted on by the Paste music staff: The story of music in 2018 was actually made up of a bunch of different stories. It’s escapist. She’s also making a very strong case for short songs. And that song, it turns out, wasn’t a fluke. Stereogum has been putting this list together since 2010, and we pride ourselves on doing a pretty good job of sussing out talented artists as they reach their crest. Some of West’s fears manifested in songs about the apocalypse (“When You Die”) while others nestled into lyrics about inner balances gone awry (“Destroyer”). –Chris, The breadth of influences Sorry displays is impressive, especially for such a young group. Sometimes you relate to a debut album so intensely you wonder if the band or artist robbed your heart and mind before heading into the studio. At a time when zonked-out, robotic trap music has gone from an innovation to a cliché, the group’s pair of Gangin albums represent some of the most vibrant and inviting hip-hop on the market. Its length (still on the longer side for an EP, at six songs) is forgivable, though: The women behind boygenius—Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus—are busy. There’s a universality to Paul’s soul-searching, a yearning that transcends the boundaries between people and speaks to the human condition in general. But, with its perpetuation of millennial angst and ability to offer release through dance, it does so in a way that feels both necessary and relevant to our present day. Elizabeth Stokes named her band after herself, or, rather, her nickname. On his debut album, Lady, Lady, Masego flexes his skills as a vocalist, sax player, drummer and keyboardist, bucking the notion that taking on too many disciplines would be a detriment to the other. Maybe it’s this brevity — the immediate payoff — that makes her music so rewarding. It sounds warm and comfortable, confident yet understated. Her parents are two of her biggest cheerleaders, and fittingly, their faces are squished against opposite sides of Folick on the cover of the new album, whose subject matters like female friendship, growing old with a lover and the joyful triumph over abusive men are also timely and worth cherishing in these tumultuous times. This list, which we purposefully run a bit removed from the year-end list onslaught, is meant as recognition for artists that have had a great year and as an investment in them for the future. Booji Boys have clearly made plenty of it. –Tom, “Boo’d Up” was everything you could want in a hit single, a plush, sleek ’90s throwback swooning with the intoxicating power of new love. Songs like “Confirmation” don’t come along too often — instantly alluring, infectious yet still enigmatic even after dozens of listens. Their mutual experiences are what unite them, and that bond bleeds through this music in every buzzing, beautiful bar. On a bad day, you might be the “bitch bleedin’ out” while Rico “still got the speakers loud.” The SoundCloud-bred rapper doesn’t deal in subtlety. With a practiced kick-and-pump motion, the Memphis rapper set off a chain reaction that would eventually lead to children and video game characters performing his signature move. Veteran paints a portrait of someone that’s above it, told through hazy sporadic beats and samples and a scatter-brained energy that only adds to its appeal. –Ryan, This time next year, Vallejo quartet SOB x RBE might not still be rapping together. “Do you ever notice what surrounds you?” she asks. But with Duthie’s voice guiding the way, chances are whatever they discover will be fruitful. There isn’t enough detail for you to know exactly what she’s talking about, but you understand the mood. Other times, she’s more observant and concerned. It’s a fitting epilogue, too, that chronicles the band’s shared experience as touring musicians, and the emotional heaviness following those long nights in unfamiliar places. It’s grotesque. Can’t drink that image out of my head.” Maltese, forever the horny smartass, more than delivered on the hype from all of those British publications saying he’s “The UK’s answer to Father John Misty,” one schmaltzy lounge-rock Morrissey-influenced song at a time. On the R&B cloaked trap-rap “Lavish Lullaby,” he raps in auto-tune at one point, before playing sax and crooning silky stacked vocal loops at the other. Nothing feels trite or contrived. —Madison Desler, Read Paste’s 2018 interview with Snail Mail. The world is rough on them. –Tom, There have been other bands like Thyla, groups looking to decades past and mining the impressionistic soundscapes of shoegaze. 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. The self-titled debut from the group is chock full of compelling songs, from the rhythmically intoxicating “Uncomfortable Teenager” to the soaring “Fuckin ‘n’ Rollin,” to the simplistic but devastatingly catchy “Dark Corner Dance Floor.” Jacklin’s silky voice is wonderfully applied to this particular brand of propulsive indie rock, while Hughes is the perfect complement in small flourishes that take each song to the next level. On “Ketchum, ID,” Bridgers, Dacus and Baker assume soprano, alto and tenor and churn up a harmony so handsomely melancholic you’ll find yourself snatching tissues without even knowing why. Brianna Hunt’s songs seem to materialize out of nothing and hover gracefully over barren wastelands, like God leading the Israelites as a pillar of fire. It’s an intoxicating, glitchy, often abrasive mix of textural ingenuity. “Look Alive” underscored and amplified BlocBoy’s effortless flow, his words hitting with the same ease and intensity as his jerky gyrations. Will This Do? Though Parcels have since relocated to Germany, they got their start in the same continent that’s supplied us with some of 2018’s best music. The duo’s noisy dark-pop is as ferocious as it is fun, even when they’re singing about traumatic experiences. The songs illustrate a wise-beyond-years songwriting style, with none of the self-importance and indulgence that can come with more experience. –Chris, Retirement Party are just getting started. –Peter, The very foundation of Empath is enough to guarantee some buzz. The album ends on an especially magical note. And yet they still give off that conquer-the-world vibe — young guys doing their best to impress each other and somehow catching a zeitgeist-wave. The band has been releasing music since 2016, but they really picked up steam with Weekend Rocker, a beery rush of an album full of muddy guitar tones and adrenalized hooks. It’s exhilarating to imagine what Pillbeam will be able to pull off next. –Julia, A couple months ago, Sir Babygirl seemed to appear out of nowhere with the single “Heels.” As an introduction to Kelsie Hogue the songwriter, you couldn’t ask for a more effective or attention-grabbing track. Nemuri is carving something completely new out of recycled pieces. “But then I sit down and I qualitatively analyze my acute sense of awareness for my environmental surroundings.” And sometimes, she does it over some breathless shredding. Catharsis is this band’s driving force; if you don’t have anything to scream about, they’ll give you something to scream about. If so, the dynamic runs directly contrary to the celebratory spirit that courses through their music. It’s clever. Viva Non After a successful Canadian mini-tour last year and plenty of electric local shows, the new-wave project of James Hofer is set to spend the year writing and recording his first full-length record with another tour of Canada thrown in for good measure. —Lizzie Manno, Watch Tomberlin’s 2018 session in the Paste Studio, Nothing about Superorganism makes sense. The trio’s self-titled debut EP is an airtight collection of wiry and shimmering tracks that manages a string of delightful surprises, melodies and little touches that sneak up on you but make perfect sense once they’ve settled in. 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. The viral, immediate fame that ALLY comes by in A Star Is Born is a rarity; instead, it’s usually a slow and steady climb. It’s an old sound, and yet it’s a sound that never gets old. Some, like “For Cheez (My Friend, Not The Food),” are touching. –Gabriela, 2018 has been a big year for viral dance crazes, and leading the charge was BlocBoy JB. —Ellen Johnson, © 2020 Paste Media Group. The Beths, from Auckland, aren’t doing anything new. But the Detroit rocker’s debut solo album Quit The Curse still feels like a real coming-out party. But it’s the confidence with which the 22-year-old delivers an unprecedented creative leap across these songs that shows what a rare breed she is. Formed by members of All Dogs and Perfect Pussy, the band of schooled DIY punks quietly released their two-song debut CRYSTAL REALITY way back in 2016, but it wasn’t until this year that they were able to commit to the project more seriously. –Peter, When Rico Nasty is playing, there are no bystanders: You are her, you fear her, or you worship her. At Weddings is filled with such a powerful, saintly aura that even the most ugly subject matters can spur flawless, beautiful results. Signs of internal turmoil are spilling over into the public, and solo careers beckon. Others, like Tierra Whack, seemingly fell out the sky and created art so profound and different and important, we’ll be ruminating on their genius for years to come. And on her excellent sophomore effort I’ll Sing, she has fleshed out her folk-indebted songwriting in a way that perfectly conjures the feeling of long, rambling drives through her home state. Blazing guitars and crisp drums race to the finish line, tense arrangements linger just long enough. —Lizzie Manno, Read Paste’s list of 15 Washington D.C. Bands You Need To Know in 2018, British post-punk quintet Shame have become one of the most buzzed-about young bands of this year. –Peter Helman, An Arkansas native, Ashley McBryde had spent a full decade in Nashville, trying to get a country music career going, before her tough and elegant song “A Little Dive Bar In Dahlonega” finally got the ball rolling. It’s playful. –James, Black Belt Eagle Scout is the moniker of Katherine Paul, a queer indigenous artist who grew up on a reservation near the Puget Sound. –Ryan, Despite Sarah Beth Tomberlin’s devout Christian upbringing, the Louisville-based singer-songwriter never liked going to church. If nothing quite matches the sheer wattage of “Boo’d Up” or its winning follow-up single “Trip,” it’s still a pleasure to sink into the sumptuous atmosphere and the fluid power of her voice. –Peter, Sarah Tudzin is the full package: a gifted producer, songwriter, singer, lyricist, melodicist, and instrumentalist whose album Kiss Yr Frenemies is one of the best debuts in recent memory. Her whispered lullabies waft in like a cool mist through an open window, swirls of synth, piano, and guitar twinkling as they catch the moonlight and receding back into the night. So it should come as no surprise, then, that the debut album from New Zealand-based rockers The Beths, Future Me Hates Me, is sharply self-aware. It shouldn’t have taken this long for us to hear her. I’ll Sing is plenty aware of the traditions from which it draws, and Moser’s songwriting is so sharp that all the dusty guitars and winsome melodies make a convincing argument that she should soon be inducted into a long lineage of American songwriters born from endless wandering through this nation’s highways and countrysides. Her hyper-analytical gaze focuses inwards, on her own anxiety and depression and self-doubt, but even at its darkest, her navel-gazing never sounds anything but fun. Though the highs and lows of the album are subtle, Lush confirms what the Habit EP first introduced. “I don’t think it was until I started singing as more of a form of expression that I realized the capabilities of my voice.” While her debut album, Premonitions, came out Oct. 26, she’s already released two EP’s—2015’s Strange Darling and 2017’s Give It To Me. And when they truly find their voices, look out. / You couldn’t just laugh and walk away?” —Ellen Johnson, Watch Hatchie’s 2018 session in the Paste Studio, Sarah Beth Tomberlin’s debut album, At Weddings, is an ode to the uncertainty and overall dishevelment of your late teens and early twenties: bogged down by self-doubt, seeking validation from others, rebelling against unsolicited religious beliefs that were pressed upon you as a child (the 23-year-old singer/songwriter was born to strict Baptist parents) and longing for someone even though you know they’re a bad influence. “It’s all in your head/ It’s all in your head,” she sings. The Japanese artist mixes elements from J-pop, rap, post-hardcore, noise, and electronica and sets the genre concoction on fire. As subgenres bloomed and bloomed, it seemed a greater number of more diverse identities were spotlighted than ever before. The band’s two dynamic poles are childhood friends Asha Lorenz and Louis O’Bryen, and the project leaves enough space for them to shine as songwriters in their own right. It’s zany. So get familiar with Stereogum’s 40 Best New Bands Of 2018, presented in alphabetic order, below. But it wasn’t until the 2018 single “Type A” that they really found their voice. Taking cues from Gang of Four and the B-52’s, co-lead vocalists Ben Hozie and Nikki Belfiglio possess an infectious art-punk spirit and spit out droll lines left and right while guitarist Madison Velding-VanDam plays like a chugging, post-punk version of Wilko Johnson. The narrative of the film is, of course, messy and more tragic, but perhaps in some alternate timeline ALLY would have made our list of the Best New Bands Of 2018. It’s worldly. on. But might we suggest that’s a good thing? –James, Wheels don’t always need to be reinvented. She keeps a food diary to retain some modicum of control over her life, draws a line from sine triangles and biblical sin to “two-faced bitches,” mispronounces words as a power move, and tunes her guitar to echo each sentiment. –James Rettig, An American original. –Gabriela, Caroline Sallee’s whisper takes many forms across No Fool Like An Old Fool, her sophomore album as Caroline Says. The Chicago trio play bright, energetic, relentlessly hooky pop-punk, but their debut album Somewhat Literate is as much a product of frontwoman Avery Springer’s restless mind as anything. –Julia, Dream-pop can be such a slippery slope. Sugar & Spice is essentially a perfect EP. It’s introspective. –Chris, LOCATION: Los Angeles, CA / Baltimore, MD, Veteran is hardly JPEGMAFIA’s first release, but it is his first one that sounds fully-formed. In the same way that Drake labors to keep up with BlocBoy’s moves in the “Look Alive” video, the rest of Simi’s featured artists can’t help but adhere to BlocBoy’s style and pace. Elsewhere, she sings alongside a campy keyboard, “We’re gonna go to a show and then come home and probably die.” Throughout the album, Gish acknowledges that lingering fear of death and foolishness with spirit and wit. The group combined esoteric sound design, peculiar lyrics, and incredibly catchy melodies to create 2018’s most unique release, one that will fascinate producers for years to come. It fucking rocks, full stop. They put a fresh spin on old rock ‘n’ roll clichés, turning them on their head and reminding you why those clichés endured in the first place. But it’s hard to remember another band that’s attained the peculiar, almost-paradoxical balance Thyla has: the anxious forward momentum of post-punk and the brooding and heaviness of grunge underpinning the melancholic-then-transcendent parabolas of prime dream-pop. We won’t hear anyone like him anytime soon. The way I can best summarize the aftermath of going to see Shame is that you’ll suddenly feel like you’ve been christened with the ability to perform some act of superhuman physical strength. To determine the most popular bands of the last 10 years, 24/7 Wall St. generated an index based on sales for albums released between 2008 to 2018, … Lala Lala’s strength lies in West’s voice and the glitchy melodies she writes make what could just be another indie rock project sound fresh and exciting. In the grand Bay Area tradition, they’ve got bounce, they’ve got swagger, and they’re a hell of a lot of fun. Frontwoman Emily Braden’s lyrics, too, represent both genres: Sometimes she’s a fierce southern woman with a sharp tongue: “Oh honey, what’s all the fuss about?” she sings on “Oh Honey,” a song about sharing a crush with her friend. Bat Fangs relishes in excess, with slick riffs and a charismatically goofy sense of fun that still manages to get to the heart of some pretty deep issues. The beats are off-kilter, and her vocals are both delicately and aggressively manipulated in a range of ways to fit the scene. Single “Just Lie Down” starts with distorted feedback that could soundtrack a migraine or the worst day of your life. She has the kind of voice that would make you huff and puff, sprinting down the street en route to the venue if you were late to one of her shows. Energetic production mimics his lighthearted wit, each punchline matched with its sonic equivalent. McBryde namechecks Townes Van Zandt on the very first song and then spends the rest of the album living up to his example. The band locks into a painterly blend of post-rock and emo that’s elevated by L Morgan’s capacious voice. “And that brings to the end of what we hope has been a beautiful trip for you and yours,” Dean Dawson sings in the album’s flight-inspired credits. Their debut album Endless Scroll was produced by Parquet Courts’ Austin Brown, and it features an experimental, fluid sound that decries technology addiction, gentrification and the mind-boggling “pizzacore” scene while mythologizing Titanic’s Jack Dawson and celebrating female masturbation. In a place like Halifax, you have to make your own fun. Girl Going Nowhere, McBryde’s debut album, is a gorgeously lived-in, righteously sad, painstakingly crafted piece of work. Over the years, how many bands have come and gone who could create enveloping atmospheres but didn’t have the songwriting to guarantee the kind of dream you remember when you wake up? Rico recently released her major-label debut, Nasty, after years of sharing mixtapes with her growing audience. The Wonka-esque visual release from the Philadelphia rapper sees 15 tracks spread across 15 minutes, each with a unique theme, and there’s a distinct sense of evolving maturity from Whack as the tracks unfold. Its flames just happen to be extremely catchy. But mostly they feel like supernatural events — mirages where spiritual turmoil plays out in the space between this world and one unseen. Los Angeles pop singer/songwriter Miya Folick is a rare, welcome example. Even when she sings of aching sadness, she does it with the kind of hushed, intimate beauty that sounds like a soft glow in the darkness. I Need To Start A Garden, Haley Heynderickx’s debut LP, is the sound of such cultivation paying off. She no longer identifies as Christian, and instead practices a sort of self-communion, writing and recording music as Tomberlin. Last year, artists like SZA, Sampha and Phoebe Bridgers were the noteworthy thieves—they released slam-dunk albums that engaged with our pathos and our minds alike, leaving us wondering how it was possible that we’d never heard them before. –James, GOOD Job, You Found Me, Valee’s debut EP for Kanye’s West’s record label, goes a long way toward explaining the Chicago rapper’s appeal: that delicate, meticulous “old-timey tiptoeing burglar” delivery that makes even boilerplate rhymes sound good and renders him a genius when setting an evocative scene like so: “Walked in Shell, flamed up a L/ Bumpy Margiels, feel like braille/ Dirty ass ginger ale, came through the mail/ I fucked your girl, in the hotel.” But summer smash “Womp Womp,” on which R&B stud Jeremih imitates Valee’s flow, most clearly encapsulated his glory. —Lizzie Manno Read Paste’s 2018 interview with Miya Folick, Matt Maltese wrote some of the funniest and most clever lyrics of 2018. Submerged in padded synth, it sounds weathered and knowing. In 2018, the cycle continued. If the onslaught of new subgenres means we get to hear more voices like Paul’s, bring. Gentle fingerpicking and reverb-laden electric keys conjure a holy presence as Tomberlin meditates on relationship patterns, self-worth, loneliness, faith, and growth. Ultra Beauty count themselves among the same scene that, in recent years, has birthed Priests and Flasher and many more acts that espouse radical politics in songs that go down smooth.