There were tons of great albums from some of our favourite returning musicians this year, but there were also some rad fresh cuts from artists we hadn’t even heard of yet.
From stand out side projects like Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker, and Lucy Dacus’ supergroup Boygenius, Elena Tonra of Daughter’s Ex:Re and Andy Shauf’s Foxwarren to unreal new artists like Idles, Ellevator, and Alice Merton, check out our list of the best breakout bands and artists of 2018.
Outstanding female indie rockers Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker, and Lucy Dacus united this year to form supergroup Boygenius. In October, they released a gritty, vulnerable, self-titled EP that is loaded with dreamy rock-driven tracks that need to be on your radar. Their revolutionary tunes merge the different musicians’ styles in completely different ways, but the band is still perfectly cohesive. – Chelsea Brimstin
King Princess released her Make My Bed EP this year, which is full of cathartic stadium pop style hits like “1950” and “Talia.” The debut EP is full of infectious, catchy tracks that explore a more dramatic emotional landscape while maintaining an upbeat surface. The lead track, “1950,” is her catchiest tune yet, and was meant to pay homage to how “queer love was only able to exist privately for a long time, expressed in society through coded art forms,” she told The Line of Best Fit. – Chelsea
Despite releasing her album in 2017, Billie Eilish has really broken onto the scene this year after embarking on the Where’s My Mind Tour, getting added to the soundtrack of 13 Reasons Why, and opening for Florence and the Machine on her High as Hope Tour. Her dreamy electro indie pop tracks are entrancing, with catchy synth-filled beats and acoustic, stripped back bangers, her tunes are definitely worth a listen. – Chelsea
Bristol-based punk rockers Idles followed-up their 2017 debut album Brutalism with one of the year’s best records, Joy as an Act of Resistance. It’s equal parts a punishing, relentless punk rock record and a testament to the division precipitated from the current political landscape. Idles are all about inclusivity and acceptance, while delivering lines like “I’m like Stone Cold Steve Austin / I put homophobes in coffins,” effectively sending the message that the revolutionary set is not to be fucked with… Also: wrestling fans. – Scott Lewis
Snail Mail’s striking, melancholic debut album Lush is full of moody guitar-based confessionals and sentimental self-conscious tunes. Frontwoman Lindsey Jordan delivers her lyrics with a unique sense of sincerity as she explores themes of confusion, disappointment, and unrequited love all while yelping honest lyrics like “I’ll never love anyone else.” Jordan’s musical career has exploded over the past year, and she’s quickly climbing to the front of the indie rock scene as she hammers away at her eclectic slow, mid-tempo guitar tracks. – Chelsea
Andy Shauf recently released a brand new album, but instead of a solo effort it was a self-titled debut album with Foxwarren. The four piece band, made up of Shauf and childhood friends Dallas Bryson (guitar/vocals), Darryl Kissick (bass) and Avery Kissick (drums), is named after the Kissick’s Manitoba hometown. Their dreamy tracks mix together 70’s tones and modern twists, and if you like Shauf’s lyrics, they’re sprinkled throughout the group’s album. – Chelsea
Hamilton-based experimental-pop outfit Ellevator released their outstanding five-song self-titled EP via Arts & Crafts in April of 2018. Formerly known as The Medicine Hat, Ellevator spent much of the year supporting Canadian heavyweights such as Matt Good and Our Lady Peace, not to mention appearances at Field Trip and the Arkells’ Rally in their hometown. – Scott
Although Alice Merton released her hit single “No Roots” in Canada in 2017, she really exploded onto the alternative scene in 2018 with her No Roots EP, which features “Lash Out.” After facing thousands of rejections in Germany when looking for a label, Merton paved her own path. Industry professionals told her that she was not “sellable,” but her depth and variety is exactly what sold her music. So, Merton and her manager Paul Grauwinkel founded their own label, Paper Plane Records International, which is what she used to release her immensely popular first single. – Chelsea
In November, Daughter frontwoman Elena Tonra released her own gloomy, self-titled album, which explores the ghostly presence of a past partner. “Although the record is written for someone, a lot of the time it’s about the space without that person in it,” Tonra explained to DIY Magazine. Tonra’s distinctive, husky vocals still drive the tracks, and they seem to take the best aspects of Daughter while still setting itself apart as something entirely new. The straightforward, stripped back songs still sprinkle the iconic experimentalism we get in Daughter tracks. – Chelsea
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever
Australian indie rockers Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever officially arrived in 2018, armed with a mouthful for a moniker, and one of the year’s best efforts with their debut full-length Hope Downs. “Talking Straight” deserves a spot in your year-end best of list, if it’s not already there. – Scott
Jade Bird’s raucous, howling tunes definitely need to be on your go-to playlists. With wild tracks that combine soulful indie pop with Americana and punk, Bird’s lyrical narratives explore relatable concepts like fleeting love, broken relationships, and marriages that don’t stand a chance. Her visceral tracks drive right through your bones, with upbeat crazy guitar strumming and angry vocals that will make you wonder how she can scream-sing for so long. – Chelsea
Art d’Ecco released his debut full-length, Trespasser, via Paper Bag Records this year. Much of the album came about when d’Ecco holed in a cabin he had lived in as a child, barricading himself with copies of Deerhunter’s Cryptograms, Bowie’s Low, “and choice krautrock records.” Trespasser is steeped in inclusivity, while perfectly encapsulating d’Ecco’s wall of glam-inspired sound and the mysteriousness of his stage persona. – Scott
Vancouver based indie rock quartet Calpurnia, with Stranger Things actor Finn Wolfhard, recently released their debut EP Scout. These teenage old souls released tracks with distinctive classic rock influences like the Rolling Stones and the Beach Boys with more of a modern twist. The catchy tracks are somewhat experimental with groovy bass lines, fluctuating synths, and catchy moaning background vocals. – Chelsea