It’s been a big year for new, innovative bands and artists.
With unbelievable new musicians like Haviah Mighty, Caroline Polachek, Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst’s Better Oblivion Community Centre, and Brittany Howard’s solo project, there is so much new music this year to sift through. Luckily, we’ve put together a list of some of the more memorable breakout acts of the year.
Check out the best breakout bands and artists of 2019 below.
Brampton MC Haviah Mighty made waves with the release of her uncompromising album, 13th Floor, which went on to win the 2019 Polaris Music Prize. Haviah Mighty’s debut album explores the challenges she has faced as a rapper because of her gender and race. Over 13 genre-bending tracks, Mighty pays tribute to her family, who taught her how to persevere despite facing racism growing up.
Chairlift member Caroline Polachek branched off to release her debut solo album Pang this year. This record truly revolves around Polachek’s vocal lines as she explores living unexpected dreams, crying in public, and the loss of relationships. Pang grows and evolves throughout the record’s 14 tracks, involving a perfect balance of almost symphonic songs like “The Gate” and dance-worthy bangers like its title track.
Alabama Shakes frontwoman Brittany Howard broke out for a second time with her own solo material this year. With the release of her debut solo album Jaime, Howard delivered a dynamic, soulful collection of perfectly raucous tracks. The album is named after her late sister, who died of cancer when they were still teens. “She definitely did shape me as a human being, but the record it not about her. It’s about me. I’m pretty candid about myself and who I am and what I believe. Which is why I needed to do it on my own.”
Better Oblivion Community Center
Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst were one of the most epic collaborations of the year with the surprise release of their debut album as Better Oblivion Community Center. The album is delightfully dreary, with Bridgers’ and Oberst’s distinct melancholic vocals and confessional story telling taking the lead as they sing about desolation, devastation and, of course, death. “We get pegged as being emo and death-obsessed,” Conor Oberst explained to Billboard. “Things that we are,” Bridgers remarks in response.
Breakthough pop star King Princess made waves this year with the release of her powerful, transgressive debut album, Cheap Queen. The full-length album is a glimpse at King Princess’ impressive dynamism, as she weaves in and out of genres with ease while letting her soothing, throaty vocals shine. The refined record is a sophisticated first effort from the young artist, as she leans in to her sexuality and her vulnerability on each and every track.
Funk/soul duo Black Pumas have truly made waves this year for their self-titled debut album, and even received their first Grammy nomination ever for Best New Artist. The album revolves around tight rhythms and unbelievable horns as they allow the feel of the track to shine rather than staying true to the technicalities of soul music. With standout tracks like “Colors” and “Black Moon Rising,” you’re sure to have this band on repeat.
Anyway Gang is a new Canadian supergroup made up of members from Sloan, Sam Roberts Band, Hollerado, and Tokyo Police Club. The band is made up Sam Roberts, Hollerado’s Menno Versteeg, Sloan’s Chris Murphy, and Tokyo Police Club’s Dave Monks. “Anyway Gang is a Frankenstein’s monster of a band with stitched-on limbs provided by Chris, Menno, Sam, and Dave,” Roberts explains. “The beast is brainless of course, but it’s gonna be a wild ride!”
Norwegian indie pop artist Sigrid truly exploded this year after the release of her debut album, Sucker Punch. With dynamic, energetic instrumentals and unbelievable hooks, it’s no wonder Sigrid is on her rise to the top after the release of hits like “Don’t Kill My Vibe” and “Sucker Punch.” “I just wanted to put out a collection of my favourite songs,” Sigrid explains of the album to Rolling Stone. “It’s a little piece of my brain.”
Masked country crooner Orville Peck has garnered fame quickly with his stand out image and the release of his debut album, Pony. The record tells the tales os his rocky relationships and lost love to life, as he delivers deep baritones over gentle banjos. “True country music is not about instrumentation, it’s not about the colour of your skin, and it’s not about your sexual orientation,” Peck explains, according to Sub Pop. “It’s about the crossroads of drama, storytelling, and sincerity.”
Genre-bending artist Nilüfer Yanya dropped her revolutionary debut album Miss Unvierse this year. The album sees Yanya’s gritty, versatile vocal lines intertwining with killer, fuzzy guitar riffs and refined, shimmery synths. This is an album you’re going to want to play again and again, as each play will allow you to dive deeper past the elaborate instrumentals and into Yanya’s lyrical depth as she sings lines like, “Deep underwater I breathe/ Let me soak/ Chasing the shades of the love that we made, of the love that we broke.”
Following 2015’s The Bloodred Yonger, Ben Rogers signed to Dallas Green’s recently launched Still Records for the release of this year’s album, Wildfire. Green produced the record himself, and it sees Rogers drifting from his previous sound, allowing a steady, solemn attitude to permeate throughout his folk/Americana tracks. In fact, the album shows the raw, hazy artist in ways you’ve never seen.
Clairo released her debut album Immunity this year, and it’s been the talk of some of the biggest music fans around ever since. After going viral on YouTube, Clairo has truly matured into a refined, eclectic young pop artist. The lo-fi album comes packed with breezy instrumentals, ranging from lush ballads to soft rock anthems.
Toronto jangle pop outfit Ducks Unlimited recently released their debut EP, Get Bleak, which comes packed with driven instrumentals and stand out guitar riffs, as frontman Tom McGreevy’s smooth vocals take the lead. Exploring modern themes of millennial isolation and ghosting, the tracks embrace dancing through the misery and making light of the hardships of living in your twenties.
Hop Along’s Frances Quinlan was one of many artists to start their own solo act. Quinlan recorded her forthcoming album Likewise with Hop Along bandmate, Joe Reinhart. “One of the benefits of experience in my case has been that I’ve become a stronger and more adventurous collaborator,” Quinlan explains in a statement. “Working with Joe on this made me able to better see that the guitar is just one vehicle… there are so many others to explore.”
Indie pop outfit Boniface have announced their forthcoming self-titled debut album after delivering an unbelievable preview of the record with “Keeping Up.” “In high school I met some friends that changed me forever,” Boniface explains of the track in a statement. “They all thought different, acted different than anyone ‘d met, but everything about them seemed so right and safe to me. I was a weird music nerd and they played music in basements and after a few nights getting wasted together there was a deep, platonic love between us. But love is complicated, and when you get close to people you start seeing the bad along with the good. You see the bad in yourself, the baggage you’re carrying.”
From Auckland, New Zealand, The Beths released their debut full-length indie pop record Future Me Hates Me last year. Since forming in 2015, the band has earned a reputation for their lush three-part vocal arrangements. Now, The Beths have truly broken out as a band, embarking on a UK and European tour as the supporting act for Death Cab For Cutie.
From Montreal, Quebec, musician Ada Lea released her debut album what we say in private this year. Ada Lea’s work on the album arose from a need to chronicle the end of a significant romantic relationship. Ada Lea also works as a painter and visual artist, and cites inspiration from artists in a variety of media, including Sylvia Plath, Frida Kahlo, Karen Dalton and Nina Simone. Over the course of six months she channeled emotional turmoil into painting and music, and ultimately found herself reborn with a new sense of freedom.
One of Dermot Kennedy’s first big breaks in music came after a chance meeting with fellow Irish singer Glen Hansard. Kennedy shared some of his early recordings with Hansard, who in return offered a ten-minute opening spot on his sold-out Christmas show. He made the most of it by performing his song “After Rain,” which would end up being one of his first official singles. “After Rain” would soon earn over 55 million streams on Spotify alone, and in just a few years Kennedy is now garnering over 8-million monthly listeners.
Single Mothers’ founder and frontman Drew Thomson released his self-titled album as The Drew Thomson Foundation this year via Dine Alone Records. The vulnerable new album sees Thomson putting his feelings at the forefront, as his lyrics explore sobriety, the death of a loved one, and pushing away the people close to him. “Where Single Mothers songs can come from the perspective of a character that I play and put on, this band is more about who I am in my day-to-day life,” Thomson explains. “It’s a lot more revealing of who I am now. I started playing music 10 years ago as a lost early 20s alcoholic. I’m now 33, sober, and still a mess but not quite a disaster.”
Tamino Fouad is a Belgium-based artist of Egyptian and Lebanese heritage. He began playing music as a teen, and was into punk rock before he found his mother’s record collection. On his debut album Amir, Tamino blends his western upbringing with his Arabic roots to create a remarkably unique sound. He recorded the album with Nagham Zikrayat, a Brussels based collective of Arabic musicians predominantly comprised of refugees from Iraq and Syria. The record also features an appearance from Radiohead’s Colin Greenwood on the track “Indigo Night.”
After his mother passed away, Bad Child found solace by producing his own music at home using his father’s computer and a bootleg copy of FruityLoops. “I’d spend hours making beats,” he explains, “I couldn’t stop creating. I didn’t start singing until after my mother’s death, it was the only way I could unpack my emotions.” Now, he’s released hit indie pop tracks like “Breathing Fire” and “Desert Island Lover.”