Year-end list season is over, festival lineups are getting announced, and the 2018 music industry is officially open for business.
Here are 10 emerging artists across alt-rock, pop-rock, indie rock, hardcore and beyond who are likely to make their presence felt this year, commercially and critically. Some are brand-new; others are about to be exposed to a vastly expanded audience for the first time.
When it comes to American radio, globetrotting singer-songwriter Alice Merton is batting a thousand. Her deeply catchy debut single “No Roots” (an ode to moving between Germany, Connecticut, Ontario, England and New York since she was young) is No. 1 at Adult Alternative, just went top five at Alternative Songs, and broke into the top 25 at Adult Pop. Basically, if you’ve flicked on alt-rock, AAA or adult top 40 radio anytime in the past month, you’ve heard her song — quite an achievement for an artist with literally one track on Spotify in the U.S. But that’s about to change: Expect a new single in March, perhaps followed by a larger work later in the year.
Already beloved by the hardcore crowd, the Baltimore quintet is primed to reach a much wider audience with its sophomore album Time & Space, its debut for Roadrunner Records (due Feb. 23). Turnstile knows how to chug-a-chug the pits open; the follow-up to 2015’s underground-legend-building Nonstop Feeling finds them implementing the sort of catchy hooks and intergalactic studio effects you’ll seldom hear pulled off on a hardcore record. For that, props are due to esteemed producer Will Yip (a mainstay of the emo revival/modern punk scene) as well as a couple of special guests: Sheer Mag singer Tina Halladay provides guest vocals on one track and Diplo — yes that Diplo — helped produce another.
First, Lo Moon hit us with ”Loveless” — a dreamy, tantalizing smoke cloud of a seven-minute xx-indebted alt-pop song. Then last year, the L.A. trio kept us transfixed with a pair of worthy follow-up singles, leading toward a deal with Columbia Records and a forthcoming debut LP. One of those tracks, the elegant “This Is It,” has been steadily rising up our Adult Alternative Songs chart; right now it’s at No. 6, its highest position yet.
The singer-songwriter has already broken in Australia, with a pair of ARIA awards and a triple-platinum single in her homeland. That track, the gripping, downtempo “Adore,” looks like her ticket to Stateside notoriety as well. “Had [‘Adore’] been released two decades earlier, it would have occupied the same rarefied area of Fiona Apple’s ‘Criminal’ or Alanis Morissette’s ‘Head Over Feet,’” we wrote on our overlooked pop songs roundup last summer. Well, it’s finally catching on. “Adore” is currently bubbling under Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart and a North American headlining tour next month figures to bring it and 2017’s Night Thinker EP to hordes of new eyes and ears (she’s already toured in support of Vance Joy and Bleachers).
Put simply, Tash Sultana is one of music’s most enthralling live acts right now. The 22-year old Melbourne native (we’re sticking with the Australia theme) can play more than 10 instruments (guitar, sax, trumpet, flute, etc.) and has taken her mesmerizing one-man show from busking street corners to sold-out North American clubs and late-night talk shows last year (see above). On the studio side, a pair of tracks from her heady 2016 Notion EP have over 25 million Spotify spins and our fingers are crossed for a full-length release in the near future.
Here’s to Virginia as a renewed source of indie rock stars. Richmond’s Lucy Dacus is a pal and past tourmate of fellow Virginian Will Toledo (aka Car Seat Headrest) who is set to release her ambitious sophomore album Historian on March 2. After introducing her soulful voice on 2016 debut No Burden (released through the VA indie EggHunt Records), the singer-songwriter delves deeper into post-college love and livelihood on the new LP, led by the knotty post-breakup tour de force “Night Shift.” She’s with longstanding indie Matador Records now (another Car Seat parallel) after the veteran indie re-released No Burden. With a bigger platform, expect Dacus’ dazzling songwriting to take her on bigger adventures in 2017.
The music world was first introduced to singer-songwriter Mitchy Collins as one-half of the Brooklyn folk-pop duo Oh Honey. He’s back as the main man in another project, this one an alternative radio-aiming L.A. trio that cites the Pixies, MGMT and Grouplove as key influences. lovelytheband debuted with the similarly punctuated everything i could ever say… EP last year and its lead single, the bouncy, infectious “broken” (noticing a theme here?) is hitting its stride in the new year. It’s currently No. 25 on Alternative Songs (its highest position yet) and appears primed to keep rising in the coming weeks.
Moon Taxi aren’t exactly new; the Nashville alt-rockers are releasing their third LP through RCA Records later this month, and prior to their major-label run, they released a pair of jam-rocky independent studio LPs. What’s different now (aside from their sound moving towards streamlined alternative-pop) is they have an actual hit on their hands. The smooth-sailing “Two High” melds serpentine fretwork with sturdy, hook-sealing horns and got all the way up to No. 11 on Alternative Songs last year, in addition to amassing over 70 million Spotify streams to date. Their new LP Let The Record Play is due Jan. 19.
When their glistening pop-rock single “Stuck” caught on late last year, we profiled the Aces with a Chartbreaker feature in Billboard mag last month. Heading into the new year, we’re excited as ever to hear what’s in store from the Utah-bred quartet. “Our full-length album is finished and the music’s coming out starting early early next year,” bassist McKenna Petty told us for that interview. Red Bull Records was smart to discover and sign the childhood friends in late 2016 (they’d been gigging around Provo, Utah up ’til then); more radio success, big time festival stages, and other tastemaker-friendly opportunities could be in their future if the full length hits.
One of the breakout stars of SXSW 2017, Snail Mail signed on with Matador Records last September, giving immensely talented singer-songwriter Lindsey Jordan a wide-reaching platform for her 2018 debut album (release date TBA). Jordan possesses a powerful, stop-in-your-tracks sort of voice, the kind that made people remember her from those SXSW shows, but also articulated deep, arresting emotion across 2016’s Habit EP, her only studio release to date. She’s only 18 years old, and actually studied guitar under Mary Timony, who played in beloved indie rock bands like Helium, Wild Flag, and Ex Hex. There’s a lot to root for here, and a lot of reason to expect some esteemed attention around the new album.