Music

The 30 Best New Musical Artists of 2018

These are the best new artists of 2018 and they spring from all across the musical spectrum.

Amnesia Scanner

Amnesia Scanner is the experimental electronic duo of Ville Haimala and Martti Kalliala. Created in late 2013, the group is not exactly new, but they have remained somewhat unrecognizable and wholly inaccessible until this year. As they used to refuse interviews and released several unannounced, unexplained EP's and mixtapes, Amnesia Scanner floated around as illegible codes for devoted listeners to decipher. Every track title was prefaced by "AS", and each music video regurgitated images from internet's forgotten corners, but for what reason?

Now, their 2018 debut album Another Life makes sense and builds upon their initially cryptic thesis: simultaneously emulating and questioning how we satiate IRL anxieties with URL opiates, or what they call "narratives of… salvation via technology". Treating pop structures as memes, musical and lyrical anaphoras mechanically compute until their deceptive screens are cracked. Pop tropes are shrieked by their frequent collaborator Pan Daijing, or ciphered by the Oracle—a computerized voice that croons like a disillusioned Crazy Frog. Amnesia Scanner toys with learned memetic, consumer behaviors, implanting hedonistic music with thoughtful criticisms. What initially began as an anonymous side project, an outlet for material that was to obscure for Renaissance Man, has developed into a distinct conceptual identity, simulating a bleak but necessary reflection of our digital opiate culture. - Hans Kim

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The Beths

The Beths, led by Elizabeth Stokes, assert uncertainty better than anyone else around right now. Debut full-length Future Me Hates Me builds on the New Zealand group's poppy version of '90s alt-rock, mixing in some girl-group-style harmonies with a thoroughly contemporary sensibility. Stokes wanders into and struggles out of relationships but never loses her nerve. The group's ability to pound ahead relentlessly, almost gleefully, in the face of doubt keeps the record from being either too bubbly or too troubled. In the midst of those feelings, they deliver "Not Running" and its embrace of emotional risk, even in wariness. The Beths develop a complicated world without a clear sense of what to do, so moments like the chorus of "Not Running" provide just the right amount of grounding. Forget the psychoanalysis, though. The Beths' guitar hooks and backing vocals would be enough for a potent debut. The Beths may not know how to feel about themselves, but the rest of us shouldn't have so much trouble figuring it out. - Justin Cober Lake

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Anandi Bhattacharya

Singer Anandi Bhattacharya comes from one of India's most famous families of contemporary classical musicians. Her father, Debashish, is a master of the slide guitar; her uncle, Subhasis, is a virtuosic percussionist. Both have supported her on her first foray into solo music this year: Joys Abound, a debut that the youngest Bhattacharya recorded at the tender age of 21. She has a transcendent voice, substantial and ethereal all at once, and draws on spiritual, secular, timeless, and modern styles in her music. Between her studio album and well-received tours across the globe, Anandi has shown a skill for artful innovation that fits in well with her relatives' repertoires – and a remarkable talent for song all her own. - Adriane Pontecorvo

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Jade Bird

London's Jade Elizabeth Bird kicked butt at the 2018 South by Southwest music festival. She played 12 shows to packed audiences and won the conference's Grulke Prize for Developing Non-U.S. Act award. The young artist (who recently turned 21) has strong vocal chops and the ability to craft intelligent, guitar-based compositions that simultaneously reveal her innocence and experience. Her cheerful demeanor and clean-scrubbed good looks often disguise the fact that her narrators discover something not especially positive about themselves and other people. Her material suggests her independence causes harm to herself and others. Her guitar playing may not be showy, but she has an excellent sense of timing and knows when to blaze and when to hold back. Although Bird has not yet released a full-length album, she took an extensive road tour of the United States and is about to embark on one in Great Britain. She's been writing new songs along the way, and several of them have already received extensive airplay on college, indie rock, public radio, and Americana stations. - Steve Horowitz

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Ray BLK

If Ray BLK played a sport instead of making music, she would be called "a student of the game". She holds immense respect for those artists who came before her, who paved the way for her, and one of her driving motivations is to live up to those artists. So far, mission accomplished. She self-released an EP and an album in the last couple years, but this year's Empress is her first album on a label, and what an album it is. It is only eight tracks, but there's not a clunker in the bunch. Ray BLK proved that she can write, she can sing, she can rap, she can rock a dance track, she can sing the hell out of a torch song. There are shades of (pre-self-titled) Beyonce, there's a little bit of Mariah Carey, there are hints of Salt 'n' Pepa, and yet none of it feels derivative. She's incredibly talented in a number of ways, and if there's anything she isn't good at, she's been smart enough to avoid that thing in what she is showing the world -- and it's a good thing, because the world is starting to notice. - Mike Schiller

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boygenius

Music lovers often fantasize about supergroups, but almost always the output of these groups is inferior to the members' other works. This year, however, saw the melding of rising indie rock singer-songwriters Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus into a glorious trio which is perhaps greater than the sum of its parts. Though only releasing a six-song EP this year, the prolific three have only just begun. And with their solo material already so full of heartache, raw and real looks at relationship, and the deeper emotions behind everyday normalities, boygenius has a real opportunity for shared greatness in their future collaborations. - Chris Thiessen

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The Brother Brothers

Less intent on precise harmony than they are simply in evoking the emotion in a song, Adam and David Moss' performance as the Brother Brothers is more separated from the works of Simon & Garfunkel than one might initially think. The similarities are certainly there and are naturally abundant—they are, after all, a folk duo from Brooklyn often caught singing nostalgic songs of love and loss. Like the Milk Carton Kids, however, taking them only for what might be sheerly similar about them discredits their own individual artistic voices. Some People I Know establishes the Brother Brothers as a tad more informal, taking the blue-collar sentiment of Americana mainstays like Jason Isbell or Sarah Shook and synthesizing them into a more subtly presented, folk-centered experience. While they have yet to build a catalog to rival those of their aforementioned contemporaries, their debut LP is a great step in the right direction. They leave what they've got right on the table, making it no wonder why they've managed supporting gigs for the likes of I'm With Her and Lake Street Dive. - Jonathan Frahm

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Anna Burch

With her LP Quit the Curse, Detroit's Anna Burch boasts one of 2018's strongest yet understated debuts. As Burch is far from a novice, having been a veteran of various bands in her city's music scene, Quit the Curse is a declaration of songwriter that has already cut her teeth and honed a craft demanding attention. On full display throughout the album's nine infectious tunes is Burch's knack for conjuring ethereal, mid-tempo pop, all guided by her mellifluous voice. Abounding with vintage flourishes and an understated romanticism, her songs are rich with honey-dripping whimsy and subtly hum their way into your subconscious. The album is signal flare announcing the origin of what should be an indie legacy artist. - Cole Waterman

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Liz Cooper & the Stampede

Some bands just ooze a particular feeling, a particular vibe that can become so iconic to the point that the band and the vibe are synonymous. While it may be a bit premature to call Liz Cooper & the Stampede iconic, their ability to make you feel like you're blissfully floating down a magic stream certainly contains the DNA to grow into that title. Grant Prettyman and Ryan Usher lay down the groovy foundations for the vibe, but the secret ingredient is Cooper's dreamy, psychedelic guitar-work accompanied by the sly rasp in her voice. Though able to storytell and paint lyrical landscapes with the prowess of a folk songwriter (check out "Mountain Man"), the focus remains the groove and vibe, and it's perfect. - Chris Thiessen

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Cut Worms

Cut Worms is the nom de plume of Max Clark, an Ohioan with a creative gaze fixated upon a hypnagogic past. On his 2018 debut Hollow Ground, Clark delivers a collection of sonorous melodies with an unabashed nostalgia for 1960s-style balladry. What makes Clark's work stand out amidst a glut of low-fi, vintage inspired acts is his ability to toe the line between light and darkness. Despite the lilting, power pop-inspired sound of many of these songs, there is a somber self-awareness that lurks beneath the shiny veneer.

Instrumentally, Hollow Ground thrives when it balances dark guitars and faraway parlor pianos with sparkling leads, bright pedal steel, and soaring vocal harmonies. This deceptively simplistic songwriting disarms the listener from the overwhelming lyrical message that reality is far away. Like the David Lynchian material his music evokes, Clark's music comes with the painful reminder that the burning nostalgia we often feel is no more than a product of a yearning, lovesick mind. - Jared Skinner

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