In 2019 new music reaches the world with a single upload and careers can take shape in vastly different ways. The only rule still pertinent in assessing the next wave of Australian musicians is whether they have the talent to make a difference, something that's a possibility with all 10 of these artists. Whether still on the local touring circuit or getting ready to take on the world these diverse acts will get you up to speed on the music headed your way.
G Flip aka Georgia Flipo. Credit:Louise Kennerley
For fans of: Beck and Grimes
Current track: Drink Too Much
In February 2018, Melbourne electronic musician Georgia Flipo put her first song as G Flip, the bittersweet About You, up on Triple J's Unearthed website; in February 2019, G Flip played to tens of thousands of people across Australia as part of the Laneway Festival. In between, the multi-instrumentalist and self-taught producer picked up record deals, fans and a lack of creative inhibitions. "I never start a song thinking that it will be a pop song or super-edgy," Flipo says. "I just do what my ears like, and when I say yes to something I roll with it. I think my genre is in the pop world because I love catchy melodies, but it's a rough kind of pop." While S's cover star is still getting used to photo shoots – "I don't know what to do with my face," she happily admits – Flipo's mix of bouncy beats, tender melodies, and confessional lyrics has struck a chord. Her debut album is almost finished, with just some final tinkering from its perfectionist creator required. "It's made me realise," Flipo says, "that I could be doing this for a very long time."
Amyl and the Sniffers.
AMYL AND THE SNIFFERS
For fans of: The Ramones and the Slits
Current track: Monsoon Rock
Fronted by Amy Taylor, one of the most dynamic larrikins in Australian music since AC/DC's Bon Scott strutted the stage, Melbourne punk quartet Amyl and the Sniffers have become underground sensations over the last 18 months. Their raucous sound has propelled them from house parties to international touring, with Gucci's head designer Alessandro Michele insisting Taylor and bassist Gus Romer model for the storied label at a recent Milan fashion week show. "It's all so crazy at this point it's becoming normal," says the laid back Romer. "It was just putting the right people together and then making something quickly that worked with Amy's craziness and her abilities as a songwriter and a lyricist." The first taste of a debut album set for release in the middle of the year, their new single Monsoon Rock, puts a touch of studio polish on their raucous guitar, bass and drums sound. Already wild shows now feature fans imitating the band's look, complete with throwback denim and 1970s sharpie haircuts. "I'm sporting quite the sharpie mullet at the moment," Romer says. "Short on the top and a little flavour at the back."
For fans of: Robyn and Sam Smith
Current track: Bite My Tongue
"I'm obsessed with pop music and songwriters like Tove Lo and Charli XCX," says impish Melbourne pop musician Sam Bluer, and his trio of introductory singles – Shift, Body High, and now Bite My Tongue – reveal that he's been paying close attention. Bluer makes beat-driven pop songs that have a lush texture, insinuative rhythms, and a knack for lyrical revelation. "I really like writing about uncomfortable situations with other people or relationship issues that I wouldn't discuss face to face," he says. "No one's ticked me off about it yet, but I definitely love talking about things that aren't the easiest to talk about in person." Bluer's next single will move on from the three-in-the-morning grooves he's previously made, with the aim being to move from left-of-centre pop music to the anthemic centre-stage. An upcoming writing trip to Britain and Sweden should deliver his next creative goal: "I want to go the full extreme of pop music and see what comes out of it."
For Fans of: Courtney Barnett and Billy Bragg
Current track: Tricks
Stella Donnelly is impossibly cheerful in person and has a whimsical edge to her dreamy folk-pop songs, but at the same time she's supplied the soundtrack to society's turning points, beginning with 2017's scathing Boys Will Be Boys, an account of her friend's sexual assault that encompasses the culture of victim-blaming and cliched excuses. "As tough as it is singing Boys Will Be Boys five nights a week I've accepted it and let it be with me and hopefully have it do some good," says the 26-year-old singer-songwriter from Fremantle. A teenage punk rocker who never imagined she'd have a solo career, let alone one that would give her a glowing international profile, Donnelly has comfortably leapt past the merely promising stage with her assured debut album, Beware of the Dog. "Contrast is really important, in music and in the everyday. If I sat down opposite you and yelled in your face about what should be done to fix the world, I feel like I'd only get one-tenth of my message across to you," Donnelly says. "Sometimes you have to create a comfortable space for what's uncomfortable."
Haiku Hands. Credit:Dan Kendall
For fans of: Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Devo
Current track: Dare You Not to Dance
"We're pop, punk, hip-hop and electronic," says Mie Nakazawa, one-third of Sydney art school disco collective Haiku Hands alongside her sister Claire, and Beatrice Lewis. "What we have in common is a lot of energy, a lot of opinions, and that comes out in the performance and the writing. We've taken this opportunity to be loud and that resonates with a lot of people." If the set-up is conceptual, the songs are deliriously fun, all chanted lyrics, banging beats and an undercurrent of social critique, shared via live performances that start from a choreographed structure and often embrace chaos. "It's become very serious, very quickly," says Mie, speaking from a hotel room in Austin, Texas, where the trio were a few hours away from playing their first gig at the influential South by Southwest music festival. Their manager has assured them American audiences can deal with a few expletives, and now it's just a matter of turning crowds onto tracks such as Work on It, and its chorus "You can be my man bitch". "People sing along to it and then get confused about finding it so catchy," says Mie proudly.
For fans of: Cocteau Twins and The Sundays
Current track: Without a Blush
Two weeks ago Hatchie – aka Brisbane singer-songwriter Harriette Pilbeam – opened for American alternative rock figureheads Death Cab for Cutie. A week later she opened for pop icon Kylie Minogue. Somewhere in between those two poles you'll find her sound: reverb-drenched guitars, dreamy production, and swooning choruses. Her songs have a dramatic flourish and a sense of certainty – they're how Pilbeam puts her worries to right. "When I'm upset about something music is a really good way to compartmentalise it, to put it in a box even as I'm emotionally dealing with it," she says. "It means I don't have to dwell on it." The 25-year-old spent much of 2018 introducing herself to European and North American audiences, a deep-end dive for a self-confirmed pessimist who came back with the determination to take control of the recording sessions for her debut album, June's Keepsake. "I'm still always open to trying other ideas, but if I don't want something now I just say so," Pilbeam says. "I think I'm doing alright."
For fans of: Chance the Rapper and Hilltop Hoods
Current track: Bless
Homeward Bound is a side project made good. Really good. As Jimblah, Northern Territory-born and Adelaide-raised MC James Alberts made several well-received hip-hop albums, but the stress was starting to outweigh the satisfaction. "I felt boxed in with hip-hop, especially as we have a real purist mentality here in Adelaide," Alberts explains. "That's cool, and I grew up with that, but I've always liked all different kinds of music so with Homeward Bound I wanted a space to explore all kinds of sounds." Giving himself a new creative identity as Jimblah, and more importantly a collaborator in long-time live vocalist and partner Goji, Alberts created a vehicle to bring himself back from the edge. Homeward Bound's relaxed, joyful mix of hip-hop, soulful hooks and electronic arrangements is a paean to optimism that finds voice on the duo's current single, Bless. "A lot of this is about bringing it back towards the light and knowing that the darkness is there for a reason," says Alberts, who has the group's debut album ready for mid-year release. "The big message for us is that we want to bring some love to the table."
I Know Leopard.
I KNOW LEOPARD
For fans of: Roxy Music and Abba
Current track: Heather
Mixing vintage synthesisers, soft rock licks, arty flourishes and pure Abba harmonies – not to mention an accompanying video clip that is heavy on the white outfits – Sydney quartet I Know Leopard hit a glam slam on their new single Heather, which is the precursor to a debut album, Love is a Landmine, due out in less than a fortnight. "The influences that are coming out now have always been there – I grew up listening to '70s soft rock and Abba – but this album is the chance to let it all out and share our love affair with this music," says frontman Luke O'Loughlin. The singer, along with bassist Rosie Fitzgerald, guitarist Todd Andrews, and keyboardist Rosie Fitzgerald, sees the album as a way of allowing classic sounds to find a new home in the contemporary music scene. Encouraged by producer Jack Moffit (the Preatures), they've made an album that draws sharpened reactions: after an introductory listen or two people often either love or loathe what they're hearing. O'Loughlin has no problem with such a dramatic choice. "Fortune favours the bold," he says.
For fans of: Kendrick Lamar and A$AP Ferg
Current track: Clouds
Another act headed to South by Southwest – he checked in with S just after he finished packing – Sydney rapper Kwame has been the next big thing in Australian hip-hop since he blew up Triple J's Unearthed a year ago with Wow, a dexterous hip-hop track that showcases his assured flow and lyrical invention. The song doesn't sound like a stepping stone, rather a statement of intent. "I don't look at it as my career, I look at it as my passion," says the dedicated but excitable 21-year-old. "I wake up every day knowing that I'm blessed with the opportunity and the ability to inspire someone's life with my artistry. I never take that for granted." A Hills District resident in Sydney's north-west since the age of two, when his Ghanaian parents moved here from New Zealand, Kwame discovered Kanye West when he was 12 and never looked back. Right now he's politely avoiding the many offers for recording contracts that are coming his way, staying independent and taking pleasure in changing the expectations of his music with each new track. "That's the excitement of doing something unknown. I love the unexpected," says Kwame, who is still coming to terms with his public profile. "I still see myself as a regular kid. It's crazy when people know I am."
For fans of: Taking Back Sunday and Good Charlotte
Current track: Everything You Wanted
Melbourne pop punk band Stuck Out have done the Hume Highway drive north to Sydney and back so many times in the last year that the five-piece have a favourite food stop: the Wodonga outlet of Mexican cafe chain Zambrero. "It's one of the few things that hasn't changed for us in the last 12 months," says frontman Joshua Walker. "We used to write a song and that was it – we either liked it or we didn't. Now we take a measured approach and we're not afraid to chop and change and we know the sounds we want." Pop punk has its highs and lows as a genre, and right now Stuck Out are positioning themselves for the next upswing with a busy touring schedule that will draw hundreds of dedicated fans to all-ages daytime shows. "As a five-piece punk band we're not ground-breaking, but we still have to stand out. That comes down to our live performances – we pride ourselves on the energy we put in," Walker says. "We want people to walk away from our shows having experienced something better than they're used to."
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