Every year we like to collate a document featuring the acts we’re anticipating hearing more from most in the year ahead.
Why? It’s a bit of a cathartic experience. For one, it feels inherently more positive to look to the year ahead in music after the endless areflection on the year past that list season in December entails.
Secondly, pulling these choices, the product of three very distinct tastes in music together into one place can be very indicative of larger trends emerging in music (locations, genres etc) as well as in our own listening habits. Looking over this list for the umpteenth time, it’s hard not the be struck by the amount of young British talent on it – particularly female. Also, when comparing this year’s list to 2019’s (here), there are clearly a lot more guitar bands that took our fancy this time around.
While the sheer amount of moving parts in the modern music industry and its listenership make it difficult to predict who exactly is going to blow up in the weeks and months ahead, these bands and artists can be relied on to release music of real quality.
With that in mind, the following is our 20 artists to love in 2020, listed alphabetically.
Words by Luke Sharkey & Kelly Doherty.
Buttery smooth R&B vocals AND futuristic, OTT beats? Yes please. AMA is a London artist on the rise who knows actually what she’s doing. Signed to Dirty Hit Records and already making waves at just age 19, AMA is destined for success. Her EP Screenluv was a stunningly confident debut, skewing expectations of modern R&B with an experimental and distinct production style.
With plans for another EP and “a longer project, probably coming out next year”, AMA is set to storm into the musical consciouness with her unique style in 2020 and we’re here for it.
One of the artists who best typifies the bustling alternative club scene over in the UK. Manchester native Anz’s first-hand education of British rave: Jungle, Hardcore, Techno & more has clearly gone on to have a palpable influence on her recorded material.
While her 2017 debut EP Anz felt spiritually rooted in the world of Grime, much broader strokes have been applied on her 2019 Invitiation 2 Dance. That project is soaked in gorgeous melodies, while still retaining breakbeat rhythms and alternative club progressiveness. ‘‘No Harm’ is one of the very best dance tracks of 2019.
We’re holding out for an Irish date (someone make this happen), in the meantime, you can tune into the artist’s monthly Manchester NTS show for a regular insight into one of the most exciting new dance acts out there.
This LA three-piece punk group are a big vibe going into the year a head. Automatic, birthed in the city’s prestigious DIY scene, released a criminally under the radar gem of an album last year in Signal. To my ears, the band have that magic chemistry; the right sound, style and attitude.
Listening to tracks like album opener ‘Too Much Money’ and ‘Signal’ its difficult to resist being won over the groups’ sleek, clever songwriting. Streamlined arrangments and vocals are precise, a sharp bass pattern offset with a fuzzy guitar or grainy synth note (as on ‘Signal’). Refined, focused punk music for the modern-day.
Bbymutha has been making waves in the underground hip-hop scene over the last few years with her bouncy, charistmatic trap anthems. The Tennessee rapper had her first taste of wider success with the infectious ‘Rules’ back in 2017 and has gone from strength to strength since. Bbymutha has said her music “is representative of black girls with children in the hood that’s just trying to navigate through life as that” and this lesser-heard perspective, as well as her irreverant, distinct flow, is core to what makes her stand out from the herd.
A leaked potential XXL Freshman 2020 list counts Bbymutha amongst its ranks but whether or not she makes the final cut, 2020 is set is to be a big year with her debut album Christine on the horizon.
Genuinely weird, utterly brilliant deviations from the bedroom pop school of thought from Texan duo Being Dead. Jump immediately into their only EP to date Fame Money Death by Drive By. Every time the duelling Baroque harmonies announce the start of ‘Red Drive’ I jump, well worth it for the gothic pop tune which follows that brief section.
As the band’s name might suggest, there is a morose element to Being Dead’s music. ‘Underworld’ plays like classic jukebox rock & roll only the jukebox has been specially rigged to play the Adams family’s favourite tunes. That the song rolls straight into “Go to the prom with me” (the opening salvo of ‘Apostles’ Prom) shows a genius-level self-awareness. Some of the most creative, intuitive and fun rock music I’ve heard in a long time.
Black Country, New Road
Superb London-based seven-piece experimental rock act with spoken word in lue of sung vocals. Black Country, New Road may only have two released singles thus far to their name. Check your scepticism for just a wee moment, go listen to the full near nine minutes of ‘Sunglasses’ and tell me it isn’t exceptional.
What the band achieve, either through the meld of genres which influence their arrangements or the 21st-century compatible stream of consciousness-styled vocals, is truly unique. I don’t want to jinx it, just go listen to them.
Australian up-the-anti punk three-piece who are lining up to release their second full-length this year.
Cable Ties write and release lean, no-nonsense anti-establishment punk. Headed up by vocalist and founder, Jenny McKenchie, the band have strongly feminist leanings, with members being involved in curating the first Girls Rock! In 2017.
You’re either into punk already, in which case you’ll love Cable Ties, or you may be turned off by their no prisoners taken songwriting approach. Even if you’re the sort of listeners who ardently avoids the genre, there’s something undeniably cathartic in a massive f*ck you.
Something is definitely in the Austrailian water and it’s churning out charismatic female slacker rockers at an alarming but welcome rate. The latest addition to the pack is Perth’s Carla Geneve, a 20 year-old singer-songwriter with a penchant for the self-deprecating. 2019 saw Geneve releasing her deeply personal debut self-titled EP and it arrived in a wave of guitar-led arrangements and stark lyrical honesty.
Geneve stands out from the crowd in her flirtations with the heavier side of guitar music and her dryly delivered vocals. She’s been touring alongside Julia Jacklin over the last while and is due to release her debut album this year.
Greentea Peng will be huge in 2020. Blending hazey, psych faded productions with jazzy turns, Greentea Peng’s music is a celebration of all things laidback. Blessed with an impossibly smooth voice and an irrepressible aura of coolness, Peng’s breakout track ‘Mr Sun’ positions the London artist as a serious force to be reckoned with. Already recieving heaps of attention from music press and online streaming platforms, Greentea Peng’s weed powered neo-soul star is majorly on the rise.
L.A. born and bred alternative rock group Liily touch upon many of the fringe sounds in rock and roll. There’s definitely an emo touch in there, a little of Foals’ stadium ready sing-along riffage and a splash of pop-punk’s exuberance too.
That heady mix is on emphatic display throughout cracking single ‘Toro’ (below).
I don’t tend to trust bands with more than 75% good looking members but Liily very much seem to be the real deal.