Top 89 of 2018: Best New Artists

The Current's Top 89 of 2018
The Current's Best New Artists of 2018 (Luke Mills | MPR)

Let's face it: The Current's listener-curated Top 89 countdown is the main attraction among our year-end lists. By voting for your favorite songs of 2018 in our Top 89 poll, you're entered to win a serious Down in the Valley prize pack. We'll air the whole countdown from 5 p.m. to midnight CT on New Year's Eve and again on Jan. 1 from 12-7 p.m. CT.

That said, there's more to the story this year. While you make those tough voting decisions, we wanted to celebrate some of the extra-canticular categories of 2018: Best New Artists, Best Albums, Best Local Artists, Best Sessions, and Best Twin Cities Concerts. Here are our picks for Best New Artists, as chosen by The Current's staff.

Big Red Machine

40ish/M/Eau Claire, WI & Hudson Valley, NY

Aaron Dessner (The National) and Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) started working on a song called "Big Red Machine" in 2008. Ten years later, they released their debut album as a group, naming themselves after that precursory song. Their musical trademarks include wandering vocals, soft accompaniment by horns and strings, and their "secret weapon": a modified Omnichord. "We worked together without pressure or even a specific goal or deadline," Dessner wrote. The result is an amiable album, ideally pondered among cattails and marshland.


mid-20s/F/TN, CA, & VA

After experiencing enough comparisons to one another, rockers Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus decided to form a supergroup. Similar interests and a shared dry humor hinted they might be friends, but no one knew how compatible they'd be musically until singles "Me & My Dog," "Bite The Hand," and "Stay Down" came out this year, followed closely by an EP named after their group: boygenius. Song by song, each woman takes her turn as lead vocalist before passing on the role.


early 20s/M/Los Angeles

This "best boy band since One Direction" puts on one of the most energetic live shows in the world. They had a bumpy 2018, kicking out co-founder Ameer Vann due to sexual misconduct allegations and subsequently cancelling their summer tour. But rapper Merlyn Wood gets it right when he says, "The music we're putting out right now gives me the same feeling of newness that I felt when Kanye was putting out GOOD Friday [songs]." Their thoughtful, bumping 2018 project iridescence forecasts a future where they keep on shining.

Jade Bird


Jade Bird's searing voice and rootsy songwriting combine to make her one of the year's most intriguing breakout musicians. The 2017 EP Something American and 2018 singles "Lottery" and "Furious" have raised the English singer/songwriter's reputation thus far. She'll have a big 2019, too, if her expected debut album drops next year.

Gang of Youths

late 20s/M/Sydney

Gang of Youths' album Go Farther In Lightness came out in Aug. 2017, but the Australian rockers finally started to see a U.S. payoff in 2018. This year, they impressed South by Southwest festivalgoers, played their arena rock in actual arenas (opening for the Foo Fighters), and performed their first U.S. TV gig on Late Night With Seth Meyers.


?/M + F/Houston

Whether you've heard "Maria También" once, a hundred times, or never in your life, you'll likely be nodding your head a few seconds into the mostly instrumental track. And that's just one entry point to their 2018 album Con Todo El Mundo. Laura Lee (bass), Mark Speer (guitar), and Donald Johnson (drums) cite Thai funk, '70s Iranian boogie, Baroque music, and many more genres as influences, meaning that you can approach their music from many backgrounds and find a footing. Their 2018 included opening slots for Leon Bridges, the release of that second album, and a raise in profile across the world.

Stella Donnelly


Stella Donnelly hasn't had her biggest year yet, mark our words — but 2018 was a pretty great one. The singer/songwriter released her EP Thrush Metal this year and performed at our South by Southwest day party, silencing the audience with her gorgeous voice and electric guitar.


late teens + 20s/M + F/literally all over the world

Superorganism are one of the wonkiest bands to hit the scene this year. Its eight members grew up all over the world and teamed up via the internet. Their signature sounds include bubbles blown through a straw, cash register cha-chings, and wah wahs shrieked by background vocalists; "like hipster kindergarten music," as put by a commenter on the following MicroShow video.

Tash Sultana


Tash Sultana plays something like 20 instruments, but they're best known for their work on guitar. Sultana rose to fame through YouTube videos of their song "Jungle," in which they loop and strum, bouncing around in their bedroom. This year, they released their first album Flow State and impressed many with the single "Salvation."

Thomas Abban


We've often sung Thomas Abban's praises this year, but they never manage to sound as good as his 2017 album A Sheik's Legacy, which RCA Records re-released in September. He's a mysterious figure with serious guitar chops, and he just keeps getting bigger.

Top 89 of 2018: Bonus Categories

The Current Staff's Favorite Songs of 2018

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