Top 89 of 2019: Best New Artists

Top 89 of 2019
Top 89 of 2019 - New Artists 2019 (MPR)

We love airing our listener-decided Top 89 countdown every year (in 2019, the countdown will air on Dec. 31 from 5 p.m. to midnight and rebroadcast on Jan. 1 from 12 to 7 p.m.; listen here). But 89 songs alone can't tell the story of a whole year of music. That's where our bonus categories come in!

In this post, we've got an eye on the top new artists of 2019, as determined by the staff of The Current with listener input. Here goes:

Billie Eilish

This artist just turned 18, and she's been turning listeners into fans since the release of her first single, "Ocean Eyes," back in 2015. The year 2019 saw Eilish's first studio full-length release, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?. Often cited as the first pop artist born in the 21st century, Eilish is already building an impressive career, so the question for observers is: where will Eilish go next?


Having released numerous tracks on Bandcamp since 2014, Clairo — whose full name is Claire Cottrill — released her first full-length album, Immunity, on August 2 of this year. From that release, Clairo's haunting jam "Bags" in particular found a home and a receptive audience on The Current.


Born Laetitia Tamko, the artist known as Vagabon told Jade the name "stems more from me not wanting people to say my name wrong." But there's something deeper: Vagabon was born in Cameroon and emigrated to New York as a youngster. As a result, the concept of home can feel a bit elusive to her. "Where I have found the most comfort and the most sense of home, is through music," Vagabon told Jade — and listeners gave Vagabon a home on their list of favorite new artists, if not in their hearts as well.

The Comet Is Coming

This London-based electronica outfit were nominated for a Mercury Prize back in 2016, but this year, The Comet Is Coming fired up The Current's listeners with the release of their instrumental number, "Summon the Fire."

Better Oblivion Community Center

With a band name that nests a hopeful concept within an apocalyptic vision, Better Oblivion Community Center seemed destined from the outset to resonate with The Current audience, given that it's a collaboration between Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst. The duo made their national debut in a rather unconventional place: as the mystery musical guests on the Wednesday, Jan. 23, episode of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on CBS. The telephone number flashed onscreen during the performance, when dialed, gave curious listeners information about the group's tour plans.


Yola Carter — who like so many artists prefers the simplicity of a mononym — grew up in Bristol, England, revering the music of Dolly Parton. Yola's 2016 EP, Orphan Offering, landed the artist a spot at Americana Fest, where, among others, she captured the attention of Dan Auerbach. As a result, Yola was recorded her debut album, Walk Through Fire, at Auerbach's Nashville studio. This year, Yola performed at The Current's Day Party during SXSW, sharing not only her songs but insights into her artistic vision. Yola is touring the world in support of that album — a tour that includes a stop at the Fine Line in Minneapolis on January 15.

Fontaines D.C.

Punk rock and poetry find their place among the songs of Dublin-based Fontaines D.C. "There's so much poetry innately in the colloquialisms of people in Ireland," frontman Grian Chatten told Stereogum. "You don't really have to strive to speak poetically if you're speaking in the Dublin lingo, you know? It's just impossible to live in that and not churn it out." Churn it out they did with a blistering set at The Current's Day Party during SXSW 2019.

Caroline Polachek

Some listeners may already have known Caroline Polachek through her work with Chairlift and Charli XCX, but this year saw Polachek release Pang using her own name. "I love alter egos; I love projects; I love compartmentalizing," Polachek told Jade. "But at the same time, when I made the decision to go solo after Chairlift [...] I was looking at all these phases I've had, and I was thinking, the thing I want to do next gets at the essence of all these different things. This is the most 'essential me' music I've ever made."

Heart Bones

In late 2018, Sean Tillmann (aka Har Mar Superstar) teased us all about a new project in the works, describing the emerging collaboration between him and Austin, Texas, musician Sabrina Ellis. First joining forces to cover songs from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack, Tillmann and Ellis launched a co-writing project that led to a nationwide tour and an intoxicating set at Rock the Garden 2019.

Black Pumas

The Current's listeners and staff aren't alone in choosing Black Pumas as one of the year's top emerging artists; the Austin, Texas, based band have also earned a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist. As they explained during a July session in our studio, Black Pumas came together casually, almost accidentally, when musicians Adrian Quesada and Eric Burton met through mutual acquaintances. "Our goal was let's make it though a couple of months of a Thurdsay-night gig and see if anybody cares," Quesada recalled. Simply put: people did indeed care. Black Pumas' Grammy fortunes will be revealed at the end of January, but not before they headline The Current's 15th Anniversary Party at First Avenue on January 18.