In this new Rolling Stone Australia column, we unearth the most exciting and innovative emerging artists around the country.
It’s been a tough couple of years for the Australian music industry – beloved venues have closed, festivals have been cancelled – but one thing has always remained true: the talent is there.
Gang of Youths, The Kid LAROI, Amyl and the Sniffers, Julia Jacklin, and many more sold out shows across the Northern Hemisphere, showcasing the country’s music to the rest of the world. At the beginning of the year, two Australian artists topped triple j’s Hottest 100: Flume, celebrating a decade at the pinnacle of electronic music in style, and MAY-A, sure to be one of the country’s biggest pop stars in the coming years.
Read below to find out this week’s picks of the country’s best emerging talent.
An artist very much in the infancy of their career but one with a massive future ahead of them. Inspired by Matt Corby, the rising pop singer-songwriter recently released her first single of the year, “Sentimental”, a bright and bubbly pop cut that signalled someone having a lot of fun making music. Her accompanying music videos capture this fizzing energy: “I love putting on a show,” amor excitedly told Tone Deaf about filming clips, and it’s an intensity that carries over into her music. Already preternaturally confident and controlled in her sound, there’s a reason the fledgling talent has earned praise from triple j and more.
Why should the UK have all the fun with garage music? Zia Jade definitely doesn’t understand why. On her new single “High”, an irresistible collaboration with Brisbane rapper and producer Nerve, Jade conjures happy memories of the garage-inflected R&B sound that so dominated the early ‘00s; if it’s good enough for PinkPantheress and Ice Spice, it’s good enough for everyone.
Jade and Nerve are a perfectly complementary pair on “High”, dovetailing superbly and recalling those classic R&B combos of decades prior. ”High” represents a time in my life when I was in a toxic relationship and was too high on the idea of love to leave,” Zia said about the track. With “High” being her first release on Island Records Australia, Jade feels primed to make huge moves in Australian R&B this year.
Sydney’s independent rock scene is having a strong moment, and following hotly in the footsteps of Body Type is Sweetie, a post-punk band richly deserving of their national breakthrough. The four-piece create trembling and thoughtful post-punk that falls somewhere between Chastity Belt and Savages – “Savages of Sydney” would be quite the band name if they were ever to consider a change.
Belying their misleading current band name, there’s plenty of snarl in Sweetie’s formidable sound, with lead singer Lily Keenan being an utterly magnetic performer, spitting every lyric with fearsome power. Recent single “Liminal Bliss” not only confirmed Sweetie’s status as one of Sydney’s buzziest bands in recent years, but also offered lots of hope for the band’s second EP, due later this year.
Sometimes a band comes along that is so profoundly, peculiarly Australian that they couldn’t be from anywhere else. That’s the wonderful Spice World, a Fremantle band steeped in the country’s grand tradition of dusty jangle pop.
Proudly DIY, delightfully scrappy, the four-piece’s new album, There’s No ‘I’ In Spice World, is, above all, an honest ode to the power of friendship in an increasingly isolated world. The singing is a shared effort, but no matter who sings, the vocals are always slightly ramshackled and stringently Aussie.
Australia has always had one of these lightly melancholic bands somewhere – Adelaide had Bitch Prefect, Melbourne had Lower Plenty, Brisbane had Dag – and Spice World deserves to no longer be WA’s tightly-held secret. When so much modern music is smothered in polish, the humanity scrubbed from it, Spice World’s homespun anthems offer welcome respite.
Melbourne’s Candy Moore, formally just Candy, is the brainchild of Callum Newton, who also features on Lunatics on Pogosticks and has production credits with Amyl and the Sniffers. Sitting firmly in the maligned ‘Dolewave’ genre, Candy Moore’s songs deal with minor existential crises, mental health, and money problems. Now seven albums into their career and still only in their early 20s, Moore’s sound has matured into palatable pop rock singles with a classic Australiana twang; a vast style change from the exceptional 2018 record Under the Weather, which was recorded during a difficult time for the artist, a fact that is reflected in the themes and melodies. Their latest album, 2022’s Memory of Hope, is a more jubilant affair, with electronic instruments taking the place of the shoegaze-inspired full band setup.
Asta first rose to prominence by winning triple j Unearthed High in 2012, before going on to achieve success after teaming up with All Day for the massive 2015 hit “Dynamite”. The up-and-coming indie pop star is now back with equally catchy single “Ahhh”, a pensive banger that finds Asta contemplating just how situational her latest situationship is. Described by some as Australia’s answer to Dua Lipa, this Tasmanian-born artist has an incredible ear for melody and a sharp lyrical mind to boot.
Merci, Mercy seemingly came from nowhere, releasing the sharp debut single “Fucked Myself Up” a few years back, following that up with an EP full of pop gems that sound far too refined for someone so relatively fresh to the scene. “I am just trying to be the best possible person I can be for the people I love. I find it hard to get out of bed most days and I write about all my troubles,” the artist told Clout. While the lyrics may be full of struggle, the result is a finished product that couldn’t sound more effortless. Hit after hit, merci, mercy is gathering momentum at breakneck pace.
Currently touring as the vocalist for Aussie electronic duo Peking Duk and also known for her role in Yuma X, Lucy Washington is starting to build an impressive resume on her own terms. Fresh off an appearance on Abbie Chatfield’s Australian Made, Lucy Lucy sounds like someone who’s about to blow up. She has a crisp, distinctive vocal delivery and her tracks manage to sound relaxed and yet fast-paced all at the same time. If this is what we’re getting from Lucy Lucy at the beginning of her career, then the future is certainly bright.