17 artists from Australia and around the world to watch in 2017

With a new year of music already well underway, we’re looking down the barrel of an exciting 12 months of international and Australian releases, that much is obvious. While 2016 introduced us to some of our now-favourite artists who really took off in their own way, we also twigged to some bands and solo musos who were generating heat, heat we’re anticipating to only get hotter throughout 2017.

Photo: Sandy Kim
Photo: Sandy Kim

WHITNEY

The Chicago group have really come along way since Max Kakacek and Julian Ehrlich formed out of the dust of Smith Westerns back in 2014. We first saw the group at SXSW 2016, just prior to the release of their debut album Light Upon The Lake – an energetic and potential-brimming show that kept us partying well past 2am. The group is set to be out in Australia for the St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival in coming weeks; having toured consistently over the last year, we’re expecting their show to be even better than the already-high quality of that showcase we saw back in March.

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ALEXANDRA SAVIOR

Another artist we cottoned on to around SXSW time – 2015, this time – was Portland songwriter Alexandra Savior. Her collaboration with Cameron Avery on the tune “We’re Just Making It Worse” had us hooked from the onset, while her writing sessions with Alex Turner and James Ford indicated something great was brewing when it came to a debut album of her own. Stateside and in the UK, Savior’s relationship with Turner has extended to The Last Shadow Puppets, with the song “Miracle Aligner” being re-recorded for their latest album, Everything You’ve Come to Expect.

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Photo: Jett Street
Photo: Jett Street

CAITI BAKER

Dynamic vocalist Baker has been seen on stages right around the country through 2016, performing her own solo material, as well as dropping in on shows with Briggs and Trials as A.B. Original continued to come to fruition. You might know Caiti from her work with Darwin future-soul duo Sietta, but 2016 was about the formation of her solo catalogue, one which we got hints of through in single release “Heavy On My Heart”, most recently.

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DUMB PUNTS

Dumb Punts really came out of nowhere last year and took the garage rock scene by the reins along with emerging bands including the likes of Skegss and Verge Collection. As a trio, they’ve really kicked it up another gear and have been fashioning for themselves a strong and dynamic live show that only indicates some huge things are on the near horizon for 2017. The term ‘slacker’ is thrown around a lot when it comes to these bands but you take look closer at what they’re doing and you’ll come to realise that their approach is anything but.

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Photo: George Foster

HIDEOUS SUN DEMON

We’ve seen WA’s Hideous Sun Demon, much like Dumb Punts above, really strike out on their own through 2016. Well received performances at BIGSOUND and during Perth’s WAMfest put the four-piece further on to the radar of many around the country. One of Pilerats’ latest signings, Hideous Sun Demon have lit a fire under the asses of a few who might’ve been wondering what the west coast was cooking up, new music-wise – we can’t wait to see where they go now they’re well and truly on the board.

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THE JAPANESE HOUSE

We first met Amber Bain aka The Japanese House a few years back when she came out to Australia with The 1975. An endearing and captivating live artist, it was clear that she was onto something exciting. It’s been a little while since we’ve heard from her but in latest EP, Swim Against the Tide, we were able to get excited all over again. She’s lining up some spots at SXSW this year, always a platform for artists to get a solid year of shows and exposure cracking, so we’ve got no doubt that The Japanese House will be a name we’ll be reading about and hearing more from over the next few months.

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Photo: Briana Davis
Photo: Briana Davis

JACK RIVER

The singer songwriter hailing from Forster, NSW has truly impressed over the last 6-8 months. Since joining the I OH YOU fold and releasing her Highway Songs No. 2 EP, Jack River has been ticking all the right boxes. She deftly moves between indie-rock and folk-pop, introducing beautiful psych elements in beneath flawlessly, while vocally, Jack River is a charmer. Currently Sydney based, the multi-instrumentalist also known as Holly Rankin has a bright year ahead as shows continue to come together, as well as that juicy debut album material.

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30/70

The new Melbourne hip hop collective have been enveloping some great R&B and jazz vibes into the mix and off the back of BIGSOUND appearances and various shows in their hometown and interstate recently, we can see why they’ve become a name that has been bandied about quite a lot throughout the second half of 2016. The grooves are entrancing, the vocals hypnotic (Allysha Joy is one to watch all on her own) and we’re not even touching on the production quality of their music yet. A definite must listen and must see, should you have the opportunity to do so.

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Photo: Ryan Plett
Photo: Ryan Plett

SAINt JHN

Brooklyn based hip hop artist SAINt JHN ranked in our Top 50 Hip Hop and R&B Songs from 2016 countdown recently, with his sounds more than worthy of sitting alongside fellow New York artists who made yesteryear their own, including the likes of Young M.A. and Desiigner. A talented lyricist with a knack for injecting solid groove and clever melody within his music, SAINt JHN has proven to be a captivating and arresting artist to be keeping an eye on.

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LONELY BOYS

We were first introduced to Indigenous rockers Lonely Boys when we were up in Darwin last year for NT Song of the Year. From the remote community of Ngukurr in Arnhemland (we’re talking roughly 700km outside of Darwin), the band has developed a fiery brand of guitar-inspired rock music that is catchy as hell to listen to. Extending and expanding on their influences in the studio though last year as they work to complete their debut studio album, Lonely Boys have benefited from writing sessions with Nicky Bomba and Bustamento, not to mention the sheer amount of festivals and shows throughout Arnhemland.

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Photo: Sinziana Velicescu
Photo: Sinziana Velicescu

KADHJA BONET

This LA soul singer has had us hooked since her debut, The Visitor, landed near the end of 2016. Her voice sounds like it has been plucked from the rich jazz/soul scenes of decades gone by, yet the psych-y twists her music takes on the record positions Bonet very much in the now. Ambitious in the same vein of Janelle Monae and artists like Kelela and SZA, Bonet’s reach extends far beyond the experimental Californian music scene – she’ll be around for a little while yet.

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PHOEBE BRIDGERS

Another LA singer with presence to match a powerful voice, is Phoebe Bridgers. At the time of publication, the talented songwriter and performer is on the road with Conor Oberst through Europe – a tour that will take Bridgers into February. Her single “Killer” ignited a new wave of momentum (released via Ryan Adams‘ label) and as we’ve seen with her latest single, “Smoke Signals”, the 22 year old has more than enough punch to stand up and meet the hype with new music. For Aussies, Bridgers exists in the same realm of our own Julia Jacklin – and having seen how fast Jacklin’s trajectory has progressed in the last year, we expect Bridgers is going to quickly follow suit.

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CABBAGE

Switched on to these guys via breakout stars of 2016 Blossoms, this Manchester five piece are already finding their way into more and more playlists and we’re not even one full month into 2017. Their brand of post-punk is erratic and frenetic in delivery, a sucker punch to areas of the indie scene that prides itself on sheen and gloss. Reminiscent of the effect bands like Eagulls had on us when we first came across them in the US in 2014, Cabbage excite the hell out of us and can only expect they’re prepping to rip 2017 to shreds.

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Photo: Alex Robertson
Photo: Alex Robertson

SLEEP TALK

Occupying space brilliantly on their 2016 EP release Growing Pains, Adelaide hardcore band Sleep Talk have been making moves subtly but no less effectively through 2016. They pay homage to the bands who made the genre beloved through the 2000s in particular, while displaying a fresh and exciting approach that stands out as their own. There’s something particularly cathartic when it comes to seeing these kinds of bands live too – it doesn’t matter whether you’re 18 or 28, if you’ve ever had moments of feeling alone or like nobody understands, the welcoming environment bands like Sleep Talk provide is always going to be there for you to vent, relate and find relief.

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DYSPORA

Out of Adelaide, DyspOra (real name Gabriel Akon) has been quick to turn heads. Leading independent label Playback 808 since 2011, DyspOra has been working on his own music as well as working with his crew to ensure there is a solid platform for their music to be projected from. The South Sudan-born rapper has been focused on the growth of hip hop culture in Australia, particularly this new wave we’ve been seeing come out of some of the more culturally diverse pockets of the country, over the past few years. The Playback 808 crew are lined up to open for the Hilltop Hoods at this year’s Clipsal 500, and with industry attention continuing to grow in momentum, we’re looking forward to seeing DyspOra and the crew around a lot more frequently.

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Photo: Callum Preston
Photo: Callum Preston

APES

Ballarat four piece APES have been on our radar for a few years now but the last few have been spent either on the road at sporadic shows or squirrelled away working on what’s going to be their new album, so we can’t really be too mad at them for spending time off stages. A few unannounced shows at BIGSOUND 2016 gave lucky punters an insight into the new chapter APES are breaking into – their first single from it in “If You Want It” is a perfect example. While debut EP Helluva dropped in 2013 to praise and excitement, what we’ve heard so far from APES is a matured sound, bolstered by the last two years refining and exploring the harder edges of the rock music they’ve become known for exploring.

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Photo: Sean Walker
Photo: Sean Walker

VALLIS ALPS

The Aussie electro duo had a solid year last year, introducing themselves to larger crowds as the months would go on. We saw them light up even further on the Falls Festival tour just gone by and with a whole new stack of tour dates coming up both throughout North America this February and March, before returning home to play some of their biggest venues year, it’s a safe assumption that Vallis Alps are gearing the heck up for some greatness. Their latest single “Fading” (listen below) has already racked up over 2 million streams online ahead of the release of the band’s Fable EP this year – let those numbers do the talking.

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