Welcome back to The Abbreviator, a short, monthly breakdown of the musicians who are demanding our attention.
New year, very un-new column.
I wrote in the intro of my best albums of 2018 post about just how much music has changed in the last 12 months—but still, some things will never be different.
There will always be an overwhelming number of incredible new artists to explore, and—unless you’re 12 years old, or incessantly wealthy, or in possession of a Dragonball Z-style hyperbolic time chamber—there will never be enough time to listen to them all.
So we’re not changing the recipe at all. Short, sweet and to the point—that’s still the motto—and, as always, we’re not here to waste any time. Let’s get into it:
Description: A pop music polymath with the confidence—and talent—to jump genres at a moment’s notice.
Latest Material: Her latest single, “Juice,” came out earlier this month.
Why She Matters: Like the songwriting version of Anthony Davis, the biggest question with Lizzo is where she’ll take her immense talents next. The Minneapolis-based singer has dabbled with rap bangers, funk anthems and even ’80s pop, and it’s impossible to predict where she’ll go from here.
Must-Listen Track: “Juice”
Description: A bedroom-pop version of Frank Ocean, with half the production value but all of the stylistic ambition.
Latest Material: Choker released a three-track single, called Mono No Moto, last Friday.
Why He Matters: Choker isn’t afraid to show his influences. It’s clear the 22-year-old singer-producer crafts a lot of his music in Ocean’s image, but the songs are excellent enough to make his copycatting irrelevant. The Michigan native has a howling falsetto, a confident rap flow and unlimited versatility—all the tools he needs to become an R&B superstar.
Must-Listen Track: “Drift”
Better Oblivion Community Center
Description: Perfect folk songs powered by two of indie rock’s most unlikely collaborators.
Latest Material: The duo released their surprise, self-titled debut last week.
Why They Matter: Connor Oberst wrote his first song at age 12, two years before Phoebe Bridgers was born. It’s impossible to tell though, as the two singers’ manage to seamlessly blend their styles and aesthetics into a single, unified voice.
Must-Listen Track: “Dylan Thomas”
Ego Ella May
Description: High-brow R&B made with equal parts traditionalism and innovation.
Latest Material: Her first mass-released single, “Table for One,” came out last month.
Why She Matters: Ego Ella May is patient. The South London singer took about two years to put together her latest single, which followed up a string of early SoundCloud drops. It’s clear this level of calculation paid off too, because May’s latest is a jazz-infused near-masterpiece that sets the stage for whatever she has planned next.
Must-Listen Track: “Table for One”
Description: Peanut-butter-smooth jams from a funk-inspired Pro Tools wizard.
Latest Material: The singer-producer’s dropped a collab track called “Wait” last Friday, and he released his latest solo single, “Habit,” last month.
Why He Matters: Do garage bands still exist? Sven Gamsky seems to think so. The Oakland-based artist—who still records everything in his garage—brings a sense of precision and sentimentality to his DIY style. Each of his songs feel intimately tiny, but at the same time his melodies feel universally, undeniably relatable.
Must-Listen Track: “Habit”