The end of the decade and the end of our first year of Yutaru, and what a year it’s been. Before entering the Roaring 20s, it seemed only fitting to round up our favourite artists from the realms of electronica to make that transition into January a little less blue. With some exciting plans in the pipeline for Yutaru in 2020, we can’t wait to share everything we have planned. But for now, happy listening!
Exploding onto the scene earlier this year, Sfven’s bedroom-based electronica is unlike anyone else’s. Deeply personal and intimate, every song is embedded with some of the catchiest hooks in music right now. His boisterous, bold synths balanced with melancholic lyrics create intricate, thoughtful tracks and the back to basics approach Sfven adopts only strengthens the individualism of his releases.
As his career kickstarts, Sfven never fails to impress. ‘Hard to Say I Love You Sober’ is undoubtedly the standout track of 2019. Buoyant but earnestly tender, it shows Sfven at his strongest.
Floating Points, otherwise known as Sam Shepherd, is the musical architect who can erect sonic structures with his unique brand of experimental electronica. With a PhD in neuroscience under his belt, you can trust that after four years of no releases, there’s still brains behind the beats of his latest album Crush. The chaotic cacophony of frantic melodies comprised in only five weeks is unparalleled; the genre cross pollination of dance, garage, classical and club sounds melding into one of the most exciting releases of 2019.
My standout track is ‘Sea-Watch’, not an obvious tell of the album’s miscellany, but a poignant and perfected pocket of coastal wonder. The musicality of the piano marries with the subdued synths that flow toward you like waves, breaking together and leaving an ethereally enigmatic foam all over your sandy shore.
Vera Blue is a storm. This year has expanded the feisty redhead’s musical reach quite literally around the world as she accompanied friend and collaborator Flume on a four month global tour.
A long way from her days on the Australian Voice back in 2013, six years later she has truly reached new realms. Flirting with darkness in the intoxicating ‘Way That You Love Me’, Blue traded in her Armani fairy dresses for latex and whips. Lyrically focusing on the theme of often abusive relationships, she continues to take the pop realm of electronic music and inject it with a much needed female voice.
This year saw the release of the unusually hypnotic ‘Rushing Back’ with Flume, in addition to the single ‘Like I Remember You’, a collaboration with Greenpeace to support the fight against oil tankers in the Great Australian Bight just off the south coast. Whilst not a particularly heavy releasing year for Blue, it’s been one which has laid the groundwork for a new, undoubtedly incredibly produced, album which (fingers crossed) will be coming out next year.
There are few artists who do synth-pop quite so well as North London duo Megan Markwick and Lily Somerville, better known as IDER. Their distinctive sound which has been penned as ’conscious pop’ is nothing short of heavenly, to the point of spine-tingling slickness where you really can’t distinguish Markwick’s voice from Somerville’s. Fighting their way through the trials and tribulations of life as millennials, their debut album Emotional Education captures life’s peaks and troughs beautifully through its sharp lyrics and catchy melodies. And on an unrelated but nice side note, IDER also happen to be two of the loveliest ladies in music at the moment, so if their debut is anything to go by, we can expect some well-deserved (and friendly) world domination from them in 2020.
Elder Island are a band I’ve followed closely over the past two years and they’ve had a breakthrough year in 2019. Starting the year off by dropping The Omnitone Collection, their first album explores a multitude of genres, bound together by a unique electronic twist.
To see Elder Island live is to truly experience their music. I’ve been fortunate to see them three times this year, and every time they deliver their songs with a level of energy beyond what you hear on the record. Their latest track ‘Kape Fear’ is so well produced, continuously building and finishing on a hefty synth sound that keeps you grooving right till the end. My favourite track in their live set! After recently finishing up a US and European tour for The Omnitone Collection, travelling across over 40 cities, we can definitely expect big things from the band in the new year!
The Japanese House is the moniker of 24 year old Amber Bain, a dream pop powerhouse with a stunning collection of tracks in her repertoire. Having initially found comfort in the mystery of anonymity upon first releasing music back in 2015, Bain slowly revealed her identity through melancholic artistry.
Following the sporadic releases of several EPs, 2019 saw the release of The Japanese House’s first full-length album, Good At Falling, which received critical acclaim for its intimate and heartfelt production. Bain has been touring the self-proclaimed break-up album since unveiling it in late February, playing to packed out rooms of devoted fans across the world.
If I had to pick one track it would be ‘Wild’, an introspective, self-critical exploration of mellow instrumentation and airy vocals. The Japanese House creates a special type of music that truly stays with you – it’s impactful, and listening to her discography is almost therapeutic. I can’t wait to see what she has planned for 2020!
Scottish dream-pop trio OK Button released their debut EP in 2019 titled ‘Sepia Spectres’, a collective of tracks that combines Amber Wilson’s otherworldly vocals with cinematic soundscapes and electronic percussion to form a sound best described by BBC 6 Music’s Tom Robinson as “Simply irresistible”.
A whirlwind of a year, highlights for OK Button include winning ‘Best Electronic’ at The Scottish Alternative Music Awards, performing at Brighton’s iconic The Great Escape Festival and embarking on a UK summer tour as part of their highly anticipated EP launch.
A personal favourite of mine from the band would be ‘Flesh & Blood’, a powerful single released with a visually compelling music video in early 2019. This dreamy pop track draws you in with its epic chord progressions, rhythmic percussion and wispy vocals, demonstrating Wilson’s ability to make you lose yourself in the song’s beautiful lyrics.
For me, this year has included more commuting than ever before and I’m hugely grateful for discovering Tycho’s electronic sound to get me through those moments. With music that turns off all distractions, your mind is left to wander in the sonic world he creates.
Scott Hansen, the main mind behind Tycho, says “Music can transport us to other realities but can also ground us firmly within ourselves”, and this is incredibly true. His music lets you disconnect from everything around you, all the stress and responsibility. Even if just for a moment, you can be anywhere his music takes you.
A beautiful example of this is ’Easy’ which was released early 2019. The track is bright with a melody that weaves over smooth, relaxed bass, percussion and synth textures. Each instrument thrives, with precision and delicacy in the arrangement.
For me, one of the clear standouts of the year has to be supergroup Ok Moon. A collaborative project comprised of soloists, songwriters, and producers (Dustin Tebbutt, LANKS, Hayden Calnin and Xavier Dunn), the reveal of this group was major news for any fans of the Australian electro scene. Initially starting out with just a single track, the past two years has seen the band develop mutual respect and creative chemistry, leading to the cinematic pop perfection that listeners never knew they needed.
Following the release of four popular singles (‘Loved You Right’, ‘Harpoon’, ‘Hollow Tree’ and ‘Crater on the Moon’), August of this year saw the release of their phenomenally vibrant self-titled album. The group have had a fantastic year playing various headlining gigs and festivals all across Australia – I can only hope that this album isn’t a one off!
Thanks to Bonobo including the track ‘Cold Harbour’ in his latest Fabric mix compilation, I came across the musical wizard that is Dark Sky. With some breaks along the way since 2010, three band members became one in 2019 as founder Matt Benyayer released an EP entitled ‘Cold Harbour’ in collaboration with the incredible live band Afriquoi.
Fusing traditional instruments such as the Gambain kora with all that electronic magic crystallizes into something truly special as each sound reverberates across every track, creating an entirely immersive and transcendental listening experience.
My standout track would have to be ‘Cold Harbour’. Balancing an array of layers, from twanging strings to rolling percussion that spans across a heavenly seven and a half minutes, it’s a stellar example of versatility from both artists.
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