Years ago I saw Gungor play at Sam’s Burger Joint downtown. Gungor are a music collective headed by husband and wife duo Michael and Lisa Gungor. They came into my life via a Life Teen care package that contained one of their albums. At the time they could easily be categorized as “Christian music.” Today, probably not so much. Still, their music resonates with me sonically as well as lyrically and they remain one of my favorite bands.

That night at Sam’s they featured Austin based pop artist, Dossey, as an opener. I became a fan instantly. In the months that followed my concert-going friends and I went out of our way to see her play every time she came down to San Antonio. Last year Dossey played to me, my two friends, and nobody else at a local venue. While we loved the show my friends and I couldn’t help feeling like that would be the last Dossey show in San Antonio for a while. We decided we would make the trip up I-35 to see her when we could, and we did. In attending those shows I was introduced to a lot of talent in Austin. Because these artists provided the soundtrack to my 2018, and because they all happen to be women and I think that’s dope, I figured I’d take the time to recommend them to you.

First, Shy Beast

I was introduced to Shy Beast through their singer and synth player, Mariclaire Glaeser, who has played with Dossey from time to time. Shy Beast’s music is poppy with plenty of the rock instrumentation live music lovers like myself need. Something else live music lovers like myself love? Stage presence. MC’s onstage antics are worth every dollar I have to spend on cover charges.

In 2018 Shy Beast released an EP, Leave Me / Let Me, as well as a single, My Stride. They also became Black Fret Artists, earning a $20,000 grant from the organization. Below is the video for their latest release: Leave me Be

Second, Jane Ellen Bryant

When I first saw Jane Ellen Bryant on stage at Swan Dive in downtown Austin she posed a question with her lyrics. “Do I have your attention?” I thought, “now you do.”

Her music is strong and straight forward. Traits you expect from a singer/songwriter. The genre is largely guitar and lyric driven. Jane Ellen Bryant elevates her songwriter compositions with guitar-driven hard rock sensibility, which means the resulting music is right up my alley.

In 2018 Jane Ellen Bryant also released an EP, Let Me Be Lost, and earned a Black Fret grant. She also won “Best New Band” and “Best Female Vocalist” in 2017’s Austin Music Awards. Pay attention below.

Third, Finlay

Finlay (pronounced "Fin-lee”) is a pop artist and Austinite who relocated to Los Angeles in 2018. Before she left Texas I had the pleasure of seeing her perform at Stubb’s in February. Finlay’s single, Tides, served as the soundtrack of my summer. The music video for Tides premiered in September via Atwood Magazine who described the track as an “intoxicating celebration of life.” An apt description considering six years ago the artist behind the music survived a shark attack. I can’t help but read a little too far into the lyrics. “I push and pull and you come out the other side. We stop and go, make waves just like the ocean tides.”

Finally, Dossey

What can I say about Dossey? That night at Sam’s Burger Joint I decided Dossey was a fantastic artists I had to hear again. In 2018 I decided Dossey was my favorite pop artist today. Not just my favorite Austin-based artist. No qualifications needed. Dossey is the best and I feel lucky to live close enough to catch her shows with some frequency.

The current pop landscape tends toward ambient slow songs that, while tonally interesting and lyric-focused, just make me sleepy. Dossey’s music has a different character. I dance all the way through her shows. Dossey, who also plays in the indie/bluegrass group Indie and the Jones, writes bubblegum pop as a traditional singer/songwriter. In December she played a number of “analog shows” in which she played new songs without backing tracks or a band. The songs have to work with guitar and vocals before they are expanded upon electronically. In my opinion, that’s how songs are supposed to be written.

I don’t know if I enjoyed a new track more in 2018 than I enjoyed the summer anthem Heartbeats. Enjoy and happy new year.