Best of 2018 Noise Pop
As part of our Best Of 2018 series, we asked members of the local music community to weigh in on what the year in local music meant to them. Today, two Noise Pop staffers honor some of their favorite releases of the past year.

Niki Bodemann: Small Crush’s Blush EP is Indie Pop Heaven

Oakland-based indie pop group Small Crush have been one of my favorite discoveries from this year. Their first EP as a full band,​ Blush​, was released in January — a five-song collection that notably portrays the complexities of being young.

The band’s members, including vocalist, bassist, and primary songwriter Logan Hammon, are all teenagers, and this youthful energy shines through in their music. Take the EP’s groovy opener, “Signal Dreams,” that finds Hammon daydreaming about a crush; and “Chicken Noodle,” clocking in at just over a minute, is a playfully self-deprecating firework of a song with the instant sing-along line that repeats, “I’m a mess, I’m a mess, I’m a mess!”

The band’s music is reminiscent of both hallmark twee-pop groups like the Softies and Dear Nora, and present-day acts like Frankie Cosmos and Diet Cig. Similar to these groups, Small Crush succeeds at making fun, catchy music with introspective lyrics, like on the EP’s “Mail Truck,” a dance-able song about getting run over by a mail truck and viewing the experience as one of life’s many signs.

The members’ ages, however, is not a factor that defines their music (see Frankie Cosmos’ “Young”) — as a 25-year-old, I still deeply relate to their music. On the EP’s slow-burning closer, “Transparency,” Hammon displays this maturity as she sings: “If life’s full of feelings then why not feel them all? If life’s full of beauty then why not see it all?” It’s a poignant reminder that I think everyone needs to hear, no matter their age. I hope that Small Crush continues to grow and reflect through their music, and I can’t wait to see what they have in store for 2019.

James Lopez: Finding Solace with awakebutstillinbed’s Emotionally Frank Debut Album

With so many amazingly talented musicians from the City to Oakland to San Jose, it’s difficult to choose just a single 2018 Bay Area music release to write about. If I did have to choose, however, awakebutstillinbed takes the cake — not only as my favorite Bay Area album of the year, but also as the best LP name as well.

awakebutstillinbed’s what people call low self esteem is really just seeing yourself the way that other people see you is a stunning, profound debut. Self-released on their Bandcamp just days after New Year'[s and picked up by Tiny Engines in less than a month, low self esteem features their signature “extremo” and singer/guitarist Shannon Taylor’s earnest songwriting. Written throughout various parts of their life, each track from the nine-song LP provides an intensely introspective look into Taylor’s past experiences and inner thoughts.

The first track, "opener," is un-arguably an album highlight. "opener" invites listeners into a breathtaking, honest experience with depression. In turn, the song can’t help but provide a sense of solace and validation for those who might relate.

“all the regret i keep, all the mistakes i dread, exhausted from oversleep, awake but still in bed, ashamed of the things i've said, afraid of what's in my head. so under this bridge i'll stay, and wait for the same three days to end.”

"opener" starts off with Shannon solo on guitar, but slowly builds anticipation for a full-band shred. Catalyzed once Shannon belts with all their heart, “i'll finally shut my mouth, feel both my feet touch ground, put an end to this run, just say the word and i'll jump,” this dramatic shift in energy provides a glimpse into the rest of low self esteem’s sonic spectrum and Shannon’s heartfelt, candid lyrics.

Throughout the album, awakebutstillinbed fluidly changes from frenetic mosh-igniting chaos in “life” and “fathers” to slow-burning ballads found within “stumble” and “floor.” Truly “extremo” — a term dubbed by the band themselves — absib alludes to various sounds from emo vanguards such as Cap’n Jazz, Algernon Cadwallader, and Rainer Maria.

awakebutstillinbed’s debut album found itself welcomed with open arms by the proverbial “indie music world.” absib heavily toured throughout the year and country with fellow emo/punk bands such as Joyce Manor, Mom Jeans, and football etc. I’d have to admit, it’s pretty dang exciting to see what lies ahead for awakebutstillinbed. Just one listen to what people call low self esteem is really just seeing yourself the way that other people see you is enough to have you feeling the same.

For real though, awakebutstillinbed are the future. If you can’t take my word for it, then hopefully this Joyce Manor tweet seals the deal.

Of course, the Bay Area is home to so many wonderful musicians, and I wouldn’t do the world justice without naming some of these artists and their 2018 releases. Highly(!!) recommend checking them out!

Favorite releases of 2018:
Covet - effloresce
Sucker Crush - Middle Mattress Chasm EP
ODIE - ANALOGUE
The Total Bettys - This Is Paradise
Russell E.L. Butler - The Home I’d Build For Myself And All My Friends
Lara Sarkissian - DISRUPTION
ASTU - Patterns EP
Lapel - Periphery
Mechanic - No Time EP
There’s Talk - bathed water moon EP
Qrion - GAF 1 EP & GAF 2 EP
Bobby - Bobby EP
Mom Jeans - puppy love

Tags: ,