Crate Digging is Uproxx Music’s monthly exploration of the depths of DIY music distribution platform Bandcamp, in an effort to unearth some hidden gem albums that just might find their spot among your favorites.
Year-end lists of the top albums are fun to explore. Noticing the differences between publications and reading about why they ranks records the way they did is a good time. That said, you don’t necessarily learn much from looking at the high-ranked albums. The top portions of these lists tend to have a lot of overlap with other lists, because while the specific rankings are debated, most people generally agree on what the year’s “best” albums were.
If you’re really looking to discover something great that you missed over the course of the year, you’re better off reading from the bottom up. That’s where things start to deviate from the expected, and where you might find a hidden gem. Even at that point, though, most lists tend to feature significant artists, noteworthy record labels, or albums that have a sizable fan base.
If you really want to go off the grid, you’ll have to dig for yourself and listen to records that don’t always have a lot of buzz. That’s what I’ve been doing all 2018 with Crate-Digging. Every month, I’ve considered hundreds of albums uploaded to Bandcamp, sorted through them, and presented the ones I liked the most. As we approached the end of the year, I started to think about which of these releases stood out above the others and had staying power beyond their initial appearance in this space. So, with that in mind, below are my favorite albums that were featured in Crate-Digging in 2018.
15. Bodies — Shitty Grin
“Lo-fi” is often equated with minimalist production, but this Canadian group’s brand of garage pop lo-fi truly is low-fidelity in an appealing and listenable way on album opener “Rita Hayworthless.” Beyond that, Shitty Grin is a delightful jangle pop record and one that doesn’t sound like it’s missing anything.
14. Greatest Lakes — Divisions
Mountainous indie rock may have hit its peak with the likes of Fleet Foxes and Band Of Horses, but that stuff is like Jell-O: There’s always room for more, and it’s tasty every time. The latest (and greatest) from Greatest Lakes is delightfully in line with this aesthetic, especially on the anthemic album opener “Forest.”
13. Wyatt Blair — Smoke & Mirrors
Throwback sounds are nothing new, but that doesn’t make Blair’s new wave-inspired sound any less interesting. He has the material to match the aesthetic too: The anthemic “The Want To Be Wanted” is a huge song, and other highlights like album opener “(Living In) Los Angeles” are similarly uplifting and kinetic.
12. Los Wálters — Caramelo
A few songs every year from these Bandcamp albums usually find their way into my regular rotation, and Los Wálters’ “Calma” is one of them. The densely produced track from the Puerto Rican duo is a terrific midtempo head-bobber, and the rest of Caramelo features a similarly high level of body-moving quality.