Noise Pop, the longest running independent music festival kicks off its 27th annual installment in San Francisco today. The week-long event is held all over the Bay Area’s many music venues and boasts headliners Beirut, back with a nothing short of excellent new album Gallipoli, no-nonsense rapper-activist Princess Nokia, Huskur Du’s Bob Mould, Jason Lytle of Grandaddy, Teenage Fanclub and The Strokes’ Albert Hammond Jr.
It is a chance for organizers, Noise Pop Industries, to support nascent local talent and national up-and-comers by pairing bigger name acts with undercards in one billing. For example, Princess Nokia’s show will feature support from two outstanding Oakland rappers—Tia Nomore and Queens D. Light, highlighting the ground swell of female emcees giving the genre a welcomed fresh take.
Other notable Bay Area acts include skateboarding legend Tommy Guerrero performing songs from Road To Nowhere. King Woman’s Kristina Esfandiari will showcase music from Miserable, her shoegaze pop project. Oakland trio Super Unison got their name from a Drive Like Jehu song and will perform some of their hardcore punk while The She’s offer up their jangly-indie surf.
Beyond the obvious headliners, here are our Top 5 female acts not to be missed.
1. Caroline Rose
Loner by Caroline Rose was one 2018’s most underrated albums. The once folk singer-songwriter, who showed hints of a kookier side, breaks completely out of the mould and shifts direction—singing through what sounds like a vocoder for a ‘50s rocker feel, at a quicken pace with a whiff of irreverence. It is stacked with colorful tracks from the opener “More Of The Same,” to the cravenly wicked rockabilly number “Money,” sexism-exposing “Bikini” and the faultless “Soul No 5.”
Her pop hooks and melodies are peppered with punk snarls and a wink. She attributes this to being inspired as much by the ‘70s punk of Suicide and the Talking Heads as ‘90s chart fodder of ex-Mouseketeers Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake. It’s layered, brimming with subtext and a biting satire that never fails to actually get you bopping your head too.
Rose may pull from seemingly disparate influences but the album is cohesive, not least because of her continued penchant for red athletic wear—tracksuits and headbands. This Wes Anderson nod holds her aesthetic together, almost as much as her taut songwriting.
2. Kodie Shane
Atlanta-based triple threat Kodie Shane sings, raps and has a gift for melody. The Chicago-raised rapper graduated from Lil’ Yachty’s Sailing Team with her 2016 breakthrough “Sad” and is now in a lane all of her own. The 20-year-old’s debut album Young HeartThrob is poised to be one of the year’s best.
More varied, mature and mellow than her Zero Gravity EP, it boasts a ‘90s groove on love songs like “Flex On Me,” a different kind of vulnerability on “Sing To Her,” a proper pop song with “Don’t Worry Bout it” and that inimitable Atlanta flow on tracks like “Party” and “Shut Up.”
Fresh from her European tour, Kodie’s star is guaranteed to ascend. Her positivity, innate activism and a talent for genre-bending tired R&B tropes with the quick-flow and menace of an Atlanta trap rapper, but the heart of a black, queer and proud-of-it romantic gives voice and galvanizes groups until recently not seen in the mainstream.
It’s not everyday you see a Muslim singer dressed in hijab grace the stage comfortably in Trump’s America. We do have Yuna, so there must be hope! After carving a successful career for herself as a folksie singer-songwriter in Malaysia, Yuna moved to the U.S. and released her first American EP, Decorate, in March 2011.
She experimented and branched seamlessly into R&B with her 2012 self-titled album. However, “Live Your Life,” with its trip-hop influences, produced by Pharrell Williams, is the standout and seemed an exercise in self-determination.
Now signed to L.A.’s Verve Records, Yuna’s first album on the label, Chapters, features Usher on “Crush.” She wrote the song and was over-the-moon when Usher agreed to doing the vocals with her. Given her platform and talent, it will be interesting to see what boundaries her new music explores.
4. illuminati hotties
Emerging from behind the sound boards, after engineering and mixing for the likes of divas Lady Gaga and Barbra Streisand, indie acts like Porches and creating beats for early Hamilton demos, L.A. engineer Sarah Tudzin’s debut album Kiss Yr Frenemies is a likeable indie triumph. And what she calls “tenderpunk.”
Originally meant as a calling card to show other bands her studio chops, the demos evolved into an accomplished LP. Having gone to Berklee College to be a drummer, it took Tudzin some years to consider fronting her own band. However, the gestation has aided in delivering some of the best bright power pop in tunes like “(You’re Better) Than Ever,” “Paying Off The Happiness” and “Pressed 2 Death.” At every turn her songwriting highlights a gift for making small observations that connects to a larger universal significance.
Having clocked in road time the past year and fresh from a tour opening for Lucy Dacus, the illuminati hotties show will be high energy; Tudzin will likely not be able to resist crowdsurfing with her guitar. Keep an eye out for her pedalboard which she fashioned out of an old skateboard.
Mazy Fly, the first full length album of experimental Bay Area artist Tia Cabral on the LA-based Sacred Bones label, was recorded in the Summer of 2018 in her Berkeley studio as she reflected on how the tenets of progress had morphed into the very things that were making us sick. It takes off from where her self-released debut Pantheon of Me ends.
Her wispy vocals go from Enya-like to the screech of Kate Bush but her futuristic, new age wash, also throws up R&B inflections as on “Hard To Please (Reprise).” Her music is often an attempt to work through difficulties - she first took up experimenting with music in 2015 after the death of a loved one. The menacing synths on “Haunted Water” call to mind Jean Michel Jarre while her haunting vocals sing of the hunted; echoing horrific memories of the slave ships that traversed Middle Passage.
Yet her music is not without levity. “Secret Thread” with its xylophone and music box chimes, lifts you up. Live performances might present her armed with only a keyboard and sampler but Spellling will take you beyond the earth’s exosphere and is not to be missed by interplanetary space jumpers.
Nose Pop Festival badges and tickets to individual shows are available here.