‘what people call low self-esteem is really just seeing yourself the way that other people see you’ is the debut album by California emo band awakebutstillinbed. With one hell of a title, the album is incredibly candid, playing up the etymology of the emo genre all throughout.
There is nothing cunning about awakebutstillinbed, like how Tom Waits lived to tell tales of sleaze and booze-hounds, or how Nick Cave’s gloom emanates from his person, the level of raw emotion on this album isn’t calculated or manufactured, it’s just human. We may question whether or not the emotion on display is over-the-top or simply obnoxious, but at the very least, it’s real, it’s palpable.
The album’s lyrics are basically short journal pieces, made up of lead vocalist Shannon Taylor’s many hardships and anxieties, her assumed lack of self-worth. The sensational slow-burner ‘Opener’ sees Taylor break down and shun conventional lyrical structure, as she weeps “I won’t sob when I speak, I’ll be at peace, because it’s not ‘want’, it’s ‘need’, I need to be someone else”. The album’s title is sung in track ‘Life’, a statement that essentially thrashes around the album uncontrollably from song to song, questioning the connection of low self-esteem to family on ‘Father’ and to a point, the aforementioned ‘Life’, and to relationships on ‘Stumble’.
Every heartbreaking line is delivered with Shannon Taylor’s constant jugular shout, sometimes incomprehensible, sometimes softer and sweeter, always passionate. It’s the easiest aspect of the album to criticise, but that doesn’t mean it should be. ‘Saved’ might be the weakest song in the tracklist, and that’s because it doesn’t feature the same level of power in the vocals, you’ll almost miss the severity of tracks like ‘Opener’ and ‘Life’.
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The album’s core sound is convincingly Midwest, not bad for a bunch of West Coasters. The bandmembers come together to create the kind of noise you’d expect from Cap’n Jazz, with guitars that range from smooth to twangy to super-distorted. Some of the low key songs, including the last two, ‘Floor’ and ‘Closer’, feel a lot more bedroom indie-ish, with chord progressions and melodies likely to be heard on a Clap Your Hands Say Yeah album. The roughness of ‘what people call low self-esteem…’ works to its advantage; producer Jack Shirley continues to show how capable he is of playing to a band’s strengths.
While far from perfect, ‘what people call low self-esteem…’ is an album pieced together by people who wear their imperfections on their sleeves. But it isn’t amateurish, it’s greatness in soul-baring.
‘what people call low self-esteem is really just seeing yourself the way that other people see you’ is out now.
The full track listing for the album is…