I have to confess that I have occasional moments of anguish when looking at my Last.fm charts. For all my (flawed but at least existent) attempts to diversify my reading and balance it gender-wise, I have achieved pretty much nothing when it comes to music. Part of me wants to say, “It’s hard! There just aren’t as many ladies in bands!”, but without concrete stats, I’m just not going to. I know I’ve seen people make the exact same argument when it comes to books, or worse yet, when it comes to the number of women writing “quality literature”, which just… wha? The one thing I do know is that we are not exposed to as many women artists. The world is not a level playing field, which is exactly why we make these corrective efforts to begin with. What this post is about, though, is spreading the love of ten of my favourite ladies in music. We all love a good list, right? There will be songs and videos ahead! Behold:
- First things first: it’s only with great difficulty that I can recall what Life Before Emmy the Great was even like. She’s an excellent songwriter and lyricist, and believe me, you want her in your life.
- Allo Darlin’ never fail to put a smile on my face – which isn’t to say all their songs are happy-bouncy (though yeah, most are. Which is a good thing, right?). I swear, I will not rest until I have converted at least 60% of my friends to them. BEWARE. I love the whole We Are Armed With References To Pop Culture And We’re Not Afraid To Use Them thing they have going.
- Joanna Newsom: I’m trying to avoid too obvious choices along the lines of Tori Amos, Regina Skeptor, Fiona Apple, Laura Marling or Björk (much as I love them), but I just couldn’t leave Joanna out. She’s one of my absolute favourite writers, and there will be future posts about gender and her lyrics. Be forewarned! (There will likely also be future posts about Emmy *cough*).
- Azure Ray – not one, but two awesome ladies! Who have also released great music separately! I’m particularly fond of Maria Taylor. <3
- Neko Case – Definitely one of my biggest musical crushes. <3 I love her solo stuff pretty much as much as The New Pornographers, and that’s saying a lot. Also, this is one of my favourite music videos ever.
- Mary Timony has an album called Mountains whose lyrics are full of unapologetic references to fantasy novels, including Ursula Le Guin. Need I say more?
- St Vincent – I kind of fell in love with her when I saw her open for The National in 2007. True story.
- Amiina are an Icelandic band who I saw open for Sigur Rós no less than 3 times. Their songs are instrumental and absolutely gorgeous.
- Lisa Germano writes some of the most subdued but saddest songs I've ever come across. "From A Shell", the one I linked to, just kills me.
- Beth Orton: Weird Mental connection time: Central Reservation, my favourite Beth Orton album, strongly reminds me of Michael Cunningham's The Hours. This is because I first got and obsessively played it when I was reading the novel for the first time. How much this affects what I see in her music I'll never really know.