It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: music is pure, unadulterated catharsis. Music has helped me channel my emotions for as long as I’ve been alive. Several tunes and/or artists are associated with specific feelings and events. Music is a huge factor in regards to coping with grief, depression, and anxiety. On the flip side, plenty of songs and artists are my defaults for when I’m happy, blissful, etc. Or just plain ol’ nostalgic. My tastes are pretty varied, but I suppose my base genre falls under rock.
Now, lately I’ve been connecting with female-fronted bands and artists. Everything from their lyricism, musicianship and vocals have resonated with me on a profound level. So, in honor of International Women’s Day, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite female-centric bands and artists that may be flying under your radar. Like my tastes, the aforementioned hail from different genres. A bit of something for everyone! Peruse at your leisure, folks.
Punk is alive and well, folks, all thanks to the Nova Twins. Amy Love provides searing vocals and emphatic guitar riffs while Georgia South plays impressively intricate bass lines. Together, the Nova Twins deliver raw punk anthems that’ll make you unleash your inner lioness. In 2016 the duo released the Nova Twins EP, which was fueled by feel-good tunes and toe-tapping jams. In addition, their debut full-length album Who Are The Girls? continues that vibe. Get ready to saunter down the street like the inimitable badass you are while listening to the Nova Twins. Above all, these ladies are becoming a staple of modernized punk, and they’re here to stay.
Jinjer is a female-fronted Ukrainian metal act that doesn’t adhere to one sub-genre. Front woman and resident growler Tatiana Shmailyuk cites reggae and jazz as influences as well as metal. I’d say groove metal is the best descriptor for this up-and-coming band. Tatiana seamlessly transitions from clean vocals to deep growls with ease. It’s hard to believe that one person can create such drastically differing sounds, but Tatiana pulls it off and then some. Jinjer explores the duality of man in their music, the human psyche and politics. Tunes such as “When Two Empires Collide” from their second album Cloud Factory and “Home Back” from recent album Macro delves into the war-torn terrain of their home country. The lyrics are immensely thought-provoking, and Tatiana’s dual vocal abilities really drives their message home. Not to mention, she’s easily the best growler in the biz, female label aside.
Larkin Poe‘s sister duo Megan and Rebecca Lovell are distant relatives of Edgar Allan Poe, hence their band name. These Georgia peaches are the epitome of roots rock, also infusing elements of folk, blues and soul into their repertoire. Larkin Poe’s cover of “Black Betty” from their sophomore outing Peach is a toe-tapping, foot-stomping romp that’ll make you want to knock back a whiskey and coke and dance. Their third album, Venom and Faith, utilizes elements of old-school rock, interesting drum cadences and some hip-hop style. “Ain’t Gonna Cry” is a gospel-rife anthem and my favorite track. You may recognize it from Season 3 of Wynonna Earp.
British artist SHELLS cites that her stage name is derived from her surname Sheldrake. As a child, she was gifted with a variety of “Shell” based nicknames. Thus, an indie pop sensation was born. You may have heard her hit tune “Jagwar” on The Magicians, which is how I discovered her as well. In 2016, she released an EP titled Shapes, which was an outing rife with dreamy pop beats, experimental sounds, string arrangements and poignant lyrics. There’s also a pervasive melancholy throughout the EP, and it befits her sound. Now, 2019 brought about a slew of singles varying in timber. “Mexico” is a piano-driven tune reminiscent of Regina Spektor or Ingrid Michaelson. “Heart Beating” and “Like I Love You” are upbeat dance jams that’ll bring you to your feet. SHELLS has a bright future, that’s for certain.
Irish solo artist Imelda May is a rockabilly force to be reckoned with. Love Tattoo, her freshman album, is chock full of rockabilly sensibilities, 1940s big band and jazz sounds. “Johnny Got A Boom Boom” is infused with thumping bass notes and ’50s rock elements. Of course, May developed her sound over the years while still maintaining her rockabilly roots. Her most recent outing, Life Love Flesh Blood, is somewhat of a departure from her past albums. Its melancholic hues are derived from her personal life, and May bares her soul in every tune. Life Love Flesh Blood is refreshingly vulnerable, and a wonderful way to prevent things from going stale. In addition, she experiments with gospel and folk. But above all, she has one of the most unique and powerfully raw voices I’ve ever heard.
Wordsmith and native Chicagoan K. Flay‘s music is an intriguing blend of hip-hop, indie rock and electronica. Most of her tunes are spoken word underscored by experimental sounds. Flay’s lyricism is downright masterful and poignantly raw. No thematic stone is left unturned. For instance, she explores politics, sexuality, depression, anxiety, and much more in her music. “This Baby Don’t Cry” from her 2019 album Solutions was my introduction to K. Flay, and it’s a punchy middle finger anthem to all the “haters” out there. You simply cannot listen to it without feeling a swelling sense of confidence. Flay’s words are all too relatable and they powerfully evoke the human experience.
Militia Vox is a classically trained vocalist with a four octave range. Yes, you read that correctly. Mariah Carey, who? Her music defies genre and stereotypes. In fact, “Disgrace Your Stereotype” is the artist’s mantra. Vox’s musical palette is a blend of metal, goth/industrial, prog, psychedelic rock and grooves aplenty. Her voice is infallible, robust and malleable – she could easily meld well with any genre. It’s reminiscent of Halestorm‘s Lzzy Hale. Clearly, Militia Vox was always meant to rock out. “46 & 2” from her freshman outing Bait is a compelling arrangement akin to a movie score. Intricately infused with her many influences and it tells a story. Not to mention, her sound hearkens to classic metal vibes of the ’90s. She is most certainly an artist on the rise.
Californian alternative artist Meg Myers is the answer to “If Alanis Morissette and Liz Phair had a love child.” Expect to hear plenty of raw breakup songs intermingled with hits like “Numb,” wherein Myers explores depression and anxiety. Her ’90s alternative sound is perfect for vulnerable love songs, angry anthems and angst-filled tunes. Myer’s innate lyricism is a proverbial punch to the gut. Her rage will remind you that it’s okay to be angry, and to be fed up with the status quo. Above all, expect catharsis while listening to Myers, especially her latest outfit Take Me To The Disco. Musical therapy is real, and she provides a heaping helping of it. Recommended tunes: the aforementioned “Numb,” “Tear Me To Pieces,” “Jealous Sea,” and “I’m Not Sorry.”
England’s own Carina Round has been immersed in the music scene for quite some time. She’s also a multi-tasker: besides her own solo act, she performs with Puscifer. Her most popular songs “For Everything a Reason” and “Do You” were featured in FX series American Horror Story during its freshman tenure. Round mostly falls into the indie and alternative categories, but her sound is damn near indescribable. She infuses said sound with rock sensibilities, pop elements, jazz and dance beats. Not to mention, plenty of unique instrumentation is explored. But, at her core, Carina Round is a brilliant lyricist armed with a guitar, delivering heart wrenching accounts of the human experience and punchy, angry songs for the jaded. Now, if you don’t feel anything while listening to Round, you may be the Tin Man incarnate.
Hands Off Gretel
Grunge is making a resurgence, and female-centric Hands Off Gretel is at the forefront. This British rock outfit is lead by vocalist and guitarist Lauren Tate, while Becky Baldwin is a bassist extraordinaire. If Nirvana and Hole gave birth to a baby, then Hands Off Gretel is the product of their conception. Tate’s raw-like-a-serrated-blade vocals effectively emphasize Hands Off Gretel’s brash guitars and thundering bass riffs. In addition, the band explores a wide variety of societal topics, specifically zoning in on sexuality and relationships. “Kiss Me Girl” from their junior album I Want The World is easily their most popular tune, and it’s a bisexual anthem for the ages. Meanwhile, Tate has her own solo album entitled Songs For Sad Girls, which I suggest you give a gander. You won’t be disappointed.
Now, it really is all in the family, at least according to UK female-fronted rock band Marmozets. They’re brash, bold and chock full of chaotic energy. Vocalist Becca MacIntyre delivers raw vocals that are perfect for the band’s jagged sound. Their essence is a unique blend of indie, stadium, and punk rock. As a result, you get ferocious growls, loud guitars, detonating bass lines and helter-skelter drum beats. Well, at least on their debut album The Weird And Wonderful Marmozets. Their 2018 sophomore outing Knowing What You Know Now softens the band’s edges, but it’s still just as potent as its predecessor. God save the Queen, and God save rock ‘n roll!
Well, that’s all I wrote! My hope is at least one of the above female-fronted acts pushes all your musical buttons. Supporting women in the arts is so crucial. Not to mention, these ladies kick all the arse, and they more than deserve a seat at the table. What are your favorite female-centric bands and artists? Sound off in the comments below!
This was originally published on International Women’s Day 3/8/20
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