All hail 2011’s rock goddesses
WARNING: If you have experienced a crying jag in the past 24 hours due to excessive consumption of pregnant Beyonce photos or Adele songs, I highly suggest you take some time to detox before reading on.
For my final article of 2011, it seemed appropriate to reflect on one of the most awesome musical trends this year: female domination. Of course, female artists still have many industry-imposed hurdles to overcome.
Now, I’m not talking about the Lady Gagas and Katy Perrys of the world; they have received plenty of attention for their talents. In fact, I haven’t entirely decided if flashy pop stars are taking control of their sexuality or continuing to conform to male standards, but that’s another story. In this list, I’ve included old favorites with new talent, and regardless of any preconceived notions you may have, give them all a fair listen because fashion choices do not correlate with musical talent.
1. tUnE-yArDs – Under her project, tUnE-yArdS, Merrill Garbus performs musical magic by mixing folk-rock with R&B, funk, and the sweet sounds of the ukulele. Her sophomore album, “w h o k i l l,” is a must-hear for any music lover. Garbus’ voice is gently husky and mildly ambiguous, and also unexpectedly powerful so it’s almost impossible to imagine any other singer performing her songs. Garbus is a fan of wild stage makeup and flamboyant outfits, but she is one of those rare cases where the aesthetics do not overshadow the actual quality of the music.
2. Lykke Li – Swedish songstress Lykke Li made a surprisingly wonderful transformation sometime between 2008 and 2011. With her latest album, Wounded Rhymes, Li went from being a white bread pop star to a serious artist. She is clearly self-conscious about her last record, and her latest album, though still swoony pop, has quite the edge. Her music is always solemn without being depressing and sweet without lacking substance.
3. Bjork – When I was younger, my dad would play Bjork and I’d refer to her as “space music.” With her eighth album Biophilia fresh off the press, it’s safe to say that Bjork still possesses that je ne sais quoi that makes her so strange and so memorable. Bjork’s cat-like vocals still crawl all over her experimental beats like they did back in the 90s and it’s impressive how, despite her age, she has continued to live on the forefront of experimental music.
4. PJ Harvey – Like Bjork, PJ Harvey is another musician who has continued to sound as fresh as she did when she joined the music scene over two decades ago. Her latest album, Let England Shake, is a fine example of beautiful, eccentric English folk-rock. Lyrics like, “Pack up your troubles, let’s head out to the fountain of death and splash about, swim back and forth and laugh out loud,” prove that there are brains behind the beauty.
5. Suz Slezak – The David Wax Museum is one of the best new folk bands in America today, thanks in part to the talents of female vocalist and percussionist, Suz Slezak. The band’s unique indie Mexo-Americana sound already sets them apart from the mainstream folk scene, but what also makes them memorable are Slezak’s excellent skills on the donkey jawbone. Slezak is the only woman in the band, and, along with her jawbone skills, she also plays a mean fiddle. Check out the David Wax Museum for an opportunity to hear her lead an otherwise all-male band.
MORE WOMEN WHO ROCKED OUT IN 2011: St Vincent, Zola Jesus, Lana del Rey, Syd the Kyd, Feist, Florence + the Machine, Willow Smith, and…okay, okay, Kesha, Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Adele and Katy Perry.