As I was making my EOTY lists for music last week, I realized that I’ve been totally swept away by female vocalists this year. Sure, the usual powerhouses like Sigur Rós and The National have stood out, but when it comes to artists that popped up on my radar for the first time and then firmly stayed there, the vast majority of them were fronted by a woman, were entirely female, or divided the vocal work between a man and a woman. That deserves to be recognized, especially during a year that saw Regine Chassagne of Arcade Fire basically shoved to the side on Reflektor. Here are three female-fronted tracks that’ve been on a constant loop for me recently.
1.) “Never Age” – GEMS
How GEMS is still unsigned baffles me. “Never Age” starts off as a slick, dreamy ballad and then morphs into an even slicker, dreamier mid-tempo hook that’s irresistibly cool. If this were merely a stereotypical electropop track, “Never Age” would probably get old pretty fast, but a killer spidery guitar riff livens things up and keeps it from descending into a murky haze of layered synths.
2.) “Dixie Cups And Jars” – Waxahatchee
If bare bones acoustics are more up your alley, go ahead and put Waxahatchee’s Cerulean Salt, especially “Dixie Cups And Jars”, on loop. At first listen, this might sound like your standard “sad girl indie rock,” what with Katie Crutchfield lamenting that “we run like hell, I’ll write a tragic epilogue and you’ll act it out,” but once you listen more closely, you’ll realize there’s just as much hope and empowerment here in lines, like “you’ll remain here, I will find a way to leave gracefully or I’ll escape.”
3.) “We’ve Got It” – Cults
To be honest, it took me a few tries before I warmed to Madeline Follin’s baby doll voice, but once I did, I was totally sold. “We’ve Got It” has a swinging hook that’s totally addictive. It’s reminiscent of the ‘60s; if it were placed in a movie, it’d be in a scene where the heroine grabs a hairbrush and mugs for an imaginary camera. It’s bubbly enough that a cynic could write it off as being shallow and superficial, but the quality of “We’ve Got It” comes as heavily from its smug, kiss-off lyrics – “We’re not here waiting up for you / Just you remember that / We’re not here praying just for you / There’s no more tears to cry for you” as it does from its hook.