While thinking back over the music I’ve enjoyed during the past year, I came to the realisation that a very large portion of it came from female artists or female fronted bands. This really shouldn’t be noteworthy in this day and age, but if you think about it, with the exception of the pop market, most musical styles are still pretty much male dominated. I mean, think of your all time favourite metal/rock/indie/rap acts and basically only indie really has a high chance of including a girl and she’s almost certainly gonna be called Kim.
As such, Indie continues to lead the way with a much higher percentage of female fronted bands; maybe it’s down to being a less image oriented genre, where who or what you are is far less important than your art, who knows? Even so, with the exception of Florence’s last minute headline slot at Glastonbury, the UK festivals were still shamelessly male dominated, indicating that there remains an undercurrent of male bias in the industry. This is highlighted by the fact that when you consider that based on merit alone, rather than the questionable practice of positive discrimination; that is, using record sales and critical acclaim as a guide, the main stage at Reading, Glastonbury, Leeds or IoW could easily have lined up Bjork, Florence, Sleater-Kinney, Wolf Alice, Courtney Barnett and Soak on the main stage; wouldn’t exactly have been torture now, would it?
So, whether the powers at be choose to recognize it or not, there has been a lot of damn fine records released this year by women across all genres, even Rap. Therefore, in my best Emma Watson-esque spirit, I think it only fair and right to give a shout out to some of the supremely talented ladies that have contributed so much to my listening pleasure of late.
Although the overriding misogyny of the Rap/Hip-hop scene continues to be a difficult hurdle for female talent, the likes of Kate Tempest, the classy Dej Loaf and Little Simz represent a new generation of talented girl rappers. In addition, 2015 also saw the return of some old school talent; with the unique Missy Elliott coming back with a stylish new single after stealing the half time show at the Superbowl from under Katy Perry’s nose. However, it’s Tairrie B., one of the most pioneering performers in the game, that has most surprised and challenged me this year with her return to the genre for the accomplished ‘Vintage Curses’ project (https://hardpresseded.wordpress.com/2015/08/18/tairrie-b-vintage-curses/). It showed that she still has a flow comparable with any major rap artist around right now, as well as being as empowering as ever. Check out this badass remix of ‘Wicked Witch of the West Coast’ by Mediatrix – another upcoming female talent.
Hard Rock / Heavy Metal is another complicated area for women, but the likes of Pvris and Marmozets are breaking down old fashioned sexism with the sheer quality of their material. Speaking of quality, I can’t put down the smoking ‘Into the Wild Life’ by Halestorm; Lzzy Hale has a superb hard rock vocal and on ‘I Am The Fire’ she is, well, on fire.
As I said before though, it’s the world of indie/alternative where women are really holding their own. I cannot get enough of Wolf Alice’s ‘My Love is Cool’, especially killer tracks like ‘Bros’, ‘Your Love’s Whore’ and ‘You’re a Germ’. Lead vocalist, Ellie Rowsell, has a superb voice, drifting easily from a breathy hush to a full blooded scream on WA’s classy songs – album of the year?
I discovered the old school indie sludge punk of Haybaby a couple of months back and believe they too are set for bigger things. Leslie Hong has a very strong voice and is equally good whether understated or raging; I love her screaming “I don’t give a fuck if you love me anyhow” in the middle of the chorus to ‘Old Friends’, badass.
Laura Hancock of The Echo and The Always, is another vocalist that has seriously impressed me this year. She has a little more bite to her voice, which glides easily amongst the multiple facets of their intriguing record; she can deliver a pop hook with ease, hold her own on rockier numbers but also has the smoothness of a folk singer. This band will be massive.
To be honest, there is so much amazing female talent around right now, whether it’s a tiny upcoming band like False Advertising (Jen Hingley), hot new singer-songwriter like Soak or a legend like Björk, I could go on and on giving examples. Suffice to say that with so much good music on offer I find it staggering that the issue of equality still needs to be addressed in the music business.