on my boombox: the ladies of 2012 (part two)

6 Jan

Continued from part one (below).

6. Annie Erin Clark (St. Vincent)

This lady has always been a bit of a question mark for me. Sure, she toured with Sufjan Stevens. Sure, she was a 2009 Pitchfork darling with no hit singles. So were dozens of girls from Brooklyn with bad haircuts, big deal. But Annie Erin Clark (a.k.a. St. Vincent) pulled away from the pack, and not just because of a well-timed Bon Iver collaboration, or because I kinda started to dig her haircut. Like many great female indie songwriters, St. Vincent displays extreme depth of emotion in her lyrics; but unlike many, she matches her lyrical prowess with music that is just, well, interesting. Masterpieces like “Cruel” are erratic and unpredictable and imaginative and try to do a million things at once but somehow get it right. It’s audial impressionism, and I can only imagine that many others will stop and stare this year.

St. Vincent, “Cruel”

7. Tin Roots

I can’t assert that the Tin Roots will make it big in 2012, as I don’t know what they have on deck for the new year besides some one-off live shows. But I’ll allow my stubborn optimism to influence this list, because these guys deserve a listen from anyone who considers themselves a reggae fan. Lead female vocalists are conspicuously absent from most mainstream reggae, but Tin Roots’ Ruby Taylor expertly fronts this six piece reggae/ska/dub fusion group with subtly powerful vocals. Listen up. Spread the word. Praise jah.

8. Kathleen Hanna (The Julie Ruin)

Kathleen Hanna messed with synthesizers before synthesizers were cool as part of Le Tigre, but first the punk rock goddess experimented as a solo artist under the moniker Julie Ruin. Now with a five-piece band called *The* Julie Ruin, Hanna, with her intimidatingly large brain and progressive feminist views, is proving she is STILL way cooler than anyone else. Who else can rant political tirades and hate on most mainstream pop artists, and then turn around and get the party started five minutes later? If their live performances are any indication, the group’s soon-to-be-released album will receive plenty of critical acclaim and hopefully some commercial attention to match. Besides, Hanna should earn bonus points with D.C. audiophiles for her eloquent ode to Fugazi in the wake of their new online archive. Respect.

9. Iggy Azalea

Another Toure-inspired discsovery, this hyper-sexualized white female MC was highlighted in his New York Times article “White Female Rappers Challenging Hip-Hop’s Masculine Ideal.” While the jury is still out on that claim, I love how Iggy’s music fits into his argument: her machine gun flow is aggressive, not playful, with lyrics that demonstrate Iggy’s ability to dominate, whether musically, personally, or sexually. One need only watch the video for the best song on her Ignorant Art mixtape, “Pu$$y,” to know she’s no joke when it comes to shock value (but really… watch it. NSFW). Her looks are fierce, not cute, and she is overtly sexual, without the slightest hint of submissiveness. Circling on a record contract, Iggy could storm the rap world in a way that is unprecedented for a white woman (i.e., in a way that was unprecedented for a woman of any color—until Lil Kim came along).

Iggy Zalea, “D.R.U.G.S.”


10.  Carrie Brownstein, Janet Weiss, Mary Timony , and Rebecca Cole (Wild Flag)

While some might think I am biased toward Wild Flag because front woman Carrie Brownstein listed Beyonce as an influence for the group’s 2011 self-titled album, I promise my admiration extends further. Besides, they don’t sound even a little bit like Beyonce (I know, I was disappointed too). Nor do they sound like Sleater-Kinney, Brownstein’s and drummer Janet Weiss’ former musical life. But Carrie’s statement speaks to Wild Flag’s unabashed embrace of catchy hooks and pop song structure, making for an album full of vintage female power-group charm without an ounce of cheesiness.

Wild Flag, “Romance”

11. Charli XCX

Thank you, Charli XCX. Thank you for giving me hope that a young, crazy, “dark pop” songstress with an affinity for eyeliner and glitter can also demonstrate legitimate talent (and, therefore, not be Ke$ha). Charli XCX has been a wild child on the London scene for some time, leading some to claim that her opportunity to shine has passed. To them I say, “slow your roll, this chick is 19 and barely out of grade school.” And Charli stepped in up in 2011: while attending London’s Slade School of Fine Art, she simultaneously worked on her debut album to release this spring, priming her to seize the spotlight in 2012. If her banging fall 2011 singles “Stay Away” and “Nuclear Seasons” didn’t catch your attention, did I mention said debut album is being produced by Robyn?! Yeah. Don’t be late to this party because it’s gonna be huge.

Charli XCX, “Nuclear Seasons”


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