Tag Archives: best of lists

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”


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

6 Jan

I hear a lot of music snobs/blog enthusiasts complain about the deluge of “best of” and “2012 preview” music compilations around this time of year. You know what I say to that? Good problems. Year-end lists are one of my most effective ways for finding those bands that I was not quite hip enough to discover when they were really underground (but maaaaybe pretend I knew about all along). The preview lists? Those help me find music I might have otherwise considered boring and inaccessible until I hear some electro remixes of said indie music, and then I will revisit it and discover it’s actually pretty good.

So, in order to set my 2012 preview list apart from the pack, I decided to use gender as my crucial differentiator. Partially because I love chick musicians and lament their underrepresentation, and partially because it helped me prioritize among the crowd of talented musicians who will undoubtedly rock the scene this year. Again, good problems.

So, in no particular order, here are the ladies who I predict will make a splash this year. If nowhere else than on my boombox. I’ll split this into two posts because I got a little carried away.

1. Santigold

Oh Santigold. I liken my relationship with you to that with Four Loko: you rocked my world for a brief, memorable period, before you became suddenly elusive and disappeared. Santigold produced one of the greatest albums of the decade in 2009, back when she still went by “Santogold.” This album’s effortless fusion of hip hop, electro, and soul still sounds innovative when I listen to it (incessantly) today, which proves how truly groundbreaking Santigold’s aesthetic was three years ago—I can’t wait any longer to hear what she has up her sleeve. After claiming she would complete her sophomore effort in fall 2011, she whetted appetites in September with “Go,” an electrifying collaboration with Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, as well as a guest spot on the Spank Rock track “Car Song,” but mum is still the word on an official album release. Enough is enough: give us more, give us more!

Spank Rock featuring Santigold, “Car Song”

2. Lana Del Rey

In the most ingenious marketing and branding campaign of the year, indie songstress turned sex bomb Lana Del Rey managed to become the biggest thing to hit the internet since tabbed browning—all with very little work of her own. Armed with stunning good looks, a carefully cultivated Nancy Sinatra-gangster persona, and a whopping two tracks, Lana ignited the blogosphere. After riding the internet hype wave straight into a major record deal in October, Lana will release her debut EP “Born 2 Die” in early 2012. So, the time has come: put up or shut up, Lana. The world is watching. No pressure.

Lana Del Rey (Jamie Woon remix), “Video Games”


3. Azealia Banks

In the world of female MCs filled with larger-than-life personalities (e.g., Nicki Minaj’s neon alien sexpot and Beyonce’s world domination via Sasha Fierce), it’s nice to listen to a lady who seems like a real person without sinking to Taylor Swift-level beige-ness. Azealia’s style is fresh and colorful and urban, but she doesn’t allow an overly-cultivated aesthetic to cloud the important stuff: she is an amazingly talented MC with complete mastery over her flow (see: spitting rapid fire rhymes in “Grand Scam”) and a sound that is both marketable and fresh to death (see: incorporating house beats into hip-hop lyrics on hit singles “212” and “Liquorice”). As if you need another reason to be amped for her full-length debut, it’s being produced by Paul Epworth, the mastermind behind Feist and Adele.

4. Alexis Krauss (Sleigh Bells)

The first time I listened to Sleigh Bells, I was following a tweet from my favorite music critic Toure, who described their sound as “sternum rattling.” Anyone who owns decent headphones or has seen these guys live can attest to the rattling—it’s real and it’s serious. While touring for their debut album “Treats,” Sleigh Bells built serious credibility by putting on a punishingly loud and bombastic live show with only 49 minutes of material. As one of the many who has been waiting with baited breath for the follow-up album, I shivered when I read the title: “Reign of Terror.” The expectedly explosive first single, “Born to Lose,” already has me picturing myself returning to the adrenaline-soaked mosh pits of yet another Sleigh Bells show, both loving and fearing for my life at the same time.

Sleigh Bells, “Born to Lose”

5. Sarah Barthel (Phantogram)

I confess that I very rarely discover long-term musical interests during opening sets; to be quite honest, I’m never on time for anything, and I spend most opening sets dealing with coat checks and bartenders. Thankfully, this was not the case when I saw the Glitch Mob at the 930 Club in July. The second I arrived, I was immediately drawn into the duo tearing it up for the early crowd with an impressive, understated energy. Phantogram’s October EP Nightlife gained them much well-deserved attention and praise, but I suspect these guys will milk 2011’s productivity into greater mainstream success this year; I’m calling a Saturday Night Live appearance at the least. Until then, I’ll keep singing along to “Don’t Move” on repeat.

Phantogram, “Don’t Move”