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In the boys' club that is the music business, I have to support my sisters. So I’ve selected my favorite ladies on the Coachella lineup. Have to add: I love Lorde too, but I think she has plenty of airtime/publicity at the moment! Whether or not you’re going to make the trek to hang out with rich hipsters in the desert, you should take these ladies' records for a spin. Your ears will thank you.
The Dum Dum Girls
With lead singer Dee Dee Penny’s Chrissie Hynde-esque vocal stylings and their dreamy surf-rock instrumentation, the Dum Dum Girls create a sound that’s both original and totally classic at the same time. Penny’s voice seems to channel nearly every '80s rock goddess imaginable -- in the best way. Not to mention their whole aesthetic is pretty appealing as well.
The Dum Dum Girls are touring now, and stopping through Coachella to promote their newest album, "Too True." (The official release date was January 28 on Sub Pop.) You can buy it now directly from the Sub Pop site if you’re so inclined. There’s a good chance you can also check them out in your town, so visit the Dum Dum Girls site to see if they’re playing near you.
Tracks to listen to: "Pay for Me," "Jail La La," "Bedroom Eyes," "Rimbaud Eyes"
HAIM is a band of sisters who rock incredibly hard. If the sisters from Heart, the ladies of Wilson Phillips, and Stevie Nicks spliced their eggs to make love children, their love children wouldn’t have shit on the sisters of HAIM. Their sound has hints of arena-rock, yet is incredibly polished and poppy, with sprinklings of harmonies that sound like only sisters could create. They cite Mariah Carey and Kendrick Lamar as their influences, and not only can I completely hear that, but it makes me love them even more. This is probably my favorite band right now.
HAIM’s debut full-length album, "Days are Gone," came out on September 30th, 2013 on Polydor Records. Buy it, listen to it, and jam out like you’re 15 years old in your hot pink bedroom and you JUST CAN’T UNDERSTAND WHY NO BOYS LIKE YOU. The embedding on their YouTube videos is disabled, but mosey on over to HAIM’s channel to have your mind BLOWN.
Tracks to listen to: "Don’t Save Me," "Forever," "Falling," "The Wire"
Laura Mvula is probably the most unique, gorgeous, interesting artist on this list. Her voice has a richness that is unparalleled in modern music, evoking the timbre of Dinah Washington. Mvula’s vocals possess a clarity and purity that is honestly unmatched. Her arrangements actually remind me a bit of Bjork. Her sparse backing tracks are minimal enough to let her voice shine and do the heavy lifting, but beautiful and interesting enough to keep you listening.
Her debut album, "Sing to the Moon," was released on RCA last March. It’s an insanely wonderful piece of music with a sense of artistry that is sorely lacking in modern music. If record sales were indicative of talent, this British soul singer would be selling more records than Adele.
Tracks to listen to: "Sing to the Moon," "Green Garden," "Father Father"
Though Sleigh Bells are technically a male-female duo, it’s frontwoman Alexis Krauss that really makes the group what it is. Something tells me that if I attempt to describe Brooklyn-based Sleigh Bells sound to xoJaners it’ll be redundant, but I will try anyway. This is one of the few bands out there whose genre is actually a pretty accurate descriptor -- noise-pop really does convey Sleigh Bells' sound. With their edgy, guitar-laden compositions and Krauss’ alternating poppy, polished, gritty vocals, the band's sound really is the epitome of noise-pop. Sleigh Bells' third full studio release, "Bitter Rivals," came out on October 8, 2013 on Mom + Pop Music. Give it a listen if you haven’t already.
Tracks to listen to: "Tell Em," "Rill Rill," "Comeback Kid," "Bitter Rival"
Like Sleigh Bells, The Knife is another man-woman duo. Also like Sleigh Bells, it’s Karin Dreijer’s vocals that give The Knife a signature, sellable sound. Something about Sweden, and Scandinavia in general (hey Bjork, I love you), breeds women whose voices hit me deep. It’s Karin’s voice that adds a personal touch and sets them apart from their contemporaries. Somehow syrupy and icy at the same time, it is close to perfection. The Knife’s sound is perfected with electronic, infectious EDM backing tracks a la Daft Punk. They’ve had a long, very successful career and you’ve no doubt heard their music even if you don’t know it.
With a song on their newest album called “Let’s talk about gender baby, let’s talk about you and me,” I don’t think it would be physically or mentally possible for me not to love The Knife. The fact that they switch it up and have Karin’s brother Oolof sing those lines, only makes them all the more poignant. Shaking the Habitual, The Knife’s most recent release, came out last April and is excellent. It was released on The Knife’s very own label, Rabid Records. Listen to it, dance to it, and hopefully you’ll love it as much as I do.
Tracks to listen to: "I Just Had to Die," "Heartbeat," "Pass this On," "Let’s Talk About Gender Baby..."
Warpaint is a perfect example of why we need more female voices in music, because it’s rare that I hear an all-male band that even comes close to having as original of a sound as this band. Sometimes when an all-male band attempts to sound experimental or unique, it comes out sounding like unfiltered noise. There are exceptions, of course, like TV on the Radio, who I actually think Warpaint kind of sounds like.
I hate the term “art-rock,” though it’s admittedly fitting for Warpaint. Emily Kokal’s vocals are the cherry on top of this art rock sundae. It’s a voice that’s as diverse as it is beautiful. Kokal can wail and screech like a true rocker, but she can also hit high notes so delicately it feels like she’s caressing your spirit with her vibrations. Okay, maybe that’s overkill, but I really like this band. Their brand-new, self-titled, sophomore release is due out any day on Rough Trade records.
Tracks to listen to: "Warpaint," "Undertow," "Elephants," "Love is to Die"
In all honesty, I am not the hugest ZZ Ward fan, but unlike the other female artists playing at Coachella who I don’t care for, I felt like she was worth mentioning. That’s because she is undeniably a talented power-house. Despite my personal distaste for white people singing the blues, and my general side-eye saved for anyone wearing a fedora, this girl can sing and she can play. Also, music is completely subjective, and just because I don’t personally like it, it doesn’t mean that she isn’t a great representation of female talent who deserves to be promoted.
Her most recent release is a single, “Last Love Song,” from January. If you’re into “blue-eyed soul” then you’ll probably like her a lot. Lots of legit blues players jam with her, giving her an air of credibility in the blues community. Also she was raised in Roseburg, Oregon, so as a fellow Pacific Northwest girl, she gets props from me. Seriously though, ZZ, if you’re reading this, lose the fedora. You’re better than those silly hats.
Tracks to listen to: "Put the Gun Down," "Charlie Ain’t Home" feat. Ali Shaheed Muhammad, "Move Like You Stole It"
In this particular instance, when it comes to my personal taste, I saved the best for last. Neko Case’s voice and lyrics reach places in my body and spirit that no other human on earth can even come close to reaching. Animals, yes easily, but humans, not so much. When it comes to Neko Case, there’s just so much to love. Not only is her music off the chain, but she’s hilarious too. If you don’t follow her on Twitter already, you should. She’s as funny as she is musically inclined.
Case is another artist whose sound is unique to the point of being hard to describe. Many have likened her vocals to Patsy Cline, which is a fair, if not entirely accurate, comparison. There’s an element to Case’s voice that’s deep, wise, and gritty to the point that there is no other vocalist alive that sounds like her. To be so delicate, vulnerable and gorgeous, and at the same time conveying a certain hardness, is nearly impossible to do. Somehow though, Case manages to meld all these sounds together in her music. The fact that she has lived in all of the same Western Washington small towns as me, and penned a must-hear homage to my poverty-stricken birthplace, Tacoma, only adds to her appeal.
Her most recent release, which is creatively titled “The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You,” came out on September 3, 2013, through the label, ANTI-. Listen to it -- it won’t disappoint. She’s touring a bit for her new album, so check out nekocase.com to see if she’s stopping in a town near you.
Tracks to Listen to: "Star Witness," "Thrice All American," "Local Girl," "Rag Time"
Ladies of Coachella Unite!
Though I was previously not sold on the concept of Coachella, after creating this list I am completely jealous of anyone who gets to see all these incredible women in one place. So if you haven’t already heard of them, or are just not super-acquainted with their entire body of work, listen to these albums. There’s something here for everyone.