Thursday, 13 June 2013

20 Great tracks by women performers of the last 20 years

Apparently, according to some sources, the recent Hottest 100 of Triple J didn't have enough female voices in it. The list was voted for by 940,000 people, and it's hard to dictate to that amount of people what they should listen to, or to even vote for in a list like that.

If we're all honest, we're all a little guilty of gender imbalance in our listening habits, myself included. It would be very difficult to have an even 50/50 spread of female-to-male artists in any given listening diet, but that's not going to stop me from looking at some of the best songs by women in the period the recent Hottest 100 covered.

Bob Evans (aka Kevin Mitchell of Jebediah) did likewise recently, so in response, here's mine.

Gravity - The Superjesus (2000)

The first single from the band's second LP. Sarah's voice is gorgeous, as usual.

Atomic Electric - Rebecca's Empire (1994)

Rebecca's Empire were sadly underappreciated in their day. Their first LP was almost like a best-of album. It bundled up all the key singles and EP tracks that had been issued in the previous couple of years. "Atomic Electric" was one of their first releases and it demonstrates that a high level of songwriting craft is already present.

Good Fortune - PJ Harvey (2000)

PJ Harvey is one of a number of alternative rock singers whose catalog is deep and rich, but one that I personally haven't delved into. This is probably her most famous song, but not undeservedly so.

My Sister - Juliana Hatfield (1993)

Juliana Hatfield's most recognisable song is both a poignant and painful reflection of sibling relationships. Gorgeously sung with the tone of a little sister telling a grown-up about her experiences growing up.

Ladykillers - Lush (1996)

This track mines similar territory to Alanis Morrisette's "You Outta Know" but it is nowhere near as pissed off. It's targets are a number of men and specifically skewers some of the things we blokes do to try and impress the ladies. However, vocalist Emma Anderson is not impressed. At least she gives her targets some helpful hints in the chorus in order to improve their chances with her.

Polyester Bride - Liz Phair (1998)

Liz Phair gave the Riot Grrrl/Feminist pop movement a kick in the pants with her call-to-arms first LP "Exile in Guyville" in 1993. She then softened her approach in 2001 with a pop-makeover that had all the indie music types up in arms. In between times, she kept a holding pattern of pleasant indie-rock albums while starting a family of her own. This one comes from her first post-baby LP "Whitechocolatespaceegg". This track may not sound like much to being with, but it has a transcendent chorus that elevates the song to classic status.

Feed The Tree - Belly (1993)

Belly is a band from the 4AD label roster of bands. They're not a band I'm overly familiar with outside of the first Triple J Hottest 100 CD, but still this is a killer tune.

Hold On Hold On - Neko Case (2007)

I first discovered Neko as a member of indie-supergroup The New Pornographers. All the members of the Pornos have other bands and careers they work on in between group albums. Neko concentrates on a unique brand of alternative-country, one that is far, far outside the Nashville model of country as we know it and personally I'm greatful for that.

Make It Last - Kate Miller-Heidke (2007)

Classicly trained Brisbane-born vocalist Kate Miller-Heidke has been making challenging and curiously fascinating pop music for the better part of the last decade. "Make It Last" was where the mainstream finally caught up with her.

Stevie - Spiderbait (1999)

Spiderbait are a fascinating band. Variously described as thrash-pop, post punk and more, I just think the best way to describe their is that they do whatever the hell they want, and we love them for it. Having said that, this one is unusually funky for them.

Peachy - Missy Higgins (2007)

Ya gotta love Missy Higgins. She's rarely this chirpy and bouncy on record, but when she is, it's usually something to treasure.

Midnight - Elan (2003)

I credit my discovery of this track to my sister, who first played it for me. She's a big supporter of women's issues, women's rights and a huge supporter of women in the arts. She has some sharp taste in music too, as you can see from this track. Thanks, Sis.

I Can Dream - Skunk Anansie (1995)

Frontwoman Skin is one scary proposition. She wields a frightening image; on purpose. The proto-feminist stance of her lyrics wouldn't carry they gravity they do without that.

Dirty Jeans - Magic Dirt (2000)

This was the first time I really took notice of Magic Dirt. I didn't get into their noisy grunge records in the mid-1990s. My interest in the band co-incides with the moment they reigned in their more extreme aspects of their sound and focused on writing killer songs. Thus their career could almost be split into two halves - the noisy grunge period pre-2000, and the focused, post-grunge pop post-2000, from which this track was the first example of.

Don't It Get You Down - Deadstar (1996)

Man I miss Deadstar. They shone brightly but not for as long as the deserved to. Singer Caroline Kennedy's bell-like vocals on this track make my heart sing.

Only Happy When It Rains - Garbage (1995)

Garbage's first out was a dark horse when it was released in 1995. No-one expected a bunch of top notch session musos, record producers and a unknown vocalist from Scotland to be as great as they are. They surprised us all, and released one of the best debuts of all time, and one of the albums of that year. Of the five singles from the LP, this one was always my favourite. I'm never happy about inclement weather, but this is one of the best songs to play when stuck indoors on such an occasion.

London Still - The Waifs (2002)

Ok, so I posted this one previously, but I don't care. It fits the brief of being a great female-voiced track from the last 20 years.

Standing In The Way Of Control - The Gossip (2006)

Lead singer Beth Ditto is probably not someone you wanna get on the wrong side of. She's forthright and assertive and she makes this song all own. You can't help but believe that she means every word she sings.

Bang - Yeah Yeah Yeahs (2002)

New York's Yeah Yeah Yeahs have developed their sound to add a whole lot more polish over recent years, but the garage rock roots are still evident in their sound. This is a track from one of the very early EPs, when they were raw and ragged and, for my money, their most vibrant.

Paco Doesn't Love Me - The Spazzys (2004)

The Ramones may have been (at best) a rudimentary garage band, playing hyper-fast over-amplified 60s pop, but they cast a massive shadow of popular music. The Spazzys are three sprightly young ladies from Melbourne who, let's be honest, are shameless Ramones copyists (even down to their stage names: Kat Spazzy, Ally Spazzy, Lucy Spazzy) but damn don't they do it well. If nothing else, The Ramones were a hell of a lot of fun, and so are The Spazzys. This song is their first single, and it's a cracker. Play this tune LOUD and jump around like a nutter for 2 and a half minutes - you'll feel better for the effort.


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