Top 15 Women of 2013: 15 - 8
2013 has seen some superstar releases, but oddly its been the males who have dominated this category. In a year of big ticket releases, only Lady Gaga and Katy Perry really stand on the same platform as Drake, Jay-Z, Kanye, Eminem, Justin Timberlake and co. Despite this, there have been some BRILLIANT releases from our venus counterparts this year, and here are my top 15 so far. Just to qualify, to actually qualify for this award ceremony you need not be an all female band, just have a female lead singer, so bands like múm and Texas are eligible.
15. Texas - The Conversation
We haven't seen smooth rock like this since the movement away from alt-rock in the late 1990s. Can you believe Texas released a greatest hits in 2000? The Conversation is a time capsule; it transports you back to those sepia-tinged days in the car on a long drive to your family's holiday destination, drowning in the never changing scenery soundtracked by muted guitars and a sweetly dispositioned lead singer. This record is slightly harder than previous work which provides its important point of difference, and ensured it remained in my rotation for many many weeks. A return to form.
14. Deap Vally - Sistrionix
Listening to Triple J during Splendour In The Grass and Deap Vally come on. Raw, raucous, aggressive, distorted, and most likely drunk, they prompted an intense googling session, which was quite difficult as I was driving through Cronulla at the time (not actually driving, my friend was behind the wheel...). I couldn't find them. I figured they were some obscure Aussie band that I'd never hear from again. A few days later a mate says dude have you heard Deap Vally? So I googled again. No luck. Finally, I saw them on the Triple J Playlist. Deap Vally. What a ridiculous spelling! Lo and behold, there they are on Spotify. What a trip their debut album is! A distortion soaked waltz through the seedy underbelly of rock that we all know exists but is becoming increasingly difficult to see. Their swagger and confidence is confronting, I haven't seen such bravado since Hole. Wonderful debut.
13. Zola Jesus - Versions
She has quite a voice. So much so that it at times dominates the Mivos Quartet who provide wonderful backing. The rise and fall reads like a symphony, and Jesus rides the pulsating moods like an expert. There is this wonderful image of a girl, locked away from the world, with a symphonic backing tape writing about the most lurid fantasies constructed out of thin air. There is a weight of experience and reality behind her words, but an almost fanatical quality that is harder to digest for the casual listener. 'Before I fall apart, fall in to the sky, I feel every inch, I feel it fold, Over myself, Over you'. It's a girl tormented by her process yet compelled to complete it, and if you so choose you can get deeply involved in her struggle.
12. Chvrches - The Bones Of What You Believe
What works brilliantly well is pop music sung with a sweet sounding female voice. Up-beat dancey fun just feels better when a cute girl is behind it. What Chvrches have done is inject you with ecstasy and then delivered a bit of a sermon. Tracks like Lies and Gun may get your feet moving, but they're pleas for help and descriptions of dystopian relationships. You can almost imagine Mayberry as a 15 year old with glasses, copping bad relationships left right and centre. The weight of wisdom, though, betrays her. In a similar mould to Camera Obscura, Mayberry has experienced and analysed it all, so we're treated to confidence. Confidence and pain, packaged smartly in beautiful synth-pop. Winner.
11. Best Coast - Fade Away
Ahhhhh. Why do they always manage to get away with such a simplistic world view? Fade Away, you honestly can to this release. They once released a song called 'Boyfriend'. It was about a guy Bethany wanted to be her boyfriend..To be fair, on Fade Away there is slightly less transparency about the lyrics. Baby I'm Crying utilises those brilliant rhymes, rhyming one with sun, but it's a pretty heart-breaking tale of unrequited love. Bethany accepts more, she realises things rather than jumping in to melancholy with both feet. There is less reverb, less refraction through sepia toned mirrors. Growing up? Maybe.
10. Cher - Closer To The Truth
Cher is old. Like, really old. 67 in fact. That's 5 years older than my dad, and he's already forgetting where he put the remote and he already has an unhealthy relationship with multiple cats. Cher has 'purchased' her youth. Look at the cover of this CD. Yes, all of that was once the tupperware container you stored your horrible rock cakes in. But as cynical as this record may be, there's no law written to say we can't enjoy it. Chasing those EDM crowds, Cher does sound young again, Woman's World is insane, she sounds like a 20 year old Madonna. My Love is a strain for her voice, and she does sound her age, but lines like 'I'm dazzled by the beauty in front of me' and 'I feel like you were meant to be my love' are not normally associated with ladies who should be, by all rights, worrying about incontinence pads not finding new love. It's deliciously indulgent this release.
9. Chelsea Wolfe - Pain Is Beauty
If pain is beauty, Chealsea Wolfe has one hell of a figure. The record is an exercise in movement, a slow relentless pulse towards a moment of clarity, a consequential discovery. It's not paired back, yet it is more atmospheric. Density is the key, and it all compliments Wolfe's bruised psyche perfectly. She seems inhumanly capable of empathy. This is from The Waves Have Come, a song about the Japanese Tsunami: 'And all you know gets older when / The sun goes down and everything / Begins to fade away, the waves have come / and taken you to sea / never to return to me'. There is beauty in depth, and Chelsea Wolfe has released one of the deepest records of the year.
It's an interesting story, Haim's. They've been around for quite some time, yet it is their naivety that immediately seduces. Because of the insanely long run of the brilliant track 'The Wire', it almost felt as though Days Are Gone would never come out. And if it ever did, how could it live up to arguably one of the top 5 tracks of the year? Well, it did. See, Haim sound naive, they sound young and fresh and raw, but really they're incredibly good performers. The record feels like it's been spit-shined. Each melody is perfectly timed, each drum pattern is complimentary. Furthermore, there is a plethora of different sounds to explore. Honey & I almost feels like a Dixie Chicks record, whilst My Song 5 is a glitched gem that sounds like a better version of a Yeezus track. Haim have made a pop record and strayed slightly off the beaten path, and it's so refreshing.