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Women’s History Month – Women Who Rock…Lovely & Loud in the Now

29 Mar

The ladies rocking the rock scene right now have the numbers and the talent that rivals any other decade in this series, but they are sadly lacking in publicity and commercial presence. The word “indie” applies to almost all of them in the genre sense, largely out of a lack of knowing where to put them. Too bad, because this part of the list is comprised of some serious kick-ass talent.

karen o

Click to watch “Zero”

Karen O – Karen O wonders where the balls went in rock n’ roll, begging the question, “Where has all the charisma and the sexuality and the gnarl gone?” Nowhere, Karen O. Not as long as you’re around.

alison mosshart

Click to watch The Kills’ “Tape Song”

Alison Mosshart – Mosshart has her hands in almost as many projects as Jack White, which is fitting since  White tapped her to lend her lead vocal stylings to his side project, the Dead Weather. Her day job is with the Kills, a garage-rock duo who are a little bit blues, a little bit American (Mosshart), a little bit British (guitarist Jaime Hines) and a whole lot rock n’ roll. They’re mastering a throwback quality set to a synth soundtrack that is best viewed through a haze of cigarette smoke and after a slow pull of whiskey, which, coincidentally, describes Mosshart’s voice.

Grace Potter

Click to watch “Never Go Back”

Grace Potter – I’m kind of obsessed with Grace Potter and the Nocturnals at the moment, and you should be, too. Potter is a knockout with a voice that’s an aural assault, tinges of Janis Joplin and Sheryl Crow running through, and the Nocturnals are a perfect combination of classic, Southern-flavored rock meets modern indie/synth rock. Check them out now.

lzzy hale

Click to watch “Love Bites (So Do I)”

Lzzy Hale Lead singer for Halestorm, Hale has talked of forming a female rock supergroup a la the Runaways. She was also tapped for a remake of the Ozzy Osbourne/Lita Ford power ballad “Close My Eyes Forever” with Disturbed vocalist David Draiman on his side project Device’s new album. Hale could no doubt give Joan Jett and Lita Ford a run for their money.

bandofskulls

Click to watch Band of Skulls’ “I Know What I Am”

Emma Richardson – As bassist and vocalist for the Brit trio Band of Skulls, Emma Richardson is a woman who rocks because of this simple fact: she can explode out of your speakers with her sultry voice and driving bass line and then quiet it down to a come hither whisper and sing oh-so-sweetly.

amy lee

Click to watch Evanescence’s “Everybody’s Fool”

Amy LeeRecently labelled 2013’s reigning Goddess of Rock by Loudwire, Lee is also the Ambassador for the Underdog, giving a voice to all those who feel misunderstood and different. And what a voice it is.

ritzy

Click to watch The Joy Formidable’s “Cholla”

Ritzy Bryan – Don’t let Ritzy Bryan’s sweet, fairy look fool you. As lead singer for the Joy Formidable, an artsy/noise rock trio hailing from North Wales, Bryan is a smasher of guitars and bringer back of baby doll dresses a la Courtney Love, circa 1992. On second thought, when drawing that comparison, let Ritzy Bryan’s sweet, fairy look captivate you. I interviewed Joy Formidable bassist (and Bryan’s boyfriend), Rhydian Dafydd back in September 2011. Check the interview here.

juliette

Click to watch “Sticky Honey”

Juliette Lewis – It’s true: Juliette Lewis is a woman who rocks, and not just for her Oscar nom-worthy acting skills. She’s a legit Woman Who Rocks, with or without the Licks, the band she formed and fronted in the early 2000s. Think Iggy Pop with lady bits.

warpaint

Click to watch “Elephants”

Warpaint – Like Veruca Salt before them, Warpaint co-founders Emily Kokal and Theresa Wayman are besties and have been since eighth grade. No bad blood and break-ups to speak of yet – and hopefully ever – and after a revolving door of line-up changes, which has included actress Shannyn Sossamon (her sister Jenny Lee Lindberg is and always has been Warpaint’s bassist) and the Chili Peps’ Josh Klinghoffer, Warpaint are a solid all-female unit of art rock, dream pop and beauty. Want proof? Click the pic above.

hayley williams

Click to watch Paramore’s “Now”

Hayley Williams – Paramore’s siren haired songstress has had a rough year, navigating her way through many of the cliched trials and tribs that come with being in a rock n’ roll band. But like any true rockin warrior princess Williams has emerged victorious with some of her fiercest, most honest lyrics yet. After a line-up shake-up last year, Paramore are back with a leaner, meaner version of themselves on what critics are already calling their best album yet, entitled Paramore, which drops in early April.

metric

Click to watch Metric’s “Youth Without Youth”

Emily Haines – Haines has all the trappings, I mean, makings of an independent woman. She’s stylish, talented and smart. An analog embracing, social media shunning, self-aware lady who not only knows the value of cultivating an image but of embracing her post as a woman and lead singer for indie-rock outfit, Metric, Haines is not a bad role model for ladies to have. Oh, and she rocks pretty hard, too.

jenny lewis

Click to watch Jenny and Johnny’s “Big Wave”

Jenny Lewis – You may recognize Jenny Lewis from the Shelley Long helmed cheesefest Troop Beverly Hills or the obscure girl-power nugget Foxfire starring Angelina Jolie, or you may recognize her from one of the various musical projects she’s dotted the musical landscape with. Rilo Kiley, Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins, Jenny and Johnny with boyfriend Johnathan Rice, and has made quite an impact all by her little lonesome.

carrie brownstein

Click to watch “Romance”

Carrie Brownstein – Brownstein is a tour-de-force on the indie scene. She was at the tail end of the riot grrrl movement in the late 90s, singer-guitarist for alt-rock trio Sleater-Kinney, star of Portlandia with SNL’s Fred Armisen, NPR blogger and current singer-guitarist for the all-female Wild Flag alongside Sleater-Kinney drummer Janet Weiss. Singer-guitarist-blogger-actress-riot-grrrl-woman-who-rocks. Carrie Brownstein boasts what is perhaps the single most impressive hyphenate.

Click here to hear my Spotify playlist of all the women on all four lists in this series, plus many, many more.

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Women’s History Month – Women Who Rock…Grrrls of the 90s

22 Mar

Ah, alas, we have arrived at the 90s, a time period rife with fierce female energy and feminine manifestos lamenting bad break-ups and their rightful place in a world dominated by men. It was a decade that featured a sexy pool of female talent; females who weren’t going to sit quietly in a corner looking frail and weepy. No, these women weren’t going to take men’s shit any longer, in fact, they were going to sing about the shit their men put them through, immortalizing their feminist woes and the men who’d done them wrong forever in song.

alanis

Click to watch “You Oughta Know”

Alanis Morissette – Morissette stood apart from the grunge movement that consumed the whole of the 90s, and, truth be told, she stood apart from everyone, claiming her own corner of the music industry with Jagged Little Pill and the hell-hath-no-fury anthem, “You Oughta Know,” an angst-ridden confessional that is lyrically courageous, fierce, expository and vulnerable. She became the radio-friendly poster girl for angry young women, leading the way for many of the ladies listed here to sing the same.

shirley

Click to watch “Stupid Girl”

Shirley Manson – Hottie? Check. Sexy accent? Check. Perfect blend of delicate songbird and badass frontwoman? Double, triple check. Dressed in the uniform of the 90s: melancholy pout, short skirts, fishnets and combat boots, Shirley Manson played the part of Misery Chick well as singer for the band Garbage. She’s made headlines recently showing her supreme support for Record Store Day, saying, “(Record Store Day) promotes the belief that time spent exploring a small, lovingly curated record store, discovering artists, music and ideas can arm you against anything that ever threatens to overwhelm or engulf you.”

nina and louise

Click to watch Veruca Salt’s “Shutterbug”

Veruca Salt – Besties Louise Post and Nina Gordon would stand side by side belting out songs like “Seether” and “Volcano Girl” onstage every night and then retreat to their hotel rooms where the pair would talk for hours on the phone. A falling out between the two fractured the group, reducing Veruca Salt to a tragic platonic love story and silencing, in my eyes, one of the best bands to come out of the 90s (see Eight Arms to Hold You).

polly jean2

Click to watch “Rid of Me”

PJ Harvey – While “Down by the Water” and Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea are more my speed, Harvey’s Rid of Me is a stand-out. Adding to the list of crazy ex-girlfriend albums (see Alanis Morissette and Liz Phair), her pure, unadulterated fury and unabashed raw power is spilled across this Steve Albini-produced gemstone.

dolores

Click to watch “Zombie”

Dolores O’Riordan – As frontwoman for the Cranberries, O’Riordan’s aggro-Irish lilt cuts like glass, and her pixie-esque frame only adds to the wonderment that such a big sound can come out of such a tiny person.

gwen

Click to watch “I’m Just a Girl”

Gwen Stefani – Cloaked in a cutesy vocal trill and pseudo-bashful, eyelash-batting stare, Gwen Stefani asked to “take this pink ribbon off my eyes” in the irony heavy, “I’m Just a Girl.” As a result, she removed the pink ribbon from many women’s eyes. Stefani stood far apart from her grunge girl counterparts, fronting the ska-heavy No Doubt, but she still showed lyrical sister solidarity and staying power, going on to become a fashion icon and designer, successful solo artist and one in a string of celebrity singers whose husbands were referred to as Mr. (Insert Female Moniker), with the honor for Mr. Gwen Stefani going to hottie rocker, Gavin Rossdale.

courtney

Click to watch Hole’s cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Gold Dust Woman”

hole

Hole – Courtney Love may be the train wreck everyone can’t turn away from, but she’s got her toehold in music history, nonetheless, and it’s firmly rooted in the 90s. As frontwoman for the 75% female band Hole (alongside equally as kick-ass  rockers, if not more so, Melissa Auf der Maur and Patty Shemel), Love is considered by some to be a modern day Yoko Ono, but she’s also a no-holds-barred rock chick who gave an outside voice to every woman’s inner dialogue and spawned a legion of girls dressed as broken dolls just like her.

bikini kill

Click to watch “Rebel Girl”

Bikini Kill – Responsible for spawning the riot grrrl, movement, Bikini Kill were a punk rock feminist quartet with Runaways leanings, which can be heard all over the Joan Jett produced “Rebel Girl.” Lead vocalist Kathleen Hanna is married to a Beastie (Ad-Rock), dated Dave Grohl, started Riot Grrrl, a fanzine that spawned the movement of the same name, and is the person who scribbled “Smells like Teen Spirit” on Kurt Cobain’s wall. I don’t really need to say what came of that, do I?

L7

Click to watch “Pretend We’re Dead”

L7 – L7 formed in the 80s but were easily rolled into the fold of the grunge movement alongside other female-heavy acts Hole and Bikini Kill. Although their act was full of tampon flinging and dropping trough on national TV, the ladies of L7 ultimately wielded their power for good and started Rock for Choice, a pro-choice organization.

liz phair2

Click to watch “Supernova”

Liz Phair – Gender bender Liz Phair wasn’t afraid to tackle taboo topics and sing about subject matter once deemed unbecoming of a lady to talk about. Her Exile in Guyville is like a raw nerve stroke of genius. Another post-break-up nugget, Guyville was also a response to the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street, each song on Guyville meant to parallel each track on the famous Stones album.

sheryl

Click here to watch “My Favorite Mistake”

Sheryl Crow – A dirty-hot vibe, growling rasp, and impressive cadre of  collaborations, the former back-up singer for the King of Pop decided to forgo the angry young woman route traveled by so many of the ladies listed here and struck a balance between standing her ground and exposing her soft underbelly in a, musically, very straightforward way. Instead of screaming about how her man had done her wrong, Crow begged the question, “Are you strong enough to be my man?”

kim deal 2

Click to watch the Breeders’ “Cannonball”

Kim Deal – For the first two Pixies’ albums, bassist Kim Deal went by Mrs. John Murphy, a name chosen as an ironic feminist joke. Her stint as Mrs. John Murphy may have put her on the map, but “Cannonball” off the second album Last Splash by the Breeders, the band she started with twin sister, Kelley, shot her into the mainstream. 

Women’s History Month – Women Who Rock: Ladies of the 80s

15 Mar

Oh, the sweet, blessed 80s heaped with big hair, leather and anything goes. We’re walking right into my wheelhouse with this decade, having been weaned on the teat of MTV, and the Ladies of the 80s were too. This was a time when musicians weren’t just heard but seen. Image was everything, and artists were now faced with the task of making music videos to propel their hit songs. What emerged was a handful of women who became iconic for their voices, their talent and their keen fashion sense.

pat b

Click to watch Pat Benatar’s “You Better Run”

Pat Benatar – Benatar was in heavy rotation in the early days of MTV. In fact, “You Better Run” was the second music video to air on the network right behind the Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star.” Her killer mezzo-soprano voice not only cracked the glass ceiling in a male-dominated medium, it shattered it down to the ground.

pretenders

Click to watch the Pretenders’ “Brass in Pocket”

Chrissie Hynde – Read Chrissie Hynde’s take on How to Be a Lady Rocker. Enough said.

joan jett

Click to watch a clip of Joan Jett & Michael J. Fox in Light of Day

lita

Click to watch Lita Ford’s “Kiss Me Deadly”

Joan Jett and Lita Ford – Post-Runaways, Joan Jett and Lita Ford went their separate ways in near every sense of the word. Lita Ford went the slick, sexy, metal maiden route while Joan Jett went down the road of straightforward, ballsy rock n’ roll.

annie lennox

Click to watch the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams”

Annie Lennox – Lennox is synonymous with the word androgyny during her stint as lead singer for the Eurythmics in the 80s. Her signature orange buzz cut and uniform of tailored men’s suits are still replicated in fashion today, but Lennox didn’t wear short hair or men’s suits because she wanted to be a man. She once said to Grazia Magazine, “I wanted to wear a suit to show that I am equal to a man, not that I wanted to be one, or that I was gay — which is what it was interpreted as…but there you go.”

siouxsie sioux

Click to watch Siouxsie and the Banshees’ “Hong Kong Garden”

Siouxsie Sioux – Siouxsie Sioux was an authentic outcast, an original misfit doll rocking the punk scene in the late 70s and 80s, who spawned a look mirrored in modern day musicians like PJ Harvey and Karen O. Siouxsie and the Banshees had a much farther reach with their sound, influencing U2, the Cure, Jane’s Addiction, Santigold, LCD Soundsystem and a dozen others.  

sonic youth

Click to hear Sonic Youth’s “Star Power”

Kim Gordon – Sonic Youth was labeled alt-rock when they staked their claim on the musical landscape in the early 80s, but when Grunge infiltrated…just about everything a decade later, Sonic Youth became the genre’s First Family. Bassist and singer Kim Gordon was one of the original Riot Grrrls, wearing baby doll dresses and swimming in her oversized cardis long before Grunge not only became a music movement, but a fashion one, as well. 

go-gos

Click to watch the Go-Go’s “Our Lips Are Sealed”

bangles

Click to watch the Bangles’ “Hazy Shade of Winter”

The Go-Go’s and The Bangles – At the onset, the Go-Go’s were all raunch and punk, the Bangles were retro garage rock and Paisley Underground, but both bands became polished pop sweethearts proving chicks with guitars could rock as hard as the boys.

cyndi lauper

Click to watch Cyndi Lauper’s “She Bop”

Cyndi Lauper – “Girls just wanna have fun, but some of us wanna be in a rock band, too!” Lauper said as host of the PBS documentary, Women Who Rock. Lauper was a crazy technicolor mashup of those who inspired her to become rock star. Stevie Nicks, Ann and Nancy Wilson, the Runaways and Deborah Harry were all in there, mixed together and creating a style in Cyndi Lauper that was entirely individual and new.

vixen

Click to watch Vixen’s “Edge of a Broken Heart”

Vixen – Upon finding this picture of Vixen, a one-hit wonder all-female Hair Metal band, I fully realized how much androgyny was going on with the 80s Hair Metal scene. I mean, yes, no duh, the guys in Poison and Motley Crue definitely had the “Dude Looks Like a Lady” thing licked, but the ladies in Vixen kind of had a whole  “Girls who are boys/who like boys to be girls” vibe going on.

I went back and forth about mentioning one more lady from the 80s, and perhaps the lady of the 80s. The women who have found their way onto this list have helped shaped my sphere of influence, and those who know me would think I’ve fallen and bumped my head had I not mentioned one woman in particular. While I think she rocks, she is not, technically, a woman who rocks, so I’ll simply say this…

“There’s only one queen and that’s…”

madge vogue

Click to watch Madonna’s 1990 MTV Awards performance of “Vogue”

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