This May Sound Sexist, But Women Are Just Better Than Men at Rock Music: A Playlist

NOTE: This list is uh not safe for the whole family.

Rock represents (or at least one point did) rebellion, a pushing of boundaries beyond the mainstream. It has consistently expanded, pushing beyond itself when it was the status quo, through its sub-genres: psych-rock, punk, metal, new wave, grunge, emo while at its core remaining the same.

The oppression of women and their treatment is broad and long and does not need to be discussed here–their role in rock music is more the exception than the rule with a select few carrying the torch through a field of men. Even now, a struggle for recognition exists, though more underlying than explicit: women are accepted in rock music, but women are not in rock music. Of course rock music exists strangely today–it’s dominant, but those who dominate radio play are one-hit wonders rather than super stars. Mainstream rock is stale, as a 60 plus year genre should be, but as always there are great bands making great music on the fringes.

Women are making the best rock music right now–there is no question in my mind. There are so many little scrappy bands right now throwing together rock songs fit to be listened to in crowded garages–with short, speedy, belted out jams that are purely delightful. They tell stories akin to those in rock (and especially punk’s) early days, expressions from the fringe, taking angst often birthed from a sexist society (Trump anyone?) and turning into a musical rebellion, sometimes crass, but always creative.

Here is a wide, yet non-comprehensive playlist of what is currently happening–jump on board.

Sleater-Kinney

Foremothers (if you will) of sorts to this whole thing, Sleater-Kinney have been making rock jams for a long time. This year saw the release of their eighth album, showing that the group has not missed a beat.

Courtney Barnett

A singer-songwriter who leans toward punk-tinged rock music, Barnett’s specialty is her wit where she is a master at crafting lyrics. Tongue-in-cheek songs about making excuses to get out of going to a party and lawn mowing techniques–she’s very observational, creating stream-of-consciousness songs about what she sees around her and relating it to deeper personal tensions and insecurities.

Makthaverskan

A Swedish punk band whose name translates to “women with power”, they combine forward moving punk songs with a sort of 80s synth melody. Living up to their name, Maja Milner gets personal about her experiences with men, fighting through them in explicit and passionate ways.

Potty Mouth

Sounding like they’re coming straight from the garage, Potty Mouth embodies a sort of low-key aggression common amongst most the bands present on this playlist. Their guitars are fuzzy, the lyrics are straightforward, and the songs are catchy without ever getting poppy.

Ex Hex

Singer/guitarist Mary Timony has had a long road to the 2014 Ex Hex debut album Rips, as a seminal part of 90s noise pop group Helium and later super group Wild Flag in 2010. The Ex Hex debut was a wonderful rock and roll album filled with quickly paced and very catchy songs. It’s a perfectly capable album that anyone who enjoys guitar driven rock songs could definitely enjoy.

Screaming Females

Leaning on a more heavy sound than most of the groups listed here, there are moments on their most recent record Rose Mountain that are shockingly intense. This is lead by Marissa Paternoster’s strong vocals which are powerful enough to knock you back at any moment. The breakdown toward the end of “Burning Car” is pretty epic, reminiscent of those days I was super into metalcore.

Savages

Also a group that trends heavier and more serious, Savages burst onto the scene in 2013 with a very anti-technology/social media/distracted youth message. While they lack the sort of tongue-in-cheek attitude of a lot of these groups, they make up for it with the passion of their message, as lead track “Shut Up” shows, Savages are not afraid of confrontation.

White Lung

Definitely not for the faint of heart, White Lung leans toward the more old school side of hardcore when it comes to punk. These songs are aggressive, filled with quickly paced guitar solos, and pounding drums.

Hop Along

A group that probably rides or dies on the talents of its vocalist, singer Frances Quinlan goes all over the place showcasing a raspy yell backed by a tight backing band. Most of the labeling of Hop Along is as a folk rock group, likely because of the group’s origins (a solo project by Quinlan), but at this point they are definitely a rock band, fitting in quite nicely to the modern day emo revival.

Speedy Ortiz

Speedy Ortiz has revived the alt-rock of the 90s, giving it a modern indie rock feel, with definite punk influences. Another group that started as the solo project of its lead singer (Sadie Dupuis) and grew into a full-fledged critically acclaimed rock group (does this lead us into female rock star auteur theory?).

Tacocat

Taking on The Ramones’ at their most surf rock, Tacocat goes full tongue-in-cheek, exploring the female perspective with a full blast of irony. These are perfect beach songs, even if “Crimson Wave” isn’t as pure a surf song as it might seem upon first listen.

Alvvays

Indie pop filtered through a slacker rock aesthetic, from their purposefully misspelled name to their songs about getting married and grappling with the irony of growing into an adult, and Molly Rankin’s voice which always features a wink to it.

Chastity Belt

Reappropriating a device typically used to inhibit and to censor, Chastity Belt takes it on with a badge of irony, letting their feminism shine through the mores of old. Musically the band very much fits into a punk vein, but does so much more slow and pronounced than typical.

Perfect Pussy

Confrontational to its core (as their name might suggest), they originally started as a fake  band for a movie, but now are here to provide the most blatant and in your face group of the bunch. Their debut album clocks in at a brisk 29 minutes–nearly all of which is distorted and screamed.

Childbirth

https://childbirth.bandcamp.com/track/cowling-at-the-moon

Childbirth actually features two members from groups listed above (Julia Shapiro of Chastity Belt, Bree McKenna of Tacocat) and takes on the same comic feminism as both of them. Their new album is aptly titled Women’s Rights, is filled with brash lyrics, more obscene than thoughtful reflections about feminism, but punk has always been brash, and Childbirth do it more hilariously than most.

Top 14 Albums of 2014

The second to last list of the season! It’s coming a little later than expected, but I have other stuff I’ve been working on for those of you who care. Music is a hard thing to write about, so I’ve done my best to express my feelings about what I loved below. I struggled with the top three, but ultimately came to a balance of what I think I will love for a long time and what my heart is telling me in the moment.

As always I don’t recommend all of these albums, some may have objectionable content for your conscience.

Top 14 Albums of ’14

14. Joyce Manor “Never Hungover Again”

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“Never Hungover Again” is a great party record if you’re into loud punk-heavy rock songs. They are fast and often short (the whole album is only 19 minutes long), but this doesn’t stop it from being a great album and one that does have depth to it.

13. Cymbals Eat Guitars “Lose”

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A great indie rock album lead by the unique high pitched vocals of Joseph D’Agostino, but equally matched by the guitar driven sound of the rest of the band.

12. Hospitality “Trouble”

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A late in the year discovery for me, Hospitality hits hard at this women-led raw indie rock phase I’ve been going through lately. Though the band is divided between a tougher indie rock group and a more synth-y indie pop band, the songs that lead toward the former are some of my favorite of the year.

11. tUnE-yArDs “Nikki Nack”

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tUnE-yArDs’ brand of eclectic, world tinged pop music won’t be for everyone. It’s not even for me half of the time, but those times it does hit, it hits hard.

10. Parquet Courts “Sunbathing Animal”

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Parquet Courts will likely continue to crank out their post-punk, garage rock, laid back rock ‘n roll music year after year and I will likely buy into it every time. I’m not sure if “Sunbathing Animal” is quite as good as “Light Up Gold”, but it is more of the same witty rock tunes.

9. The Hotelier “Home Like No Place is There”

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This piece of new wave emo and pop-punk brought me back to my high school days where I got plenty of that sound. The Hotelier tend to transcend that genre (not that it really needs to be transcended) through poetic lyrics and songs that have emotional payoffs.

8. Iceage “Plowing Into the Field of Love”

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Iceage took a step into a new direction this year, bringing their post-punk sound a more alt-country feel and to me this was an improvement. The songs retain all the heaviness of their last albums, but add a unique change and wit to them.

7. Vince Staples “Hell Can Wait”

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Staples was one of my favorite discoveries this year and though this is technically an EP it was one of my records to listen to all year. “Blue Suede” and “Hands Up” got all the credit they deserve around the internet for their look into Staples’ life and commentary on current events, as well as their absolute musical brilliance and the rest of the album keeps up with those two standouts.

6. Jenny Lewis “The Voyager”

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A solid pop/rock album from the former Rilo Kiley lead vocalist. Here she lays herself bare while also making catchy and witty tunes.

5. Run the Jewels “Run the Jewels II”

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A fierce barrage of a hip-hop album offering non-stop and brutal verses from El-P and Killer Mike. It’s surprises you at every corner and does so in the most brilliant of ways.

4. D’Angelo “Black Messiah”

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I wasn’t some big D’Angelo fan before this year, sure I had heard the story, but it did little more than pique my interest. When the new album dropped I waited a couple of weeks before I even ventured to listen. Once I did listen, I guess you could say that the groove took a hold of me. This album is all groove and it is infectious.

3. Cloud Nothings “Here and Nowhere Else”

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A great rock ‘n roll album, Cloud Nothings reached their peak for me this year with songs that reached anthemic heights with their fuzzed out guitars and impassioned vocals. “I’m Not Part of Me” was my favorite song of the year, but the rest of the album was nearly just as good.

2. The War on Drugs “Lost in the Dream”

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This one is a continuous grower for me with his folksy elongated tracks breezing through my ears in its soothing fashion. It’s strangely reminiscent of Dylan for me, though more calming than his work is known for being. I can’t help but think when asked to point to a great album of the decade that this one will be toward the front of my mental catalog.

1. Makthaverskan “II”

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Maybe this won’t hold up whenever I look back at this ten years down the line, but for now Makthaverskan’s blend of punk and 80s new wave has got a hold on me. They are at times aggressive, at times melodic, but always emotionally bare. Its breadth of style and sound makes me interested in what will come next from the band, but also makes the album really work on multiple levels.

Honorable Mentions: FKA Twigs “LP1”, YG “My Krazy Life”, Jessie Ware “Restoration”, White Lung “Deep Fantasy”, Sharon Van Etten “Are We There”, First Aid Kit “Stay Gold”

Top 75 Songs of 2014 Part III (20-1)

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This is it, the top 20 songs of the year! Apologies to Hospitality and to d’angelo both of whom made albums I didn’t listen to until the last week or so which I find really excellent. You can see here that most of my tastes lean toward hip-hop and punk tinged indie rock, so prepare to see a lot of that. I don’t really have any wide reflections on the musical year, I’ll let the list speak for itself. Enjoy!

Check out parts One and Two

(Note: Not every song is for every person, there may be some songs that you consider innapropriate; I do not recommend everything that I like for everyone. Proceed with your own discretion.)

20. Chance the Rapper “Wonderful Everyday”

Chance only released a couple of songs this year, but this is the one that fully captured my attention–a fairly straightforward cover of the theme song from Arthur. Featuring no rapping at all, its greatness comes from the way that it builds upon itself slowly with its near a cappella musical stylings.

19. J Cole “Be Free”

J Cole released this song in the response to the Michael Brown tragedy and the aftermath of what happened in Ferguson. Another rapper that chooses to sing instead of rap and it creates a raw and emotional tone, filled with lament that cannot be expressed through lyrics alone.

18. Ex Hex “Don’t Wanna Lose”

A pretty straight forward rock song with a female fronted punk/garage vibe that keeps moving infectiously. It’s the perfect album opener.

17. FKA Twigs “Pendulum”

Dark and broody, Twigs’ slowed down artsy pop is catchy in its own unique way, this song takes a while building before it gets to the payoff but when it does every second of the previous tension was worth it.

16. Tune-Yards “Time of Dark”

Merrill Garbus shows off her lung capacity here proving that she not only excels at being eclectic, but that she also has big pipes.

15. FKA Twigs “Kicks”

The album closer proved to be my favorite, she truly excels at building up the atmosphere of a song while quietly inserting her voice into it breaking through in its own quiet way.

14. The Hotelier “An Introduction to the Album” (explicit)

An album opener whose title does not live up to its pop-punk epic-ness. A song that was truly built to be sung along to live every poetic word shouted out. Lyrically the song is unique by using the last word of each verse to start the next one. This song encapsulates all the emotion, passion, and angst that comes with pop-punk and emo and is truly great.

13. Wild Beasts “Wanderlust”

Indie rock and electronic at its finest, another song that rides on atmosphere with its dark and almost creepy feel.

12. Jungle “Busy Earnin'”

Pure joy; an EDM take on old funk jams, Jungle may not nail it every time, but here they certainly do.

11. Isaiah Rashad w/Jay Rock and Schoolboy Q “Shot You Down” (explicit)

The 7 minute version absolutely crushes it with all three rappers crushing their verses. The chorus isn’t as good as the rapping but after each rapper is done it doesn’t matter.

10. Taylor Swift “Blank Space”

I talked about this before, but it really is the best song to be released this year. The T-Swift album as a whole is overrated, but this song is pure sugar.

9. Joyce Manor “Falling in Love Again”

This song would have been my high school jam, number one on my mixtapes for the girl I had a crush on, there’s no doubt about it.

8. Vince Staples “Blue Suede” (explicit)

Staples’ combines one of the best beats of the year with a song about violence that is also a sort of ode to the classic rock ‘n roll tune–it works on every level.

7. Makthaverskan “Antabus” (explicit)

A fast, driving punk song in which the Swedish punks tell off whoever this song was intended for with a forceful use of F-bombs.

6. Rick Ross w/Kanye West and Big Sean “Sanctified” (explicit)

Using a Gospel song for not so holy means, these three confess what their true desires are, but ultimately Kanye is transcendent in his own Kanye way.

5. Iceage “The Lord’s Favorite”

A sort of hardcore song done in a slack-jawed alt-country manner. The song probably deserves to be blasted in a dusty bar, but works just as well coming through your laptop speakers.

4. Run the Jewels “Blockbuster Night Part 1” (explicit)

I don’t know if there was another song out there that got me more hyped when listening to it. Killer Mike and el-p absolutely devastate the listener here. The song is only 2:32 which is too short, but honestly I don’t think I could handle another verse–it would slay me.

3. Makthaverskan “Asleep”

The band has two main influences: 80’s pop and punk rock; here they show off that 80’s influence going heavy on the synths.

2. The War on Drugs “Red Eyes”

“Red Eyes” is that song you listen to after the party is over. It’s catchy enough, but laid back and calming to the point that it’s like the wind coming on a hot summer day.

1. Cloud Nothings “I’m Not Part of Me”

This was my favorite song at the halfway point and it has stuck at the top ever since. At its core it’s an ‘I’m over this’ track, from the opening verse “it’s over now”, Dylan Baldi expresses that he has moved on in the most wonderful way. It’s an empowering song, but to say this gets away from what makes it so great, which is that it is a wonderful rock song.