Gemma’s Top 8 Girl Bands Of 2015
It’s December again, and the world is just as fucked as ever. Possibly slightly more, possibly slightly less. I guess it’s easy to lose track of these things without an ordered list to tell you what to think. Having been precariously perched on the 2015 bar stool for quite some time now, we’ll soon be staring down the menacing barrel of 2016. So how best to celebrate yet another successful orbit around the Sun?
We thought about publishing an objectively correct ranking of the year’s best records. But sadly we couldn’t get hold of any doof doof scientists to determine what the metrics should be. Instead, we’ve fallen back on our Top 8 Whatevers. You know the score – our trusted team of R$N scribes pitch in with lists of music they’ve enjoyed, petty grievances they want to air, obscure interests they want to highlight. Basically whatever's on their mind. Let’s do this. Here's Gemma to introduce her Top 8:
I’m loathe to usually lump girls out, great bands are just great bands as far as I’m concerned, but this year has been an exceptional one for a new breed of female fronted acts and I wanted to give them the kudos they deserve. When I saw Kathleen Hanna play Primavera she told the audience not to be “haunted by the ghost of the '90s, it’s 2015, it’s time for something NEW!" In my opinion these are the ladies who rallied to that battle cry in the best way possible, finally getting their well deserved place in the spotlight.
1. Chastity Belt – The real gift of the this Seattle based quartet is the way they talk about everyday girl shit but ditch the whining and infuse it with a heavy dose of knowing sarcasm. That doesn’t mean the songs are aggressive by any means, there’s a heady mix of groovy basslines, and reflective soundscapes which draw you in. Standout tracks from their latest record are “Lydia”, an ethereal song so pure I had it on repeat all summer.
2. La Luz – Label mates of Chastity Belt but that’s not why I chose them, their sound is more surf guitar with layered harmonic vocals but never twee. They came to my attention with their new release 'Weirdo Shrine', which I think is a homage to the Museum of Jurassic Technology in LA and also hands down one of the strangest places I have ever been. It’s not just their broader influences which are eclectic though, this album features rich organ sounds and other noises inspired by Japanese Eleki players – the result is a tapestry of noise which makes for an electric live show too.
3. Girlpool – Though their name may have a sweet ring to it, Harmony Tividad and Cleo Tucker manage to steer between expressive, aggressive and delicate, with this contrast being their greatest selling point. 'Chinatown' is a sad lullaby to lost love but they come out all guns blazing on 'Jane', a ballad which sees them and their protagonist kicking ass in every way. There’s a sense of the sneering anger Hole made popular but tempered with something fresh and vulnerable which makes them intriguing too.
4. Super Wild Horses – This Aussie duo make stripped back garage rock, which is so effortlessly cool and breezy. Sweet vocals layered with scratchy guitar and raw sounding beats and rousing choruses and the effect is something sweet and unselfconscious that will get stuck in your head for days.
5. The Wharves – The best '60s girl groups mixed heady, sweet vocals over strong and simple guitar sounds, and this legacy is one the Wharves have taken and made their own. Drawing you in with hypnotic basslines and choral harmonies, their songs build to a frenetic pitch in a way which is almost cinematic. Notable tracks include 'Turtleneck' and 'The Grip'.
6. Skinny Girl Diet – The new champions of Grrl Power are here and they’re not taking any shit. The Viv Albertine endorsed trio display a sophistication beyond their years, singing about Twin Peaks' notorious Nadine Hurley and extolling the virtues of DMT. Smart, loud and angry, their live sets are pure raw power and absolute magic.
7. Ex Hex – Anyone who remembers the excellent Helium will be familiar with Mary Timony, but if unlike me you didn’t know this was a return, there’s still so much to love in Ex Hex. Their sound owes a lot to punk with 'Waterfall' reminiscent of the Buzzcocks, but Mary’s fierce guitar makes this sound all her own and they’re a hell of a lot of fun live too.
8. Childbirth – Some might say I'm cheating as Julia Shapiro from Chastity Belt is also in this feminist punk band, but she’s teamed up with Bree McKenna of Tacocat and Stacy Peck of Pony Time for this project and the result is pretty amazing. Hands down they win for best lyrics, most notably for 'Siri, Open Tinder' (PS Tried this and it does not work- sort it out Apple) and 'Tech Bro' – "Take me to your condo, I’ll do my laundry while you code."
*BONUS ENTRY* here for L7 who tore up the Electric Ballroom earlier this year and tempted me back to the pit for the first time in 10 years. There’s a new T-shirt doing the rounds which says “The future is Female” and every time I see it my first thought is that if it means more bands like these, BRING IT ON!