35 Women in Indie Rock [By Darrick Thomas]

35 Women in Indie Rock
By Darrick Thomas
♠  When it comes to women in music, there’s more than just the pop princesses that dominate commercial radio. How about women who write their own songs, play their own instruments, and put on one hell of a live show? If that’s more your speed, then you’ll love these ladies of indie rock. © Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs performs at the KROQ Weenie Roast Y Fiesta 2009 at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater on May 16, 2009 in Irvine, California. (Photo by Noel Vasquez/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Karen O, (May 16, 2009 – Source: Noel Vasquez/Getty Images North Americavia )
01. Karen O (Yeah Yeah Yeahs)
♠  As the powerhouse frontwoman for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Karen O has grown into her role as one of leading female rock stars on the indie scene. Playing off New York’s long history for producing artistically–minded punk rock girls, Karen O blends her art school background and eccentric style with a voice that goes from sultry to scream with the crash of cymbal.
02. Dum Dum Girls
♠  The Dum Dum Girls are cooler than all of us, and they know it (or at the very least, we should know it). In uniforms of dark lace and pinup girl makeup, the Girls burn through their songs with an uncanny blend of grace and power that’ll leave you speechless. It’s a tricky feat to straddle the line of punk edge and pop accessibility, but they nail it.
03. Annie Clark (St. Vincent)
♠  Annie Clark started her music career as a member of the Polyphonic Spree and touring member of Sufjan Stevens’ band before launching her solo career as St. Vincent. A multi–instrumentalist, Clark’s compositions are complex and can cross genres at a moment’s notice. Lyrically, Clark’s a fan of subversive wordplay and crafty juxtapositions. Simply put, she’s a musical force to be reckoned with.
04. Alexis Krauss (Sleigh Bells)
♠  Alexis Krauss is one half of the very loud indie noise pop duo Sleigh Bells. Together with guitarist and mastermind Derek Miller (formerly of Poison the Well), Alexis creates sugary vocal hooks over the top of some eardrum–crushing beats and blazing guitar hooks.05. Lykke Li
♠  Swedish singer Lykke Li is known for experimenting with a range of instruments mixed with electronic elements. Since her debut in 2008 with Youth Novels, Lykke Li has grown up quite a bit as a woman and musician, trading girlish twee sensibilities for a sexier, more sultry style like that of “Get Some.”
06. Sharon Van Etten
♠  The saying “she wears her heart on her sleeve” predated Sharon Van Etten, but it feels like it was coined just for her. Van Etten’s devastatingly honest and relatable tales of heartbreak and love are incredibly powerful for how effortless she makes them seem. For all the moments in a relationship that keep you tongue–tied, Sharon’s there to give a voice to how you feel. Even better, her latest album Tramp shows Van Etten growing as a musician and composer.07. Claire Boucher (Grimes)
♠  The brainchild of artist Claire Boucher, Grimes is the latest musical phenom to come out of the Montreal music scene, where acts like Arcade Fire and Wolf Parade originated. Grimes, however, is a different breed, using looping techniques to form intricate tapestries of electro synthpop full of dance–able hooks. “This thing is so compulsively listenable it’s hard to come away from it wanting much more,” wrote Pitchfork of Grimes’ 2012 album Visions.
08. Marnie Stern
♠  What’s amazing about Marnie Stern is her ability to stupefy you with her shredding skills and dynamic vocals, and, at the same time, make you feel like you shouldn’t be all that impressed. Live, Stern’s more concerned with making you feel like you’re hanging out at a friend’s place rather than watching a “star” perform. It’s on her albums that she takes self–deprecation and turns it into cathartic self–examination.    © BERLIN — MAY 17: US–American singer and harp-player Joanna Newsom performs live during a concert at the Admiralspalast on May 17, 2010 in Berlin, Germany. The concert is part of the 2010 tour to promote the album 'Have One on Me'. (Photo by Jakubaszek/Getty Images)
09. Joanna Newsom
♠  Ever since recording her first EP, Walnuts and Whales on a child’s Fischer–Price tape recorder in 2002, Joanna Newsom’s harp–centric music has been in high demand. Her sprawling, epic concept albums uniquely combine chamber pop with experimental folk that fits her angelic, warbling voice.
10. Chan Marshall (Cat Power)
♠  Chan Marshall, aka Cat Power sets the bar for strange, abstract live shows. In the early '90s she got her start singing “no” for 15 minutes while playing a two–stringed guitar. While she’s embraced more traditional song structures since then, she still says she finds it disappointing that “once a song is recorded, it’s taken for granted that that’s what the song sounds like.”
11. Regine Chassagne (Arcade Fire)
♠  Regine Chassagne is the multi–instrumentalist and singer who, together with co–founder and husband Win Butler, forms the heart of Arcade Fire. The two met in 2000 when Regine was singing jazz at an art opening. She was born in Haiti but raised as French Canadian and is known to occasionally sing in French on the band’s tracks.12. Karin Elisabeth Dreijer Andersson (Fever Ray)
♠  Both in her solo project Fever Ray and familial duo The Knife, Andersson’s haunting experimental electropop has spawned plenty of imitators, but no one can match her sense of drama and darkly seductive sound. Her elaborate stage shows add to the surreal nature of her songs, incorporating masks, body paint, intricate costumes, lighting effects, and other theatrical elements to fill out her one–of–a–kind live performances.
13. Kim Schifino (Matt & Kim)
♠  As one half of the Brooklyn–based dance punk duo Matt & Kim, Kim Schifino plays the drums and sings. Matt & Kim have a reputation for being one of the most fun and ebullient live shows, thanks in large part to Kim’s big smile and endless energy. The two watched their indie status flirt with mainstream success after their song “Daylight” was used in a variety of commercials and television shows.
14. Cameron Mesirow (Glasser)
♠  Cameron Mesirow has an astounding voice, but rather than be “just a singer,” she decided on a more fully realized artistic path. As Glasser, Mesirow weaves her powerful vocals among the tribal drum beats and scattered electro melodies she composes. Like her avant–garde fashion sense and live show, Glasser’s sound is as eclectic as it is mesmerizing.
15. Jenn Wasner (Wye Oak)
♠  Jenn Wasner’s skills on the guitar give duo Wye Oak a sound that’s hard to find anywhere else. Her folk rock inclinations are filtered through a desire to just let it all go and rock out. Similarly, her vocals can only be held in check for so long, going from hushed vulnerability to confident, melodic roar. Wye Oak’s third album Civilian finds Wasner and partner Andy Stack at their most polished and most epic.
16. Leslie Feist
♠  Before her single “1234” became a hit thanks to an iPod Nano commercial, Feist not only recorded a few solo albums, she was also a member of Broken Social Scene and a back–up singer for former roommate Peaches. Following The Reminder’s success, Feist’s follow–up Metals debuted at number 7 on the Billboard charts, quite a feat for an indie act.
17. Merrill Garbus (tUnE–yArDs)
♠  Merrill Garbus is the brains (and voice) behind art rock outfit tUnE–yArDs, a band that serves as a showcase for her versatile vocal talents. The band’s debut album w h o k i l l is like a vocal gymnastics competition in which Garbus competes in every event. In one song she can hit a swaying, belting gospel stride and bring it down to a hushed whisper. In another she start out with an island, tribal vibe and transition to more straight–forward singing. There’s even a bit of rap and scat in the mix.
18. Nika Roza Danilova (Zola Jesus)
♠  There’s a gothic feel to Zola Jesus’ output that lands her in Kate Bush or even Joy Division territory. But Nika Danilova is a more natural singer than either of those comparisons. For those who think Florence Welch can really belt it out, check out Zola Jesus.
19. Santigold
♠  Santigold (formerly Santogold, born Santi White) says her primary influences come from '80s pop, but she ultimately claims to be “genreless.” Her 2008 single “L.E.S. Artistes” was named the second best single of the year by Rolling Stone, right behind Beyonce’s “Single Ladies.” Santigold hopes to follow up that success with Master of Make–Believe, which happens to include a collaboration with Karen O.
20. Bethany Cosentino (Best Coast)
♠  After a handful of lo–fi singles, Bethany Cosentino’s Best Coast project became a blog favorite, and she was swept up in a media blitz. Lyrically, Cosentino’s songwriting has taken its shots — simple songs all about unrequited infatuation, weed, and need for a man. While these are definitely topics of choice for Cosentino, her rare brand of blunt honesty, sincerity, and unabashed self awareness reads more like a diary entry than calculated marketing ploy.
21. Caroline Polacheck (Chairlift)
♠  Caroline Polacheck is one half of the snythpop duo Chairlift. What started as a goofy project intended to make music for haunted houses became a real band thanks to Polacheck's lush vocals and abstract songwriting. Chairlift had a brush with mainstream success when “Bruises” found its way in an iPod commercial, but they’re more comfortable with keeping their indie cred and playing small venues filled with diehard fans.
22. Zooey Deschanel (She & Him)
♠  Zooey Deschanel is the rare example of an actor who has successfully built up her credibility with music fans. Both of her releases with She & Him, her collaboration with Portland scenester M. Ward, have received rave reviews. But you probably already knew she had a great voice after watching Elf (Will Ferrell, not so much).
23. Frankie Rose
♠  Frankie Rose cut her teeth in the New York indie scene as the original drummer of multiple indie acts including Crystal Stilts, Dum Dum Girls, and the Vivian Girls, but she was destined to find her own voice. Rose moved from behind the drum kit and into the role of singer/songwriter/guitarist/frontwoman in 2010 with her self–titled solo effort and has since released her follow–up, Interstellar, a glossy concept album about a space odyssey.
24. Madeline Follin (Cults)
♠  Madeline Follin fronts Cults, a band that became an overnight blog sensation after unassumingly posting three songs to Bandcamp. One album in, Follin is at her best on tracks like “Abducted” and “You Know What I Mean,” which introduce her vocals as soft, wispy sing–alongs that still allow her to emerge from her girly, submissive corner and belt it out with some serious soul.
25. Victoria Legrand (Beach House)
♠  Victoria Legrand is one half of dream–pop band Beach House, who have had an almost flawless run over their eight–year history. Every Beach House album appears across hundreds of year end best–of lists, and their latest release just received a near perfect score from Pitchfork. Legrand’s unique, melancholic vocals meld perfectly with Beach House’s keyboard drones, layered beats, and sparse guitar hooks. © Kazu Makino, Coachella Music Festival, Day 2 / Photo: KAZU MAKINO. Musician Kazu Makino of Blonde Redhead performs during day 2 of the Coachella Music Festival held at the Empire Polo Field on April 28, 2007 in Indio, California. / (April 28, 2007 – Source: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images Entertainmentvia )
26. Kazu Makino (Blonde Redhead)
♠  After nearly two decades together, Blonde Redhead are the old vets of the indie scene, and their influence is seen in much of today's experimental pop. As the frontwoman for the band, Kazu Makino imbues an ethereal sensuality in just about every track. Her voice is entrancing, especially while watching her wail on the guitar during live performances.
27. Ruth Radelet (The Chromatics)
♠  The Chromatics have gone through a bunch of different incarnations. What started as a lo–fi noise rock band is now a polished synth–driven outfit with a touch of what could be called gothic disco. The transition and subsequent success owes a lot to Ruth Radelet, the quietly beautiful voice behind their dark brand of noir pop.
28. Beth Ditto (Gossip)
♠  Fronting the Portland dance rock band Gossip, Beth Ditto openly and loudly embraces her larger than life body image. Gossip, who are also a vocal advocates of LGBT rights, have since signed on to a major label subsidiary called Music with a Twist, a Sony offshoot that specializes in LGBT music acts. After three years off, Gossip released A Joyful Noise in May of 2012.29. Katy Goodman (La Sera)
♠  After establishing some garage rock cred with Vivian Girls, Katy Goodman pursued a decidedly different musical avenue for her solo project. As La Sera, she trades speed and crashing punk for a brighter sound that’s more polished with vocals layered in mood and effect, like a Phil Spector girl group with reverb.
30. Erika M. Anderson (EMA)
♠  Erika M. Anderson’s transplant from South Dakota to California spawned one of last year’s best singles, and the album that followed showed that EMA has a long career ahead of her. As an artist, she’s fearless, willing to try just about anything without worrying how it’ll be perceived. Thankfully, most of the time, it’s to her benefit.
31. Jana Hunter (Lower Dens)
♠  Jana Hunter may not be the most recognizable name in indie rock, but she’s one of the most prolific. After playing in more than a dozen bands, Hunter has hit a groove as the frontwoman and songwriter for Baltimore–based Lower Dens. Lower Dens is heavy on mood and swirling sonic atmosphere, and while Hunter is small in size, she’s big in skill, commanding the stage without even seeming aware of it.
32. Jenny Lewis
♠  Jenny Lewis is a staple in the indie scene. Her solo resume is strong, but she’s known best for her work fronting Rilo Kiley. She’s also performed as one half of Jenny and Johnny with boyfriend Johnathan Rice, played with Elvis Costello, and contributed to Killers frontman Brandon Flowers’ first solo album.
33. Cate Le Bon
♠  Welsh singer/songwriter Cate Le Bon caught her first break when Super Furry Animals mastermind Gruff Rhys booked her as an opening act. On a creative high from their tour, Le Bon released her first album in 2009. Three years later, her brand of retro pop looks to take the States by storm with the release of her 2012 sophomore record CYRK.
34. Charlotte Gainsbourg
♠  French actress and musician Charlotte Gainsbourg got her start in music singing alongside her father, Serge Gainsbourg, on the 1984 single “Lemon Incest.” She released a solo album at age 15 in 1986 before taking a 20–year hiatus from music. Her two recent albums, IRM and Stage Whisper have both received critical acclaim.
35. Wild Flag
♠  For some reason it’s usually the boys who do the supergroup thing. Luckily, there’s also Wild Flag, a band made of pieces from Sleater–Kinney, Helium, and the Minders. Led by Carrie Brownstein, Wild Flag’s self–titled debut is greater than the sum of its parts, creating a sound that is refreshingly cohesive. More importantly, Wild Flag doesn’t surrender the edge of their rock pedigrees.
Full List:
♠  Karen O (Yeah Yeah Yeahs)
♠  Dum Dum Girls
♠  Annie Clark (St. Vincent)
♠  Alexis Krauss (Sleigh Bells)
♠  Lykke Li
♠  Sharon Van Etten
♠  Claire Boucher (Grimes)
♠  Marnie Stern
♠  Joanna Newsom
♠  Chan Marshall (Cat Power)
♠  Regine Chassagne (Arcade Fire)
♠  Karin Elisabeth Dreijer Andersson (Fever Ray)
♠  Kim Schifino (Matt & Kim)
♠  Cameron Mesirow (Glasser)
♠  Jenn Wasner (Wye Oak)
♠  Leslie Feist
♠  Merrill Garbus (tUnE-yArDs)
♠  Nika Roza Danilova (Zola Jesus)
♠  Santigold
♠  Bethany Cosentino (Best Coast)
♠  Caroline Polacheck (Chairlift)
♠  Zooey Deschanel (She & Him)
♠  Frankie Rose
♠  Madeline Follin (Cults)
♠  Victoria Legrand (Beach House)
♠  Kazu Makino (Blonde Redhead)
♠  Ruth Radelet (The Chromatics)
♠  Beth Ditto (Gossip)
♠  Katy Goodman (La Sera)
♠  Erika M. Anderson (EMA)
♠  Jana Hunter (Lower Dens)
♠  Jenny Lewis
♠  Cate Le Bon
♠  Charlotte Gainsbourg
♠  Wild Flag

Women in Indie Rock [By Darrick Thomas]