UP WITH THE VOLUME, DOWN WITH THE PATRIARCHY
Words Oisin Lunny
Ok, disclaimer time: every day is International Women’s Day. Gender parity is for life, not just for calendar dates picked out by the UN, after all. But despite all that, we wanted to celebrate with a selection of smart, eclectic, joy-boosting female fronted tracks – and here’s the result. From Kate Tempest’s haunting Tunnel Vision to Cardi B’s acid-tongued rap via U.S. Girls’ domestic violence-tackling pop, these are songs to stir your soul and light a fire under you. Listen on, sisters (and brothers too, of course).
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TRACK BY TRACK
In the enchanting and intimate video for Dreams, Alice returned to the bucolic wilds of Vårhallarna in her native Sweden – a place with which she has a strong emotional bond. “Vårhallarna is such a special place to me,” she says. “My grandmother has a house there, and when I go there I always feel calm and inspired. It’s unclear how long my grandmother will keep the house for, so I wanted Vårhallarna’s magic and beauty to be the core of this video – as an homage to the place and to all the memories.”
Have you ever had one of those days, paralyzed by doubt or depression, temporarily hidden behind a mental fog? Well, based on the sound of “Fate”, Lina Tullgren has not only been there, done that, and bought the t-shirt, but also captured the moment in pure sonic melancholy. The video explores themes of paranoia with a focus on body movement based on Lina’s tendencies to overthink.
3. After The Storm (feat. Tyler, The Creator & Bootsy Collins)
“We can find solace in the fact that we have to go through the bad stuff to truly get to the good,” says Kali of her collaboration with music legends Tyler and Bootsy. “Just because you’re losing at the moment doesn’t mean you’ve lost yet. The storm may be scary now, but it’s how your flowers bloom later…” The last few years have indeed seen Kali setting the stage nicely for global domination, but with Grammy nominations, slots at Coachella, a support tour with Lana Del Rey, and an album on the way, it is becoming abundantly clear that 2018 will be the perfect Kali storm, and is hers for the taking.
4. Hot Pink
Let’s Eat Grandma
Teenagers Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth aka Let’s Eat Grandma turn modern pop and gender politics inside out in this exhilarating blast of melody and noise. They explain that “‘Hot Pink’ is about the misconceptions of femininity and masculinity and the power of embracing both of them: “it’s about self-expression and appreciation for an underrated colour.” This energetic and talented multi-instrumentalist duo have pole-vaulted expectations and preconceptions to deliver something fresh, fun and meaningful. PHOENIX loves the “scorched earth” approach and production from labelmate SOPHIE.
5. Bodak Yellow
Chances are you will have heard Bodak Yellow (Money Moves) already, the song won Single of the Year at the BET Hip Hop Awards and was nominated for Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song at the last years Grammys. There is also the matter of the video (now clocking in at a mere 465 million views and counting) in which Cardi B was attacked by a cheetah during filming in Dubai. The video’s director Picture Perfect told Genuis “I didn’t know how hard it was gonna be to get a cheetah out there.” PHOENIX imagines that if Cardi B says she want a cheetah in her video, you just find a way to make it happen.
6. State of the Union
NYC rapper Junglepussy built a cult following around the quick-witted, tongue-in-cheek lyricism that populated her debut album “Satisfaction Guaranteed’. The blueprint for her persona was a no-holds-barred exercise in self-love and empowerment, something that drew the attention of the media. Her stand out track, “Bling Bling” was streamed over 1.5 million times, and “Picky Bitch Checklist” became a mission statement for fans all over. “State of The Union” is the tone-setting return single that precedes her upcoming third album.
7. Like My Hand Did
New Orleans performer Boyfriend is behind a new kind of hip-hop couched in satire, cabaret, and sex-positivity. Boyfriend, whose real name is a well-kept secret, merges a nerdy aesthetic with witty, explicit lyrics and a zero-fucks-given attitude. Her burlesque-inspired live shows have earned her the sobriquet of “the rap game Bette Midler”, and fans can buy Boyfriend branded granny knickers among the merch options. In this track from the vaults she gives the ultimate kiss-off to an ex-lover who failed to satisfy. Hell hath no fury…
8. Nan Fon Bwa
Raised in Ottawa by Haitian parents, Mélissa’s new release is informed by her return last year to Haiti (for the first time since she was 12 years old) to explore her cultural ancestry. Mélissa has gone on to make unmistakably contemporary music, a fusion of Haitian folk, protest songs and Voodoo rituals, many originally used as a form of resistance against the American occupation of Haiti between 1915 and 1934.
9. Tunnel Vision
The UK’s street poet laureate, Kate Tempest, is a singular creative mind with a raw, shamanic power. Her words rain down, potent with love, fear and everything in between, a rallying cry to humankind, urging us to rethink the way we live: “It was our bombs that started this war / It rages at distance, so we dismiss all its victims as strangers / But they’re parents and children made dogs by the danger,” she blasts. When Kate drops lyrical bombs, she’s capable of gifting the listener with a whole new moral compass. Her inner fire and passion for social justice light up “6 Million Stories” from the excellent new album by Foreign Beggars, a track about the gravity of living in London.
Multi-disciplinary Toronto artist Meg Remy aka U.S. Girls has been on our radar since the stunning anti-war protest song Damn That Valley, written from the perspective of a soldier’s widow. ‘Rosebud’ is taken from her album “In a Poem Unlimited”, and is a wonderfully breathless synth anthem co-written with the legendary Rich Morel. The album tackles domestic violence, sexual intimidation and suppressed female anger, and was hailed by Q for its “glorious sweep of cinematic pop songs.”
11. Dark Shadows
Erika M. Anderson (EMA for short) has just finished touring with synth gods Depeche Mode, and appropriately enough drops a slab of archly gothic synth-pop in “Dark Shadows”, a tune she wrote for the film 20th Century Women. Erika explains: “I was intrigued by the premise – badass women living in 1970s Santa Barbara getting into punk… I wrote the song with that in mind. I think of it as a survivor song, someone leaving a dark past behind, emerging again into the world. Whoever it is, they are definitely wearing sunglasses.”
Fans of the recent season of Twin Peaks amongst you will recognise “Shadow” as the song Chromatics performed in the Bang Bang Bar, the town’s roadhouse. The synth-rock group served as the house band in the David Lynch series, and the video is a tribute to Lynch’s Blue Velvet and ‘the Legendary Julee Cruise’. Lead singer Ruth Radelet’s crystalline vocals subtly deliver a song about disillusionment and survival: “And now you’re just a stranger’s dream, I took your picture from the frame / And though you’re nothing like you seem, your shadow fell like last night’s rain.”
Beneath the sparky delivery and crisp production of PARAD(w/m)E (Parade With Me) lies a dark outlook: “Steamy, steamy, bright sunshine / Flowers, grass and trees all died / There’s nothing left to ruin, we finally got free / How’s that for manifesting our destiny?” The tightly choreographed post-apocalyptic dance party video is an intriguing and fun juxtaposition, and with the duo touring for most of 2018 there are plenty of opportunities to see them live.
14. There Will Always Be This Love
New Jackson and Margie Jean Lewis
A classically trained violinist and jazz vocalist, Margie Jean Lewis plays a myriad of antique instruments and likes to experiment with loops and electronics. Here she guests on the exquisitely understated “There Will Always Be This Love” with New Jackson, the electronic moniker of Irish singer-songwriter David Kitt. This track gets better every time you listen to it, and has a hypnotic lightness of touch designed to move dancefloors and close DJ sets for years to come. It’s perhaps the standout record from the excellent record label Permanent Vacation’s Ten-Year Anniversary compilation.
15. It Makes You Forget (Itgehane)
Korean born and residing in Berlin, Peggy Gou has built a sterling reputation for herself via a handful of standout dance 12″ vinyl releases. The combination of her own profoundly groove-led musical output, partnered with her passion and flair in the DJ booth playing week in, week out across the globe – from Glastonbury Festival to Panorama Bar, De School, DC-10 and Dekmantel Festival – has won her fans in rapidly increasing numbers. Peggy’s brand new “Once” EP is wall-to-wall fire, and here is the standout track for your enjoyment.
16. Random Words
C.A.R. (Choosing Acronyms Randomly) is the alter ego of Chloé Raunet, a Franco-Canadian living in London. Chloé is a committed fan of the weirder edges of electronic music, and also an NTS Radio host, DJ and former singer of celebrated Kill The DJ electro band Battant. She makes minimalist songs that sit somewhere intriguing between synth-pop and post-punk. One to watch.
17. Hidden Beauties
What’s not to love about kick-ass women making kick-ass techno? Rounding off our IWD-themed playlist we have Brazil-born, Barcelona-based DJ and producer ANNA, who spent her youth in the DJ booth of her father’s night club and has recently played iconic venues such as DC-10 and Fabric. Her debut single on the faultless Kompakt label is “Hidden Beauties”, a growling techno monster, full of raw bass power and sizzling drops of acid. Yes please.