It’s come to my attention that we at Cowbell HQ have been woefully lacking in our coverage of the ladies in the indie music scene as of late. This is shocking to my sensibilities because I myself have been grooving to many a femme fatale. From the heart wrenching to the mellow to the explosively soulful, there are so many badass women in this department that it’s hard to know how to begin. First, I think my definition of indie must be addressed, for fear that some of you may be reading this thinking: who is this hipster and why is her fringe so short?
Indie music: music that creates a stir in its particular niche, but hasn’t yet fully permeated into the mainstream. It’s also usually produced by small time record labels and is therefore rarely subsidised by fat cats smoking gold infused cigars in platinum towers.
This word, by my definition, can be attached to any genre, thereby making mega-genres like indie-dream-house-pop or indie-haze-funk or indie-squirell-with-a-pipe-punk-rock. Some people may look down their noses at such outrageously long definitions. I say bite your thumbs at them, because for some reason making up fake genres is actually just good clean fun. Get out there and describe your hearts out Cowbellites, we give you full permission.
Anywho, back to the task at hand. I’m going to let you dip your toes in the sweet sweet waters of the female indie scene. It’s just a start, this I acknowledge. But no one has ever done anything without starting it.
Lianne La Havas
Starting off smooth and mellow like a creamy espresso. Miss La Havas has been a long term crush of ours, with her rich vibrating voice and her crazy cool hair. The music she makes is raw and unadulterated. It feels like it passes straight from her mind to her honeyed vocal cords in real time. Her 2015 album, Blood, is just as good as her debut, if not better. Get listening if you have lots of feels that need to be validated.
Moving into more sultry rock territory, we have the supremely edgy Courtney Barnett. What sets this rock chick apart is her highly unusual songwriting style. What she sings on her grungy vocals doesn’t always make total sense, but it always fearlessly captures some feeling that you can’t quite pinpoint. She sings like she doesn’t really give a crap if anyone hears, and I respect her for that. She’s bringing back the fuck-it attitude that we all so badly need right now.
Next is a comeback, which I’m sure we can all appreciate is pretty cool. As with most comebacks, we will inevitably be looking back and constantly comparing. But with this leading lady, I say appreciate her old and her new as separate entities. She hasn’t released anything in 4 years, probably partly due to the birth of her son (snaps for Regina!). But she hath returneth with a beefy new album, accompanied by a big fat orchestra. Apart from the characteristic cinematics and quirky vocal and lyrical style, the album has lots of bite. There’s anger here, along with plaintive sadness. At times the content can be slightly too verbose and can tackle too big a subject matter (capitalism, anyone?). However, we can forgive Regina this, because there are still plenty of masterfully described semi-surreal scenes.
Now, a hot-off-the-press duo that have created a big stir in the new music sphere. The duo consists of two French-Cuban twin sisters with Nigerian heritage. They sing in both English and Yoruba (a Nigerian language spoken by their ancestors). Lisa-Kainde Diaz takes lead vocals and dabbles in the piano, whilst her sister plays traditional Spanish/Cuban percussion instruments. The music is like nothing you’ve ever heard (unless you have ever heard music that has “elements of Yoruba, French and Afro-Cuban, and fuses jazz with beats, sampled with traditional instruments.“) (Respect if you have.) In case you need anymore reason to put on your headphones right now and listen up, they have cited James Blake and Frank Ocean as influences. Press play.
Coming back to the slightly surreal and majorly quirky, we have Julia Holter. Holter, like Regina, has a clear and distinctive singing style that marks her music out right off the bat. But, I would argue, Holter is the better songwriter. Her lyrics read like poetry, with precise and often beautifully metaphorical passages. This line from one of her most lamenting tracks, “Night Song”, could have been plucked out of a modern poetry anthology: “A box full of oranges/ Syrup seeping out/ Searching for a season smell”.
So there you have it, consider your toes dipped. And of course, you can guarantee there will be heaps more where this came from. Roll on the new year and the endless “Sound of 2017” compilations.