Saturday, May 30, 2009

Fantastic Female Voices

I was listening to The Current this morning. Every weekday they have a little feature where they throw out a topic, take requests on that topic for an hour or so, and then play 3 of the requested songs. Today the subject was "bands with female vocalists," as an homage to Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and their new album.

Don't worry, of course they played Rilo Kiley.

Well I've been spending a bit of time thinking about this today, and I realized that I've been really liking female voices in music lately. In particular I've been drawn to voices that..., well, I'm not quite sure how to describe it, but I might say, that have a certain longing or subtlety to them. It's almost like there vocalists are giving a little wink with singing. And there's something so compelling and attractive about a female vocalist who can just nail a song - especially a fun song - and yet leave so much unsung. Does that make any sense to anyone?

I'm thinking in particular not so much of Jenny Lewis or Karen O, though they certainly can accomplish this, but more of artists like Tracyanne Campbell of Camera Obscura, Katie White of The Ting Tings, Lenka, and Emily Haines of Metric. To get right to the point, I'm pretty much smitten with certain songs by each of these artists. I'd recommend checking out other tunes by these folks too, but here's one song by each that I absolutely love:

French Navy by Camera Obscura
That's Not My Name by The Ting Tings
Trouble is a Friend by Lenka
Gimme Sympathy by Metric

Anyone have any other suggestions for songs that fit into the whole "simultaneously powerful and subtle female vocalist who winks flirtatiously at you with her song" category?

After all of this is done
Who'd you rather be, the Beatles or the Rolling Stones?


Nate said...

Yeah, I dig female vocalists as well. Have you heard the new Lily Allen album? Its quality. Some specific songs by other artists that kinda hit your criteria are:

The Breeders- "No Aloha"

Jonatha Brooke- "Careful what you wish for"

She and Him- "Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?"

Poe- "5 and half minute hallway"

I am sure there are others, but you might want to check these out if you havent heard them yet.

Quinn said...

Anything by Ingrid And I'm not usually smitten with female vocalists. I heard her do one songs and ended up buying two albums.

Ben said...

I made a mix CD once entitled "Women Who Kick Ass", dedicated entirely to female vocalists. I'll have to see if I can find a hard copy now that my laptop with the playlist is on the fritz.

Matthew B. Novak said...

Quinn -

You know, Ingrid Michaelson has a beautiful voice but she just doesn't do it for me in the same way as these other singers... I don't feel the same little playful flirtatiousness, like there's something more that she's not showing me. All four of the ones I mentioned had that little hidden element that made me actually go research the band, not just go out and get more music. Does that make any sense? Still, you're totally right that she's an amazing singer.

Nate - the same thing I just said to Quinn applies to Zooey Deschanel. Of the others I've only heard of Poe, and I don't remember that well enough to comment. I'll have to check them all out. Thanks for the suggestions.

Oh, and Lily Allen is fun, but on a totally different wavelength from what I'm going for.

Alan said...

You should give the duo First Aid Kit a try. - this is a cover of a fleet foxes song, they have a 6 song ep out right now

also ida maria

Matthew B. Novak said...

Ida... Ida know. Definitely not someone who has subtlety to her voice. She's just loud.

Quinn said...

Matt -

After looking up the singers you mentioned, I can see that the playfulness really is one of your main criteria. Ingrid Michaelson is more on the serious side, but this is what sold me:

Oddly enough, it's playful, so perhaps it'll hook you like it did me.

Anyway, thanks to you and Nate, I've got some more music to start appreciating, which will be fun for this summer.

Matthew B. Novak said...

Quinn -

That was absolutely adorable. Thanks.

Emily R Powell said...

Matt, have you listened to any of Emily Haines' solo work? (Emily Haines and the Soft Skeleton) It's quite a bit more subdued than the group's music but shows off even more of the unique qualities in her voice. Might not meet your "playfulness" standards but it's definitely worth checking out anyway.

AGJ said...

Harriet Wheeler of the Sundays

Lizzie West