the year in music. or, lady singers not named adele.

2012 gave us some great music from female artists, whether they were new to the scene or had been out of the scene awhile. I was excited for long-awaited new music from both Cat Power and Fiona Apple. Who knows what it means that I love the music made by two women who lean toward crazy and had their own on-stage antics in 2012; just don’t read into it, okay? We had some great debuts from Brits who made it over to the States this year, and new electronic sounds. Here are my favorites.

Cat Power: Even though her Instagram and Twitter feeds are crazy, and I wish she’d stop bleaching/cutting her hair, I love Chan Marshall. And I LOVED Sun. It is undoubtedly my favorite album of the year. If you’ve read any commentary or reviews on it, this won’t be anything new. It had been 6 years since Cat Power released an album of original material. As a Chan adorer, the first listen to Sun was a bit shocking. Where’s your guitar strumming? You’re using a drum machine? What’s going on here? But then I realized how good Sun was and how much I really liked it. I’m so impressed by her ability to create something vastly different from her traditional sound, without losing herself in the process. Chan did everything on this album herself: wrote all the lyrics, played all the instruments, built a studio and recorded it, and produced the final album. Manhattan is my favorite track off the album, but I should probably showcase something like Cherokee, which is a better example of what makes this album a standout in Cat Power’s discography. The video is super weird, but so is she. Also, if you haven’t see it yet, watch this funny spoof she did of herself.

Fiona Apple: I think everyone who listened to The Idler Wheel… had the same reaction as me: Damn, woman. Maybe Fiona should take 7 year breaks between all of her records. I already liked Fiona Apple, but after The Idler Wheel, I luuurrrve her. I forced multiple people to listen to it who did not feel the same. They responded with scrunched up faces. And I get it, she’s weird and her music sounds a bit off in places. But, here are some of the things I love from this album: the sound of real kids screaming while playing on Werewolf, the fact that she’s just hitting random objects with scissors in Anything We Want, and because she and her sister (who sings the harmonies) recorded Hot Knife without any looping. This album is a knock out. It’s stripped down so you get to hear every little bit, yet still layered and indulgent. It’s too hard to pick a favorite track, but give this live version of Periphery a listen. I saw Fiona I guess 6 years ago now and she was weird and great as ever; wish I could have seen her this year.

Lianne La Havas: Will she be the next Adele? Probably not, but who cares. Lianne La Havas can sing, she can play guitar, and she can write good songs. She’s got a pop accessibility, but still gets grungy and soulful. Plus, her hair rocks (ahem, Allyse, just do it already). The title track Is Your Love Big Enough? provides a great introduction to this new Brit. But Lost & Found showcases her depth with the opening line, “Come upstairs and I’ll show you where all my demons hide from you.” I’m excited to see what all Lianne can do.

Emeli Sandé: Hanif put one of her songs on a mix for me at the beginning of the year. I’m not sure if that was the first time I heard Emeli Sandé, but it was the first time I had her name with the song. I don’t like when she gets more poppy with some songs, we need some good R&B, Emeli! Give My Kind of Love a listen, then check out her stripped down versions of a couple songs on the current. I definitely prefer her live versions over studio. It’s crazy when you hear her Scottish accent in her speaking voice after listening to her sing.

Grimes: I’m usually pretty strict about not liking an artist/band if their lyrics don’t make sense or are impossible to understand. (It’s the main reason I don’t like Sigur Ros. deal with it.) But, I LOVE Grimes. I listened to a lot more electronic/synth stuff this year, including Grimes, AKA Claire Boucher. Videos of her live performances are incredible. I’ve listened to/read some interviews that she’s done, and she explains that her songs and lyrics are so personal that she doesn’t really want anyone to understand what she’s saying. In a way, that sounds like a cop out. Why become a musician if you don’t want anyone to hear what you’re saying? But Grimes is way more than the words she is saying, it’s the sound she’s mixing and the work she is doing too. Would love to see her live some day.

Purity Ring: Another group who made me listen to more electronic stuff this year. Okay, so Purity Ring is a duo that includes a guy and girl, but I’m keeping them over here in the lady post. Purity Ring played at Ace of Cups this fall and I still mourn the loss of missing this show. Because I didn’t know anyone who was going, I figured it’d be fine to buy my ticket at the door. I was wrong. The show sold out, and after waiting in line awhile I left super bummed. Watching that video hurts me a little, knowing I won’t get another chance to see this group in a small setting before they blow up.

Solange: I was stumbling around YouTube while bored at work when I came across the video for Solange’s Losing You. I didn’t hear the song before seeing the video, and that’s probably the true reason I like this song. I haven’t listened to anything else she’s done (I’m not even sure if she has an album out?), but you guys, this video is awesome. Cheers to the Solo Dance Party. You go, Solange.


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