Listen: Emerging Female Voices in Rock Music

Christina Halladay of Sheer Mag

Over the past decade or so, I’ve noticed a shift in my music consumption. I’ve always been an avid record-buyer (mostly within that nebulous genre known as “indie rock”), but when I was younger, I listened to mostly male musicians. This wasn’t by choice, exactly, but it was a combination of factors. First, the kind of women artists I would have wanted to listen to didn’t often get the kind of publicity that the men did, and therefore I didn’t know about them. And second, I’ll admit I made a lot of lazy assumptions, lumping women songwriters into genres in which they really didn’t belong – the “ethereal folkie” and the “angsty alt-rock chick,” for example. By just looking at the cover of a record or a publicity photo, I’d think “Nah, not my kind of thing.” Turns out, there were a lot of women making truly intelligent, unique and captivating music (and often when it comes to women, record covers and publicity photos lie).

Having discovered so many of these women I missed out on, I’ve since mended my ways. Now, it seems that nearly every new record I add to my collection is the work of a female artist. This is in part because I’ve grown up, kicked my assumptions to the curb, and evolved my tastes. But it’s also a result of the mid- to late-2010s renaissance for women in rock music. There are so many female musicians I’ve been in love with in recent years – Angel Olsen, Courtney Barnett, Sarah Shook, Waxahatchee, Solange, Girlpool, Lydia Loveless, Eleanor Friedberger, The Weather Station, and Jessica Pratt, among others. The New York Times has noticed this trend and commemorated it with a mixed-media article, entitled “Women Are Making the Best Rock Music Today,” a comprehensive list of emerging female rock musicians that will have you reeling in awe, ready to stock up on new music.

The music is fantastic, but the piece it also worth reading for the insights of these female musicians, and their stories about dealing with the subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle misogyny of being a woman in indie rock culture. I know that many of their stories hit home for me – as an occasional musician and indie-rock writer myself, I’ve often dealt with being ignored or underestimated in contrast with the men in my circles. This in-depth discussion can be read in full in the Times’s companion piece, “Rock’s Not Dead, It’s Ruled by Women: The Round-Table Conversation.”

There’s a wealth of insight to digest here, but I’ve compiled some of my favorite excerpts:

Alex Luciano of Diet Cig: “You have to suck for so long! No one tells you it’s okay to suck.”

Shawna Potter of War on Women: “Just because of your gender, though. There’s millions and millions of completely mediocre terrible bands with dudes in them.”

“People will come up to my band mates and be like, ‘great job, man,’ but will not be open to talking to me, when I’m the songwriter in the band.” – Lindsey Jordan of Snail Mail

“Boys loved to shred Led Zeppelin and I would let them play. But at some point I realized I was better than most of the musicians I was playing with.” – Sadie Dupuis of Sad13 and Speedy Ortiz

“I think it’s important for me to show the different ways that women can front a band or be musicians.” – Laetitia Tamko of Vagabon

“Teenage boys are very upset.” Christina Halladay of Sheer Mag, when asked how listeners are handling this shift of power in gender.

If you have the time, read the full article and the roundtable in the New York Times, and check out their Spotify playlist of the artists featured. Hearing the talent on this list, it’s hard to argue with the notion that women are taking over indie rock, and it’s both inspiring and exciting.

Now if you’ll excuse me – I’ve got to get to the record store.