Thursday, February 11th, 2010

The Only Three Female Musicians, According to Many Male Music Critics

COPY DESK--IS THIS KATE OR TORI? PLEASE CHECKIn this February issue of Fictional Indie Music Magazine, we're celebrating! We've finally reached the bottom of our winter promo pile, and oddly enough, all of the remaining promos are by female musicians. This is purely coincidental! And there is no correlation between this and the fact that there is only one female music critic working in this office and we can't remember whether her name is Heather or Jennifer.

For this issue we asked Heathifer, who is new here, and has been since the day she started four years ago, to name three of her favorite albums of 2010 thus far, and oddly enough, they all came from topmost section of the bottom of the promo pile, which is a laundry hamper that we leave in the basement of our Chief Technology Officer's house because we just don't have enough space here. Jenneather happily named her three albums and wrote really passionate reviews of them. We then canned the reviews because we just cannot afford to be as enthusiastic as she was. So instead we chose our most beloved full-time male employee to do the reviews over again, but don't worry, we have retained the grades that Heathethethetheriffer wanted to give the albums, because we actually agree with her about how great these albums are, we just don't like showing it. Instead, we employ an alt version of that famous writing adage: we tell our readers how we feel about an album, then show them how impossible it is to tell how we feel. On that note, three of 2010's most exciting albums (by women!) thus far:

MARINA (PLEASE CHECK)Marina and the Diamonds – The Family Jewels

Marina Diamandis likes diamonds, or else her last name just sounds like the word, which could be Greek for diamonds but I have too many browser tabs open right now to check. Diamandis' strong debut features a flourish of vocals reminiscent of a very rare live Tori Amos track that only I own called "Braided a Dog's Tail." I highly doubt that Diamandis has heard this song, but the parallels between these two artists are undeniable. In fact, I would not be surprised if Tori Amos appeared to Diamandis in a dream while she was writing this album in order to pass a homemade and probably glittery torch off to her before floating away on a sleigh driven by flying wolves.

In any case, The Family Jewels is an exciting pop album that will undoubtedly breathe new life into the U.K. music scene, which has arguably been void of such whimsical sirens since Kate Bush stopped making music, though many would say that Bush's elfin shoes have already been filled by the wizardly incantations of Bat for Lashes, who proved with her last album Two Suns that she is both an Amosite and a kind of Björk for the Urban Outfitters set. A-

WHITE HINTERLAND (CK)White Hinterland – Kairos

White Hinterland is helmed by Casey Dienel, who has released quite a bit of music under her God-given name, but has recently forsaken it in favor of this sexless moniker, perhaps in a bid to ascend higher than the bottom of our promo pile, though I'm not sure where she got the idea that we throw female musicians who use their real names to the bottom of the pile. That is JUST. NOT. TRUE. If you ask me to back that up with data I. WILL. DECLINE.

Anyway, Dienel has much in common with slightly more established leftfield indie musicians such as Tori Amos, Björk and Kate Bush. For one, the release schedule of Dienel's albums thus far is eerily similar to Björk's, if you were to multiply it by ten, divide by six, subtract two soundtracks, then round down to account for the fact that Björk is a mother and wife. Dienel is neither, as far as I can tell from IMing a few people this morning. Rather, similar to Kate Bush disciple Bat for Lashes, Dienel is in her twenties or thirties and appears to be on the market. Sweet.

Recalling the trippy syntactical experimentations of late-90s Tori Amos, Dienel, like that auburn-haired goddess of idiosyncrasy, has a certain color of eyes and plays instruments. It can be said that Dienel is much more adventurous with her use of reverbed vocal layering than both Amos and Björk, but the production of Kairos suffers for not adhering enough to the tinselly acrobatics of Björk's Vespertine, an album to which Dienel elsewhere lovingly references with references more loving than the one I myself have just made by using the phrase "tinselly acrobatics." The vertiginous, haunting rhythms of standout track "Icarus" are one way in which Dienel apes Björk without sounding like an ape. See what I just did there? Vertiginous.

What are we talking about again? I'm swamped. Freelancing is exhausting. I'm participating in two separate message board debates about Vampire Weekend right now, and I started a Tumblr thread, also about VW, that has been reblogged 238 times so that it is now the length of an unraveled toilet paper roll. Gotta go. I give this album an A.


Well, since I haven't actually received this album yet, and am still trying to figure out how our intern Jennifer [sic] got it so early, then refused to rip it for me, I can only base my review on the handful of visual and sonic reveries I've had of it, including a long stare at its cover and other related photos of Newsom. On the cover, Newsom is accompanied by objects that Björk's husband Matthew Barney might have considered using in an art installation when he was in college, except imagine if Tori Amos was the curator of that exhibit and insisted that things be a little more motherly and a little less terrifying than Barney wanted them to be. Newsom is situated at the center of this veritable props room, ready to draw inspiration from a taxidermied deer the way Barney drew inspiration from je ne sais quoi enough to release five films and a 500-page exhibition catalogue of said quoi. For those unfamiliar with Barney's work, I will deign to hazard this approximate description of the cover of Have One On Me: Björkesque.

But we haven't even gotten to Newsom's deceptively bold cackle, which I have heard by sneaking up behind the intern when she is listening Have One On Me on her headphones and just nearly pressing my ear against hers. Her hair smells like No More Tears® and looks very shiny, at least when the light streams through the office window onto her head. On this album, Newsom appears to have to stolen the most sacred objects from Kate Bush's treasure chest (you know she has one), but when I say stolen I mean was nice enough to also leave a note. Written on parchment with a quill. Newsom possesses Bush's same fondness for a nature-loving lexicon spewed passionately from her lips like a nonsensical Mad Lib® beloved only to its author. The hazy meaning of the lyrics on the track "Kingfisher," meanwhile, recall the dry ice from which Kate Bush emerges in the video for "Wuthering Heights," where she renders herself a kind of good witch swathed in billowing fabrics, not unlike the long "o" sounds that billow harmoniously from Newsom's mouth on this record, or rather the treasured little moments of it I've had the privilege of hearing. A+

-Bradley J. Thompson

Bradley J. Thompson is the author of a forthcoming 33 1/3 title; he just isn't sure which one yet.

Meanwhile, Liz Colville thinks that you should buy all three of these albums when they come out.

28 Comments / Post A Comment

kryz (#311)


I find this funny for a lot of reasons (including just because it's funny) but also because I mostly listen to female musicians and yet those are three who have never really done anything for me (I respect Kate Bush, but I don't like listening to her music, I am too young to understand Tori Amos, and Bjork just makes me want to scream). It is so true about the critics, though! (Also while I am venting about things nobody cares about, I liked Casey Dienel when she wanted to be a sweeter, more granola Nellie McKay but I don't like this new stuff, I know, ROCKIST, etcetera)


Evan (#1,473)

How can you be too young to understand Tori Amos?

Is she only for we olds now? (AND I'M NOT EVEN 30 YET, FOR THE INTERNET RECORD.)

I don't know. I'm 24. She was just never really a thing to me. I am probably not the most qualified spokesman for "people my age."

Brad Nelson (#2,115)

Also, "PJ Harvey."

Brad Nelson (#2,115)

"This record does not quite hit the raw depths of Rid of Me-era PJ Harvey but seems still indebted to the bluesy trance of To Bring You My Love."

liz (#3,108)

Right! Although I think Bradley (apologies that you share his name) would be safe from my wrath if he made a PJ Harvey reference (just one!)

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

Guess what? YOU ARE NOT A ROBOT!!!!!!
(Yay Marina-love!)

Bittersweet (#765)

She's so magnetic, she picks up all the pins.

rajma (#2,918)

OMG, she looks just like Shakira.

smapdi (#1,306)

You mean, I dont always have to be on top?

johnpseudonym (#1,452)

Are you Klaus Nomi?

odoketa (#3,462)

Tori Amos started wearing down probably late '90s, so that would have made someone 24 younger than 14. I think it's a fair cop to say she's only for us 'oldies' now.

liz (#3,108)

Lots of critics find it hard to accept that maaaaybe Tori isn't a reference point for a lot of young female artists. (Same goes for the other two.) I think Bat for Lashes said it well when she asked in a Pitchfork interview why she was never compared to male musicians.

Brian (#115)

I think Joni Mitchell also said it well when she asked in the last 40 years why she was never compared to male musicians.

LondonLee (#922)

Because rock writers don't want to shag them.

musicmope (#428)

To be fair, all of the male musicians that bat for Lashes sound like wish to sound like female musicians.

I mean, who would be a male influence on Bat for Lashes? Richard Kelly? Doug Henning?

HelloTitty (#830)

I really don't get how Kate Bush and Tori Amos could EVER be confused with one another. Then again, I am an old.

Bittersweet (#765)

Obviously, per Bradley J. Thompson, Marina, Casey and Joanna should do a new version of "Babushka" together with Tori on piano accompaniment. Ideally Bjork should stand stage right, chirping every now and then and throwing plastic figurines into a big vat of Jello.

(Extra points if Joni Mitchell strums guitar, looking benignly on in the background.)

lbf (#2,343)

The Joanna Newsom album is reportedly two hours long (I only know this because I let Pitchfork spam my twitter feed). Um, I suspect quality control issues.
For me, her record will be the Merriblah Post Pavillion of 2010: if you care either way about it, it means you've listened to it, and for this reason I don't trust your opinion about music.[/mansplaining]

sajrocks (#2,067)

If Carole King were alive, she'd be rolling in Joni Mitchell's grave.

Brian (#115)

Laura Nyro's totally lol right now.

rajma (#2,918)

TRIVIA QUESTION: In the year 2015, what three female artists will all other female artists be compared to?

a. Alicia Keys; Neko Case; Robyn.

b. Regina Spektor; St. Vincent; MIA.

c. Amanda Palmer; Basia Bulat; Lady Gaga

d. Ellie Goulding; Eleanor Friedberger; Elly Jackson.

e. Sibylle Baier; Ofra Haza; Toni Basil.

ninatree (#3,134)

This makes me dizzier than the SATs.

Kate Bush hasn't stopped making music …. there's just longer between released so her fans have plenty of time to talk amongst themselves :)

Rosered (#3,520)

I guess any female artist that comes out that is somewhat quirky and different gets immediately put into the Kate Bush pile. I get the Kate Bush comparison too!, not sure why but i take it as a compliment. I also get Mary Poppins on Acid ^_^ Let me add RoseRed & The Butterflies to your promo hamper pile…Pixie Power!

Post a Comment