As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”
– H.L. Mencken
Dealing with the abject chaos of the year 2020 which is apparently going to carry over into 2021, there are moments when you need to step back and just ‘laugh’ about the state of the world. This quote above from my favorite satirical writer along with this simple cartoon reflects where my head is at as we enter the second week after the U.S. election (14 Days P.U.S.E: Post United States Election) where no one on either political side is going to believe the results or accept the winner. The “Dark Winter” is coming to pass and no one really knows where this country and our culture is going to end up. As we near the holiday season and my governor is encouraging two hour Thanksgiving get togethers limited to three families and absolutely, positively “No Singing”, you can’t help but smile over how stupid everything has gotten on the left coast.
When I get into these cynical but darkly hilarious mindsets, music is usually the thing that calms my mind. Recently, I have become fascinated again with female singers. Especially the ones from my youth. As my tastes have evolved from the hard rock/punk preferences of my teens and 20s, I have re-visited many singers that did not get my proper attention during my childhood and early years. My daughter often tells me that my interest in music stopped abruptly in 2008. Even though this is partially true (I still like bands like Cage the Elephant, Tame Impala, and Alt J whose careers took off this past decade), I still find myself listening to bands from the late 70s into the mid-2000s 99% of the time.
My first choice should not come as a surprise. I have been a fan of this singer since she was part of an indie band in the late 1980s and broke out on her own in the early 1990s. Bjork is wonderfully unique. Paired with one of my favorite directors, Michel Gondry who has directed many of her best videos, Bjork is a musical genre unto herself. My high school friend Chris at the time brought her to my attention by giving me a copy of The Sugarcubes first album ‘Life’s Too Good’ in high school. I was instantly hooked. Even though her solo career was a huge divergence from the sound she created with The Sugarcubes, Bjork continues to put out amazing music. Something about her voice absolutely puts me in a state of relaxation.
Here is ‘Cold Sweat’ by The Sugarcubes, my favorite song by the band.
Here is one of the Michel Gondry directed Bjork songs.
Here is one of her more recent songs from the amazing ‘Vespertine’ from 2001 which still stands as one of my favorite albums of all time. It is incredibly atmospheric and wonderful to listen to as you drive through the desolate desert.
Also, I have to recommend the 2000 movie Dancer in the Dark, directed by independent film director Lars Von Trier, which stars Bjork. This scene with the brilliant Tony and Academy Award winner from Cabaret, Joel Grey, is my favorite in this film. If you have not seen this movie, it is a difficult watch. But it is a brilliant film.
There has been so much written about the B-52s already. Their lead guitarist, Ricky Wilson, who created so many of their catchiest riffs, died of AIDS in 1985 which changed the sound of the band (Some would say for the worse.). Many people know this band mostly for Fred Schneider’s bizarre vocal chants and raps in some of their most famous songs. But the heart of this band always rested with its two female members, Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierson, whom I have always adored. Cindy Wilson has such a distinct and angelic voice that is best expressed in the song Give Me Back My Man which I still believe is their magnum opus. It is catchy and always puts a smile on my face. Also, you can really appreciate how good Cindy’s brother was as a guitarist and the timing he had with Kate Pierson on keyboards.
This next singer is from the dark and depressing grunge era. Even though the 90s has a reputation because of the deaths of so many grunge singers from that decade as being a little too serious, I reject that notion. Like anything, music is greatly defined by your own point of view. Even though her music has dark themes, I still love listening to P.J. Harvey. Even though it is ranked as one of her worst reviewed albums, I believe Is This Desire? is her best album. But that is also like picking between the five best pumpkin pies that you ever ate. No matter which one turns out to be the best, all five of the pies were still damn good. I find myself listening to this song at least once a month. Plus I listen to this whole album at least three to four times a year. The subject matter is artsy and often dark, but it takes me to a happy place.
Listen to The Garden. This song always flusters my imagination.
Her emotion in this song is so pure. Love the way she slurs “please”.
There is also not much I can add about this singer. Her band is one of my favorite of all time. If you want to dive into her more deeply, listen to The Creatures which was a side project she did with her husband who is also the percussionist of her most famous band. I am talking about Siouxsie from Siouxsie and the Banshees, one of the most unique rock voices ever. There are so many songs to dive into. But this song because of the guitar riff is one of my personal favorites.
Here is one of the better songs from The Creatures. Her voice works very well with Budgie’s percussive riff.
This band has always been my favorite Japanese punk band. Singing about important topics like cats and ramen while doing amazing covers like “Top of The World”, Shonen Knife has always gone down like a glass of water. I was happy to find out that they are still quite active with over twenty albums released since the 1980s despite the death of their drummer in 2005. Shut your brain off and enjoy the mindlessness of a song about ramen.
Finally, because this was brought to my attention, I am including this talented lady. In the late 2000s, a singer from Wales named Duffy came out of nowhere to become one of the biggest sensations of 2008. Winning a Grammy and having a platinum selling debut album, she is most remembered for her song ‘Mercy’ which sounded like an Adele song before anyone knew who she was. Here is that song below.
Duffy burned out in 2010 after her much better second album did not have the same impact as her debut. After 2013, she disappeared into seclusion. During this coronavirus, she finally explained the reason. She was drugged, kidnapped, raped, and taken to a foreign country for a four-week time period. Read the story here. So much love from me to Duffy. Her voice is amazing, and this song still puts a smile on my face even if the lyrics are now unbelievably ironic.
Hope you enjoy! Leave your own recommendations here. I forgot a lot of amazing female talents. Shirley Manson from Garbage, Kate Bush, Sabina Sciubba from the Brazilian Girls, and Adele come to mind. But this music is where my head has been at over the past few weeks. There is still nothing as soothing for my brain as listening to a woman singing.
EXPERT OF SOME