Since this summer marks the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the Riot Grrrl movement, we here at Bollocks! want to spend the next few months (and maybe beyond) celebrating awesome women in music. We’ll feature profiles of some of the coolest women we can think of in the history of music (prepare for a lengthy post on why you owe it to yourself to listen to Nina Simone) as well as several Great Fucking Albums entries featuring female performers. But to kick off our Summer of Badass Women, I thought I’d prepare a nice Lazy Friday Mix of great songs by some of my favorite women in music.
Since summer is basically upon us (it comes around the end of May here in Los Angeles), it’s time for me to clean out the two massive CD wallets that live in my car and stock them with excellent driving music. One of my favorite driving albums of the last few years is Fantasies by Metric, a massive pop record that’s stuffed to the gills with catchy melodies and huge choruses. One of the best choruses on the album comes on “Sick Muse,” a song that cruises into its chorus like a little kid flying down a water slide. Fantasies will sustain me for another summer, but I think the world deserves more awesome Metric music soon.
Speaking of perfect pop songs: It seems like just yesterday that I was extolling the virtues of Lykke Li’s Wounded Rhymes album. It’s been stuck on repeat in my car (I replaced it last night with the new Steve Earle record; I’ll get back to you on how that’s going next week) and one of my current favorite songs on it is “Love Out of Lust.” It starts out pretty sparse, with Li singing over softly beaten drums but then the chorus hits and you’re suddenly awash in shimmering cymbals and beautiful harmonies. Also: “Dance while you can” seems like pretty goddamn good advice to me.
This post’s subtitle, “Girls to the Front,” is taken from an awesome book by Sara Marcus, so I’m bound to include some Riot Grrrl music in this mix. I sought out as much of it as I could find and/or afford while I was reading Girls to the Front, and that allowed me to amass most of Bikini Kill’s recorded output. “Rebel Girl” is their best known song, but that’s not the one I wanna talk about right now. No, I think you need to hear “Double Dare Ya” on this lazy Friday. Why? It’s the song that started it all, and it starts off The CD Version of the First Two Records with Kathleen Hanna shouting, “We’re Bikini Kill and we want revolution Grrrl-Style now!.” At this point in their career, Bikini Kill’s passion far exceeded their musical style, but “Double Dare Ya” exemplifies in just under three minutes pretty much everything the band was about: “Dare ya to do what you want/ Dare ya to be who you will.” It might sound hard to some ears, but it sounds like liberation to mine.
I didn’t know before I read Marcus’s book that Kim Gordon was something of a goddess to young Riot Grrrls back in the 1990s, but it wasn’t exactly a surprising revelation. Most of my favorite Sonic Youth songs feature Kim Gordon on vocals, and my favorite performance of hers is “Kim Gordon and the Arthur Doyle Hand Cream,” a little ditty in which Gordon spends five minutes mocking Mariah Carey. The way Gordon growls, “How was your date with Eminem?” makes me maybe a little too happy. She sounds like a lioness who is laughing at a fallen gazelle as she devours it and she deserves a fucking medal for this song.
I mentioned earlier that you should prepare yourself for a lecture on Nina Simone this summer and you should. But for now, you should just check out her version of “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” a song that Led Zeppelin most certainly did not write. Simone’s version is simple: her voice and a piano. But what the fuck else do you need?
One of the things my wife has learned about me in the last few years (we’ve been together seven years and married for not quite one yet) is that I like depressing movies. Or movies that she finds depressing, anyway. I also like certain kinds of depressing music and those two things came together beautifully when Magnolia was released. It featured a ton of Aimee Mann songs, the most gorgeous of which was “Wise Up.” Not only is the chorus devastating, but the song ends with the following advice: “So just/ give up.” I don’t always think of this song when I’m asked about my very favorite songs, but I would like to state for the record today that “Wise Up” is definitely one of my very favorite songs. Ever.
Since we’re on the topic of depressing songs, I think it’s fitting to talk about The Mendoza Line, a now-defunct band that featured Shannon McArdle on vocals. Their final album, 30 Year Low, opened with the über-depressing “Since I Came,” a song about a widow (her husband died under shady circumstances) who laments, “I haven’t had a name/ since I came.” It’s a wonderfully haunted tune and one of many reasons I miss this totally underrated band (they’ll not be getting back together any time soon, however: McArdle and bandmate Tim Bracy divorced in 2007, leading her to make one great solo album that remains un-followed up as I write this).
If you’re making a mix of awesome female performers and you don’t include Neko Case, you are just a damn fool. Pretty much all of her songs are awesome, but I am at this moment particularly enamored of “Porchlight” from her Furnace Room Lullaby album. It’s a countryish number, like many of her tunes, but it shows her astounding vocal range and her ability to break your fucking heart in about five words: “I long to be forgiven.” If you only learn one thing in all your time reading Bollocks!, it had damn well better be that Neko Case is a fucking goddess.
There were two massive particles of bullshit information that were conventional wisdom when I was in college. They were basically this: 1) If you are a dude and you take a Women’s Studies class, you will have your balls removed and 2) pretty much only lesbians and hippie chicks listen to Ani DiFranco (this was often appended with the assertion that DiFranco hates men, which must come as a shock to the father of her child). I took a Women’s Studies class and it was awesome; I was even asked to come back and T.A. it the next term, but my schedule didn’t permit me to do so. I also listened to Ani DiFranco in college. A lot. Two things you need to know about Ani DiFranco: she’s a vastly underrated guitar player (probably the most interesting acoustic guitarist working right now) and she’s a great singer. One of my favorite songs of hers is “Falling Is Like This,” which is kind of a love song that questions what people are talking about when they talk about love (“love is like falling/ and falling is like this”). It has one of her best melodies ever and doesn’t mention hating dudes even once (I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s
funny sad how frequently dudes become defensive when they talk about women that they think hate dudes without ever considering the fact that there are dudes who deserve hating. I mean, who loves Pol Pot?).
Okay, this is a lazy Friday mix and I’m officially too lazy to write anymore right now. So remember, kids: Neko Case is a goddess and it’s totally okay to hate Pol Pot.