Female musicians who hone their craft
St. Vincent - Actor
Annie Clark’s Annie Clark, but St.Vincent changes. St. Vincent is her vehicle. Her 2007 debut Marry Me and 2017 release Masseduction polarize from one another in every way: tone, musicality, lyrical content, promotional material, general aesthetic, whatever you’d like. Marry Me’s off-beat brand of quiet, self-aware, and soft-spoken feminine energy acts as a warm hug from someone who smells interesting - I can’t quite pin down the spice or if I like it, but it’s warm and it has my attention. Masseduction drops the “good girl,” amps up the aggression and angularity. It smells like sex (check out the title track).
So, I’d like to bring something in the middle, 2009’s Actor. Annie Clark spent much of the writing process listening to Disney scores. “The Strangers” opens Actor, beginning with the soft, whispered deliver that featured so heavily on Marry Me. I can see the dark Paris nights from The Aristocats, but it’s subtle. Two-thirds into Track One the pulse turns to a stomp, elephants begin to play trumpets announcing Prince John’s parade through Sherwood Forest. And then we’re done.
Actor is a hallucinogenic trip wrapped in anything you’ve ever loved about Disney. While St.Vincent’s art changes drastically from album to album, this album may be the easiest to hold and the easiest to digest. The cozy nostalgia will catch you, but her sense of edge and danger may be more memorable in the end. After all, villains usually get the best songs.
Oathbreaker - Rheia
This will be the most difficult listening experience you’ve ever had, no question. Oathbreaker’s 2016 LP, Rheia is an album of contradictions - one of my favourite recordings ever and I can barely survive the whole record. Caro Tanghe’s vocal performance is one of the best I’ve ever heard, and I hated every second of it. This record’s a behemoth, I’ll try to make sense of it.
Genre’s the hardest question. Oathbreaker combines delicate but haunting folk-inspired breaks that act as a short breather between white-hot blasts of black metal. Halfway through the first bits of black metal, the first of Caro’s shrieks, any self-respecting person would pause the album, turn it off, and never listen to it again. After all, black metal has traditionally been understood as male-dominated, brutally heavy, unrelenting and impenetrable. With Rheia, we’re left with some of the second, a bit of the third, a whole lot of the fourth, and absolutely none of the first. Her anger and aggression are uncompromisingly feminine. Her calm moments, while quieter, sound cold. She delivers her lyrics as a figure who after screaming in frustration begins to quietly mumble: “I’m just disappointed.”
With Rheia, Oathbreaker gives a listening experience you’ll never forget. You, like me, will have difficulty sitting through it. And you, like me, will be left exhausted and smiling because it happened - smiling too because it’s over.
Pronoun - itty bitty discography (the whole discography’s gold)
Ever catch yourself thinking “Bleed American was music’s peak?” No? Just me? Alright. Alyse Vellturo of pronoun loves emo as much as she hates capitalization, and it shows.
I’m a walking cliché for this one - I found pronoun through Audiotree sessions. Once they stop introducing me to half-decent music, I’ll stop paying attention. First things first, Alyse’s voice takes most of my attention. There’s a quiver in her live vocal that comes off less nervous and more intentional. It’s as though she’s giving the impression of a shaky singer just happening on every note perfectly, an accidental artist.
But maybe I’m using flowery gobbley-guk and missing the point. After all, her story implies introversion and stage fright. Alyse wrote most of pronoun’s lo-fi sound in her bedroom, whisper-singing her vulnerable lyrics. Rather than slotting into “Audiotree band with a mumbling front person, awful moustaches that smell of cheap IPAs, clothing caught somewhere between ’97 and ’02, the bassist just outside camera view, the drummer who keeps losing time, and the keyboardist who keeps mean-mugging”, pronoun sneaks a smile on your face. Go to your Spotify right now, listen to Pronoun’s most recent single “Run”. There it is, there’s that goofy-ass smile. Pronoun doesn’t bring nostalgia in some heavy-handed sledgehammer like vapourware. You’re taken to better times, wherever or whenever they were - though, the clothes just might be baggier.
While the pronoun discography lasts for now as long as a sneeze, Alyse Vellturo hasn’t made a single duff note.