There was Patti Smith, Chrissie Hynde, Janis Joplin, Stevie Nicks, Karen O, Debbie Harry and many other great women in rock music that came before them, but there's still young women in rock today who continue to fly the flag for rock music. They may be in the minority, but there's still a lot of talented, popular women in rock and roll at the moment. Sure, there have been many statistics about the lack of female bookings at big music festivals, lack of female music producers and a lack of female A&R people, but no matter how small, there's still is and always will be a presence from women in rock and roll.
These women in today's rock bands refuse to be labeled as just "the next Patti Smith." They deserve respect and the ability to create their own personal, musical identity. It is crucial for young women and girls to have female role models in rock music, so they can actually envision the same dream for themselves one day. Need proof of some great women in today's current rock scene? Here are seven of my favorite young women in rock music today.
1. Ellie Rowsell (of Wolf Alice)
Ellie Rowsell, the lead singer of British alternative rock band, Wolf Alice, is probably my favorite female rock singer. She participated in an awesome radio special with BBC Radio DJ Annie Mac about women in the music industry and she provided some great insight about what it's like to be a female in a male dominated industry. When asked what it's like to be a girl in a band, she cheekily replied that she's not sure because she's never been a boy in a band, so she has nothing to compare it to. She also commented that she was glad she had great female role models in rock to look up to like Karen O.
Her band, Wolf Alice, released their debut album, My Love Is Cool, last summer to critical and commercial acclaim and they even got a Grammy nomination for their punky, grungy song, "Moaning Lisa Smile," which you can check out below. Their sound is characterized by sophistication yet chaos at the same time. They've been compared to the likes of Elastica and The xx, but the comparisons don't really fully tap into their true sound and brilliance. They are currently on a world tour (check out their tour dates here) and are due to play some big dates like Glastonbury, Coachella, and Bestival. At their current rate, they'll be well on their way to becoming a festival headliner one day.
2. Courtney Barnett
Australian rocker, Courtney Barnett, is currently taking the world by storm with her incredible debut album, Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit. Songs like "Pedestrian At Best" and "Nobody Really Cares If You Don't Go To The Party" clearly demonstrate why she's one of the most interesting musicians in rock and roll today. Her unique persona is characterized by her deadpan style of singing mixed with her clever, witty lyrics and it's hard to even compare her to anyone else in today's music.
One of my favorite songs by her is a track called "Avant Gardener," which is from an EP titled, The Double EP: A Sea Of Split Peas. The song's lyrics are full of everyday imagery and her personal, rambling thoughts, which don't always rhyme, but that's kind of the point. You can listen to a great, live performance of "Avant Gardener" below and you can see her list of North American tour dates for this summer here.
3. Alana Haim, Danielle Haim and Este Haim (of Haim)
The three Haim sisters are definitely a force to be reckoned with. The band is comprised of Danielle Haim on guitar and vocals, Alana Haim on guitar, percussion, keyboards and vocals, and Este Haim on bass and vocals. The band have been compared to the likes of Fleetwood Mac and admit that they are flattered by the comparison, but insist that they are influenced by more current musicians. Danielle, for instance, toured with Julian Casablancas (of The Strokes) and Jenny Lewis before forming the band, Haim, with her sisters.
One thing that's pretty cool about the band is that although they have a touring drummer with them for live performances, Danielle plays drums on their studio recordings in addition to guitar and vocals. They band are signed to Jay Z's Roc Nation label and their only full-length release, Days Are Gone, has gained both commercial and critical success. They even scored performances on Saturday Night Live and the prestigious Glastonbury Festival, the latter of which you can watch below. You can check out their full list of upcoming shows here.
4. Julia Cumming (of Sunflower Bean)
Julia Cumming is the lead singer of Sunflower Bean, definitely one of the most-hyped new bands at the moment. They hail from Brooklyn and have released their debut album this February, Human Ceremony, to critical acclaim. Their band's name definitely has some psychedelic or hippy connotations, but I must say it's a bit of a misnomer. There may be a few elements of psych to their music, but that doesn't quite fully describe their essence. The band have described their sound as "night music," which as vague as it sounds, is accurate because there's definitely an element of danger and mystery to their music.
One standout track on the debut record is "Easier Said," which features the soft, beautiful vocals of Cumming and The Smiths-esque guitar sound of guitarist Nick Kivlen. Another great tune is the punked-up "Come On", which features incredible drumming by Nick Faber and lead vocals by Cumming. They are definitely due for big things this year with shows all across the US and UK, which you can check out here. Also, you can check out an awesome session performance of "Come On" with some sick backing vocals by Nick Kivlen and an overall great performance by the band.
5. Brittany Howard (of Alabama Shakes)
Out of all the musicians on this list, Alabama Shakes are the furthest along in terms of musical output. They've already put out two albums, Boys & Girls, which came out in 2012 and Sound & Color, which came out last year. (It's unclear whether they will continue naming their albums with opposite nouns separated by an ampersand.) Lead singer Brittany Howard is totally a musical legend in the making and she and the rest of the band are leading the charge for a type of southern, bluesy rock and roll that no one else is really doing anymore.
Some have called Howard the lovechild of BB King and Aretha Franklin and I won't disagree with that by any means. Their most recent album, Sound & Color, even gained the attention of the Grammy Awards (which don't really mean quite as much as they used to, but more to come on that topic later). It won best alternative album and was even nominated for album of the year. The first song that I heard from the band was a song called "Hold On", the lead track from their debut album. It shows off the incredibly soulful vocals by Howard and the talented, bluesy sound from the band. Rolling Stone even called it the best song of 2012. You can check out the music video for the song below. Also, check out their full list of tour dates here.