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The Year in Lady Tunes

The year is drawing to a close, so you know what that means: year-end best-of lists. Everyone who writes about the arts – music, movies, television, whatever – will put one of these babies together. And I am no exception. I’ve compiled a list of the best albums by ladies in 2011.

Top Albums from Female Solo Artists:

tUnE-yArDs – w h o k i l l

This might be my favorite lady record of the year. Merrill Garbus, the frontwoman and head honcho for tUnE-yArDs, is a force to be reckoned with. Her vocals are intensely powerful, and she plays with sounds in a completely unique way, incorporating different instruments and looping.

Choice track: “Gangsta

Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes

This Swedish singer makes sweet-sounding, lovely pop songs, with lyrics that are both memorable and soulful. The album is melodic and dark, with a sound that is huge while at the same time restrained and sophisticated.

Choice track: “Sadness is a Blessing

St. Vincent – Strange Mercy

Annie Clark, a.k.a. St. Vincent, makes beautiful music. She masterfully mixes together different genres, seamlessly transitioning between pop, rock, electronic and soul throughout her record – often multiple times in a single song. She can combine smooth, swelling melodies and driving beats, weaving them together to make this solid new album.

Choice track: “Cruel

Honorable mentions: Feist – Metals, Bjork – Biophilia, Adele – 21

Top Albums by All-Female Bands:

The Coathangers – Larceny and Old Lace

These Atlanta ladies named their band in a tongue-and-cheek reference to the common pre-Roe v. Wade method of abortion and took their album title from a Golden Girls episode. If that’s not enough for you, they also play a raw brand of surfy garage punk that lands somewhere between Bikini Kill and The Thermals. Tons of energy and a fierceness you can’t beat.

Choice track: “Hurricane

Wild Flag – s/t

With a band made up of two members of Sleater-Kinney, plus some other awesome ladies, how could you go wrong? They’ve got a sound that’s clearly a throwback to the ’90s grunge and punk, but also just a tad more adult. It’s like riot grrrl grew up, and it’s pretty sweet.

Choice track: “Romance

Honorable mention: Dum Dum Girls – Only in Dreams

Top Albums by Groups with At Least One Woman:

(I may or may not have created this category just so I could include these two bands)

Candy Hearts – Everything’s Amazing and Nobody’s Happy

Awesome, slightly syrupy pop-punk, fronted by Mariel Lovelace, who wrote a great article on sexism in punk several months ago. They rock pretty hard, with both an edge and a soft side that work really well together.

Choice track: “Jawbreaker

Star Fucking Hipsters – From the Dumpster to the Grave

They’ve got shared male-female vocals and bill themselves as “anti-sexist,” so they belong here even if the band is mostly men. Plus I like them, and it’s my list. Anyway, this punk band plays around with a lot of different genres, like metal, folk, ska and even hip-hop (Boots Riley joins them on “9/11 Til Infinity“). I’ve noticed some division about this album — some SFH fans love it and others hate it. I think that’s because they took some sonic risks, plus had some line-up changes. I’m firmly on the side of liking it.

Choice track: “Dumpster to the Grave

So, Persephoneers, what are your favorite records of the year? I’d especially love to hear about what hip-hop has been good, because if we’re being honest, I’m far less in the know than I am about other genres. But whatever you like, I want to hear it. Even if you turn into one of the people NPR warned us about.

As an added bonus, I put all the songs on here (or others by the same artist in a couple of cases where the right song wasn’t available) on a Spotify playlist. Enjoy!

By [E] Liza

PhD student. Knitter. Brooklynite. Long-distance dog mom. Reluctant cat lady. Majestic unicorn whose hair changes color with the wind.

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