New Feminist Music Summer Roundup
Summer is a great time for nostalgia music: mixtapes for hours spent on a roadtrip, or at the beach, or reading in a hammock.
The influx of new releases is a little slower in the dog days of August, as autumn so it's a perfect time to stretch out in your back catalogue and revisit old favorites. It's not a desert for new music by any means, though, and this month we've got previews of several upcoming records we're excited about plus a few perfect summer tunes (including a world premiere!) to cruise you through the last of the long, sunny days.
1. WORLD PREMIERE: Ruthie Foster - "Brand New Day"
Austin-based blues singer and guitarist Ruthie Foster is not a household name, but the folks who know her understand why she's the best-kept secret in all of Texas. Not that she's quite so secret anymore—her last two albums have been nominated for Grammys and this year's release, out August 19th, was produced by Meshell Ndegeocello. Foster was raised singing in churches around Texas, the influence of which are written everywhere on her new album's first single, "Brand New Day." Ruthie told me the song is "about holding onto hope and trusting that all is as it should be and all will be well in the end." Foster is an extraordinary musician and an extraordinary woman (she's a former Naval officer and out lesbian, BTW). Her blues guitar work, is some of the best being played today, and her voice has the pull of gospel, the wisdom of the blues, and the raw power of rock and roll.
2. The Muffs - Whoop Dee Doo
Pop punk trio The Muffs (you may remember them from the Clueless soundtrack) released their first album in 10 years on July 29th. Somehow, they have configured the time-space continuum to have MORE energy and vitality than ever. Lead singer Kim Shattuck's vocals are gravelly and sweet at the same time, with an unimpeachable sense of fun through even the growliest screams and shredding-est guitar. Here's the album's lead single, "Up And Down Around," which adds some power-pop harmony to the Kim's garage-band sensibility, and results in mosh-able music with a smile.
3. Mulligrub - "Canadian Classic"
"Bitter tunes for the confused youth. Furious and silent with flowers in hair. Teenage grandmother's aesthetic. Boys just don't get it." That's how Canadian band Mulligrub describes themselves on their bandcamp page. That's too hard to top, so suffice it to say that they're a queer feminist pop punk band from Winnipeg, Kelly Grub's vocals are an endorphin rush of noise and feelz, and I love them and want more from them ASAP.
4. Jenny Hval & Susanna - "I Have Walked This Body"
Norwegian singers Jenny Hval and Susanna Sonata are celebrities in their home country as individuals, making their collaboration an epic meeting of creative minds for those who know their work, and a strange, fabulous new musical presence for those who don't. Their expansive, haunting abstract album—the appropriately named Meshes of Voice—is officially out later this month. The entire album was recorded live, lending it an authenticity and sense of experimentation that add to its obvious ambition and vision. Lead single "I Have Walked This Body" is haunting, intense, and beautiful, built on alternately soothing and explosive soundscapes, layered on thick over the pair's ethereal vocals. Any music video for a track like this will be bonkers, if they make one. Here's hoping.
5. Adia Victoria - "Stuck In The South"
"Stuck In The South" Is the debut single from Nashville singer-songwriter Adia Victoria, and has our attention good and grabbed. She plays a delicious, muddy, bluesy guitar, sings a gripping, drawling vocal, and has lyrics as perfect as this: "I don't know nothin' 'bout Southern belles / But I'll tell you somethin' about Southern hell..." While I don't share her itch to get out of the South, I like everything there is to like about her Southern-drenched sound. Leave it whenever you want, Adia, but please oh please take this part of it with you.
6. Kimbra - "90s Music"
New Zealand pop singer Kimbra first hit American shores with Gotye, as the memorable counter-point harmony in "Somebody That I Used To Know." Her debut album, Vows, was a fairly standard commerical pop record, and the Gotye collaboration the next year showed that she was willing to loosen up. The promise of "Somebody That I Used To Know" is fulfilled to the max on her new record, The Golden Echo, which comes out this month, and paints an entirely different peformer than Vows did. The Golden Echo is more interesting, brighter, weirder, and better than anything she's ever done. We've got the Missy Elliot/Soundgarden-influenced glitch-pop (is that a thing?) video for "90s Music" below, but other standout tracks include "Carolina" and the tech-savvy R&B track "Goldmine." If you wrote her off as a simple pop star, give her another try, and if you're new to her music, welcome. She's clearly just getting started.
7. Kira Isabella - "Quarterback"
Country music is setting the bar for progressive mainstream music, lately, and it's got its young female stars to thank. Kacey Musgraves and Ashley Monroe have already expanded the genre's horizons about gendered doube standards, sexual orientation, and the pitfalls of close-minded living, and now 20-year-old Nashville singer Kira Isabella is joining the conversation. "Quarterback" is Isabella's latest single, and tackles (as it were) the issues of date rape and the leaking of nonconsensual sexts, photos, and videos. A certain predictably douchey music magazine felt the need to put out the "sadly, more realistic" alternate ending version of the video, for reasons that remain mysterious, but we've got the ACTUAL ending below. Good lookin' out, Kira. Now let's keep the conversation going.
What are you listening to this summer? Anything you're excited about hearing in the fall? Let us know in the comments below!
Related Reading: Excellent new music from June.
Katie Presley writes about books and music, and tweets (@loveismaroon) about everything else. She lives in Austin. Photo of Ruthie Foster by John Carrico.
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