As part of Kettle’s Women’s Season, Scott Wilson picks out his top seven albums from female artists…
1) Lorde – Pure Heroine
Pop music can be alienating and extravagant. As someone from a small town, I’ll never relate to the glitz and glamour of those wearing designer labels on the covers of Vogue. How refreshing it is then that Lorde’s Pure Heroine is a celebration of the normal and the everyday of suburban living. “I love these roads where the houses don’t change” contrasts with the Beverely Hills lifestyle of A-Listers, while ‘Team”s “We live in cities you’ll never see on screen, not very pretty but we sure know how to run things,” makes it okay to be happy with what you have and where you live. Instead of celebrating celebrity culture, Pure Heroine is an album for the everyman and woman.
2) Taylor Swift – Speak Now
Taylor’s most realised pop record. From start to finish, Speak Now is hit after hit. No longer a wide-eyed teenager like on Fearless but not yet the young adult of Red, Speak Now is a snapshot of grown-up life hitting you for the first time. ‘Dear John’ is a heartbreaking ode to the realisation of being taken advantage of, ‘Enchanted’ holds on to the fairytale romance of youth, and ‘Long Live’ is a triumphant celebration of getting things done together. She’s yet to release a bad album, but Speak Now is the crowning jewel in her catalogue thus far.
3) Nightwish – Century Child
Nightwish would sound bigger on later albums, adding in orchestration to an extent unseen in metal music before, but on Century Child, the combination of symphonic elements, fantastical imagery, and bombastic choruses is at its peak. ‘Ever Dream’ could be the band’s best moment, an epic love story with a climactic key change that sends shivers down your spine, while ‘Dead to the World’ was a rare moment of reality in their fiction-dominated narrative. The epic ‘Beauty of the Beast’ continued their token lengthy track trope, and was their best up until that point. Century Child also contains their incredible cover of ‘Phantom of the Opera’, with the live End of an Era version being one of their best live performances ever.
4) Kimbra – Vows
Most widely known as the woman who sings on the Gotye mega-hit ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’, Kimbra’s Vows is the most rewarding pop record in quite some time. Rather than seeing pop music as uncool, Kimbra turns up the funk factor, makes beats you can’t help but move to, and makes the simple seem complex and the complex seem like second nature. The layer-upon-layer development of ‘Settle Down’ starts with your head bobbing and doesn’t stop until your legs and hips are shaking by the climactic chorus. ‘Cameo Lover’ is a celebratory ode to pop music at its poppiest, and ‘Come Into My Head’ is a chaotic polyrhythmic schizophrenic anthem. There’s something for everyone but overall, this is a loveletter to breaking down barriers when it comes to pop music.
5) PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
One of the best albums of the decade, Let England Shake sounds patriotic while singing about the toils of war upon the land. In a modern world where the concept of the album is dying, Let England Shake is a work to be experienced as a whole, as PJ Harvey takes you across the rolling lands of England as they are covered in scars.
6) Myrkur – M
Black metal can seem like a hyper-masculine, church-burning genre of exclusivity, but every now and then an act comes along that breaks down those barriers. Deafheaven had crossover appeal that let hipsters into the genre with their fusion of black metal and shoegaze, and now Myrkur has received acclaim from the likes of Pitchfork for being a dominant woman in a genre not known for femininty. She also works as an actress, a model, and has an alt-rock band too, but she’s a self-professed black metal girl at heart, and Myrkur’s debut is an amalgamation of blast beats, dark production, celtic melodies, and guttural howls.
7) Chvrches – The Bones of What You Believe
Electronic music is very much in vogue in 2015. Whether it’s Calvin Harris with his club anthems or Avicii with his…well, club anthems, it’s hard to escape the digitised sounds of right now. The debut from Glaswegian trio Chvrches was a refreshing relief from the electro monotony. With a heavy emphasis on the ‘pop’ in ‘synthpop’, The Bones of What You Believe arrived on a massive wave of hype and delivered on all accounts. ‘Recover’ still feels as necessary to the scene as it did when it was released, while ‘Tether’ with its slow burn crescendo made this small bunch of musicians from Scotland sound huge. It helps that they all seem lovely too – Lauren Mayberry’s TYCI is an empowering community for women, and she has never shied away from calling out misogyny relating to the band and how women are treated generally. One of the best bands in the world at the moment.
Do you agree with our top 7? Let us know in the comments below!