Halfway through 2015 we have already seen some exceptional albums come out. Whether it be folk artists releasing their best work in years (Sufjan Steven’s Carrie & Lowell and Father John Misty’s I Love You Honeybear), seminal rap albums (Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly) or the return of old favorites (Modest Mouse’s Strangers to Ourselves and Belle & Sebastian’s Girls In Peacetime Want to Dance), this year has been one of the most promising and innovative years in music on all fronts.
However, what has really stood out to me this year has been emergence or return of excellent girl rock groups. Rock bands fronted by women have received huge critical and commercial success. Looking back at 2015, I think that the year will be most defined by the girl rock albums that have come out including these favorites of mine:
Sleater-Kinney, No Cities To Love
After a ten year hiatus, Sleater-Kinney roared back to life this year, with their short but fierce album No Cities To Love. It was a welcome return from the indie darlings, that defined both the indie rock and riot grrrl genres in the 90s. Fortunately, age has not diminished the energetic skill of this punk trio.
Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit And Think, Sometimes I Just Sit
From the other side of the Pacific Ocean comes Australian indie rocker Courtney Barnett. Breaking away from what we have come to expect from Melbroune’s indie rock scene, Barnett’s debut album is chalked full of simple indie rockers, alternating from dead pan monotone vocal attacks (“Pedestrian at Best”) to more intimate meditations on suburban sprawls (“Depreston”). Courtney Barnett will definitely be a force to be reckoned with as the decade rolls on.
Hop Along, Painted Shut
Although they are not a new band, Painted Shut has been Hop Along’s emergence into the larger rock world. The most defining of this unique band is Frances Quinlan’s scratchy and husky voice, which makes Painted Shut a vocal tour-de-force in a style that does not emerge too frequently in indie rock circles. Against indie’s tiring tendency towards preciousness and twee styling, Hop Along roars and screams into the scene.
Speedy Ortiz, Foil Deer
Sometimes we need a reminder of alternate rock’s golden age of the 90s. Speedy Ortiz’s sound is based around the slanted chord structure, quiet/loud dynamic, and mid tempo laziness that defined slacker rock of the 1990s. Their album from this year would not sound out of place on college rock radio stations of the era, and one can easily imagine them opening for late-career Pavement shows. What Foil Deer lacks in uniqueness it makes up for in shear entertainment value.
Wolf Alice, My Love Is Cool
Out of all the debut albums of this year, this is the most exciting and interesting (sorry Courtney Barnett). It may have took Wolf Alice 5 years to finally release an album but the wait sure paid off. Every song on this album shows a variety of influences and styles. The album is a chameleon, shifting styles between every song. It is beautiful, exciting, and heartbreaking all at the same time without really making an effort to separate the different emotions. Everything flows together into a unique whole. Wolf Alice is a force to be reckoned with on the indie scene. If this is what the future of the genre sounds like, we are in good hands. If they keep up their skill, Wolf Alice will be our generation’s Sonic Youth. I have posted one of their more rocking songs, but this is an album you have to listen to all the way through.