Here are my favourite albums of 2013 (so far) by female artists/bands with a female lead.
Also check out this list’s companion music playlist.
10. Laura Marling – Once I Was An Eagle
9. Eleanor Friedberger – Personal Record
8. She & Him – Vol. 3
7. Waxahatchee – Cerulean Salt
6. Camera Obscura – Desire Lines
5. Chvrches – The Bones Of What You Believe
If Haim is this year’s Chairlift, then Chvrches is this year’s Purity Ring, trading in that band’s otherworldly glitch pop for a more polished synth pop experience. Building off fantastically catchy singles The Mother We Share and Recover, Chvrches tries to deepen their sound and darken their aesthetic a tad without sacrificing the pace and the energy of their popular early releases.
4. Young Galaxy – Ultramarine
Earlier in the year I named New Summer my second favourite song of the first half of 2013. That single and that album in general has held up pretty well. In fact, the album would make a nice companion piece to Haim’s Days Are Gone, although it lacks that album’s breeziness and pace. Ultramarine does however make a fine mid-tempo indie pop record with well-modulated electro grooves and an 80s aesthetic. That makes it sound like almost any other indie album released in the last 2 years, but Young Galaxy show you how to craft the best version of that album with nary a dud to be seen.
3. Janelle Monáe – The Electric Lady
Admittedly, my relationship with this album is pretty much me listening to 3 tracks on repeat. There is nothing wrong with the rest of the album which is filled with a mix of well-produced, well-sung R&B combined with a well-utilised brass section, occasional finger snapping and the lightness of lounge music. Although Primetime with Miguel deserves an honourable mention, nothing matches the spazzy, delightful pop of Dance Apocalyptic, the pure cool of Give ‘Em What They Love and Q.U.E.E.N‘s robotic funk fantastique (complete with kickass final rap verse). Despite these heights, The Electric Lady isn’t quite as consistently engaging as her previous album The ArchAndroid which managed to be both more diverse and more cohesive in all its ambitious otherworldly sci-fi concept-album craziness.
Favourite Tracks: See Above
2. Neko Case – The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You
Since 2004’s Blacklisted, Neko Case has not failed to release consistently strong albums that combine her inimitable vocal talents with ever increasing musical and lyrical maturity. But maturity sounds different with Ms. Case. Rather that settling into MOR adult alternative country pop obscurity, she knows when to unleash her pissed off feminist with the rollicking Man and when to pare things down to the bare essentials, like the beautifully haunting Nearly Midnight, Honolulu.
1. Haim – Days Are Gone
This will never be regarded as one of the more musically challenging or lyrically provocative records of the year. It is rather simply a near-perfect set of consistently catchy pop tunes delivered with a cool staccato sexiness and a precise, yet light touch by beautiful women. I ask you, what more could you want?
Honourable Mentions: Julia Holter’s challenging yet beautifully loose Loud City Song, Julianna Barwick’s eerie Nepenthe, Marnie Stern’s rousing angular rock (as always) in The Chronicles of Marnia, and Savages‘ equally rocking but more dour self titled debut.
I left out Lorde’s Pure Heroine because I’ve still only listened to the singles and not the album in toto.