Lady songs by ladies
March 4, 2010 12:33 PM   Subscribe

What other songs and artists fit my overly-specific criteria? Briefly: female vocalist; sweet, soothing voice; singing quietly and backed by lush acoustic instrumentation.

I love songs that sound like this:

Female vocalist with a sweet, natural voice and a very smooth vocal texture- not too cracky or waily or ghostly
Singing close to the microphone so she sounds very intimate, almost like she's talking (natural rather than deliberately ethereal)
Mostly acoustic instrumentation. Strings and horns would be a bonus.
Minimal use of drums, and in particular I don't really like treble "tss-tss-tss" type drums, like prominent high-hat cymbals or snare.
The song itself doesn't need to be a lullabye-type song, but I do like lullabye-type voices.

Some examples:

Feist: 1-2-3-4; Hold Your Horses: Flo's Folks; Sophie Madeleine: The Stars; Eliza-Jane Scott: Stay/Sway, and some stuff by Blossom Dearie, Norah Jones, Jolie Holland, Ani DiFranco (but only when she croons- not when she belts!)

Who else will I like?
Links to YouTube and downloadable MP3s appreciated- thanks!
posted by pseudostrabismus to Media & Arts (77 answers total) 55 users marked this as a favorite
How about Yael Naim - new soul?
posted by amethysts at 12:36 PM on March 4, 2010

Lisa Germano maybe? Give a listen.
posted by spaghetti at 12:39 PM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

"The Winner Takes it All" by Abba. Very personal, in my opinion.
posted by Melismata at 12:41 PM on March 4, 2010

Have you heard any Jenny Lewis? Not quite what you're looking for, but I think she's great.
posted by Jugwine at 12:42 PM on March 4, 2010

Claire Denamur, In The Mood For L'Amour (you know, the deodorant commercial).
posted by geekchic at 12:44 PM on March 4, 2010

Try Chantal Kreviazuk
posted by juliplease at 12:47 PM on March 4, 2010

Noa - Blue Touches Blue
posted by frobozz at 12:48 PM on March 4, 2010

Lisa Hannigan's 'Sea Sew' album is pretty close to what you describe and very good. A few of the songs I found on youtube did have that drum thing going on, but others, like Lillle were right on target.
posted by KatlaDragon at 12:55 PM on March 4, 2010

A Fine Frenzy? Here's one of my favorites - The Minnow and the Trout.
posted by Durin's Bane at 12:55 PM on March 4, 2010

Cat Power and Neco Case come to mind, but there is some variability in their tunes.

Check out some soul music. Although I despise the term, Blue-eyed soul (literally soul music sung by white people) has some great songs in the genre.
posted by Think_Long at 12:56 PM on March 4, 2010

I'll bet you'd like Pomplamoose. Probably Camera Obscura. There's Amy Milan, who also sings in Stars. In a jazzier vein, there's Madeleine Peyroux.
posted by ludwig_van at 12:57 PM on March 4, 2010

Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
posted by Midnight Rambler at 12:58 PM on March 4, 2010

The Innocence Mission?
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 12:59 PM on March 4, 2010

Well, seconding nomisxid, then.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 1:00 PM on March 4, 2010

First thing that came to my mind was Alison Krauss.
posted by Sassyfras at 1:01 PM on March 4, 2010

A few more possibilities off the top of my head: Laura Veirs, Alela Diane, Dawn Landes, Mariee Sioux, Marissa Nadler, Orion Rigel Dommisse, Sharon van Etten, Stephanie Dosen, or maybe Hem. You'll have to find your own links though...
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 1:06 PM on March 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

The Aurgasm weblog seems to concentrate fairly heavily on this kind of thing.
posted by idiomatika at 1:06 PM on March 4, 2010

I really like Azure Ray and I think they fit your criteria pretty much to a T (they are a little on the "sad bastard" side, but that's how I roll.)
posted by joechip at 1:06 PM on March 4, 2010

I was listening to A Fine Frenzy when I read this question. I would also suggest "Hera".
posted by chairface at 1:08 PM on March 4, 2010

Susan Enan. Hem. If you want a great voice with spare but rich guitar accompaniment, Catherine MacLellan.
posted by BlackPebble at 1:11 PM on March 4, 2010

Some of Maria Mena's stuff would definitely fit your criteria.
posted by bricoleur at 1:11 PM on March 4, 2010

Judee Sill
posted by Substrata at 1:16 PM on March 4, 2010

If you want to go a little old school, may I suggest Astrud Gilberto?
posted by lpsguy at 1:18 PM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Lisa Ekdahl when backed by the Peter Nordahl Trio.
posted by MesoFilter at 1:19 PM on March 4, 2010

Regina Spektor's "On the Radio" comes to mind.
posted by citywolf at 1:31 PM on March 4, 2010

Blue Roses, Moments Before Sleep. Just lovely.

Some Joanna Newsom tracks? On A Good Day and Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie especially.
posted by davidjmcgee at 1:48 PM on March 4, 2010

In no particular order: Lily Frost, Erin McKeown, Edie Carey, Bic Runga, Azure Ray (or the solo work of either of the band's two members, Maria Taylor and Orenda Fink), The Nields, Ida, Emily Haines (her solo work is very different from her work with Metric), Sarah Polley, Dar Williams, Jonatha Brooke, L'Altra, Over the Rhine, Rachel's, Rosie Thomas...

(I could go on. I might later, when I actually have my itunes library in front of me. Are you me? Actually, I'm not as sensitive to the drums thing, so some of these may not float your boat, but I'm definitely with you on voices.)
posted by dizziest at 1:48 PM on March 4, 2010

Bishop Allen - Butterfly Nets
posted by mrsshotglass at 1:51 PM on March 4, 2010

Anything by Regina Spektor, Ingrid Michaelson, Sara Bareilles.

A lot of stuff by Kate Nash.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 1:55 PM on March 4, 2010

Nina Nastasia
posted by citron at 1:56 PM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

The Mamas and the Papas - Dream a Little Dream of Me, maybe? That one does pick up a bit after the first verse.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 2:05 PM on March 4, 2010

Sheryl Crow with Sting: I was always on your side; she also does a beautiful lullaby for her son; Celine Dion sang lullabies for her son as well. Sorry can't link- on smart phone.
posted by srbrunson at 2:22 PM on March 4, 2010

Laura Cantrell?
posted by zoetrope at 2:36 PM on March 4, 2010

Pretty much anything by Josephine Foster; maybe start with The Siren's Admonition.
posted by davidjmcgee at 2:41 PM on March 4, 2010

Taken by Trees, especially Greyest Love of All (ignore the weird motorbike footage!)
Dirty Projectors, Two Doves (though this might be a little too ethereal?)
posted by punchdrunkhistory at 2:48 PM on March 4, 2010

I second the Mazzy Star/Hope Sandoval & the Warm Inventions recommendations; you might prefer the latter.

Check out The Sundays! Harriet Wheeler's voice is, like, the definition of ethereal. Their second album, Blind, is my favorite because it's just so dreamy. Sigh.
posted by Fui Non Sum at 3:14 PM on March 4, 2010

Tierney Sutton singing the jazz classic, "Never Let Me Go" is very acoustic sounding; I think it's all piano and drum (which might be against the one of the parameters in your post). It has a very intimate, "piano lounge" feel.

You can hear the entire track here and download it from Amazon here.
posted by fuse theorem at 3:17 PM on March 4, 2010

Christina Rosenvinge's Frozen Pool album, particularly the opener "Hunter's Lullaby" (you can listen to 30 seconds of it on the Amazon page).
posted by ifjuly at 3:17 PM on March 4, 2010

Cowboy Junkies. Especially their albums Slow, Sad Waltzes, Black Eyed Man, and The Trinity Session (which was recorded in a church, to give you an idea of the feel they were going for. ) And many of their covers are awesome. Faves are Sweet Jane, My Father's House, I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry. Also seconding Camera Obscura and some Cat Power (I love her song The Greatest) sorry I don't have time to link, I'm sure many of these are on YouTube. I'd also add Broadcast for the vocals, but they tend to be heavy on the percussion, although you might be pleasantly surprised, they have a unique sound.
posted by catatethebird at 3:35 PM on March 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

Almost forgot, BETH GIBBONS. Sounds like exactly what you want. I even found a link.
posted by catatethebird at 3:40 PM on March 4, 2010

Utada Hikaru First Love...check it out on You Tube
posted by MsKim at 3:50 PM on March 4, 2010

Oooh, I know the answer to this one: You absolutely want to hear Colour Green by Sibylle Baier -- a lovely album from 1970 that's only now starting to get its due.
posted by .kobayashi. at 3:55 PM on March 4, 2010

A youtube link for the lead track from Sibylle Baier's album.
posted by .kobayashi. at 3:57 PM on March 4, 2010

Bic Runga - Sway
posted by Paragon at 4:06 PM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Laura Nyro
Marina V.
Heather Duby
k.d. lang
This Mortal Coil
Cocteau Twins
Faun Fables
Miranda Sex Garden
One Dove
Fiona Apple
posted by xenophile at 6:43 PM on March 4, 2010

Edith Frost is wonderful. Oddly, there's not much of her on Youtube, but here's a demo version of "Temporary Loan" to get you started. As her albums go, I highly recommend Wonder Wonder.

You can also download some free rarities and demos from her website.
posted by cirripede at 6:48 PM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

I love Vienna Teng for this type of stuff.
Try Eric's Song or Recessional.
posted by estlin at 7:08 PM on March 4, 2010

Shivaree "New Casablanca"
The Cardigans "And Then You Kissed Me"
The Good Life "Inmates"
posted by haveanicesummer at 7:32 PM on March 4, 2010

St. Vincent.
Two Doves Dirty Projectors.
Melody Day Caribou.
Yellowcake Kaki King
Islands The XX (has both male and female vocalists, but is excellent nonetheless).
posted by rrrico at 9:02 PM on March 4, 2010

Nouvelle Vague
Suzanne Vega
Emily Haines
And why not
Billie Holiday
posted by Paris Elk at 10:19 PM on March 4, 2010

A couple of my favorites who haven't been mentioned yet:

Kris Delmhorst. She performs in a variety of tempos/styles, but is mostly acoustic with a nice number of ballads/down-tempo songs. There's a whole bunch of full, streamable songs from her page. Some of the ones I'd recommend trying first, based on your list: "Sea Fever" (the music is mostly acoustic -- she also plays cello in the track -- and it's set to the John Masefield poem!), and "Hummingbird." "Juice and June" is one of the free mp3s available at her official site (linked in the tracklist of the album page for Songs for a Hurricane). And speaking of lullabies, she has one herself -- it's called "Lullaby 101." I'll stop now before I start listing a dozen more of her songs...

Keren Ann (link goes to her official site with clips of many, if not all, songs) has a bunch of recordings that might fit the bill, particularly her quiet, almost-speaking voice and mostly acoustic accompaniment. There are some gorgeous strings/horns/other orchestral instrument arrangements, too. Check out "Not Going Anywhere" and "Seventeen" for two examples -- I'd say "Seventeen" has the "lush acoustic instrumentation" thing down.

Also, seconding Rosie Thomas. You can download three full songs for free from her page at Sub Pop (her record label)...of these three songs, "2 Dollar Shoes" and "I Play Music" probably fit your criteria best, so definitely give them a listen.
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 11:05 PM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Let me add Laura Marling (Goodbye England (Covered in Snow), Devil's Spoke) and Keren Ann's Lady & Bird project (Blue Skies, Suicide is Painless)
posted by Kattullus at 4:29 AM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Meagan Smith covering Here Comes Your Man
posted by Ziggy500 at 4:40 AM on March 5, 2010

Seconding Mazzy Star. Maybe a little ghostly, but I think Hope Sandoval might be up your alley.
posted by feathermeat at 8:00 AM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Most everyone has posted the female artists I know of except:

Lucinda Williams - Sweet Old World (not the Car Wheels album).
Nancy Griffith - Very Blue moon album
posted by fox_terrier_guy at 10:04 AM on March 5, 2010

Thank you, Stars, by Katie Melua, maybe.
posted by alynnk at 10:35 AM on March 5, 2010

These guys are friends of mine, so I'm biased, but I think some of their stuff will interest you: Rescue Bird. Try "Some Good" or "Montauk". Also, maybe this band Festival, beautiful harmonies.
posted by otolith at 11:59 AM on March 5, 2010

I love Stephanie Dosen. She's got the sweetest, warmest voice, and her songs make me feel happy and comfortable somehow. Try to get your hands on her first album Ghosts, Mice, and Vagabonds if you can. "Weak" was the single from that album and is about as percussive as it gets. "Blue Paper Lanterns" is one of the prettiest songs I've ever heard.
posted by wondermouse at 1:20 PM on March 5, 2010

JANN ARDEN. She's an extremely underrated Canadian artist who has been around for years. For a start, listen to Wishing That and Unloved.

You may want to check out the album she did with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (though that is not her usual style; she's normally acoustic).
posted by yawper at 2:06 PM on March 5, 2010

I posted about Ólöf Arnalds a month or so ago. Emiliana Torrini (Today Has Been Okay, Big Jumps).
posted by Kattullus at 2:58 PM on March 5, 2010

I'm surprised that nobody has mentioned Vashti Bunyan. When she sings, it's like she's whispering. One of my favorite song of hers is Diamond Day

She even has a lullaby song.
17 pink sugar elephants
posted by lahersedor at 12:51 AM on March 6, 2010

Carla Bruni! Very lovely soft french singer/guitarist.
posted by yourcelf at 5:28 AM on March 6, 2010

Julee Cruise
Nellie McKay, specifically her album Normal As Blueberry Pie
Madeleine Peyroux
posted by paulg at 7:16 AM on March 6, 2010

Surprised no Sarah McLachlan mentioned yet. Some but not all her stuff sounds right up your alley.

Ice Cream
posted by raider at 11:08 AM on March 6, 2010

Oh my! I forgot Joan Armatrading!
posted by Paris Elk at 10:35 PM on March 6, 2010

Missy Higgins.
Nina Simone.
posted by b33j at 12:52 AM on March 7, 2010

Vienna Teng?
posted by Oceanesque at 3:36 AM on March 7, 2010

Emily Wells

In a cynical and deeply English vein: Black Box Recorder

Maybe Bat for Lashes, although that's perhaps a little lusher than what you're after

Cat Power, of course

El Perro Del Mar

And the Nouvelle Vauge series of cover records
posted by Diablevert at 6:14 AM on March 7, 2010

Ingrid Michaelson
posted by jennyhead at 9:43 AM on March 30, 2010

Julie Doiron.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:01 AM on January 18, 2011

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