This rock chick needs more rock chicks to listen to.
January 4, 2014 6:26 PM   Subscribe

I realized recently that a good 90% (at least) of the music I like features male singers. Which then led me to realize that I have fairly specific requirements/tastes when it comes to female singers. Help me find more women who rock!

I think the basic thing is that I like very strong voices, often in the alto range (I guess?), accompanied by interesting/angular/edgy music and lyrics. I pretty much go into a HULK SMASH blind rage at the first hint of wispy/breathy/twee indie singing or auto-tuned mainstream pop (apologies to anyone who likes anything in those categories).

Singers who I love: Exene, Alison Mosshart, Beth Ditto, PJ Harvey, Sharon Jones, Alison Moyet, Tracey Thorne, Gladys Knight, Aretha, Debbie Harry, Dolly Parton, Janis Joplin, Dusty Springfield.

Singers who are my personal Kryptonite: Zooey Deschanel, Feist, Britney Spears, Bjork (I know, I know, this seriously compromises my music geek credentials), Celine Dion, Mariah Carey.

Singers who I would put somewhere in the middle (e.g., I like but don't necessarily love them, or I don't know much of their work and might like to learn more, or I have mixed feelings about them): Lykke Li, Cat Power, Kate Bush, Janelle Monae, Emily Haines.

Singers to whom I am completely indifferent: Madonna, Lady Gaga.

Help me out -- who else might I like? Open to pretty much all genres of all eras.
posted by scody to Media & Arts (164 answers total) 124 users marked this as a favorite
Have you tried Sleater-Kinney? I think they rock pretty hard.
posted by sacrifix at 6:31 PM on January 4, 2014 [9 favorites]

Linda Perry? Chrissie Hynde?
posted by Morrigan at 6:33 PM on January 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I inexplicably let Sleater-Kinney almost totally pass me by. Would love to start listening to them. What's their best album to start with?

Re Chrissie Hynde: oh yes, forgot to mention that I love her, too.

I should have mentioned: suggestions for specific songs/albums much appreciated!
posted by scody at 6:34 PM on January 4, 2014

Patti Smith maybe?

Might want to check out Storm Large. Some of her music is more whimsical (e.g. 8 Miles Wide (the song is NSFW both lyrics and video)), but she knows how to rock out.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:36 PM on January 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

Savages, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, seconding Chrissie Hynde. I agree with Sleater-Kinny, but you have to like the sound of the Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein. If you do like those voices, maybe Wild Flag and the Corin Tucker Band.
posted by bluespark25 at 6:36 PM on January 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Might look into Johnette Napolitano.
posted by dilettante at 6:37 PM on January 4, 2014 [7 favorites]

Lucinda Williams.
posted by spitbull at 6:37 PM on January 4, 2014 [5 favorites]

Hmm, I really like alto-ish voices (because I have one and can sing along with them) but my tastes are kind of twee/indie (though we dislike the same singers) so I don't know if any of these will do it. But: early Rilo Kiley, Mirah, Kate Nash? Amy Winehouse, maybe?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:39 PM on January 4, 2014

Lene Lovich
posted by griphus at 6:39 PM on January 4, 2014 [6 favorites]

Wild Flag is a supergroup composed of Sleater-Kinney, Helium and Minders alumnae. You will not regret checking them out.

Also on my recent menu: Le Tigre, Heart, The Bangles.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 6:39 PM on January 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Oh yes, love Amy Winehouse. (Not trying to threadsit; just to further clarify my tastes, if it helps.)

So many great suggestions here already -- keep 'em coming! I'm going to Amoeba Records in Hollywood tomorrow and am already compiling a list.
posted by scody at 6:41 PM on January 4, 2014

Liz Phair, maybe? I've heard good things about Exile in Guyville.
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 6:41 PM on January 4, 2014 [5 favorites]

Neko Case
posted by goggie at 6:41 PM on January 4, 2014 [16 favorites]

Tsunami Bomb (punk) and maybe Dance Hall Crashers (ska with dual female leads).
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 6:41 PM on January 4, 2014

Do you like country/bluegrass? Gillian Welch and/or the Pistol Annies might be up your alley as well.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 6:41 PM on January 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

Garbage; Hole; Liz Phair; Veruca Salt; Tori Amos (in small doses); Florence & The Machine; seconding Sleater Kinney and Lucinda Williams.
posted by hydra77 at 6:44 PM on January 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh, also Alanis has some underrated gems. Ani Difranco?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:44 PM on January 4, 2014

7 Karma Fishes is a bay area band that probably hasn't been together in over a decade, and you probably can't buy their one album anywhere anymore, but their stuff on youtube is good.
posted by colin_l at 6:45 PM on January 4, 2014

seconding Neko Case
posted by antonymous at 6:45 PM on January 4, 2014

I like Warpaint.
posted by whistle pig at 6:45 PM on January 4, 2014

Joan Jett; Lita Ford.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 6:45 PM on January 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nina Nastasia -- her song "Ocean" is amazing.
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 6:46 PM on January 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh, and Luscious Jackson!
posted by goggie at 6:47 PM on January 4, 2014

Oh, and Zola Jesus (link to Vessel)
posted by whistle pig at 6:47 PM on January 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nina Simone, Cesaria Evora, Dar Williams, Deb Talan, Annie Lennox, Patsy Cline, Jeralyn Steele.

Possibly the Ravonettes and the Pippettes?
posted by bunderful at 6:48 PM on January 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Performer name (recommended album)

Over The Rhine (Ohio; Good Dog Bad Dog; Meet Me At The Edge Of The World)
First Aid Kit (The Lion's Roar)
Laura Marling (I Speak Because I Can)
Abra Moore (Everything Changed)
Aimee Mann (Lost in Space; Bachelor No. 2)
The Arcade Fire (Funeral)
Alison Krauss + Union Station (New Favorite)
Emmylou Harris (seriously listen to Wrecking Ball)
Hem (Rabbit Songs)
posted by gauche at 6:50 PM on January 4, 2014 [5 favorites]

Nina Hagen
posted by Pudhoho at 6:51 PM on January 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nthing Patti Smith.
posted by Sara C. at 6:52 PM on January 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

My sense of just what "rocks" means is a little shaky, but Santogold rocks, I think. You may have heard "Disparate Youth" on the radio, I admit - and I actually think that's a song that is both popular and good, unlikely as it seems - but a bunch of her other songs are rockier.

Certain of the Noisettes' songs rock. Sister Rosetta does, for example.

While Janelle Monae isn't precisely rock, I think that you will find that a number of her songs rock, such as Dance Apocalyptic. Also she is the best of everything ever.
posted by Frowner at 6:54 PM on January 4, 2014 [5 favorites]

Sharon Van Etten? I especially like the album Epic.

Not sure if Wye Oak and Beach House would be too tweet for you but I like 'em and I dislike the performers you mention not liking.

I also love Metric, Emily Haines's group, especially the album Grow Up and Blow Away, not sure when you mentioned her if you've tried them or just her solo work. Very different from the other stuff I mentioned, though.
posted by mlle valentine at 6:58 PM on January 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

Bonnie Raitt
posted by HuronBob at 6:58 PM on January 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have eclectic taste in music, here are a few of my faves: Marianne Faithfull, The Pretenders, Cibo Matto, Rickie Lee Jones, and Patti Smith.
posted by blacktshirtandjeans at 6:59 PM on January 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Grace Potter.
posted by The Deej at 7:00 PM on January 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Amanda Palmer/Dresden Dolls
Ida Maria
Brazilian Girls
The Ting Tings
posted by Fig at 7:00 PM on January 4, 2014

Also the Etta James Chess sessions - Etta James Rocks the House - rock, canonically.
posted by Frowner at 7:02 PM on January 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Tanita Tikiram
posted by brujita at 7:03 PM on January 4, 2014

Seconding Santogold and Gillian Welch (probably the only sentence I've ever said that contains both of them).

This might be too obvious, but how do you feel about the Kim Gordon-fronted Sonic Youth songs?

People have compared Karin Dreijer of The Knife to your nemesis Bjork but I think they are actually really different - I think Karin's vocals are much darker and edgier and don't have the twee soft side of Bjork even when she's singing quietly. I think you might like that song in particular. She also pitch-shifts her voice down a lot to give weird, cool androgynous effects, and her lyrics are dark and have a feminist bent. Anyway, sort of a long shot, but figured I'd mention it just in case.

About to run somewhere but I'll let the q'n percolate.
posted by en forme de poire at 7:03 PM on January 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

BRODY DALLE OF THE DISTILLERS. Coral Fang is like a revelation.
posted by pazazygeek at 7:04 PM on January 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

The Spring Standards are pretty cool too; I enjoy the album Yellow//Gold the most. Standards is a misnomer since the songs sound quite different from one another. About half of them have female singers; try Unmarked Pill, Nightmare, or Watch the Moon Disappear.
posted by mlle valentine at 7:04 PM on January 4, 2014

Babes in Toyland.
posted by Coatlicue at 7:04 PM on January 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Chrissie Hynde
Bonnie Raitt
Jennifer Warnes
Patti Smith
Ricki Lee Jones
Cat Power
Mary Gauthier
Fiona Apple
Beth Orton
Margo Timmons
posted by thinkpiece at 7:05 PM on January 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Check out Heartless Bastards - Only For You (off the album Arrow); Erika Wennerstrom can absolutely belt it out.

You are welcome ;)
posted by axismundi at 7:05 PM on January 4, 2014

Can you list some of your favorite male singers? I totally get the vibe your asking after, but that insight might be helpful for more suggestions.
posted by pazazygeek at 7:05 PM on January 4, 2014

Vanessa Daou (Erica Jong is her aunt)
posted by brujita at 7:06 PM on January 4, 2014

One that hasn't been mentioned yet (I second so many of the recc's above) is Dum Dum Girls. Dumb garage rockers on the surface but actually smart and incisive songs about emotions and relationships. On the second album, especially, the lead singer is channeling Chrissie Hynde.
posted by matildaben at 7:07 PM on January 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

No love for Joni Mitchell? Specific album: Blue.
posted by Wordwoman at 7:08 PM on January 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Try some Susan Tedeschi<>.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:10 PM on January 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

You 100% need Til' It Kills by Tilt. Their other albums are good, but this is one of my all time favorites for singing really fucking loudly to.

We also like a lot of the same things. I'll be watching this thread.
posted by bibliogrrl at 7:11 PM on January 4, 2014

Nthing Sleater Kinney. My favorite album of theirs is One Beat, so maybe start there, but I also like All Hands on the Bad One after the first song. I also like The Woods, but that one is pretty radically different in sound from their previous work and it took me a while to assimilate. It took me a while to assimilate to Corin and Carrie's voices anyway.

Since Wild Flag was mentioned, why not just also go for Helium? Start with the Dirt of Luck. Mary Timony's vocals aren't really what does it for me with them, but they work. Dirt of Luck is really angular guitar stuff, kind of Gang of Four-ish Entertainment type stuff but not so funky; their next album is a bit more melodic. Dirt of Luck song. Magic City song.

I assume you know Sonic Youth and Kim Gordon's work for them? There's also Blonde Redhead, who started out as virtual SY clones and eventually turned into something different. example


They weren't around for very long, but the Rogers Sisters.
posted by LionIndex at 7:13 PM on January 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Uch, forgot Kathleen Edwards and Rachel Yamogata.
posted by thinkpiece at 7:15 PM on January 4, 2014

Siouxsie Sioux.
posted by infinitywaltz at 7:15 PM on January 4, 2014 [6 favorites]

We have similar tastes in female musicians! Yay for asking this question!

Lana del Ray, though she may be too autotuned-pop for you. Nancy Sinatra.
posted by divabat at 7:16 PM on January 4, 2014

Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. More Motown than rock, but oh! What a voice!
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 7:17 PM on January 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

Nth Sleater Kinney!

I'll also second Cibo Matto -- this video is oddly addictive and doesn't fully show how they can rock: Know Your Chicken

(one member was married to Sean Ono Lennon, and he played with Cibo Matto live a lot: on Squirt TV)
posted by mamabear at 7:18 PM on January 4, 2014

It sounds as though you might enjoy the sort of end-of-punk women fronted bands such as X-Ray Spex, Essential Logic, the Raincoats, the Slits. Also what about Chicks On Speed?

Also, you might want in general to check out the bands on the Rough Trade post-punk compilation - it's a mix of actual post-punk and late-nineties/early2000s post-punk-esque bands, many involving women. Maximum Joy, Modettes, Liliput, ESG, Bush Tetras - those are the ones that really jump out for me.
posted by Frowner at 7:20 PM on January 4, 2014 [5 favorites]

Also also (finally found my ipod and am seeing what else I have):


The Epoxies

Discount (you listed Alison Mossheart, but just in case you haven't heard her first band)

UGH god how could I forget The Muffs

If you can find anything by them, you might like The New Black out of Chicago. On hiatus, but their 2 albums are so good.

posted by bibliogrrl at 7:21 PM on January 4, 2014

Your likes and dislikes are a bit all over the place, so let me submit this all-over-the-place list:

Bikini Kill

Chelsea Wolf


School of Seven Bells



TuneYards (ehhh, hit or miss, but damn when she hits)

La Yegros

JD Samson//MEN

Wish I had time to drop in some links!
posted by ulfberht at 7:21 PM on January 4, 2014

Laura Nyro
posted by porn in the woods at 7:26 PM on January 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Melissa Etheridge.

Oh, yes.
posted by blurker at 7:28 PM on January 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: pazazygeek: the list of favorite male singers is nearly endless, but among the most beloved are (off the top of my head) Paul Weller, Neil Finn, Alex Chilton, David Bowie, Joe Strummer, Steve Marriott, (early) Rod Stewart, Robert Plant, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Buck Owens, Curtis Mayfield, Otis Redding, David Ruffin, Tom Waits, Midge Ure, Peter Murphy, George Harrison, Raul Malo, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, Neil Hannon, Jarvis Cocker, Robin Zander, and William Elliot Whitmore... if that helps give an idea of my broader tastes.

Thanks to everyone who reminded me of female singers I do like but don't listen to enough, particularly Annie Lennox, Nina Simone, Patti Smith, Marianne Faithfull, Aimee Mann, and Neko Case.
posted by scody at 7:28 PM on January 4, 2014

Since you're open to learning more about Cat Power I can provide some insight. I have most of her stuff from Moon Pix to Jukebox. I thought Jukebox was pretty meh and The Greatest was a step down from You Are Free so I stopped following her after that. Lesson one is, if she's still touring, don't go to a live show with any expectations of seeing anything. At all.

In the course of her career during the time frame that I paid attention, she went from pretty sad folkie/singer songwriter sound to smoky Southern/Memphis soul type stuff. Moon Pix is pretty dark and bleak. The Covers Record is similar, but all covers, including an unrecognizable cover of Satisfaction where she doesn't sing the chorus, but is awesome anyway. You Are Free gets a little more upbeat but still has some down numbers. The Greatest might be my favorite song of hers, but the rest of the album is dodgy.
posted by LionIndex at 7:29 PM on January 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

Also, what about Dog Faced Hermans?

And what about middle period Chumbas, like Timebomb? Good old Alice Nutter! The funny thing about this video is that I think there are different versions of it, with different regular people - I'm not absolutely sure, but I feel like I've seen several. It's got to be one of my favorite videos ever, even though it's very simple and naive and a bit kitsch, because it is both very anarchist and very nineties, really captures this belief in the becomingness of ordinary people.
posted by Frowner at 7:31 PM on January 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

the Raincoats

oh hell yes.
posted by LionIndex at 7:35 PM on January 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Sinead, Hole, Cyndi Lauper, Portishead.
posted by Mavri at 7:36 PM on January 4, 2014

Keep in mind I like more punk (but since you mentioned Exene, Debbie Harry, Alison Mosshart of Discount...), and I think fit your alto preference. Links to bandcamps below:
Miski of City Mouse has one of the best voices out there. Check out Gemini and their EP.
The Measure [SA] was awesome but unfortunately broken up. Lauren their singer is now in Worriers who are also great.
Gateway District reminds me of the Go-Go's if they remained punk.
Caves from the UK.
Lipstick Homicide from Iowa.
posted by slomodinkens at 7:36 PM on January 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Stevie Nicks
Sheryl Crow

Bonus duet!
posted by blurker at 7:37 PM on January 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seconding the Distillers and Hole.
posted by barnoley at 7:40 PM on January 4, 2014

KT Tunstall
posted by Knappster at 7:52 PM on January 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Screaming Females
posted by ActionPopulated at 8:03 PM on January 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

St Vincent
posted by btfreek at 8:03 PM on January 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Shannon and the Clams rocking or heartbreakin'
Adalita of Magic Dirt
Some Abbe May but she has moved on to breathy pop
Mojo Juju and the Snake Oil Merchants

Are covers okay? Because I think Rachel Nagy's voice is like molasses and rolling tobacco. mm
posted by Trivia Newton John at 8:03 PM on January 4, 2014

My all-time favorite alto is Rosemary Clooney. The rest of the lady vocalists on my top plays not already mentioned here (I think) are:
Regina Spektor
Natalie Merchant
Mary J Blige
Alana Davis
Emily Long/Emmy Wildwood
Amanda Marshall
Carole King
Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings
Jill Scott
posted by lily_bart at 8:09 PM on January 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

Wanda Jackson, if you want more country. Or Rose Maddox.
posted by spitbull at 8:12 PM on January 4, 2014

Here's some stuff I haven't seen mentioned:
Alabama Shakes
Concrete Blonde
Grand Ole Party
Kate Earl
Imogen Heap

Some oldies but goodies:
Veruca Salt
The Cranberries
Shawn Colvin
posted by fshgrl at 8:14 PM on January 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

Diamanda Galás
Laura Nyro
Nthing Sleater-Kinney and Neko Case
posted by Yma at 8:16 PM on January 4, 2014

I see you've been pitched Neko Case already, so I'll add Kelly Hogan, who is a sometimes collaborator with Case and who sings along the same lines.

How about Jenny Lewis? She's the singer of the band Rilo Kiley, and also did an album with the Watson Twins, which was less trendy rock, more vocal-forefront music.

Seconding Susan Tedeschi; these days she's with the Tedeschi Trucks band, a bluesy jam band that co-features her husband Derek Trucks, a slide-guitar prodigy. Their songs are soulful and they're both really astonishingly skilled guitar players, but she covers the lyrics. Her voice shares some Bonnie Raitt qualities.
posted by Sunburnt at 8:29 PM on January 4, 2014

Seconding Brody Dalle of the Distillers, but I personally prefer another project of hers: SPINNERETTE.

I strongly believe this is precisely what you are looking for!!
posted by wats at 8:31 PM on January 4, 2014

Another vote for Lucinda Williams. Might as well start with "Changed The Locks".

The Pandoras

Phranc is mostly a folk singer but here she is rocking out a bit with Redd Kross.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:33 PM on January 4, 2014

Holly Golightly: Run Cold, Walk a Mile. Holly Golightly has recorded a lot of music with a few different bands (you can read about it on Wikipedia).

Throwing Muses: Bright Yellow Gun (Oh my god, the 90s), Fish. Some songs are straight-ahead rock and some are super weird (those are my favorites!). Frontperson Kristin Hersh has also recorded under her own name, as well as with 50 Foot Wave (Clara Bow). Kristin Hersh is amazing.
posted by treefort at 8:38 PM on January 4, 2014 [5 favorites]

Missy Higgins

(Tracey Thorn ftw!)
posted by Quilford at 8:40 PM on January 4, 2014

Jessica Larrabee of She Keeps Bees. She's a dead ringer for Alison Mosshart.

More pop, but you might also like Gabi Christine of We Are Twin or Ambrosia Parsley of Shivaree.
posted by Cue the Strings at 8:40 PM on January 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Kasey Chambers you can' go wrong with
posted by colin_l at 8:41 PM on January 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nothing new to suggest really, but I love Sleater-Kinney and Neko Case.

For Neko Case, try the New Pornographers. She doesn't sing on all their recordings, but Mass Romantic has a lot of her.

RE: Sleater-Kinney, I'd suggest One Beat and All Hands on the Bad One. I really like the first song on All Hands On the Bad One.

Ooh, one more. The Long Blondes. I only have "Someone to Drive You Home", so I can't speak for their others. I heard Once and Never Again on KEXP, and went to get the disc right away. Don't think she's an alto, though...
posted by Gorgik at 8:42 PM on January 4, 2014

I would second the suggestion of checking out The Knife. Karen Dreijer Anderson is a good singer and like the other person mentioned, she/they often do weird/fun things with her voice to make it sound almost male.

Honestly, I would suggest checking out her solo album as Fever Ray as that album has more straight-ahead singing by her and it's maybe a bit more accessible than some The Knife songs, so it's a good way to dip your toe into her/their type of music and see if you like it.
posted by Fister Roboto at 8:43 PM on January 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Little Jackie is actually a duo with a female singer, Imani Coppola.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:43 PM on January 4, 2014

She's a sometimes breathy alto-mezzo, but I'd feel awful if you never heard the name of Mary Margaret O'Hara (album: Miss America). (edit. 'Breathy'. Jesus. She has genius phrasing and musicality, and her tone -- what.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:44 PM on January 4, 2014

White Lung! (song.) And here's a short, inspiring article by the lead singer, Mish Way, about the sublime satisfaction of screaming.

Also The Coathangers (song)--three different female vocalists in that band. And I'll 3rd Savages (song).
posted by The Minotaur at 8:45 PM on January 4, 2014

Sorry, two more.

You might enjoy Jenny Toomey, who has recorded lots of music both with bands (Grenadine, Liquorice, Tsunami) and under her own name, including a collaboration album with Franklin Bruno, which features this great song: Your Inarticulate Boyfriend.

Velocity Girl is on the poppier side but check them out! Sorry Again.
posted by treefort at 8:48 PM on January 4, 2014

Nthing Concrete Blonde - check out Johnnette Napolitano. She's amazing
posted by gt2 at 8:55 PM on January 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Bobbi Brat, RIP. Solo and with Red Scare.
posted by Room 641-A at 9:03 PM on January 4, 2014

Ok that one was more for me, probably (sorry if you didn't like the suggestion). One for you: Chaka Khan.
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:07 PM on January 4, 2014

Hi. My favorite new band of late is Hop Along which is near dead center for what you're looking for I think.

Backtracking a bit, you might give Pretty Girls Make Graves and whatever Katie Jane Garside has done (that is, Daisy Chainsaw and Queenadreena) a shot. I'm sure you know Throwing Muses but if you never did get their first self-titled record, get that one.

FWIW I like older drunker Cat Power more than newer cleaner soulfuller Cat Power so maybe that's a better entry point for you 'cause I think we have faiiirly similar taste here (ok, I like Bjork).
posted by furiousthought at 9:13 PM on January 4, 2014

Joan Osborne. Relish is a masterpiece.

Eliza Gilkyson -- country-ish, but very strong lyrically.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:15 PM on January 4, 2014

I love each and every singer you mentioned -- including Madonna and Lady Gaga but excepting Celine Dion -- so I may not have credentials to help you make effective distinctions between vocalists. But I insist that everyone listen to "Good Luck" by Basement Jaxx. The (guest) vocals are by Lisa Kekaula, who fronts a pretty mean band called The BellRays.

Also I know you mentioned not liking Bjork but this cover with PJ Harvey of "Satisfaction" is pretty amazing and shows Bjork's voice off to good effect.

Of your "somewhere in the middle" list, I think Kate Bush is the great one but suggest you may be most likely to warm to Emily Haines, whose work is pretty angular in total.

Maybe Haim? Too poppy? What about M.I.A.?
posted by Mothlight at 9:25 PM on January 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

You mention loving Aretha, so I thought I'd add if you don't already have her 1971 release Live at the Filmore West, get it now. it's more of a full-on gospel rave-up than Motown-- the band & crowd are all just on fire throughout. Stomping good time of an album.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:26 PM on January 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

L7, Kim Deal/The Breeders

And a local Portland garage punk of young women who completely, totally rock: Summer Cannibals (yup, named after the Patti Smith song).
posted by bluedaisy at 9:30 PM on January 4, 2014

Ann f-ing Wilson

Kristin Hersh
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:43 PM on January 4, 2014 [5 favorites]

Beautiful South -- try A Little Time? Rose Royce? k.d. lang?
posted by kmennie at 9:51 PM on January 4, 2014

Lucinda Williams skews kind of similar to Dolly Parton. Also Emmylou Harris.
Cocteau Twins?
Cowboy Junkies?
posted by mermily at 9:59 PM on January 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Tracy Chapman
Mari Boine
posted by jamjam at 10:07 PM on January 4, 2014

Maria McKee fronted Lone Justice
Kay Hanley fronted Letters to Cleo and The Dilettantes
Chantal Claret fronted Morningwood
posted by nicwolff at 10:22 PM on January 4, 2014

Mary's Danish.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:23 PM on January 4, 2014

Adding votes for Hole, Liz Phair, Joan Jett, Lita Ford, and Heart.

What about Pat Benatar?
posted by SisterHavana at 10:23 PM on January 4, 2014

I'll put together a mixtape for you. For now, I'll cosign on Concrete Blonde but they're uneven.
posted by klangklangston at 10:24 PM on January 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

command+f suzi quatro
posted by klangklangston at 10:27 PM on January 4, 2014

The more obvious artists that haven't been mentioned yet are Blondie and Pat Benatar, but I also like Voice of the Beehive. Lita Ford's Kiss Me Deadly is a nice 80's snapshot.
posted by rfs at 10:27 PM on January 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Detroit Cobras
posted by gingerbeer at 10:28 PM on January 4, 2014

ZZ Ward?
posted by sigmagalator at 10:35 PM on January 4, 2014

Catatonia (later solo as Cerys Matthews)
B52s. If you've never delved into their catalog past Love Shack, you should!
Roberta Flack
Nina Simone

Also no-one has mentioned Garbage, 4 Non-Blondes, No Doubt or many of the successful 90s female fronted bands here- too obvious?
posted by fshgrl at 10:44 PM on January 4, 2014

OK last comment I swear but if you like Amy Winehouse maybe check out
Amy McDonald

and Duffy. And, back to the classics: Tina Turner circa River Deep, Mountain High.
posted by fshgrl at 11:01 PM on January 4, 2014

Screamin' Sirens
Lydia Lunch
posted by Room 641-A at 11:56 PM on January 4, 2014

Brandi Carlile? "Turpentine" and "The Story" are two of her bigger hits; both on The Story. (Her next albums, Give Up the Ghost and Bear Creek, are a little more slickly produced, and her first one (Brandi Carlile) is less so.

I think she's usually characterized as folk or "alt country"; I'm not a fan of super-autotuned, poppy country but I think that she seriously rocks. She definitely has a strong, distinctive voice.
posted by Austenite at 12:42 AM on January 5, 2014

Skunk Anansie!
posted by gnimmel at 2:33 AM on January 5, 2014

Mavis Staples
Joan Osborne
Lez Zeppelin
posted by maggieb at 2:52 AM on January 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

I like pretty noisy rock myself, and love women vocalists that don't whisper and otherwise try to lull me to sleep.

Queen Adreena and Daisy Chainsaw (Katie Jane Garside being the vocalist for both).

Pretty Like Drugs

Starts out a bit whispy, but you could skip to 1:30 and see where else she likes to go.

Why more people aren't familiar with KatieJane Garside is beyond me!

Some other current and less-noisesome female vocalists I appreciate would be Florence And the Machine, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Neko Case, and Brandi Carlile.
posted by herox at 5:21 AM on January 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Tons of excellent suggestions here, but I second Screaming Females, Sleater-Kinney, and Helium in particular. Others you might consider: Dead Sara, Curve, Trophy Wife, Melissa auf der Maur's solo stuff, Tracy Bonham (particularly her first album). If you like male/female duos, Sons and Daughters and Sky Cries Mary are both great. Also, I happen to like Jack Off Jill's album "Clear Hearts, Grey Flowers" a lot, but it may not be everyone's cup of tea.

I'm into a whole lot of music, and probably the vast majority of it is female-fronted. You specified rock here, but I can also give you some recommendations in the metal/industrial/electronic genres; PM me if you like.
posted by cosmicbeast at 6:33 AM on January 5, 2014

Seconding Ay McDonald, Skunk Anansie and ZZ Ward. Has anyone said Biff Naked yet?

But seriously, ZZ Ward's album has been in the CD player in my car for about eight months now.
posted by mibo at 6:55 AM on January 5, 2014

I think you would really like Marcia Ball. I would go for one of her '80's albums first (Gatorhythms would be good) or one of her live albums.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:58 AM on January 5, 2014

Thalia Zedek
Delta 5
No one said Royal Trux yet?
couple bands from Baltimore -
Wye Oak
posted by citron at 7:23 AM on January 5, 2014

Who do I have on my general rotation that I haven't seen listed yet? Some of these may be seriously out into left field for a rock chick, but I'm a rock chick with seriously left-field tastes, so...

Mary Elizabeth McGlynn gets a special, set-apart mention because the only music I've ever found of hers is on the Silent Hill soundtracks, and it KILLS me. Perhaps my favorite female vocalist EVER, and she's actually a voice actress with no solo album or mainstream music career.

Lacuna Coil
The Gathering...
...which led the singer Anneke van Giersbergen to Agua de Annique.
Indigo Girls
Niyaz - english isn't a requirement, right?
Paula Cole
posted by Adelwolf at 7:23 AM on January 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

I really like Evie Sands' Any Way That You Want Me LP fro 1970. Here she is on the Johnny Cash show

Also if you like Dusty you might like Madeline Bell , who was one of her backup singers in the 60s.
posted by plasticpalacealice at 7:44 AM on January 5, 2014

Karen Dalton
Martha Wainwright
Victoria Williams
Beth Hart
posted by fourpotatoes at 8:26 AM on January 5, 2014

Seconding Joan Armatrading. She is amazing.
posted by merejane at 8:38 AM on January 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Waitresses, too!
posted by bibliogrrl at 9:00 AM on January 5, 2014

also nthing for sleater-kinney, who saved rock music for me, but i recommend starting with 'dig me out'

additions to the already great thread in no particular order:

bettie serveert
sleigh bells
that dog
posted by lescour at 9:34 AM on January 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Looks like we have pretty similar taste in music. Try Anna Calvi, especially her first album. She's an amazing guitarist. Here's one of my favourites: Suzanne and I (YouTube)

Also, YACHT - Dystopia (YouTube).
posted by miche11e at 9:36 AM on January 5, 2014

I read the entire thread and didn't see Linda Rondstadt.

Also nthing Heart and Susan Tedeschi, damn she has some pipes.

Thanks, I've been listening to Fleetwood Mac and The Ecstasy of Gold for like an hour now.
posted by Sphinx at 9:48 AM on January 5, 2014

Chrissy Amphlett
posted by flabdablet at 9:54 AM on January 5, 2014

You're either going to put them in the middle or love category but as I read this thread I am listening to First Aid Kit (track: Lion's roar) and will submit that for consideration. They've got a folksy Dolly Parton twang kind of thing going on but they are actually from Sweden.
posted by like_neon at 9:56 AM on January 5, 2014

nthing Joan Armatrading. My favorite is How Cruel. It's an EP and it's FABULOUS! A great way to get into her.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:04 AM on January 5, 2014

Seconding (or thirding) Kristin Hersh, Alabama Shakes, and Laura Nyro. Not necessarily in that order.

Oh, and Ani diFranco---but I'd start with her live compilation, Living in Clip.
posted by chicainthecity at 10:58 AM on January 5, 2014

Belly's King album (YouTube)
posted by catastropher at 11:02 AM on January 5, 2014

Amy Ray rocks pretty hard, both when she's writing as half of Indigo Girls (Go from Come On Now Social) or on her own (sadly I can't find any studio of this on YouTube, but here's her performing Lucy Stoners from Stag in an audience recording).
posted by hippybear at 11:35 AM on January 5, 2014

Try Haim! I've been obsessed with then since their album was released.
posted by ancient star at 12:17 PM on January 5, 2014

I'm emphatically 3rding the Yeah Yeah Yeahs!
posted by blahtsk at 3:12 PM on January 5, 2014

Royal Thunder.

Mlny Parsonz sounds like the genetic fusion of Anne Wilson and Janis Joplin.
posted by Sauce Trough at 3:25 PM on January 5, 2014

Sally Timms, w/ and w/o the Mekons
Eleanor Friedberger, solo or as half of the Fiery Furnaces, who range from slightly off-kilter rock to much more electronic and experimental
Kathy McCarty, who is mostly known for her album of Daniel Johnston covers
Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter
Wild Carnation
Taxi Taxi!
White Magic
Angel Olsen
posted by hydrophonic at 3:27 PM on January 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

You might want to check out Nobody's Sweetheart by Sandy Dillon. Here's the title track.
posted by EvaDestruction at 3:49 PM on January 5, 2014

teenage and torture, by shilpa ray and her happy hookers
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 7:04 PM on January 5, 2014

I am shocked and baffled that we're 145 comments in without anyone mentioning Electrelane, and instead of disappointing myself by reading through the whole thread to check I'm going to charitably assume someone spelled it "Eleftrelane" somewhere between comments 10 and 15.

Two for Joy
Take the Bit Between Your Teeth
On Parade

very strong voices

Check, though my definition of a very strong voice may be different than yours. There is also yelling and even ululating at times, in two languages besides English. Sometimes backed by a choir. I'll say up front that the vocals are not always the main event--they can be buried in the mix, many tracks are instrumental or even improvised, and it's possible that Verity Susman's voice is an acquired taste--but I'll plow ahead anyway because I think Electrelane are SO GOOD.

interesting/angular/edgy music

I spades. Axes, imo their best album, was produced by Steve Albini (right here in Chicago!). But they're all great. Motorik rhythms that reach at least 9 on the Mohs scale, guitar sounds that can be exactly described by the word "angular" and a Farfisa or something. Proggy freakouts. Also saxophone (1, 2) and banjo occasionally.

wispy/breathy/twee indie singing

Nope, nope, not even a little. Maybe a little breathy but not leaning into the breathyness at all.

Electrelane were so, so good guys. SO good. They were like I wanted Stereolab to be, without the irritating shag carpet and twee french vocals and Jim O'Rourke (ok, I actually like Laetitia Sadier, but I completely get it if you don't). They were seriously the best thing in rock from 2004-2008 or so.

Bonus: Bronski Beat.
posted by pullayup at 7:30 PM on January 5, 2014

From a friend:

Kirsty MacColl
Sam Phillips
Shelby Lynn
posted by Room 641-A at 8:09 PM on January 5, 2014

One more, sorry.

Staple Singers
posted by Room 641-A at 8:18 PM on January 5, 2014

Response by poster: Well! Got back from my trip to Amoeba. To maximize the number of things to get and still not blow my budget, I limited myself to what I could find in the used section for under $8. In the category of "stuff I've never heard or only heard a little bit of," I scored the Dum Dum Girls, the Pipettes, the Raveonettes, Joan Armatrading, and Rasputina; in the category of "I used to listen to them back in the day but never replaced my vinyl and so have barely heard them for 20 years but this thread inspired me to rectify that," I scored Hole, the Divinyls, and X-Ray Spex; in the category of "I already knew I loved them, but got some more because why not," I scored Aimee Mann, Dusty Springfield, and Sally Timms. (I also got Aretha Franklin's Live at the Fillmore West via Dropbox, courtesy of a fellow Mefite and total mensch right here in this thread.) So thanks, all! This has been a delight, and will be a great source of new discoveries for months, if not years, to come.
posted by scody at 8:23 PM on January 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Sigh.... And then he opened his iTunes:

Lena Lovitch
Rosie Flores
posted by Room 641-A at 8:25 PM on January 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

You'll love Thao with the Get Down Stay Down

Nina Simone is a badass, and you've heard her sing Sinnerman in movies
Mazzy Star
Lauryn Hill's - The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
Corrine Bailey Rae - track: Girl Put your records on
First Aid Kit - Drunken Trees - just skip the first 60 seconds of the first track.
Sheryl Crow knows how to rock on her self-titled
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs (duh!)
Joni Mitchell
Etta James
Janis Jopin
Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins - Rabbit Fur Coat - Jenny Lewis is the female lead from Rilo Kiley and the album is both a shout-out to the 1910's a beautiful and subtle rail against organized religion.
Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds
posted by jander03 at 9:49 PM on January 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Rainer Maria
The Selector
The Vaselines (maybe about half the time)
posted by hydrophonic at 11:10 PM on January 5, 2014

Oh nobody mentioned Sia. Girl has got some serious lungs and songwriting chops with a fair dose of quirk - I'm often found in my car singing along about chocolate, sweet potatoes, algebra and graphs and shoes. Don't let her recent chart collaborations (Guetta etc) put you off her past albums (pop/blues).

Here's a recent interview in which she reveals how shes managed to be in the envious position of not being contracted to tour or promote her next album. Hint: retire, write songs worth $12m of sales for other artists, get new record contract.
posted by Ness at 2:06 AM on January 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

(I once saw a Sally Tims show in a small local bar where she was so mean to her opening act that it made me acutely uncomfortable. This was Cowboy Sally-era, oh my god she made fun of him and everything, and not in a funny way. Admittedly, her opening act struck me as pretty terrible, at least that night, poor son of a gun. Have you heard her work with the Mekons? In my opinion, Honky-Tonkin' and So Good It Hurts are two of the finest rock albums ever released, and I also like quite a bit of Rock and Roll, particularly "Learning To Live On Your Own", which she sings on. It's weird that the first two aren't better-known...I first heard them in, like, 1993 and they are almost the only albums that I liked back then that I still think are really top notch. (The others being, pretty much, Sandinista and Wild Gift and Germfree Adolescents and a few other punk classics, and honestly I think that the Mekons are a smarter band than The Clash. Less warm, but more to say.)
posted by Frowner at 8:25 AM on January 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

posted by j03 at 9:19 AM on January 6, 2014

It doesn't get much better than Poly Styrene from X-ray Spex.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 9:23 AM on January 6, 2014

So many good suggestions already made! Seconding Dead Sara; some kind person put Weatherman on a MeFi music swap CD and turned me on to them.

You might like Scanners, who have a pretty broad musical style. Highlights include Raw and Lowlife from there first album; with Sick Love and Salvation from their second. Both are solid albums from start to finish though. They also have a new LP out, which I have not picked up yet so cannot speak on.
posted by Panjandrum at 9:44 AM on January 6, 2014

GOAT is rocking my world currently.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 9:49 AM on January 6, 2014

The Primitives - Crash Check out the rest too...
posted by alfanut at 12:12 PM on January 6, 2014

Lissy Trullie has done much good for me in recent months.
posted by itesser at 12:21 PM on January 6, 2014

Thirding Garbage -- I recently discovered them by way of Shirley Manson's role in The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and listened to nothing else for a month. She's got a fierce, unconventional voice that might fit your bill. (See also the version of Samson and Delilah that she did for the show.)

Different genre, but Adele might be good as well, especially if you're a Winehouse fan.

Although a lot of her stuff is as much spoken as sung, I find Laurie Anderson's voice extremely compelling.

Perhaps Tracy Chapman, k.d. lang, Aimee Mann...
posted by McCoy Pauley at 9:11 AM on January 7, 2014

des_ark, specifically Loose Lips Sink Ships. She has a few (slightly) softer albums too, but that's a great place to start. Listen to the whole album, from start to finish.

If you have the chance to see her live, with her full band, you won't regret it. She can rock like no other.
posted by barnone at 9:57 AM on January 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Back to offer the lady/dude duos Stereo Total and Crystal Castles, but mostly to say I’m pissed with myself to have even accidentally suggested the brilliance of Mary Margaret O’Hara could be any kind of wrong. De gustibus etc. was all I meant, the woman's her own genre.
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:06 PM on January 7, 2014

seconding so many of the bands/ladies already suggested in this thread, and adding a few that haven't been mentioned:
Angel Olsen
& maybe early Tegan & Sara (though I suspect the new album is too poppy to be quite to your liking)
posted by dizziest at 7:41 AM on January 8, 2014

Oh man, I just found my copy of the Akron compilation from Stiff Records 1978 and it has a bunch of female vocal gems on it. Consider:

Rachel Sweet -- Truck Stop Queen (pretty rad! from the compilation)
The Waitresses -- The Comb (some live version, pretty good! dual male/female vocals. i think the version from the comp is better)
The Waitresses -- Slide (from the comp - only male vocals but still good)
Jane Aire and the Belvederes -- Yankee Wheels (she had two great tracks on the comp, can't find them online - "when i was young" is totally rocking and has a very weird time signature thing going on)
Chi Pig -- Apu-Api (Help Me) (awesome weirdness)
posted by molecicco at 9:19 AM on January 9, 2014

Marissa Paternoster is the guitarist and singer for Screaming Females.

She rocks.

FPPs here and here.
posted by bonobothegreat at 12:38 PM on January 9, 2014

The Au Pairs
Pylon!! I adore her snarl.
Thalia Zedek ("Strong" and "Evil Hand" would be awesome examples but I can't find them on YT)
The Bush Tetras
Team Dresch
Bardo Pond
The Spinanes
S PRCSS's drummer sings on MNML some (and how can you not love a song where she snarls "fashion, aw fuck you" and gives a shout-out to Six Finger Satellite while on the rest of the record the lead singer's going on about postmodernism, Walter Benjamin, Billy Idol, and gender among other things?)
Bettie Serveert
Rainer Maria
Carissa's Wierd
Edith Frost
The Butchies

possibly kryptonite-y, but you never know...Y Pants, Young Marble Giants, Scout Niblett (her voice is a lot smokier on last year's breakup album; her breakout stuff was very "channeling a wild screaming little girl id" thing which I love but it sounds like you would not), Lisa Germano (doesn't "rock" though), Julie Doiron (ditto), the Christina Rosenvinge records Tim Foljahn was involved in like Frozen Pool (the one with that Story of the Eye song and the Leonard Cohen cover), Kath Bloom, ESG, Suprashiny.

also maybe, not quite what you're looking for but maybe:
Shannon Wright, Bowery Electric, Yo La Tengo, Low (I will admit right now to a current sloppy emotional obsession with their recent Rihanna cover even, which I think Mimi nails while Alan's just sort of there), Jenny Toomey ("Breezewood, PA" and her Franklin Bruno cover "Just Because It's Dying" are fab), Kristin Hersh, Hope Sandoval, Sarah White, Beth Gibbons' solo stuff and the newish Portishead, Mia Doi Todd, Nico's The Marble Index, Tami Hart.
posted by ifjuly at 5:12 PM on January 21, 2014

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