If you’ve been paying attention to the music scene this past year, it’s pretty clear that this year has been the year for new music from people who aren’t all white dudes. TBH, it’s been a much-needed breath of fresh air. Girl musicians have often been criticized for sounding too similar… to which we say: you’re just not listening.
Men have dominated music for a long time, especially in the indie and hip-hop scenes, which makes people lump together every girl musician under the same genre. But it’s 2017, and we are over that. In every genre from indie to hip-hop, some of the biggest and best sounds have been coming from groups of people who are often ignored in the mainstream music community, primarily girl musicians. So, if you’re on the hunt for new music — look no further. We’ve compiled 16 must-listen artists from every genre and style so you can finally perfect your masterpiece playlist.
1. Best Coast
Best Coast can best be described as 1960s surf rock with a modern, girl-power twist. Their songs are super simple in their melodies and very straightforward in both their sound and lyrics, but the distortion and fuzzy guitar on many of their songs add a little bit of grunge. Lead singer Bethany Cosentino’s voice is beautifully clear and sounds like sunshine. While their lyrics aren’t super-deep, it’s strangely what makes listening to Best Coast so refreshing.
Mitski is another artist with an incredibly diverse sound. While all of her albums are worth giving a listen, we strongly recommend her first studio-length album, Bury Me At Makeout Creek. While her sound can sometimes be extremely raw and (at times) a bit abrasive, her songs have an underlying vulnerability and beauty to them that create a signature style. If you’re looking for a song that will completely destroy you from the inside out (in a good way), try “Last Words of a Shooting Star” or “A Burning Hill.” Goosebumps.
Prepare to be completely blown away by the incredible lyricism and imagery in Noname’s debut album, Telefone. Hailing from Chicago, Noname is a slam poet and rapper whose talents have thrust her into the spotlight of the hip-hop world. Her history in poetry is entirely evident in her songs, which discuss issues such as racism, sexism, and her experiences growing up in Chicago. While they are extremely personal and highly-detailed, something about the emotions she conveys in her songs make them relatable.
4. Julien Baker
With a voice that will make you crumble into a million pieces and then put you back together, Julien Baker’s sound is totally unforgettable. Seriously, every note will leave you with goosebumps. As primarily a girl and her guitar, Baker’s style is about as raw indie as it gets. While upon first listen her songs may seem overwhelmingly sad, there are recurring themes of self-realization and hope that make them even more thoughtful and beautiful. Listen to “Good News” if you’re in the mood to feel a whole lot of things.
5. Hop Along
Speaking of completely unreal voices, please check out Hop Along. While they may seem like a typical punk band upon initial listen, something about singer, Francis Quinlan’s voice that gives every song a much deeper, haunting sound. If you want to be seriously blown away, check out their NPR Tiny Desk Concert.
The sound has a combination of power and vulnerability that is completely irreplicable. One song that best exemplifies this is “Well-Dressed.” The song has so much complexity and different levels that you have to listen to it about 50 times before fully grasping it.
6. Angel Olsen
Angel Olsen is a complete and total badass. Her songs are bare bones, confident and totally distinct. Her voice is able to change from expressing anger, to fear, to hopelessness, to joy and passion. The way her voice is able to emote so effortlessly makes it feel like she’s singing directly to you. Check out “Shut Up Kiss Me” for a song (as you can imagine) that oozes with an unsual combo of angst and confidence. Then listen to one of her softer songs like “Those Were the Days” to see the true variety in her style.
Girlpool’s sound is hard to pin down. Often described as a folk-punk band, their sound is very DIY, a little angry and quite honest. What makes their songs so great is that they often lack subtlety or nuance. They’re unapologetically raw. Their songs discuss everything from heartbreak to social injustice, always marked with their distinct harmonies. To truly hear the magic that happens when singers Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad combine, we recommend checking out “Chinatown.”
8. Frankie Cosmos
Greta Kline, known by the stage name Frankie Cosmos, is somehow able to make everyone who listens to her music feel like they’re her best friend. As the poster girl musician for indie pop/rock, her songs depict realistic narratives about self-exploration, doubt, growing up and feeling a little bit lost. Listening to Frankie makes it feel like you’re sitting on the floor of your childhood home lamenting with your close friends about the current state of your lives. Don’t be fooled by her upbeat sound — Kline is able to tackle dark and heavy subjects under the guise of pop music.
Check out “Art School” to truly hear it.
Alvays is super-fun indie pop group whose sound is heavily melodic. The simple melodies and undeniable catchiness vibe of their songs will remind you of bands like the Smiths and the Cure — pop with an underlying moodiness/sadness. Their more classic-sounding songs are often punctuated with rougher, synth sounds which makes their sound undeniably unique. Alvvay’s music is great for blasting when you’re driving in the summer, because it’s impossible to not sing along.
Check out “Next of Kin” to hear a song that exemplifies their edgy pop sound best.
10. Speedy Ortiz
If you’re looking for a totally badass girl musician, Speedy Ortiz is a must-listen. Front woman and founder of the group Sadie Dupuis has a voice that will shake you to your core with its intensity. The band combines Dupuis’s raw sound with heavily-distorted guitars and high-tempo drumming for a sound that is undeniably punk. With awesome lyrics like “I’m not bossy, I’m the boss,” their music will make you feel like you’re 16 again blasting music in your bed room and laying around with your friends.
Check out “Raising the Skate” for a full dose of angst.
The actual style of indie pop group, SALES, is hard to describe. Their songs vary from straightforward pop songs with traditional rock instruments, to synth-based and dream-like tunes that go off on electro tangents. They’re somehow able to take music styles, instruments and feelings that should be totally incoherent when pieced together, but trust us — it works.
Listen to “Getting It On” for a song that will completely enchant you and make it feel like you’re drifting off to sleep.
12. Sylvan Esso
Sylvan Esso are no strangers to the indie pop scene. You may be familiar with their most popular song, “Coffee,” a song that is extremely indicative of their overall vibe/genre. Consisting of lead singer Amelia Meath and producer Nick Sanborn, the duo is able to create an extremely cohesive and clean, yet enchanting sound. The lyrics of their songs are often vague and artistic, which adds a layer of interest to their undeniably-catchy sound. The heavy synths combined with Meath’s vocals is what makes their songs sound just a little edgier and more haunting than typical synth-pop.
13. Princess Nokia
Known by her stage name Princess Nokia, hip-hop royalty, Destiny Frasqueri has an undeniable energy and enthusiasm to her songs that will leave you feeling empowered and 100% amped. The influence of New York City’s art scene is evident in the electro-jazz-synth sound of her songs. Her music covers everything from the day-to-day in NYC to highly-political complex issues such as racism and the difficulties that come with being a girl musician.
Fun fact about Frasqueri: she once jumped into a crowd and slapped some dude who shouted misogynistic obscenities at her during a show. So yeah, she’s as real as it gets.
14. St. Vincent
The sound of St. Vincent is totally unusual, artistic and unlike anything you’ve probably ever heard. Heavy synth, throbbing bass and totally abstract lyrics combine to make each one of her songs sound like a piece of modern art. With her wildly curly hair and tall, modelesque stature; everything about St. Vincent makes her a true indie rock icon.
For something more mainstream, check out “Digital Witnesses.” For a song that’s a little bit heavier and dramatic, listen to “Huey Newton.”
15. Lady Lamb
Formerly known as Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, indie folk goddess Lady Lamb has a sound that is dreamy and ethereal. Aly Spaltro (whose stage name is Lady Lamb), has a voice that can shift from a folksy and delicate croon to a powerful, driving belt. Her songs evoke feelings of childhood wonder combined with adult themes. Listening to Lady Lamb feels like you’re twirling through a meadow on a breezy summer day, especially her song “Ten,” which weaves a tale about a childhood in Arizona.
If you enjoy music that’s a combination of hip-hop, R&B;, alternative, pop and essentially everything good in this world, give SZA (pronounced “Sizza”) a listen. Her style is kind of soft, whispery and melodic, but everything about her lyrics and attitude is totally kickass. Her most recent album, Ctrl is full of songs that will make you feel an unusual combination of powerful, heartbroken, nostalgic, in love and overjoyed.
Plus, if you’re not yet convinced, this album has songs featuring both Kendrick Lamar and Travis Scott. You may have heard her song “Love Galore” pop up on your hit music station, but give the whole album a listen.