As the year comes to a close, I have no hesitation in declaring 2013 another great year for girls with guitars singing about feelings. Of course while any year a lady picks up an electric guitar and sings into a microphone is a good one in my book, 2013 has been brutal in both the amount and the quality of music being released.
Album of the year clearly goes to Waxahatchee's Cerulean Salt, also known as "the album Alice will not shut the fuck up about". The first thing I learned about Katie Crutchfield (the main member of Waxahatchee) was that she has the cover of my favorite album tattooed on her arm which meant I was going to be a fan for life, but it helps that she made the greatest fucking album.
Every song on Cerulean Salt is just dripping with emotion. The way she yells on Misery Over Dispute, it sounds as though she is screaming for her life. The description in Dixie Cups and Jars of a father at a wedding, resenting his daughter being married, resenting everything, and then that guitar comes in for the solo and just tears through everything.
Nevermind that the best song on the album is just Katie singing over bass and drums, the opening line of Brother Bryan "I said to you on the night that we met, I am not well" gets stuck in your head for months and months and months. Get yourself a copy on vinyl, put on your best headphones and listen to that until it shakes you to your core. It will not take long.
Second place, though really I should just relent and let them be co-albums of the year, is Upset's She's Gone. From the first few seconds I knew I was going to love this album and it totally delivered.
Containing everything I wish someone had said for me while I was in high school, Ali Koehler has written an amazing album and has the band to back it up. Patty Schemel pounds the shit out of those drums.
The first time I listened to Queen Frosteen I said to myself "What the fuck is this?" with its ridiculous lyrics, but as soon as I shut up and listened I understood that they are perfect and I was an idiot before I realized it. No such realization was necessary for Phone Calls, that song is just perfect from the first note. I could listen to that guitar solo go on forever.
Also bonus points for making the right decision to go the opposite direction of lo-fi and instead produce an album that is polished as fuck. Ali Koehler has an amazing singing voice and I am so glad she decided to let people hear it, instead of hiding it deep under the guitar. Nevermind that the band is named "Upset" because that is how they feel all the time HOW FUCKING PERFECT IS THAT?????
For a debut album, Upset is clearly in the "holy shit" territory. Both those albums are on Don Giovanni Records, which is consistently putting out the best shit. They are also the label home to Amy Rebecca Klein's two bands: Hilly Eye (who put out the pretty great Reasons To Live this year too), and Leda (whose new album is forthcoming) and Screaming Females, who did not release an album this year but seriously go see them any chance you get if you want to get your face melted off.
At this point I am buying pretty much everything Don Giovanni puts out, as though they are K Records in the early 90s, and the thought that I have a label I can follow like this makes me so happy I could just die.
Straight out of Northampton, Massachusettes, Speedy Ortiz owned the summer with their album Major Arcana and No Below, aka the song I could listen to forever and probably already am.
The whole album made me queasy the first time I listened to it; shifty, with lots of minor keys and pulsing guitar lines, but I still loved it. It eventually occurred to me why: despite feeling so unsettled, it was very much the sequel to Metric's Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? that they never could be bothered to make. This is about as strong of a recommendation I can provide.
Something else I have been listening to non-stop this year was Kate Nash's third album, Girl Talk. I always wrote her off as the non-union Mexican equivalent of Lily Allen, but then she picked up a bass guitar and wrote all of these fucking amazing songs.
The one-two punch of the screaming on Sister and then the sing-songiness of Omygod! is near perfect and captures both sides of Nash and what it is to be a lady in 2013. Bonus points for touring with an all-girl band, even though I missed seeing her all three times I had a chance, and taking La Sera (last year's album of the year) out as openers.
Further proof of 2013's dominance is Heliotropes managing to capture the batshit intensity of their live shows in a fucking amazing album, A Constant Sea. Heliotropes are much better than you are expecting, and you should be expecting a lot because they fucking deliver.
Not too many guitars on the new Julie Ruin album, Run Fast, but they get a pass because Kathleen Hanna is a living legend and you need to see THE PUNK SINGER yesterday, so get on both of those.
Same goes for the new Thao and the Get Down Stay Down album, We The Common, where she has traded the guitar for the banjo on many of the songs. Does not matter, Thao is still an unstoppable force of nature and the album is so great.
Savages put out the excellent Silence Yourself but they are much better live. Similarly titled but better in album form, mostly because I missed seeing them open for Waxahatchee, is Aye Nako's Unleash Yourself which is pretty tight.
I do not even have time to go into the new albums from Swearin', Fear of Men, Wax Idols or Lemuria.
And I am sure there are a million other great lady guitar bands out there that I have not even found yet. Of course this has always been the case; women have always been making amazing music with loud electric guitars, but it certainly does feel like this has been a banner year.
The thought that makes me the most excited is that there is a 13-year old who is listening to Cerulean Salt, or She's Gone or any of the amazing albums that came out this year. That girl is gonna get her favorite album cover tattooed on her arm. I really want to hear what she has to sing about.