International Women’s Day is more than an occasion to celebrate and acknowledge the countless contributions and successes women have made to our world. Today also is a reminder of how much more is left to be done to achieve gender parity, where every woman and girl has the right to exercise their full rights and has access to all economic, social, and cultural opportunities. While the music industry has done much in this regard, it still has a long ways to go to recognize the talents of women artists and bands.
Today, we dedicate two posts to International Women’s Day, showcasing the music of women and non-binary artists and woman-fronted bands. The musical selection features indie all-stars as well as young artists leaving lasting impressions.
Seven songs are included in The Matinee ’23 v. 030, and they encourage us to be true to ourselves and those we love. Click here to go to Part 2 of the International Women’s Day double feature, which includes eight more tracks that will leave a permanent mark.
If there’s a specific tune you would like to hear, click on the title in the list below. As we’ve done in the past, the order is alphabetical. Two posts are written to get these great tracks on to HypeM.
Or if you would like to listen to all the tunes without any interruption (i.e., clicking on each track provided below or working through both The Matinee lists), listen to The Songs of March and April 2023 playlist on Spotify and SoundCloud. These tunes plus a host of others are streaming on these platforms.
Alaska Reid – “Back to This” (Los Angeles via Montana, USA)
RIYL: HAIM, Ellur, Bonnie Tyler
We were first introduced to Alaska Reid back in 2017 when she was known as Alyeska. At the time, she was on an Angel Olsen-like trajectory with her jaw-dropping, indie folk-rock. Now recording under her own name, she remains on a similar path in that she, like Olsen, has branched out. Her debut album, Disenchanter, which will be released July 14th on Luminelle Recordings, should reveal just how far she’s extended herself. Kicking things off is “Back to This”.
Those who lived during the late ’80s and early ’90s will be taken back in time on this dreamy rock number. A light, gauzy guitar twinkles in the background while a probing bass line bounces in the foreground. Reid’s lithe and airy vocal, meanwhile, is full of introspection, recounting past dreams and how she wants to re-live moments when she and another took chances. As she sings these words, we, too, dream about a time when we may have been naïve but were free.
Angel Olsen – “Nothing’s Free” (Asheville, NC USA)
RIYL: Angel Olsen channeling Leonard Cohen in a smokey jazz club
Angel Olsen’s Big Time was one of those unforgettable and powerful albums that knew how to embrace souls while simultaneously tear them pieces. It was emotional, beautiful, and a masterpiece. Unsurprisingly, it was one of 2022’s most acclaimed albums, including one of our favorites. Instead of resting on her laurels, arguably the greatest singer-songwriter of the 21st Century has a few more songs to share, such as “Nothing’s Free”.
This old-school lament is simply gorgeous. It is a reminder of the days before television existed and, instead, families huddled around the radio. A beautiful piano and organ arrangement, a sultry saxophone, and feathery percussion accompany Olsen, who sounds like a radio star from the 1930s. She also tells a tale as classic as the sound, as she recounts one person’s loneliness and broken heart. And how she desires just one thing in this world.
“Here it comes no way to stop it now
Down for you like no one else
Like no one else”
Stunning, once again.
Barrie – “Empty” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: Wet, Told Slant, Men I Trust
Throughout Barrie Lindsay’s history as Barrie, their music long has been the shining light for long-time friends. Warm positivity seem to flow through every track even when some tough issues are being addressed. Adopting this approach creates the feeling that behind every dark cloud lies light, and Lindsay reminds of this on “Empty”.
This low-key, bedroom-style indie-pop number will induce smiles. The diligent keys, the light touches of the percussion, and a fluttering flute create the beautifully immersive melody. Lindsay’s hushed vocal is similarly embracing, and they sound like they’re sitting next to us and sharing their deepest thoughts and emotions. In this situation, they open up about following the crowd and trying to reclaim ownership of their body and mind. Their words are honest and to the point:
“I like to be so like-minded
I like to be reminded
Like an unproven science
Gotta look what’s behind it”
Gracie and Rachel – “Call Away” (New York City, USA)
RIYL: Sunflower Thieves, Azure Ray, Wilsen
It’s not rocket science to understand why Gracie Coates and Rachel Ruggles, who are better known as Gracie and Rachel, have developed a cult-like following: the duo create incredibly beautiful harmonies. Once their voices are heard, time stops. For newcomers, do what Gracie and Rachel’s fans do: pause everything you’re doing and just listen, especially to “Call Away”.
Delicate alt-pop and alt-R&B rhythms merge with fleeting folktronica. As each element calmly bubbles to the surface and the pair’s hypnotizing voices burst through each sphere, a floating feeling is created. We become lost in the pair’s sonic spell, completely captivated by their grace and magic. As well as their words, which describe how we can be our worst enemies. When that happens, we need to stop and call someone in search for help. To call on Gracie and Rachel to work their soothing magic.
“Right when we think we’re on a roll
We go and mess it up
Yeah right when we think we got it down
We turn it upside down
And right when we think it’s all been said and done
We go and say it again (say it again, say it again)
Yeah right when we think it’s over
We’re just starting over”
The single is out on Righteous Babe.
Indigo De Souza – “Smog” (Asheville, USA)
RIYL: Illuminati Hotties, Wallows, Dayglow
What makes Indigo De Souza one of the great, young artists around? Plenty of reasons explain why, such as her ability to create raw, emotional ballads like “Younger & Dumber” or euphoric guitar-pop. The biggest and most important answer can be found in her songwriting. She isn’t just writing stories about her own experiences or thoughts. On the contrary, De Souza crafts tales that are intended to lift everyone up from the abyss. So gather your friends, wrap your arms around one another in a massive circle, and bounce in unison while spinning De Souza’s newest single.
“Smog” is euphoria bottled up inside a slow-building and moving pop-rock number. The jittery percussion creates the urgency while the humming synth builds the excitement. As the song progresses, De Souza’s voice similarly becomes energized. She tells us how she feels free when the sun sets and darkness approaches. How in the night she finds her own light, and we fully comprehend her words, particularly when she shares:
“I come alive in the night time, when everybody else is done
I come alive, it’s the right time – to really start having fun”
Juliana Madrid – “Afterlife” (Texas, USA)
RIYL: MUNA, Samia, CHVRCHES
Nothing is going to stop Juliana Madrid from fulfilling her dreams of being a music star. Not even being turned away from American Idol five years ago has derailed her from the path she started at a very young age. Maybe the rejection was the best thing to happen to the now 21-year old, as instead of being moulded in Simon Cowell’s vision, she gets to work with individuals who, themselves, made their mark independently, namely the folks at Neon Gold Records and its co-founder Lizzy Plapinger (a.k.a. LP). With their support, she can release an infectious yet powerful single like “Afterlife”.
Musically, Madrid’s newest song is an indie-pop banger that builds from its melodic beginnings into a glistening and exuberant finale. It basically is a kick in the ass, where the bursting synths and guitar incite us to move. But Madrid’s saccharine voice is what gives us confidence to move on, as she sings, “I’m not great, but I might be alright / So kiss my perfect afterlife goodbye.” If you asked us, her afterlife – i.e., post-American Idol life – looks extremely promising, and she might still experience the Hollywood ending.
Madrid’s sophomore EP is expected later this year. She’s going to be a star.
Kali Horse – “Wigs” (Toronto, Canada)
RIYL: She Keeps Bees, Besnard Lakes, The Kills
While one great Toronto band is about to bid adieu, another emerges to take their place. The latter are Kali Horse, which consists of Sam Maloney and Desiree Das Gupta. Whereas Dilly Dally peeled faces with their wall-shaking, bone-crushing alt-rock, the Canadian duo opt for thunderous, melodic, psych-infused garage-rock. They easily can deliver roaring rockers. However, they are at their best when they slow the pace a bit and allow every note, tone, and word to crawl under our skin and settle for the night. This is the experience on “Wigs”.
Dim the lights or draw in the curtains and allow the pummeling melody take over your mind. Allow the growl of the guitar, the hammering rhythms, and Gupta’s searing vocal get etched into your mind. Slowly, we thrash our heads while envisioning an eerie, desolate landscape where secret identities come alive. Where the ordinary person peels off their skin to reveal who they truly are, so Gupta says to us with a seductive and sinister tone.
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