Women innovating in music today

In celebration of International Women’s Day, I am writing this post, which I have had in my head for a while, but today is the perfect day to write and post it! So today’s artists, St. Vincent, and fellow 4AD labelmate tUnE-yArDs (and maybe a bonus or two at the end!).

I will start with Annie Clark, better known as St. Vincent. I first got to know her when she performed on Austin City Limits, back on October 24, 2009. That was a few months after she released her second album, Actor.

She plays a mix of indie-pop meets baroque pop, or the other way around. Her guitar, along with numerous effects pedals play a very important part of her work. And along with her guitar work, her arrangements are superb as well!

Prior to recording her own material as St. Vincent, she was a part of the Tim DeLaughter (of Tripping Daisy fame) collective known as The Polyphonic Spree. It would seem she did not record with them, only tour, as she joined in 2004 after they released their second album, and left before they released their third album in 2007. She played guitar with the group. Annie then went on to join Surfjan Steven’s touring band briefly, and not long after that, in 2007, she released her debut, Marry Me.

Music video break. St. Vincent’s latest, “Cheerleader”.

Now, promoting her third album, Strange Mercy, Annie Clark has really come into her own with St. Vincent. Quite the talented guitar player (and multi-instrumentalist), singer, songwriter, and performer!

Next, Merrill Garbus, better known by her stage name, tUnE-yArDs. Merrill actually started her music career here in Montreal (where this blog is based!), yet I only really got to know her when her second album, w h o k i l l came out. Her first album was recorded on a handheld voice recorder, and it is noticeable at times (if not all the time depending how one looks at it versus the very polished popular music of today), but it actually fits well. The genre is hard to nail down, but it is a lot of experimental pop using plenty of loops.

Music video break. tUnE-yArDs’ “Bizness” from w h o k i l l

Her second album relies a fair amount on loops as well, however it was recorded professionally. When I saw Merrill doing a symposium at Pop Montreal last year (last paragraph), she explained how she is involved in a singing collective (or something along those lines) that explores various singing styles of the world. She also stated how she is looking to moving away from using looping. The future is bright for tUnE-yArDs!

Both St. Vincent and tUnE-yArDs are definitely innovating in today’s music scene!


For another great guitar playing woman, I recommend checking out Marnie Stern‘s work. I have only listened to her most recent self-titled effort from 2010. It took a few listens, but I quite enjoy it! Her accompanying style is experimental/indie rock, but her technical guitar playing skills makes the music all that more unique, not unlike St. Vincent!

Check out “Transformer” from her 2008 album, This Is It and I Am It and You Are It and So Is That and He Is It and She Is It and It Is It and That Is That.

Lastly, another guitar playing female, Anna Calvi, who just released her debut at the start of 2011. Anna is British, whereas St. Vincent, tUnE-yArDs, and Marnie Stern are all American. Her distinct dark voice, at times sultry, and at times even Shirley Bassey once again create an element to the music that makes it very distinct!

Check out “Suzanne and I”.


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