5 Guitar Goddesses You Need To Listen To
In an interview with Pitchfork, Adrianne Lenker speaks of how she was one of only a handful of girls in the guitar department at Berklee School of Music: “There was this running joke around school that if you were a girl, people would just ask you all the time - so you’re here for vocals, yeah?”. These artists, and indeed many, many more, prove that there is literally no reason why a woman can’t just do both. Of course, there is by no means a dearth of female guitarists, and narrowing this list down was extremely hard, but here are 5 voices who stand out at the moment. They have new or recent releases and are, in my opinion, some of the most masterful songwriters out there.
Unpacking troubling childhood memories and traumas, Adrianne Lenker writes some of the most provocative lyrics out there. On this year’s album ‘abysskiss’ the twisting guitar picking mesmerizes, Lenker’s whispered poetry is makes you stop and think with lines like ‘terminal/we both know/let me rest, let me go’. The accompanying barely-there synths and piano chords are perfectly hushed.
Lenker somehow manages to write songs that are simultaneously a casual conversation between you and her, and an incredibly complex tapestry of imagery. Over the past few years she has also released two albums, similarly jam-packed with hits with folky Americana band Big Thief, and put out some gems under her own name back in 2014, all equally worth plugging in your headphones and settling down to.
Every now and then someone sings a song about something that you know you’ve felt, but couldn’t quite put your finger on. Stella Donelly’s debut album ‘Thrush Metal’ is six songs worth of exactly that. In particular, Boys will be Boys was written in anger after a friend was sexually assaulted, and kicks back at victim blaming culture.
Mechanical Bull speaks to anyone who’s ever just wanted to be alone; the snarls on Mean to Me take you back to all the times you’ve realised a relationship isn’t good for you. As her album name attests, Donnelly has a wicked sense of humour and seeing her live is well worth it, not only for the power of her voice and guitar, but also for the feeling that you’re hanging out with a hilarious friend.
Heynderickx authored one of the most quaint and quietly beautiful albums of the year, ‘I Need to Start a Garden’. It’s hard not to be transported while Heynderickx’s haunting voice, which cracks in all the right places, sings of bugs, flowers and Studio Ghibli characters. It’s impressive to hear lyrics that are simultaneously so dreamlike and so relatable.
I feel like Heynderickx speaks for a lot of frustrated city dwellers when she screams “I need to start a garden” at the end of particularly catchy single ‘Oom Sha La La’. The arrangement of guitars, percussion and trombone is unique and exquisitely balanced and the songs pack just as much punch when Heyndrickx performs them alone with just an acoustic guitar. Be sure to check out her latest release with Max Garcia Conover.
Bedouine is the project of Syrian-born, US-raised musician Azniv Korkejian, whose stage name is a tribute to her multi-cultural background: her parents are Armenian and she spent her childhood in Saudi Arabia. However, her songs come straight from 70’s California with more than a hint of Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell’s song-writing skills, topped with deliciously lazy vocals.
Last year’s self-titled debut was packed with nostalgic strings, wistful rhymes, and imagery straight from an old photo album. This year Korkejian has released an EP with a couple of beautiful cover versions, which makes the prospect of her releasing more of her own compositions so tantalising.
With her heavy-lidded voice and rhythmic, resonant guitar playing, Jessica Pratt leaves her stamp on any song she performs. Her first, self-titled album winds its way through gently through breathy vocals and dreamy harmonies, with a production quality that sounds like it’s playing on an old gramophone in the corner of a sunny room.
The second album, from 2015, is built with the same musical elements: softly strummed guitars, never too wistful to lose their rhythmic quality, and lyrics that make you long to listen further. Luckily, this year’s release ‘Quiet Signs’ promises more of the same, only with lusher arrangements of strings and flute. Regardless, Pratt’s whispered delivery and subtle genius will make you stop and strain your ears for more. Catch her at the Brighthelm Centre on March 25th.
Written by Elle Makower
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