While I obviously loved everything on my final albums list, it didn’t really capture how I actually listened to music this year, which involved a lot of random EPs and singles found digging around on Bandcamp and Spotify. So I wanted to make this post just to compile all the other songs I really liked that either weren’t on full albums or were on albums I liked that barely missed my list. I have to begrudgingly thank Spotify’s algorithm for some of this, since its New Music Radar thing became a valuable tool once it discovered that all I want is women vocals + reverb.
On that note, I have a thorny relationship with feminism from writing this blog — not that feminism is bad (it’s good, actually), but I don’t think listening to music I enjoy is a particularly political act, and I’m wary of it seeming like I’m doing it just as a form of representation or charity. But I do think this post naturally proves that there are a lot of different types of women making different types of music right now, which excites me as a listener — especially since I know I’m only scratching the surface here and probably missed out on tons of stuff.
Anyways, I sorted this alphabetically because ranking them would be stupid and pointless.
Atta Girl – “Betty’s”
This (now sadly defunct) band from Virginia has a little bit of that Life Without Buildings magic in them, with a twee/jangle/punk sound and unorthodox love-it-or-hate-it (but let’s be realistic, probably hate it) vocals from the enigmatic R.M.
Beaches – “Calendar”
My favorite song off this Aussie band’s sprawling 75-minute psychedelic jamfest Second of Spring, which was indulgent in all of the best ways and close to making my coveted albums list.
Brilliant Beast – “Scatter”
The Twin Cities shoegazers have carved out a space of their own in the well-trafficked genre with their fuzzy guitars and increasingly confident songwriting.
Brunch Club – “Sure, Fine”
Sugary-sweet twee pop from Edmonton that brings back wistful kid memories with its jangly guitar and Ellen Reade’s heartfelt vocals.
Butterbeer – “Distance”
Some of the loveliest indie pop I heard this year was made by this pair of Harry Potter obsessives in China. The songs themselves aren’t about the books, but their gentle reverbed guitar and near-whispered harmonies have that indoor bookish feeling that reminds me of The Softies.
Carly Rae Jepsen – “Cut to the Feeling”
Even Carly Rae’s microwaved Emotion leftovers have more heart and hooks than any other current pop music.
CCFX – “Venetian Screens”
Melancholy goth pop from possibly my favorite EP of the year, with one of the year’s best basslines and a subtle-yet-emotive vocal performance by Mary Jane Dunphy.
Chemtrails – “Headless Pin Up Girl”
The bouncy surf rock sound and harmonies on this song are enjoyable enough, but its lyrics have a moving personal touch, uniquely portraying the stress of transitioning and finding your identity.
The Courtneys – “Minnesota”
A really fun garage rock song that resonated with me because I’m from Minnesota, the place mentioned in the song’s title.
The Cult of Lip – “Fray”
The deep, woozy sound of this song is made complete by Hannah Porter’s vocals that float just above the chaos.
Fever Ray – “Mustn’t Hurry”
I thought Plunge fell way short of Fever Ray’s genius self-titled album because it felt too much like conventional electro-pop, but “Mustn’t Hurry” was a highlight that reminded me of how good she is when she embraces the surreal aspect of her sound, especially with her voice.
Filthy Friends – “Despierta”
This supergroup from Sleater-Kinney’s Corin Tucker and REM’s Peter Buck (and some others) felt loose and casual, sometimes to its detriment, but “Despierta” was an appreciated shot at conservative leaders that reminded me of how well Tucker’s indignant vocals pair with strident political lyrics.
Flesh World – “Into the Shroud”
San Francisco’s Flesh World have a jangle-dream-punk sound that doesn’t really sound like anyone else; the best way I could think of to describe it was “Johnny Marr joins a feminist punk band,” which is very high praise.
Holy Motors – “Honeymooning”
Holy Motors come from the known shoegaze hotbed of Estonia, and this lead single from their upcoming album is hazy and sensual, like a modern and much better version of “Wicked Game.”
Japanese Breakfast – “Diving Woman”
The first track off Michelle Zauner’s sophomore album rated highly on my “Desire Lines” scale for spacey jams that create a hypnotizing world of their own with time and repetition.
Jay Som – “The Bus Song”
This was probably my biggest “how did I miss this” during the year, since Melina Duterte’s lo-fi, musically creative and open-hearted songs are right in my wheelhouse.
Julia Lucille – “Darkening”
Julia Lucille seems to be another in an endless line of Americana/folk artists, but her ethereal voice and the ambiguous imagery of her brief lyrics make this something weirder and much more intriguing.
Kindling – “Destroy Yrself”
A lot of my listening every year encompasses noisy shoegazey songs like this, which is an ideal mix of straight-ahead rock songwriting and sweet melodies.
Laure Briard – “Dreams”
The French singer’s first song in English is breezy and fun, but also kind of trippy with just the right amount of weirdness.
Lomelda – “Out There”
A gentle, moving folk song that perfectly captures the fear of the unknown.
Lorde – “Green Light”
This song went under the radar and I’m not sure why no one else seemed to like it, but it was a catchy and emotional depiction of being stuck in traffic and waiting for that damn light to turn green.
Miranda Lee Richards – “Ashes and Seeds”
The ever-cyclical nature of history is a topic that is resonating with me lately; Miranda Lee Richardson asks a lot of questions that have been on my mind on this country/folk song, but doesn’t come away with easy answers.
Nabihah Iqbal – “Saw U Twice”
My late discovery of this album made me regret doing my year-end list so early. The first album by Nabihah Iqbal under her own name (she used to go by Throwing Shade) has style, personality, and a pulsing electronic sound with some great guitar riffs.
Patrick Carney and Michelle Branch – “A Horse With No Name”
Bojack Horseman is my favorite current TV show and one of this season’s best scenes was set to this surprisingly affecting cover of America’s semi-classic that even made its incredibly goofy lyrics sound good.
PJ Harvey – “I’ll Be Waiting”
I was fairly vocal in my disappointment with Harvey’s Hope Six Demolition Project, but this B-side was beautiful, menacing, and more like Let England Shake in how it captured the damaging and cyclical impact of violence.
Poolshop – “Can You Dream”
Jaimee Fryer has released a couple singles to Bandcamp under the Poolshop moniker, and so far is two-for-two in creating addictive dream pop jams that sound expansive and intimate at the same time.
Priests – “No Big Bang”
I have a weird love for songs with talking instead of singing, so I was very into this wordy, existential punk song that intensely describes the feeling of insignificance that comes with trying to create progress in a world that seems built to prevent it.
Rose Elinor Dougall – “Dive”
Dougall’s first album in a few years came out in January and got lost in the shuffle, but it was full of well-crafted melancholy pop songs like this.
WALL – “River Mansion”
This band broke up before they even released their first album, but Untitled was one of my favorite punk releases of the year. This album closer has a hypnotic bass-line, surreal imagery, and grows in intensity over its entire six-minute length.