Like my compatriot JAW, I too have begun to notice the preponderance of men with acoustic guitars on this blog. As opposed to reacting by needing filth, however, I thought it might be good to pay some homage to the underrepresented gender on this blog (all of our writers seem to be male). I’d argue that a little bit more estrogen might be good for malleus&incus. And while I’d be very happy going for some piano and guitar driven artists like Sara Bareilles or Tristan Pettyman (who are also worth checking out), I thought it might be better to go in a (slightly) different direction, and focus on some artists where, in my opinion, their voice is the most important quality of their music. Because of this, I’d like to also pair two artists you may know already each with an emerging artist based on similarity of vocals.
Florence + the Machine
If you haven’t heard of Florence + the Machine by now, you’ve probably been hiding under a rock. Though she doesn’t get all that much radio play stateside, her album Lungs was in the UK Top 40 for 52 consecutive weeks – a full year. The main power behind F+TM is Florence Welch, who combines rock and soul sounds with an eccentricity almost matching that of another popular female today (who I don’t think I need to name).
That said, Florence has a bit of an obsession with terror, doom, and some other oddities. In a seemingly normal song ‘I’m not calling you a liar,’ Welch says ‘There’s a ghost in my lungs/ and it sighs in my sleep/ wraps itself around my tongue/ as it softly speaks.’ This kind of oddly poetic imagery frequents F+TM’s lyricism. However, I honestly listen to F+TM for the interchanges made by Florence’s voice and the rest of the band. Newsom-esque harp-playing is paired with heavy drumbeats. A kick drum mimics a heartbeat when Florence speaks of a beating heart – these kind of subtleties that are only appreciated on a close listen makes F+TM that much more worth it.
I’m Not Calling You A Liar// Lungs
Cosmic Love// Lungs
Marina & the Diamonds
For Florence, the machine is her backup band. But for Marina, the diamonds are her fans. To some, this might come off as rather egocentric, but in reality the name is probably derived from Marina’s surname – Diamandis. Interestingly enough, Marina cites Daniel Johnston (who I may speak of later) as one of her major influences – his outsider influences allowed her to transcend the spoon-fed pop formula despite her limited musical knowledge. However, this lack of musical knowledge does show in her music; it is largely composed of simple (albeit extremely catchy) keys parts with some limited synth/guitar/drum thrown in. But don’t be mistaken – her music is by no means amateur. Marina’s voice takes over in her songs, offering a listening experience that I’m hard pushed to describe as anything less than endearing. Her voice is a little less soulful than Florence Welch’s, instead having a little big more of an edgy feel that lends to her slightly faster tempo songs.
Oh No!// The Family Jewels
I Am Not a Robot// The Family Jewels
Winning seven Juno awards with two albums is no small feat. Canadian Leslie Feist is quickly becoming one of the most recognized indie musicians performing today. Between offering vocals to (and becoming romantically involved with) Broken Social Scene, contributing to several other popular indie acts (Kings of Convenience, Peaches, Wilco), and doing her own solo work, she has become prolific and loved in the past decade. Interestingly enough, Feist started out as a punk vocalist – a far cry from the soothing, romantic voice used on her solo albums, though it certainly speaks to her versatility.
In addition, Feist is a capable guitarist, pianist, and drummer… though she often sticks to just vocals. I regret the fact that I have not yet been able to find her first album Monarch (Lay Your Jewelled Head Down), as what I have heard from it beautiful – simple production and soothing vocals. My desire to attain this album may reveal something about me: I tend to like Feist’s slower songs over her more catchy ones (I’m sure almost every one of you has had ’1234′ caught in your head at some point or another after it was in that iPod nano ad). After much debate, I selected one of her more retro songs along with a collaboration with Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie).
One Evening// Let It Die
Train Song// Dark Was the Night (w/ Ben Gibbard, originally by Vashti Bunyan)
Sara Jackson-Holman has been garnering all kinds of comparisons. Adele, Norah Jones, and Feist are among the many that have come up, but sara has her own distinct style in both songwriting and vocals. Perhaps she is a little less jazzy than Norah or a little more soulful than Feist. It really doesn’t matter; she is good. Certainly the trajectory for the relative newcomer onto the indie pop scene will reach pretty high. Her songs are largely driven by catchy little piano riffs that show an obviously classical background, while subtler strings, a few simple beats, and unexpected vocal harmonies add complexity to the music. Honestly, Sara has one of my favorite voices of any current female vocalists. It has complex undertones that are made even more beautiful by the clever small-interval harmonies and tight production – the resonant qualities are such that she gets the kind of intricacies many artists only get while belting it while remaining relaxed.
Cellophane// When You Dream
California Gold Rush// When You Dream