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The Best Lady Vocalists in Indie Music

It's a little bit of a bummer that we even still have to qualify lists like this. In a perfect world I wouldn't be writing this feature, because there would be as many famous lady musicians as gentlemen. The media would give due respect to all artists regardless of gender. An all-female band wouldn't instantly be branded as a "girl group". But such are things in the present day: most of the indie music scene is a sausage-fest where girl musicians are novelties. Thankfully, there are still lady artists beneath the rock mainstream who are doing truly exciting things with music. They're reinvigorating their genres with powerful voices. There are many such ladies but these are my favorites. 


Karin Dreijer Andersson

Ms. Dreijer Andersson first rose to popularity as half of the Swedish gothtronica duo The Knife. Their 2006 release Silent Shout shattered the boundaries of dance music with its eerie textures and addictive beats. In 2009, Dreijer Andersson released a solo album under the moniker Fever Ray to similar acclaim. Her androgynous and heavily distorted vocals are like nothing else on the electronic scene. Bold, throaty, and alien, her metallic whispers snake into your ears and loop around your head for days. Karin is also notorious for remaining enigmatic in the public eye despite the adoration of her music. She gives a killer acceptance speech


Neko Case

A proud member of the powerpop army The New Pornographers, Case also has made fantastic contributions to the alt-country scene with her solo releases. With a bugle of a singing voice, she powers through explosive pop hooks and melancholy Americana introspections with equal mastery. Her last two solo records haven't grown old on me despite my playing them to death. I could listen to Ms. Case bugle away all day. 


Karen O

Frontwoman of New York art-punk extraordinaires Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Karen O is also known for her soundtrack to Spike Jonze's film Where the Wild Things Are. She makes a Yeah Yeah Yeahs concert a sizzling and flamboyant show with colorful, overstated costumes and raucous onstage antics. Few punk singers embrace performativity the way Karen O does. She's enormously charismatic and quite the singer to boot. Her vocals range between biting, raspy growls and mournful croons, lending depth to her band's synth-spiked rock tracks.



Beth Gibbons

What would trip-hop masters Portishead be without Beth Gibbons's silky vox? She's adept at her subtle delivery, always maintaining an aloof air even at moments rife with emotion. Those lengthened high notes on The Rip--one of the best songs of the past few years--never fail to get me. 



Zola Jesus

A classically trained opera singer, Zola Jesus (self-named after the philosopher and the prophet, respectively) eventually discovered the underground experimental scene and went on to release several stunning records. Some of her best work landed in the collaborative music project Former Ghosts when she lended vocals to the dense, eerie, and magnificent debut Fleurs. Songs featuring her thunderous alto are my favorites on the record. Her Stridulum EP is also required listening for anyone even remotely attracted to experimental dance music. Zola's relatively new to the music world, and at only 22 she'd better have a long career ahead. Keep an eye out for this one.