Friday, 28 May 2010

Countdown: Women Who Rock - #2, PJ Harvey

#2 - PJ Harvey

Narrowly missing out on the (in my mind) highly coveted number one spot on the countdown is Britain's leading lady of rock and or roll, Polly Jean Harvey. I'm not going to lie, it was tough not putting PJ at numero uno. A strong enough case could be made as to why she's the number one woman in rock's storied history and it wouldn't be the first time she would have topped such a list. Fans voted her as the greatest woman in rock in Q magazine in 2001; she's a former (and first female) winner of the prestigious Mercury Music Prize for the amazing album Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea and Kurt Cobain was such a huge fan of her work that he listed her debut, Dry, as one of his top 50 albums of all time. If only he had been around to see just how amazing the rest of her work would be.

Musically, Harvey is practically unbeatable. She can play the guitar, piano, bass, violin, cello, bass, saxophone, drums and harmonica. Polly has written and composed her entire solo catalogue, which is like poetry being added over classical music with heavy rock thrown on top of that. Her work has inspired countless imitatators to pick up a guitar and rock out (but Kate Nash, please don't ever try to be like PJ Harvey again. I mean, I love you, but seriously, don't). Tori Amos and Bjork are her peers, graduating from the same class of interesting and engrossing 90s music, an era that hasn't been beaten with anything that has come from the 2000s.

What of PJ Harvey the performer? Step back in time with me to 2001. It's the Sydney leg of the Big Day Out festival and I'm sitting at home minding my own business watching the TV. I switch over to Channel [V] and there's this kind of hot lady in a low cut top with an orange guitar standing on stage. I have no idea who she is but I decide to watch anyway, it's not like I have anything else to do with my life. The fans are cheering a little bit and I've just noticed she doesn't have a band behind her. Oh, she's just started playing the guitar and now she's singing and she's doing this alone. In front of 50, 000 people. And she ROCKS! Did she just sing, "lick my legs, I'm on fire, lick my legs, I'm desire?" I think I'm in love and so is the crowd, listen to that ovation at the end! For your viewing pleasure, I've posted this video of PJ Harvey performing 'Rid of Me' above. I hope you fall in love too.

Her coolness is driven further into the stratosphere when you look at the amazing collaborations she's done over the years. Polly dueted with Bjork at the 1994 Brit Awards, performing an insanely cool cover of the Rolling Stone's 'Satisfaction;' she's frequently recorded with Nick Cave; she's guested with Queens of the Stone Age and she's released two critically acclaimed albums with British musician and producer John Parish, including 2009s A Woman A Man Walked By. PJ has proven an inspiration for many current rock acts, including The Kills, Placebo, Peaches, Metric, Florence + The Machine, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Melissa Auf Der Maur. For those keeping score at home, four of the other women on this list were just mentioned.

Harvey's own solo work has become increasingly more mellow as she gets a little bit older, with her last release White Chalk (2007) showing a more melodic soft-rock sound. It won't be too long before she's back in the studio and I'm hoping that she makes one last run at the heavy rock sound that defined her throughout the 1990s. At the end of the day though, she could release a massive pop-trash album and I'd still think it was the coolest thing I had ever heard. I can hardly wait.

Key Tracks: 'Sheela-Na-Gig,' 'Water' and 'Hair' (Dry), 'Rid of Me,' 'Man-Size Sextet,' 'Man-Size,' 'Highway '61 Revisited' and 'Dry' (Rid of Me), 'To Bring You My Love,' 'Maniac,' 'Down By the Water,' 'C'mon Billy' and 'The Dancer' (To Bring You My Love), 'Is This Desire,' 'The Wind,' 'A Perfect Day Elise' and 'Angelene' (Is This Desire?), 'Good Fortune,' 'A Place Called Home,' 'The Whores Hustle and the Hustlers Whore,' 'You Said Something' and 'Big Exit' (Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea), 'The Letter,' 'Shame,' 'The End' and 'Who the Fuck?' (Uh Huh Her), 'The Devil,' 'When Under Ether,' 'White Chalk,' 'The Piano' and 'Before Departure' (White Chalk), 'Hardly Wait.'

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Countdown: Women Who Rock - #3, Shirley Manson

#3 - Shirley Manson

Nothing that I write here can truly express how much love and respect I have for Garbage's enigmatic and amazing front woman, Shirley Manson. As the chief songwriter during the decade Garbage was releasing albums, Shirley was producing lyrics that were out of this world, yet insanely honest and somewhat relatable. The self-titled album Garbage came out of nowhere in 1996 with the lead single 'Vow' opening with the unforgettable line, "I can't use what I can't abuse; and I can't stop when it comes to you." In one line, the world was hooked.

Her unique voice can contain more emotion than any other woman on this list. It's in no way the strongest and she doesn't have an incredibly high range, but when it comes to emotion Manson wins hands down. Shirley's vocals can make you feel the highest of highs or the lowest of lows. And then there's the sex factor. No one can sound oh so sexy as Shirley Manson. "This is the noise that keeps me awake, my head explodes and my body aches. PUSH IT!" The woman SCREAMS sex appeal. Although she has her own opinion on why she's considered a sex symbol. "I am not a sexy woman, I'm not beautiful, I'm not a sex kitten, I don't flirt with people, yet I've been tagged more of a sex symbol than women who truly are, and that's solely because I don't reveal too much; people are curious."

Manson hasn't courted the same levels of controversy like some of her contemporaries over the years and is more prone to defend other female music stars like Courtney Love, Lady Gaga and, more recently, Taylor Swift after T-Sweezy's MTV VMA scandal with Kanye West. She's kept most of her private life away from the prying eyes of the media and we love her for it. We know her for her music, nothing else should matter. What we do know, is that she's a staunch campaigner for cancer, AIDS and animal protection charities. Manson's pretty much amazing.

She's established one of the most diverse catalogues in alternative rock music with the albums Garbage (1995), Version 2.0 (1998), Beautiful Garbage (2001) and Bleed Like Me (2005). Version 2.0 would become Garbage's most critically acclaimed album, with it notably being nominated for Album of the Year and Best Rock Album at the 1999 Grammys. Just in case you care (I don't see why you would), Version 2.0 is my favourite album of all time. Manson's 'cool' factor would win Garbage a slot on the outstanding soundtrack for Romeo + Juliet, with '#1 Crush.' The band also recorded the title theme for the James Bond film The World Is Not Enough, one of the best Bond themes of all time.

Lately she's tried out the whole actor slash rock star thing, with her first big role as a part of now cancelled TV series, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. For those that are curious, yes, she played a terminator. Rumours of a solo album where going around for a couple of years, with studio execs apparently none too impressed with the dark nature of her demos. Shirley would do the right thing by refusing to release the album any way other than originally intended. What we can look forward to is the possibility of a new Garbage album sometime this year. Any year that a new Garbage album is dropped is a winning year for me. Bring it on.

Key Tracks: 'Vow,' 'Supervixen,' 'Queer,' 'Only Happy When It Rains,' 'As Heaven Is Wide,' 'A Stroke of Luck,' 'Milk,' 'Stupid Girl' and 'Dog New Tricks' (Garbage), 'Push It,' 'I Think I'm Paranoid,' 'Special,' 'Temptation Waits,' 'You Look So Fine,' 'The Trick Is To Keep Breathing,' 'When I Grow Up,' 'Medication' and 'Dumb' (Version 2.0), 'Shut Your Mouth,' 'Androgyny,' 'Breaking Up the Girl,' 'Cherry Lips' and 'Silence is Golden' (Beautiful Garbage), 'Bad Boyfriend,' 'Why Do You Love Me,' 'Metal Heart,' 'It's All Over But the Crying,' 'Boys Wanna Fight,' 'Right Between the Eyes' and 'Sex Is Not The Enemy' (Bleed Like Me), '#1 Crush,' 'The World Is Not Enough.'

...seriously, there are way too many awesome songs to find all the YouTube links for. Enjoy finding them yourselves!

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Top 20 - 25 May, 2010

1. Angus & Julia Stone - Big Jet Plane (Re-Entry)
2. M.I.A - XXXO
3. Klaxons - Flashover (NEW)
4. B.o.B ft. Hayley Williams - Airplanes
5. Crystal Castles - Baptism
6. Operator Please - Back and Forth
7. The Drums - Forever and Ever Amen (NEW)
8. Robyn - Dancing On My Own
9. Goldfrapp - Shiny and Warm (NEW)
10. The Dead Weather - Die By The Drop
11. Eminem - Not Afraid
12. N.E.R.D ft. Nelly Furtado - Hot & Fun (NEW)
13. Marina & The Diamonds - Obsessions (NEW)
14. Katy Perry ft. Snoop Dogg - California Gurls
15. Lady Gaga - Future Love
16. Slow Club - Our Most Brilliant Friends
17. Sia - The Fight (NEW)
18. Rihanna ft. Slash - Rockstar 101 (NEW)
19. Marching Band - Another Day
20. Kelly Rowland - On & On (NEW)

Friday, 21 May 2010

Song of the Day: If I Know You

The Presets - If I Know You

I haven't heard any news about a new Presets album. This upsets me. After the massive win that was Apocalypso you would think they'd be back in the studio A.S.A.P to capitalize on their commercial success. 'If I Know You' wasn't the biggest single released off the album, but it's a personal favourite and it was accompanied by a really fun music video. Enjoy!

Countdown: Women Who Rock - #4, Courtney Love

#4 - Courtney Love
of Hole

Courtney Love claimed today that she had sex with Kate Moss sometime in the 90s. Two weeks ago she told Howard Stern that she had an affair with former Bush frontman Gavin Rossdale, husband of Gwen Stefani. She's lost and regained custody of daughter Frances Bean enough times that most people have stopped counting. At one time she was the most hated woman in music since Yoko Ono. These days it would appear that she's the most pitied, as the world watches her desperately try to cling to whatever lingering threads of fame she has left. Public feuds have dominated her life in the past decade, notably with Billy Corgan, Dave Grohl, Fred Durst and current enemy numero uno, Twitter.

Pissing all over Kurt Cobain's legacy would appear to be one of her favourite hobbies. Love made a neat $50 million in 2006 when she carelessly sold a quarter of Nirvana's publishing catalogue, much to the disgust of Dave Grohl. She allowed her daughter to have a suicide themed party for her 16th birthday. I will repeat that, she allowed her daughter, KURT COBAIN'S DAUGHTER, to have a suicide themed party for her 16th birthday. Apparently one of the games at the party was who can look the most dead. You stay classy Frances Bean. Stints in rehab are almost like a yearly vacation for Love, oops sorry Michelle, that's Courtney Michelle. Because that Courtney Love part of her life is just over. No, wait. She wants to be called Courtney Love again.

I could go on for quite some time about everything that's wrong with Courtney's life but that's not the point of this countdown is it. This countdown is celebrating 20 of the most amazing women who rock. Women who captivate us with their attitude, style, music and passion for it. Take away all of the crap that Courtney Love has become associated with other than her music and it should be quite easy to see that she belongs here. A talented songwriter and musician with kick ass vocals made her one of the most amazing women to ever front a band. That band of course, was Hole.

Hole released three studio album throughout the 90s, Pretty on the Inside, Live Through This and Celebrity Skin. Last month, Nobody's Daughter was released with Love the last original member still standing. All four albums offer a different sound and have been received positively, with only Nobody's Daughter attracting some major critical reviews. Live Through This, released only days after Cobain's suicide, is the standout album of the bunch. It's pure 90s rock, combining elements of grunge with pop. Celebrity Skin contained more of a pop rock sound and went on the become the bands most commercially successful album. Love would release a solo, America's Sweetheart, a commercial and critical failure. Lead single 'Mono' was pretty amazing though.

Love won a legion of fans with her crazy onstage antics and don't give a flying f*** attitude. She spent most of the 1999 Big Day Out flashing the crowd and taunting co-headliner Marilyn Manson and everyone loved her for it. 'Celebrity Skin' would place at #4 on the 1999 JJJ Hottest 100. Courtney was even a critically acclaimed actress for awhile, with her role in The People vs. Larry Flynt garnering her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress. In the late 90s everything seemed so promising for Courtney Love. The first decade of the 2000s saw her undo everything and her reputation now lies in tatters. Let's hope she spends the next decade rebuilding it to its former glory.

Fun Fact: Rolling Stone named her the most controversial women in the history of music.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Song of the Day: Can't Stop

Red Hot Chili Peppers - Can't Stop

Awesome song accompanied by an amazing music video. Where have the RHCPs been? It's about time we heard something new from them.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Countdown: Women Who Rock - #5, Karen O

#5 - Karen O

Who doesn't love Karen O? As part of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs she's been at the forefront of the Indie Rock scene for nearly a decade, becoming a fashion icon, sex symbol and fully fledged rock star. Since the release of Fever to Tell (2003) she's also shown incredible growth musically and become an inspiration for women AND men looking to break into the scene.

Fever to Tell was a groundbreaking album which has become appreciated much more over time. It made countless best of the decade lists and featured the massive alternative hit 'Maps,' which really caught the attention of the masses. Follow-up Show Your Bones (2006) was much more subdued than its predecessor but it gained the band even more popularity which can be strongly attributed to hit single 'Gold Lion.'

The latest album, It's Blitz (2009), received almost universal critical acclaim and took the band in a more electronic direction. O's vocals and lyrics were praised in virtually every review. Recording the soundtrack for the film version of Where The Wild Things Are saw even more praise pointed in Karen's direction and saw her 'cool cred' sky rocket. The soundtrack was recorded under the name Karen O & The Kids and featured many of O's friends from the Indie realm.

Karen O has a reputation for delivering unforgettable and crazy shows and I strongly encourage you to look into seeing her and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs live if you ever get the chance. It may be some time until we hear a new album from the Yeahs, but we can expect that when they do return, Karen O will have come up with something insanely cool that everyone can't help but to love.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Top 20 - May 15, 2010

1. M.I.A - XXXO (NEW)
2. The Dead Weather - Die By The Drop (NEW)
3. Robyn - Dancing On My Own
4. Crystal Castles - Baptism
5. Lady Gaga - Future Love
6. Operator Please - Back and Forth
7. B.o.B ft. Hayley Williams - Airplanes (NEW)
8. Marching Band - Another Day
9. Eminem - Not Afraid (NEW)
10. Slow Club - Our Most Brilliant Friends
11. Gorillaz - On Melancholy Hill (NEW)
12. Sia - Clap Your Hands
13. M.I.A - Born Free
14. Miami Horror - Moon Theory (NEW)
15. Beyonce - Why Don't You Love Me?
16. Kelly Rowland - Commander
17. Wolf Parade - What Did My Lover Say (It Always Had to Go This Way)
18. Kids of 88 - Ribbons of Light
19. Katy Perry ft. Snoop Dogg - California Gurls (NEW)
20. The Silver Seas - The Best Things In Life

Monday, 10 May 2010

Countdown: Women Who Rock - #6, Melissa Auf Der Maur

#6 - Melissa Auf Der Maur
of Hole (1994 - 1999)
Smashing Pumpkins (2000)
Hand of Doom (2002)

Who? I'm assuming that's what many of you might have said when you saw some weird name in the number 6 slot. Let me introduce you to Melissa Auf Der Maur, bonafide rock star. Following the death of Hole bassist Kristen Pfaff, Billy Corgan (of the Smashing Pumpkins) recommended young flame haired bassist Auf Der Maur to Courtney Love. Initially passing up the offer to join one of the hottest bands at the time, Auf Der Maur reconsidered and joined just in time to record Celebrity Skin and catapult Hole into awesomeness. Melissa would get to test her vocals, as she supported Love during her stint with the band.

After completing her 5 year contract with Hole, Melissa would go on tour with The Smashing Pumpkins before forming an all female Black Sabbath tribute band, Hand of Doom, in 2002. She then turned her attention to a solo album, Auf Der Maur (2004), which was released to critical acclaim and saw her tour extensively on the metal circuit. Unfortunately it wouldn't be a commercial success, and follow up album Out of Our Minds was plagued with delays.

So, is time spent in two of the biggest bands in the history of rock and a stellar debut album enough to warrant such a high placing on the list? Add in the fact that her personality, presence and fashion scream rock and I think it's more than enough. If you're not convinced, have a good listen to her tracks and then tell me she doesn't deserve her spot. I suggest you start with 'Followed the Waves.' Amazing song, amazing video.

Countdown: Women Who Rock - #7, Alanis Morissette

"It was a slap in the face, how quickly I was replaced and are you thinking of me when you fuck her?" And with those lyrics, the highest selling female rocker of the 90s was born. 'You Oughta Know' became the ultimate break-up song, the perfect f*ck you to an ex and introduced the world to Alanis Morissette and her groundbreaking debut album Jagged Little Pill, released in 1995.

Jagged Little Pill captivated the world, selling over 30 million copies and quickly became the highest selling debut album by an artist EVER. It would earn Morissette four Grammy Awards; Album of the Year and Best Rock Album, as well as Best Rock Song and Best Female Rock Vocal Performance for 'You Oughta Know.' Far from a one-hit album, follow up singles 'Hand In My Pocket,' 'Ironic,' 'You Learn' and 'Head Over Feet' all achieved commercial success.

Morissette's second album, Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie (1998), didn't fare as well as her debut. It was a modest success and received positive reviews but everyone was looking for angry Alanis who was nowhere to be found. The lyrics were just as honest and probably more insightful but few of the songs were as addictive to the ears as those on Jagged Little Pill. 'Thank U' became the only international hit on the album and 'So Pure' would garner a Grammy nomination for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance.

Under Rug Swept (2002), So-Called Chaos (2004) and Flavours of Entaglement (2008) moved further towards an adult-contemporary pop sound and are basically afterthoughts in the mainstream consciousness, although there are some gems hidden within. If Alanis had produced the sophomore album that everyone wanted to hear, then I'm sure that she would have been closer to #1 on this list and still a huge star today. Alanis has been a huge influence on many stars of today including (fellow Canadian) Avril Lavigne, P!nk, Kelly Clarkson, Shakira and even Beyonce Knowles who keeps 'You Oughta Know' in her set list for live shows!

Key Tracks: 'You Oughta Know,' 'Mary Jane,' 'Ironic,' 'All I Really Want,' 'Head Over Feet,' 'You Learn' and 'Hand In My Pocket' (Jagged Little Pill); 'Thank U,' 'Unsent,' 'So Pure' and 'That I Would Be Good' (Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie); 'Uninvited' (City of Angels OST); 'Hands Clean' (Under Rug Swept); 'Underneath' (Flavours of Entaglement).

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Top 20 - 8 May, 2010

1. Robyn - Dancing On My Own (#1 for 3 weeks!)
2. Operator Please - Back and Forth
3. Crystal Castles - Baptism
4. The White Stripes - 300 MPH Torrential Outpour Blues
5. Slow Club - Our Most Brilliant Friends
6. Lady Gaga - Future Love
7. Marching Band - Another Day
8. Sia - Clap Your Hands
9. M.I.A - Born Free
10. Kids of 88 - Ribbons of Light
11. Simian Ghost - Star Receiver
12. Kelly Rowland - Commander
13. The Silver Seas - The Best Things In Life
14. School of Seven Bells - Babelonia
15. Kate Nash - Do Wah Do
16. The xx - Islands
17. Lady Gaga - Alejandro
18. New Pornographers - The Crash Years
19. Beyonce - Why Don't You Love Me?
20. Operatore Please - Like Magic

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Don't You Forget About Me #2 - Missed Me


The Dresden Dolls are/were quite amazing. Most know 'Coin-Operated Boy' because it got massive airplay on alternative radio, even placing on the Triple J Hottest 100. Yet, if I was to play one song to someone who hadn't heard them before I'd pick 'Missed Me' as it's the perfect example of their dark, self-diagnosed 'Brechtian punk cabaret.'

'Missed Me' is musically quite simple, but lyrically complex. It's essentially a much more messed up version of Lolita in song form, a younger girl seduced by an older man and when she figures out that something's not right she's really not happy about it. And she's going to get some sweet revenge. In no way is this song for everyone as it's more theatrical than your standard pop song and is almost delivered as if it was a show tune.

Amanda Palmer's delivery on vocals showcases a full emotional range. At the beginning of the song she's naive, sweet with a dash of mental instability as she sings over what's almost like a children's sing-a-long;
if you kiss me mister, you must think i'm pretty,
if you think so mister, you must want to fuck me,
if you fuck me mister, it must mean you love me,
if you love me mister, you would never leave me,
it's as simple as can be.
But of course the old guy screws her over and she's not impressed. No, she's pissed. So what's a girl to do? She gets his sorry ass thrown in the county penetentiary, because that's what will make him miss her! Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned and so on and so forth.

Unexpected plot twist is just around the corner though. Lolita doesn't actually seem satisfied with her revenge. She's messed up so bad, in her own way she still misses him and it looks like she's going to wait for him to get out of jail. The desperation in Palmer's voice when she wails, "say you'll miss me," after promising to visit him if he says it, is scarily intense and perfectly delivered. Anyway, I'm rambling... so, check it out and if you like it, look into the Dolls' catalogue and even Amanda Palmer's solo works. You'll find some good stuff. Enjoy!