I was just listening to a song-in-progress, “I Was Kind” (listen below), posted recently by Dreamed (aka Jessica Minshew, photo above) and it got me to thinking. It seems the past couple of years of music have been dominated by enormously talented women. Right now there are more inventive female artists than I can ever remember. And I’m not talking about just those with recognizable names like St. Vincent, Bjork, and PJ Harvey. I mean artists that hover slightly below the radar or may not even register on the screen, but should. They’re making music that’s visionary, daring, imaginative, and ethereally beautiful in new ways. This isn’t going to be some lengthy analysis piece citing their merit. They don’t need me to do that. This is more like a shoutout to give notice to a few of the artists that keep bending my ear. Those artists who continually find a spot on my MP3 player.
There’s Sleep ∞ Over, Anna-Anna, Daughter, Julia Holter, Ela Orleans, Eleni Mandell, Sea Oleena, Sharon Van Etten, Rainbow Chan, EMA, Steffaloo, Zola Jesus, Scout Niblett, Lykke Li, Cold Specks, and of course Dreamed. “I Was Kind” is a cottony-soft track with high-pitched, distance vocals. It’s delicate and wispy — more emotive than linear. Two of the links between all of those female artists I listed are their dedication to craft and their uniqueness of vision. In a general sense, their musical landscapes convey alluring personal moods, complex emotions, and sheer beauty for the sake of making you feel something. There’s nothing standard about their artistry.
There’s a lo-fi quality to much of it, some of which may be out of necessity, lacking full bands and fancy recording equipment in some cases. Instead, these artists are breathing life into the so-called industry, whether it knows it or not. The music is better described in images than formal criticism. Songs can be greyish cloudy pearls (Julia Holter’s “I Would Rather See”), gauzy chimeras (Sleep ∞ Over’s “Casual Diamond”), a blossom of quirky but ingenious experimentation (Ela Orleans’ “Walking Man”), silvered-over slivers of refinement (Anna-Anna’s “Mirrors of America”), breathy and raw pieces of emotionality (EMA’s “The Grey Ship”), and sometimes a song shows a vulnerability so pure you know it’s real heartbreak (Daughter’s “Love”). These ladies are making real art that moves in and out of tonalism, abstraction, distortion, and romanticism, filtered through creative minds of the first order. Dreamed’s seductive quality is so casual. Her music finds you before you find it, like falling asleep on a raft and discovering you’ve drifted out to sea. “I Was Kind” can be downloaded at Dreamed’s soundcloud page. Note: Photo comes from the artist’s facebook page. — David D. Robbins Jr.