Reliving the past four weeks has been both rewarding and concerning. Rewarding in that it allows me to re-experience a myriad of great new music; concerning, in that I can’t shake the lack of diversity. It’s 2016 for crying out loud. If I’m partial to women being given the same opportunities as men, then they should definitely be just as represented in Bars. While I never tried to pretend I understand women or the female experience, I’ve heard enough horror stories to know it’s never been easy living as the other half. In my opinion, this is what makes female artists so special; there’s a certain emotional depth simmering in their music that their male counterparts are never able to reach. Granted, their femininity shouldn’t ever really dictate their artistic selves. This week I’m not just showcasing the excellent music releases of female artists, but rather the excellent releases of excellent artists. Period. Pac once said we need to be “real to our women”. If these five artists aren’t real enough, then I don’t know what is.
Hear Solange, Ebhoni, Marie Davidson, Aloonaluna, and Quay Dash level the playing field
01. Aloonaluna - 'Terrariums'
People will pry over the topic of female narcissism ‘til they’re blue in the face. Sunrise does a segment on it every other day; child psychologists slam it in fear-mongering opinion articles; Facebook trolls say it’s the reason Kim Kardashian was robbed at gunpoint. Of course, I’m talking about selfies. A phenomenon predominantly attributed to the female half, and the below-25 age demographic. But Lynn Fister (aka Aloonaluna) has enough self-aware nuance to tackle this issue the right way. The video for her new single ‘Terrariums’ shows Fister and her friends ignoring the presence of one another and continuously posing for selfies. Soon the group become so infatuated with their own digital depiction that they start making out with their phones. Literally. The clip has a tongue-in-cheek attitude which goes hand-in-hand with Fister’s music. The Asheville, NC singer-songwriter has been penning experimental surveys of human emotion for close to a decade now. ‘Terrariums’ isn’t just a jab at narcissism in general, it also tackles the way in which women are routinely shamed for openly taking pride in their bodies. However, don’t think the message will jump out at you in a heartbeat. As previously mentioned, Fister is an experimental musician. That means ‘Terrariums’ is just as likely to propel your imagination as it is to give you an interminable migraine. The key is to keep an open mind to the glitch-heavy beats and abrasive production. Fister’s hushed vocals will ease you through the sonically layered storm.
02. Ebhoni - 'Bye Baby'
‘Bye Baby’ opens with chimes and samples of trickling water. Basically, you already know what you’re in for song-wise. However, you’re likely still unfamiliar with this Toronto-based up-and-comer. Ebhoni constructs R&B ballads for women who are rightfully fed up with their significant other’s shit. On ‘Bye Baby’ she complains of missed calls, 30-hour days and an unending game of 21 questions. Like, shit. Thankfully her gorgeous, upper-register vocals ease the listener through this solemn case of trouble in paradise. (If you want spoilers as to how it ends, just look at the title of the song.) While the verses are hushed, almost tempered and controlled, the chorus explodes with layers and verbosity. For some, it may be overstuffed. For me, I think you’re overstuffed. I hope the rest of you can agree with me. Ebhoni is going places.
03. Marie Davidson - 'Naïve to the Bone'
Keeping Marie Davidson in check is exhausting. Beat change-ups, tongue-in-cheek lyricisms and double entendres from nowhere are her calling card. She’s a producer and poet from Montreal; a city which thrives on her kind of back-handed cynicism. “It seems like honesty is not so fashionable these days… Do you think I’m too soft?” she pronounces on her latest track, ‘Naïve to the Bone’. “I don’t need your love/ But I’ll dare to ask you how you feel about me/ Just to get things straight.” Davidson’s honesty is anything but “soft”. This too applies to her jittery production. There’s beat crescendos which come off as menu music for an NES game from 1988. Then again, perhaps that’s the point. Davidson clearly doesn’t give a rat’s, so why should she feel any different for her production? It’s four minutes of a wholehearted earful. Davidson may as well be situated in a mid-80s Miami nightclub, chastising a spouse for their unashamed narcissism and neglect. “Is it that you feel superior behind a costume of indifference?” Executed with timelessness, perhaps cruel honesty can be fashionable once more. Davidson isn’t afraid to make the push, “It’s 2016, get real.” We hear you.
04. Quay Dash - 'Queen of NY'
I bump Quay Dash. I’m only one song in and not afraid to show my adoration. In fact, ‘Queen of NY’ should be bumped by everyone with a pulse. Shit goes. She’s not a household name – in fact, she only just released a debut record – but Dash has an exuberance primed for exposure. She’s also a trans woman, which already makes her a standout in one of hip hop’s sorely underrepresented demographics. Nicki Minaj will spring to most minds when listening to this Bronx newcomer. While that’s not far off the mark, Dash’s artistic independence makes her a force to be reckoned with; she refuses to be influenced by the niceties of commercial exposure. ‘Queen of NY’ is stamp on an already established scene. The production calls on early 90s Wu-Tang, while the lyrics are as bashful as they are scathing; Think Azealia Banks if she blew up in 1993. If that’s convincing enough, then I suggest you cop Quay Dash’s debut Transphobic asap.
05. Solange - 'Cranes in the Sky'
OFWGKTA once labelled Solange Knowles “the people’s Beyoncé”. While she is the younger sister to Queen Bey their styles are invariably separate. Where Mrs Carter-Knowles exudes confidence as a leading woman Solange refrains from the spotlight, not wanting public exposure to distort her authenticity as an artist. That’s not to say Beyoncé isn’t authentic; that’s far from the truth. But Solange’s tempered wait between releases speaks as a sign of independence; she won’t allow public pressure to half-arse her way through a new handful of songs. Solange’s latest record, A Seat at the Table dropped last weekend. It’s already received rave reviews- which isn’t all that surprising. ‘Cranes in the Sky’ is the album’s lead single and the beginner’s ideal introduction to this reserved artist.
It’s inwardly-focused, with emotion teetering at the surface then staying put with Solange’s warm vocals. There’s a feeling of confusion eating at her while she explains (almost therapeutically) how she’s been coping. “I tried to drink it away… I thought a new dress would make it better… I tried to make myself busy… Think that just made me dizzy.” No matter her efforts, the “metal clouds” continue to consume her. The urban sprawl starts to drown her emotions until she has little control. There’s an obvious concern when the environment begins to dictate our inner-sanctum, but for Solange it almost feels like she’s coming to peace with an inconvenient reality. “Thought if I was alone then maybe I could recover/ To write it away or cry it away.” Raphael Saadiq’s funk/soul production counters the despair, almost to a point where the song’s message is eschewed by obliviousness. Perhaps Solange accepting the persistence of her situation highlights her authenticity, not just as an artist but as a human being.