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PBG’s Best of 2017: Music

Author:
music4

By Sophia Simon-Bashall

EVERYONE’S ‘best of 2017’ list features Lorde’s stunning sophomore album ‘Melodrama’. As wonderful as that album is, it’s not the only one to be released this year. It’s been a painful year to be a music lover, particularly for rock and alternative fans. Equally, our ears have been blessed with some amazing new sounds – many of which came from women. It’s important that we celebrate that.

Around U, MUNA

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MUNA are a band who will make you feel looked out for, make you believe that there is still good in the world – that there is good in yourself. Their debut album, ‘Around U’, is empowering from start to finish, in both its lyrical content and its dance-pop sounds. There is reflection throughout, both on personal experiences and on the wider world – the latter most present on the single ‘I Know a Place’. It is an album which leaves the band exposed, but strong. It can do the same for listeners, too.

After Laughter, Paramore

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Paramore have been one of the most exciting bands around since they emerged with their debut, ‘All We Know Is Falling’. They’ve evolved thoroughly with each album cycle, so much so that many – particularly in emo and punk scenes – have been quick to say, “they’ve changed”, as if that’s a negative. But if you really listen, it’s all a natural progression – they’ve not forced themselves into any box, and their music is better for it. ‘After Laughter’ is, unquestionably, their strongest album; one which defies categorisation as either pop or rock. Frontwoman Hayley Williams is painfully frank about struggling with mental health throughout the record, something which was immediately startling on the lead single ‘Hard Times’ and it’s opening line – “all that I want is to wake up fine”. However, these songs are dressed up playfully with 80s-influenced synths and bouncy beats, wrapped in spectacularly sing-along worthy choruses. It’s an album you don’t just want to dance to, you have to. It’s a beautiful mix of joyful escapism and a push to confront your own issues. That ‘After Laughter’ can do both at once is truly special.

Rainbow, Kesha

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Kesha’s return to the pop landscape has been, objectively, the best thing to happen in 2017. Lead single ‘Praying’ is beautiful and bold, a battle cry which has resonated with survivors across the globe. If you haven’t spent half the year screaming these lyrics dramatically, or crying as you listen along… good for you, probably. The album is colourful and full of magic, and it is incredibly vulnerable. It’s a love letter to Kesha’s younger self, to all the scared and traumatised people trying and struggling to heal. It’s a reassurance, a promise, and a manifesto.

All We Know Of Heaven / All We Need Of Hell, PVRIS

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PVRIS’ debut album, ‘White Noise’, was equal parts dark and catchy. Their sophomore release, ‘All We Know Of Heaven / All We Need Of Hell’, similarly manages this, and it is stronger in both aspects. It is a weighty album, filled with the emptiness which stems from separation – from lovers, from those around you, and most significantly from yourself. Lynn Gunn’s vocals are haunting, ethereal in tone yet wholly substantial in force. Songs such as opener ‘Heaven’ and ‘No Mercy’ are anthemic and intense, perfect to jump around and mosh to – even in your bedroom. These are impressively slick songs with raw emotion driving them. The themes of Gunn’s lyrics are what connect people so strongly to this band – and the hugeness of PVRIS’ sound ensures that when they’re packing out arenas, undoubtedly rather soon – they’ll be ready to fill that space.

See our pick of the best film and television of 2017 here, and the best young adult fiction of 2017 here.

Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys – A Review of Viv Albertine’s autobiography

Author:
Viv-Albertine

By Amy Callaghan

Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys. According to Viv Albertine, guitarist of revolutionary all-girl punk band the Slits, this was a phrase expressed frequently to her by her mother during her childhood and adolescence, ‘Clothes, clothes, clothes, music, music, music, boys, boys, boys – that’s all you ever think about!’. On the surface, that’s what her autobiography appears to be about as well – Albertine’s memories and anecdotes are anchored in the clothes, music, and boys influencing her at the time. Yet her book is more than a whirlwind tale of the legendary punk scene, told through aesthetics only – it is an open and thought-provoking appraisal of Albertine’s entire life.

Albertine’s autobiography is, as punk fans would hope, an insight into what it was like on the inside of the punk scene in the 1960s and 70s, as well as what it was like to be a woman in such a world. However, this is not, in my opinion, the main reason why this book stands out as a radical piece of feminist literature. Rather, it is Albertine’s brutally honest assessment of her whole life, pieced together in an occasionally jarring order, which is the most striking and revelatory aspect of this book. From her childhood, raised by a single mother in North London, and her maintaining issues with her father until his death in 2009, to her battle with cancer, her desperation for a baby and her struggle to conceive, her time as a Hastings housewife, and how the deterioration of her marriage coincided with her increasing desperation to make music again, Albertine holds nothing back, and it is this (at times borderline alarming) determination to be completely truthful about her experiences as a woman throughout every stage of her life which makes this such an inspiring work.

Albertine’s completely frank writing is at times almost unnerving. She doesn’t care if the reader is made uncomfortable by what she has to say or how she says it – the entire book is like a declaration of ‘well, these are my experiences, I lived through this, and I’m certainly not going to sugar-coat it’. It doesn’t, however, read as intentionally playing on shock value. Above all, it is honest. It’s refreshing to hear directly from a woman on often taboo subjects such as menstruation, masturbation, crabs – Albertine refuses to fall into the cultural trap of preserving the modesty of a woman’s body, and writes about these experiences in the same reflective and honest way in which she confronts everything else. It is brilliant and defiant in its rationality.

She writes openly about an abortion she had in 1978 and about how she did not regret it until 20 years later, and has not stopped regretting it since. Still, however, she is emphatic in her support for the right for a woman to choose whether or not to have an abortion. This section of the book takes on a new significance when she writes, many chapters later, of her difficulties in conceiving, the babies she lost through miscarriages, the amount of money and effort poured into IVF, and her eventual success and joy in becoming a mother. Albertine’s writing here is emotive and powerful, and the reader cannot help but feel strongly for her life – for someone unfamiliar with Albertine’s personal life, one could almost begin to root for her as one does for a character in a fictional novel, were it not for her occasional italicised retrospective remarks from her current perspective.

Of course, Albertine’s experiences as a woman in the 1970s punk scene is a substantial section of the book, and incredibly revelatory in itself. The Slits were a defining band in post-punk, and a massive step forward for representation of women in punk as well as in the music industry as a whole. When she writes of the complete lack of representation of any women doing what she wanted to do in music – Albertine couldn’t see any female punk guitarists so firmly believed for a long time that her only access to that world was through the men she associated with – it hammers home the lack of representation women still face in the 21st century. The fact that a girl with no musical training was determined enough to pick up a guitar and play, particularly in such a trailblazing band as the Slits, is nothing short of inspiring.

In an interview with Paper magazine 6 months after the book’s UK release, Albertine expressed her surprise that anyone was inspired by the book. ‘I wanted to show the flipside of someone who looks like they’ve got their life together and what is really underneath it all, so I wrote all the downsides, and yet people found it very inspiring.’ she said. Yet it is difficult to see how Albertine’s book couldn’t be inspiring. Albertine’s experiences, while at points completely distinctive to her era and generation, will hold familiarity with women across every generation, and her publication of this honest confrontation and assessment of her life is an incredibly brave decision.

Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys was recommended to me as a feminist and music lover. But I would recommend it to anyone, regardless of their interest in music. Even if you’ve never heard of the Slits, never been into punk or any kind of subversive culture, there will be something in Albertine’s book that will resonate with you and your own experiences. And even if there isn’t – her life is bloody interesting enough to have you hooked regardless.

The Girls Can Rock

Author:
(left to right) Jenna McDougall of Tonight Alive, Lynn Gunn of PVRIS, Tay Jardine of We Are The In Crowd

By Sophia Simon-Bashall

I might have mentioned it before, but rock music has a really big problem. Sexism is the problem. Let’s be honest, most aspects of our culture are sexist. The film industry disproportionately favours male directors, and generally caters to the hetero-male gaze. Yawn. And in all corners of music, misogyny is rife – rappers are still on about how they’re ‘fucking bitches three ways’ and are going to ‘knock that pussy out’, and pop singers still think it’s cute to be obsessive and controlling in a way that is frighteningly comparable to an abusive mind-set.

News flash: we have this problem in rock music too. It tends to get ignored; a community that prides itself on being for the outcasts, rock is not keen on examining its faults, preferring to believe in its acceptance of all, despite the clear evidence to the contrary. Rock chooses to ignore the problematic way in which it treats women, and as a young woman who gave pretty much her whole heart to this music, I am tired of it.

Possibly the things that frustrates me most is how little credit our girls get. North America’s Warped Tour features around 120 bands, and in recent years, only about 20 of those have included women. Over in the UK, the Reading & Leeds Festival showcased the talent of just 6 bands containing women; alternative music festival line-ups are overwhelmingly dominated by men. Which is not to say that there are no girls at the front right now – there are, a whole lot of them. The problem is that so few of them are getting noticed.

I’m bored of how little credit these rocking women are given, of how little attention they get. It’s time to change that, starting right here, right now. No more “there just aren’t any girls in good bands” rubbish, no more excuses, because here’s proof that the girls can rock.

For fans of Fall Out Boy, Set It Off, and Panic! At The Disco…PVRIS are your band! Actually, PVRIS are your band, whatever you like – they completely transcend the boundaries of genre! Frontwoman Lynn Gunn is many things; an equally poignant and punchy lyricist, a simultaneously vulnerable and powerful vocalist, an endearing personality, the love of my life, and a captivating performer. Lynn Gunn is a star, through and through, and this band’s brilliance is something that cannot be denied.

For fans of Simple Plan, All Time Low, We The Kings, and everything slick, shiny, and upbeat about pop-punk…We Are The In Crowd, Against The Current, Jule Vera, and Echosmith encompass it all. Having seen both WATIC and Echosmith live, not expecting a lot from either, I can promise that they deliver energetic, and dynamic performances, as well as catchy tunes that will have you smiling so much your face hurts. ATC and JV are similarly striking in their sound, every melodic, anthemic song just oozing energy.

For fans of the slightly punchier pop-punkers such as Neck Deep…Tonight Alive are for you. These Australian pop-punkers are fronted by Jenna McDougall, who is pretty much the coolest human you will ever come across. Jen is the ultimate hero, inspiring all with her positive but straight-up attitude to life – Tonight Alive aren’t about being overwhelmingly and unnaturally upbeat, but they don’t go in for negativity. I have been known to cry for approximately half their set at gigs and festivals, whilst jumping and dancing wildly, because that’s what they spark in me, in everyone – an abundance of feeling, and the drive to live.

For fans of bands like A Day To Remember…Love, Robot and Behind The Façade are killer. Behind The Façade are a particularly exciting band to me, because *gasp* MORE THAN ONE MEMBER OF THE BAND IS A GIRL. Shocking, isn’t it? They have a fantastic sound too, as do Love, Robot, fronted by the ever-charming, ever-brutal Alexa San Roman. Alexa is Jeremy McKinnon, but (dare I say it?) better.

For fans of straight up punk, bands like Anti Flag and The Menzingers…Against Me! are the most progressive, political punk band going. The band are vocal about everything; racism, sexism, homophobia, and most strongly, transphobia. Since singer Laura Jane Grace came out as transgender in 2012, the band have put out an album of incredibly raw emotion and raucous sounds. Transgender Dysphoria Blues is the best album to have come out of the past five years, and that is not something that is up for discussion; it is fact.

For fans of Enter Shikari…Marmozets are a brilliant bunch. I love them to pieces. Looking at them on stage, you’d think they were going to be an average indie band. Well, average is one thing they certainly are not, and things get far too heavy to call this indie. Frontwoman Becca Macintyre is a complete powerhouse, belting and screaming and never stopping for breath, but it never seems like she needs to. She was born to make noise, and bloody good noise at that.

For fans of bands like Mallory Knox, We Are The Ocean, and other stadium-worthy rock…Halestorm and The Pretty Reckless kick-ass. The Pretty Reckless get a bad rep, mostly because the world is full of slut-shamers. It sucks, a) because slut-shaming sucks and b) because TPR are actually pretty good. Taylor Momsen’s voice is dark, snarling, and absolutely captivating. Halestorm, meanwhile, would probably be one of the biggest bands on the planet right now if it weren’t for the simple fact that Lzzy Hale is a woman. A fearless, bad-ass, refuses-to-be-silenced woman. They are a Foo Fighters kind of good. They deserve a Foo Fighters kind of recognition.

For fans of Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax…give Babymetal a go. Yes, really. I’ll be honest, when I first heard of Babymetal, I thought it was a gimmick. I went to see them at Reading, expecting it all to be a big joke. But it was phenomenal. This was real, heavy metal music, heavier than anything else I heard across the weekend. And it was fun. Really fun. I loved it. Kudos to Babymetal.

 

 

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