Well crikey moses, what a year it’s been for the girls are: we’ve grown from a small team of ten, to a busy, bickering, dysfunctional family of over twenty; we’ve been involved in the brilliant spectacle that was Ladyfest Ten; we’ve appeared on BBC 6 Music, seen reviewers set up in Manchester, Paris, San Francisco and further, welcomed our brilliant Deputy Editor Kate Gresswell on board, not to mention bearing witness to some of the most brilliant gigs around. Our writers have produced some outstanding reviews, retrospectives, and essays, and our photographers have continued to display breathtaking talent.
So in honour of this most wonderful year, we’ve asked some of our contributors to reveal their highlights. Here’s to 2011!
Connie: Warpaint @ C.A.M.P. Sweaty basement? Check. Sweaty Warpaint? Check. Sweaty audience? Check. GIG WIN.
Adam: Blood Red Shoes @ Electric Ballroom.
Rachel: tUnE-YarDs at Cargo, 15 February. Sublime and captivating. Merrill Garbus raised the roof and brought everyone flying up with her. Just as blown away by her with a full live band at Scala four months later in June, but at the Cargo gig the whole audience felt like tUnE-YarDs had uncovered a secret and shared it with them.
Cheri: Hole @ Shepherds Bush, 18 Feb. As one of the lucky few to grapple with the ticket masters successfully before touts everywhere bared down on the site, the prospect of seeing Hole live was something I never thought could be realised. Yet, with some help from former Larrikin Love guitarist, Miko and my golden ticket in hand, Love took to the stage this February in light of the band’s new record, Nobody’s Daughter. Screaming “go on take everything” with the same vitriol and venom as Love herself (as well as the thousands of other riot grrrls who came out to see our 90s grunge queen clad in sparkles and princess frock) may not have been quite the same a few years down the line (and that goes for us all, Courtney) but it was still one hell of a comeback.
Ruth Barnes: Nina Nastasia @ Cafe Oto.
Katie: Marina and the Diamonds headlining Secret Garden Party.
Elizabeth: Patti Smith at the Union Chapel. Punk poet legend in tiny venue with Patrick Wolf on violin. Say no more.
Jane: Although it feels like a long, long time ago now, seeing MEN back in January at Madame Jojo’s was definitely one of the highlights. It was one of those nights when it all came together; there was a wonderful warm atmosphere (“It’s like one big queer happy family in here tonight!” JD said onstage at the time), bizarre costumes (Lycra catsuits, chainmail headdresses and go-go dancers in sequinned tuxedo jackets), a lot of dancing, and also the first time I ever met our marvellous editrice (yet another reason for the fond memories of the evening!) That said, seeing Envy, Patricia Panther, Lady Leshurr, Lykez and Gracious B freestyling together at Ladyfest Ten felt like a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It doesn’t get much better than this!
Rosie: Ana Moura @ Turner Sims Southampton 30 October. Just beautiful.
Dara: Girl in a Coma at Bottom of The Hill, SF.
Balk: I Blame Coco @ Scala.
Kate: CocoRosie at the O2, Oxford. An absolutely mesmerising pair, they managed to hypnotise the entire audience for well over two hours with their ethereal, beautiful sound. So emotional I cried in an all-night ice cream parlour afterwards.
Annette: It’s a 50/50 split between tUnE-YarDs at Cargo in February, and Friday night at Ladyfest Ten. The former was a truly reverential experience, not only because Merril Garbus literally wrapped the heaving, ecstatic audience round her finger from the very first note, but also because I spent the evening in the company of the girls are‘s very first (and most wonderfully supportive) photographer Rachel Ferriman, and our biggest champion Ruth Barnes of The Other Woman (incidentally, who first introduced us to tUnE-YarDs). Friday night at Ladyfest Ten remains the music-programming highlight of my life. Once again teaming up with the brilliant Ruth, this evening saw some of the most achingly talented female MC’s and beatboxers in the UK freestyle together, in front of a baying, euphoric crowd. The atmosphere encapsulated the entire festival, and made a year’s worth of hard graft consummately worth it.
Connie: Warpaint, The Fool.
Cheri: Blood Red Shoes, Fire Like This. Their debut album Box of Secrets was a long time coming and its release was almost like a ‘best of’ for the band, stocked full of hits and live favourites as many of us already held a flame for this Brighton duo. However, the bands new album, released this year, saw that flame get even hotter. Fire Like This still showcases what the band does best; those signature boy-girl vocals, the yelps, those spine tingling harmonies and yet this time it’s raw, aggressive and urgent. The chemistry remains between the two but the heat is intensified with sultry, introspective vocals as well as some beautifully colossal musicianship. Blood Red Shoes certainly know how to thrash out a pop hit and this collection is, truly, on fire.
Katie: Janelle Monae, Archandroid.
Elizabeth: Sleigh Bells, Treats. An electro noise sonic assault by the Brooklyn duo.
Sini: The Like, Release Me.
Jane: I’ve spent many an hour listening to We’re All In This Together by Gabby Young and Other Animals over the last few months. The title track is melancholy and uplifting all at once (and definitely one of my favourite songs of the year), and the album has that magic formula of being equal parts spine-tingling and toe-tapping.
Rosie: Esperanza Spalding, Chamber Music Society.
Dara: Janelle Monae, The ArchAndroid, whose song ‘Tightrope’ landed her a 2010 Grammy nomination.
Kate: Robyn, Body Talk. I only actually listened to this in full a few days ago, having never really been that fussed by Robyn, but I’ve absolutely fallen for her; this album is a triumph.
Annette: Screaming Females, Castle Talk. After *years* of playing cult-status small-scale gigs, and producing record after record of flawless post-punk, this New Jersey three-piece far surpassed expectations with the near-perfect Castle Talk.
ARTIST OF THE YEAR
Connie: You can probably take a wild guess… From relative anonymity they burst onto the UK music scene, leaving audiences whimpering with pleasure in the wake of their live shows, before dropping the best album of the year. Cue NME cover and general press falling over themselves to lavish praise on them. WELL DONE GIRLS. (I am talking about Warpaint here, just to be clear).
Adam: Lissie. She’s had a brilliant year, especially since the release of Catching A Tiger.
Rachel: Arcade Fire for the Hackney Empire show, 8 July. Amazing chance to see such a band at one of my favourite venues.
Cheri: The Slits. The death of punk-reggae ‘reine’ Ari-Up in October this year was devastating news to a generation that saw the quirky front woman govern the music scene with her eccentric style and exuberant spirit. The Slits remain a huge part of the punk explosion as well as putting women in the forefront of the music scene, not only for their controversial artwork but, for their timeless hits in classics like ‘Typical Girls’ and ‘Heard It Through The Grapevine’. Reforming this year, with a new line-up and new album to boot, The Slits were more than just jumping on the comeback wagon, offering up a new slice of their sassy tunes and a righteous return tour too. Ari Up and The Slits will be sorely missed; she is lady musicality defined.
Ruth Barnes: Dark Dark Dark
Katie: Gabby Young and Other Animals ‘cos they managed to appear at 15 festivals this summer.
Elizabeth: Sleigh Bells. For pushing things forward and exceeding the expectations of their much hyped demos.
Sini: The Like.
Jane: Patti Smith, for Just Kids, her book about her love affair and friendship with Robert Mapplethorpe. It came out earlier this year and last month was awarded the US National Book Award. As Editor of For Books’ Sake and a long-time Patti Smith obsessive, this book beautifully combines my two great loves, although I can’t read more than a page or two at a time without bawling my eyes out!
Richard: Again, Warpaint. Damn.
Rosie: Natalie Williams – My Oh My released 2010 and she’s an inspiration.
Dara: Hole! After 12 years of mischief and gossip, Courtney Love sat down, wrote some songs and got back together with the ladies to release Nobody’s Daughter in April 2010.
Annette: Oh dear sweet lord, how does one choose? First mention simply must go to the divine She Makes War. Queen of the DIY music scene, Laura Kidd deservedly won Just A Girl and proved exactly why with her performance at Ladyfest Ten. Second mention goes to Trash Kit who not only managed to entertain us consistently throughout the entire year, but who are also just the loveliest people. Finally, another Ladyfest Ten-related swoon – Peepholes. They’ve been a firm favourite for quite some time, but seeing them onstage at The Garage just floored me.
Kate: Has to be The xx. Rather cliched by now I know, but this really has been their year. Subtle, intelligent music, conveying ennui, nostalgia and heartbreak. Plus, I have a big crush on the butchly beautiful Romy.
the girls are MOMENT OF THE YEAR
Rachel: I Really Need You Tonight | Ultimate Power Ballads – the post on ultimate power ballads gave me a happy few days of singing loudly (in my head). All the amazing music the girls are has introduced me to this year, it’s been such a treat.
Cheri: Ladyfest Ten. What a great achievement, and hot merch, to boot. Are there any of these totes left? (No, seriously…)
Ruth Barnes: Botched Fairytale, I will be forever grateful for your introduction!
Katie: Balk’s gig gallery from the Gabby Young and Other Animals show at Tamesis Dock.
Elizabeth: Layla Smethurst’s photos of Crystal Castles at the Roundhouse. Captured the energy of Alice Glass at her crawling, snarling, crowd diving best.
Sini: Wunmi’s shot of The Like.
Jane: This shot of the insanely-talented Laura Kidd (She Makes War) at Ladyfest Ten makes me come over all unnecessary. It captures the passion of both the musicians and organisers at the festival, and the rollercoaster of events that took Laura from being a contestant at Just a Girl to sharing the stage with the likes of MEN and Nicky Click. Last but not least, it hammers home how jammy I am to be able to work with the wonderful musicians, writers and photographers who’ve been involved with the girls are over the last year.
Richard: Seeing Peepholes at Ladyfest Ten and getting the feeling that I really should punch anyone who didn’t tell me about them sooner. All the beers Annette owes me. Actually, just the last one. Seriously, that’s it. I really do only have a one track mind. Three if you count boobs (and everyone does). Maybe four if you count brushing my teeth. Maybe. Ok, I guess there’s lots of tracks. Bit of a horrible clusterfuck. Like Hatfield just waiting to happen all over again up there.
Dara: Top 5 | Nice Frock, Love by Jane Bradley.
Kate: Does Friday night at Ladyfest Ten count? The range of female MCs on stage at The Horatia was outstanding. Envy was brilliant as ever, but just seeing so many fiercesomely talented women kicking ass on stage that night was flipping fantastic.
TIPS FOR 2011
Connie: Can’t choose between these three very different luscious ladies: Tennis – Coming to our shores this January. Whilst they might not storm the UK charts I reckon they’re going to drop a pretty darn good album if the single teasers are anything to go by. 60s schmaltzy reminiscence at it’s best. Lonelady – fantastic album, expect things to finally take off for her this year. Nicki Minaj – some of the most filthy rap this side of Lil Kim, she has just released her debut album to huge praise featuring everyone from Eminem to Kanye. She also likes to run around in bikinis with her rather large rack on show. I think we’ll be seeing more of her this year.
Cheri: The Joy Formidable. Really, this band should continue to be tipped until they fall right back upon themselves and the fact that they have not become bigger, much sooner still baffles me. For now at least, it means I am able to clutch onto them as my own and brag about how I knew them before their big hits and before they were releasing Third-World-inspired-radio-friendly-pap like the Kings of Leon. Impending world domination aside, this Welsh trio are a fantastic live act and a whizz with whirling sound scapes and dizzying intensity. They should be huge, just like their colossal and dazzling sounds.
Rachel: The Complete Short Stories – debut album will be out soon.
Ruth Barnes: MC Lykez.
Elizabeth: Warpaint. They are making a name for themselves already, but next year will be theirs.
Jane: They’ve both been around for a while, but every time I see either Pussycat & The Dirty Johnsons or Zombina and the Skeletones live, I come away besotted, breathless, sore of feet and soggy of gusset. And a certain music promoter I know has plans to put them on the same bill early next year, so watch this space for more info about that. It will be one you won’t want to miss, promise.
Richard: Fuck, I don’t have a crystal ball. Play it safe; probably Chapter 24 and Tennis. I’d hope Ghosts You Echo and I’d love to say Second Head. Only piss-poor timing and being shit out of luck could really stop those first two. Probably someone nobodies even heard of yet. They’ll be really hyped out of nowhere in Spring, everyone’ll love them in Summer, pretend they already knew about them ‘way back when,’ sometime around Autumn, and they’ll be routinely refered to as “Slack-jawed Cunts” by Winter.
Rosie: Look out for more from Esperanza Spalding – she’s going to be big news in the jazz world.
Kate: The Unthanks. Having built up a growing following over the past few years, the delicate folk of Rachel and Becky Unthank is one to watch. If you get the chance to see them live, do – their music is incredibly moving, and, like all good musicians, they sound far better live.
Annette: Ghosts You Echo, Botched Fairytale and She Makes War thoroughly deserve to *own* this year. I also expect great things from Peepholes. People you need to check out this year are Selebrities, Minnie Birch, Transmittens, Cevanne, Envy, Vialka, Blue Cherrys, Symph, Lady Chann, Lady Leshurr, and La Sera.