November 17, 2010


Women on the Verge of a Musical Breakthrough

The most successful music exports that the U.K. has been churning out over the past few years: solo female artists with big, big voices. Talents like Amy Winehouse, Adele and Florence and the Machine draw from different influences, but share common iron lungs, strong opinions and striking uses of image. Stateside, we’re finally seeing an emergence of female forces to be reckoned with. However, these artists, bubbling out of cities across the U.S., occupy a wider swath of genres. (Hey, we are a melting pot after all.) Here, a primer on whom you’ll be hearing a lot more of in the future:

Sky Ferreira:

The youngest and most financially backed of the bunch, the Los Angeles-based Ferreira is already a darling in Europe—appearing in edgy, taste-making fashion magazines such as Dazed & Confused, Purple, and Jalouse. If her two singles, “One” and “Obsession,” are any indication, her debut album (out in January) will expand on her growing repertoire of synth pop overlain with vocals that are alternately glossy-light and cat-scratched. (Think: more Robyn than Britney.) Her releases thus far haven’t quite made traction on the charts, but music supervisors are already all up in her catalog, placing her tunes in shows such as The Vampire Diaries.

Zola Jesus:

We’ve already extolled the gothic transcendence of Nika Danilova in this space, but at this point there’s no underselling her singular talent. This dark banshee was born into the lush, dairy-soaked environs of Wisconsin (she’s now in L.A.), yet she summons tribal experience that’s beguilingly otherworldly. We have no idea what her songs—“Poor Animal,” “Night”—are about. Just that they give us goosebumps.

Alex Winston:

Winston was once a touring teen-pop act who opened for everyone from Miranda Lambert to Ted Nugent. Just a year or so ago, she moved from Detroit to New York City to break out on her own by writing her own material. Ever since, the opera-trained singer with a glorious, nightingale-high voice has been amassing indie cred based on her idiosyncratic ditties about love, most of them recalling the work of Kate Bush, such as the blogger favorites “Choice Notes” and “Medicine.” And while her cooings may sound chirpy, Winston packs a powerful punch live.

Sharon Little:

Though she’s been around for almost four years now, Little is barely recognized by name. However, an assortment of girl-empowered tracks from the Philly native’s soul-inflected catalog of pop rockers have appeared in NCIS and The Good Wife, and Little also secured a plum opening slot a few years back to support Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. Little’s third full-length, out in early 2011 could finally prove auspicious for her: She’s riding high on the industry-insider success of her prior material, and this one finds her paired with high-profile producer Don Was (Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan), which is as good an advertisement as any.

Rye Rye:

Underground fans have been waiting two or so years now for the M.I.A. protégé to drop her debut, Go! Pop! Bang!, which should finally come out in early 2011. (In case you’re curious, she was busy having a baby.) Unlike the other ladies on this list, Ryeisha Berrain stands apart for the sheer physicality of what she does: commanding dance-rap with sing-songy verses, driven by an unrelenting Baltimore beat. It’s the type of sound that’s slightly cartoonish but totally life-affirming. On the fence about this sort of thing? Just watch her dance.