The paradox of all-female-themed lists is that we should keep making them while hoping that we (really) no longer should.
Words by Aldus Santos
Illustration by MC Galang
First things first. To me the paradox of all-female-themed lists is that we should keep making them while hoping that we (really) no longer should. It’s not a dead end; it’s more like a philosophical cul-de-sac. In other words, it’s both ridiculous (like, in-this-day-and-age ridiculous) and absolutely necessary (and not just because of the sheer mathematical imbalance of it all).
That said, no rationale (but, also, all manner of it) is needed to back up such an undertaking. Advances have certainly been made (from Tina to Beyoncé, from Patti to Phoebe) but not enough to put our feet up on. We here at The Rest is Noise, I feel, have an unspoken pledge to not just much champion women but also avoid being unmindful agents of the status quo.
I know I’ve been rhapsodizing almost exclusively in contradictions, but allow me the indulgence of another: a month may be much too short a penance for all the times we’ve looked the other way, but we’ve got forever to stay frozen in it. Below are some recent favorites that are so good they chide us into surrender.
Pikoy: “Sali Tayo”
I’m not in the habit of passing off sound-alikes as actual descriptions, but if you can somehow picture Karen O-style nihilism with St. Vincent-brand adventurism—crossed with Grimes’ oddball charms and the Dirty Projectors’ unhinged energy—then you’ll get a ballpark idea of what Pikoy’s about. This playful new track is a manic stop-and-go/loud-quiet-loud rocker that erupts into discordant-guitar and double-pedal-drumming utopia. Pikoy only gets better with each new release, and I can’t wait for a full new record, a bigger canvas where she (along with her always-thrilling producer Nick Lazaro) will surely have more room for pyrotechnics.
Coates: “Big Shot”
Much of the Rachel Coates myth has snowballed over the past year via the breakthrough GL series Pearl Next Door, where she plays Alex Aguirre. But her music output continues to both conflate and confound, and her new outing “Big Shot” is no exception. It’s a stunning bit of maximalist musical theater that’s got all the (cow)bells and whistles. A thumping anti-chest-thumper, it has the lyrical discipline of great morning-paper exposition: “Drink in hand and leather jacket / Standing like a Russian czar / Think that you’re down to hack it / Façade won’t get you far.” But being a monster-slayer requires monstrosity in equal measure, and in this track, Coates wears that hat well.
The Buildings: “Heaven is a Long Exhale”
The Buildings’ “Heaven is a Long Exhale” breaks the band’s almost-five-year dry spell for new material post-Cell-O-Phane, and it doesn’t disappoint. It’s cut from the same cloth—a sumptuous mix of jangle, arpeggio, and disconsolate Malkmus-school singing—but with a worn-in quality, where the dangling notes and lackadaisical cadence, much like a favorite shirt, feel not just comfortable but soothingly familiar. “Heaven” is an advance single from a similarly-named upcoming record, slated for release via Japanese label Call and Response. More than being pseudo-curators for an arguably bygone era in indie, Mariah Reodica and company prove in “Heaven” that they remain ardent melodists and reinventors.
I have written about this release once in 2012, and for the new Lilystars remaster, twice this year before this. And look, whether or not ambient is your cup of tea, Adrift remains as fine a testament as any to the therapeutic qualities of music. And by this I mean both the consumer and the creator, because apart from shattering the pigeonhole her TV and film work have sort of buried her in, Alessandra de Rossi, through this record, is pining to regain the humanity that her characters took away from her. “It wasn’t who I am,” she told me. And this album definitely is.
While technically a Suspiria Pink track, “Lonely Hearts” features a guest performance from Cheats’ Saab Magalona, who lends the tune not just her voice but, also, what that voice has come to mean: a world-weariness that edges towards yielding but never quite does. It’s also a delightful downtime boy-girl ditty, and a much-welcome break from more driving, more overdriven previous offerings from the band.
Noa Mal: Impostor Syndrome
It may be rough on the edges instrumentally and mix-wise, but the new LP from the incredibly prolific Noa Mal—we’re admittedly latecomers to her music, but as you see, happily rectifying that—is brimming with both character and tasty melodicism. Impostor Syndrome won’t be out of place in the company of the best dream pop, lo-fi, and twee, but I’m hearing, in my mind’s ear, how this material can get a further shot in the arm to reach Elastica-Cibo Matto heights. If she’s so inclined, I mean. Otherwise, hey, let’s mumble-hum the shit out of these tunes, because they’re really quite good.