What I love about Brandi Carlile is she has an ability to speak to me, woman-to-woman, to explain what a strong woman does. And how a strong woman does what she does. And I learn from her records every time I play them — all three of them are kind of a trilogy of master works from an incredible songwriter and even more incredible vocalist. Ms. Carlile is amazing. She speaks volumes with volumes and never holds back her heart on her vocal cords. If there was a manual on how to really live your life as a woman, and what kinds of experiences women go through, that manual could be easily subtituted for Carlile’s three-part repetoire.
Other albums that have shown me what being a girl or a woman really means:
-Kate Nash, Made of Bricks… Kate Nash is an adorable little firecracker with songs involving banging a piano simplistically and singing with a chirpy cockney voice. Sure, she’s cute, but the girl can seriously sing about things that I’m sure most twenty-something girls could point to and say, “THAT’S EXACTLY HOW I FELT WHEN THAT EXACT THING HAPPENED TO ME!” It’s like a man-bashing girl talk right in your ears. Not ALWAYS “bashing” to be fair, but even the sweet songs, the yearning ones, carry with them a youthful, extremely contemporary popculture-referencing side that is fresh and definitely well-rounded. Made of Bricks will forever and ever remind me of being 21.
–Rachael Yamagata – Elephants/Teeth Sinking into Heart… the best breakup album ever maybe, by either a man or a woman. But what I love about it is this: I think when I talked in my blog about (500) Days of Summer (a GREAT movie as an aside), I mentioned my irritation with the fact that when women are broken down by heartbreak in movies, they are often portrayed as disingenuously desperate and pathetic but when a man is heartbroken, he is an endearing and sympathetic character who is fighting some kind of losing battle. Yamagata portrays heartbreak in her little collection of songs here in ways that are bitter and angry in a VERY genuine way, and conversely, deeply deeply troubling and saddening, and both emotions make up the two most prominent and relateable sides of feelings following a failed romance.
-Beth Orton – Central Reservation… Beth Orton communicates with me in all of her songs, whether they’re happy, cute, morbidly depressing, or moral-teaching. I’m sure I could make a poster with a long list, accompanying the title “Everything I Needed to Know in Life I Learned from The Sweetest Decline“.
–Dido – Life for Rent… when I was in high school listening to this record, I thought no line better summed up my life than “I’ve still got sand in my shoes but I can’t shake the thought of you”, despite then, having nothing – NOTHING – to do with my actual lonely little life at all. I grew up, have lived experiences closer to those Dido sings about on that track, and still feel similarly about it.
-Leona Naess – Thirteens… why is this song on here? The main reason, and the only one worth mentioning here is a quote: “let’s go out late, drink a lot, stay up past 8 and then dance, dance all night, and leave our boyfriends behind… leave our boyfriends.”
-Patty Griffin – Living With Ghosts… while most of my picks have been chosen due to their lack of shallow showmanship, this album takes the cake for that category; with little production at all, Patty’s voice cuts through like nails or sand. She sings about everything on this record from breakups to poverty to “needing a little place in the sun sometimes of she thinks she will die”. And though I can’t exactly relate to everything, I can certainly relate to Griffin’s perspective on the stories she tells. She’s a great songwriter like that.
-Lisa Hannigan – Sea Sew… A la Yamagata’s genius record, the idea of the brooding and persistent person with the crush, while usually attached to the man’s role in song and art, is here, a woman’s game (and in my life, and the lives of many of the girls I know). And I love this record because it opens that door, and others, and relates to my romantic perspectives on life.
-Alanis Morisette – Jagged Little Pill… Pill is the first VERY dynamic “fuck you to men” record of the 90s, and one of the best and most frank ones ever. “When I scratch my nails down someone else’s back I hope you feel it” is power, full-stop. It puts the anger in my hands, and I like it that way sometimes.