July 27, 2017 | by NO RECESS! Staff
On Monday, NPR released The 150 Greatest Albums Made By Women, in which Ann Powers was sure to say the list wasn't meant to be as much a force of authority on the matter but an invitation to the beginning of a new conversation.
Well, we took the invite, and came up with another 50 preeminent female-driven records that didn't quite cut the mustard on NPR's list. This is not a rebuttal, but rather a response to an important thread of dialogue.
Fiona Apple, The Idler Wheel…
It's hard to imagine a Fiona Apple record more raw and brutally honest than Tidal, but The Idler Wheel... is just that: all gut-honesty, smart, and at times ugly-tense shot through an amusement park, resulting in a perfect record from the woman who told us years before, "This world is bullshit."
Babes in Toyland, Fontanelle
Babes in Toyland were progenitors of a pre-riot grrrl mindset: Their babydoll/kinderwhore style and impulsive, divergent, and ruthless punk rock delivery coalesced beautifully into pure old-school grunge rage on their second studio album and first major label release.
Azealia Banks, Broke With Expensive Taste
Her quick and unrelenting tongue didn’t always get her in trouble, but it used to be fun when it did.
Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
It was only three years between Barnett’s debut EP release I've Got a Friend Called Emily Ferris and her first studio album, but in no time the Melbourne rocker captured the hearts of every deadpan cynic lover and emerged with a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist.
Be Your Own Pet, Get Awkward
The wildest frontwoman of the 2000s deserved to be pinned onto every backpack, but between the hilarious odes to zombies and pizza, relationship-soured lines like “You want so bad to be the victim” and “You’re making me think way too hard” were trenchant beyond her 21 years.
The queen of the 2010’s preaches the gospel of waking up flawless and makes the sexiest album focused on the pleasures and frustrations of monogamy for decades, possibly ever?
Bikini Kill, Pussy Whipped
The most bracing punk album of the ‘90s cemented Kathleen Hanna as one of the world’s greatest shouters, and the riffs are an unpolished whirlwind too.
Neko Case, Blacklisted
Her voice is piercing and foreboding, sure, but Neko Case is not without some wry humor (the highest form of coping?) on the haunted, beautiful western balladry of Blacklisted.
Elizabeth Cook, Welder
Cook’s rockingest album has a loose-hipped feel that provides a raw setting for her astute observations and frank,open-hearted confessions delivered with enough wry humor to avoid getting bogged down in schmaltz.
Lana Del Rey, Born to Die
The most emulated artist of the 2010s is far too occupied with writing great songs and counting her money to read the comments.
The Donnas, Get Skintight
If the Runaways were comprised entirely of Joan clones, they might’ve been able to keep up with these hooks, but not the guitar solos.
Dyke Drama, Tender Resignation
If you thought Transgender Dysphoria Blues was riveting, try Sadie Switchblade’s E Street-cum-Replacements tearjerkers about the trans heartbreak experience.
Ex Hex, Rips
Mary Timony’s been a DIY art-rock icon for so long that she decided to turn off the prefix for a spell and ended up with the best garage-glam power trio in recent memory.
Sky Ferreira, Night Time, My Time
TFW when a promising pop star ends up rocking out instead, for the best Blondie tribute since you’ve been alive.
Garbage, Version 2.0
Version 2.0 is everything their debut was but better, and Shirley Manson’s sullen lyrical introspection and delivery found a way to make the hi-fi rock-meets-electronica of the times sound tough and cool instead of corny as hell.
The all-female counterpart to Motörhead in the late-70s British heavy metal scene came out of the gates with a title track that objectified the boys, and then literally every following song is a hit single, too — they may’ve stayed relatively underground, but 37 years later Demolition holds up incredibly well.
The Gossip, That’s Not What I Heard
Beth Ditto is bluesy, sexy, and strong, and keeps up the pulsating urgency on a sweaty and raw punk rock record that near-constantly teeters on a powerful emotional edge (and it’s catchy, too!).
Grimes, Art Angels
Claire Boucher’s writing, singing, and production skills could kill you with a million meticulously constructed sonic needle-teeth but you might just be enjoying dancing your ass off so much you don’t notice.
Laurel Halo, Quarantine
In which one of the best current electronic producers and voice-layerers taunts uncomfortably, “You’re mad because I will not leave you alone.”
Jefferson Airplane, Surrealistic Pillow
Grace Slick. “White Rabbit.” There’s never again been anything like it.
Kate and Anna McGarrigle, Dancer with Bruised Knees
Dare I say that in 2017, the McGarrigle sisters have a reputation as quaint folksy songwriter ladies with charming harmonies, and, well, that’s all true. However, this stereotype risks minimizing their clarity of observation of human relationships and emotions — which in this album acknowledge the joys of anticipation the the pains of betrayal with breezy accuracy, as if saying “this too shall pass.”
The Knife, Shaking the Habitual
The Swedish duo’s meditation on the materiality and performativity of gender could keep a gender studies graduate student busy for years, OR (my preference) we could all just fuck to it at the orgy next weekend.
Lady Gaga, Born This Way
Gaga’s the most visionary working pop star this side of Beyoncé, and of her several great albums (including the wrongfully dismissed Artpop), Born This Way displays her awe-striking range: Mutt-Lange country, “Dirty Diana”-style pop-metal, house anthems for weeks.
Le Tigre, Le Tigre
Electroclash is making the damn list, because Le Tigre did it better than anyone else. Sewn into the samples and beats of their sonic self-titled debut are plenty of sociopolitical remarks on feminism and LGBT issues that elevated a seemingly vapid scene into an anthemic, danceable assembly.
L7, Bricks Are Heavy
“Poster girls” of the grunge scene? We’re pretty sure Donita Sparks could have kicked all poster boys of the grunge scene’s collective ass. Alas, Bricks Are Heavy is essential listening for all.
Lydia Lunch, Queen of Siam
Lydia’s first solo release is unnervingly ambiguous, depressing and drenched in a jazzy noir-goth, a record content to be discontent (as well as containing one of the best songs ever, “Atomic Bongos.”)
M People, Elegant Slumming
Who said disco doesn’t have album artists? Probably a man.
Melanie, Born to Be
No, this isn’t the record with the Rollergirl song on it, but nonetheless you may recognize a Kanye sample in album opener “In the Hour” — then, if you haven’t already, please go discover the rest of this beautiful and funny folk record for yourself.
MC Lyte, Lyte as a Rock
The first female rapper to release a full album, MC Lyte was a pioneer in a very dude-heavy scene, and Lyte as a Rock is a classic in the truest sense of the word.
Nellie McKay, Get Away from Me
Imagine, if you will, that the ghost of Dorothy Parker has been hanging around Manhattan reading Bust magazine all these years, and has found the reincarnation of Doris Day to haunt and put her epigrams to music, set solidly in crooning and top-drawer cabaret style ivory tickling. This would be their first double album.
Nicki Minaj, Pink Friday
The greatest rapper alive isn't given her due as a great album-maker, but even the ones she sings are bangers.
Paramore, Brand New Eyes
Hayley Williams can do many things well — ‘80s pop, faux-Brill Building, Loretta Lynn covers — but her heaviest album made her the premier arena-rocker of the 2010s.
Pistol Annies, Hell on Heels
The finest country album of the last ten years could well be the finest album of the period, period. We dare you to find a wasted second or unquotable lyric in this ultimate supergroup one-off’s 30 minutes.
Over dance-punk so intense it made Gang of Four feel like comparative stiffs, Vanessa Briscoe-Hay yowled “Feast on My Heart” like she was about to devour yours.
We knew she was a chart-singles queen, but her latest proved Rihanna is every bit as formidable a capital-A album artist (and a singer! “Love on the Brain” and “Higher,” wow) as she is a hook factory.
Rilo Kiley, More Adventurous
Jenny Lewis has written more good songs than anyone she’s ever dated, and with each successive release, her ability to sing them became more and more stunning. Few write stronger about love and few convey it with such elaborate yet restrained grandeur. No wonder the A-list finally caught up with her.
Jill Scott, Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds Vol. 1
Who is she? A poet, a singer, a songwriter, and a grown-ass woman who loves herself and knows that sharing love is messy and hard and worth it anyway.
Screaming Females, Ugly
Marissa Paternoster is the most impressive and inventive axe-shredder to come out of indie-punk in decades, and on her band’s best album the songs are up to par, with the roiling epic “Doom 84” and power-pop juggernaut “Help Me” placed back-to-back as if we needed their range of abilities spelled out.
The Shondes, The Garden
What happens when Brooklynites with a riot grrl sensibility channel Bruce Springsteen? Oh, and add a violin to the mix? This album, which is earnest as hell, but in the knowingly hopeful way that only survivors who made it out alive can be.
Roxanne Shanté, The Bitch Is Back
It’s actually disgusting how obscure the inventor of the hip-hop response song (at only age 14, too) has become, especially after bowing out of the game with this scorched-earth finale.
St. Vincent, Strange Mercy
Annie Clark escaped from the cultish, overbearing joy that was The Polyphonic Spree to carve out her own path, featuring herself as guitar virtuoso with experiments in electropop, jazz and indie rock — none more concise, personal, and made for headphones that the triumphant Strange Mercy.
Sleater-Kinney, The Woods
Sleater-Kinney have smarter lyrics, more memorable melodies, and more pointed politics all over their bulletproof discography, but they’ve never exploded harder and more furiously than The Woods, a neutron bomb of brick-walled shrieking that could make Robert Plant loyalists stutter.
Sleigh Bells, Jessica Rabbit
Reviews pay less and less attention, but each successive Sleigh Bells album has brought Alexis Krauss even more to the forefront as they’ve grown in complexity.
Sonic Youth, Goo
Kim Gordon had been Sonic Youth’s secret weapon for years but on Goo she became the leader just in time for their close-up, whether mythologizing her friend Goo’s green underwear or demanding Chuck D liberate her sister from white male corporate oppression.
Stereolab, Emperor Tomato Ketchup
Long before Arcade Fire or even Belle and Sebastian, Laetitia Sadier and Mary Hansen were leading alt-rock’s premier ensemble “groop” through retro-analog drone candy that sounded like no one else, on a major label to boot.
Team Dresch, Captain My Captain
Donna Dresch didn’t become the icon that Carrie Brownstein or Kathleen Hanna did but her great, short-lived punk band rallied queer scenesters and guitar-wielders all over the country thanks to anthems like “I’m Illegal” that resonate more than ever in the wake up of Trump’s cruelty against military trans citizens: “Don’t try to find fake reasons to hate us.”
tUnE-yArDs, w h o k i l l
One of the most promising and unique working artists has just the right kind of unforgettable voice and intricacy of attack to unleash sexual fantasies about the cop arresting her brother (“Riotriot”), or simply being levitated by her real-life lover (“Powa”). She’s got plenty to say about our country, too.
Wussy, Funeral Dress
These ragged Ohioans stumbled onto one of the great breakup albums first time out the gate, not least thanks to Lisa Walker’s warmly hummable sorrow on “Crooked” (“It wasn’t meant the way you took it”) or Midwestern mercilessness on “Soak It Up” (“I found a bullet while you were finding God”).
Yo La Tengo, …And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out
There are sad, lonesome albums and joyful, romantic albums, and then there is Yo La Tengo's ... And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out. In 2000, Georgia Hubley's vocals on "Tears Are In Your Eyes" convinced at least one of us that depression could, too, be majestic.