It’s the most wonderful time of the year: the dawning of the Hercury Music Award. 

Faced with a seriously strong showing of new albums released over the last 12 months and following a series of savage debates and secret votes, the LOUD WOMEN Team have fought each other to a shortlisted standstill over the following final dozen records – half of them debuts – that furnish further proof of the health and creative wealth of the (mostly) DIY music scene. The usual criteria apply: albums by British Isles-based (self-identified) female/nonbinary-led bands or solo artists, released between mid-July 2021 and mid-July 2022 – any format, any level of distribution. Accept no corporate counterfeits.

Here’s the rundown, in alphabetical order:

Berries – How We Function (July, 2022)

Impressively adept, melodic and compelling indie rock on the debut LP from this all-female London power trio, including ‘We Are Machines’ (former Loud Women track of the day), ‘Wall Of Noise’ (former Loud Women video of the day) and ‘The Expert’, as featured on Loud Women Volume 4 (in case you can’t tell, we’re fans). I would mention that their fusion of propulsive and plaintive sometimes brings to mind Scarfo fronted by Pauline Murray, but it’s too early in this article for comparisons, however complimentary, so I won’t.

Breakup Haircut – Punk Dancing For Self-Defence (July 2022)

In an era when the internet calls everything an album, it’s a tonic to see a new band step up and release a VFM 15-track debut. And the songs.. chapters from a dissertation on anxiety set to incongruously chirpy indie-pop-punk, from the Rezillos-style ’77 fizz of ‘I Don’t Wanna be Your Friend’ through the Elastica-esque ‘On The Fence’ and beyond; the harmonic poppiness of ‘I’d Say Yes’ and ‘Dealbreaker’, the joyful exuberance of ‘Mum, I Wanna Be A Greaser’ and Ishani’s half-yelp/half-snarl on the excellent, almost early-Blondie-like ‘Life Is Short’ being just a few more of the highlights. Full review by Tony Rounce here.

Calva Louise – Euphoric (August 2021)

Pulverising, earworm-laden electronica-tinged alternative rock from this Venezuelan/French/British trio: anthems equally suited to a moshpit or gaming soundtrack. Singles include ‘Belicoso’, ‘Pop-urri’, ‘Other Self’, ‘The Odds’ and the Kafka-referencing ‘Trial’. Accompanied by a concept, a 45-minute movie and a graphic novel by vocalist Jess Allanic, Calva Louise’s second album wants for neither ambition nor prolificity.

Gemma Cullingford – Let Me Speak (July 2021)

Debut solo album from Norwich grrrlcore legend, former KaitO bassist and one half of Sink Ya Teeth. Dark, introspective, self-produced synthpop steeped in early-80s electro and topped with arch, inscrutable vocals, like a beguiling fusion of La Roux and Black Box Recorder. Features an intriguingly random and very English interpretation of Loud Women icon Bobbie Gentry’s ‘Ode to Billie Joe’. 

Ghum – Bitter (June 2022)

Febrile, passionate debut album from this ‘ghost grunge’ all-female fourpiece, following a solid series of singles and EPs over the preceding half decade. Ghum are at once global, with their roots in several continents, and also very local: London-based, with drummer Vicki originally of Essex riot grrrl legends Witches of Oz [also, the original drummer of Janey Starling’s Dream Nails!], and with their signature sound shaped by British post-punk, its native claustrophobia prevailing in the mix of indie rock influences. 

Little Simz – Sometimes I Might Be Introvert (September 2021)

Fifth long-player from simply the UK’s greatest and most prolific female hip hop artist ever, her 12-year career not precluding a ‘best new artist’ (!) nomination at this year’s ever-on-the-ball BRIT awards. SIMBI includes the stunning singles ‘Woman’, ‘I Love You, I Hate You’, and ‘Point and Kill’ (watch the videos if you haven’t yet), the latter along with the excellent ‘Fear No Man’ adding afrobeat fusion to her long list of accomplishments.

Nova Twins – Supernova (June 2022)

Second album from the unstoppable punk-rock-rap duo, previous Hercury winners and ongoing Loud Women favourites for their furiously relentless but always tuneful and danceable aural (and visual) assault. Focused, conscious and confident, and their career barely begun, frankly they’d deserve a place in the shortlist for this album’s cover image alone – not to forget the videos, for three of the five songs released as singles, including ‘Antagonist’, ‘Kill My Boyfriend’ and the irresistible ‘Choose Your Fighter’.

Peaness – World Full Of Worry (May 2022)

In the words of Tony Rounce’s Loud Women review, “a simply beautiful debut LP, filled with frequently downbeat and often flat-out melancholic songs masked by the upbeat, sunny nature of their melodies and always gorgeous vocals” from a band who’ve been, in their own words “making sad bangers since 2015.”

Petrol Girls – Baby (June 2022)

Slight change of line up but no change of pace for this third album/statement from Petrol Girls, including the singles ‘Fight For Our Lives’ (featuring the Kerrang Award-winning Janey Starling), and ‘Baby’, addressing femicide and abortion rights respectively, and appropriately disrespectfully. The unmatched intensity and incontrovertible authenticity of Ren’s vocals and lyrics, as ever, place the band in a league of their own.

Pillow Queens – Leave The Light On (April 2022)

Brooding, introspective second album from this accomplished, proudly queer, all-female Dublin fourpiece. A measured but quietly epic set of emotionally powerful songs including the singles ‘Be By Your Side’, ‘No Good Woman’ and the queens-of-leonine ‘Hearts and Minds’, while tracks like ‘Well Kept Wife’ exemplify their skilful mixture of heartfelt lyricism and tuneful indie-rock dynamics.

She Drew The Gun – Behave Myself (October 2021)

Third album from Louisa Roach’s solo project-turned-band and, refreshingly, we’re no nearer pinning a genre label on She Drew The Gun. There is apocalyptic feminist beat poetry (the spirit of Phil Ochs channelled through Ani DiFranco) there‘s an electro/big beat soundtrack (early Eurythmics meets Death in Vegas) and there’s an unmistakable ambition to make the poppiest songs, the most anthemic rock record and the most revolutionary cultural communiqué all at once. Which is a good thing round our way. Oh, and best ‘Class War’ song since The Dils.

Wetleg – Wetleg (April 2022)

On the Isle of Wight’s greatest export since coloured sand, Wetleg’s debut LP, Loud Women/Cassie Fox’s review says: “it really is the best kind of fun – clever too. The album is a glorious selection of bright ideas, 20-something musings and in-jokes, set to highly accomplished riffs with just enough punk in their indie..” Deceptively simple – because if it really was simple everyone would be at it – the first and most memorable songs here are “a dreamy showcase of.. catchy verse to big, fuzzy, bouncy chorus template” that frankly most bands would give their soggy arm to have written.

Runners up this year included: the Ramonas, Sewer Cats, Fresh, Table Scraps, the Mysterines, Porridge Radio, Ibibio Sound Machine, Katy J Pearson, Harkin, Gwenno, Cate le Bon, Lady Blackbird, Self Esteem, Beabadoobee, Hollie Cook, Low Hummer, Kae Tempest, Chvrches, Yola, Nilufer Yanya and Lemonade Sin.

Loud Women will be announcing the winner of the 2022 Hercury Music Award in September!