By Kris Smith
In 2019 the world might seem to be falling apart in nearly every respect but at least it’s only sad old men on YouTube who think that music is getting worse. If that’s your experience, you’re listening to the wrong music. In fact there’s been such a mushrooming of female talent over the last few years that a competition such as the Loud Women Hercury Music Award gets tougher to adjudicate every year. But what a great problem to have!
Our criteria differ slightly from lesser, so-called music prizes. This year Loud Women has whittled down a Top 12 from nearly one hundred albums by UK-based self-identified female and non-binary artists released in the twelve months from July 2018: that’s albums released on any format, with any level of industry distribution.
The elected winner of the 2019 Hercury Award will be announced in September, and after tense late-night deliberations among the Loud Women team, the dazzling dozen contenders are as follows:
Big Joanie – Sistahs (Nov, 2018)
There’s much love out there for this very necessary band, including from your actual Thurston Moore who formed side label Daydream Library just to release ‘Sistahs’, their debut album. Self-identified as a punk group, Big Joanie throw off all genre expectations with a blend of indie rock, riot grrrl and electronica, recalibrating punk as method and possibility. A unique record that rewards repeated listening.
Brix & the Extricated – Breaking State (Oct, 2018)
Second album from the latest band incarnation of Brix Smith-Start, like two of her band mates ex-of The Fall, with a sound that mixes their former band’s bass-heavy sonics with jangley Adult Net choruses and Pixies-esque melodies.
Desperate Journalist – In Search of the Miraculous (Feb, 2019)
Three albums in to their career, the prolific Desperate Journalist have perfected a singular synthesis of British alternative rock: Jo Bevan’s vocals soar stronger and the band power more tightly than ever through anthems anchored on postpunk bass, garlanded with chiming guitar arabesques and Britpop choruses. In some moments DJ invoke Elizabeth Fraser or Siouxie Sioux fronting the Morrissey band, regarding which either of whom would of course be a colossal improvement.
Dream Nails – Take Up Space (Jan, 2019)
No-one expected the debut full length from Dream Nails to be an entirely acoustic album recorded live in a left-wing bookshop in Kings Cross, and it’s all the more perfect a statement for that. The stripped-down acoustics show off their technical skill, quality of songwriting and audience rapport to full effect. A nigh-on irresistible band taking a winningly playful approach to (mostly) serious themes.
Neneh Cherry – Broken Politics (Oct, 2018)
Nostalgic 90s triphop-style grooves on this, Neneh Cherry’s fifth album. Alternately contemplative and defiant.
Grace Petrie – Queer as Folk (Sept, 2018)
Latest studio album from one of the UK’s most prolific, consistent and committed songwriters, with her largest backing band so far and possibly the only Hercury-nominated album to feature bodhrán, fiddle and accordion. Perhaps an unusual choice for Team Loud Women on paper, but not if you’ve seen Grace live, where the political message is as loud as the sound of audiences alternately sobbing and cheering to her songs of heartbreak and resistance.
Little Simz – Grey Area (March, 2019)
Third LP proper and the most concise, confident musical statement yet from one of our very finest MCs, Simbi Ajikawo. Fiercely intelligent, multilayered and politically-charged lyrics meet genre-hopping sonics over dread basslines. “I’m a boss in a fucking dress,” she declares at the start, and ten tracks later it’s hard to disagree.
Muncie Girls – Fixed Ideals (Aug, 2018)
A consistently tuneful band, Muncie Girls’ second album manages to do all the things their brilliant first album did, but better. Part of an identifiable new wave of women-led indiepop groups, MGs interweave political themes with emotional songwriting in a way that would fit firmly on Dovetown Records should they ever leave their current label.
Petrol Girls – Cut and Stitch (May, 2019)
“This sound can’t be buried,” declares Ren Aldridge, on this epic, poetic, Poly Styrene-sampling state of the nation address. At times a humblingly powerful band with a combination of righteous political ferocity, melody and atmosphere probably not heard since Rage Against the Machine, combined with a Dischord-style skill at backing vocals; in fact, arguably the finest British post-hardcore band since Leatherface, it says on the internet. (Well, it does now).
Queen Zee – Queen Zee (Feb, 2019)
There’s a Placebo meets early Suede meets Ste McCabe feel to the best songs on this blistering debut album from trans-fronted punks Queen Zee. Ten walks on the wild side, with a real lyrical bite in lines like “They clock my throat, stare down my lips/Do they hate me or just want a kiss/I think cupid’s arrow might have missed.” A band with vision, attitude, hooks, and in ‘Sissy Fits’ a bona(fide) anthem.
She Makes War – Brace for Impact (Oct, 2018)
Excellent fan-funded fourth album from Laura Kidd, achieving a deserved Top 20 Independent Album Chart placing, with twelve tracks of deeply emotive hook-laden alternative rock.
Trash Kit – Horizon (Jul, 2019)
One-woman music scene Rachel Aggs returns with Trash Kit for a third album, this time accentuating their plaintive postpunk, afrobeat riffs and DIY-tribe chants with saxophone and all manner of jazzy instrumentation. Often breathtaking and beautiful, and possibly the least, and therefore the most, punk record on the shortlist.
2019 Hercury runners-up include: Menstrual Cramps, Doe, Witching Waves, Cate le Bon, Jelly Cleaver, Calva Louise, Nilufer Yanya, Sacred Paws, Anna Calvi, Ray BLK, Bamboo, Rose Elinor Dougall, Neurotic Fiction, Eliza Shaddad, Personal Best, Vodun, Chorusgirl, Tuffragettes, Scrap Brain, Art Trip & the Static Sound, Tirzah, Girli, A Void, Bis, Fightmilk and Skinny Girl Diet.