Indie Tegan and Sara

Published on December 13th, 2012 | by Taylor Majewski


Top 10: Women who Rock, Indie Style

Imogen Heap

Photo courtesy of Man Alive! on Flickr Commons

In today’s world, American pop music and Top 40 hits have become the norm, gracing radio waves from Baltimore to Bankok. That’s probably why younger generations have become more and more enamored with independent labels and the do-it-yourself, homegrown vibe of indie rock bands. We, too, have fallen in love with indie rock, in all its melancholic, dreamy, low-budget glory. But our favorite aspect of the genre is the fact that women have long been leading its evolution.

This week, we bring you ten of our favorite women who rock, indie style. Some of the women listed below have been part of the scene for over a decade; others have hits playing on the radio today. Their contributions to the genre vary widely; each has a unique sound, spanning across blues, electronic, punk and R&B. But one thing all of them have in common is their incredible musical genius, personal flair and individual expression both on and off stage.

10. The Relaxed Belle: Jenny Lewis

Akin to Janis Joplin’s unmistakable sound, Rilo Kiley’s former lead vocalist can never quite seem to quell her voice’s tendency for country, causing many a die-hard fan to declare Jenny Lewis queen of modern rock.

9. The Powerhouse: Grace Potter

Onstage, the brazen lead singer for Grace Potter and the Nocturnals is a force to be reckoned with. Like most great singers in rock-n-roll history, crowds do not seem to faze her, proven through the energy her voice (and leg stompin’, bang shakin’ moves) gains as the show goes on.

8. The Altar-Ego: Natasha Khan (aka “Bat for Lashes”)

This English singer-songwriter chose the stage name “Bat for Lashes” to encompass her music’s darkly feminine sound. Listen to “Laura” on her third and recently released album, The Haunted Man, to get a heavy dose of Khan’s haunting voice, gently kissed by simple piano accompaniment.

7. The Electronic Force: Yukimi Nagano

The fiery lead vocalist for the indie/electronic group, Little Dragon, grew up listening to R&B. The music of her childhood shines through in her music, which frequently flirts with blues and intricate rhythms. Listen to “Constant Surprises” for a perfect example of the group’s moody rainbow rhythms.

6. The Romantic: Chan Marshall (aka “Cat Power”),

Romantic yet somehow tragic, Cat Power’s husky voice casts a spell over her listeners, drawing them completely into the music. Over the years, Marshall has matured into a confident performer and versatile musician, evolving through punk, folk and blues over the course of her career.

5. Digital Diva: Imogen Heap

Grammy winner and classically trained in piano, cello and clarinet, England’s singer-songwriter, Imogen Heap, is, without question, the master of electronic indie rock. By manipulating sounds electronically, her music generates melodies that can only be described as aurally delightful.

4. The Wild Child: Karen O

Known for her onstage antics and bold fashion statements, Karen Lee Orzolek’s performances with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs never disappoint. From animal noises to high-pitched wails, her musical versatility shines over the band’s signature synth-heavy alt-rock style.

3. The Quiet Soprano: Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir

Despite the fact that her band, Of Monsters and Men, has seen rapid success, Nanna remains quietly humble, closing her eyes when she performs; but her dreamy, almost angelic voice is enough to show the audience her inner rock spirit.

2. The Dynamic Duo: Tegan and Sara

Edgy yet irresistibly adorable, twins Tegan and Sara write music with a unique duality, bridging the gap between pop and indie rock. Their personal lyrics and relationship with their fans has developed a devout following, whose loyalty has only heightened with each new album release.

1. The Literary Genius: Regina Spektor

Perhaps among the most famous singer-songwriters in the indie rock world, Spektor grew up in Russia listening to classical music, its influence apparent in her talents as a pianist. Her lyrics often have an intellectual flavor, often alluding to literature and the Bible.

About the Author

Taylor Majewski is pursuing a bachelor's degree in Art History and Economics from Occidental College in Los Angeles. Born and raised in a rural town in Connecticut, Taylor had little exposure to art growing up. In high school, she developed a passion for drawing and painting, which led to multiple independent studies in oil painting. Her work has been featured in a student exhibition at the UCLA New Wight Gallery. Living in Los Angeles, Taylor has immersed herself in the arts culture by visiting a myriad of museums and galleries. Next year she will be studying abroad in Italy to continue her Art History coursework. In her free time, Taylor loves to read, write, and watch the Red Sox.

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