Friday, March 22, 2013

angsty ladies

Oh, hey there.

I'm currently sitting on a very long post that's proved rather difficult to parse through and arrange in a way that isn't just "here's what I think about x, y, and z in order b, g, m. Oh and this: it's only semi-related." It's proving rather manic and looking like this so far:
And what I need is my inner Saul to come in and arrange it in a neat little timeline. Like this:
Preferably color-coded. And preferably as some sort of compelling string ensemble plays in the background. Is that so much to ask?

Anyway, to fill in the time in this fallow yellow (I promise that's the end of the Homeland references) period I thought I'd revisit a topic I just covered (sorta). A few months ago I posted about my favorite gloomy songs. It was perfect for the doldrums of winter, but now we're easing into spring, and I'm feeling a bit livelier.

Enter angst. Specifically lady angst. I made a great little playlist on iTunes called "angsty ladies" (which I alternately pronounce in my head like "hey angsty ladaaay" and "all the angsty ladies") which features ladies being angsty, obviously.

It's filled specifically with some 90's ladystars but no matter the decade they hail from these ladies make me feel broody and riled up and simmering with righteous indignation. GIRL POWAH.

"Cherry Bomb" by The Runaways: There is no better lady angst song than this. I feel like any song that uses the word "daddy" in a kind of bratty, whiny tone is firmly in angst territory. Also any song in which the vocalist is literally yelling (a common theme, as you'll see below). There's something kind of seductive about this song. Perhaps it's the sultriness that cherries suggest (I personally find figs to be the most sensual fruits but "Fig Bomb" just doesn't have the same ring to it, y'know?), or the "ch-ch-ch-ch-ch" repetitions. There's something kind of badass and angsty about being one of the first all-girl rock bands, too, am I right?

HONEST ANGST THAT OWNS IT (it being everything...)
"Bitch" by Meredith Brooks: For some reason the lady who sings this song reminds me of the character Heather in The Blair Witch Project which I can only rationalize because both have brown hair and are bitches. But don't try to tell me that you can listen to this song and not start breaking out in a kind of angry, bark-esque yelp when the chorus plays. "I do not feel ashamed" that this happens to me regularly and "I wouldn't want it any other way." Let's revel in our various personas: bitch, mother, child, lover, sinner, saint, tease, goddess, angel undercover. Hell yes, Meredith/Heather!

For comparison...

"Breathe Me" by Sia: Okay, this song makes me feel so many things, chiefly angst, but also sorrow and trepidation and anxiety. It's so perfect. Just the way she says "Ouch": resigned, like she's stubbed her toe but could hardly care, like she's reaching out to something that's too far beyond her grasp. This song is purest prose in lyrical form. It was famously used in the final minutes of the Six Feet Under series finale. Now, look, I've never seen this show but I watched that montage and felt drained and gutted and weepy and also in awe of the power of music and film when in perfect synergy.

"Stay (I Miss You)" by Lisa Loeb: Okay, y'all. This song plays in the movie Reality Bites, which is the most 90's movie you'll probably ever see. And when I say "quintessential 90's" what I really mean is Winona Ryder, whom I kind of secretly LOVE, and find endlessly interesting, and I wish she was working more than she is now (that is to say, at all) because I think we need more 90's realness in 2013.
So many things about Winona Ryder (pre-shoplifting, that is) fascinate me. Like how she was engaged to Johnny Depp! Or her super angsty role in Girl, Interrupted. Or her friendship with Claire Danes, which is the most 90's friendship I can ever think of.
 Winona and Claire, BFFs until they weren't. 

There is a documentary about Ben Lee called Catch My Disease about his musical career and life and, back when Ben Lee and Claire Danes dated (yes, let that sink in for a hot sec), they were part of a social circle that is kind of astoundingly cool: the aforementioned Lee and Danes, Ryder, Michelle Williams (who seems in a perpetual state of shy angst/gloom), Jason Schwartzman, Zooey Deschanel, Christina Ricci, and the list goes on. Apparently they'd all hang out in Claire Danes' SoHo loft and shoot home videos and play guitar and lay in her hammock. It's so 90's. Anyway, this song makes me yearn for that alternate reality. I wonder if Claire and Winona still talk....
Claire Danes' SoHo loft, so very 90's. It looks a bit different today.

"TiK ToK" by Ke$ha: I know, it seems kind of odd to include Ke$ha on this list. But I sense some form of inner angst in her that manifests as CRAY in all her life endeavors. She doesn't sing, she sneers, she doesn't laugh, she cackles (a variation on Megan Draper's "you don't smile, you smirk" line from Mad Men, and by the way I LOVE MEGAN DRAPER). The same way that a starlet like Lindsay Lohan or Amanda Bynes has acted out lost her mind as a result of likely inner turmoil, I get the feeling that Ke$ha's shenanigans are the product of some past trauma.

"Just a Girl" by No Doubt: I'm trying really hard to think of an opening riff that's more awesome than the one on "Just a Girl." As far as I'm concerned, this was Gwen Stefani at her finest, pre-B-A-N-A-N-A-S, pre-L.A.M.B. This song has a great "suck it! I'm a lady"-ness to it that's infectious. It's aggressive but taunting; it's the person that insults you and says "but no offense." None taken, sista.

PUNKY ANGST, PART THE SECOND (aka Angst with a Bindi)
"Don't Speak" by No Doubt: Written after the break-up of Gwen Stefani and that guy in No Doubt who plays the bass, this song has a yearning angst. You can really feel the emotional turmoil bubbling beneath the surface. And if the actual lyrics weren't indication enough, the music video of Gwen flailing and doubling over while her bandmates look on unaffected ought to do it. What's more angsty than half whining, half singing to a garage full of "meh" dudes?
 Oh hey, bindi...

Pretty much everything on Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morissette: Y'all, I LOVE angsty Alanis Morissette (so much better than VH1/vanilla Alanis) and she was never in finer form than in her debut album that is basically just Angst: In Musical Form. Let's take a gander.

"You Oughta Know": This one starts off hushed, kind of ominous. Then the hissing starts. I find this song is excellent to play in the car with the volume turned way up (to drown out your angst, and your singing voice). The chorus is infectiously, deliciously hateful (as is the entire song) in a big "eff you, man!" way. If the five stages of grief were accompanied by songs, this one is pre-packaged already for anger.

"Hand in My Pocket": If "You Oughta Know" was "eff you!" then this song is like "eff this!" It's kind of lackadaisical and "fine, fine, fiiiiiiiine" (three cheers for AM's pronunciation of most words). And you can never go wrong with a harmonica solo. This song also seems very quintessential 90's because it always conjures the images of plaid shirts (preferably one with pockets).

"You Learn": My favorite part of this song happens at the 38th second with the background whisper of "like a jagged little pill." What a perfect title for an angst-filled album. It's very Angelina Jolie in Girl, Interrupted. By the way, this is the acceptance stage in lyrical form.

BONUS! "Ironic": After "You Oughta Know" this might be AM's most popular, quote-ready song, and mostly because she has absolutely no idea what irony is. But! I present to you a defense of the many situations in her song.
I don't think it's that far-fetched to assume that Alanis was watching My So-Called Life one night and heard Brian's explanation of irony and then decided to write a song filled with the most weird situations ever. Let's collectively give Alanis a break.

"Criminal" by Fiona Apple: Okay, so maybe anything by Fiona Apple would qualify in this category. But watch this music video and tell me you don't feel icky. This is what would happen if that Emma Stone for W Magazine shoot were translated into a music video 15 years ago. Nevertheless, Fiona's deep, kind of husky voice translates well to angst. Especially when she's wailing about "need[ing]... a good defense / cause I'm feeling like a criminal" and being a "bad, bad girl." I mean, I guess it's supposed to make you feel uncomfortable.

BONUS! "Valentine" is superb and makes me want to jab my finger at people and tell them "I root for you! I love you! You you you you!" "Paper Bag" is similarly awesome, if not so recent, and also perfect for singing in the car, although don't ask me how I know.

Anything by Birdy: This lady is all of 15 years old, and as such imbues her (beautiful, lovely, perfect) music with tinges of angst and sorrow and I sort of just want to give her a hug. She manages to take a rather upbeat and jaunty Phoenix song and turn it on its head and make it sad and mournful. She does the same thing with Fleet Foxes. She even makes "Skinny Love" bearable. Kudos, girl. Keep on angstin' on!

"Nothing Compares 2 U" by Sinead O'Connor: In the words of Lorelai Gilmore: "When life gets you down, Sinead's really the one to teach you some perspective." AMEN. Nothing compares to you, "Nothing Compares 2 U."

There are few other ladies who are only sometimes angsty, and I present to you a completely non-inclusive list below:
"Paris Is Burning" by St. Vincent: Ominous, somewhat dissonant, basically what a psychological thriller would sound like if condensed into a song.
Most stuff by The xx: Moody, electronicky, deep, broody.
Rihanna on "Love the Way You Lie": Don't try to tell me that Rihanna is not the most angst-ridden pop star living.
"I Knew You Were Trouble" by Taylor Swift: Don't try to tell me that Taylor Swift is not the most angst-ridden pop star masquerading as the most angst-free pop star living.

Like my gloom post, I want to leave off on an anti-angst note. What's the opposite of angst? It's got to be carefree goodness, and, you know, I really don't listen to much sickly sweet music like that. But you know who I think of when I think of music that gives me a headache for being inconceivably twee? Hello, Zooey Deschanel! She masters anti-angst with her black tights and hula hoops. Ya, girl!

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