☆Women’s History Month Playlist☆

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19 March, 2024

To celebrate Women’s History Month, the KCSB music department, with the help of our Assistant MD’s and members of the Executive Committee, have put their heads together to bring you a curated playlist featuring some of our favorite women musicians! 

This playlist aims to show that the power and prowess of women is ubiquitous and infinitely influential! We hope you enjoy this sampling of songs which are near and dear to our heart. 


  • “Gloria: In Excelsis Deo” by Patti Smith 

As a young girl in the back of my father’s car, I felt confused about why Patti Smith often began her songs with long and slow-building poems- I was always anxious for the good part, the one you could dance to. I couldn’t understand what it was about Smith that beckoned my father to speak of her in the same way he spoke of scholars and authors he admired. It wasn’t until I graduated high school, when that heavy declaration which launches Smith’s “Gloria: In Excelsis Deo” fully realized in my mind: “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine.” Fundamentally, this was about embracing the outcast. For Patti Smith, like many women who couldn’t quite mold to the expectations and confines of suburban, middle class America, New York City was the promised land. Upon arrival, she lived the totally surreal experience of not only brushing shoulders with the heroes of her childhood and adolescence, but she also reshaped the very landscape upon which they walked. Though she is rightfully regarded as the “grandmother of punk music,” she is undoubtedly so much more; Smith is a poet, a writer, activist, photographer, innovator, and a feminist in the truest form. We owe so much to Patti, and this song is a perfect example of why. 

  • “Angelitos Negros” by Celia Cruz

Among the many amazing Latin women musicians, Celia Cruz definitely stands out in my mind. Born and raised in Cuba, but forced to leave during the Revolution due to the nationalization of the Cuban music industry, she spent much of her life and career in Mexico. The genres of music within which she worked included Afro, Son, Boleros, and famously- Salsa. Eventually she earned the moniker of “Queen of Salsa.” While there are countless fun songs sung by Celia Cruz, I chose to highlight one with a more serious theme. In this song, Cruz begs a painter to reflect upon why they only paint white-skinned angels, even though they know that both black and white people go to heaven. This is a poignant criticism of Latin American churches, whose roots lie upon the exploitative and violent relationship between the conquerors and conquerors. The significance of Cruz’s life therefore lies not only in the fact that she was an international superstar who was also a person of color in a time when that was rare and difficult, but that she utilized her position to advocate for equality. 

  • “Room Mate” by Lizzy Mercier Descloux 

Descloux was a French post-punk singer who deserves way more attention than she garnered throughout her career. Her music, as is showcased by this song, was utterly visionary for its time and has become deeply influential. In addition to her musical contributions, Descloux’s approach to music was rooted in activism- she “collaborated with Soweto musicians in apartheid-era South Africa” (Pitchfork), and often dressed in androgynous attire during both music videos and performances. She is widely remembered for her kinship with Patti Smith, but her personal and musical accomplishments often get swept under the rug. Descloux’s music might be best characterized as a diverse tapestry of influences stitched together in innovative ways, the result is a form of post-verbal communication which comes from deep within her beautiful soul. 

  • “Stopover Bombay” by Alice Coltrane

Though she is often remembered as the wife of legendary saxophonist, John Coltrane, Alice Coltrane led a wildly successful musical career of her own. After her husband’s death, Coltrane’s jazz became infused with influences from India, which was a result of her conversion from Christianity to Hinduism- she even changed her name to Turiyasangitananda, which means “the Transcendental Lord’s Highest Song of Bliss,” (Transfiguration (1978) CD liner note). Through this melding of influences, from western avant-garde jazz to the complex rhythms and unique musical instruments of India, Coltrane pushed the genre of jazz forward in ways which continue to be influential today. Her legacy can be seen in the likes of Pharoah Sanders, and her mentee, Surfa Botofasina

    • “Llévame viento” by Natalia Lafourcade

    Lafourcade is one of the most impressive Mexican songwriters working today. She has a beautifully gentle, yet hugely versatile voice, and her lyricism consistently pushes past the mainstream and digs deeper into the tenderness of the Mexican soul. While her songs range widely in themes- from the Mexican identity in “Hasta La Raíz,” and the hit for Disney’s Coco, “Recuerdame,” to the minutiae of teenage love in “En el 2000,” and in “Llevame viento,” she explores the desire to simultaneously escape and be held near. This particular song features a complex collection of sounds- wind, horns, synths, leaves rustling- which creates an ephemeral and fleeting ambience. Though Lafourcade has rightfully claimed her position as an international star, she is so much more than a pop musician- bringing the very best of Mexican songwriting, to the forefront of the world’s eye. 


    • “I’m a Man” by Kim Gordon

    Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth is an incredibly influential musician and icon who has been around for a while. Her newest solo project, The Collective, has been coming out this year. It’s very experimental and incorporates industrial noise, sound cloud-esque rap, and hyperpop beats with her classic deadpan lyricism. This song is a particularly goofy addition to a women’s month playlist, the lyrics are an ironic perspective of a deadbeat man taking pride in his lack of ability.

    • “After Prom” by Farrah Abraham

    Reality TV star, musician, writer, pornstar – Farrah Abraham is a woman of many hats. Most well known for her role on MTV’s Teen Mom and 16 and Pregnant, her story is pretty tragic. At 17 she became pregnant and when her mother found out, she called her a whore barring her from having an abortion. Just before her child was born, the father, Derek Underwood, was killed in a car accident, her mother continued to abuse her physically and verbally; she had to grow up very quickly and cope with so much difficult change. In 2012, she released her novel and album both titled My Teenage Dream Ended. I think this album’s really great, it portrays an atypical perspective, has an avant-garde, DIY hyper-pop sound, and allowed Abraham to expose the gritty reality of her situation through her own expression.

    • “Gimme Brains” by Bratmobile

    Bratmobile is a 90’s riot grrrl band on the label Kill Rock Stars. They got their start in Olympia in 1991 when their friend Calvin Johnston (of Beat Happening and co-owner of K Records) asked them to play at a Valentines show with Bikini Kill and Velvet Sidewalk. They initially tried to get out of the show, claiming they were a “fake band” because all of the songs they had were a-cappella. They got support from Velvet Sidewalk, lending them equipment and recording space and telling them to listen to the Ramones for inspiration. This quick suggestion was the catalyst for Bratmobile’s songwriting. Allison Wolfe and Molly Neuma, the two people in the band, realized all the male punk bands take inspiration from the Ramones so they actively did not listen to the Ramones to create a different sound within the punk genre. For their first couple shows the two of them switched off between guitar drums and vocals. They eventually gained a couple members, but I think their origin story is so kick ass and encapsulates the scrappy DIY ethos of riot grrrl music.

    • “Ramblin’ (Wo)man” by Cat Power

    Cat Power is a part of one of my earliest record store memories, funnily enough. On the corner of my block there was a strip mall with a smoke shop, a massage parlor, and a record/video store, named Bedrock. My mom was really into “Willie,” by Cat Power at the time, playing in the car over and over as my siblings and I protested. One day as we were coming back from school, she decided to take us to Bedrock so we could choose a movie to rent. As we flipped through the DVDs, my mom showed the cashier “Willie,” asking if he had anything like it on CD. He came back with Jukebox, the album this song is on, claiming it was much better than the album “Willie” was on. We listened to the album patiently and carefully in the car, waiting for my mom’s review, but she was disappointed. Nothing could live up to her “Willie” – the soft background musings, the subtle bassline, the shaky vocals, and of course the simple yet resonant keys. Years later, I relistened to Jukebox and found myself agreeing with the old cashier, it’s an amazing album that has some of Cat Power’s best. “Willie,” however, will always give me chills, transporting me to the back of my mom’s car in elementary school. 

    • “What is Really Beautiful” by Kath Bloom

    Kath Bloom is a really beautiful folk singer who often makes music alongside avant-garde guitarist Loren MazzaCane Connors. Her collaboration with Connors ended in 1984 after their release of the album Moonlight and Bloom stopped recording for a while. As a single mother, Bloom spent this hiatus period raising her children as she struggled with financial hardship. She started playing again in the early 90’s and one of her songs, “Come Here,” ended up on the soundtrack for Before Sunrise. The first time I ever listened to Kath Bloom, I cried so hard I had to sit down on the floor of my kitchen as I was making dinner. Her lyrics talk of love and nature, her voice is perfectly delicate. 


    • “Failing Yesterday” by Jessica Bailiff

    The purpose of this Women’s History Month blog/playlist for me is to highlight some of my favorite artists that I think deserve more recognition, and there is no one who fits that category more than Jessica Bailiff.  Bailiff was discovered by Low’s Alan Sparhawk, who recommended her earlier demos to Kranky, the label she would go on to release her albums with. Her music is largely classified as slowcore, although it contains elements of post-rock and shoegaze and I think it’s within the cross-section of these that she makes a name for herself. Her debut album, Even In Silence,  contrasts her soft, warm voice with noisy droning instrumentals. She then builds on this in her self-titled album, my personal favorite. Here Bailiff experiments with more complex and interesting sounding instrumentals and puts together an awesome album. I would recommend listening to both, but start off with Failing yesterday off her debut.

    • “I’m Gone” by Tamaryn

    Tamaryn Sitha Brown is a New Zealand songwriter and singer based in Los Angeles. Off the Album, Tender New Signs, is definitely influenced by shoegaze effects and instrumentals but it is Tamaryns vocals that really make this album for me.

    • “On the Low” by Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions

    Often times when one think of Hope Sandoval you jump immediately to Mazzy Star, which is fair given the success of songs like “Fade Into You” but is actually doing such a disservice because I think Hope Sandoval’s work afterward with the Warm Inventions really showcases some of Sandoval’s best music. The album Bavarian Fruit Bread  is excellent from start to finish, sounding soft and soothing yet almost psychedelic. A major recommendation from me.

    • “You Hear Me Go” by Joanne Robertson

    Joanne Robertson reminds me much of Hope Sandoval in the soft, lush sound of their vocals but especially within the psychedelic and hypnotic nature of their music as a whole. Coming ~20 yrs later though, Robertson has continued to impress all with her own albums experimenting within the genres of folk, ambient, and slowcore, but also with her frequent collaborations with producer Dean Blunt who I often rave about. This song comes off the album Wildflower. 

    • “Save Yourself” by Rachel Goswell

    Rachel Goswell is a huge figure in the world of shoegaze, whether you recognize her name or not, most notably as a founding member of Slowdive. In 2004, Goswell released her solo album, Waves Are Universal. This album marked a significant departure from her work with Slowdive, showcasing a broader range of acoustic and folk influences while retaining the atmospheric textures that defined her earlier work and her ethereal vocal style. 


    • “Teenie Weene Boppie” by Free Kitten

    Initially created as a collaboration between Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon and Pussy Galore’s Julia Cafritz in 1992, Free Kitten’s lineup would also go on to include Boredoms’ Yoshimi, Pavement’s Mark Ibold, and disc jockey DJ Spooky. Free Kitten’s sophomore album, Sentimental Education, is a chaotic, whimsy, slacker/noise rock fusion you can’t miss. I chose this song because I find a lot of Free Kitten’s discography to be both a novel listen as well as super influential to post-punk as a genre. 


    • “I Don’t Wanna Be Too Cool” by Kate Fagan

    Kate Fagan’s introduction to the music scene was an accident. She was fired from her magazine job in the midst of financial devastation and gentrification of New York in the 80s. This change brought her to Chicago, where she was confronted by this exclusionary coolness that threatened her last job. To retaliate against the status quo, she came up with a five note riff on a bass guitar she barely knew how to play and started singing about her hatred towards the concept of coolness. Helping run the label she released it on, she ran into difficulties when the self-funded 1,000 copies she sold were burned down in a house fire, along with most of her personal belongings. Rising in the face of uncertainty, Fagan went on to be the founder and frontwoman for the ska trailblazers Heavy Manners, with her solo work going on to become a cult classic.


    • “Dark Matter” by Little Big League

    Michelle Zauner can be considered a modern day renaissance woman. Best known for her band Japanese Breakfast, she began writing and playing music at the age of 15. Little Big League is a band formed after she graduated from Bryn Mawr College, releasing 2 albums with the band before departing for what would become Japanese Breakfast. After releasing 3 albums and being nominated for a Grammy, Zauner took up writing. Prior to her first novel, her essays had been published in Glamour, The New Yorker, and Harper’s Bazaar. Her first book, Crying in H Mart, debuted as number two on the New York Times bestseller list. The book follows Zauner’s experiences caring for her ailing mother between forming Japanese Breakfast and writing her first novel. It’s an exploration of growing up Korean-American, losing her mother to cancer, and finding solace in food.

    • “San Francisco” by I Hate Sex

    Front runners in the early skramz scene, I Hate Sex was a band that laid the groundwork for the newer skramz/emo bands born from younger generations. Defined by their angsty, fleeting, heartbroken sound, I Hate Sex’s vocalist Nicole Boychuk’s voice cuts through the noise with raw emotion. “San Francisco” showcases an innovative female-fronted band at its best; in a genre typically dominated by male voices, I Hate Sex reminds us of the subtle yet profound impact women have on the music scene.

    • “Caught High” by Kitty Craft

    From her album “Catskills,” “Caught High” is a mesmerizing fusion of electronic pop production and indie-pop sensibility that showcases Pamela Valfer’s unique talent both as a producer and vocalist. Valfer’s ethereal vocals weave seamlessly through looping beats and eccentric samples, creating a landscape that is both melodic and immediately accessible. With “Catskills,” Valfer offers a refreshing departure from the male-dominated electronic music scene, showcasing women’s influence in the genre. This album is a testament to the emotive power of electronic music when infused with personal pathos in the realm of electronica.


    • “Lint of Love” by Cibo Matto

    From their album “Stereotype A,” “Lint of Love” serves as a sonic feast, blending eclectic music samples with Miho Hatori’s charismatic vocals. With Yuka Honda’s lush production creating a vibrant backdrop, Hatori’s delivery invites listeners into a world where sensorial feats intertwine with emotional depth. As pioneers in the postmodern pop scene, Cibo Matto challenges conventions and defies categorization, infusing their music with a unique blend of cultural influences and artistic innovation. “Lint of Love” showcases the duo’s boundless creativity, celebrating their unapologetic expression and boundary pushing vision in the realm of music.

    • “London” by Tappi Tíkarrass

    Featuring the early vocal talents of the iconic Björk, “London” serves as a captivating blend of punk energy infused with rock, jazz, and funk influences. As one of Iceland’s pioneering punk bands, Tappi Tíkarrass carved a unique path in the music scene, with Björk’s distinctive vocals adding a layer of raw emotion and fervor to their sound. “London” resonates with a rebellious spirit and infectious energy, reflecting the band’s fearless approach to music making and Björk’s burgeoning talent as a vocalist. Despite the passage of time, the song remains a testament to Tappi Tíkarrass’s enduring influence and Björk’s contributions to the evolution of punk rock.

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