Q-music: Songs she sings

  • by Gregg Shapiro
  • Tuesday January 23, 2024
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Q-music: Songs she sings

From folk to ethereal, new music by women artists ranges from sassy to spiritual.

While there isn't anything on "Nothing's Gonna Stand In My Way Again" (Bloodshot) as unexpectedly funky as "Heaven" from her 2016 album "Real," Lydia Loveless does takes her fans in some new and exciting directions. An alt-country diva of the highest order, Loveless leans more toward alt on these 10 songs. However, she never completely abandons the twang or the trill on "Poor Boy," "Sex and Money," "Toothache," and "Do The Right Thing." Loveless is also capable of creating beautifully soulful tunes as is evident on "Summerlong," "Runaway" and "Ghost."

Lydia Loveless performs on Jan. 24, 8pm in San Francisco at Cafe Du Nord, 2174 Market St. $25.


"Desert Pavement," the second album by non-binary singer/songwriter Ismay (aka Avery Hellman), contains 13 songs that take alternative Americana in new and fascinating directions, as you can hear on "I Called You Up" and "Streaming Family." The centerpiece "Melodies" is a stunner that becomes more dazzling with each repeated listen.

Populated with more critters than the average city slicker has ever encountered, including the ram in "The Shearer + The Darby Ram," the horses in "The Lonely Stallion" and "The Golden Palomino," as well as "The Dove, The Shrew, & The Raccoon" and "Coyote In The Road," it's a true musical menagerie.

Ismay performs on Jan. 28, 8pm at Sweetwater Music Hall, 19 Corte Madera Ave., Mill Valley. $22.


Once you get past the unusual spelling of the name Spellling (aka Chrystia Cabral), you can dig into the music, which is well worth a listen. The 11-track album, "Spellling & the Mystery School" (Sacred Bones) is a reimagining of songs from her previous releases, including 2017's "Pantheon of Me," 2019's ("Mazy Fly," and 2021's "The Turning Wheel."

Proving that Taylor Swift isn't the only one who can pull off this sort of thing, Spellling's new versions of "Always," "Under The Sun," "They Start The Dance," "Haunted Water," "Boys at School," "Revolution," and "Phantom Farewell," really sing!

Spellling performs on Feb. 2 as part of the Homesick Festival at The Regency Ballroom, 1300 Van Ness Ave. $40-$65.


On her 2022 album "Laurel Hell," Mitski explored synth-pop, giving listeners two irresistible dance tracks: "The Only Heartbreaker" and "Stay Soft." Her new album "The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We" (Dead Oceans) is a more organic effort and even features pedal steel guitar ("I Don't Like My Mind," "Heaven," and "The Frost").

There is also a lushness, represented by the presence of a choir ("Bug Like An Angel," "My Love All Mine"), strings ("The Deal," "Heaven"), brass and woodwinds ("When Memories Snow"). All in all, "The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We" is a stunning effort by an artist who never fails to dazzle us.


Montreal-based La Force (aka Ariel Engle) has a musical style reminiscent of fellow Canadian Feist. This makes sense once you discover that, like Feist, La Force has performed with Broken Social Scene. To be clear, La Force is her own person, and distinctive songs on "XO Skeleton" such as "Outrun the Sun," "How Do You Love A Man," "October," "Ouroboros," and the title number go a long way in establishing that fact.


If fans of the previously mentioned Mitski, as well as Sharon Van Etten, Weyes Blood, and Angel Olsen don't already have Squirrel Flower (aka Ella Williams) in heavy rotation, they don't know what they're missing.

"Tomorrow's Fire" (Polyvinyl) begins with the gorgeous, layered vocals of opener "I Don't Use A Trash Can," in which she vows not to change her sheets, possibly a reference to love that was that good. She shifts gears on the electrified songs "Alley Light" (which has a kind of queer energy), "Full Time Job," "Stick," and "Intheskatepark," before ending on the gently acoustic note of "Finally Rain."


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