Emerging female indy musicians make big noise on the local scene
BBy WINNIE McCROY
Everything new is old again, not least when it comes to the music industry. And though it’s always a tougher battle for female artists to make a name for themselves,two acts that are relative newcomers have charged out of the gates to mad applause. Their styles are widely divergent, but both singer/songwriter Jodie Jett and female rap trio Northern State have quickly proven they have what it takes to endure.
Working stiff by day, independent singer/songwriter by night, newcomer Jodi Jett has a new new album of tunes “Revelations,” that has been attracting attention, not the least of which comes from Grammy-winning producer Elliot Scheiner. But Jett is still shopping her CD to various labels.
Despite her surname, don’t expect another wild child, black leather rocker. This Jett’s songs have a more dreamy quality, like Cowboy Junkies meets Chrissie Hynde. Her first cut, “Pretty Girl,” is like a siren song of love and betrayal, in which Jett asks, “Don’t you know I’m the princess and the pea?” The next, “Bedford Avenue” captures the slacker, hipster feel of Williamsburg, with a sort of ‘80s-era Pretenders feel to the harmony. The message: true love is a joke, a cliché to be bandied about.
Jett’s love of the ‘80s is best seen in her track “80’s Girl,” a fun ode to a girl who loves parachute pants, Madonna bras, stonewashed denim and “Purple Rain,” who “just can’t let go of tight pants and camel toe.” The background tracks of her singing Madonna’s “Like A Virgin” and INXS’ “Need You Tonight” are a sweet touch. Another fun track is “Greasy,” an anti-love song to her “Number one greasy fan,” who sends chills up her spine whenever he looks at her with his “greasy beady eyes.” The instrumentals recall the type of music that made girls in the ‘60s don white vinyl go-go boots and kick up their heels.
A touching track is “No Place Like Home,” which despite some slightly banal lyrics (“Kansas on my mind/like a fine red wine/ be my Clementine?”), references both “The Wizard of Oz” and Jett’s own past history as the child of Midwestern hyper-religious parents. If you’re looking for the perfect album for that rainy Sunday afternoon—or if you’re nostalgic for that Natalie Merchant circa “Tigerlily” sound—Jett will do you quite nicely.
Northern State, the freshest crew of female hip-hop MCs since L’Trimm, have scored big in 2004 with their first major-label album, only four years after they first began writing tracks. And longtime friends Hesta Prynn, Sprout and Spero (Julie Goodman, Robyn Goodmark and Correne Spero) are no novelty act; these ladies are turning heads in hip-hop like the Beastie Boys did in the ‘90s.
“All City” starts out strong with “Ignite,” a testament that these ladies “were born to fill pages, we came to rock stages and we plunder and pillage live in the East Village/ breakin’ it down with the ill fly skillage.”
It keeps getting hotter with the second track, “Girl For All Seasons,” a feminist anthem about body image and introspection, with cool breaks reminiscent of Y2K Madonna. About playing the beauty game, Northern State sings: “girl it’s a setup and you’re meant to fail/ you’d be better off on a live third rail,” adding, “youth it fades, crumbles and ferments/ eyelash curl, this is the first world/ but vanity don’t look good on the girl/ so when they line us up for roll call/ let me make it clear on which side I fall/ cuz I’m a full grown woman, once a gifted child/ and this is Northern State, not Girls Gone Wild!” Soul Assassins’ DJ Muggs produced this cut.
The ladies go on to get “nice with it” through the rest of the album, especially in the track “Last Night,” which blends humor with the tough truth of life in New York City: “Last night that was a good look and/ last night I lost my bank book and/ this is New York City so I’m/ at the ATM again again again.” The chorus is infectious, and the cowbell is pure Beastie Boys “Brass Monkey” incarnate.
The Northern State ladies team up with The High and the Mighty, Martin Luther, Pete Rock and Har Mar Superstar, but as they say in “Summer Never Ends,” their final cut, “yo, three is still the magic number, no wonder/ and now we’re making noise like the roll of thunder.” With their fun, smart, pro-women raps, this is top-shelf stuff, not only “for all the girls who love hip hop,” but also for anyone who wants to rock.
Northern State, a female rap trio, and Jodi Jett, seen on the right, are emerging New York musicians with an approach to independent labels that emphasizes their fresh sounds.