Music

Sounds in search of an audience

A dear Friend of mine has two teenage daughters. The oldest, (I will call her E,) is a high school junior who has a natural gift for picking up and playing musical instruments. With no training. Imagine being able to actually make music when you simply begin puffing air and fingering the keys of a flute or confidently strumming chords on a guitar. Also, E did have piano lessons, but never really began to play and learn until she quit them.

In the spring, my Friend told me that E had developed an interest in rock music made by bands led by women. That is very cool. There’s nothing wrong with hip hop and radio pop, which I am confident dominates the ears of most American high schoolers – but it is very cool to learn that, for instance bebop jazz, French Impressionist piano, or, as in this case, ROCK!, still finds that current teenage audience.

I put my mind to work thinking of groups that were led by women that would hopefully be new discoveries for E to check out. I put together a template that I could use weekly to plug in new artists and sent this to my Friend:

“In appreciation, and with the hope of extending your daughter’s interest, I am putting together a list of ten or maybe a dozen earthshaking women who rock. I will nominate the woman on the list for your daughter’s consideration WITH an endorsement that will come from an actual woman who rocks. Then I will choose a song by the endorsed artists that is guaranteed to be great.

Here is an example:

Nominated:

Outfit: PJ Harvey

Origin: Dorset, England

Boss: Polly (Jean) Harvey, MBE (ummmm….. yeah. MBE. She is an actual living National Treasure.)

PJ Harvey

Song guaranteed to rock: Dress

Endorsement by Therese McGinn, PhD. Chair, Department of Biology, NE Wesleyan University, and A Woman Who Rocks.”

As simple as that. This was a fun summer project. My list grew and then I tracked down endorsements from women who rock. Added were Jasamine from No Joy; the Great Chrissie Hynde; Frankie Rose; Wata from Boris; Ann Wilson and Nancy Wilson from Heart; and many more.

And then summer ended. It was a finite experiment, and I needed to call it – even though there are so many great names and talents missing from my list. One hopes that each new discovery can be a spark to light other fires. Who might you have put on your list?

And now, along comes Horsegirl. If I was still sending my dear Friend these little dispatches, I would currently encourage putting this group on the high burner. Horsegirl is a three-piece made up of high schoolers, young women all. They tick each of the influence boxes that one might expect from this page. There is the observational lyrical precision of Belle and SebastianSonic Youth’s creative feedback and guitar tunings; the beautiful and natural female harmonies of early StereolabYo La Tengo’s straight-up willingness to jam; and Broadcast’s magical sonic layers; just to name a few. It would be no surprise if their parents are Gen Xers, like me.

Using the old template, my correspondence would look like this:

Nominated:

Outfit: Horsegirl

Origin: Chicago, Illinois

Bosses: Penelope Lowenstein, Nora Cheng, and Gigi Reece.

Horsegirl (Photo by Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune.)

The group has released three very fine songs: Ballroom Dance Scene, Sea Life Sandwich Boy, and Forecast. You really can’t go wrong with any of them. They all rock – guaranteed. Each song can be accessed on Apple Music, or please throw them a couple of dollars and listen here: Horsegirl Bandcamp.

For more of a dive into the background of Horsegirl, this Chicago Tribune Article is a nice piece on how they got their start and where they might be heading. For certain, it’s a group that deserves to find an audience. So new is Horsegirl, I am still looking for an endorsement from one of my friends who is also a Woman Who Rocks, but my boy Thundercat is absolutely down. Rock on.

Thundy rocks a scarf.

3 Comments

  • David Cheng

    How in the world did you discover Horsegirl? I’m Nora Cheng’s dad (a Gen X-er, as you guessed), and you obviously have a finely-attuned ear for their music–you pretty much nailed all of their influences!

    I can confirm that these three women ROCK!!!

    Thanks for your support!

    • M is for Music

      Hi David, Thank you for the note. I write the Music pieces for Rocky Scramble’s Weekly Reader, and I have enjoyed discovering music for as long as I can remember. Horsegirl was a real treat to find this year. I believe my introduction to them occurred when the group was featured in November on an NPR Music “All Songs Considered” episode. In any case, I was taken by their sound and investigated what I could about them. I hope that the group will continue to release songs – I had a lot of nice feedback from readers who were excited about their recordings. Clearly, Horsegirl tripped my trigger and I will stay tuned for more. I might ask you, “how in the world did you discover the piece that I wrote about them?” Thanks again for taking a look at the site and for taking time to comment. Cheers. -matt

  • David Cheng

    Hi, Matt!

    Thanks so much for sharing Horsegirl’s music with your readers! This is all very exciting for all of us, and I know the group is thrilled that there is an audience for their music! They anticipate releasing an album this year, so helpfully you will have a lot more to write about soon!

    How did I find you? I regularlly perform Google searches using the terms, “Horsegirl” and “Chicago” (Every article about them notes they’re from Chicago.). I restrict the search to the last week or day so I don’t get overwhelmed with results on the Alison Brie movie, “Horse Girl”.

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