BEST NEW INDIE: MARTHA HILL - WALLFLOWER
Martha Hill spells out the complications for the socially anxious and disenfranchised on "Wallflower."
It's confusing to be an outsider, these days. On one hand, technology gives us more opportunity to come together, to learn and share and empathize and, when called for, to find strength in numbers. On the other, there is less consensus than ever before, with certain key social movements featuring problematic grey areas and fuzzy logic. 'Choice feminism' could be the best example of this paradox, illustrating the complexities when trying to describe both the macro and the micro, simultaneously. To illustrate, choice feminism says it's empowering women sex workers, as they're free to make whatever choices they want. That doesn't take into consideration that a lot of women and other marginalized people are pushed into sex work via the effects of Patriarchy and are the epitome of disempowering.
The confusion over terms bleeds into pretty much every angle of life. Many of those branding themselves as "punk," of the safety-pin-and-liberty-spike variety, are actually anything but. They're essentially a nostalgia act, at this point, not far removed from The Beatles cover band down the block. Likewise, the real punks may be making hip-hop, gnarly basement techno, raw-and-unfiltered noise. The real Feminists (although Disclaimer: anyone who supports equality between all genders is a Feminist, and we are not here to gatekeep) can sometimes be silent, invisible, working behind the scenes to create a more fair and just society for everybody. They just don't have a giant pink neon sign flashing behind them while they're doing it.
Being a young woman, punk, or other marginalized person looking to find their place in the world must be very confusing. While so many people default to assuming everyone knows the complicated, theoretical, always-changing definition of complex political frameworks, many aren't, especially the young. Teenagers are getting the messages "This is what a Feminist is." They are listening and they are believing.
Certain schools of Feminist thought are kind of contradictory, however, notably the sex-positive movement versus more conservative Third Wave movements. One is saying "It's empowering to take off all of your clothes," while the other basically shames you for doing so.
This contradiction is the fertile ground from which Martha Hill's "Wallflower" springs from. Sonically, "Wallflower" is built from the blueprints of early '90s riot grrl indie rock, most notably the legendary PJ Harvey. PJ Harvey never played at being particularly girly while still being decidedly feminine, sexy, and stylish, delivering cutting, artful insights into both women's experiences as well as the Patriarchy they suffer under. Instead of a shrinking violet, however, Harvey seemed like more of a poisonous jungle orchid, propelling listeners to madness, ecstasy, and bloodshed.
MARTHA HILL - WALLFLOWER
Martha Hill's poetic story of shifting identity is built around a similar palate of steely rhythmic guitar and husky vocals. This is not all political agit-prop, however, not a miserablist political science lecture. Hill's got a knack for power pop earworms, as heard on "Wallflower"'s thrilling chorus, with melodic guitar hooks that could sound at home in a Cheap Trick song, that just so happens to be doubled with cellos and violins.
Martha Hill's music is striking in both how classic it sounds while still being entirely of-the-moment. There will always be a place for strong, determined women making excellent guitar rock! We Are: The Guard hope there's more of it. The more outlets to show the diversity and complexity of women artists the better!
J. Simpson occupies the intersection between criticism, creativity, and academia. Based out of Portland, Or., he is the author of Forestpunk, an online journal/brand studying the traces of horror, supernatural, and the occult through music, fashion and culture. He plays in the dreamfolk band Meta-Pinnacle with his partner Lily H. Valentine, with whom he also co-founded Bitstar Productions, a visual arts collective focused on elevating Pop Culture to High Art.