Top 10 Hip Rock Chicks

Dedicated to Mike Ulrich, a great fetishizer of the Hip Rock Chick.

Ahh, the Hip Rock Chick. We've all had one. If you think back, she's probably the only person who's ever made you feel like you really deserved to be alive. But she probably did it unintentionally, and she probably didn't do it for very long. Ephemeral creatures, the Hip Rock Chicks. Un-tie-downable, doing swirling butterfly loops around your head, brightening your day and then migrating somewhere warmer, because fuck you -- what did you ever do to deserve a Hip Rock Chick?

They're the hipster's philosopher's stone. Quasi-mythical, perhaps even non-existent outside the realm of lore, they're the indie-rock alembic, and they turn lead (you) into gold. The Hip Rock Chick is incredibly rare, so when you stumble upon one, it is biologically mandated that you latch onto her with ten little claws and don't let go until she tears them out at the root. Simpletons call this "crushing," and it's dismissed as self-indulgent, ponderous, sort of pathetic, if in an endearing way. But really, it's not that different from Saharan tribes guarding a watering hole -- you do what you have to do to protect from theft the things that make life bearable. Dying of thirst is one of the most painful ways to go.

You know them by sight. They wear those knee-length dresses and those calf-length boots that you think are pretty ugly but are really pretty hot. Or, t-shirts that are constantly sliding up their bellies, because they’re always waving their arms in the air, and the lots of little trinkets on their wrists are always sliding elbow-wards. The way they do their hair suggests they may have a mild form of autism. They smile a lot. A lot. But they're really mean to people they don't know, unless they have to be nice, and then they're just awkward. They're Hip Rock Chicks, and they are the greatest and rarest and hottest of all natural resources.

Far be it from me to objectify these women, though. The point is not to hold them at arm's length and squint at them like subhumans, or to praise them for their vacuous beauty or fuckability or anything so puerile as that. The point is, these are the people you'd like to subjectify. I stand to gain nothing from exploiting them, and everything from communing with them. As one of the finest upcoming Hip Rock Chicks, Khaela Maricich from the Blow, puts it in one of the greatest stupid love song in a long time, "Parentheses," "If something in the deli aisle makes you cry, of course I'll put my arms around you and I'll walk you outside, through the sliding doors, why would I mind? You're not a baby if you feel the world... although the babies, they can feel the world... that's why they cry." Download that shit here and listen to it constantly for the next week straight.

Ok, so I'm totally objectifying these women, because I'm making a top ten list of my favorite Hip Rock Chicks. It's not a beauty contest, though. The rankings are based on a carefully modulated and highly-controlled algorithm that balances looks, intimidation-factor, fashion sense, skillz, and, especially, tangible contributions to my feelings of well-being during daydreams.

The twins from On!Air!Library!, for example, are disqualified, because, although they are retardedly good-looking, they are more or less just hot girls. You just don't sense in them that just-below-the-surface tinge of bizarre occultism, the true belief in the curative powers of god or dragons and wolf-howls, or at least the garden-variety punk rock xenophobia that elevates a standard hot chick to an extraordinary Hip Rock Chick.
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Seriously, they look sort of like Paula Abdul, and that's not very Hip Rock Chick.

People like Bjork and Miho Hatori, on the other hand, are disqualified because they're not much like people as I understand people, and while that's totally hot, it falls outside of the purview of the list.
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These ladies are, as much as anything, representative of their own paradigm of hot hipster chickdom. To you!

10. Tracyanne Campbell (Camera Obscura) / Isobel Campbell (ex-Belle & Sebastian)
The Scottish Gum-Bubbles
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You know why they're great? Because they look like they're the cast of a Godard movie, but they're Scottish. Can you imagine if Godard movies were in English, and entirely populated with people speaking the inherently comical Glaswegian brogue? That's just about the sexiest thing I've ever heard. Or, like, the tenth.

9. Jenny Lewis (Rilo Kiley)
The Soda Pop Jerk
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Jenny Lewis is a special case, because she makes music that is, generally speaking, sort of questionably good. For every "Execution of All Things," there's a "The Froog." She's also almost automatically disqualified for basically being a huge celebrity. What saves her? Well, for one, her starring turn opposite Fred Savage in The Wizard, one of the greatest bad movies ever made, is totally edged with some super-creepy psychosexual and pedophilic overtones, and that's pretty artsy. ("He touched my breast!") Plus, the mainstream has steadfastly refused to embrace her, no matter how hard she tries to sell out. (Sorry, "soften her sound"). That and, she's just so goddamn dreamy. I actually hear her solo album is pretty good, and maybe I'll get to it someday, but for now, I'm just going to watch the video for "The Froog" with the sound off and imagine I'm having a deep conversation about hopes and fears with her while sustaining meaningful and profound eye-contact for the duration. Sort of like a Streets song.

8. Feist (BSS) / Amy Milan (BSS / Stars)
The Canadiennes
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The crushable Canadians from Broken Social Scene are kind of the definitional indie chicks. They write and sing almost exclusively love songs, and they're real listless and wistful, just like you! However, they're also totally infuriating, because people this hot and talented are not supposed to have the same problems as normal (read: ugly, unskilled) people. That's why we listen to indie rock in the first place -- because hearing beautiful people sigh longing songs gets real fucking old real fast. At least it's supposed to, but these ladies are fighters, and they beat the odds.

7. Laura Balance (Superchunk)
The Pogo-Pogo-Princess
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The thunk-thunking pulse of the most under-appreciated band of all time. I don’t really have to explain this one to you whippersnappers, do I? Proto-Michelle Rodriguez looks, fuzzed-out basslines, and pogo-pogo-princess stage presence. Her hair is always in her face in the videos, cuz she’s modest and absolutely jam-packed with integrity, which is a huge boon for any Hip Rock Chick. And she’s got the best name on the list, bar none. Plus, she co-founded and co-owns Merge Records. Thank her for your precious Arcade Fire, and your precious Neutral Milk Hotel. I know I do.

6. Caralee McElroy (Xiu Xiu)
The Black Angel
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My sweet lord, look at her skin. She sings, and plays keyboards, flute, bass, harmonium, bells, gongs, and guitar. How many of those things do you do? I'm not super-fond of Xiu Xiu. I find them kind of stiffly pretentious, and I'm not sure what the use of that emotiono-confessional stuff is. But the press has roundly contradicted me, and I'm glad for that, because I went to see them live, and I stood on a chair, and I just watched Caralee McElroy (second-best name) play the glockenspiel and then stand around looking incredibly Hip Rock Chick while Jamie wailed about soldiers eviscerating people with grenade launchers and dead guys cumming on his face at the gym, or whatever he wails about. It was so worth it.

5. Kathleen Hanna, Kathi Wilcox, Tobi Vail (Bikini Kill)
The Itsy-Bitsy Teeny-Weeny Yellow Poka Dot Spiders
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There are too many factors contributing to the hotness of Bikini Kill to list. Ever since I saw a rock-doc nearly a decade ago in which she was interviewed, I've had a huge crush on Kathleen Hanna. I was born, or at least built, to love her. She's from Oregon. She has ties to the grunge and twee / K Records communities. She was a stripper. She's a feminist. She was, at one point, a self-described lesbian. She's ultra-leftist. She studied photography. She did 'zines. She has the best eyebrows, and very possibly the best scream in punk. These are all things that I am pretty obsessed with. Plus, she got knocked the fuck out by Courtney Love backstage at Lollapalooza for making a joke about Francis Bean being on a heroin drip. Kathleen pressed charges, and the Lovester pled guilty to assault. Talk about revenge drama!
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She wrote “SLUT” on her stomach in really big letters for live gigs. You go, girl!

And the other two, Wilcox and Vail, ain't so bad themselves... but you always have to look around Kathleen to get to 'em. Tobi Vail was in the first band called the Go Team, with the estimable Calvin Johnson. Now she's in some psychadelic whatchamacallit called Spider and the Webs. She's got it going on.
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If you need proof that this is the hottest bunch of punk chicks ever: Tobi Vail dated and dumped Kurt Cobain; Kathleen Hanna is married to Ad-Rock from the Beastie Boys; and Kathi Wilcox's baby-daddy is Guy Picciotto from Fugazi. Hang on a second, aren't those three of the four best bands of the 90s? If there had been a fourth member of BK, she would have become Stephen Malkmus's commonlaw wife. I practically guarantee it.

Besides, I don't blame her. I would change sexual orientation for Ad-Rock, too.

4. Katrina Kerns (Sufjan Stevens)
The Exterminating Angel
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Are you kidding? This person doesn't actually exist. The xylophonist / backing vocalist for Sufjan Stevens is, in fact, the female Sufjan Stevens, who himself is the indie rock Jonathan Safran Foer, who is the literary equivalent of that guy on that season of Road Rules who everybody hated because he could do everything and spoke like four languages and was hot and then when somebody said "why don't you do a backflip for me" he actually did a backflip, right there in the Road Rules RV. These people are impossible for me not to hate at least a tiny little bit. I swear to god, Katrina Kerns and Sufjan Stevens are a fraud perpetrated on hipsters by a think-tank of geniuses and conservatory musicians. They’re stupid actors who lip-sync and mime their instruments. I’ll bet you ten-to-one Katrina Kerns is actually Charlize Theron’s mute sister (the shame of the family!), and Sufjan is some ex-hooker from the Eastern Bloc. Either that, or they really are actually perfect. I'm not sure which is worse.

3. Eleanor Friedberger (Fiery Furnaces)
The Female Twin

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I'm not sure why Eleanor has to be so high up, but she does. I mean, there's really only one thing working against her, and that's the fact that her haircut looks alarmingly like Mick Ronson's.
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She is the most androgynous person on the list. There's something vaguely gay about liking Eleanor, I think, since androgyny always leans masculine. Cold is the absence of heat. Men are the absence of women, y-chrome be damned. But, she is, on the other hand, a totally hot chick, so it all works out in a Kinsey Scale sort of way. To love Eleanor Friedberger is to love a woman, but it's also to indulge in repressed gay urges to be with somebody who's more or less like you, which she seems to be, but better. Because let's face it, we're all in love with her brother, too, and it's like a package deal. There's something befuddled and vaguely hostile about her. There's no plausible reason she should be so charming. She really can't sing. She has the stage presence of a wetnap. But holy hot damn, is she about as charismatic as a person can be, without being either of the two people below.

2. Joanna Newsom
The Harpy Cherub
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No doy. 'Nuff said.

And the number one Hip Rock Chick:

1. Sarah Balliet (Murder By Death)
The Archangel Uriel
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If Joanna Newsom is the indie rock Cherub, Sarah Balliet is the indie rock Seraph. I have never seen this woman not bathed in an angelic glow. She's the Archangel Uriel of the dive club: the Fire of God. I’ve seen Murder by Death a half-dozen times, and she’s never been less than awe-inspiring. She plays the cello, which in and of itself is hot. The electric cello, at that. But, she’s also got incredible chops, and that’s hotter. When you compound it with the fact that she plays the thing like Doug Martsch plays the guitar – hard-charging and heavy like she’s paving the road to hell with notation – you’ve got yourself one of the most captivating musicians alive.
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Did I mention she likes speed metal, and she sometimes wears torn-to-rags Slayer shirts and stuff onstage? And she’s very, very nice, which is a huge plus. I mean, it's not like she's a wholesome girl from Indiana or something. Oh wait!

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the number one Hip Rock Chick in the world, Sarah Balliet.
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That’s right, girl. Smile. You’ve earned it.

Or, replace any of these women with Chan Marshall from Cat Power.

You Are Gwen Stefani!

All guys dream about you
And all the girls want to be you
"Sappy pathetic little me
That was the girl I used to be"


Anonymous said...

No Karen O? No Kazu makino?

Flowbear said...

Listen here, Brooklyn. This is the way a woman looks right when she's about to grind an unsuspecting Iowa boy's bones into a fine powder, snort it, and then blow a dragon because she likes the way the fire feels going down. I don't fall for that shit anymore.

And I don't hang around with chicks who hang around with Italian dudes since I heard Shellac's "Il Porno Star" and watched a couple Rocco Siffredi movies.

In other words, yes, those were both glaring oversights on my behalf. Good eye, city boy.

Anonymous said...

Yeah... I guess if you're not into that kind of thing...

Mike said...

thanks for your regards. i need to get in the habit of checking this. i see your brain-fingers have been as unstoppable as ever.

ram on.

D said...

I mean, you know, I miss you socially. But you're always welcome around here.

Joshua said...

i would like to say that you forgot somebody important... but you hit all of my big ones. not to mention, you covered your ass by throwing in cat power, and really hit home by ending with sarah. this man knows his angles.

kudos, tye. kudos.

Anonymous said...

bikini kill do have a forth member: THE amAzing GUITAR PLAYER SCREAMER PAINTER -BILL KARREN!!-