In recent years, the underground music scene has slowly become more and more dominated by a plethora of female-fronted bands. And it’s not that there are just a lot of them — they’re also making really, really good music. From lo-fi bedroom pop to revamped ’90s inspired grunge to power-pop to full-on punk rock, female-fronted groups are doing a little bit of everything and making you feel a whole lot of something. Amongst countless contenders, here’s a list of thirteen up-and-coming female-fronted bands who are doing big things right now. Given the odds stacked against women working in rock, these bands deserve the extra, focused shine. Check them out.
1. Diet Cig
Diet Cig, the duo of Alex Luciano (vocals, guitar) and Noah Bowman (drums), create some of the most infectious pop-punk songs out there. And while they may seem like they are just a band that is really good at having fun and making catchy songs while they are at it, Diet Cig is so much more. Luciano’s songwriting starts with her very personal emotions and expands outwards to approach political and societal issues that she feels need to be addressed, and rightfully so. She calls out the patriarchy in “Tummy Ache,” a single off Diet Cig’s most recent album, Swear I’m Good At This, in singing “I’m starting to get real sick of / Trying to find my voice / Surrounded by all boys.” Diet Cig is currently on a nationwide tour in support of Swear I’m Good At This, which was released on April 7 with Frenchkiss Records. Check out an interview we did with Luciano about the new record.
2. Retirement Party
Chicago-based pop rockers Retirement Party, fronted by the whimsical Avery Springer, just released their debut EP Strictly Speaking back in January via Tilde Records. The EP is a collection of honest power pop songs and fast pop punk tracks that discuss “existential doubt,” “shortness of breath,” and “Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind.” Coming out of the Midwest emo and punk DIY scene, Retirement Party takes their roots and literally turns them into a “party” with their upbeat, pop-centric songs. The band, which includes Springer, Kevin Mandell, Nick Cartwright, and James Ringness, is currently playing shows in Chicago and the surrounding areas in continual support of the EP. Springer also slows it down with her acoustic solo project called Elton John Cena.
3. Slingshot Dakota
Carly Comando plays the keyboard and harmonizes with drummer Tom Patterson for the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania-based indie rock duo Slingshot Dakota. Being partners both in life and in music, Comando and Patterson “stop pretending [they] have nothing in common” and master the cohesion and chemistry that every band strives to achieve. Their united, yet fuzzy sound is better than ever on their fourth full-length album, Break, which came out in March 2016 via Topshelf. They followed this up strongly with a 7-inch called Broken in February of this year. Slingshot Dakota will be doing a UK tour in May with Petal and then will return for a series of shows in the Midwest. Get tickets here.
The Chicago-based aggressive noise-rock outfit Melkbelly can do just about anything. You want honest folk rock songs? Blaring and writhing sludge rock? Melkbelly’s Miranda Winters can do both and she creates a new sound by mixing elements of the two together, with the help of bandmates Liam Winters, Bart Winters, and James Wetzel. This sound was debuted on their dynamic 2014 EP Pennsylvania. Since then, they released a 7-inch titled Bathroom At The Beach in 2015 and yet another, “Mount Kool Kid” B/W “Elk Mountain” in 2016 via Manic Static. So far for 2017, Melkbelly has been playing some shows around their hometown and will open up for Protomartyr in June at The Subterranean. Melkbelly’s music can make you want to dance, yell, and cry, which is basically all you need to be making good rock music.
Nashville-based grunge rock band Bully is the brainchild of vocalist, songwriter, and guitarist Alicia Bognanno. Unusually, the band actually had their breakout moment with their 2015 debut Feels Like via Startime International. But it’s only up from here. Bully’s sound is extremely compelling with the raspy, yet delicate nature of Bognanno’s vocal alongside lyrics that prove that a woman can do literally anything, even be a “Milkman.” Most recently, Bully released the powerful single “Right” with the Our First 100 Days campaign. The band tweeted back in February that they are working on a sophomore record, which has yet to be announced but will surely also shred.
6. Trophy Dad
Trophy Dad started as a group of students playing basement shows at the University of Wisconsin. Now, their 2017 single “Louis Sachar” has more than 45K plays on Spotify. On April 14, the four-piece, fronted by Abby Sherman, released “Addison,” a single off their upcoming EP Dogman, which will be out May 5 via Sad Cactus Records. On the single, Sherman sings about a toxic relationship that keeps roping her back in, something surely most of us have experienced. Despite their youth, Trophy Dad already shows a maturity and mastery of the elements of power-pop songs that will certainly continue with the upcoming EP.
Philadelphia-based power-pop band Sports had a strong full-length debut with their 2015 album All Of Something with Father/Daughter Records, which features front-woman Carmen Perry singing about maintaining her sense of self in a world that is constantly throwing obstacles at her. Add strategically-written pop hooks, fast drums, and hazy guitar chords to the emotional rawness of the lyrics and you get Sports’ familiar and fun pop-punk sound. Sports recently re-released an equally infectious album Sunchokes. The band will tour this late spring with Diet Cig, including a benefit show for Girls Rock Philly on May 25.
8. Mannequin Pussy
Mannequin Pussy is another insanely good band coming out of the Philadelphia DIY scene. The four-piece consisting of Marisa Dabice (guitar, vocals), Colins “Bear” Regisford (bass), Thanasi Paul (guitar), and Kaleen Reading (drums), writes pithy, yet heavy punk songs with a shoegaze flair. Mannequin Pussy debuted in 2014 with Gypsy Pervert, but had their breakout moment with 2016’s LP Romantic via Tiny Engines, which came in at No. 5 as one of our best rock albums of the year. On the record, the band gets right down to business with a collection of 11 catchy songs that clock in at less than 20 minutes. Checking out Mannequin Pussy is completely worth the little time it takes to get hooked on their sound that is influenced by the grittiness of the ’90s, as well as by post-punk and metal.
Palberta is the unpredictable noise-rock trio of Anina Ivry-Block, Lily Konigsberg, and Nina Ryser. The group released their third full-length record, Bye Bye Berta on vinyl via Brooklyn’s Wharf Cat Records. This album is another quick and worth-your-while listen because even though it consists of 20 tracks, each one is only around a minute long. Palberta experiment with an obscure, yet enticing sound in their harmonies, screams, and chants that are reminiscent of childlike emotional outbreaks and nursery rhymes. The trio will play several shows with Palm this summer. Get tickets here.
10. Half Waif
Half Waif, synth-pop group fronted by multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and songwriter Nandi Rose Plunkett, consists of members of 2016’s critically acclaimed alt-folk band Pinegrove. Most recently, Half Waif released their EP Form/a in February via Cascine. Much like Evan Stephens Hall’s songwriting on Pinegrove’s Cardinal, Plunkett is able to capture raw and honest human emotion in the EP’s lyrics. On Form/a’s fourth track “Frost Burn,” Plunkett opens up to her listeners and lets them in: “I was fourteen when I had to learn what it means to be an adult, it wasn’t my fault.” While more experimental, risky, and inventive sonically than 2016’s Probable Depths, Form/a successfully achieves a noteworthy maturity as Plunkett navigates through finding her own distinct sound. Half Waif has been gaining a lot of momentum this year with the release of the EP and recently announced that they will be on tour supporting Mitski this summer. Get tickets here.
11. Daddy Issues
Daddy Issues is a Nashville-based witchy, grungy power-pop trio of Jenna Moynihan, Jenna Mitchell, and Emily Maxwell. Just a few days ago, the band released the third single “Locked Out,” off their burgeoning full-length debut LP Deep Dream. The track is about the pain that comes with a summer fling that ends all too quickly. Daddy Issues just finished up a tour where they supported Diet Cig and are back home awaiting the release of their record. Deep Dream is out May 19 via Infinity Cat Recordings. Pre-order it here. The band will tour in support of the record this summer.
Kelly Olsen, Allegra Anka, and Augusta Koch make up the boisterous Philly-based punk band Cayetana. The trio are about to release their sophomore record, New Kind Of Normal, on May 5 via Plum Records, an independent label they started themselves. The lo-fi punk trailblazers have no fear when it comes to music, evidenced by their DIY approach to being self-taught and releasing music on their own label. They’ve already released three singles off of their upcoming record, “Mesa,” “Certain For Miles,” and “Bus Ticket,” which examine the self through introspection and exploration of a wide range of emotions. Cayetana makes sad girl rock songs inspired by the riot grrrl bands of the ’90s. Add to that a whole lot of punk and a little bit of pop and you have a trio that is about have their breakout moment with New Kind Of Normal. Preorder it here.
13. Charly Bliss
The effervescent Charly Bliss has been an active four-piece fronted by Eva Grace Hendricks for almost five years. They finally released their full-length debut Guppy on April 21. And it was worth the wait. Hendricks’ bright and refreshing vocal carries through the record’s classic punk sound, resulting in a feeling of nostalgia for ’90s pop and ’00s pop-punk, with a fresh new twist. One listen to Charly Bliss and you will be instantly drawn into their irresistibly fun tracks. Charly Bliss is currently on tour in support of Guppy. Get tickets here.