The Sounds of Siren Nation

Text reads 2011 Siren Nation Festival over a hand-drawn black and white picture of the Portland skylineWhile Katie and Kjerstin spent last weekend at Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin, I hung out in Portland, basking in a whole bunch of awesome lady-made music for Portland's annual Siren Nation Festival. In the Ladyfest spirit, Siren Nation celebrates the many contributions women make to the arts, whether it's music, crafts, art, or film. Siren Nation, now in its fifth year, is more than just a one-weekend festival. In addition to the annual festival, the organizers of Siren Nation hosts fundraisers throughout the year in Portland, including Dolly Parton, Billie Holiday, and Patti Smith tribute nights, providing opportunities for women in the arts all year long.

This year's music line-up was phenomenal, and turned me on to lots of new music from female artists.


Ximena Sariñana

Ximena Sariñana's catchy pop songs are bound to get stuck in your head. "Different," the first track on her self-titled album, is a sassy pop song embellished with whistles and brass instruments, but with lyrics like keep in mind I'm not here/I'm from a different world, it also reminds English-speaking listeners that this is not Sariñana's first album or the start of her career (Mediocre, her first full-length album in Spanish, was released in 2008). The new self-title album is Sariñana's first English-language album, and she says, "It's my first record to a lot of people. I just hope listeners can hear the honesty in the album. I titled it after myself because my name keeps it close to me and who I am as an artist and a person."


Lemolo is a dream pop duo from Seattle. Meagen Grandall (vocals, keyboard, guitar) and Kendra Cox (drums, keyboard) make thoughtful, swoon-worthy music with lots of synth and simple but awe-inspiring lyrics. In an interview earlier this year, Grandall said, "What we are shooting for is to create beautiful music that moves us as we play it. We hope that this comes across to our audience." And their live show really does make it clear that they love what they're doing. Plus, Cox is one of the most dynamic drummers I've seen as of late, and she does it while wearing high heels. With lyrics like, she sees the world the way she wants/oh, the way she wants/and it looks like..., Lemolo makes me wish that I was still sixteen and could borrow my parent's car to drive around in the woods and listen to these songs. Lemolo will be releasing their first full-length album soon. Make sure to keep tabs on these ladies!

Kimya Dawsom

If there were a Best Album Title of the Year award, I would nominate Kimya Dawson's brand-new album, brilliantly titled Thunder Thighs. Her new album, like her others, is as heart-warming as it is heart-breaking. No one else manages to place a kids' song about a mare and a bear ("Mare and The Bear") on the same album as a chilling song about the end of the world ("Driving Driving Driving") as well as a celebratory song about why the library is so cool ("The Library"). Thunder Thighs tackles motherhood, corporate media, and sobriety, and Dawson sings each song with earnestness and a smile. Bonus points for Aesop Rock fans: Ian Matthias Bavitz worked on six of the songs on this album (look for a forthcoming album by the two of them soon).

Here's a mix including the above artists as well as a few others who performed at Siren Nation last weekend. Enjoy!

1. Ximena Sariñana - Different
2. Lemolo - Whale Song
3. Y La Bamba - Fasting in San Francisco
4. Kelli Schaefer - Gone in Love
5. My Brightest Diamond - There's a Rat
7. The Corin Tucker Band - Doubt
8. Kimya Dawson - Same Shit/Complicated

Thanks to Siren Nation for an amazing weekend celebrating women in the arts!

by Ashley McAllister
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