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Sunday, 5 June 2011

The League of Quirky Female Singers

You know the feeling; you've exhausted your Kate Bush collection and now you want to listen to a new quirky, kooky and eccentric female singer/songwriter but you're not quite sure where to start. Well look no further, because Into the Valley of the Obscure presents the second in the series of strangely popular chart competitions: the League of Quirkiness.    

As always the rules are simple. Each artiste scores points based on the following criteria and then gets woven into an appealing chart that should guarantee at least one pageview. The Quirky/Kooky maximum criteria are as follows:
  • 10 points for having such a distinctive voice that it is impossible to confuse with anyone else on Earth.
  • 5 Bonus points for making an 'exploration of voice' type LP, based of course on the sounds generated by own voice.
  • 10 points for being an unnaturally serious artiste, with a certain aloofness and air of self importance, but with a wry sense of humour thrown in for good measure.
  • 5 Bonus points for combining this with a hint of offbeat instability.
  • 10 points for weird, self possessed and generally unintelligible lyrics.
  • 10 points for having a distinctive 'look' and possibly looking like a character from a children's fairy tale.
  • 5 Bonus points if videos focus exclusively on this 'look' possibly using extreme facial close ups, or over long scenes of the artiste doing very little.
  • 10 points for sounding a bit like 'Smelly Cat' by Phoebe from Friends.

10. Kimbra (22 points)

Straight out of blogosphere recommendations comes Kimbra. Scoring highly in the voice categories and sense of humour, Kimbra was let down by a lack of obvious oddball qualities. From her videos she's also a bit of a mover in the dance department but not in a quirky way. A great singer though and possibly destined for greatness.


9. Lisa Hannigan (26 points)

Lovely Lisa looks like she lives alone with her cats in a patchwork house in the middle of a forest. Not vocally distinctive enough to trouble the top spots, she nevertheless scored highly in the Phoebe soundalike category. Check out 'The Ocean and a Rock' from the album.


8.  Feist (27 points)

Mid-table obscurity for Feist with her particular brand of acoustic folk warbling. Strangely, her videos reveal her as another capable dancer with a strong sense of humour. 'The Reminder' album is recommended as a quality starting point.

7. Laura Marling (29 points)

Liked the first album but not convinced by the second. Laura is undoubtedly serious about her music and there's plenty of facial close up action in the videos, but it's more of a cutesy image than a quirky one. The atypical delivery of the first album may have seen her higher up the league and it's definitely worth a listen.


6. Emiliana Torrini (31 points)

The quirky level goes up a notch with Emiliana Torrini. Lots of angst on show and lots of shots of her doing very little in the videos. The voice is distinctive and there's just a hint of elf in the way she looks. 'Love in the Time of Science' is a cracking entry level LP.


5. Camille (34 points)

Camille ladles on the French quirkiness with the distinctive gallic yodelling voice, weird lyrics and using her vocal samples as a backing track. Obviously we're big fans at Into the Valley... but sadly Camille needs to add some serious offbeat action and more individual fashion sense if she wants to progress as a quirky superstar.

4. Polly Scattergood (35 points)

She's got the affected voice, the 'Phoebe' factor and has a certain look of a willowy version of the White Witch from of Narnia. I'm currently looking forward to listening to her eponymously titled album, but she certainly looks like a promising newcomer to the genre. I bets she's got several cats too.

3. Fiona Apple (36 points)

From Evlkeith's stable of quirksome fillies comes Fiona Apple. Scoring maximum points on the serious, self important artiste front, Fiona has plenty going for her. She has a look of an unhinged Phoebe from Friends combined with intense, passionate lyrics, however to progress, these lyrics need to make less sense, she needs to 'quirk up' her look and add some humour.

2. Joanna Newsom (41 points)

Playing the harp with silken fingers to make angelic music, Joanna then combines this with a voice like a strangled stradivarius. It's undoubtedly premier league quirkiness as Joanna scores highly in virtually every category with her look of a slightly evil 'gelfling' from the Dark Crystal (check it out film fans), going down particularly well with the judges. There's just a hint of Kate Bush about her and I must buy more of her albums!

1. Bjork (45 points)

In football there's Barcelona, in tennis there's Roger Federer and in quirkiness there's Bjork. She has everything going for her; she's serious, strange, funny and has the most unique voice in the world. She looks and acts like a deranged pixie, but is at the same time beautiful and intelligent. And she made Medulla, and released it! And look at her fashion sense!

What most people don't realise is just how inaccessible most of her albums are to everyday pop fans. After 'It's Oh So Quiet' she could have gone on to world domination like some Icelandic Lady Gaga, but she chose an altogether quirkier path and released a string of albums which just got more and more un-commercial, which is great news for obscure music fans. So raise a glass to the undisputed Queen of Quirkiness; Bjork!




  1. You missed Lamb entirely. Check it out, the lead is soooo strange and beautiful.

  2. I really like your selection of female singers. All videos and songs are worth listening. My husband also liked this list when I shared it with him. Keep the good work coming.