For more than 30 years, singer-songwriter and guitar hero Mary Timony has cut a distinctive path through the world of independent music, most recently as vocalist and guitarist of acclaimed garage-pop power trio Ex Hex (Merge) but also as a member of seminal post-punk band Autoclave (Dischord), celebrated leader of the deeply influential Helium (Matador), multifaceted solo artist (Matador, Lookout!, Kill Rock Stars), and a co-founder of supergroup Wild Flag (Merge). Described by Sleater-Kinney's Carrie Brownstein as "Mary Shelley with a guitar" and dubbed "a trailblazer and an innovator" by [Mary's former guitar student] Lindsey Jordan a.k.a. Snail Mail, Timony has distinguished herself as one of her generation's most influential guitarists and songwriters. Although she has remained a cult hero and critical favorite since the early '90s, appearing everywhere from 120 Minutes episodes to Coachella sets, Timony's many triumphs have long been counterbalanced by crippling doubt and self-nullification.
Philadelphia-based artist Rosali makes songs that take their time in revealing their full power. What might first appear to be restrained, introspective compositions will stretch slowly outward, snagging your attention with a subtly sideways guitar lead or an exceptionally raw lyric you didn't catch the first time around. A child of two musicians, Rosali grew up as part of a large family that sang together and taught themselves various instruments, finding the earliest forms of her musical voice harmonizing and making up songs with her sisters. As an adult, Rosali merged this musical upbringing with an active involvement in Philly's experimental and D.I.Y. community. Her 2016 solo debut Out of Love was released on Siltbreeze, a long-running label that champions abstract noise and challenging listening. While Rosali's earliest work was far nearer to folk-informed rock than harsh sonics, it held an intensity of its own in its strange angles and unexpected vulnerability.
No history of American indie should be written without a chapter on Mary Timony, who managed to straddle multiple worlds--among them Boston's college-borne rock realm and Dischord's DC-based DIY scene--over the course of her early career. In the Boston band Helium, Timony took center stage, playing rock and roll that was anything but straightforward.
Timony's fearless approach to her craft resulted in her forging a new path for the much-discussed "woman in rock," one where a woman could nod to her femininity without hewing to outdated ideas of womanhood, and one where someone could not just play guitar, but could play with ideas of how the instrument should be approached. Timony simultaneously deconstructs and rebuilds riffs, searching for resolution but also savoring the journey toward it; with Helium, she pushed her technique and explored unconventional compositional ideas in-depth. The chug of "Pat's Trick" was of a piece with the brand of '90s rock given the "indie rock" blessing, but Timony's swallowing-itself solo and laconic vocal elevated the track, making it a head-rush of damaged beauty.