Since its initial inception in 1911, International Women’s Day has grown to be a globally recognised force for change. Heavily and necessarily politicised for the last century, 2021 sees a continued focus on raising awareness of enduring inequalities; highlighting the wealth of barriers to growth, economic stability, and to basic personal safety that many women and gender minorities face every day. According to the World Economic Forum, gender parity will not exist within our lifetime, and probably not that of our children, either. The people at IWD have provided a list of selected charities for those able to donate, all of which we here at Akira Records fully support.
In the spirit of uplifting and celebrating the achievements of women, each of us behind the scenes at Akira have chosen our favourite album by a woman artist, along with two extras for good measure (because really, how can we narrow that down?!). We reached out to the artists on our roster too, who not only make the most compelling music themselves, but who eagerly took the opportunity to highlight just some of the women who’ve influenced them along the way. Keep scrolling to meet the team, and learn more about the artists involved.
STEVIE RED MCMINN - Owner & Director of Akira Records, & founding member of Mt. Wolf
Madonna - Ray of Light
"Madonna is the queen of reinvention, and ‘90s Madonna is my favourite era. With “Ray of Light” Madonna transformed herself by enlisting ambient/electronic musician and composer William Orbit as a producer, creating one of the greatest pop albums of all time. My sister first introduced me to this album as I was only a kid when it came out, and I used to scan MTV after school in search of her iconic music videos for “Ray Of Light”, “Frozen”, “Substitute for Love”, and “The Power of Good-Bye”. I have listened to this album and dissected it over and over and in fact I would say it has inspired the Akira sound; cinematic, ethereal, left of centre pop music."
1) Lorde - Pure Heroine - Buzzcut Season
2) Julien Baker/Phoebe Bridgers/Lucy Dacus - boygenius - Souvenir
HOLLY BROWNING - Designer
Lana Del Rey, Norman Fucking Rockwell!
"I have been obsessed with Lana since I first heard and watched the music video for Video Games about a decade ago. To me she is a true visionary, she creates a whole world for her music to sit in, where the visuals are as well thought-out and as beautiful as the songs; and she's been consistent with this attention to detail since the start. I love every album of hers but this is clearly her greatest album to date, it sounds like years of experimenting and dreaming came together perfectly at once. The lyrics read like poetry and it features a song that's almost ten minutes long, what's not to love?!"
1) Beyoncé - Lemonade - Formation
2) Taylor Swift - folklore - the last great american dynasty
FIONA HARTE - Label Manager and Independent Artist
Joni Mitchell - Blue
"I love the poetic lyrics and melodies in this album. I feel as though it's such an honest piece of work from start to finish. Joni's music has been a big influence on my own projects and being a singer-songwriter myself makes me appreciate her artistry even more."
1) The Staves - Dead & Born & Grown - Gone Tomorrow
2) Jennah Bell - Anchors & Elephants - John Forbid
VICKY WARWICK - Social Media Marketing
Feist - The Reminder
"This is probably the album by a female artist that has had the most lasting impact on me. It was on repeat throughout my time in music college, and I was obsessed with her ethereal vocal hooks, unusual instrumentation and the way she managed to write song after song that felt like a punch in the guts, yet somehow emanated a warm fuzzy glow. I’m still blown away by the space it puts you in; when I listen to it now I experience an entire spectrum of nostalgia that builds with each track, taking me back to dimly-lit (and damp) London bedrooms that I haven't experienced in years."
1) Aretha Franklin - Oh Me Oh My - Young, Gifted and Black
2) Sharon Van Etten - Every Time the Sun Comes Up - Are We There
STEPHEN ARCHIBALD - Digital Marketing
Heaven Or Las Vegas - Cocteau Twins
"An incredible, genre defining album. Full of lush soundscapes and centred around Liz Fraser's otherworldly vocals, which often abandoned traditional language in favour of Scottish 'mouth music' inspired vocalisations."
Bonus Tracks 1) Courtney Barnett - Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit - Pedestrian at Best
2) Ms Lauryn Hill - The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill - Doo Wop (That Thing)
JOEY ARNOLD - A&R
Lana del Rey - Born To Die
"I can still listen to this album in full whenever, wherever. The production is incredible but it’s Lana’s delivery and melodies that make it what it is. Simultaneously throwback and contemporary, I remember thinking Video Games must be some really tasteful cover of a disco classic or something when I first heard it..."
Bonus Tracks 1) Lapsley - Through Water - My Love Was Like The Rain
2) Celeste - Not Your Muse - Strange
RUTH KILPATRICK - Digital Marketing
Fiona Apple - Fetch The Bolt Cutters
"Fiona Apple’s fifth and best work, Fetch The Bolt Cutters is an incredible record. On FTBC Apple is unapologetic, sharp-witted, clear-eyed and open-hearted - despite all that’s gone before. Apple appears to be at a point in her life where she’s tired of being polite, of giving up space due to fear of offense, or retribution. Under The Table and for that matter the majority of the record, can be individually interpreted, of course, but it’s been encouraging to watch it (publicly) resonate with so many younger women, especially within the music industry.
“I’d like to buy you a pair of pillow-soled hiking boots - to help you with your climb. Or rather, to help the bodies that you step over along your route - so they won’t hurt like mine.”
When asked by NPR what Apple felt she needed to take the bolt cutters to, to be liberated from, Apple explained: “I was just thinking about...the way that I’ve internalised a lot of the things that were said to me, believed them and then as a result, hidden myself away or shut myself up. As much as I don't think that I'm known for being someone who keeps quiet about things, I have really kept quiet about a lot of things…”
This record has been a saviour to so many. Apple discusses her past, her sexual assault, the conditioning that comes with it, the high school girl bullies and the shame of “never being enough”. She speaks of the manipulative men in her life, the women they continue to hurt (Newspaper), keeping them just separate enough, controlling the narrative entirely. The normalisation of abusive, coercive behaviour dressed up as emotion, the indignant “but I’m a nice guy I would never do that” rhetoric, Fiona Apple addresses it all, unflinchingly (Relay) and it's incredible to hear it played out with such class. It feels as though FTBC is not just for herself, but for an endless amount of unheard women (Ladies); afraid to speak, fearful of being so easily cast as deluded, a liar, or worse, unwell. It takes courage to tell the truth, one way or another. More so within a context where it's so easily warped, so often met with disbelief. There's nothing half-hearted about Fiona Apple, and I love her for it. Fetch The Bolt Cutters is a vital album; true catharsis by one of the most important songwriters we have: evidently fearless, and finally free. “Don’t You, Don’t You, Don’t You, Don’t You Shush Me…”
1) Lauryn Hill - The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill - Everything is Everything. This song always brings me a sense of peace amidst turmoil, it’s priceless. (Notable mentions to the scathing Lost Ones, forever heartache bawler Ex-Factor and Doo Wop (That Thing) is a classic - the whole album is a masterpiece).
2) Lil Kim - Hard Core - Not Tonight. A stunning (double platinum) debut album that still stands up, paving the way for so many. Kim was homeless aged 15, featured on Junior M.A.F.I.A’s Conspiracy and released Hard Core in ‘96. In a career that’s still ongoing, she overcame continued physical violence at the hands of her partners. Throughout this, Lil Kim showed that you can be a woman in rap and not have to stay in one lane, not have to spit a certain way or make a radio record to shift units. Owning her own sexuality and speaking on it just as graphically as her male counterparts, Hard Core’s influence is still felt today, namely in City Girls, early Minaj, even newer artists like Flo Milli - Kim did it first. OG QB.
You can find all of the tracks mentioned in a handy playlist for you, just head to the Akira Spotify page.