The impression I’ve gotten after years of working in music journalism and talking to folks outside of the industry is that until a new mainstream movie about the profession gets made, everyone just assumes our job looks like Almost Famous, a film that reads to me—someone who came of age in the profession post-travel-budget—as pure fantasy. The grim reality for us writers and editors is that our days are unglamorously spent sifting through hundreds of emails listing the names of mostly unfamiliar artists on the come-up, of whom we’re tasked with choosing favorites. I guess that still sounds sorta glamorous, huh.
Well, in the same way I look back with envy at the on-the-ground music writing of the ’70s, the mid-2000s era of overly specific band names (Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, Does It Offend You, Yeah?) similarly makes me rue being born a little too late. For a while I had an ongoing word doc where I dumped all the artists I was being pitched with extremely basic (and usually all-caps) mononyms like MIKE and KYLE, while I’ve also devoted plenty of words on this site to defining all the one-word “-ing”-named bands. The latest trend in naming, per my inbox, is the word “Wife” preceded by a simple descriptor.
Whether it’s a symptom of the de-patriarchization of our society or a backlash against a different mid-2000s trend of all-dude bands calling themselves things like Girls and Women, it’s still an interesting phenomenon that the onset of so many projects called “[Blank] Wife” launched relatively concurrently. For the sake of disambiguation—and, for the most part, recommendation—we’ve outlined 10 prominent Wives below.
David Cronenberg’s Wife (formed 2004)
Relic from that aforementioned era of overly specific band names and all-dude lineups with female-gendered nouns (and, incidentally, extremely rectangular glasses frames). Really doesn’t belong on this list outside of the fact that it contrasts so heavily with everything else on here. RIP Carolyn Cronenberg, you probably wouldn’t have liked this band!
Trophy Wife (formed 2010)
More dudes, and another project formed over a decade ago, but this is the earliest prominent use of the [Adjective] Wife naming convention I could find. Having never heard their music before it sounds to me now like the DALL·E audio output for the prompt “2011 indie blog band.”
Dream Wife (formed 2014)
Band’s been around for a minute but really only landed on our radar a few years back with their debut album. Peak wife-core in its explicit anti-patriarchy irony, though I think their relatively conventional rock sound separates them from the synth-/ambient-poppier Wives to come.
Total Wife (formed 2017)
Let it be known that blending strands of krautrock, slowcore, shoegaze, and various other alternative-rock subgenres is a total Wife move.
Midwife (formed 2017)
Another favorite Wife of FLOOD’s, Madeline Johnston released her first album of depressive dream pop back in 2017 and has gained plenty of traction with her last two releases. She was putting out music as Mariposa and Sister Grotto prior to this, so I can only assume she was hip to this new naming trend and wanted to get in on it while the getting-in-on-it was good.
Housewife (changed name in 2018)
Another name changer (as well as another anti-spacer), Housewife is the new moniker chosen by Brighid Fry and Pascale Padilla who were formerly known as Moscow Apartment. Oddly feels like the middle ground between Dream Wife’s upbeat, pop-minded rock music and Midwife’s moody aestheticism.
PET wife (formed 2018)
As far as dismantling the cis/domestic connotations of the term “wife” goes, PET wife goes the extra mile between its formation among a queer trans couple and the fact that the music itself is a blend of highly experimental pop sounds and lyrics existentially soliliquizing on sexuality and transcending our silly little human bodies. Not a lot of that going on in Eisenhower’s America, I’m sure.
Knife Wife (formed 2019)
OK this one’s doubly confusing, since “Knife” bands also seem to be having a moment (relatedly, I feel like I keep seeing press photos of up-and-coming songwriters with swords?). The group’s debut album is a self-described “regurgitation of the tear-inducing boredom and ecstasy that is being 15 years old,” solidifying that “Wife” bands are on the verge of taking off. Bored teens know what’s up.
Revenge Wife (formed 2021)
We had the pleasure of ushering the debut single from Revenge Wife—the new solo venture of ex-HOLYCHILD songwriter Elizabeth Nistico—into the world last year along with a highly personal open letter that served as a sort of thesis statement for the project implicitly explaining its title. I think Knife Wife would be a good group to have on her side when the Wife bands inevitably declare war on a firmly patriarchal music industry.
Work Wife (formed 2021)
I made the mistake of googling “work wife” without specifying “band” and I briefly fell down a rabbit hole of Jim-and-Pam-core articles about wholesome office friendships that seem to overlook the concept of “having friends of the opposite sex.” Which makes me think Work Wife (artist)’s moniker feels less ironic as a subversion of matrimonial tropes and more so as a red herring for Meredith Lampe’s solo project diving into intimate themes too personal for her work with Colatura. Well, I dunno, maybe conversations with work wives do tend to get this personal.