I drive my car for my job right now, and listen to music in the car constantly. As such, I’m always on the lookut for new tunes by queer and trans artists to make the drives less mind-numbing. My struggle is your gain! Here are some new releases for you to check out, this time with Honorable Mentions and a bonus video!
Shamir, Room EP
Releases March 5th, 2018
Shamir is definitely an acquired taste. His voice is high-pitched and pointed, like the voice of an acute angle. But once you’ve gotten past its novelty, it’s clear that it’s actually the voice of a cute angel! If an artist ever engendered a desire to give someone a long, intimate hug, it’s Shamir.
Shamir’s lyrics are often concerned with the struggles of Millenial/Generation Z young people, and mental illness often features heavily. “Room,” the pre-release single from the upcoming two-track EP, is country-inspired, with a simple electric guitar chord progression a driving drum beat that implies movement and progression. It’s a simple but thoughtful exploration of how people who struggle with anxiety and depression navigate the tension between the safety of staying still — especially for Black queer people, for whom leaving the house can be a survival exercise — versus making a courageous move out into a difficult, but potentially healthier, unknown.
“Tell me how to explode without shattering/ how to stay in one piece/ in between this release/ But I see the open door/ … but what I have to choose/ is to walk on through/ or stay trapped in this room.”
Blood Orange, Black History
Released February 4th, 2018
Blood Orange’s Dev Hynes posted these two songs on Instagram to kick off Black History Month, with the caption “U must luv yourself Happy Black History Month. (All year).” He has long been explicitly political in his music and lyrics; last year’s Freetown Sound featured “Hands Up,” which dealt with the emotional impact of police brutality on black people and sampled protesters shouting “Hands up, don’t shoot,” for example. This EP, released during and for Black History Month, is explicitly about self-love, especially for queer black people.
“June 12th” opens with a black queer male-coded voice telling a story about cruising in the city, and immediately moves into a spoken word piece recognizing intersectionality: “You grew up in a different world/ I as a black man, I may know pain/ but I don’t know the pain of a black woman,” then Black/Latinx solidarity: “…seen America with different eyes/ than the slain Puerto Rican sister,” and also addresses police brutality, name-dropping Philando Castile. Throughout, it dips in its mantra: “You must love yourself.” A prescient reminder for Black queer and trans folks as we exit Black History Month — we must love ourselves — all year.
Brandi Carlile, By The Way, I Forgive You
Released February 16, 2018
While she’s not the most popular of powerhouse lesbian rockers, Brandi Carlile is one of the most talented and well-rounded. Her many albums span the spectrum of Americana, from acoustic folk ballads to arena-fillers, and that spectrum is in full display on By The Way, I Forgive You.
Lead single “The Joke” opens with piano and strings, softly detailing the difficulty of being a young person who’s “different.” As the chorus kicks in, however, it grows in defiance and vitriol; it’s an anthem for the kids bullied for crossing gender boundaries or otherwise daring to be themselves: “They come to kick dirt in your face/ To call you weak and then displace you,” she snarls, but then she shouts out the chorus: “Let ’em spin, let ’em scatter in the wind/ I have been to the movies, I’ve seen how it ends/ And the joke’s on them.”
Her lyrics (including those in “the Joke,” which is a good song regardless) are sometimes hackneyed. “Sugartooth,” a story about a young boy’s struggle with mental illness and eventual suicide gets pretty heavy-handed: “People tried to blame him for making bad choices/ When he was only listening to the voices.” And on “The Mother,” which is remarkable for its portrayal of lesbian motherhood and domesticity, the coda is the not-quite-subtle “I am the mother of Evangeline.” Her earnestness makes up for it, though; she brilliantly utilizes the breaks in her voice to communicate emotionally. Her earnestness is really her primary asset, and despite its flaws makes By the Way, I Forgive You an enjoyable listen.
Purchase By The Way, I Forgive You here.
Sara Renberg, Night Sands
Released Feb 2, 2018
Sara Renberg’s low-fi indie rock is straightforward, simple, and fun. It reminds me of Jenny Owen Youngs or Courtney Barnett, and it’s explicitly gay! Like, it’s so gay, and so, so relatable. On “Ex Party” she lays out the scene: “You said, my friend’s having a party, and the friend was your ex/ I’d had a lot of practice hanging with girls with whom you used to have sex/ And she was cool, she was so cool, she was so cool/ She was from Alaska and she played drums and had good tattoos.” What lesbian hasn’t had this exact experience?
“I’m wearing a dress somewhat under duress/ ‘cause it’s easier, and sometimes I want it to be easy,” she laments on “Only Gay Person.” She continues: “I’m the only gay person in this room/ If there is a God and He has a plan/ it’s to make me so bored I’ll have sex with a man/ Well, you ain’t got me yet Lord, You ain’t got me yet/ You shouldn’t have let us create the internet.” Renberg, who is an Autostraddle reader, seems to really get it. I wish I could quote the whole album. Just listen.
Purchase Night Sands here.
Screaming Females, All At Once
Released February 23, 2018
This album is intense, aggressive punk rock with slight pop tendencies here and there. If you’re ready to rage at the system, head bang, and scream out your frustrations at the top of your lungs, then Screaming Females is right there with you.
Purchase All At Once here.
phem, can’t kill me EP
Released Feb 14, 2018
Phem’s sound is low-key synth-heavy trip-hop, perfect if you’re looking for a slightly more chill, but direct, Grimes or iamamiwhoami. The EP explores sexual fluidity — seemingly bisexual on the surface, but more more layered and uncertain as it goes deeper.
Listen to can’t kill me here or on your streaming service.
Frank Ocean, Moon River
Released Feb 15, 2018
If Blonde (or, somehow, Endless) was your favorite Frank Ocean album, you’ll love the direction he’s heading with his latest releases. As he continues to get more and more experimental — with his voice, with melody (or lack thereof) — he’s losing the perfect pop/R&B aesthetic that drew me to him originally. That being said, I can appreciate the creative process, and am willing to follow him wherever he goes. This song is an Audrey Hepburn cover, which is wonderful for its gayness, but it doesn’t hit me personally like so many of his best songs do. It’s still worth a listen if you’re a stan, though, like I am.
Listen to Moon River here.
There’s no way you haven’t seen/listened to Janelle Monae’s new songs yet. Get your life: