It’s a great time to be queer and/or trans music fan! There was SO MUCH incredible music to cover this month. Check the Honorable Mentions at the end for quickfire reviews of so many records and albums! I honestly think I could listen to only queer and trans musicians for the rest of my days and not run out of really great stuff. That would be an interesting experience, wouldn’t it? Maybe there’s a personal essay to write there. Hmmm…
Something I’m really excited about this month is that two of these tracks are bilingual, featuring Latinx artists who sing in both Spanish and English: Karina and Bebé Machete. I also always love when Black queer artists take up space, like Davy Boi and Bronze Avery. There’s some punky stuff in here too, both of the more standard variety (Martha) and the electronic variety (Pixel Grip)! And some folky experimental slower stuff like Lauren Ruth Ward. And so much more!
We are such a diverse set of communities, y’all. It feels like when most people think about “gay” music, they think of dance pop. And no shade to dance pop, I love it (see Gia Woods in the Honorable Mentions), but it’s long been past due that the aspects of queer culture that resonate most with cis gay men are set to the side for a bit and some of the other aspects of our culture(s) can shine. That’s what I’m trying to do with this column, anyways. Enjoy!
Karina, No Puedo (Single)
Released March 22, 2019
For months, I’ve been trying to find queer/trans Latinx musicians, especially if they sing in Spanish. I’ve been put on to Javiera Mena and duendita and a couple others, but none of them had new music at the time. I try to be as diverse as possible in terms of genre and such in these posts, but so far EVERY SINGLE SONG in Queer Your Ears has been in English. Do you know of any queer or trans musicians currently making non-English music? Send them my way!
Anyway, given this I was so pumped to find Karina, which is actually two people – Karina Fernandez and Jorge Guarch. This beautiful, bilingual song is sleek and sultry and sad, with the delicate production, single-string-strummed reverberating guitar notes, and layer-building of a The xx song, but definitely with their own flavor. “No me cierres la puerta/ No me hagas sufrir/ Sin ti no puedo vivir/ No puedo,” Karina croons – “Don’t close the door on me/ don’t make me suffer/ I can’t live without you/ I can’t.” Maybe not a super empowering message, but surely relatable to nearly everyone who’s ever pined for a lost or unreachable love.
Karina have released a couple singles so far this year, with a short EP in 2018 as well. Here’s hoping the singles indicate a full-length is coming soon!
Davy Boi, What U Like (Single)
Released March 28, 2019
Davy Boi is a new artist as far as I can tell. He’s been releasing a bunch of singles lately, and most of them are BOPS. I love What U Like – the intro floats around on a chillwave-meets-Motown synthy beat, then a funky disco guitar gets layered over once the pre-chorus kicks in. And then the bassline drops in with the chorus, and the song seems to keep building – it’s exhilarating!
The song is about one of those people who you just can’t figure out. Are they flirting? Do they want to hook up? What’s the deal? “Don’t talk to me ‘till you’re done wasting time/ Come on make up your mind/ I’ve been sending you signs/ …What you want?/ What’s the mood?/ Tell me when/ Make a move.” Some people are really out here because they just like flirting. Others are too shy to make the first move! Maybe, Davy Boi, you need to be the one to make the first move – it’s not all up to them! Shoot your shot.
The B-side is Dirty Mind, a cute, flirty track in collab with Dai Burger, who is also a queer artist and offers one of the cutest, most fun rap features I’ve heard in a minute. She hasn’t released music since 2017, so more Dai Burger is also always welcome!
Bebé Machete, Ghazal (Single)
Released April 9, 2019
Bebé Machete, formerly known as xango/suave, blends jazz, folk, trip-hop, and bedroom sensibilities (they perform essentially all instrumentation themselves) on Ghazal to create a bilingual masterpiece of boundlessness and invention. This track begins simple enough – Machete’s gorgeous baritone voice rises and falls, accompanied by a simple acoustic guitar riff, and then a jazzy mallet instrument (is it a marimba? A xylophone?) and soft drums come in. But before long, the track explodes in a bunch of directions at once.
Machete switches to Spanish, strings float through and a soft piano is heard, and then the time signature changes. The track seems to skip and slows to a crawl. Soon reverberated samples and reverb take over, and then everything stops – and bounces back with a quick, funky beat. This boundless diversity within the track echoes the diversity and boundlessness within each of us, especially as we attempt to better understand our own selves. Their exploration of identity as a genderqueer Puerto Rican is front and center.
“Last LP I played with water/ Don’t know if I was crying, bathing, or whatever/ I’m trying to find something deep inside me/ That holds me and grounds me/ A home that surrounds me,” they croon, and then, suddenly, a robotic effect takes hold and the bottom drops out: “I’m trying to embrace what I already know… I’m trying to let go.” And the track stops. It’s a beautiful journey into oneself.
Martha, Love Keeps Kicking
Released April 5, 2019
Love Keeps Kicking is a poppy, accessible punk record that does what some of my favorite records do – stay positive, but real, in the face of heavy, difficult emotions like heartbreak. Though the subject matter is somewhat gloomy, the record sounds upbeat and hopeful, replete with marvellously sing-along-able choruses, charming vocal harmonies, and straightforward guitar-bass-drums pop-punky spunk. Sometimes the only thing you can do when you’re disconsolate is turn up the music loud and thrash around.
That’s what what I get from this album, especially on the title track: there’s no easy way to get over a breakup. “Love keeps kicking the shit out of me/ There’s no solution I can see/ No happy pill, no drinking bleach, no permanent lobotomy.” We might try a lot of coping mechanisms – like, every single possible thing we can think of – but there’s no silver bullet for a broken heart: “Oh I tried living, I tried giving, I tried fibbing, I tried kidding/ I tried wishing, I tried switching, I tried sitting, and I tried drifting/ I tried quitting, I tried splitting, I tried shifting, I tried committing/ Tried to make it, tried resisting, tried insisting.” Well, they’ve really tried everything, but what’s implied here is there’s nothing you can just, like, do. You just have to live through it. And you will! I promise.
Pixel Grip, Heavy Handed
Released April 12, 2019
Pixel Grip makes dark, dense, electro-thrashy punk pop (or “goth disco” as some outlets call it). Scottish electro-pop band CHVRCHES is my bar-none favorite band, and Pixel Grip hits on some of the elements I love the most about their sound – huge hooks, driving, danceable beats, and that pre-chorus build-up leading into gloriously satisfying payoffs, as on Diamonds. But they have a distinctively darker edge.
Lyrically, there’s not much I can say necessarily, but I get the sense that that’s not what this album’s really about. The songs seem to run the gamut of emotions and experiences, with some yearning romanticism (Diamonds), biting aggression (Soft Peaks), and terror (Body Like That is about a stalker, according to lead singer Rita Lukea).
If you’re a punk fan, Martha’s Love Keeps Kicking is the album to thrash around to when you’re down; if instead you need to dance while you’re in a somber mood, because sometimes that’s what you’ve gotta do to get your feelings to behave, then Heavy Handed is the record you need to put on.
Kevin Abstract, Ghettobaby EP
Ghettobaby is a new EP from Kevin Abstract of BROCKHAMPTON. It add 3 new songs to last month’s ARIZONA baby single. I like Georgia and Mississipi best, but I can’t bring this EP up without mentioning the SUPER FUCKING GAY lyrics in Big Wheels: “My niggas back home ain’t proud of me/ They think I’m a bitch, just queerbaitin’/ Quit bein’ a bitch and quit hatin’/ Y’all pump fakin’/ I’m a power bottom like a Free Mason/ Y’all stuck playin’/ that’s complacent/ I’m cum chasin.’” Damn.
Lauren Ruth Ward, Pullstring (Single)
Lauren Ruth Ward has an incredibly powerful, sultry, smooth voice, and makes “modern classic” rock music, though this track is a bit more folksy. Her explanation of the track: “Everyone sees they want to see. Ignoring the voices that see me in a negative light and focusing on the individuals who see me as I intend is something I reteach myself daily.”
Bronze Avery, Split (Single)
Split features Anybody Else, which is sweet, sleek, and modern, and Spilling Out, which is a dancefloor bop. But what I also really want to share is this video, which came out last month, because of how fucking CUTE it is!
Gia Woods, Keep On Coming (Single)
This is straight up mainstream pop, in the vein of an Ariana Grande or Hayley Kiyoko. It does what pop music does best, in my opinion, meaning I’ve been hearing the hook in my head for days. This song is super sexy and sultry, but Woods has been releasing a bunch of singles in 2019 that run the gamut – check those out too!
Check it out here.
BHuman’s debut features inventive electro-acoustic arrangements and poignant lyrics. “Goodbye” and “I Would” are both about moving past ex-lover(s) who won’t accept one’s gender identity and/or provide one with the respect and dignity one deserves, and while the album’s short, it hits hard.
Check it out here.
Grayson, Cherry Pits (Single)
Grayson grew up Mormon, which animates this simple but powerful upbeat indie-pop track: “I spent all my time/ Forced into your side/ And now I’m getting to see, too/ Baby, no nobody needs you/ …I’ve gone through you and I think I’m fine.”
Check it out here.