Usually I do full reviews of full-length albums and short reviews of singles and EPs. This month there were SO MANY full-length albums that I had to eschew featuring any singles at all! I’ve been talking for a really long time about getting a Spotify playlist together, because there are so many great tracks that I just don’t have space to feature here. I don’t think I’ll be able to feature singles anymore unless they’re mind-blowingly good. I literally have over a hundred new tracks to listen to each month and it’s impossible to decide which to feature. I promise it’ll happen by next month. I promise! I’m writing it here to manifest it. And to keep myself accountable. If the playlist’s not here next month, I expect excoriation in the comments. And I’ll deserve it!
There’s a lot of diversity here this month. I was surprised by some really inventive indie pop this month from Clairo, Shura, and Arthur Moon; I sometimes think that, with the tech we have these days, everything’s been done. But of course it hasn’t! Backxwash freaked me out, unnerved me, and inspired me in equal measure with their brash, abrasive hip-hop. GRLwood and Deep Femme helped me channel my anger, while Marika Hackman and Superknova helped me to appreciate some really good guitar-based rock. And Ceraadi helped me keep it light, because we’ve got some intense, heavy hitters this month.
Remember – e-mail me or comment below if you are or know of a queer or trans artist releasing an album soon! I can’t promise I’ll feature it, but I’ll definitely give it a listen. Enjoy!
Released August 2, 2019
I’d never heard of Clairo before this year, and don’t even remember where I came across her music. But this is one of the best albums I’ve heard so far this year. One of the things I love about it is that Claire Cottrill does something incredibly unique here in that her not-quite low-fi, not-quite trip-hop, not-quite indie pop sounds warm, as though it was all recorded live. The drums feel live. The bass feels live. Somehow even her understated, reverberating vocals feel live. She’s made the transition from bedroom pop to the big leagues without losing the charm that makes low-fi so endearing. She got rid of the microphone hiss but not the heart.
This is even true on more-produced tracks like “Sofia,” which opens with an electric synth and building drumbeat – when the chorus hits, it feels like it could have gone WAY bigger. That song, by the way, is par for the course when it comes to lyrical content here – Cottrill is 20, and came out as bi last year. The album seems very much to be about being a “baby” queer – “Sofia” goes from “I think we can do it if we try” to “God, I think I’m in love with you” in the span of less than a minute, which – isn’t that how it happens? Especially when you’re 20 and realize queerness is possible? There are also breakup anthems (“Bags”), more songs about often confused desire (“Closer To You,” “Softly”), as well as mental health (“Alewife”), deftly and simply sung with Cottrill’s subdued, emotive vocals. The album’s a treat, check it out.
Released August 9, 2019
I mentioned Marika Hackman’s song “I’m Not Where You Are” back in May, and wrote this: “This… track is potentially a “break-up” song.” I was very, very right, especially when you watch the music video, which illuminates the song’s lyrics. Songs about distant lovers are common, but not usually from the perspective of the distant one! This sense of honesty, directness, and self-deprecation are hallmarks of this excellent very-much-a-breakup album. Musically, this is very solid modern, guitar-based rock n’ roll, but it does unique things lyrically.
According to Hackman, the album “can be quite sexual.” But “[i]t’s blunt, but not offensive. It’s mischievous.” With songs like “Hand solo,” which is of course about masturbation, “All night,” which is about marathon lesbian sex, and “The One,” which contains the lines “They’re saying I’m a god sent gift/ And all you fuckers want my dick/ Love me more/ Rub me ’til my ego is raw/ I’ve got BDE/ I think it’s a venereal disease,” the mixture of humor and vulnerabiliity are revelatory. “Send My Love” is a devastating track about her breakup with The Japanese House’s Amber Bain, and listening to it, I mourned the loss of a potential Japanese House / Marika Hackman dual tour. But! In the liner notes for the song, she says: “[t]that was how I was feeling then, and things change. We’re like best friends now.” I love the maturity! GO. ON. TOUR. TOGETHER. PLEASE! And thank you.
Released July 12, 2019
If you’re a fan of abrasive noisy punk-rap like Death Grips, this is right up your alley. It’s harsh, intense, and also gorgeous. Ashanti Mutinta is a trans queer witch who hails from Zambia and lives in Canada, and describes the album as “confident, angry, ready to tear the heads off of oppressors.” So much of mainstream hip-hop today is about having a good time, partying, bragging, or spending obscene amounts of money. That’s fine and has an important place in our culture, though the roots of hip-hop are primarily in describing the lived experiences of the oppressed. In that sense, underground rappers like Backxwash are squarely in line with this lineage, even if sonically her music seems to take more from punk and hardcore than hip-hop.
The primary emotion of this album is righteous anger, especially toward religious colonialism. In an interview, they explained: “[B]ecause of colonialism, if I ever went back [to Zambia] and identified the way I am, I would be in so much trouble… Which is ironic because things would have been different a very long time ago.” Mutinta takes aim at racists, colonizers, homophobes, and all other oppressors with intensely powerful, biting rage.
“Deviancy” hits on this the hardest: “Smash the glasses of patriarchy and fuck all the missionaries of war/ Who pick the fights with the poor/ … These racists went out the way to say witches are in the wrong/ … Colonizers not hard to find in a hostile land/ Prison with the prison food contraband is not lost to man/ I’m African I try to to do all I can and I know this damn/ Live in inability when all lands been lost to man/ … I hate to tell you the cops won’t save you/ They’ll harm and play you/ blacks will be smashed like grapefruit/ Blood is splashed like reygo.” Damn.
Released August 2, 2019
If there was a lesbian multi-nodal polyam relationship between Tegan and Sara’s, Feist’s, and Annie Clark’s music, and they birthed a child during a lightning storm that somehow, Frankenstein-like, infused the infant with its spark… that child could be Arthur Moon’s self-titled debut album. Does that make sense? Probably not. Anyway, with exquisite pop sensibility, weird singer-songwriter creativity and disdain for traditional song structures, and crunchy, rocking hooks and melodies, this album is killer. The electro touches, especially on Lora-Faye Åshuvud’s vocals, but also on the deftly-applied chopping and screwing of the instrumentation, keep this album consistently fresh, exciting, and often pleasantly unexpected. She breaks all the rules so beautifully.
Standout track “Homonormo” feels like a tense meditation on queer domestic bliss. “Hello/ Send my regards to New York/ I’m gone/ I think I want to settle down/ But weirder.” If you’ve ever felt like growing up, getting hitched, having a baby, moving out of the city, and being happy makes you feel like you’re not “queer enough” anymore, or something similarly bizarre (why do I – we? – feel this way?), this song is for you. “Ships” also showcases Åshuvud’s careful songwriting hand – the lyrics are always concise, but incredibly dense: “Hello/ Said the sun to the moon/ Where did you go?… Don’t leave me/ When you go… And the moon she replied/ Look how the tide/ Does return to the sea/ I’ll come back to you/ If you come back to me/ Believe me.” Honestly I started tearing up when I first listened to this track – if only I could have that faith.
Released August 16, 2019
This is lovely electropop – think a slightly weirder Robyn, but also gayer and sexier: “Are we gonna kiss?” begins “the stage,” about being so into your new girlfriend you can’t focus on the concert you’re at: “We just wanna get out of here/ Get a car to my place/ Let’s spend the evening kissing… Don’t need persuading/ If you’ll play, I’m playing… Done with music, babe/ We don’t wanna dance/ We just wanna, ah.” We just wanna “ah…” hm… In the Spice Girls “Wannabe” sense, I’m assuming? According to Shura, it’s based off her first date with her now-girlfriend, and they were at a MUNA concert – the attraction must have been STRONG!
Also, “religion (u can lay your hands on me)” is a standout track. And this fucking video! It’s like Shura’s a lovely lesbian angel, reminding these nuns that God is love! Including sexual, lesbian love. The rest of the album keeps the same energy – though some tracks are more relaxed and some are more upbeat – and the religious motif shows up throughout, like on “BKLYNLDN,” which begins: “I could pretend I’m Jesus/ That I’m gonna heal your body/ And, darling, I see you’re hurting/ Why don’t you come inside?” According to Shura, this one is also about her girlfriend, who she wasn’t thatserious about, until she MOVED TO BROOKLYN FROM LONDON to be with her, which… sounds pretty gay. So does this album. I will neither confirm nor deny that I’ve had lesbian sex with this album on. It’s… a really sexy album, y’all.
This is direct, garage band-style singer-songwriter-adjacent rock n’ roll about – as you may expect – mental health. Rae Spoon’s directness and vulnerability is their strength – especially on tracks like “Shame” and “Money.”
If you want angry, queer, LOUD, punk rock, get this! “I Hate My Mom” is about what you think it is, and turns the angst up to 11. “A-State” is melodic guitar work and simple drumming behind, primarily, intense existential screaming. Listen if you’re in the mood to rage.
Ellie Kim reaches for her inner Annie Clark here. This is electrifying guitar rock with plenty of solos – fittingly confident for a solo artist, check out “Shot and a Pill” – with the perfect amount of electronic elements (“Serotonin Serenade”) to bring it all together, and some explicitly queer- and trans- empowering lyrics. Looking forward to more from Superknova!
This is Mountain Goats-esque electric folk punk. The music is low-fi, direct, and simple – so you can focus on the lyrics; each song is essentially a short story – make sure to check out their bandcamp and read the lyrics as you listen for the full experience.
If you’ve gotten this far, you need something upbeat and FUN to lighten the mood. Ceraadi is sisters Emaza and Saiyr Dilan, and the vibe is 90s party with exquisite flows and smooth hooks. This EP is a really good time!