Queer Your Ears this month is dedicated to love songs! This will be published after Valentine’s Day, but if you’re a playlist lesbian, and appreciate new queer, indie love songs to send to your boo, here are a few tracks to consider. Maybe it’ll be more meaningful if it doesn’t seem like you prepared your date night because of the holiday? That’s how I excuse/rationalize forgetting things like this, your mileage may vary.
Sidenote: I really, really miss actual mix CDs. I’m not old enough to have actually made a mix tape, though my very first albums – Alanis Morissette and No Doubt (how did I not know I was a lesbian?) – were tapes. You could illustrate and print an entire little custom booklet to go in the CD case, with notes added to explain why the lyrics made you think of your lover, as I used to do, and really burn the CD and give the physical item to your sweetie! Those were really a step up from sending an iMessage link to a Spotify playlist.
You know what? Do the CD thing! It’ll be romantic! They still sell blank CD-Rs at Walgreens or somewhere. And I bet you can find a computer with a CD burner? It’ll be even more surprising in 2019. @ me if you need any other romance advice (don’t do this, I’m terrible at romance). Anyway, here are the songs!
Betty Who, “Between You & Me” – Betty
Album Released February 15, 2019
I knew that Betty Who sometimes played her own lover in her music videos, but somehow I was still surprised by this one, which is the cutest, gayest thing? And also, she’s a really good actress? No words, just meaningful facial gestures. The song’s about crushing your straight friend, and then – WHAT? She likes you back? It’s the dream! Well, for some people. Don’t go for straight girls, y’all, this never actually happens. (probably. I don’t know. Dream big maybe?) “Just between you and me/ I can feel something here, wondering if you do, too/ Just between you and me/ Can’t help but feeling we’re acting like lovers do.”
This whole album is full of cute little pop bops, and in my opinion it’s Betty Who’s best yet. It’s her first as an independent artist (and, I think, an out queer? She’s really leaning into her little futchy haircut and style, which I LOVE) and I think it shows. It’s smart, sweet pop, not too overproduced like some of her old stuff and most of the mainstream pop music coming out right now. “Between You And Me” is sweet little acoustic guitar-based love ballad, but the poppier stuff stays away from saccharine maximalism and instead focuses on her direct, simple (OK, sometimes a bit cliche) lyrics. “I Remember” is a great example. The driving beat often drops out in favor of handclaps, and the little synth flourishes support, rather than drown out, the lyrics about working through issues with one’s lover: “I remember nobody loves me like you do/ I remember I don’t want perfect, I want you.”
Buy it here.
Kelsey Lu, “I’m Not in Love” – Single
Released January 11, 2019
On the surface, this appears to be an anti-love song. But! The protagonist of this track is SO not convincing! They are totally in love, y’all. “I’m not in love so don’t forget it/ It’s just a silly phase I’m going through/ And just because I call you up/ Don’t get me wrong, don’t think you’ve got it made.” Are you one of those “tough” types who doesn’t get sappy or romantic or open your heart to anyone? Because you have, like, a front to keep up? Or maybe you’re afraid of being hurt so you don’t get vulnerable? Well, here’s your song.
This is one of those cover songs that is so much different/better than the original. Structurally, however, it’s actually NOT that different. The atmospheric, layered hiss that opens Lu’s version is present in the original. The melody is the same. But Lu’s delivery is so melancholic and halting. The original was doing something interesting, with its upbeat yacht-rock vibes belying the hurt underneath. But Lu’s version lays it all bare. It’s heartbreaking, but also endearing, because its conceit is so plain. It’s like, “OK boo, I know that you saying ‘I’m not in love’ is your way of saying ‘I am in love.’ It’s all good.” And the video is so bizarre and beautiful, as her visuals tend to be. Keep your eyes on Kelsey Lu.
Buy it here.
girl in red, “watch you sleep” – Single
Released January 23, 2019
OK, we are continuing with some really chill vibes here, though this song is much more lovely and endearing and sweet when you really listen to the lyrics. “I never get bored of looking at you/ ‘Cause every time I see something new/ …I don’t ever wanna leave/ I’ll watch you sleep and listen to you breathe.” Napping with a lover is one of my favorite things ever. I currently wake up about an hour before my girlfriend, and I frequently just look over at her cuddled up in the sheets, and watch her. She’s cute.
Some of my favorite songs are, like, sonic versions of onomatopoeia – when the emotional impact and aural vibes of the song mirror perfectly the lyrical content. girl in red is a norwegian teenager making low-fi dreamy electric guitar music with very little percussion that sounds like it was recorded in a bedroom in 1998. I think the genre is “sadcore” or “slowcore?” Whatever it is, it sounds like waking up from a dream next to one’s lover, watching them breathe and sleep, touching the small of their back, looking out at the rain and realizing it’s Sunday and you can sleep in, softly encircling your index finger around their pinky, and dozing back off.
Buy it here.
Taliwhoah, “Love Cycle” – Single
Released January 24, 2019
This is your monthly reminder that I check my e-mail at abeni[at]autostraddle[dot]com, and listen to every song and album that is sent to me there! I don’t like them all, and I only feature about 5-6 songs/albums a month (I had like 15 I wanted to feature this month but they weren’t love songs; check out the “Honorable Mentions” at the end). I was sent Taliwhoah via e-mail! I had never heard of her, but I’m really into “late night R&B,” as one other online publication calls it.
The music video is lowkey heartbreaking. I’m too old to remember when I thought being queer was something I needed to hide from my family, but I also know a lot of folks who have to keep up appearances for their entire lives and/or live with “open secrets.” The lyrics are a bit more uplifting, though, than the video: “Searching for another lover just don’t make no sense/ I weren’t searching for no love when I found you and that makes sense/ Let’s go to a place they can’t find us/ Break all the rules that have broke our trust/ And redefine it.”
Buy it here.
girlpool, “Minute In Your Mind” – What Chaos Is Imaginary
Album Released February 1, 2019
OK, so honestly I’m not exactly sure what this one’s about, but I love girlpool’s Beach House-esque industrial low-fi shoegaze (if I just keep naming genres one of them will stick, right?) aesthetic. This is one of the songs on What Chaos Is Imaginary that showcases the interesting vocal interplay between the two band members. Usually they trade off vocals, but I like when they sing together, layering over one another. This is also one of their least jarring, most accessible songs, so if you like it, maybe it’s a gateway into the rest of the album? I feel like I have to be in the right mood for girlpool (something like, sad-angry), but when I am in it, it’s perfect.
Even though this song features some of the most inscrutable lyrics on the album, I still think it’s a love song: “I’ll be in the dirt/ That holds a lake/ Of her and me/ You just help me sink/ I do/ …I’ll be running all the time/ To place it where I’m still like/ My minute in your mind/ You just help me sink/ I do.”
Buy it here.
Vök, “Night & Day” – In The Dark
Album Releases March 1, 2019
To me, Vök – an Icelandic electropop group – sounds a lot like latter-day Tegan and Sara. That’s a good thing! I used to hate that T&S had moved into pop-rock territory, but their new albums just keep getting better and more catchy. Vök has a lot of the same epic, punchy, funky synth hooks that I love in bands like CHVRCHES, but simpler. They’re stripped down, a bit more like the Quins. Rather than walls of sound to get lost in or dissociate to like a lot of electro bands, In The Dark is groovier and more focused on presence.
Overall the album is a bit of a downer. Consistent in the lyrics are miscommunications, a lack of relationship clarity, and overall confusion. On “No Direction”: “The highway is leading me the wrong direction/ The silhouettes are dragging me down the road/ The question is where am I going?/ Better find out than never knowing.”
“Night & Day,” though, is a love song, albeit an unrequited one, or an exploration of insecurity weighing one down in one’s relationship: “Hands down, I’ll give you my whole world/ You keep me safe/ Am I not the one you want? Oh no/ What does she crave?/ She doesn’t want me at all.”
Buy it here.
Sports Bra – Talk It Out
I love this album. Queer Australian punk. It’s powerful and fun! Thank you to catalin from the AS comment section, who turned me on to them!
SassyBlack, “Discovery of Self” – Single
SassyBlack was once part of THEESatisfaction, and I shed a tear when they broke up, but they’re still making music! Do yourself a favor and read up about the genesis of this track, which is a benefit for homeless youth. And stream it on your streaming services!
Perfume Genius / Empress Of, “When I’m With Him” – Single
I love both of these artists, but I couldn’t include this song above because, though it’s gorgeous, it’s too heartbreaking. It’s like, “I broke up with you, but now I regret it and am miserable.” Ugh.
Buy it here.
G Flip – Drink Too Much EP
G Flip makes cute gay indie pop bangers as well as cute indie pop ballads. I feel like “Drink Too Much,” from their EP with the same name, is essentially an ode to whatever the lesbian version of a fuckboi is. Girl, you weren’t broken up with because of your crooked teeth. It’s because you expect your girl to carry you home, you make her feel so alone, you never pick up your phone when she really needs you, and yes, because you drink too much. Get it together!
Buy it here.