Queer Your Ears has returned! Check out January and February! But I was gone for about six months — what did we miss during that time? Here’s a bunch of rapid-fire reviews to cover the second half of 2018! I obviously can’t cover all the great music that came out over the last six months, but here’s at least one album, EP, or single for each month since July. Enjoy!
Years & Years, Palo Santo
Released July 6, 2018
This album is full of bangers. I love that “All For You” got a bit of mainstream play! I really appreciate their creative compositions; they bring a bit of underground/indie soundcrafting to their pop music. I love “If You’re Over Me” for this reason (the main melodic… what is that instrument? Is it a synthesized wood block or glockenspiel or something? reminds me of The Postal Service) and because of the lyrics, which perfectly encapsulate the confusion of being in a relationship with an emotionally irresponsible lover: “One minute you say we’re a team / then you’re tellin’ me you can’t breathe / Well you should set me free / Baby, if you’re over me.”
Released July 13, 2018
Lotic is NOT for everyone. This sultry, strange, post-electronic, industrial-adjacent, experimental music is gorgeous and difficult. “Power” is so meticulously constructed and has so much depth that I feel like it takes a lot of brain power to appreciate. After going through the album, I tend to feel both exhausted and exhilarated.
Ah-Mer-Ah-Su, Star & Heartbeats EP
Released July 27, 2018
I’m so excited that Ah-Mer-Ah-Su’s debut album is out! It’s full of synthy pop jams, all accompanied by her unique voice and delivery, and some often heartbreaking, often empowering, always real lyrics. Check out “Heartbreaker,” “Perfect,” and the song linked above, which I had to put here because of how many beautiful trans people of color are featured in it! Also: Ah-Mer-Ah-Su released a lil’ remix EP featuring her cover of The Knife’s “Heartbeats.” Check it out too!
Blood Orange, Negro Swan
Released August 24, 2018
This was the best album of 2018. Full stop. Just listen to it. It’s the Blackest, queerest album I’ve probably ever heard. Then listen to the Tiny Desk Concert. Then listen to 2016’s Freetown Sound and 2013’s Cupid Deluxe, because they are also both excellent. I’m a Blood Orange stan.
Released September 7, 2018
There’s a severe dearth of queer Black male R&B. MNEK definitely skews towards pop, but aren’t mainstream hip-hop and R&B essentially pop music these days? You may have heard “Colour,” which features Hailee Steinfeld, but “Tongue” is a bop (and the video is gorgeous).
Shea Diamond, Seen It All EP & American Pie Single
Released September 7, 2018
Seen It All is a magnificently pretty album, and Diamond’s smooth, jazzy pop is lovely. “American Pie” is a standout; its lyrics hit me HARD, y’all. As a Black trans woman, it’s always a transcendent feeling when a song really speaks to me: “I get looks that get so dirty / After all these years, baby, it’s still hurting / Who’s gonna say my want is not a need? / I just want my piece of the American Pie.” Which, on the surface is lowkey basic, but knowing who she is makes it deep (or maybe I’m reading too deep. But I doubt it). Diamond also released an acoustic version of “American Pie,” which is even more stirring.
Kim Petras, Turn Off The Light Vol. 1 EP & Feeling of Falling Single & Remix EP
Released October 1, 2018
I don’t know if I’ve ever enjoyed a holiday-themed pop album, but… well, here we are. This is a horror/Halloween-themed EP from my fave trans pop star, Kim Petras. Petras does a great job balancing catchy, upbeat hooks with some sinister vibes lurking beneath the surface. Oh, also: check out Feeling of Falling, a collaboration with Cheat Codes, released on Nov 30, 2018 — and the Remix EP, which just came out in January, featuring a Steve Aoki remix and five others. I like the original best, but if you’re into more of an EDM vibe over her standard poptronica vibe, check it out. Kim Petras released a bunch of singles in 2018, so here’s hoping a proper album comes soon!
Tunde Olaniran, Stranger
Released October 5, 2018
Stranger is one of the other best albums of 2018. It’s painstakingly constructed and defies simple genre classifications, even within the same song. Olaniran skips from meticulously arranged trap-like bangers (“Stranger”) to R&B crooning – that abruptly turns into hand-clap based poppy hipshakers and back (“I’m Here”) to empowering string-and-synth laden ballad/anthems (“Miracle”).
Jamila Woods, Giovanni Single
Released October 16, 2018
Jamila Woods’ “HEAVN” was a standout, and was maybe my most-listened album, of 2017. It’s disappointing that she’s not more well known, especially with Macklemore and Chance the Rapper collaborations under her belt! Giovanni is sonically and lyrically similar to HEAVN, bursting with creative, organic beats and womanist lyrics: “A hundred mother fuckers can’t tell me / How I’m supposed to look when I’m angry? / How I’m supposed to shrink when you’re around me? / Permission denied to rearrange me.”
no reception., See Through EP
Released November 2, 2018
When I was in high school, pop-punk was my jam. Blink-182 and New Found Glory were my favorite bands (don’t judge). no reception.’s new EP reminds me of those days, as I find myself nodding my head along to its heavy percussion and electric guitar riffs, especially because Claire Julian is only 19 and the album is ostensibly about her high school experiences! Brings me back. And because it’s super gay! (This does not bring me back. I was religious in high school and had NO IDEA I was queer). Anyway, the knowledge that the entire EP — though it’s a pretty straightforward, but very well done, guitar/bass/drums pop-punk situation – was written and performed by Julian herself makes it even more impressive.
Laura Jane Grace & The Devouring Mothers, Bought to Rot
Released November 9, 2018
I was never a huge Against Me! fan; “hard” rock isn’t really my genre too often (unless I’m in the exact right mood). I loved Laura Jane Grace’s cute little acoustic solo song, though, and this album seems a little bit softer and folkier/more country than Against Me! is (but not by too much). “Apocalypse Now (& Later)” is a fascinating love song; essentially asking the question: “Would the apocalypse be so bad if you had your life partner there with you while y’all watch it burn?”
Dounia, The Avant-Garden
Released November 28, 2018
My girlfriend turned me on to Dounia, who released “Intro To” in 2017, so maybe that’s the place to start if you want to… be introduced to who she is? You can also check her Instagram; she was a “plus-size” model before she was a musician, I think. My girlfriend likes “Intro To” much better, but I like “Avant-Garden,” maybe just because I was an English teacher, and I always love puns and phrases where I’m like, “How did nobody else come up with this before?” But I like her chill flow and fun vibes. And “Rich Girl Mood” is a duet with Kehlani, so you know it’s super queer!
FR333, THE BODY
Released December 4, 2018
I remember watching Fr333’s MADlines perform as a part of the hip-hop duo Canary Sing back in Seattle – over 10 years ago (I feel so old). MADlines has grown up, expanded, moved on, and is now a part of this new duo, which continues the Black queer positivity and critical consciousness they’ve been known for. MADlines’ history as a poet and spoken word artist (they came up through Youth Speaks! in Seattle) is clear, as the title track is essentially spoken word. But Fr333 isn’t didactic or over-intellectual; instead celebrating the diversity of valid expressions of self: “The Body’s” standout track is “Peaches,” a re-work of “Fuck the Pain Away,” by… Peaches. “I wasn’t built for the faint of heart… can’t tie me down,” they croon. Indeed.
Princess Nokia, Metallic Butterfly
Released December 13, 2018 (May 12, 2014)
This was technically a re-release, not a new album! It was Princess Nokia’s first album, before she really leaned into hip-hop. It’s interesting; definitely a must-listen if you’re a Princess Nokia stan. If you’re a hip-hop head, though, this might not be your cup of tea. If you like trip-hop, strange electronic drum-and-bass, and other out-there, but awesome, stuff, give it a listen.