Hello fellow queer folks, we’re back with some new music! I wanted to do an all-women edition of QYE for Women’s History Month, but I had to highlight genderqueer artist KERA’s recent charity single, featuring certified dude Devendra Banhart. And Ushamami, who’s non-binary, is in the Honorable Mentions. Also, I had so many songs to choose from this month — sorry to anyone who e-mailed me asking me for or recommending a feature that I didn’t end up featuring! Keep those e-mails coming, though. That’s how I heard of Tami T, whose album is so, so important to me. Elizabeth, thank you so much for sending that over.
It’s almost spring. Are you ready? I live in the Bay Area, so it doesn’t snow or anything, though it’s been super windy and has been raining mad heavy over the last few months. This weekend it was sunny, though, and I got out into nature, and it was so healing. I also was wearing running leggings that have that little cutout mesh and now I have four little stripes of tan on my legs, and if that’s not a good introduction to spring I don’t know what is?
We’ve got a good mix of tunes here this month: some hip-hop and EDM if you’re ready to bounce off that winter chill, some intense vibes and chill folk if you still want to hibernate for a bit — and of course a bunch in between. Enjoy!
Tami T, High Pitched and Moist
Released February 20, 2019
(Content warning: this music video is lowkey NSFW).
I’m going to try not to be hyperbolic in this review, but no promises. Tami T’s High Pitched and Moist is one of the most important albums I’ve ever heard. And I know that’s because of my own positionality; it may not hit as hard for you if you’re not a trans woman. But if you like dance pop, EDM, or electronica, it will be enjoyable nonetheless, because this album is CHOCK FULL of bops. Heavy hooks, soaring choruses, and just enough of the classic EDM “drops,” (and a couple ballads), all bouyed by Tami T’s robotic, but endearing, fittingly high-pitched vocals.
“I describe a lot of relationships,” she says in a recent interview, “in a way that I think I don’t hear enough in music… I just try to tell my stories in a relatable way.” This is the key for me. High Pitched and Moist contains danceable pop songs about some of the realest shit, and it’s not ALL trans-centric: queer dating, trans sex, body image and self-confidence… Fourteen, for example: “Fourteen/ so uncomfortable in my own skin/ shaking by the bathroom sink/ I’m about to get naked and I am worried what the boy will think/ …Twenty-five/ Self-confident keeping my head up high/ But I’m still shaking when buttons get undone/ I’m afraid they won’t like me when they see me with nothing on.”
Or on Princess: “Princess is my gender/ Don’t call me ‘she’ or ‘her’/ The pronoun I prefer is ‘Her Majesty.’” Or on Mucous Membrane: “You say I only call when I wanna fuck/ But that’s okay cause I almost always wanna fuck/ …What we have is wrong and beautiful/ Brains turned off purely physical/ You don’t know how to challenge me intellectually/ But you’re a genius at satisfying me sexually.” Or on So Afraid: “Pepper spray in my pocket/ Always afraid/ So afraid of getting beat up again/ …Violence hiding behind a cute face/ In the night, in a club, in a so called safe space/ In my head, in my heart, in my head, in my bed, in the streets, in police uniforms.” Or on EVERY SONG. Do yourself a favor and buy this album.
Buy High Pitched and Moist here.
Spellling, Mazy Fly
Released February 22, 2019
Spellling’s Chrystia Cabral makes exceedingly strange, multi-layered, dreamy electronic vibe music (and low-fi artsy video accompaniments that couldn’t match the music’s unique sound better). Her use of loop pedals, and asynchronous vocalizations, synths, and percussion, is disorienting in a cutting yet comforting way. None of the songs – if you can call them that, as they feel more like abstract aural portraits – unfurl the way you expect them to.
Some of the tracks seem lowkey upbeat. Under the Sun seems to find beauty and joy in existence, beginning with the dawn of everything, or at least our little solar system – “Silver flashes/ a new star,” and later, repeated over and over: “Sunlight on the planet dawn/
I hope you have a lucky one.” Many of the tracks on Mazy Fly seem to exist in outer space; aliens abound, for example – or is that a metaphor?
While most of the lyrics seem generally inscrutable, in interviews she’s indicated that many of them deal with one of the harshest, most terrifying human experiences possible – chattel slavery and the Middle Passage, as on Haunted Water: “I am your faith/ But it’s not enough/ To build a bridge/ Over haunted water.” Perhaps it makes sense, then, that the feeling of the album is so fractured and beautifully cacophonous?
Buy Mazy Fly here.
Released March 22, 2019
Blimes came up in the battle rap competition circuit, and was so successful that she was eventually invited to be a “coach” on the Method Man-hosted battle rap show Drop the Mic, which is a Late Late Show with James Corden spin-off that features non-rapper celebrities battle rapping against each other (with pre-written joke lyrics, apparently)? I’m not sure whether that would be as much of a come-up as it has been if Blimes wasn’t so damn talented. She got a Method Man feature out of it, and the rest of her proper debut Castles is excellent.
You can hear her pedigree in how intensely Blimes hits the percussive elements in each line; she just sounds so serious, even on funny phrases. But there’s also a melodious tenderness and creativity in her flow (and not just when she sings hooks, which she actually does quite well). I love how she raps around and on the beat instead of hitting every single bar on its nose, all without ever losing her rhythm, and I love how she uses internal rhyme schemes instead of overusing couplets like every mainstream rapper does these days (and she doesn’t overuse similes either – “I’m X like Y,” “as A as a B,” ad nauseum, otherwise known as “#hashtag rap”). The production is often gorgeous, and often goes super fucking hard. And I REALLY want to see a Watch the Throne-style joint album with Gifted Gab, because their chemistry on Come Correct is electrifying.
Buy Castles here.
KERA (ft. Devendra Banhart), Bright Future Ahead (Single)
Released February 16, 2019
I’ve long loved Devendra Banhart’s quiet, quirky folk music; he was once the vanguard of what was unfortunately called “freak folk.” KERA, formerly of Kera & The Lesbians, has also unfortunately had their similarly quirky brand of music dubbed “bipolar folk.” Unfortunate genre monikers aside, this little folk powerhouse duo has recorded and released a gorgeous version of Bright Future Ahead, a previously-unreleased (as far as I can tell) track from the Kera & The Lesbians days – though this time, the collaborative single is a benefit for Trans Lifeline, so if you buy anything from this month’s roundup, BUY THIS ONE.
I couldn’t find a music video for this version of the song, so the above-linked video is KERA performing an acoustic version. The official version is deep with shimmering strings, electronic sounds, a flirty but dour bassline, and tons of vocal reverb, which conjures a lovely spring daydream – perfect as we finally transition out of winter, and also perfect for the hopeful and empowering tone of the song: “This song is written with the intention of offering encouragement, community, and resilience to all who listen,” Kera says.
Buy Bright Future Ahead here.
Self Esteem, Compliments Please
Released March 1, 2019
I’ve been listening to Compliments Please’s singles since they were first released months ago. But I had that strange experience one sometimes has when listening to singles from a new artist – the songs are good, but will the album be good? I really enjoyed the songs, but didn’t, like, love them (except for Rollout). But I could hear something in there – potential? – that made me excited to hear the whole album. And I was a fan of Slow Club (Rebecca Lucy Taylor’s former group), so I waited in anticipation. And, damn. I love this album. This is pop music, though that’s not specific enough and I don’t know how to classify this album – and not because “pop” is a bad thing in any way; I’ve long embraced pop’s transformative power even if it’s bubblegum or dance-centric. But this isn’t that. I don’t know what it is other than catchy, expertly produced, varied, powerful, and modern.
My favorite track is Steady I Stand because it highlights Taylor’s piercing voice, especially when she wraps it up with a choir for the hooks and to back up some of her melodies. Girl Crush is a welcome statement about performance bisexuality; in an interview Taylor explains: “[It’s] a reaction to the term itself. It should just be known as a crush… in an age of pop songs about ‘kissing girls’ and ‘trying it on for size’, I felt like saying ‘well you know, that’s not much fun for the person you’re experimenting on?’” And of course, Rollout is so empowering and inspirational to me: “What I might have achieved/ If I wasn’t trying to please you?”
Buy Compliments Please here.
Ushamami, Jinx (Single)
This song is a sexy, sultry bop that gives me Syd/The Internet vibes. And I love the representation of queer south Asian love in the video. Says Ushamami about the track: “[Jinx] is a rumination on the anxieties of being in love and in lust – with a polyamorous twist. The video blurs the lines between the surreal and the real, and is an assertion of queer desire, style, sound, and connection.” Love it!
Stream Jinx on your fave streaming platform.
The Doubleclicks, I’m Winning
This song and video are so cute, and the video was made by 16 non-binary, trans, and genderqueer artists, which is amazing! Personally, even though I LOVE video games, and love using games as a metaphor for understanding life (does it seem like everything in life is way harder all of a sudden? Maybe you just leveled up!), this just isn’t my song, personally. But maybe it’s yours!
Download I’m Winning free, and check out all the music you can buy, here!
Lafemmebear, Blaq *a Note to the World EP
This EP goes SO hard. Honestly it only didn’t get a full review this month because I JUST heard of this album, somehow? I wish I’d heard it sooner. She’s a friend of a friend (and we have totally met, and I think we were friends on Facebook before I quit Facebook but I didn’t know she made music?)! Life is weird.
Buy Blaq *a Note to the World here.
Angel-Ho, Death Becomes Her
Angel-Ho makes dark, queer, electronic-industrial hip-hop-adjacent club music. The South African artist raps, sings, and produces, along with a few friends, like K Rizz, who features on banger Like a Girl.
Buy Death Becomes Her here.