For some of you, it’s “cuffing season,” and you want sexy sultry tunes for quiet nights by the fireplace on a bear skin rug… or whatever. We’ve got a little bit of that — depending on whether you’re in awe of or repulsed by the concept of eternity. For others of you, it’s time to eat and hibernate and, probably, contemplate. I’ve got some of that too! For me, it’s finally cool enough out to wear the dope leather jacket I just bought! I am going through a soft goth/punk phase, OK? It’s fine. But I really found myself loving Erin Anne’s riot grrl-by-way-of-2019 rock this past month.
The music this month is really diverse, though! I’m excited to feature two different Black artists, because last month there were none! I’ve been listening to Denitia’s album for literally months, but couldn’t feature it because it wasn’t out yet. I’m so excited to share her groovy, modern rock-influenced R&B with y’all. And Moor Mother… I’m not sure what to say. Her album is intense.
There are only four features this month, though, because there were so many incredible releases I wanted to cover. So I figured I’d do an extended, quick-fire Honorable Mentions. Big names like Mary Lambert (and Frank Ocean and King Princess, who you can read about on every other website) released music this month. Brazilian queens Pabllo Vittar and Gloria Groove had incredible EPs that remind me how much I want to learn Portuguese. I was really impressed with Sarah Jaffe’s EP, it’s one of those indie pop albums that is 100% earworms. And TR/ST and Ziúr are making incredible electronica as always. And there were 50+ singles just in the last few weeks, so I made a Spotify playlist just for this month’s tunes so I could embed it here! However, here’s the link to the massive, fast-growing comprehensive QYE playlist as well, which has every song ever featured here that’s on Spotify. Enjoy!
For Fans Of: The Internet, Bells Atlas, The Seshen
Considering one’s diminutiveness is nearly obligatory when one looks out to, or even contemplates, massive things like the ocean or the solar system. This can be taken in many ways; recognizing one’s own lack of significance on the goings on of the universe, for example, can be a blow to the ego. On the other hand, to know that the universe will keep turning, the ocean will keep churning, no matter what one does can also be comforting: why get too pressed about the little stresses and pressures of one little life?
Like Laurel vs. Yanny or The Dress, Denitia’s Touch of the Sky is an album that probably either sounds like heartbreak and yearning, or expansiveness and comfort, depending on your perspective. Which do you feel when you look out the ocean, at the sky? “The ocean just represents infinite possibilities to me… the ocean and the wide open sky over the ocean has everything to do with the sound of this music,” she told Pop Dust.
Lyrically, she touches on the perils of nostalgia, the promise of self-evolution, and the solace of family and romantic love. Denitia wrote, played, and produced the entire album on her own, which brings modern rock, R&B, and electronica together to evoke a cinematic vastness, with layered vocals, shifting, expansive synths, warm electronic percussion, and lots of guitar reverb. To me, it’s comforting and beautiful.
For Fans Of: Saul Williams, Death Grips, Backxwash
OK, this is not going to be for everyone. A mixture between spoken word, discordant noise, punk, hip-hop, and queer Black futurist political polemic, Moor Mother’s new album is intense, unsettling, and awe-strikingly powerful. Camae Ayewa, member of the Black Quantum Futurism Collective, is a poet, visual artist, and workshop facilitator in addition to being a musician. Those identities, and that futurist politic, are all over this record. It sounds like the future. Or the past. Or both.
Death is a major theme here. Black death by police violence or the unrelenting slog of carceral capitalism, memory death due to the passing of time, or even the avoidance of death. On Repeater: “Death precedes me/ My nation, my parliament, my ritual of wealth/ We hold death over our head/ We hold life over our head/ I hope you get what you’ve been giving out/ I hope you choke on all the memories/ No light, just insecurities, false hope and enemies.” Don’t Die features the title of the song wailed, screamed, over and over. “They’ve been killing since the beginning of time,” she howls. Then the song cuts short.
There aren’t a lot of records that unflinchingly, accurately, capture Black queer rage and frustration. That tap into not just the day-to-day indignities of the intersections of anti-Black racism, misogynoir, homophobia, classism, but the ancestral, epigenetic trauma, the recognition of having one’s history erased but being only able to see the after image. To know that something crucially important to one’s own self-knowledge and one’s family history and identity and existence existed, but is gone forever, has been lost, is dead: and not only that but the erasure is denied, the perpetrators celebrated, their descendants among you, still haughty. This album does.
For fans of: Sleater-Kinney, St. Vincent, Screaming Females
Originally borne out of the frustration of being a woman in academia, Erin Anne’s debut album “Tough Love” is a powerful, raw, aggressive screed of anthemic rock against misogyny. Her guitar work is incredible on this album, both on the searing, powerful, anthemic heavy rock bulk of the album as well as the smattering of deftly plucked acoustic tracks (that are somehow electric even without electricity). I wasn’t surprised to read that Sleater-Kinney is an influence.
Opener “Sleep For Dinner” is a soft yet biting “OK, Boomer” takedown (dads really seem to love “the economy” even when so many people are starving): “What is the rent like in Hell?” she asks. “Bitter Winter,” a standout, is about how it’s way easier to be depressed when it’s overcast because nobody judges you for staying home and isolating yourself. “Tough Love” is all you’ve ever wanted to say to men who think being rude is a personality, or people who are into “radical honesty” or some other philosophy that allows them to treat people with disrespect, or just anyone who’s disrespected you for too long and you’re just over it: “I’ve tried to be an empathetic person/ But the gloves have come off/ and I wish you the worst, man/ I want to go home/ Before I commit a crime.”
For fans of: Nina Keith, John Cage, Meemo Comma
Science fiction has long been wielded by queer, progressive, feminist activists as a model for envisioning a more just future. This album, by Gavilán Rayna Russom, best known as a member of LCD Soundsystem, could be the ambient, experimental, synth-based soundtrack to an incredibly strange independent science fiction film. Actually, not could. It should be!
Apparently based on Ursula K. Le Guin’s 1969 novel The Left Hand of Darkness, it’s a potent, strange exploration of identity, gender, sexuality, and spirituality. In the novel, a species of creature is genderless 90% of the time, then assumes a gender the other 10%, for ritual, spiritual lovemaking. That radical re-envisioning of gender inspired Russom.
“When I’m dancing to or creating music, certain sounds and frequencies seem to bring forward feminine sensations in my body, while others seem to bring forward masculine sensations in my body,” she told them. “There is this power in music to create liminal zones, like at nighttime, when the edges of things soften.” As the album is largely instrumental, focusing primarily on piano and strange, ethereal synths, it envelops the listener, evoking space, transcendence, and boundlessness. I haven’t listened to this while high yet, but I also want to like, get myself ready. Because it softens my edges sober. It feels like hope, because like the best science fiction speaks into existence things that don’t or can’t (yet) exist, this album feels like creation and exploration and possibility.
TR/ST, The Destroyer, Vol. 2
Catchy, dark electronica for fans of Depeche Mode, The Cure, and their modern analogues. I imagine their live shows are epic.
Mary Lambert, Grief Creature
Left me in tears, of course. I’m so excited this album has “Knife,” which I’ve been waiting for forever: “I’m not bad because you left me/ I’m not good because you loved me.”
Sarah Jaffe, Smut
Smart, engrossing, modern indie pop. I loved “All My Friends Are Pretty,” because isn’t not being sure if you love or are in love with your best friends queer culture?
Lafemmebear, Blaq: The Story Of Me
Lafemmebear is still a rapper, but she leans heavily into woozy, lovely, self-love R&B anthems on her debut full-length. This is Black, queer, trans, joy and power right here. I.L.T.S (I Luv This Skin) might be my wake-up track for the next few months.
Futuristic electronica from Berlin. Put this on and transcend to another plane of existence.
Gloria Groove, Alegoria
Brilliant, bombastic Brazilian reggaeton-style hip-pop.
Pabllo Vittar, 111 1
More brilliant, bombastic Brazilian reggaeton-style hip-pop, in case Gloria Groove wasn’t enough!
Amy O, Shell
Smart, fun rock. And when she’s not a rocker, she makes zines with and teaches kids how to rock. Dope.
With mile-high hooks and punchy, unrelenting electro-rock riffs, this EP will get you dancing and feeling feelings in equal measure.
Water From Your Eyes, Somebody Else’s Song
Incredibly modern indie rock that feels slightly too polished for the bedroom, but slightly too earnest and forthright to be anything else, this album goes a lot of places in a short time.
Lucy Dacus, 2019
An album of covers done incredibly well. Not trying to get too close or too distant from the originals, Dacus puts her own spin on these classics.