Queer Your Ears September 2019: New Releases from Queer & Trans Musicians

Summer is over! Unless you live in San Francisco, because then it’s just getting started. Either way, whether you had a #hotgirlsummer or not, it’s time for #feelingsfall. Or is that just me? The cooler weather has me getting introspective. Maybe you’ve broken it off with your summer fling and you’re feeling a lot of feelings about it? Or maybe the changing of seasons has you thinking about the transitions going on in your own life. Whatever you’re processing — especially if it’s the end of a toxic relationship — here’s some new music to accompany you on your journey.

Nina Keith’s incredible record, which is the most emotional, expressive music without lyrics I think I’ve ever heard, might help. I’ve been sitting on it for months just wishing I could share it with y’all. But it wasn’t time yet! And even though there are a lot of feelings, I promise there isn’t too much #sadgirl music here this month — it’s a pretty diverse mix, as usual. MUNA’s Saves The World is perfect pop about learning lessons from bad relationships, Dump Him and Pom Pom Squad have the bile and anger you may need to channel, Montaigne brings the operatic drama, and Black Belt Eagle Scout is a lovely album about queer Indigenous love and community. Girl in Red’s debut EP is pretty sad, though. Sometimes that’s what you need! And there’s so much more.

ALSO! I’ve kept my word, and there’s now a Queer Your Ears playlist on Spotify! It has almost 200 songs; at least one from every album/single I’ve ever featured here on Autostraddle, from even before this was called “Queer Your Ears.” They’re in chronological order. That means that the 20 or so singles I couldn’t feature this month are on there, so there’s still plenty of new music to check out! Sometimes Spotify doesn’t have all the songs, so if it’s not there… sorry!


MUNA, Saves The World

For fans of: Shura, Betty Who, Carly Rae Jepsen

This album is a great example of what I love about pop music. It’s emotive, inspiring, intimate, and empowering. The shiny, punchy production mixes rock with modern dance pop; on some of the tracks you may find yourself pumping your fist in the air without realizing it! Because Saves The World has some anthems. Without being preachy or corny, it’s chock-full of relatable — if difficult — life lessons.

“Taken” is for all of y’all who keep chasing after people in relationships: “I just thought that if I could take you from her / Maybe then it would prove that I’m worth something / Now I’m alone and I’m hurt / Wishing I’d taken you at your word / When you said that you were taken.” Oof. If you’ve ever done ridiculous things in relationships and then, months later come out of a fog, like, “What the hell was I thinking?” This album might make you feel like you’re being read for filth. But in a good way?

Getting over a toxic ex, and/or just making healthy, positive, self-loving choices in general, is a theme here, especially on the song that some of you had better listen to, “Stayaway”: “No one ever told me leaving was the easy part / I gotta stay away / Leaving you was easy, now I gotta do what’s hard / I gotta stay away.” Listen carefully: STAY AWAY. Don’t do it! Don’t call them! Don’t text them when you’re drunk and sad! You’ll regret it. Stay away!


Montaigne, Complex

For fans of: Florence & The Machine, Lorde, Marina (& The Diamonds)

Wow. Montaigne (Australian Jessica Cerro) has a powerful, operatic voice, and when paired with the epic, cinematic production and instrumentation on her second album, Complex, the emotional highs and lows she reaches are almost disorienting — probably about as disorienting as the tumultuous end of a toxic relationship, which this album is also generally about. Loneliness, body image, and even activism play a part, but heartbreak is a throughline. And Cerro is decidedly less positive about the whole thing than MUNA; while Saves the World is through the mess and looking back with lessons learned, Complex is still in the thick of it.

“Stockholm Syndrome” is intimate and heartbreaking: “You sing me lullabies and stroke on my head / But I can’t help but feel that someday you will kill me / We love each other, but it’s Stockholm syndrome.” Why do so many of us stay with abusive, gaslighting lovers? Believe that it’s what we deserve? She continues: “It always feels like something is wrong / But you’re my only one and this is where I belong.” There is hope here too, though, as on “For Your Love”: “Wait just a minute, is that a glitch? Did I get a glimpse out? / Outside the program, a lick of the red pill, I can see out / There is a life out there where I am free to feel complete, wow.”

While most of these songs swell with picturesque grandiosity, sometimes it’s a bit of a front to obscure the raw vulnerability present. “A lot of my songs are like loud and trying to obfuscate the actual darkness of vulnerability with their sonics,” she explained in an interview — but to be honest, her heart’s really front and center on this one.


Black Belt Eagle Scout, At the Party With My Brown Friends

For fans of: Pale Hound, Mazzy Star, Japanese Breakfast

Unlike Katherine Paul’s last album, Mother of My Children, written during the Standing Rock resistance efforts, this isn’t a protest album — well, not like you might think. It’s so important for queer and trans artists and activists of color to make art that resists colonialism, capitalism, cisheteropatriarchy — but it’s equally important to create art that’s vulnerable, soft, loving, and celebratory, and that’s what At the Party With My Brown Friends largely is. Paul’s focus here is on love and affirmation for queer Indigenous folks.

Lyrics are simple and direct, as in “Run It To Ya,” the cute love song accompanying the lovely video posted above, which celebrates Indigenous queer romance: “You like flowers / I pick flowers / You like milk / I have cows / …You have eyes / Just like mine / And your hair / The blackest shine.” “My Heart Dreams” is an ode to romanticism — sometimes our hearts yearn for love so much it hurts — and “You’re Me and I’m You” could easily be about Paul’s biological mother or about the Earth, and either way it’s delicate and enchanting. The instrumentation — guitar-based dream pop / alternative rock / slacker rock — is as simple as the lyrics, and Paul’s soft, enchanting voice floats above it all.


Nina Keith, MARANASATI 19111

For fans of: experimental classical/jazz? I’ve never heard anything like this

I really don’t know what to say here necessarily. This is like nothing I’ve ever heard. It clearly fits the “experimental” and “instrumental” categories, and I guess that’s enough? It’s largely piano-based, with flourishes of… all kinds of stuff: found sounds like walking through gravel, seagulls on the coast, the stretch and sway of a hammock. There aren’t lyrics. “I’m in a space right now,” she explained, “where I don’t want my music to have words, because I have not been able to find the language to express myself in the past two years.”

In interviews she discusses her childhood, mental illness, her transness, and, especially, death. “Maranasati” is a kind of Buddhist meditation practice that centers on the contemplation of death. A lot of art evokes, discusses, or rebukes death, but this album seems to convey a warmness to its inevitability that I haven’t experienced in quite this way. Keith explains this as well — sort of: “Death has been presented to me since my youth as this mysterious, magical force. That’s made it softer to untangle.” That softness is both alluring and frightening, especially as someone who has struggled with suicidality.

I’ve written too many words about this already. You have to just listen to it.


Honorable Mentions:

girl in red, chapter 2 EP

I’ve covered some girl in red here before, and five of her best singles are collected in this EP. This is low-fi, electric guitar-based alt-rock, I guess; and for me evokes a hazy Sunday late morning spent daydreaming.


Tove Lo, Sunshine Kitty

I didn’t even know Tove Lo was queer! She makes it abundantly clear on this album, though. I don’t usually cover “mainstream” artists too much, but this album is worth listening to just for “Bad as the Boys,” which is the song you need to play for your straight friend when she complains about relationship drama with men and says she’s “so jealous” that lesbians don’t have to deal with it…


Pom Pom Squad, Ow EP

This is for if you’re angry and want to rage! But like, in a feminine way? I’m reminded of this Grease Bats comic — you don’t have to be butch or whatever to rage at the system! Femmes can scream and play punk rock! I don’t know how any of the members of Pom Pom Squad identify, but that’s the vibe I get from Ow.


Sassyblack, Ancient Mahogany Gold

This is the Black queer self-love album I didn’t know I needed. To be honest, I still miss TheeSatisfaction, but Cat is doing their own thing here. This is more self-assured and groovy than their last few albums/EPs, in my opinion, which means it’s a great intro record if this is your first time hearing of them!


Dump Him, Dykes To Watch Out For

Another angry, rage at the system album! Named after maybe the best lesbian comic of all time! Musically, it’s standard four-chord punk with some catchy, biting guitar solos, but lyrically it’s super dense. Listen carefully.


Oh Land & Arthur Moon, Replanting Family Tree EP

If Arthur Moon’s incredible debut wasn’t enough for you, they did a whole EP of remixes of Oh Land songs. It’s also incredible.

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Abeni Jones is a trans woman of color artist, educator, writer, and designer living in the Bay Area, CA.

Abeni has written 66 articles for us.

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