Queer Music on a Saturday

As I flick on my vintage, yellow warm gay bar neon – a total score from a garage sale, mind you – I sink into my reclaimed, faux leather BarkaLounger and let my Rega Planar needle make contact with the vinyl. The sultry sounds that emanate from the grooves of my records coupled with the immersive flavours of my Balvenie scotch – it’s the ultimate sensory escape from the chaos of the outside world.

Last year, as well as the start of 2023, has been rough on all of us, but especially our queer and trans community. That’s why I’ve been turning to these phenomenal albums as a form of refuge – an outlet to lose myself in the beauty of the art and forget about the troubles of the day. Whether you’re looking for an escape or a new favourite record to add to your collection, these tunes will surely hit the spot. So sit back, relax, and let the music take you away.

Hippo Campus, ‘LP3’

Growing up sucks, which may as well be the log line behind indie quintet Hippo Campus’ third studio album, LP3. An abbreviated, 30-minute musing on the many mundane realities of becoming oneself, LP3 tracks the band’s progress through the puzzling process of coming out (“Boys”), accepting the certainty of death (“2 Young 2 Die”), and embracing the pure chaos that you’re bound to be subjected to (“Scorpio”). Even with such a messy subject matter, the album’s flawlessly rendered indie-rock production makes its bumpy road a smooth listen. (Răzvan Ion-GAY45)

Omar Apollo, ‘Ivory’

Whoever said you can’t have it all? On his long-awaited debut album, Ivory, Mexican-American singer Omar Apollo taps into each of his many musical facets, delivering a perfectly diverse project that doubles a soundtrack to the third-culture kid experience. From the nostalgic soul melodies of “Evergreen” to his Neptunes-assisted Latin trap banger “Tamagotchi,” Apollo shines within all sonic aspects of his personal and creative identity — even fulfilling every immigrant parent’s dream of their child performing a classic genre of the culture, with the heart-wrenching ranchera “En El Olvido.” For Apollo, Ivory is a monumental offering, unapologetically centring queer love and painfully introspective confessions. Somehow, Apollo manages to keep it light and pop-accessible – a testament to his undeniable star power. Not to forget he was on the 2022 music list of Barack Obama. But, we already knew the President likes queer people. (Neena Rouhani – Billboard)

Shamir, ‘Heterosexuality’

Shamir was a bit of an iconoclast from the start, but on eighth album Heterosexuality, the Las Vegas-born singer-songwriter has never sounded more confident, liberated and fearless. From the industrial-rap thump of “Abomination” to the vertiginous soundscapes of “Cisgender” to the cabaret bossa nova of “Nuclear,” Heterosexuality covers a lot of ground, both stylistically and thematically. But it’s all held together by the artist’s ability to deliver tender thrills for the aching soul. (Joe Lynch -Billboard)

Brockhampton, ‘The Family’

“Over the past few years, the members of the band began to move our separate ways, and focus on our individual careers and passions,” Kevin Abstract wrote on Twitter. “With this project, a few of us were inspired to make something new that would bring closure to the past, and set the table for all of us to finally be able to explore our individual futures.” Brockhampton’s final Album, “The Family”, is out. A legend was built, and a legend will remain. It is time to move on to a new queer legend. (Dominik Böhler-GAY45)

Big Thief, ‘Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You’

It’s a rare band who’s able to grow more expansive in sound and more intimate in feeling at the same time — but like The Band, R.E.M. and The Microphones before them, Big Thief have delivered their biggest album like a group of friends sharing stories over a roaring campfire. Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You traverses the cosmos over 20 tracks of occasionally overpowering indie-folk beauty, but the most indelible moments are some of the silliest; frontwoman Adrianne Lenker rhyming “apple” four lines in a row on “Sparrow,” or shouting out “THAT’S MY GRANDMA!” mid-hoedown on “Red Moon.” There’s nothing more exciting than listening to an outfit who’s got it all figured out like this, and nothing more rewarding than when they invite you in to share the secrets with them. (Andrew Unterberger-Billboard)

Stromae, ‘Multitude’

With biting humour and striking intimacy, the Belgian pop singer’s adventurous third album examines how we humans care for one another—or don’t. Stromae’s slinky arrangements and actorly charisma are rich with charm. He sings “C’est que du bonheur!” with deranged euphoria as if expiring from sleepless nights mid-sentence. “Comme un idiot, fais les pas de la danse de la joie” (“Learn the steps and move like a fool to the dance of happiness”), he sings, chin up. Looking away—or seeing only what we want to see—is a surefire way to get left behind. And his live performance is so stunning with robots and graphics and beautiful performance. (Răzvan Ion-GAY45)

Darren Hayes, ‘Homosexual’

After a ten-year absence from the pop world no one truly, madly, deeply expected this former Savage Gardener would radically reappear with a bright, thoughtful and unapologetically gay bent. For all of us, but mostly for people in their 40-50s, it is fantastic since Savage Garden was at the time a big question mark and complicated to be out of. The sex symbol in 90’s Darren is still making exciting, if not “sexciting” music as an openly gay man, now in his fifties, proves you’re never too old for pop. And he is still sexy. After all 50 is the new 30. Or… (Răzvan Ion-GAY45)

Ezra Furman, ‘All Of Us Flames’

Trans indie rock musician Ezra’s last album, Twelve Nudes, came out pre-covid and before being trans became the political hot potato it later morphed into. Vulnerability, tenderness and anger are all ballsy emotional centrepieces Ezra effectively employed to turbocharge their guitar-driven pop into hitherto unknown zones. (Marc Andrews-Billboard)

Oliver Sim, ‘Hideous Bastard’

Hideous is brooding indie-pop, the perfect antidote to shiny, fluffy chart fodder and a hideously brave album to cherish. The title track is like a primal scream against the myth of male beauty we’ve all bought into, before the timely arrival of Jimmy Somerville’s gorgeous falsetto. Any album beginning with the words “I’m ugly” is definitely making a personal statement and so it was on the debut solo album, pointedly and poignantly. We like him and we liked his XX band. (Dominik Böhler-GAY45)

Article by Răzvan Ion

Răzvan Ion is an intersectional innovator, academic curator, tech queer activist, and research journalist. He is the founder of GAY45. A professor of curatorial studies and critical thinking in Vienna, he is passionate about technology, contemporary poetry and literature, comic books, the stock market, art, alternative music, movies, and blockchain. He enjoys late-night filmic, literary and musical (and romantic) discoveries.

Read also Gen Z 2022 music choices by Ciprian Ciobanu.

SMART. QUEER SMART.

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