Tracks from boygenius, Miss Grit, PVRIS and more to kick off your new year

Based on the new queer music of January, 2023 is off to a good start

January is a tedious month that can feel like it goes on for an entire decade—but it’s sending 2023 off to a solid start in the music department with the selection of tunes I’ve got for the first official Monthly Tune-Up column of 2023! (Shhh, the December roundup that came in late and was published at the beginning of January doesn’t count.) This month, we’ve got seven fresh songs from boygenius, PVRIS, Caroline Rose and several more indie pop, rock and hip-hop goodies. Enjoy!

“$20”—boygenius

Julien Baker, Lucy Dacus and Phoebe Bridgers have reunited their queer indie rock supergroup boygenius for their long-awaited debut studio album titled the record, slated for March. They released a trio of singles this month—and yes, it’s taking everything in me to hold back from writing about all three of them. Baker takes centre stage as lead vocalist on the song “$20” with Dacus’s and Bridgers’ rich harmonies layered behind the ends of her sentences. This bright, borderline pop-punky track about self-destructiveness, world weariness and a desire to escape brings that relatable feeling of being broke and desperate for a simple $20—which Bridgers screams at the top of her lungs for at the song’s grand climax—to life. It’s a brilliant first taste of boygenius’ follow-up to their acclaimed 2018 self-titled EP, and utilizes each individual member’s strengths.

“Lain (phone clone)”—Miss Grit

New York-based musician Margaret Sohn, who performs under the moniker Miss Grit, uses the anime series Serial Experiments Lain created by Yasuyuki Ueda as inspiration for “Lain (phone clone),” the futuristic new single from their upcoming album Follow the Cyborg. The anime’s plot, which centres on the protagonist Lain Iwakura’s struggle between her online self and her physical self, lends itself perfectly to the slick electronic production, clanging and clashing against Miss Grit’s smooth and clear vocals. Robotic and metallic textures, warped synths and a narrative about technology and the fight for a human identity—what’s not to love if you’re a cyberpunk and synthpop fan? 

“Mother I Know Im Guilty”— Apollo Flowerchild

 

Has a song about the slow death and destruction of the earth ever sounded so lush and beautiful? Singer-songwriter Apollo Flowerchild answers that question with a resounding yes on their song “Mother I Know Im Guilty” from their new EP While No Ones Watching. The guitar and Flowerchild’s voice are the stars of the show on this acoustic ballad that will make listeners feel as though they’re lying on a bed of grass surrounded by flowers and leaves, just like the EP’s cover. Birds chirping in the distance and the muffled lines of dialogue, such as “How did we let it get this bad?” peppered throughout give a sense of urgency to an otherwise mellow song. It’s heartbreaking when Flowerchild croons “This is the way we were meant to die,” but there’s also an aura of comfort and beauty to it.

“Snow Day”—Shaylee

Shaylee reminds us just how much fun being snowed in and kept from our school and work responsibilities can be—with a cautionary twist—on “Snow Day.” The pop rock musical project of trans singer and guitarist Elle Archer now plays with new members Robin Cook (bass) and Nate Anderson (drums), and “Snow Day” is their first single as a full band. It alternates between lively, Courtney Barnett-esque rock verses and slowed-down, hesitant choruses. Archer understands that even though remaining in our hiding places when we don’t want to interact with the world feels easy and safe, it can also be lonely. She pleads for some company on an isolating snow day, quietly at first, and then loudly at the end; her declaration soaring over wild guitar riffs. “Snow Day” is a great comfort song for bundling up and lounging around the house. 

“GODDESS”—PVRIS

“GODDESS” by pop rock band PVRIS is a guttural and bold celebration of femininity. Formed and fronted by gay singer and multi-instrumentalist Lynn Gunn with Brian MacDonald on bass and keyboards, PVRIS makes “GODDESS” the type of dark and sexy femme fatale-esque track that sounds like it would’ve fit perfectly on the early 2000s Charlie’s Angels movie soundtracks. The production is action-packed—weighty guitar riffs set ablaze, and tight beats, Gunn’s charismatic and attitude-filled vocal embellishments such as gritty laughs and growls, and a short run-time that makes use of all of its assets. Playfully braggadocious and self-confident, this song will make listeners feel like a powerful deity.

“Okay”—Tea Fannie

Calgary-based rapper Tea Fannie’s new song “Okay” is a jazz- and hip-hop-fused dream that isn’t afraid of vulnerability and exposing raw emotions in a way that will make you want to tap your foot along to the ride. Fannie teamed up with producer Goldenchild to create the relaxed boom-bap beats and warm, brassy horns that gently blend into the flow of the track. The beating heart song is made up of her storytelling about acknowledging and accepting her very human flaws, accented with anecdotes of bad energies coming into her life, therapy sessions and being present with herself in the middle of her journey. Fannie understands that being “Okay” with oneself is a strength.

“Miami”—Caroline Rose

For all of the heartbroken singles and romance Scrooges out there who want to prepare for the onslaught of Valentine’s Day cheer a few weeks early this year, Caroline Rose’s “Miami” is a breakup song that will get some good, cathartic sobs out of you. A part of their forthcoming album The Art of Forgetting, which in itself is inspired by heartache and the growing pains of moving on from a breakup, Rose tells a story of the self-doubt one experiences after the end of a relationship, and the way we force ourselves to persevere and heal, even when it’s the last thing we want to do. A bombastic chorus full of wailing instruments and the muffled quality of Rose’s vocals as they scream “You’ve gotta get through this life somehow”—anguished to be heard but mostly telling it to themselves—will tear your heart right out.

Jordan Currie (she/her) is a writer and Xtra's Associate Editor, Audience Engagement. She has written for Xtra, Exclaim!, New Feeling, Wavelength Music and others.

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