Welcome to another installment of Monthly Tune-Up! October’s roundup of LGBTQ2S+ music features a few Halloween-adjacent highlights from Jazmin Bean and Witch Weather, a bolero ballad from Kali Uchis, a funk-rock return from Brittany Howard and much more. Have a delightful Spooky Season (and listening session with all of these new tracks).
The music video for Jazmin Bean’s “Terrified” is a Halloween lover’s dream, with elaborate spooky makeup looks, half-cute, half-creepy creatures covered in gore and a decrepit mansion in the middle of nowhere. But even if the song itself is equally unsettling thematically—the gut-dropping realization that you’re falling in *gasp* love, and the anxiety love inflicts—its sound is reminiscent of a poppier Mazzy Star; a dreamy ballad straight from the ’90s. The song is the latest single from the British non-binary artist’s forthcoming debut album Traumatic Livelihood, and its floaty, lovelorn quality is a darkly funny contrast to its lyrics and visuals. Whether you love love, or the idea of it makes you feel like a rotting corpse in a haunted house, “Terrified” is a warm rush of dopamine through your eardrums.
“What Now”—Brittany Howard
It’s been four years since Alabama Shakes frontwoman Brittany Howard’s solo debut album Jaime was released, and the lesbian singer-songwriter is back with “What Now,” a passionate funk-rock track that shares its title with her upcoming sophomore LP. A snappy bassline, buzzing, wailing guitars and the raspy growl of Howard’s signature soulful voice encapsulate the frustration in a burned-out relationship and the desire to break free of its confines. “I ain’t sorry/ If you want someone to hate, then blame it on me,” she belts. “What Now” asks this very question in the face of a damaged relationship, and it’s a bold introduction into Howard’s next era of music.
“How R U?”—DijahSB
Leave it to DijahSB to make exhaustion and tough discussions of mental health sound smooth and laid-back on their new song “How R U?” Over a jazzy guitar line and a muffled hip-hop beat, the non-binary rapper admits they can’t hide their true feelings behind fake smiles. “I don’t know how to react these days when people ask ‘How are you?’/ Tell you I’m fine but my eyes tell you the truth.” DijahSB’s pen game ranges from witty, making reference to Velma from Scooby Doo losing her glasses and name-dropping iconic Canadian music journalist Nardwuar, to raw and vulnerable without feeling out of place or losing their charismatic flow. “How R U?” is the perfect “dissociating in the corner of the party” anthem to sip your drink to and pray no one asks you the dreaded three-word question.
Brooklyn-based indie pop/electronic band Psymon Spine’s “Boys” is a strident symphony of synths and dance-pop grooves. Following their 2021 sophomore album, Charismatic Megafauna, Noah Prebish, Peter Spears, Brother Michael and queer singer Sabine Holler’s new single is an electric ode to friendship and looking forward to hanging out with your boys after a long period of solitude. The song has a cooling, nocturnal atmosphere, like a chilly breeze drifting through a hot room, which rids the body of stress and casts a spell of good vibes. Intense rock chords strumming in the pre-chorus give the track an extra biting edge and a catchy hook that lingers in your mind long after it’s finished.
“Te Mata”—Kali Uchis
Kali Uchis brings ample drama and beauty to “Te Mata,” the latest single from her upcoming Spanish album Orquídeas, marking her second project performed in the language. Te mata, meaning “it kills you,” shows the bisexual Colombian-American singer reaching grand, emotional heights vocally across this simple yet lavish bolero-inspired ballad. The song details a scorned romance, leaving the past behind and being the villain in someone else’s story, with a lush Spanish guitar, horns and cinematic strings gliding along with ease. When you hear “Te Mata,” you’ll picture a whole film in your head, whether you speak Spanish or not.
“Goth Beach Party”—Witch Weather
Capping off Spooky Season this year is a vampy, black-cloaked day at the beach with “Goth Beach Party” by queer punk duo Witch Weather. Lead singer and guitarist Kaitlynn and bassist Juliann aptly dropped their debut self-titled album on Friday the 13th, and it’s full of shoegaze, goth rock and punk bangers, drawing influence from bands like Siouxsie and the Banshees. And “Goth Beach Party” goes hard—a cheeky surf rock riff that immediately conjures thoughts of sandy shores and blue waves is contrasted with thrashing drums, cranked electric guitars and battle-cry-like screams. It’s outrageous, it’s fun and it’s a tune perfectly suited for this time of year.