Happy New Year, Xtra readers and music lovers! I hope you had the gayest of holiday seasons and a restful period leading into 2023. December’s Monthly Tune-Up is coming to you a smidge later than usual, but nonetheless, I’ve got music picks you may have missed last month while you were busy in the midst of preparing for holiday festivities. Whether you’re in the mood for mainstream R&B/pop releases from SZA (featuring Phoebe Bridgers!), bombastic hyperpop from 100 gecs, or early-aughts-inspired rock from Blondshell, December’s roundup has you covered to satisfy all of your musical cravings.
“Hey Big Man”—100 gecs
Here’s to starting off this list (and 2023!) with an abrasive, energetic bang. Dylan Brady and Laura Les of the experimental hyperpop duo 100 gecs released their Snake Eyes EP last month. Opening song “Hey Big Man” is one minute and 45 seconds of crunchy percussion, shout-sung lyrics about causing mayhem and blown-out production that sounds like your ear is pressed right against a speaker. The punky, head-banging energy of the track gives off a Beastie Boys vibe, and it’s certain to start a mosh pit whenever the group performs it live. It’s what 100 gecs does best: short and not-so-sweet bangers that throw so many different sounds and textures at you that you can’t help but get lost in it all.
“Ghost in the Machine”—SZA featuring Phoebe Bridgers
SZA’s long-awaited sophomore album SOS finally dropped in December, and to everyone’s pleasant surprise, the singer teamed up with Phoebe Bridgers on the song “Ghost in the Machine”—it’s the queer pop/indie rock-queen collab we never knew we desperately needed! Sombre acoustic strings that are somewhat reminiscent of the opening of Bridgers’s own song “Halloween” pluck away behind SZA’s smooth vocals while she laments about boredom, disillusionment and her craving for humanity. The relaxed R&B production paired with the guitar and the simple piano during Bridgers’s verse perfectly blend the styles of these two artists together. If existential anthems are your thing, “Ghost in the Machine” is the one to have on repeat going into 2023.
The world may be bleak and exhausting, but at least that means we get to hear catchy songs about that bleakness and exhaustion to distract ourselves from the impending end of the world. Canadian alt-pop group Bestfriend, made up of Stacy Kim and Kaelan Geoffrey, produced a laid-back pop track about feeling displaced in your own life and trying your best to roll with it. Peppy, foot-tapping beats and synths compliment Kim’s light vocals and Geoffrey’s spoken staccato one. For as heavy as the subject matter of the song can be, the tone is kept gentle and breezy. It’s the type of song that can be listened to for either nodding your head along and humming the melody or sitting and sulking on the days you feel particularly dull.
“Other Side”—Nakkia Gold
This sensual queer love track comes from hip-hop and R&B artist Nakkia Gold’s debut album Like Girls. Low and bouncy synths create an undercurrent of depthy texture beneath Gold crooning about a woman who keeps denying her feelings, but always comes back to their connection over and over. The song has a relaxed flow, but also possesses a tension bubbling below the surface that comes with being hung up over someone. Gold is the pursuer in this relationship, but she is also vulnerable, nearly pleading with her on-again-off-again lover to stay for good. “Other Side” is sexy, seductive, slow and passionate.
“Veronica Mars” by Blondshell songstress Sabrina Teitelbaum is an anthem for those who came of age in the early 2000s. Inspired by her love of the titular teen show as a kid, Teitelbaum reflects on snapshots of her childhood and the chaos of being exposed to more adult content and ways of life. Starting off slow with only Teitelbaum’s low voice and a grungy guitar line, it soon explodes into a thick swirl of punk, rock and psychedelic sounds, with a whirring, high-pitched guitar solo and soaring vocals. True to its name, “Veronica Mars” is angsty and jaded at the same time, bottling that familiar feeling of being young and pretending to understand the world better than you actually do, and the track transports you right back to that nostalgic place.
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