Welcome to the first (official) Monthly Tune-Up of 2024! For your audio pleasure, I’ve got Lil Nas X’s comeback single, a pop-rock turn from Eliza McLamb, a punky love song from Green Day and other new queer jams. Happy New Year and happy listening!
Dreamy bedroom pop and sublime harmonies are always at the centre of a MICHELLE song, and the band delivers that with a side of heartache and growth on the delicate single “NEVER AGAIN.” Serene vocals from Layla Ku, Sofia D’Angelo, Emma Lee and Jamee Lockard blend together seamlessly on top of quiet and simple instrumentals by Julian Kaufman and Charlie Kilgore. The song’s gentle and beachy atmosphere only makes its hard truths of learning to love yourself and move on from a person you’ve outgrown all the more bittersweet. It hurts when the group sings, “I thought I knew you better than this,” but there’s also comfort in knowing you can put your foot down and eventually let go of an unloving relationship.
“J CHRIST”—Lil Nas X
Whether you think Lil Nas X’s knack for blasphemy and queering religious imagery is fun or overplayed at this point, it’s undeniable that he continues to do it with exceptional flair. After taking a break from music and social media last year, Montero Hill is starting January off with a comeback—like Jesus himself. “Back-back-back up out the gravesite/ Bitch, I’m back like J Christ/ I’m finna get the gays hyped,” he says on “J CHRIST,” an infectious pop-rap track with a strong piano hook and trap beats. Unlike the flamenco influences on “Call Me By Your Name,” where he pole-danced into Hell and gave the devil a lap dance, the “J CHRIST” video depicts Hill as an angel playing basketball in heaven and, later, being mounted on a cross. Whatever Hill does for his sophomore album, we’re expecting plenty more bangers to come.
“Big Sigh”—Marika Hackman
The title song from Marika Hackman’s fifth album sounds exactly like its name—sombre, sluggish and in search of relief, like a big, exhausted sigh. The British singer-songwriter tries her hand at grunge with angsty, reverb-heavy electric guitars, spacey, absent-minded vocals and slow verses that explode into a chorus bursting with turmoil. Hackman is vulnerable like an open wound as the pressures of life rain down on her: “I don’t wanna talk today/ Slack jaw giving me away/ God loves a trier.” “Big Sigh” is a song for the times when pretending like you’re fine feels like the only choice for getting through the day.
twikipedia’s acoustic EP still-life is a pivot from the glitchy hyperpop and experimental music they’re most known for, but its heartfelt, sensitive lyrics and guitar-led sounds are a delight to the ears. The Brazilian musician and producer, also known as delta, channels their insecurities, disappointments and desire to be loved on “hurt.” Its stripped-down, DIY production and instrumentals give the track a cozy and lived-in feel, even as delta imagines themself as a rock or a grain of sand stuck in someone’s shoe; a nuisance that no one wants around. But “hurt” still has a tender warmth to it that pulls from late ’90s and early 2000s folk rock ballads, and is sweet to listen to, even with its sadness.
“Modern Woman”—Eliza McLamb
Eliza McLamb combines snarky self-awareness with sincerity and fearfulness on “Modern Woman,” a standout track from her debut album, Going Through It. McLamb examines the many layers and complications that go into existing as a woman in the modern day, and yearns for something real to make sense of her life. “Give me a book to read and look smart/ Tell me what I should eat and how hard/ I need to try before I fall apart/ I wanna feel,” she sings. The pop-rock instrumentation and production have a cooling and exhilarating touch, reminiscent of other indie songstresses like Lucy Dacus or Sidney Gish. “Modern Woman” is an ode to the messy, confusing aspects of life; to looking in the mirror and not completely understanding the person looking back at you.
“Roll Call”—Kayne the Lovechild
Kanye the Lovechild shows off his pride for his Bronx roots and pays homage to everyday neighbourhood communities on his vivacious new single, “Roll Call.” This energetic hip-hop song samples the catchy piano riff from Big Pun’s “It’s So Hard” and gives it an edgier kick with sharp hi-hats and a punchy flow. You can hear just how much fun KTLC is having on this track as his passionate delivery bounces off of up-tempo beats. “Roll Call” is a celebration of culture, and the big and little things that make up a home and the people living in it.
“the mom song”—audalei
Have you really lived if you haven’t wanted to win your mother’s love and approval, even just a little bit, at least once? audalei, the self-proclaimed “Gay Avril Lavigne,” gives us a crushing rendition of this universal desire, one that’s felt especially profoundly by queer people, on “the mom song.” This rock tune, which indeed throws back to early Avril, remains dormant and steady for most of its run-time—before erupting into a loud, thrashing finale that tears your heart in two. audalei yearns for her mom’s acceptance, but she wants her daughter to wear tighter clothes, ditch the nose piercing, adhere to strict gender norms. “I’m in my twenties, but I just want my mom to like me,” audalei sings in a shaky-voiced prayer, dreaming that one day, she’ll gain that approval she’s always wanted while staying true to herself.
“Bobby Sox”—Green Day
Nineties punk royalty Green Day are back with Saviors, their first album in four years, and it’s got a feel-good, head-banging bisexual anthem (and if this is the first time you’re hearing about frontman Billie Joe Armstrong’s bisexuality, welcome, it took you long enough!) “Bobby Sox” is a love song that oozes warm, sunny vibes. Those signature ’90s guitar cranks and Armstrong alternating between “Do you want to be my girlfriend?” and “Do you want to be my boyfriend?” at the top of his lungs is endearing in the most hard-core way. In the music video, a grainy-looking house party rages on, along with a montage of a number of different couples kissing. The trio sounds just as energized as they did decades ago.