New music from Yaeji, ZORA, Blondshell, Michael Medrano and more

Behold spring’s bounteous harvest of infectious pop

Welcome back to your favourite monthly queer playlist! April’s collection of LGBTQ2S+ music is an exciting melting pot, from the expansive electronic music of Yaeji to the poetic folk of Kara Jackson. If you’re like me and you’ve had an extremely busy and plentiful April, take a moment to wind down and cap your month off with this selection of tunes.

“Fever”—Yaeji 

The debut album from singer/songwriter and DJ Kathy Yaeji Lee (simply known as Yaeji), With A Hammer, gives you a hint as to what you can expect from its title alone. Through an eclectic mix of electronic, pop, dance, jazz and other genres, Yaeji channels her rage and uses it to metaphorically smash her adversaries, resulting in a celebration of creativity and joy. “Fever” weaves tension and euphoria together so tightly that they become indistinguishable from one another and emerge as a new emotion entirely. The car-honking-like noise that rings throughout is as anxiety-making as it is hypnotic. Yaeji draws her voice out in a ghostly, nursery rhyme-esque manner, singing in English and rapping in Korean. “Fever” is intense, but it knows when to slow down in the right places to let you breathe—before launching you into its fast-paced orbit once again.

“THE BITCH IS BACK (Press)”—ZORA featuring Destiny Spike 

A surge of confidence will be injected straight into your veins upon hearing rapper ZORA’s carefree hot-girl jam, “THE BITCH IS BACK (Press)” featuring Destiny Spike. This snappy track embraces independence and moving on from a negative relationship—ZORA revels in giving her ex something to look at by flaunting her success and appearing everywhere in the press. Booming beats that vibrate in your chest and the cheeky, mischievous attitude that ZORA exudes will solidify “THE BITCH IS BACK (Press)” as a quintessential “getting ready to go out” track. Destiny Spike makes use of her short-yet-zappy verse with her witty wordplay and punchy delivery. If you need a boost in ferocity and self-love, this is the one for you.

“Salad”—Blondshell

 

The self-titled record from Blondshell, aka Sabrina Teitelbaum, was one of my most anticipated albums of 2023, and it did not disappoint. I could honestly write about any of the nine songs on Blondshell with equal amounts of enthusiasm, but I decided to give the spotlight to the captivatingly dark and passionate storytelling on “Salad.” Each verse lurks in the shadows and builds up to the explosive, rage-filled choruses, like a snake slithering through the grass and striking its prey. Teitelbaum sings about seeking revenge on an abusive man who has gotten away with hurting her loved ones. The narrative comes to life in Teitelbaum’s lyrics. Images flash through listeners’ minds: of a poisoned salad, the man in question laughing in a parking lot with his lawyer and Teitelbaum scheming to enact her plan. “Salad” sounds like it could belong to a play or a modern rock opera with Teitelbaum’s out-for-blood character as the protagonist.

“where it don’t shine”—Michael Medrano

Michael Medrano knows what he’s doing when it comes to making pop earworms, and his song “where it don’t shine” from his debut LP LoveSexDrugs is no exception. Medrano uses his “disco dad” powers and goes all out with the glitz and showmanship on this groovy track, which is a concoction of colourful, retro dance and modern club pop. An aura of coolness radiates off of this song, with its pulsating rhythm and Medrano’s falsetto. It manages to feel upbeat without being overly hyped and wild, maintaining a level of laid-backness. Like some of the previous singles from LoveSexDrugs, this one is all about casual, romantic fun and wanting to have a good time with someone you’re interested in. “where it don’t shine” is a summer song if there ever was one, and you can picture yourself having a queer meet-cute of your own when you listen to it.

“Sterilizer”—Bodywash

Rosie Long Decter and Chris Steward of the band Bodywash take listeners on a dream-pop-rock whirlwind of self-discovery, a frenzied journey to find one’s place in the world on their sophomore record I Held the Shape While I Could. Their song “Sterilizer” sounds exactly as its title suggests—clean and bright, like taking a deep breath full of fresh, cold air and allowing it to expand your lungs. Up-tempo shoegaze instrumentation and a cascading guitar riff that flows like water are uplifting to the ears and cleansing to the spirit, even if its themes of a fading bond and swallowed pride indicate something more weary underneath the surface. “Sterilizer” is extremely melodious and fun as hell to listen to, like the end-credits theme to an old TV show you might’ve watched as a kid, and Bodywash takes you on various ups and downs—musically and emotionally—during its run-time.

“You Can Be Mean”—Indigo De Souza

Admitting that you’ve allowed yourself to be treated poorly for the sake of love isn’t a stellar realization to come to, but on “You Can Be Mean,” Indigo De Souza takes that shitty feeling and puts it to great use. Coming off of her new album All of This Will End, De Souza grapples with accepting a sour relationship, keeping her fingers crossed that it’ll get better and that her partner’s toxic behaviour will magically do a 180, even if deep down she secretly knows that won’t happen. “You can be a dick to me/ It’s what I’m used to,” she croons over spunky pop-rock riffs. Ultimately, “You Can Be Mean” advocates for cutting off assholes in your life and protecting your well-being, even if it means having to go through some harsh truths first in order to get there.

“Don’t Call Me at a Party”—Liam Benayon

Liam Benayon’s “Don’t Call Me at a Party” is the anti-party anthem for anyone all too familiar with the feeling of checking social media only to find that your best friends are hanging out and having fun—without you. The singer/songwriter and producer locks listeners in with an extremely catchy, synth and bass-heavy hook; the exact type of sound you’d hear being blasted on the speakers at a dimly lit house party. The voice mail left by one of the friends in question at the top of the track has a nostalgic quality, setting the mood right off the bat. Benayon’s vocals are expressive and immensely theatrical, even as his laments about a lack of an invite are sung in a smoky, half-whispered tone. It’s a tune fit for party animals and homebodies alike!

“free”—Kara Jackson

Kara Jackson’s music could only be written by a poet—and as the third National Youth Poet Laureate from 2019 to 2020 in the U.S., her poignant, tender lyrics make it clear that she is one. Jackson’s debut album Why Does the Earth Give Us People to Love? explores the different types of love that will come into our lives, including love connected to loss and grief. Some songs have a run-time of seven to eight minutes long, a collection of Jackson’s memories touching on all of these themes at once. “free” is a lengthy breakup ballad that captures the pain and eventual catharsis that comes from ending a relationship. Acoustic guitar, the faint beating of a muffled drum, a smattering of piano and harp and the climax of a swelling storm of strings amplify Jackson’s words and her soothing voice. The execution starts out simple, but blossoms into something grandiose and spiritual. Listening to “free” feels like standing in the middle of a red desert at sunset, letting a breeze wash over you and feeling at peace within your heartbreak.

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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