New tunes from Sleater-Kinney and Kevin Abstract

Plus drag queen Pattie Gonia’s environmental anthem performed with trans Indigenous singer-songwriter Quinn Christopherson and acclaimed cellist Yo-Yo Ma

With only a month left to go in 2023, it feels like there’s barely enough time to discover and listen to all the great new music out there. Plus, the tidal wave of end-of-year media and culture lists that’ll be churned out in the next couple of weeks are on the horizon (and yes, ours are on their way!). But for now, indulge in this small and less intimidating collection of LGBTQ2S+ songs from November, including a new banger from Sleater-Kinney, a genre change from Kevin Abstract, an environmental anthem from Pattie Gonia and much more. 

“Say It Like You Mean It”—Sleater-Kinney

Two years after their last album, Path of Wellness, Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker of beloved queer feminist punk band Sleater-Kinney are back with “Say It Like You Mean It,” a mournful rock tune from their forthcoming record, Little Rope. J. Smith-Cameron of Succession fame stars in the music video, where she lip syncs and dances around in a bar, seemingly invisible to its patrons. (Smith-Cameron’s character Gerri Kellman has a big, enthusiastic gay following, so everyone say, “Thank you, Sleater-Kinney!”) The song is a painful farewell to the end of a relationship. “Say it like you mean it/ This goodbye hurts when you go,” Tucker sings, asking for tenderness and honesty from the other person on their way out. Heavy guitar riffs and a faint synth sound like they’re dragging their feet to a finish line—but it’s still a rock song with a pulse, and the up-tempo chorus adds a sprightly kick.

“Cakewalk”—Cakes da Killa

House-infused hip-hop beats and a sizzling hot dance energy oozes out of “Cakewalk,” the latest song from Cakes da Killa. According to the gay rapper himself, it’s a strident “warning to an intimate partner that’s playing in your face.” Cakes da Killa’s flow is effortless, and he wields control of the fast-paced, shuffling production with ease, intertwining with a reverberating bass that shakes the ground. “You can’t have your cake and eat it too,” he confidently declares, as though aiming a wry wink at the audience—and a troublesome ex—through sound. The vivacious dance-rap of “Cakewalk” isn’t afraid to call out questionable and icky antics in a relationship, and has fun while doing it.

 

“Real 2 Me”—Kevin Abstract

BROCKHAMPTON member Kevin Abstract dropped his first solo album since the hip-hop boy band disbanded last year, and Blanket shows the rapper and singer steering away from rap and venturing into guitar-led alternative and indie rock sounds. “Real 2 Me” adopts the essence of a classic garage band rehearsal-esque rock song, with crisp guitar plucking, a driving rhythm and lyrics capturing the all-consuming alchemy of being infatuated with someone. But Abstract’s auto-tuned vocals add a sense of urgency and anxiety, and little hip-hop and electronic embellishments here and there in the production call back to his musical roots. Having a crush is just as stomach-churning as it is exciting, and Abstract gets that on “Real 2 Me.”

“Make It Up”—King Isis

On “Make It Up,” King Isis takes the grittiness of rock and the groove and sensuality of R&B and fuses them together into a twisted love song, complete with a Sapphic, vampy music video. Isis’s voice alternates from a soft and delicate jazzy tone to one of more depth and heft: “What will it take for you to hold me down or help me up?” they ask a lover, with whom they share a toxic but unbreakable bond that’s still a source of comfort, despite its drawbacks. A thick, low bass line slithers like a serpent and builds up a slow-burning tension—apt for a song about a relationship’s passion and eventual fall from grace.

“Sometimes”—Mannequin Pussy

A battle between the desire for solitude and independence and the longing to be understood by another person rages on Mannequin Pussy’s latest song, “Sometimes.” The third single from the band’s album I Got Heaven, set to be released next year, burns hard and bright, like a sole flame setting an entire forest ablaze, illustrating the frenzied complexities of being a human with conflicting wants and needs. “[The song] is the anger you feel at someone for making you feel desire. For allowing that desire to distract you from your work and yourself and your mission,” says lead vocalist and guitarist Missy Dabice. With its smooth bass line engulfed in crashing percussions and the song’s title sung in a feral scream, Mannequin Pussy always delivers catchy rock tunes to sweat out your angst to, and “Sometimes” is no different.

“Won’t Give Up”—Pattie Gonia, featuring Quinn Christopherson and Yo-Yo Ma

The beauty of drag queen Pattie Gonia’s environmental anthem “Won’t Give Up,” written and performed with trans Indigenous singer-songwriter Quinn Christopherson and acclaimed cellist Yo-Yo Ma, lies within its simple contrasts—tender balladry with inspirational lyrics set to a music video shot in front of a magnificent spectacle of glaciers in Christopherson’s native home of Alaska. Often, and for good reason, many songs about climate change sit in a moment of stillness and despair as the artist reflects on the deterioration of the planet. But “Won’t Give Up” refuses to do exactly that—on both the world and on humanity. Its gentle yet rousing spirit is uplifting as Pattie Gonia and Christopherson’s harmonious duet compliments Ma’s gorgeous instrumentals. “Won’t Give Up” is a collaboration in its truest sense, with each artist having a moment to shine both solo and together, and its determination and devotion to not turning our backs on the Earth is its beating heart.

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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