March came with plenty of noteworthy cultural events—TV lovers like myself lost their minds over the end of The Last of Us (gay) and the beginning of Succession Season 4 (gay, subtextually). International Trans Day of Visibility is closing out the month on March 31 and many LGBTQ2S+ artists have treated us to a range of new music. In this edition of Monthly Tune-Up, I present you with electrifying rock from Yves Tumor, blasts from the past from Florence + The Machine and Lucy Dacus, highlights on debut albums from Meet Me @ The Altar and DEBBY FRIDAY and more. I hope you enjoy this melting pot of a soundtrack as we welcome in spring!
“Ebony Eye”—Yves Tumor
No one can do a throwback quite like Yves Tumor, the moniker of musician and producer Sean Bowie. Not only do they nail the energy of 1970s psychedelic/glam rock, but Tumor’s commitment to cultivating an enigmatic persona of a genre-bending queer rockstar adds an aura of mystique that makes their take on ’70s genres truly unique. Their fifth album, Praise a Lord Who Chews but Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds), follows a similar path that their previous acclaimed LP Heaven to a Tortured Mind took: experimental rock with other kaleidoscopic influences, from synth pop to goth rock to dream pop. The song “Ebony Eye” closes out the album and leaves you on an ecstasy-inducing high note. A vortex of guitars that twist over each other and a chorus of Tumor’s vocals layered to create ethereal harmonies atop a gritty soundscape make the object of Tumor’s desire on this song sound like a deity that they are worshiping. It’s a thrilling song that, much like the rest of Tumor’s discography, makes you feel like you’re listening to something modern and classic at the same time.
“Thx 4 Nothin’”—Meet Me @ The Altar
I mentioned in last month’s Tune-Up that the resurgence of the type of emo and pop punk that boomed in the early 2000s has given us several new bands to watch out for, and Meet Me @ The Altar is undoubtedly one of them. Traditionally, emo was mostly fronted by white artists. So it’s refreshing and vindicating to see a trio of queer women of colour—Edith Victoria, Téa Campbell and Ada Juarez—shining as they bring this musical style to a younger generation. Their debut album Past // Present // Future (signed to Fueled by Ramen, a label famous for housing several notable pop punk acts of the early to mid aughts) was released this month, and the song “Thx 4 Nothin’” is a highlight. The band’s sound and Victoria’s singing style have already drawn comparisons to Paramore, but this specific song’s isolated pounding drums at the beginning and its plucky, determined progression also have a Simple Plan or The All-American Rejects vibe as well. The carefree, not-giving-a-fuck spirit of the track complements the youthful energy the group embodies.
“Night Shift”—Lucy Dacus
I know what you’re thinking—“Night Shift” by Lucy Dacus is not new. It’s six years old and was the lead single and the biggest hit on Dacus’s 2018 sophomore album, Historian. It also happens to be one of my personal favourite breakup songs. So when it was announced that a music video directed by non-binary filmmaker Jane Schoenbrun and starring Yellowjackets and Scream star Jasmin Savoy Brown (as well as a cast of other queer actors and musicians) would be coming out in honour of Historian’s fifth-anniversary vinyl release, I knew I couldn’t resist including the song on the list. In the video, Dacus stars as a hotel employee who drifts through a convention full of witches, ghosts, a game of mini golf, a drag queen performing on stage and dreamy mood lighting to eventually get to the grand finale: Dacus and Brown finding each other in the crowd and sharing a kiss. It’s not at all what I expected a “Night Shift” music video to look like after picturing imaginary scenery in my head all these years, but the result is so much better. The song sounds just as emotional as it did six years ago, and the lyric “In five years I hope the songs feel like covers/ Dedicated to new lovers” still hits you like a Mack truck. Despite the song’s tragic storytelling, its triumphant climax makes it feel hopeful, too.
“Just a Girl”—Florence + The Machine
Congratulations to the folks who fall smack dab in the middle of the Venn diagram of Yellowjackets and Florence + The Machine fans! Songstress (and the closest thing we’ll get to a real-life forest fairy) Florence Welch released a cover of No Doubt’s 1995 hit “Just a Girl,” which was used in the Yellowjackets Season 2 trailer. As both Welch and the show have largely Sapphic fanbases, the collaboration feels like a match made in gay heaven. Instead of that iconic quirky guitar riff that opens No Doubt’s anthem of teen girl angst, Florence’s rendition begins slowly and eerily. The clinking of a few piano keys and the gentle drawl of her voice reels you in before the song kicks into overdrive, bringing in the pop/rock/ska elements that invoke the spirit of No Doubt’s version. I always appreciate a cover that switches up the tone and mood of the original instead of being a karaoke carbon copy of it, and Florence’s “Just a Girl” nails the vibe and attitude of Yellowjackets.
“Boyhood”—The Japanese House
Fans of The Japanese House, the musical project of gay British singer-songwriter Amber Bain, have been looking forward to a followup of her debut album Good at Falling since 2019. But in that time, Bain has made sure to keep her fans satisfied with several singles released here and there over the years, including her most recent one, “Boyhood.” Like most of her discography, “Boyhood” strikes a balance between serene and uplifting, while leaving behind a trace of melancholy in its wake. The song sounds like how diving into a pool of clear water feels: clean, refreshing and cooling. The up-tempo major key paired with lyrics about getting older, regret and the desire to change one’s life couldn’t have been accompanied with better visuals in the music video—two lovers galloping through a field on a horse, only for the camera to pan back to reveal Bain has been watching the scene on a screen the entire time, longing for a memory or a fantasy that never existed in the first place.
“DOUBLE DOWN”—Blue Monday
“DOUBLE DOWN” by Blue Monday, a.k.a. Carmen Pizarro, was released on the last day of February, but in my column, that counts as a March song! This beautiful and wistful acoustic ballad by the lesbian indie singer-songwriter reflects on therapy, coming out and the feeling of being plagued by all the emotion a single human being can carry inside of themself. When Pizarro sings “You say lighten up, I say double down,” it taps into that strange, paradoxical mindset we all have sometimes, where it feels easier (and somewhat relieving) to succumb to our negativity than it does to do the exhausting work of having to fix our situations. The gentle glide of Pizarro’s vocal riffs toward the end are effortless and provide some levity to the harrowing meditations the song presents. “DOUBLE DOWN” reads like an intimate diary entry that, while written by someone else, feels like it came out of your own mind, too.
“WHAT A MAN”—DEBBY FRIDAY
With Yves Tumor starting off this list and experimental queer musician DEBBY FRIDAY ending it, March’s column is bookended by big, brash, rock-oriented throwbacks, because “WHAT A MAN” by the latter artist is an ode to 1980s arena rock with some dark, punky accents, all wrapped up in a contemporary bow. Coming off of her debut album GOOD LUCK, the track starts off smooth and low-key. A murky bassline and DEBBY’s ominous crooning guides listeners through what feels like a smoke-filled room, when more elements—a reverb-heavy, wailing guitar that sounds like it’s being played from the other end of an empty tunnel, to subtle techno elements, to static crackling in the background—make their appearances as the song rolls on, until there’s nothing but a wall of sound and DEBBY crying “What a man!” into the ether. And what a man he is, indeed—DEBBY conjures up a fuzzy image of someone who is just as cold and heartless as he is alluring and irresistible. It’s sensual, it’s mercurial, it’s fantastical and it’s a pleasing finale to this month’s column.