I’ve been listening to a lot of music this summer. Here are some tracks that left a great impression on me:
“Queen” by Perfume Genius
There’s nothing more affecting than listening to the line “No family is safe when I sashay” uttered by the openly gay Mike Hadreas (stage name Perfume Genius) followed by a break of eclectic synth instrumentation, knowing that members of the queer community have been silenced and abused throughout history. This line succeeds a verse where Hadreas mentions the various negative stereotypes associated with queer people: “Cracked, peeling, riddled with disease“. He gracefully coats all this emotion, conveyed by the careful placement of words and his performance that puts life in every word he sings, into the song’s own title, and through Hadreas’s blazing vocal performance and the grand synths and drums, he creates an iconic gay anthem and asks his LGBTQ audience to embrace our queerness with the power of a million machines under the image of a “Queen”.
“1950” by King Princess
Another anthem suited for Pride month, Mikaela Straus (stage name King Princess) pays tribute to Patricia Highsmith’s The Price of Salt (which becomes the film Carol) through this song, symbolizing the discreet activities of the LGBTQ community in days past as a metaphor for unrequited love. Her enticing lyrics showcase the intense emotions in a doomed romance, including “So tell me why my gods look like you?” “I hope that you won’t slip away in the night” and “Did you mean it when you said I was pretty?“. Her delicate yet cool delivery ties the whole track together, and her specific scope makes this song super representative for queer women, yet feels universal at the same time.
“God’s Favorite Customer” by Father John Misty
Josh Tillman’s (stage name Father John Misty) new record is the most soul-bearing work in the course of his career so far, but nothing is more poignant than his title track. The chorus, especially, resonates with so much faith and hopelessness: “Speak to me / Won’t you speak, sweet angel? / Don’t you remember me? / I was God’s favorite customer“. The accompanying vocals by labelmate Weyes Blood just add to the solemnity of the chorus. The monotony of the instrumentation doesn’t feel like a drawback — it’s an addition that amplifies Tillman’s soul-crushing delivery of this track.
“The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades Is Out to Get Us!” by Sufjan Stevens
In this track, Sufjan Stevens sings about his time spent in a youth summer camp. The soothing acoustic guitar and the instrumentations — escalating and finally shrinking near the end of the track — reflects the feeling of sunlight brushing through shady trees and touching your face while you dip your legs into a tranquil lake. The grand trumpets in the middle of the track bring back a wave of nostalgia, and Stevens’s tender loving lyrics and subtle delivery just add into that stream of abstract summertime feelings. Sometimes I wish this song could’ve been longer because of the great vibes it brings whenever I listen to it.
“Never Be The Same” by Camila Cabello
This popular radio song might be overplayed for some, but there is no denying the vocal power and emotion Cabello brings in this track. Singing about drugs as a metaphor of infatuation in a falsetto voice, Cabello embodies the desperation one might feel when falling in love. The drum beats that rings similar to 60s surf rock tracks adds into that nostalgia and longing Cabello delivers in the song. This track reminds me of the limerence experienced by one of my friends this summer, where he cannot stop talking about his crush and, currently, ex-boyfriend — and sometimes, it reminds me about myself too, especially those times where I cannot get a certain someone off of my head.
“Your Best American Girl” by Mitski
The lyrics in Mitski Miyawaki’s “Your Best American Girl” hits all the right spots and addresses topics that are not often portrayed in songs of this theme. Mitski reflects on her clash of identities through the lyrics “your mother wouldn’t approve of how my mother raised me” and the struggle of fitting into a foreign cultural discourse to get what she wants in love (“I guess I couldn’t help trying to be your best American girl”). Through this track, Mitski also asks us to reevaluate what the term “American” means and how one would fit in it. This is one of the rare love songs that addresses intercultural identities, wrapped in electric chords and powerful drums.
“Fast Slow Disco” by St. Vincent
This upbeat rendition of Annie Clark’s (stage name St. Vincent) “Slow Disco” marks her plunge into the pop scene. Even though the song has a beat that you could dance to, the feeling of alienation resonates throughout the track, including the affecting piece of lyric “I’m so glad I came, but I can’t wait to leave”. The outro, an almost mantra-like repetition of “don’t it beat a slow dance to death?”, accompanied by upbeat synths, makes you feel reflective and pumped at the same time. As the song ends, I found myself wishing that this song could last longer. But, hey, at least the feeling lasts.
Listen to the songs in my playlist below: