COLUMNS

  • Taylor Made

    SPRING IS IN THE AIR, and with it the buzz of a new work by that most accomplished execrator of man-children, a musical artist who penetrates deep into the American psyche with ballads of love and loss: That’s right, Taylor Swift is dropping an album. Yes, there is that other icon with a record out, nostalgiste de la boue Lana del Rey, the voice that launched a thousand think pieces, but now is the time to give the author of “Dear John” the intellectual consideration she so richly deserves. It’s a love story—just say yes.

    Swift’s newest venture is to revisit an old one: a rerecording of her

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  • Pluck, House, and Float

    For this playlist, I decided to focus on the three fundamentals of music: Pluck, House, and Float.

    Pluck: A spiky attack followed by a slow decay. Nearly all that we understand as the character of any given sound happens in its first milliseconds. And the noises that stay with us keep reverberating long after they're no longer heard. Chiweshe's mbira, guitars of The Ex and A. Kostis, Colleen's viola da gamba, Sudan Archives' violin.

    House: Sweat stains the difference between repeatability and desire. Clubs resist abstraction: Every night is the only night. Octo Octa's blush, Ngly's mumble, Sofia

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  • Queer as Folk

    JULIEN BAKER’S MUSIC WRINGS OUT THE BODY. Her lyrics, sung over sparse, echoing instrumentation, as if she were alone in a cavernous room, frequently dwell on physical injury. The title track of her 2015 debut album, Sprained Ankle, casts her as a marathon runner limping toward the finish line. In “Televangelist,” from 2017’s Turn Out the Lights, she’s an “amputee for phantom touch / leaning on an invisible crutch.” “Hurt Less,” from the same album, has her “pitched through the windshield” in a car crash. Baker tangles these visions of wounding and woundedness with meditations on mental illness,

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  • Sasha Geffen

    Sasha Geffen is the author of Glitter Up the Dark: How Pop Music Broke the Binary (University of Texas Press, 2020). Their writing also appears in Rolling Stone, The Nation, Pitchfork, NPR, and Elsewhere. They live in Colorado.

    **

    1

    BACKXWASH, GOD HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS LEAVE HIM OUT OF IT
    (Grimalkin)

    Montreal-based rapper and producer Ashanti Mutinta distills power from horror. Her latest LP, with its raw final-girl vocals and buzz-saw instrumentals, pins a laser focus on the stressors of living vulnerably in a world that’s hostile to its margins, dredging up fear while offering catharsis.

    2

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  • George Lewis

    Composer, musicologist, and computer-media artist George Lewis is the Edwin H. Case Professor of American Music at Columbia University. His book A Power Stronger than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music (University of Chicago Press, 2008) won an American Book Award, and he is coeditor of the Oxford Handbook of Critical Improvisation Studies (2016).

    1

    CHAAKAPESH (Roger Frappier and Justin Kingsley)

    This documentary follows the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and its conductor Kent Nagano on a visit to Indigenous communities in northern Quebec to perform Cree Canadian writer Tomson Highway

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  • Honey Dijon

    Honey Dijon is a DJ and producer based in New York and Berlin.

    **

    1

    IAN ISIAH, AUNTIE (Juliet)

    One of my favorite albums of the year, by an amazing artist.

    2

    AUSTIN ATO, HEAT (Classic)

    One of the funkiest house records I’ve heard in a long time, from my mother label, Classic Music Company.

    3

    JIMI TENOR, THE DUEL (BubbleTease Communications)

    An incredible and original piece of dance music that blew me away with its blend of jazz and electronica.

    4

    JESSIE WARE, WHAT’S YOUR PLEASURE (PMR/Friends Keep Secrets/Interscope)

    A phenomenal album that has taken the sound of disco and reinterpreted it for today.

    5

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  • David Grubbs

    David Grubbs is a Brooklyn-based musician and writer. His most recent book is The Voice in the Headphones (Duke University Press, 2020). His album with The Underflow, Instant Opaque Evening (Blue Chopsticks), is forthcoming.

    1

    OKKYUNG LEE, YEO-NEUN (Shelter Press)

    I spent much of the year grateful for the steady stream of new music, but daily dread made it difficult to connect with much of it. Yeo-Neun is the rare album that drew me close in any setting, and in a season of indecision, Lee’s compositions for cello, piano, bass, and harp rewarded every listen.

    2

    SPEAKER MUSIC, BLACK NATIONALIST

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  • Perfume Genius

    Mike Hadreas, AKA Perfume Genius, is a musician from Seattle. His most recent album is Set My Heart On Fire Immediately (Matador, 2020).

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    1

    WESTERMAN, YOUR HERO IS NOT DEAD (Partisan)

    Somehow strange, inventive, and forward-thinking—but still warm and familiar. My favorite cocktail.

    2

    JULIANNA BARWICK, HEALING IS A MIRACLE (Ninja Tune)

    Barwick’s musical salve truly slows down time, making you feel held. After a song is over, you feel like you’ve been recalibrated.

    3

    NINA SIMONE, “MY WAY” (RCA Victor)

    I want this cover to be played at my funeral. This is well known by those around me, so I might as

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  • Ever New

    FOR FIVE DECADES, Beverly Glenn-Copeland quietly transcribed the melodies that floated to him, as he tells it, as if from a distant radio tower. A classically trained singer born to two musicians in Philadelphia, he released his first pair of albums—Beverly Copeland (1970) and Beverly Glenn-Copeland (1971)—after moving to Montreal to study music at McGill University. Both records showcase his agile and adventurous songwriting in a jazz-inflected folk style; neither enabled him to gain a foothold in an industry that had little room for queer Black singer-songwriters. Glenn-Copeland wouldn’t

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  • Madame Butterfly

    FOR MANY WISHFUL LISTENERS, Arca sounded trans long before she publicly identified as such. Even if the Venezuelan-born producer and vocalist hadn’t named her debut album, Xen (2014), after a feminine alter-ego she’d cultivated since childhood, the music, which writhed and oozed like a pupating insect, would have invited such a reading: It stirred with unstable and viscous electronic tones, hinting at identity in flux. Mutant, in 2015, followed suit; both were tellingly illustrated by computer-generated images of ambiguous bodies spilling, tumorous, from their own skins. Before she changed her

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  • Special Delivery

    AN ETERNITY AGO, the death of Little Richard reignited some debate around the Black queer image in contemporary music. In terms of visibility, we’ve certainly come leaps and bounds since the early days of Queen Richard. Survival is another story. But at that cultural nexus emerging from the Homocore movement of the ’90s, punk rock, and queer Black radicalism, a certain confluence of musicians, filmmakers, writers, and authors continue to find loud, destructive ways to make a living. One of those people is Alli Logout. A Texas-born twenty-seven-year-old musician and filmmaker based in New Orleans,

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  • WHERE’S THE PARTY

    TECHNO WAS BORN BLACK in the American Midwest, although we have the twin engines of European connoisseurship and commercial interest to thank for the detailed hagiographies given to innovators like Carl Craig. Craig’s enormous influence is due as much to his label, Planet E Communications, as to his prolific output as a producer and DJ. In the early 1990s, his adventuresome yet accessible style formed an integral part of what fans call Detroit techno’s “second wave.” The most distinctive feature of Craig’s music may be its lack of distinctiveness. Always tasteful, his most idiosyncratic and

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