Remember Jones ~ “boys+girls+inbetween”
The honor of the first review ever goes to the outstanding single from the new album by the New Jersey musician now performing as Remember Jones. I had the honor of meeting him years before he formed the band, also called Remember Jones. And I’m as proud as a fan can be of this killer track from their exciting, ambitious album HAHA, BITCH! From its start, the first echoes of high heels clicking towards you across the floor introduce a popping, snapping, agitated rhythm. Verses wrapped in a danceable, bounce-able melody reveal nuances. One is captured if not enthralled by “boys+girls+inbetween.”
“A deck needs aces, kings and queens/boys and girls and inbetween”
Okay, let’s see here. The ace is the top card, and aces are the in-between folks? “Duh!” I replied to myself.
A great metaphor like that makes one consider new things one thinks one knows. If you’re paying attention — and if you’re LGBTQ, I’ll assume you are — we cis folks have been getting an education about Trans and gender fluid folks for many years now. Even paying attention to our culture, with multiple recent prominent events and media depicting Trans and gender fluid folks front and center, equating “aces” with “inbetween” transforms my understanding. 40 years since I first was exposed to the reality that many cultures, especially indigenous ones, assign spiritual authority and power to their in-between people, and this is the most eloquent take I’ve ever heard on “inbetween” pride, with aces placed unequivocally where they belong.
Don’t you love a fresh new metaphor?
Girlboy ~ “Year of the Queers”
Girlboy describes themselves as “contagious, sunshine-slinging pop hop.” Catch their spirit! Sometimes, the promo blurb ain’t BS. Coming-back-from-COVID references in 2022 songs are almost a genre, as is drag queen rap, but much more than that is going on here. “Year of the Queers” begins with a summery 70s groove (the band War comes to mind). Girlboy’s increasingly spirited pro-Queer vibe rises until we’re commanded to “Raise your fucking hands!” Testify, Sister! Suddenly you can feel wood floor foot-stomps thunder forth, catching you thrillingly unaware of just how committed this song is to get you to jump up from your seat. Unlike most pop songs that appropriate a Gospel music feel, this track has earned the right to take you to church. A track that began almost cute lifts into joyful gratitude: “Take your vision to the skyline!”
Billy Mick ~ “Start All Over Again”
“Every day a little kind, a little wise, a little stronger.” Who is Billy Mick? What I know is in this track. I call these kinds of songs “aspirational”. They usually have a positive attitude (Check!), encouraging the listener to meet their challenges (Check!), without sounding like the song is preaching The Answers to your problems (mostly check!).
Hear more from Mick on his fine new album Leveling Up.
Mike Maimone, JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound – “Stay”
When you know your lover’s every crazy, enraging move, getting out feels like the right move. Until that is, you realize they also know YOUR every crazy, infuriating move. To stay might be perfect after all. Maimone puts it perfectly (go ahead, let your jaw drop):
“It’s crazy to love; if you’re crazy enough then I’ll Stay.” “I wanna leave you / wanna love you / wanna fight you / wanna fuck you. / Nobody sane / will do.“
And WHOA! What’s happening in that break?! Musique concrète?!?! Whatever one calls it, it’s magnificent. I’ve followed Mike Maimone’s progress for nearly a decade, and unexpected added touches like that make my ears happy. Back then, I heard flashes of brilliant lyrics sung in the voice of a survivor. Now his singing voice and his poetic voice exude hard-won confidence at every turn. Joining him on “Stay” is JC Brooks and his band, The Uptown Sound: as tasty a rocking, funky outfit as one could want. Their in-the-pocket grooves are made to go down smooth — and don’t betray the work it takes to make it sound that easy.
All their trends-defying talents should be celebrated! “All he needs now” (air quotes) is an audience to catch on that they’re sleeping on him.
Adam RC ~ “Novocaine”
The first of two songs that claim the singer lacks feelings, but which are all about feelings that run deep. “Novocaine” pulls off depicting the relentless drag of “the same shit, different day,” running smack into human grit and determination. Has this ever been done before? Or described before? I’m still mystified how he did it.
Madison Violet ~ “The Sycamore”
“The Sycamore” has as beautiful an arrangement as I can imagine for two verses and a chorus. The intro flute and guitar nearly behave as if they’re the gentle beginning of Kabuki theater music. Then, suddenly, you’re transported to witness sycamore-like beauty filled with pain, an ode to a loving relationship. The eye-widening chorus discloses a self-protective dissociation. And I love hearing additional details hidden in what, on first listening, seems to be a basic, folky accompaniment. Then, on repeat, the colors reveal themselves, the little extras that mean so much, the absolutely intentional touches that distinguish remarkable from rote. “The Sycamore” is extraordinary.
Remember Jones ~ “bloom”
Had to return to HAHA, BITCH! for the least likely song to find on an album with that name. It’s one of those rare albums that triumph at almost as many different styles of songs as album cuts, from disco pop to punk with a ska break. But the two acoustic guitars-driven “bloom” can not be denied. “And when it’s time for me to go / I’ll still be here … to watch you bloom.”
Simple, beautiful — simply beautiful. I thought “bloom” was a song about a young person growing into adulthood, witnessed with love. But the more I listen (dozens of times), the more I hear how it would appeal more broadly.
Demi Lovato ~ “Substance”
Some of you readers may be shocked to learn it took time for me to warm to Lovato’s catalog. She’s definitely proven repeatedly in recent years that she’s not one of the too numerous bisexual-because-it’s-trendy pop divas and wannabes. It took me a minute to recognize her substantial abilities. Placing the loud, powerful and exasperated “Substance” in the list after two substantial but quiet and powerful songs feels right. And the lyrics ring true: “Got high, it only left me lonely and loveless / … Give me the real shit, Give me the magic…”
Myylo ~ “Pink Boy Heart”
And sometimes, all some very old-school lyrics need to be refreshed is little more than a fresh young attitude and a new idea to hang them on. Like: “I feel my Pink Boy Heart exploding / whenever you stay the night.”
File under “Truly Irresistible Cuteness.”
P!nk ~ “Irrelevant”
I’ve been crying a lot lately. Not because I’m sad.
Because I’m moved by the beauty of the music I’ve been listening to.
Often it’s the astonishing poetry of song lyrics. But I’m also amazed by the novel combinations of extraordinary sounds indie musicians can now create. And by the freedoms, they have to express previously silenced minority and individual personalities, identities, styles, and opinions. I’m filled with gratitude that I got to see this happen.
One doesn’t have to find the broadest, most mainstream audience possible. A successful career in a niche market was once rare. It’s a different landscape today. There’s a glut of indie music, but also a glut of amazing music. And if you’re an established artist, you keep up. P!nk’s ability to keep up without losing her solid identity has my long-running appreciation. Almost taken for granted, she consistently captivates, with her high-quality, socially engaged Pop.
“Irrelevant,” asks what kind of future young people face. How will recent court decisions and laws passed through minority rule affect girls’ (but not just girls!) lives? “Irrelevant” is a fight song, AND it’s personal-is-political poetry. Let the word-flow touch you. You might cry, too. Spot-on production shifts tone as needed but supports lyrics aimed at big targets — ambitious goals, but good poetry reaches for big resonances.
“Irrelevant” also is an example of a flurry of pro-women and pro-women’s healthcare, anger-channeling songs released since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision. Hear more of them among many other curated, best Q music tracks in my monthly Spotify playlists, Out Now Queer As Folk 2022-6 June
and Out Now Queer As Folk 2022-7 July