“What Is Instead?”: Blue Hawaii’s Untogether, Five Years On

At first glance, the cover art for Blue Hawaii’s sophomore album, Untogether, acts as an obvious metaphor for codependence. On it, members Raphaelle Standell-Preston and Alex “Agor” Cowan embrace as ghostly figures, their bodies literally sinking into one another. The dissolution is subtly one-sided, however. Cowan remains solid, while Standell is transparent, the edges of her blurring into his. It is the nature—and subsequent fallout—of this boundary-less, imbalanced intimacy that lends the album such lasting impact.

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Selections from Music by Women 2017: The Year in Queer

A new addition to our spreadsheet, the LGBTQ+ table offers an amazing breadth of voices working across all genres, making for some of the most forward-thinking offerings on the list. What follows is a guide through twelve of our highlights from this last calendar year.

Listen to the full Music by Women 2017 LGBTQ+ Playlists: Apple Music / Spotify

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Review: Japanese Breakfast, Soft Sounds From Another Planet

Note: This piece was originally published as part of the /r/Indieheads 2017 Album of the Year series.

Over the course of her two albums as Japanese Breakfast, Michelle Zauner has turned the project primarily into an act of world-building. From the family photo that graces the cover of her 2016 debut Psychopomp to the lengthy note and freehand illustrations and accompanying each song in the lyric booklet for its follow-up Soft Sounds From Another Planet, she evokes a highly personalized sense of the world around her. Japanese Breakfast is a space in which Zauner mediates her experience of this world and, through the visual mythology that informs the project, invites the listener to do the same with theirs.

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Spotify, Streaming, and the Erasure of Access

Whenever I recommend a lesser-known album to my friends, I get asked the same question right away: “Is it on Spotify?” In a time where fewer people than ever are buying music, and most can only afford a monthly streaming service, Spotify’s near-monopoly of the streaming market gives this question a sinister subtext. When those loyal to a streaming service ask, “is it on [blank],” what they are implying is, “if it isn’t, I’m not listening to it.”

In making the Spotify playlists for this year’s Music by Women spreadsheet, I took note of the releases which were not available on streaming services. When I looked at them, I noticed an unsettling trend: these albums were largely made by LGBTQ+, POC, and non-English speaking artists. While the difference between being on Bandcamp instead of a Spotify playlist may seem like a minor technicality, it dramatically increases the likelihood of these releases being ignored.

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