2023 has already been a great year for music. In honor of reaching the year’s halfway mark, I’ve compiled five of my favorite albums released so far in 2023 (in no particular order), as well as five albums I’m looking forward to spinning later this year.
As we usher in this year’s Pride Month, I think about how frightening it has become to exist as a queer person in the United States.
Amid a sudden resurgence of anti-LGBT rhetoric, expressed both through discourse and legislation, I feel far removed from the corporatized and polished version of Pride that has been offered to us in recent years.
Thus, I have decided to spend this month highlighting aspects of queer history the mainstream often finds unpalatable. I aim to cast a spotlight upon subversive queer artists and the often-obscured dynamics of queer music history.
The best place to start is with a band whose audacious queerness empowered its fans to live their lives unapologetically and with radical self-love in the face of an often-stifling heteronormative society.
In staunch opposition to the concept of “queer marketability,” this group expressed the crux of the queer experience as something deeply emotional, often sexual and ultimately transcendental.
Limp Wrist, Raised Fist
Limp Wrist emerged in 1998 from a Philadelphia basement.
Their first performance a year later at Stalag 13, a now-defunct venue in West Philly known for its status as a punk powerhouse, carried them into the subcultural consciousness.
Following the dissolution of Chicago-based band Los Crudos, singer Martin Sorrondeguy and guitarist Mark Telfian decided to form Limp Wrist as a means of addressing dynamics affecting the queer community.
The band’s first release was “Don’t Knock It Till You Try It,” a self-released demo featuring savage drums and guitar and barely-comprehensible lyrics about men-loving-men.
Their most well-known song, “I Love Hardcore Boys, I Love Boys Hardcore,” validated the presence of queerness within the hardcore punk scene, with the song’s lyrics illustrating shameless themes of sexual attraction.
I love hardcore boys, it’s too good to be true One on one or the whole damn crew It’s all exciting for us so lets give it a whirl I love hardcore boys cuz they make my toes curl
Limp Wrist, “I Love Hardcore Boys, I Love Boys Hardcore”
An all-gay band, Limp Wrist stands as a pioneer of the punk queercore movement.
Also known as “homocore,” queercore emerged as an offshoot of the punk subculture in the 1980s in response to societal hostility towards the LGBT community.
Bands associated with the subculture produced songs exploring sexuality, gender identity and the intersection of queer identities with systemic oppression.
The queercore movement primarily expressed itself through the DIY convictions of the punk movement, with members producing zines, films and other forms of art.
Limp Wrist’s contribution to the queercore subculture lay in its musical content.
With lyrics decrying homophobia and the straight hegemony as well as tounge-in-cheek quips about corporatized homosexuality, Limp Wrist created a space for unrestrained male queerness.
Don’t be the world’s punching bag A defenseless queer open for attack Thick Skin –They can’t get through Layer upon layer they can’t get through
Limp Wrist, “Thick Skin”
Submissive tired f—ing scene Boring predictable queens Absorb and swallow what’s being pushed Individuality is crushed
Limp Wrist, “Fake Fags”
During live shows, band members implored queer men to “stop hating their bodies” and “stop imitating Daddy.”
At one performance, frontman Martin Sorrondeguy told the audience “there’s not nearly enough guys in here with their shirts off right now,” a statement reflecting the band’s staunch philosophy of sexual expression and self-love.
Limp Wrist Today
A self-proclaimed project band, Limp Wrist’s inactivity is largely due to the fact that none of its members have ever lived in the same city as one another.
In a way, this makes it all the more special when they finally come together.
The band’s most recent activity includes a 2018 show at The Regent in Los Angeles and a 45-minute radio show with NTS Remote Utopias in May of 2020.
While the band still remains inactive on all platforms, hope prevails that current political tensions may compell them to rekindle Limp Wrist’s unique spark.
Much like many other people who frequently listen to the WKNC daytime block, I was raised on the outdated music of my parents. I mistakenly assumed that there had to be a reason I only heard older music at home: it had to be better than new music or something.
I am glad I do not think this way anymore. Amazing music has been made in all kinds of genres and being open minded is what allows you to appreciate as much of it as possible.
Questionable Beatles Appreciation
So yeah, when I was younger, I really liked The Beatles. I listened to the “1” album (a compilation album including many of their largest hits) over and over again. For some reason, I thought this made me an authority on music or something.
A few things happened when music was brought up around me during that time which I now think are pretty funny.
Not being the friend you want to talk about music to
I was talking to a friend in seventh grade and he asked me what my favorite Beatles song was because he knew I loved their music. I had a hard time choosing a song so he told me his favorite song. The song was “Across the Universe”.
That song is often though to be one of the best Beatles songs. It has been covered by numerous artists including Fiona Apple, David Bowie and strangely even Evanescence…
Despite the songs critical acclaim, 13 year old me had no clue that the song existed so I told him, “I have never heard it, it probably sucks”.
This was an unfortunate thing for me to say about one of his favorite songs. I definitely did not “win” that conversation.
Music has such an awesome ability to bring people together and I was definitely not utilizing that at 13.
Struggling to know the decades
In sixth grade, my history teacher began talking about music and asked the class what our favorite 80’s bands were. I raised my hand and when I was called on I told the class that The Beatles were my favorite 80’s band. The teacher gave me a look as if I had said something wrong but I was not really sure why.
I later realized that The Beatles broke up 10 years before the decade even began.
Bonus story: Being mildly traumatized by recorded music
This story comes from when I was much younger but I thought I should include it. I was probably three or four and I was in the bath with my mom supervising me. A CD Boombox (an AM-FM radio with a built in CD player) was on the bathroom counter and the White Album by The Beatles was inside it playing.
Many people think that the album is too unfocused as it has many songs that are strange diversions, but I loved the stories and sounds in the songs as a child.
My mom briefly left the room and a song from the B side of the record that I had not heard before began playing. The track was “Revolution 9”.
If you have never heard the song, maybe consider listening to it so you could better understand how a three year old brain would react to it. The song sounds like it was designed to scare kids with its reversed dialogue, baby cries, rising orchestral pitches, crashing cymbals, distressed voices and other harsh sounds.
A fun bath time with soap bubbles soon became visceral horror. I was definitely crying and belligerent while this was happening.
What made this even worse was that I happened to be so small that I could not reach the CD player when I got out of the bath to skip the song so I just had to listen to it. I do not remember if the full 8 minutes and 22 seconds of the track played out or if my mom came back and stopped it but either way I was not having a good time.
I am still freaked out by that song (even though I think it is conceptually cool) and have skipped it while alone a few times.
Don’t be pretentious, especially not if you have no clue what you are talking about. You don’t want to sound like a middle-school aged Beatles fan, do you?
House music began in the underground clubs of 1980s-era Chicago.
Defined by its signature four-on-the-floor beat and classical tempo of 120 beats per minute, house served as the foundation for contemporary pop and dance music.
Despite house music’s significant cultural impact, its history is rarely addressed in discourse.
Not only was house music instrumental in the development of many contemporary music genres, but it was rooted in unequivocal Black queerness.
The Death of Disco
Before house, there was disco.
Emerging in the 1970s, disco formed with influences from the LGBT community, Italian Americans, Hispanic and Latine Americans and Black Americans.
The genre was known for its four-on-the-floor beats, syncopated basslines, string sections, brass and horns, electric pianos, synths and electric rhythm guitars.
Though its elevaton to the mainstream distanced the genre from its roots, disco’s inception was starkly countercultural: a response to the aggression (and subcultural hypermasculinity) of rock and the social stigma surrounding dance music.
Derived from within marginalized communities, disco represented a richness in history and culture far removed from the straight white hegemony of the twentieth century.
Disco centered on vivid, unapologetic self-expression rooted in the era’s overarching sexual revolution. Groups like Earth Wind & Fire and Kool and the Gang emerged, bringing disco — and its message — to a broader audience.
However, such popularity also garnered enmity.
Disco Demolition Night, an event often marked as the death of disco, occured July 12, 1979 at Chicago’s Comiskey Park.
During the event, originally marketed as a Major League Baseball promotion, a crate of disco records was blown up on the field. Chaos ensued as thousands of audience members rushed out after the explosion in a riot.
This brazen display of hatred for disco music riveted the nation, inflaming the stigma already surrounding the genre. In the years following the event, disco’s popularity nosedived.
The once-bustling scene faded into virtual obscurity.
The Birth of House
In the decade proceeding the death of disco, queer Black DJs in Chicago’s underground club scene began developing something new, something that expanded upon the danceability and expressivity of disco.
Among these DJs was the openly-gay Frankie Knuckles, whose impact on the genre’s development earned him the moniker “Godfather of House.”
Knuckles defined himself in the scene by playing unique mixes, blending together tracks and experimenting with different sounds and speeds. He also pioneered the practice of adding a drum machine and reel-to-reel tape player to create new tracks.
In the background of Knuckles’ musical innovations, a darkness was brewing. In June 1981, the first cases of the illness now known as AIDS were identified in five young gay men in Los Angeles.
House as a Home
While some argue that Knuckles was not the founder of house (in fact, the source of the name “house” is even contested) as a genre, it’s undeniable that his passion for the craft helped transform house into an international phenomenon.
Like disco, house was born from the creative influences of queer people of color. Its vibrance reflected a desire for freedom, autonomy and actualization.
Dance halls were unifying spaces in which patrons could exist without fear. They became sanctuaries for individuals cast out of their broader communities on the basis of their sexual and/or gender identities.
Additionally, house reflected a bold response to the “murder” of disco at the hands of (majority white and heterosexual) detractors.
House rose from disco’s ashes a stronger, more sensational being. And it still goes strong today.