There’s a New Queer in Town
If you’re new here and you’re queer, soundtrack your inaugural Portland Pride festivities (and familiarize yourself with some of the city’s most noteworthy musicians) with this mini playlist of songs that range from angsty to sensual to empowering.
Black Belt Eagle Scout, “Soft Stud”
Black Belt Eagle Scout (AKA Katherine Paul) released one of the most staggering local debuts of 2017 with Mother of My Children. Paul recorded the album near the small reservation in northwest Washington where she grew up, and played every instrument herself. With grungy post-rock melodies and intensely personal lyrics, its eight tracks revolve around Paul and her identity as a “radical indigenous queer feminist.” The record’s lead single “Soft Stud” takes inspiration from Pacific Northwest legends Hole, with echoing vocals and fuzzy electric guitar riffs building to a climax around repetitions of the contradictory realities of, “Need you, want you/I know you’re taken.”
When Portland singer, rapper, and dancer Maarquii (AKA Marquise Dickerson) dropped their iconic “Wirecutters” music video last year, they told OUT, “I live for a look, for drama, for gender fluidity... I’m driven by the need for Black, femme bodies being represented in music and media. It is extremely important right now for Black women/femmes to be loud, seen, and heard at all costs. The feminine is a consciousness, and it is one that I’m highly interested in maintaining a connection to.” That consciousness courses through Maarquii’s 2016 debut Heavy Petty and the dreamy R&B of their 2017 EP Lullaby in Gemini (which features Dnvn and Chanti Darling), with producer JVNITOR’s dark, murky beats and whip-smart lyrics about everything from racism to sexuality to lollipops to pussy-popping at a funeral.
Frankie Simone, “Queer”
Frankie Simone just dropped her debut EP Love//Warrior earlier this month, and it’s packed with the kind of dancefloor-ready rhythms that could easily wind up on the Billboard charts. The Puerto Rican pop queen’s standout track “Queer” celebrates queer love with finger snaps, stomping beats, and the definitive statement that “it’s okay to be queer and proud,” so it’s the perfect rallying anthem for Pride. Love//Warrior is rebellious, unapologetic, and straightforward pop music with uplifting hooks and honest lyrics about Simone’s experiences navigating the world and her own relationships as a queer woman. Keep an eye out for her name on local bills—Simone’s performances typically feature killer choreography and lots of powerful energy.
The Last Artful, Dodgr, “Oofda”
The Last Artful, Dodgr (AKA Alana Chenevert) is quickly becoming one of the biggest names in Portland, and for good reason. With a title referencing the Soviet-era practice of pressing bootleg records on x-rays, the rapper’s 2017 debut Bone Music showcases her raspy flow alongside producer Neill Von Tally’s moody, aqueous beats. Dodgr nearly burned down the Galaxy Barn at Pickathon last year when she performed the album’s smoldering lead single “Oofda” in complete darkness.
Mira Death, “Holly”
Take my word for it: Mira Death is one of the most talented songwriters in Portland. Fronting the all-trans glam-punk outfit Sweeping Exits, Death released The Projectionist EP in 2016, which tells the story of a vampiric young woman working at a movie theater in the 1950s who literally consumes predatory men in the audience. The following year Sweeping Exits unveiled the LP Glitter & Blood, which follows a vampire queen who’s plotting the demise of the violent and bigoted human race. Inspired by Nick Cave’s macabre lyrics, the harmonic structures of dark 1960s jazz, and Italian film scores, both releases reclaim the power of queer people through cinematic narratives rooted in horror. “Holly” is one of the excellent new solo tracks Death’s released this year, with a frantic haunted-castle piano melody, ghoulish shrieks, an electronic beat, and her repeated plea, “Silence, silence, silence, hold me down, hold me.”