To listen: 4 must-have songs by queer artists, plus the highly anticipated new album from Japanese Breakfast

Musician Rostam Batmanglij performs live in 2017 at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles. Photo: Emma McIntyre / Getty Images

The guide to chronicling notable new music.


Rostam, “Changephobia” (Matsor Projects)

When Rostam Batmanglij left the ubiquitous Brooklyn band Vampire Weekend in 2016, he said his identity as a songwriter and producer “must stand on its own.” That’s exactly what he’s been up to since: he produced acclaimed albums by Haim and Clairo, released his solo debut as Rostam, and released a collaborative album with Walkmen singer Hamilton Leithauser.

Now on her second outing, the queer and Grammy-winning artist has created her finest pop songs to date. A baritone saxophone floats alongside soft touches and finger snaps on “Unfold You,” evoking imagery of seeing the few stars peeking across the sky in one’s corner of New York. “4 Runner” is a modern day ode to traveling the road to anywhere with a lover, and the title song’s humble drumbeat atop more bari-sax asks us to confront our feelings as it might not be the easiest thing to do.

Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad, “João Donato JID 007” (Jazz is dead)

Every new episode in the ongoing Jazz Is Dead series from producer-songwriters Younge and Muhammad instantly became essential listening. Each album focuses on a different jazz luminary from the past, whom the duo brought to their studio to create music together. We’ve highlighted much of the series, like albums featuring Oakland saxophonist Gary Bartz, timeless vibraphonist Roy Ayers and now their seventh outing, which focuses on the creative mastery of the Brazilian composer and pioneer of the funky bossa nova João Donato.

The convergence of fine studio jazz with the Brazilian fury of the brass on the sidewalks of “Forever More” is fantastic. The “Adrian Ali and Gregory” composed by Donato brings together in perfect harmony the keys of Rhodes, the flute, a silky bass line and the drums of Greg Paul. What the prolific Younge and Muhammad are accomplishing with JID is one of the most exciting musical projects going on right now.


Japanese breakfast, “Jubilee” (Dead Oceans)

In March, “Be Sweet,” the first single from Michelle Zauner’s highly anticipated third album, Japanese Breakfast, was our song of the moment.

In April, The Chronicle also featured a review of Zauner’s latest book, “Crying in H Mart,” a memoir that, among other things, examines how the Korean-American artist dealt with grief through food and bonded with it. her terminally ill mother. In May, Chronicle’s food critic Soleil Ho invited Zauner to the “Extra Spicy” podcast to talk about the book’s lean food.

Now I hope you understand how accessible Zauner’s music and writing has become to so many people and that “Jubilee” is one of the must-see releases of this year. It’s more than just an indie pop album; it’s a confident approach to avant-pop with expansive instrumentation and ambitious arrangements to complement Zauner’s flourishing songwriting.


Mykki Blanco, “Free Ride” (Transgressive)

Blanco left his mark in the Bay Area with a stunning performance at the Feels 6 Festival at Richmond’s Craneway Pavilion in 2018. Now on the “Free Ride” produced by Hudson Mohawke and FaltyDL, the queercore rapper is accompanied by a choir and cinematic ironic about romantic idealism.

The track is slated to appear on the “Broken Hearts & Beauty Sleep” mini album, released on June 18th.

Tasha, “Would you mind pulling me close to me?” ” (Father daughter)

Signed on the indefatigable independent label of San Francisco Father / Daughter Records, the Chicago singer-songwriter has an incredibly heartwarming voice. On “Would You Mind Please Pulling Me Close? She seeks solace amid the sadness of fleeting moments, and her delivery is balm for the isolation blues.

Rosie Tucker, “Habanero” (Epitaph)

From Los Angeles indie rocker ‘Sucker Supreme’ latest album, ‘Habanero’ is a sweet song about hoping a relationship works, but accepting it doesn’t. Go ahead and rank “Wouldn’t we be perfect together if we wanted the exact same thing” as one of the cutest lyrics of this year.

Arooj Aftab, “Last night” (New Amsterdam)

Merging influences from classical music, folk guitar and Middle Eastern sounds, Aftab, born in Pakistan and based in Brooklyn, is an enchanting singer and songwriter. From his recently released album, “Vulture Prince”, “Last Night” is based on an old poem by Rumi. On the track, she sings exquisitely: “Last night my beloved was so beautiful as the moon… even brighter than the sun.


Sundur, “Somewhere There’s Music” (Needle to the Groove)

A staple of the Oakland hip-hop community via his long night out 45 Sessions, DJ Platur bonded online with LA singer Savannah Lancaster at the start of the pandemic to begin creating this trip-hop project.

Like Portishead without the endless despair, the duo behind Sundur (meaning ‘apart’ in Icelandic, a tribute to Platurne’s legacy) created their debut album in different venues by design. As DJ Platur sent Lancaster jazzy and soulful hip-hop beats created in his Bay Area home studio, the Filipino singer – in true lockdown mode – recorded her ending in her apartment walk-in closet. The result is heavenly music suitable for concentration or a pleasant coffee break, with songs like “To the Top” and the opening of the album “My Dear” uplifting tracks that inspire the spirit. This is a great outing that stands beautifully alongside the pillars of trip-hop.

Life in Sweatpants, “Good 2 Yourself” (discount for longtime friends)

Rarely has a song by an unknown band come out of nowhere to affect me as powerfully as this electropop jam from this Bay Area band. The group is purposely mysterious, but they are part of the Long Time Friend Discount collective, which includes San Francisco band Sjowgren (pronounced show-grin), which has impressive streaming numbers and was rotating on the old “Soundcheck” by DJ Aaron Axelsen. local music radio show on Alt 105.3.

On “Good 2 Yourself,” the band shows a clear understanding of the power of gradually building a pop song chorus enough times to satisfy the listener, but always makes us crave more. It’s one of the best songs I’ve heard in 2021 and it will make you want to dance like no one is watching you – in sweatpants, of course.


About Dawn Valle

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