Since moving to the D.C. area I’ve been making efforts to not only be a proud member of the LGBTQ+, but also to create loving queer friendships I didn’t have growing up.
At first, it was overwhelming to put myself out there while still figuring out my identity. But one thing that made coming out smooth was the music scene.
Going to a couple shows, I noticed that many music spaces in the DMV were also queer spaces. And without even trying, I found so many artists and bands in the area who were passionate about their identities, which inspired me to be myself.
So in honor of those amazing bands that helped make my queer identity a cherished part of my life, here is a playlist of songs from my favorite DMV projects started by queer people.
“Final Girl” – Pretty Bitter
Up at the top of this list are my all-time D.C. favs, Pretty Bitter. Aside from being a fun bunch to be around, Pretty Bitter has this kick-ass sound that puts synth-pop into a modern alternative context while utilizing exceptionally original and nuanced lyrics. “Final Girl,” a single from their upcoming release “Hinges,” is a great measure of those positives and easily establishes Pretty Bitter’s place as my first pick.
“I Saw Violence” – Spring Silver
Self-described as “they/themcore” and “queer metal,” Spring Silver is a Maryland-based band that draws from dreamy shoegaze, hardcore sensibilities and the society around them. With “I Saw Violence,” the band makes a strong statement of state-sanctioned brutality and how times haven’t changed as much as we hoped.
“End of Time” – Bad Moves
Bad Moves is the perfect amalgamation of punk roots and pop sounds that I’ve been looking for in a band. Serving as the final track to their 2020 release “Untenable,” “End of Time” is this hilarious tongue-in-cheek song that reflects upon our crumbling industrial society, uniting that idea with Beach Boys-esque good vibes incognizance. It’s a fun song that’s also pretty smart.
“Fade” – Lavender
With bands like Lavender, the shoegaze sound gets pushed to extraordinary new heights. “Fade” is this romantically tragic song that reminds me of my teen days spent crying in parked cars. But instead of getting embarrassed by the teen melodrama, “Fade” pushes me to confront those feelings in such a euphoric manner.
“I Was Waiting For You To Call” – Scorpio
Speaking of rehashing old feelings, Lavender’s Alli Vega (aka Scorpio) goes above and beyond in capturing my corrupted nostalgia with “I Was Waiting For You To Call.” Referencing screaming matches that end in tears and the overwhelming fear that young love has died out, I can’t get over how much I love this song despite the tears rolling down my face.
“Bad Girls” (M.I.A) – Tezrah vs Hardwell Remix
It wouldn’t be a queer D.C. playlist if I didn’t have some of the District’s beloved DJs on here. Remixing the iconic M.I.A single “Bad Girls,” local producer Tezrah turns this female anthem into a dance floor thrasher with amazing build-ups and hypnotic instrumentals. And this is from her Deedubs era, so think about how many awesome remixes she’s put out since then.
“BLK GLD” – The Coolots
An incredible group that refuses to be defined by convention, The Coolots are an intersectional D.C. rock band that is proud to be Black. Their newest track “BLK GLD” highlights their love for Afro-centered communities and comments the resiliency of Black lives with strong verses and drum beats I get a total kick out of.
“Boyfriend For The Night” – Bryce Bowyn
Intimate nights and temporary love are the focus of Bryce Bowyn’s “Boyfriend For The Night.” A sweet-sounding pop ballad on the surface, it becomes emotionally nuanced by acknowledging that certain connections aren’t lasting and that enjoying what does ring clear is good for the soul. Even if it’s fleeting.
“Everything Ugly” – Bacchae
Once featured with high regards on the HomoGround music podcast, what strikes me about Bacchae (BOCK-eye) is how they’ve recreated the wacky B-52’s sound. It’s punk music that isn’t afraid to take pop influences and isn’t too rigid to embrace narratives that aren’t euro-centric or hetero-normative.
“Therapy Session of the Therapist Friend” – Vanya And The Egomaniacs
Introspective queer rock at its finest, this Vanya and The Egomaniacs track talks about a real role in social relationships that gets no love: the friend who fixes everything. With songs like this, I latch onto every word because of the amazing storyline present. Along with that, the hushed backgrounds and bold leads make for such an emotional song.
“R St. Theme” – Black Folks Don’t Swim?
Embracing gender-variety and making music that’s smoother than I’ll ever be, Black Folks Don’t Swim? has this patented jazzy soul that gives life to the Black American narrative. And marketing this song as a theme is genius given how it could fit into any Oscar-worthy movie with ease.
“TBABY” – Ekko Astral
This is the queer punk project that I’ve been waiting for. Ekko Astral’s “TBABY” flawlessly captures the idea of the “Transdemic,” the time during quarantine when transgender people like myself finally acknowledged their identities and made strides to come out. It’s punk rock, in-your-face and takes no backseat to cisgender bull crap. Finally, here’s a song that shows trans angst in all its glory.
“She” (Green Day) – Brenda Miriam Tyler
Honestly, I wouldn’t have guessed this was a Green Day cover given how remarkably stand-alone and unique Tyler’s rendition is. Taking this classic album liner from 1994’s Dookie, Tyler modernizes these long-standing lyrics with a new and invigorating trans narrative. It’s tender-hearted and exposes complex feelings in a manner that (sorry) Green Day could never do.
“Fool’s Errand” – Extraterra
Featuring vocals from Pretty Bitter’s Emelia Bleker with guitar from bandmate Brenda Miriam Tyler, “Fool’s Errand” is a heart-wrenching journey from complicated childhoods to social relationships of the same vein. Regardless of our age, our identities are always juxtaposed by a growing anxiety that all our efforts are “fool’s errands,” actions in futility.
“Dick Mic” – Boy With Cow
Silver Spring punks Boy With Cow have this incredibly authentic and raw sound that apologizes to no one. The instruments are loud, the vocals are screamed with passion and the lyrics embrace an astonishingly crude nature that’s sure to put off any posers. It’s non-binary fight music at its best.
“Precious Pressure” – Lobby Boy
Indie Dance has always been a constant on my playlists. But with Lobby Boy’s “Precious Pressure,” I think the genre’s bound to become all I listen to. Featuring beautifully personal lyrics to sing along to and a backing sound that inspires me to bust some awkward dance moves, this song invokes an almost coming-of-age feel within myself.
“Socks In The Red Room” – Be Steadwell
I’ve always found it important for music to be intersectional. And Be Steadwell’s “Socks In The Red Room” goes above and beyond with this cheeky yet intelligent ode to a Black queer woman’s life. A smooth and light-hearted sound, Steadwell makes well-deserved jabs at white complacency and establishes herself and her identities boldly. She’s cooler than ice cold, but sings with such intention.
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