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Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month: Artists to Check Out

Author:
glades

By Stephanie Wang

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, a designation to celebrate the culture, traditions, and history of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States. As a child of immigrants from China, my Asian American identity has been a core part of my identity, allowing me to experience both the cultures of China and the United States. In celebration of this month and recognizing that there’s not a ton of representation of Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in music (and frankly, in the media in general), I’m highlighting some of my favorite Asian American and Pacific Islanders artists that definitely deserve a listen.

glades

1) GLADES –

A trio from Sydney, Australia, GLADES create dreamy, electro-pop. Meeting in high school, the three formed GLADES in 2015. They first gained attention after Troye Sivan tweeted out a video of their cover of his song “Fools”. In 2016, GLADES released their first EP, “This is What I Like.” Coming off tours with LANY and Clean Bandit and a new catchy single called “Do Right,” GLADES is definitely on the rise up. Currently, they’re selling out venues for their May headline tour around Australia.

Listen To: Do Right, Drive, Skylines

run river north

2) Run River North –

Previously known as Monsters Calling Home, Run River North is an indie rock band from Los Angeles, California. You may recognize them from a Jimmy Kimmel performance they landed after their self-produced music video for “Fight To Keep” featured their Hondas and gained the attention of the carmaker itself. Vocalist Alex Hwang, in an interview with Sound of Boston, speaking on being an Asian American band in the music industry, “On one hand, since there aren’t many (if any) widely popular all Asian American bands, we’re able stand out amongst a predominantly bearded white majority. This feeling is always affirmed whenever we’re done with a show and a handful of people will make it a point to come up to one of us to tell us that they did not expect our sound coming from our group. But the flip side is that we could be easily labeled as a gimmick or just seen as the ‘Asian’ version of that white folk, alt-rock, indie band that people love.” They’ve released two albums, Run River North (2014) and Drinking from a Salt Pond (2016). In addition, Run River North just released a new single earlier this year, “Funhouse,” and will be on tour early May around the mid-west.

Listen to: 29, Run or Hide, Superstition

mitski

3) Mitski –

A Japanese American indie singer-songwriter, Mitski Miyawaki graduated from SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Music, releasing two albums while she was in school (Lush in 2012 and Retired From Sad, New Career in Business). Since graduating, she’s released two critically-acclaimed albums, Bury Me At Makeout Creek (2014) and Puberty 2 (2016). Her music reflects her cross-cultural identity as “half Japanese, half American, but not fully either,” and many of her songs explore themes of not belonging and vulnerability. Currently, you can find Mitski opening for Lorde on her Melodrama Tour.

Listen to: Your Best American Girl, First Love / Late Spring, I Bet On Losing Dogs

zhu

4) ZHU –

Born an only child, per the Chinese national mandate, Steven Zhu, known as ZHU professionally, immigrated to San Francisco with his parents when he was five. At first, ZHU released his electronic music anonymously, determined to let his music speak for itself. It paid off as ZHU would later land a deal with Columbia records and win a Grammy Award nomination for Best Dance Recording in 2015 for his song “Faded,” all without showing his face. Since then, he’s released his first album, GENERATIONWHY in 2016, which featured a collaboration with Skrillex and included a short film he wrote. More recently, he released the single “My Life,” a collaboration with Tame Impala. About his music, Zhu has said, “This project is all about art, and we try to make it all about the songs and the response. Being able to have everyone focus back on music is the first step. But the second is to have influence and have people care.”

Listen to: Hometown Girl, Generationwhy, Faded

hayley kiyoko

5) Hayley Kiyoko –

Hayley Kiyoko is having a great year – earlier this year, she released her first album, Expectations, she’s gained mainstream media attention and a cult following, and she’s going on a headlining tour before touring with Panic! At the Disco and A R I Z O N A later this summer. You may recognize her from the Disney movie “Lemonade Mouth” (where she played Stella) or as Velma from the Scooby-Doo movies. Kiyoko is an openly gay, half-Japanese pop artist who sings about her experiences loving girls and directs her own music videos.. She spoke about the importance of LGBT representation in music in a Billboard interview, saying, “I think [queer artists are] what’s giving people encouragement to really be more comfortable with themselves.”

Listen to: What I Need (ft. Kehlani), Cliff’s Edge, Gravel to Tempo

Other recommendations: TRACE (Listen to: Honey, Low, and Away), SALES (Listen to: Chinese New Year, Ivy, and Jamz) , No Vacation (Listen to: Yam Yam, Dream Girl, and August), The Naked and Famous (Listen to: Punching in a Dream, A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, Hearts Like Ours), EDEN (Listen to: Float, Nocturne, Rock + Roll), Superorganism (Listen to: Everybody Wants To Be Famous, Something For You M.I.N.D, The Prawn Song), Thao and the Get Down Stay Down (Listen to: Nobody Dies, Holy Roller, and Meticulous Bird), Son Lux (Listen to: Lost It To Trying, Dream State, Easy), Japanese Breakfast (Listen to: Boyish, Road Head, Diving Woman), San Fermin (Listen to: Emily, Jackrabbit, Asleep on the Train)

PBG’s Alternative/Indie Albums to Look Forward to in 2018

Author:
stephanie4

By Stephanie Wang

2017 was a great year for music, but it’s looking like 2018 may be an even bigger year, especially for alternative and indie fans, with highly anticipated releases from artists like Fall Out Boy, the 1975 and the Arctic Monkeys. While many of these artists have remained silent on the titles and/or dates, they have, at the very least, confirmed that they will be releasing a full-length album in 2018. Here are some that I’m most excited for:

EDEN – vertigo, January 19th

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Formerly releasing dance and electronic music under the alias The Eden Project, 22-year-old Jonathan Ng is now releasing music more subtlety electronic as EDEN. A sharp departure from other musicians, EDEN is a mult-instrumentalist who writes, plays, and produces all of his own music, writing and recording in his own bedroom and even going live on Periscope to play covers and original songs for fans.

Vertigo will mark his first full-length debut, after releasing his 2016 EP i think you think too much of me and his 2015 EP End Credits. EDEN has already released three singles from his full-length due January 19th, 2018 – “start//end,” “gold,” and “crash” – all three deeply personal and emotional songs tackling themes like heartbreak, change, death and new beginnings. EDEN has said, “Releasing this body of work is terrifying and overwhelming for me. A lot of it is so personal. This album is not a coming-of-age story, but it caused one.” In support of his album release, EDEN will also be touring the US and Europe in 2018, with many of the dates already sold out.

BØRNS – TBA, January

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While Garrett Borns aka BØRNS hasn’t officially announced a date or name for his follow-up album to the breakout 2015 debut album Dopamine, in interviews he’s revealed that it’s set to release in January. Since releasing his debut album, BØRNS has gone platinum, sold out headlining theater shows, and performed at huge festivals like Lollapalooza and Coachella. He’s released three singles from the album including “Faded Heart,” “Sweet Dreams,” and “I Don’t Want U Back.” About the sophomore album, BØRNS has said he’s tapped from a “futuristic Beach Boys register.” Typically drawing from older inspiration, namely 60s and 70s rock, he has said that this album is more orchestral and layered, and if the three singles he’s already released are anything to go by, it’s clear that his sophomore album will once again be filled with expressive indie jams.

Rhye – Blood, February 2nd

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Beginning by releasing several singles online without giving any indication as to their identity, Rhye’s origins were defined by mystery, particularly given the androgynous-sounding vocals complemented by synths and piano. With the 2013 release of Woman and resulting tour, the identity of Rhye is no longer a secret, and now, their sophomore album Blood is set to release February 2nd after a pair of two summer singles in 2017, “Please” and “Summer Days.” Three singles from the LP – “Please,” “Taste,” and “Count to Five” – have already been released, and from these songs, it’s clear that the sultry, R&B influence that distinguished their first album is still there. In support of their album, Rhye will be touring throughout North America and Europe in the spring.

Hayley Kiyoko – Expectations, TBA

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After teasing on social media that the name of her debut album was hidden in a picture, Hayley Kiyoko later revealed that her first album would be called Expectations and released in “#20GAYTEEN”. Formerly known as playing Stella in Disney’s Lemonade Mouth movie and Velma in the Scooby-Doo films, Hayley Kiyoko has since been releasing music determined to share her narrative as a gay woman.

What makes Hayley Kiyoko so different from other musicians is not just her background in acting- it’s also her portrayal of LGBTQ+ characters/relationships in several of her music videos and the authenticity of which she does this. She’s since released three EP’s – A Belle to Remember in 2013, This Side of Paradise in 2015, and Citrine in 2016. In 2017, she released three singles – “Sleepover,” “Glory Days” in collaboration with Sweater Beats (who opened for her on her One Bad Night tour in 2017), and “Feelings.” While she hasn’t revealed a specific date for which her full-length album will be released, one thing is sure: it’ll be an album to remember.

The Japanese House – TBA, TBA

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After releasing a series of EP’s (2017’s Saw You in a Dream, 2016’s Swim Against the Tide, 2015’s Clean, and 2015’s Pools to Bathe In) and touring with the 1975, the English indie-pop act the Japanese House is finally releasing a debut full length due in 2018. Known for moody minimalist electronic pop some have described as a mix between Wet and the xx found in songs like “Clean” and “Cool Blue”, the Japanese House brings a unique sound. When first listening to the her, many thought that the Japanese House was another project of the 1975 featuring the vocals of Matty Healy – most are surprised to find out that the Japanese House consists only of 22-year-old Amber Bain.

Potentially teasing the release on social media, she posted 24 photos numerically labeling each one, leading fans to speculate that the album may include 24 songs. In interviews, Amber has revealed that the album will be mostly newer songs, with perhaps one or two songs pulled off of previous EP’s.

Other 2018 Releases: Porches – The House (January 19th), Fall Out Boy – MANIA (January 19th), Franz Ferdinand – Always Ascending (February 9th), Vampire Weekend – Mitsubishi Macchiato (TBA), MGMT – Little Dark Age (TBA), the 1975 – Music for Cars (TBA)

Artists who Plan to Have 2018 Releases*: CHVRCHES, Pale Waves – TBA, Florence and the Machine, Death Cab for Cutie, Courtney Barnett, Carly Rae Jepsen, Grimes, Arctic Monkeys, Bastille

*both name of album and date is unknown but band has said on social media/interviews that an album will be coming in 2018

PBG’s Top Queer/Feminist books 2017

Author:
1 we are never meeting in real life the militant baker samantha irby jes baker

By Anna Hill

Do you like feminist and queer books? I’ve read some really incredible stuff this year – some are just new to me in 2017 and some were published in 2017!

We Are Never Meeting In Real Life by Samanth Irby

I read this at the very beginning of the summer and it was so enjoyable, incredibly funny and heart warming. It had me crying and laughing regularly. I also loved the honesty with which Samantha Irby talked about her life as a marginalised person – the book is a collection of personal essays basically talking informally about Irby’s life as a queer poor fat black woman and about life (lessons) in general. Some of it was so relatable! Some of it was a little heartbreaking and tender in this very self-depreciating voice.

Irby is so so funny and I would 100% recommend this to everyone but especially people who enjoy reading memoirs by women. There is some cissexism, especially in the first chapter and ableist slurs used throughout as well as some depictions of abuse, vomiting and drug/alcohol use.

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

This is such an incredible book!! It’s a mix of memoir and queer theory and it focuses a lot on pregnancy and motherhood. Nelson’s style is really poetic and the work she does in making space for motherhood to realise its queer potential is really beautiful, and I personally found it pretty accessible.

Her work comes down to a discussion about caring, how we care, who cares for us – that’s something we all need to consider within our lives. Never to undermine or erase carers or care work but also to see the radical potential mothering has. I really think all feminists should read this and also all queer theorists – most of whom love to misogynistically disregard mothers as heteronormative and disregard people with wombs as irrelevant to true queer futures!! Which they aren’t!!

Sea-witch Volume 1 and Volume 2 by Never Angel North

Sea-Witch Volume 1: May She Lay us Waste is an experimental trans-memoir graphic novel about love, community, girl-ness and pain. It speaks to the experience of Sara and the time she spent living inside a witch god named Sea-Witch. It’s also about family and Sea-Witch’s community of sisters and the 78 Men Who Cause Pain (78MWCP) via making laws and being cops and fighting against so called monsters like Sea-Witch. The story is told through scribbles and sigils, words, quotes, drawings and photographs.

Sea-Witch Volume 2: Girldirt Angelfog is just as weird, interesting and beautiful as the first one! Both are so expansive and monstrous, creative and painful, confusing and challenging. The second volume continues Sara’s journey but linear narratives aren’t particularly important to Never Angel North, who is such a fearless breathless author.

These books are for all the freaks who love mythology and all the sapphic witches and lovers of the sea. Its for all the people invested in caring for one another and in creating and sharing hope even in the face of holding pain.

I was lucky enough to read the second volume via pdf because I support Never on patreon, I would just say its difficult to content warn for this series because it so tumultuous and open but there is definite discussion about trauma and pain laced throughout both volumes. I’m so excited for the third volume to come out in 2018!!!

Small Beauty by Jia Qing Wilson-Yang

Small Beauty is a short but poignant and affecting novel about grief, processing and ghosts. The book tells the soft and introspective story of Mei, a mixed race trans girl, whilst she is mourning and evolving, unearthing the lives and deaths of some of her relatives. Its also about this deep love and community, about support and identity, rage and, yes, sorrow too. The writing is subtle and quiet and lyrical – I marked so many of its pages because I found it so beautiful.

The novel is an own voices story and it consistently refuses to cater to cisgender people, Mei isn’t forced into narratives that eroticise or fetishise or simplify what being trans is like and Mei and all the other characters, including a transphobic dyke, are treated with forgiveness and represented with nuance. It’s a book for folks who are growing but not grown and for those who are new to adulthood. Content warnings for grief and death as well as a depiction of a transmisogynistic physical assault on pages 66-67.

Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo

This year I became invested and interested in care and mothering in a way I never was before and as such I couldn’t resist listening (via audiobook) to this novel about a woman named Yejide and her husband, Akin, trying to get pregnant and have a family together.

This was on the shortlist for the baileys women prize for fiction and that’s how I became aware of it, and I’m glad I did! It’s a very readable book chronicling tragedies and peaks in Yejide’s attempts to create a family and its complex representations of the behaviours and wishes of people are interesting and emotional. The prose is animated and so is the dialogue – it’s a very enthralling if sorrowful read. 

Power And Magic : The Queer Witch Comic Anthology edited by Joamette Gil

I loved this comic anthology so much!! All the comics are centered around queer witches, were made by women, demigirls and bigender writers and illustrators of colour. The 15 different comics all vary in tone and size. Some are adorable and sweet and others are sad but powerful or healing and kind, they cover themes of love, community, family and recovery.

My favourites were Your Heart Is An Apple by Nivedita Sekar which was a fairytale inspired love story including an ex-mermaid who was now a cane user and a girl with an apple for a heart. I cried at its utter loveliness. I also really enjoyed As The Roots Undo by Joamette Gil, especially the line “They called her witch. I called her moon.” And lastly the tender and gorgeous Songbird for a vulture by Naomi Franquiz. There are content warnings for each story on the contents page.

Here’s to a 2018 filled with beautiful, educational and healing reading!! If you want to diversify your reading in the new year you could continue looking for suggestions via this list of books to be published in 2018 by women of colour!

PBG’s Best of 2017: Young Adult Fiction

Author:
sophia1

By Sophia Simon-Bashall

The Young Adult (YA) community in particular has been blessed this year with some wonderful and diverse reads, though all we’ve really heard about is John Green’s latest (which, granted, is pretty fantastic). It seems a shame that many talented writers and their incredible stories may have been overlooked because a few of the big names had releases this year, so here’s a few in case you missed them.

Wing Jones – Katherine Webber

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Wing Jones will warm your heart, and break it. It’s about a girl caught between worlds. It’s about a girl who loves to run. It’s about a girl who doesn’t know what to do, doesn’t entirely know what she wants to do sometimes. It’s about a family navigating a tragedy, navigating their differences, navigating love. It’s about brothers and sisters, about friendship, about passion, about race, about love, about growing up. It’s about everything.

The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas

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No doubt you’ve at least heard in passing about The Hate U Give by now. Amandla Stenberg loves it and is set to star in the movie adaptation. Everyone who cares about YA has been talking about it. If you’re wondering why… well. It’s inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. It is relevant and important, particularly in Trump’s America. It manages to be funny, though the subject matter is not at all light. It’s excellently written. It will make you think. It’s incredible.

It Only Happens in the Movies – Holly Bourne

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We love Holly Bourne. She brought the Spinster Club – our best friends – into our lives, made us feel angry and empowered and happy and sad and triumphant and vindicated and so many other things with that trilogy. Her latest book, It Only Happens in the Movies is equally wonderful, and deals with a whole range of issues such as mental health, addiction, divorce, and relationships. The main character, Audrey, navigates her parents’ separation and supporting her alcoholic mother alongside her own love life, school, and friendships. The book also examines romantic-comedies with a critical feminist eye, whilst also admitting its love for the genre and feeling incredibly cinematic in itself. Vivid writing, lovable or at least sympathetic characters, plenty of poignancy and laughter. A true treasure of a book.

A Change Is Gonna Come

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A Change Is Gonna Come is an anthology featuring prominent YA authors alongside new voices, and all of them are BAME writers. It is filled with stories and poetry, and centres on the theme of ‘change’ – and it is certainly something which will spark change. In itself, it signposts a change – it is proof that there are people in publishing who genuinely care, who know not just what we want but what we need as a community of readers. There’s something for everyone in this collection, whether you’re into contemporary fiction, dystopian, or historical; whether you want to hear about love, anger, politics, or all of the above. This is a special book which will be well worth your time.

See our pick of the best music of 2017 here, and the best film and TV of 2017 here.

PBG’s Best of 2017: Film and Television

Author:
sophia4

By Sophia Simon-Bashall

FILM

Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures came out in 2016 in the US, but only landed in UK cinemas in February this year. It’s a true story untold until now, one of three African-American women whose contributions to NASA in the 1960s were integral to the process of sending the first astronaut into space. It’s a feel-good film for sure, one which educates and entertains us consistently. The three leads – played by the wonderful Janelle Monáe, Octavia Spencer and Taraji P Henson – are funny and full of heart, and are a dynamic trio to watch. Most significantly, this is a film which empowers black women and young black girls, a film which shows them their own power and encourages them to pursue the things that excite them. This film is many things, but first and foremost it is a love letter to those girls who need that nudge.

The Big Sick

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The premise of the Big Sick reads like another manic pixie dream girl film: boy meets girl; boy screws up, girl gets sick + is barely present for a period of time; boy grows up as a result. Thankfully, it is more than that – so much more. It’s smarter than that, and Zoe Kazan’s character Emily has far more autonomy and intricacies to her personality than these types of characters are generally granted.

The film is as much about her as it is about Kumail – the protagonist – as viewers get to know her parents (as individuals, and as a couple), and see her work through her situation with stubborn persistence, frustration, and excitement. She is allowed to be a girl in love, a girl pissed off, a girl confused – all at once – without any of these states being considered some kind of fatal flaw.

More than this, the film explores cross-cultural relationships in modern day America, and navigates the complexities which come with that. It portrays Kumail’s conservative Pakistani family with humour and compassion, depicting a common reality without patronising or painting the parents as backwards or base – an unfortunately frequent pitfall in many interpretations of similar stories. The Big Sick is all around a heart-warming film, undeniably hilarious, and one which can easily be watched over and over (and over).

TELEVISION

One Day At A Time

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One Day At A Time is a reboot of a classic sitcom, a ‘genre’ which has a tendency to feel like a gimmicky money-making scheme. Thankfully, this modern update is not like that. In fact, it hardly relies on the original at all and is easily enjoyable for those unfamiliar with its predecessor – it’s not about nostalgia or references, but a wonderful series in its own right. The cast are phenomenal, driving the show with their lively performances and emotive delivery of the more poignant of moments – of which there are many. It may not be ‘an original’, but it feels like one of the freshest programmes of recent years.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

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Crazy Ex-Girlfriend first aired in 2015, and it’s 3rd season began late this year. This is a show that has consistently been bizarre, hilarious, and engaging throughout its time on television. It has also always had a hint of psychological drama, which is really brought to head in season 3. It’s dared to do something unprecedented and opened up a conversation which desperately needs attention.

Star of the show, Rebecca – played by the show’s writer and co-producer, Rachel Bloom – has been diagnosed with a highly stigmatised mental illness called borderline personality disorder. Rebecca’s journey to and beyond diagnosis has been handled with sensitivity and nuance, her hopefulness about being diagnosed and the painful experience of coming to terms with her diagnosis are both shown. Most importantly, the show has humanised people with a disorder which wider society still considers monstrous – something which many viewers across the world feel enormously thankful for.

See our pick of the best music of 2017 here, and the best young adult fiction of 2017 here.

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