The Chase by alextbh

The Chase sinks into the back of my brain with its fake-out simplicity, laying down deep, dark bass lines that reverberate over bars and bars and then flipping the foundation with a melodic guitar being the only accompaniment to alextbh’s range. Within that range, though, the EP is perfectly laconic: Six songs amounting to less than 30 minutes, yet full of desire and not at all understated. This is a natural progression from the carefully pruned R&B alextbh planted with “Stoop So Low” and The Chase shows it off, collecting the fantastic singles he slowly released over the last year and filling in the gaps with the right moods, lifts and lyrics to tie it all together.

alextbh pulls back the veil on what has become such a quintessential experience of gay men that it almost sounds like a cliche. Almost. Listening to the The Chase means revisiting my own past and the desires that I still grapple with, from unsatisfying yet satiating hookups to the rare date that seems…monumental. Unbeatable. Everything. And then the heartbreak at the end of it all. The EP is this story, these memories, but it’s not depressive. alextbh’s comfort in R&B prevents the EP from reaching melancholia and instead makes it relatable, a point of connection that universalizes past the cliche.

The opening track, “Moments,” is almost unbearably sexy and undeniably euphoric, but then the EP turns down so slowly over the next three songs that it actually aches. Is this an addiction? To sex, love, validation or something in between? When the chorus overtakes the sound space on “Numb,” it’s hard to argue against that striking, electronic beat and alextbh sitting high on his falsetto.

“We’re both paper thin / We both need a savior / I’m hung up on him and you’re afraid of the light / We fuck all night and I still can’t feel a thing, anything”— "Numb" by alextbh

It’s a reprieve every time the EP hits “Superstore,” honestly. The breezy melody and finger snaps, his lilting upward voice recounting a sweet date — a dream I don’t want to end. I don’t think I can explain what’s so comforting about all of this, especially now when we’re all quite often isolated…but maybe it’s just the openness of the EP itself. It’s completely unashamed of where it has been and where it’s going — there is motion to the songs, a clear narrative, and, by the time the EP closes on “The Chase,” it is breathing in both rhythm and blues.

And what a final track! “The Chase” is bittersweet, completely. Tart fruit bursting on the tongue when you’re just looking for something sweet. This will do, it’ll have to. “The Chase” bookends the EP with a looping, wandering guitar filtered through a brighter synth — how else could this song sound after the five tracks that preceded it? It makes me hopeful that we all eventually outrun our chases and reach some sort of finish line. No way is it perfect, but…”this is a sign / a sign of the times.”

How is he going to break my heart with a full album release? I can’t wait to find out.

Sensaciones by Sen Senra

His restrained performance is common for COLORSXSTUDIOS, but his vocal style really caught my attention and I found myself putting it on repeat before finally just listening to his latest album.

Each song is a slight shift in genre, from bright pop to airy acoustic to a moody, electronic almost R&B. Sen is almost always singing in falsetto, lifting each track and adding a sense of motion—these tracks move and move into one another, taking up more and more space as they go.

The most difficult part of this album? I don’t speak Spanish and he has, seemingly, no penetration to the English-speaking market. Genius has the lyrics and Google Translate can actually translate from Spanish well, but I can’t really grasp the meaning. Sen seems notable for his emotional honesty and, even though his music videos absolutely have a sense of humor (see “Tienes Reservado el Cielo”), accessibility. Despite that, I’m stuck on one song in particular: “Como Sacude.”

“Como Sacude” is the second to last track and many of the songs before it are strong, but this is where some of my own bias comes in. The light synth droning just off to the side that occasionally resolves in a few different chords, the slowly emerging melody, Sen going into and out of his falsetto: this song builds itself up and then drops, just for a second, before finally giving up the chorus.

Cómo sacude, cómo sacude, siente
Cómo sacude, cómo sacude
Cómo sacude, cómo sacude, siente
Cómo sacude, cómo sacude
Que nadie te use y luego se te excuse
Aguanta lo que quieras aguantar
Si le metes duro, puedes mover todo el mundo
Te lo juro, todo es de verdad

And then the song is finished.

But let me back up and talk about some other songs. “Como el Fuego” is a dark, sexy track that makes Sen’s falsetto seem plaintive around a raw guitar. A few songs after that, there’s “No Quiero Más de Lo Que Merezco”—a bright and danceable track that is honestly fun, all the while Sen demanding “Dámelo, sabes que lo merezco.”

Music video by Sen Senra performing "Como el Fuego"

Maybe We Could by Kllo

It’s a series of meditations, the whole thing like a koan: how to be, at once, at rest and in motion? Kllo took a drum and a bass and then put an airy, bright voice over it. It is a moment stretching across an ocean of time—endless until it ends 35 minutes later—constantly about to crest a wave.

I sink into it. I would stare out of a window listening to this album. I probably already have and that lack of accounting is not time lost, but a gift. A freedom from time, not a forgetting of it.

Maybe We Could fits neatly into Kllo’s oeuvre, but this album in particular deconstructs the genres they work in, taking this and that from a history of a genre (where do we place this lo-fi, almost ambient R&B styling?) and inflect it, often with echoing pieces that sound like memories. There is no weakness to the singer’s voice, just crystal clarity and elevation. It is a dream of a rave, distanced at peace and present in commotion.

Music video by Kllo performing "Still Here."

In a Dream by Troye Sivan

The timing of the release cannot be ignored—he knew as much when its lead single, “Take Yourself Home,” released right after quarantines and isolation started. Shouldn’t “STUD” feel out of place when no one is going out? But it feels right at home with the introspection so many of us are doing.

“I’m tired of the city / scream if you’re with me / If I’m gonna die, / let’s die somewhere pretty.”— "Take Yourself Home"

In A Dream is really a group of singles, which puts each in conversation with one another and not so much in a sequence. I don’t think there’s a clear interplay here, but the way the feelings of desire, both lust and loss, mingle across songs over lows and under highs. There is an immediacy to both the lyrics and the quality with which Troye delivers them.

In some way, Troye has always been at the forefront of this kind of gay, male honesty. A niche has opened now where this sort of honesty, written over infectious, well produced pop, is inhabited by Troye Sivan and Greyson Chance, most notably, but also a space not concerned with the gayness or maleness of the voice behind it: Sam Smith and Conan Gray are also creating these queer(er) spaces, demonstrating continued emotionality in their work that pushes pop music in a different sort of way than artists like Ariana Grande or Lady Gaga.

Anyway, now it’s winter. Put “STUD” on and think about going out to dance.