Culture Feature

On Transgender Day of Remembrance: 5 Iconic Trans Men From History

While we memorialize victims of transphobia, we should take the time to remember the historic contributions of trans men.

Philanthropist Reed Erickson

November 20th is known as Transgender Day of Remembrance.

First marked in 1999, it's now part of Transgender Awareness Week, and an occasion to memorialize victims of transphobic violence who have died in the course of the year. Trans women of color in particular have long been disproportionately targeted by violent transphobes.

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MUSIC

All the Lyrics on Big Thief's U.F.O.F.

Adrienne Lenker's lyrics are the sort that need to be read, reread, painted on your bedroom wall, tattooed on your forehead, and read again before you even begin to take in their full majesty.

Big Thief's sophomore release, Capacity, was a virtuosic album that spun family traumas into quiet, mystical hymns.

Their newest release, U.F.O.F., builds on that formula, winding complex melodies into cohesive, restrained folk songs to create music that sounds much more simple than it is.

While Capacity sulked in the shadows of the past, U.F.O.F. leaves that decayed house of memory walks out into the summer air, and turns its eyes to the sky. Its lyrics explore death, terminal illness, and the desire to escape or transcend the limits of human life and consciousness. Ultimately, the album is about the vast, unknowable things that flicker on the edges of ordinary reality and promise the existence of something beyond.

In some ways, U.F.O.F. seems like it's meant to be listened to in complete silence, perhaps played out on staticky speakers in an abandoned lakeside mansion. Pensive, abstract, and full of longing, it almost seems like a living thing, ready to be peeled apart, mulled over, and shaped to fit each listener's experiences. Though some of its earlier songs are jagged and abstract, the music in grows more and more powerful and pleasing to the ear as the album progresses.

One highlight is "Terminal Paradise," a song that starts softly but builds up to a rustle of bell-like tones and jingling guitar patterns. The track feels somewhat like the stirrings of an early autumn wind, the scent of impending rain, or the breathless feeling of a plane taking off. "Jenni" is a powerful follow-up, a tangle of screaming guitar tones and slow drum beats.

The album's final track, "Magic Dealer," winds everything together. "I am the photograph in you, still as the moment we're lying in right now," whispers the band's lead singer, Adrienne Lenker. That lyric could encapsulate all of U.F.O.F., which, for all its winding rhythms and secret passageways, never feels rushed or urgent. Instead, it feels sort of like lying in someone's arms and ignoring the entire world, feeling the persistent chill of an impending ending, trying to hold onto a moment as it rushes away.

Despite the beauty of its music, the album is truly remarkable because of the quality of its lyrics. Lenker shines more lyrically than vocally on U.F.O.F. She has an uncanny talent for putting breathtaking words in strategic places—a silkworm here, you have wings of gold/you will never grow old there, a crystal between quotidian descriptions of suburban nights. In her ability to make pure poetry sound effortless and genuine, Lenker may be one of the closest lyricists to Leonard Cohen that we have today.

Despite their beauty, the lyrics are sometimes inaudible, at times so wispy that even quiet guitar plucking buries them. Perhaps that's on purpose—maybe this album is more about the music, especially since Lenker's solo album, abysskiss, allowed her words to take center stage. Maybe it was meant to be this way, designed so only certain phrases make it out of the fray, so fragments of poetry appear like lamplights on a misty road.

Though sometimes the lyrics are unintelligible, they are so heart-stoppingly gorgeous that it would be a shame for them to go unnoticed. So, without further ado, here are the lyrics to every song on U.F.O.F. (with my personal favorites in bold).

Contact

[Verse 1]

Jodi
Please turn the pages for me
You seem so free
You know I'm barely, barely

[Verse 2]
Wrap me in silk
I want to drink your milk
You hold the key
You know I'm barely, barely

[Verse 3]
Parker Lake Beach
All of the sunnys swimming
I wanna see
To feel my body sinking, sinking

[Verse 4]
She gives me gills
Helps me forgive the pills
She makes me sing
She is both dreamer and dream
And dream, and dream, and dream


UFOF

Big Thief - UFOF (Official Audio) www.youtube.com


[Verse 1]
To my UFO friend
Goodbye, goodbye
Like a seed in the wind
She's taking up root in the sky

See her flickering
Her system won't even try
To defend and ripen
In the radio action

[Chorus]
She'll never return again
Polarize, polarize
The seasons will bend
There will soon be proof
That there is no alien
Just a system of truth and lies
The reason, the language
And the law of attraction

[Verse 2]
Just like a bad dream
You'll disappear
Another map turns blue
Mirror on mirror
And I imagine you
Taking me outta here
To deepen our love
It isn't even a fraction

[Chorus]
Switch to another lens
The last sunlight
I don't need any other friends
The best kiss I ever had is the flickering
Of the water so clear and bright
To leap in, my skin
And I could feel the reaction

[Chorus}
Just like a bad dream
You'll disappear
Another map turns blue
Mirror on mirror
And I imagine you
Taking me outta here
To deepen our love
It isn't even a fraction


Cattails

Big Thief - Cattails (Official Audio) www.youtube.com

[Verse 1]

And the clusters fell like an empty bell
Meteor shower at the motel
Where the empty space is a saving grace
Making good time and doing well
Still the question sings like Saturn's rings
Maybe she knows and she won't tell

Caroline, Caroline
I never could leave you to struggle
Hold the line, hold the line
I'll be there on the double
In time, in time
Everyone does see trouble

[Chorus]
And you don't need to know why when you cry
You don't need to know why
You don't need to know why when you cry

[Verse 2]
Violet's eyes, Violet plays
Going back home to the Great Lakes
Where the cattail sways
With the lonesome loon
Riding that train in late June

[Chorus]
With the windows wide by my side
With the windows wide
With the windows wide by my side

[Verse 3]
And the clusters fell like an empty bell
Meteor shower at the motel
Where the empty space is a saving grace
Making good time and doing well
Still the question sings like Saturn's rings
Maybe she knows and she won't tell

[Chorus]
But you don't need to know why when you cry
You don't need to know why
You don't need to know why when you cry

[Verse 4]
And I find you there in your country flair
Middle of the river in a lawn chair
With your wrinkled hands and your silver hair
Leaving here soon and you know where
To where the cattail sways with the lonesome loon
You'll be riding that train in late June

[Chorus]
With the windows wide by your side
With the windows wide
With the windows wide by your side
You don't need to know why
You don't need to know why when you cry


Open Desert


[Verse 1]
Vacant angel, crimson light
Darkened eyelash, darkened eye
The white light of the living room
Leaking through the crack in the door
There was never need for more
Things we're meant to understand

Crawling closer to your hand

[Chorus]
To the poison image
Brave surrender
Kiss the water

[Verse 2]
After all my teeth are gone
After all the blood is drawn
The white light of the waiting room
Leaking through the crack in the door

[Chorus]
Through the poison image
Brave surrender
Kiss the water

[Outro]
Through the mirror, mountain view
She has one green, one eye blue
I can see her smiling through
The white light of the living room
Leaking through the crack in the door
The white light of the living room
Leaking through the crack in the door
There was never need for more
Things we're meant to understand


Orange


[Verse 1]

Orange is the color of my love
Fragile orange wind in the garden
Fragile means that I can hear her flesh
Crying little rivers in her forearm
Fragile is that I mourn her death
As our limbs are twisting in her bedroom

[Chorus]
Lies, lies, lies
Lies in her eyes
Lies, lies, lies
Lies in her eyes

[Verse 2]
She tells me to close and count to ten
As she wanders freely through the forest
Can I close and open once again?
The question that I seek for reassurance
[Chorus]
Lies, lies, lies
Lies in her eyes
Lies, lies, lies
Lies in her eyes

[Verse 3]
Hound dogs crowing at the stars above
Pigeons fall like snowflakes at the border
She kneels down and holds the frozen dove
Moon drips like water from her shoulder

[Chorus]
Flies, flies, flies
Flies from her eyes
Flies, flies, flies
Flies from her eyes

[Outro]
Orange is the color of my love
Fragile orange wind in the garden
Fragile means that I can hear her flesh
Crying little rivers in her forearm
Fragile is that I mourn her death
As our limbs are twisting in her bedroom


Century

Big Thief - Century (Official Audio) www.youtube.com

[Verse 1]
Dogs eyes in the headlights of the driveway
Cool autumn rain
Bugs died on your windshield on the freeway
Wonder if you'll be the same
Centuries flower

[Chorus]
And we have the same power
We have the same power
We have the same power
We have the same power

[Verse 2]
Moth flies in the window of the kitchen
You hang up your coat
Cold lips and gold eyes listen
There's something that I want you to know
Turn on the shower

[Chorus]
'Cause we have the same power
We have the same power
We have the same power
We have the same power

[Verse 3]
No resolution, no circling dove
Still caught in the jaw of confusion
Don't know what I'd do for love
But stay another hour

[Chorus]
'Cause we have the same power
We have the same power
We have the same power
We have the same power


Strange


[Verse 1]

Doesn't it seem strange
Searching for a hidden page
The fairy's cage
Coming of true age
Leave the costume on the stage
The silkworm's rage
Iridescent thread, beautiful and dead
Billions of worms were boiled to make the bed

[Chorus]
Strange, see the luna moth cry
Lime green tears through the fruit bat's eyes

[Verse 2]
Scatter and destroy
Every power you enjoy
To lay with the void
Twirling of the dime, splitting of the mind
Drawing constellations 'til the stars align

[Chorus]
Strange, see the luna moth cry (Cry)
Lime green tears through the fruit bat's eyes (Eyes)

[Outro]
You have wings of gold
You will never grow old
And turquoise lungs
You have never been young
You have wings of gold
You will never grow old
And turquoise lungs
You have never been young
The silkworm's rage
Iridescent thread, beautiful and dead
Billions of worms were boiled to make the bed
Strange, see the luna moth cry
Lime green tears through the fruit bat's eyes


terminal paradise


[Verse 1]
Driving through the night
Rings of crystal, crystal light
Every gulp of the warm suburb air
Betsy's auburn, auburn hair
[Refrain]

Ooh, ooh

[Verse 2]
Drive into New York with me
How she keeps me calm
Street lights, boys and poison palms

[Refrain]
Ooh, ooh

[Bridge]
Drive into New York with me
Big lights in the city
[Refrain]
Ooh, ooh
Ooh, ooh
Ooh, ooh

See my death become a trail
And the trail leads to a flower
I will blossom in your sail
Every dreamed and waking hour


Jenni


[Verse 1]
Too hot to breathe
Too hot to breathe

Too hot to breathe

[Chorus]
Jenni's in my room
Jenni's in my room
Jenni's in my room

[Verse 2]
Her skin so bare
The fragrant air
Her vacant eye

[Chorus]
Jenni's in my room
Jenni's in my room
Jenni's in my room

[Verse 3]
The signal swarms
The portal forms
She calls me through

[Chorus]
Jenni's in my room
Jenni's in my room
Jenni's in my room


Magic Dealer

[Verse 1]

Starve, magic mirror
I thought the crumbs of your life wouldn't dry
It hurts to see clearer

Falling like needles, the passage of time

[Chorus]
Would it hurt, would it hurt to be nearer?
Heaven is stitching across me
My chest is the crossing
The blood is parting all the time, but I don't mind

[Verse 2]
Carve magic dealer
Bring me the company I couldn't buy
As I go cleaner
Falling like needles, the passage of time

[Chorus]
Would it help, would it help to go deeper?
I am the photograph in you
The photograph in you
Still as the moment we're lying in right now
Starve, magic mirror
I thought the crumbs of your life wouldn't dry
It hurts to see clearer
Falling like needles, the passage of time


Eden Arielle Gordon is a writer and musician from New York. Follow her on Twitter @edenarielmusic.


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MUSIC

Scared of the Future? These Five Brand-New Songs Will Make It All Go Away

Here's some of the best new music out this week—featuring apocalyptic dance parties, aliens, love, and New York City, they're sure to ease your anxiety about impending doom.

It's March, which means that we all need great music to get us through these last stretches of winter. And the earth is dying, so we also need songs to help us deal with that. Here are five new tracks released in the last week or so, each presenting a sonic escape from these uncertain times.

  1. Johnny Marr — Armatopia

With "Armatopia," the ex-Smiths songwriter and guitarist has created a new genre—which he calls "eco-disco," aka songs meant for dancing in the face of ecological destruction. "Armatopia," with its wailing anthemic synths, is upbeat enough to get you smiling and swaying on even the most delayed subway ride. Its lyrics, however, are filled with panic about the earth's destruction. The video leans into this theme, featuring a bunch of depressed misfits leaving the isolation of their technology-consumed lives and finding love and communion at a dance party.

Johnny Marr - Armatopia (Official Music Video) www.youtube.com

"Johnny and I wanted to work with the idea that even when the future of a person seems bleak and uncertain, they can still choose to pursue pleasure and self-indulgence," said the video's director, Kris Rimmer. "We chose the derelict tower block to contrast their eccentricities and followed them on a journey to 'the last place on earth left open. There seems to be something quite significant about finding romance in the last days of existence." Gospel for the modern era, indeed.

2. Big Thief — UFOF

The Brooklyn quartet, fronted by Adrienne Lenker—who is possibly the closest thing we've got to Leonard Cohen today—takes on aliens with their new single, off their forthcoming album of the same title. It's an interesting choice of subject matter, as Big Thief's last album, Capacity, was a decidedly earthbound journey through family memories and trauma. UFOF pits Lenker's whispered voice-over layers of plucked guitar, telling the story of an alien friend who appears, only to leave "like a seed in the wind / taking up root in the sky." Lenker continues, "The seasons will bend / there will soon be proof / that there is no alien / just a system of truth and lies / the reason, the language / and the law of attraction." Despite its extraterrestrial overtones, it's an intricate reflection on life on earth.

Big Thief - UFOF (Official Audio) www.youtube.com

3. The Tallest Man on Earth — The Running Styles of New York

Kristian Matsson is only five foot seven, but he's made a name for himself as The Tallest Man on Earth. His newest single, "The Running Styles of New York," pits his gravelly voiceover rhythmic strumming and glossy strings that rise and fall, creating a soundscape that would fit well with a dramatic departure at the end of a film, preferably involving a train, fields of corn, and a sunset. "We're moving on, into the days of our grace returning," he sings. By the end of this song you almost believe him.

The Tallest Man On Earth: "The Running Styles Of New York" | I Love You. It's A Fever Dream. [Audio] www.youtube.com

4. Lord Felix — Love Is Fleeting, I Promise

"Love Is Fleeting, I Promise" is an entrancing invitation to Lord Felix's debut album, In Bloom, Forever. Glossed over with reverb-soaked electric guitars set atop a slow-moving beat, this is a grainy, nostalgic dream of a song that marks the arrival of a promising new voice in emo-rap. Other highlights from the album include "Him" and "Spring / Summer '99," both songs that seem perfect for stoned recollections of hazy summers past.

Love Is Fleeting, I Promise www.youtube.com

5. Helado Negro — Running / Pais Nublado

"Running" is a delicate, hypnotic fusion of jazz and R&B. Its running piano motif sweetens up Helado Negro's smooth, vicious voice, and it all winds together to create an expansive lullaby. The song is a promising taste of the artist's forthcoming new album; This Is How You Smile. The other new single, "Pais Nublado," is an evocative patchwork of such transportive beauty, it makes the whole world fall away.

Helado Negro - Running www.youtube.com


Eden Arielle Gordon is a writer and musician from New York City. Follow her on Twitter at @edenarielmusic.