This is how I wrote this review: I listened to If I Had Known for an entire day, ears devouring my headphones as I walked from my office, to get food, to my home, and again as I rode the bus downtown, where I was set to be a Legal Observer at a political action, and again on the bus home, after I observed eight arrests of peaceful protesters. I sunk myself into it, letting the songs dissolve into the day’s feelings: my fear of the aggressive cops downtown; the social distress which has crept up on me in the past weeks; the wariness I’ve felt, stepping into online discourse around Pride; the way I thought to myself yesterday: “maybe I’m too tired to be proud this June.”
Columbus’ Queer Kevin released If I Had Known, their debut album, a year ago, but it only became available on Spotify this week. Beyond the re-release and upload, it seems appropriate to revisit the album during this time: the group, comprised of Felix O’Connor and Dylan Reese, is set to come out with their second album soon; the multi-disciplinary arts space, Bloom, that O’Connor and others have spearheaded is set for a pop-up event on June 24th; and June seems like an optimum time to listen to Columbus voices for queer and trans advocacy and liberation.
If I Had Known is thickly instrumental, Reese’s drums and O’Connor’s bass obscuring the vocals (also by O’Connor) so that they appear to be crystallizing through fog, or wafting in from another room. It’s a haunting effect, and one which makes it difficult to discern, on the first try, exactly what O’Conner is saying. Instead, the emotional weight is carried through vocal quality and pitch–each note, weighted by the heavy bass and drum lines, seems to be dragging itself forward despite the burden of attached feelings. Or, as the pair say on their bandcamp: the album is comprised of “songs about crying, or whatever.”
In public, I criticize coming out narratives for the ways in which they force self-disclosure from queer and trans people, continuing the violent idea that breaks from heteronormativity must be explained away, presented to be examined. In private, I just don’t have the energy. Sometimes, I think of switching my pronouns once again, just so I don’t have to advocate for myself as often. Waiting for others to intervene drains me daily.
Last year, I celebrated pride by attending the trans march in San Francisco, working a merch table on the day of the parade, getting paid, then immediately blowing the money on a haircut. I spent thirty minutes in front of the diffused light of my curtain, taking selfies until I found myself blurred and unrecognizable. “You know how if you look at something long enough it just becomes shapes?” I asked on my instagram caption. “That’s how I feel about my face.”
As much as the album’s affect is driven by its composition, the lyrics, when unveiled, are equally poignant. On “La Luna,” O’Connor sings: “I fell in love with the moon / glowing against my skin / something inside of me / awoke ancient and lost