PWR BTTM Stream Sophomore Album ‘Pageant’ On NPR


Queer pop punk duo PWR BTTM stream sophomore album ‘Pageant’ on NPR, a full week before the album’s slated release date on May 12.

Queer punk duo PWR BTTM’s sophomore album, Pageant, is the best new music I have heard all year. Set for release on Friday, May 12, NPR is streaming the full 13-track album right now.

The “first listen” dropped at just the right time. Listening to Pageant while I rage-read political Twitter made it a lot easier. I was able to swallow my anger and do something productive (like calling my representatives).

Pageant has a little bit of everything. The sharp-edged pop punk that the band honed to perfection on 2015’s Ugly Cherries has gotten even better. It’s bolstered by nuanced lyrics about the queer experience that are witty but heart-rending.

Band members Bean Hopkins and Liv Bruce flesh out their usual sound — vocals, drums and guitar, all provided by both musicians — with new instruments and guest vocalists. Catchy hooks pepper tracks that would otherwise seem trite (like “Answer My Text”). Each song explores a slightly different sound without straying so far that the album feels incohesive.

This record is simultaneously a celebration of radical self-love and an exploration of how painful it is to live life outside cis-heteronormative culture. It’s an intense ride from start to finish, weighty without ever getting bogged down.

I’m impressed by the balance struck on Pageant. It seems like it shouldn’t be possible. But I’ve been listening to it for two days straight and I have yet to find a single flaw.

Tracks like “Silly” and “Big Beautiful Day” are anthemic and loud, high-energy tracks that make you want to dance. Others, like “LOL” and title track “Pageant”, slow things down. They serve to remind that sometimes, the journey to reaching the point of actual self-love just sucks.

"I know that I am naiveWhen you are queer, you are always 19I didn’t know you could take such a shape— PWR BTTM, “LOL”"

It’s rare that a band can so fully encompass the emotions that Pageant describes. But given that Hopkins and Bruce are writing about their own experiences, the authenticity lends a credence that makes every lyric stick to the inside of your ribs.

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Bands like PWR BTTM make living in such an uncertain political climate feel just a little less terrifying, and I love them for it. I’ll say again: Pageant is the best release of the year so far. It’ll be difficult to beat.