In recent years, the exploration of queer identities has become less of a taboo topic. But even now with the ‘Tik Tok’ generation, more diversity in media and a greater understanding of the daily battles of the LGBTQ+ community, we’ve still got a long way to go. And when you’re growing up in a society that doesn’t quite get you, those scars don’t disappear easily.
Luckily, Gold Coast pop extraordinaire Saint Barae has collected his experiences into 4 synth-heavy bops to dance away the pain with debut EP ‘Angel Armour’. On the project, he says:
“It feels really strange releasing a record in a day and age where taking it on tour feels near impossible – but that’s also part of the reason why it feels necessary for me. These songs are in essence, a love letter to my much younger self. A very scared, very closeted young boy that absolutely felt like a happy future ahead of him was impossible to grasp. So writing this music was like a reassuring embrace from my current self to my broken past. It’s my way of telling the world, but mostly myself that ‘Hey, I see you. And everything is gonna be okay for us.”
The previously released Boys! opens the EP—a fitting introduction to the record, dealing directly with Barae discovering his sexuality. Playing with the idea of ‘boys will be boys’. he expertly parodies toxic masculinity, ingrained shame and internalised homophobia. He pairs sparkling synths with deeply confronting lyrics, exploring how he’s been used by boys who weren’t ready to be who they are; he battles with the ideas of unrequited affection. Teamed with catchy hooks and feel-good synths, the cynicism of the track might be easily missed on the first listen. The nostalgic sound hints at an underlying sadness, jam-packed with excitement and heartbreak, much like what he must have felt at the time. “Go be a man and break my heart”.
My personal favourite track follows, Edge of Nowhere; a nostalgic bop detailing how he learnt to be vulnerable in his relationships. The song depicts his innermost thoughts in the darkest time with his partner; he details how he battles with his anxiety—the ‘imposter syndrome’ you might feel when you’re learning to love—preventing him from accepting affection. It features a simple, catchy chorus; “I said don’t look at me like I’m broken. You said don’t lie to me I’m not stupid.”, repeated, capturing the simplicity of a conversation held with a lover who won’t let him push them away. It feels like a natural progression from the first track, learning to accept love when you’ve been taught to be ashamed of it; to be a tool of other people’s desires and having your affection shut down.
Like many queer artists before him—Julien Baker’s discography comes to mind, or the consistant religious parallels throughout Sufjan Stevens’ music—Barae battles with the ideas of faith and where he fits in to the narrative as an openly gay man. “I’ve been hurt by so many people I thought loved me unconditionally as a result of something I cannot change, but Hollow is not a diss track – its about choosing forgiveness when you want revenge.” he says on the track; hatred is a choice, and faith is subjective. With the track, he reaches a greater understand of who he is and how he can carry his faith without letting the hatred of the misguided pull him down.
Angels ties the ideas of the EP together—combining religious elements with finally accepting a relationship, Barae closes his story with a bittersweet tale of falling in love. With softly layered harmonies, a driving beat and a catchy main riff, the song is the perfect serotonin boost to remind you that you deserve to accept love. The song uses dreamy production to follow the feeling of falling in love; an audible slow dance celebrating finding love. The chorus is explosive, combining all the emotions littered throughout the verses expanding into a feel-good experience; “You’re taking my hand to fall. I’m ready to risk it all. Maybe our future is entangled? Our love a drug for angels.“
No matter where you are in your journey to self-acceptance, let Saint Barae’s EP be your comfort blanket. Whether you need something to cry to, something to dance alone to or just something to help you feel seen, ‘Angel Armour’ has it all! The EP acts as a way to remind you that, even if you’re at the early stages of your journey to self-discovery, you will be loved.
‘Angel Armour’ is available now on all platforms
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